Interview with Paolo Mori

em português

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« Paolo Mori »

How did you come up with the idea to create “Vasco da Gama”?
Well, actually this design started from two different points. I had a theme that has always charmed me, that is the first age of discovery. And I had a mechanic that I thought could be interesting for a resource management game. So all I had to do was just to put them together :-). The game was first developed with another title (it was focused on the Vila do Infante, the legendary Court of the Portuguese Prince Henry 'The Navigator', that strongly supported the exploration towards the western african coast) and first playtested during a italian game designers meeting in January 2007. A few months after that meeting What's Your Game? - the publisher that already released my first game "UR" - showed up and asked me to publish this game with them.

What can you tell about the game?
As much as you want, although there are some little details that we are still defining before going to print. Actually the game can look like a quite classical game of resource management. Players are thus financing and supporting expeditions in the Indian Ocean, buying projects, mustering sailors and using the help of influent characters. All this through a mechanic similar to the now trendy worker placement... but with an interesting twist that makes the gameflow always tense and involving for the players.
Concisely: the players place tokens taken from a common pool, numbered between 1 and 20, on four different 'action areas'. After each player has placed 4 tokens, the actions are carried out, starting with the lower numbered towards the higher. But here is the twist: on each turn there a "First action number" is drawn (you know a 'base' number before placing the tokens, and a modifier to it after you have placed them) that shows which will be the first action that can be played without paying money. If you placed a lower number, in order to carry out the action you have to pay the difference between the placed number and the "First action number". So if you really want to go first in an action area to have a better choice, you may want to place a low number, thus risking to pay a lot of money to carry out that action!
An example to clarify. At the beginning of a turn, a First Action Number of 10 is drawn. I really want to go first in the Expedition Area, so I place a low numbered "8" token on that area. After all the tokens have been placed, a modifier is drawn, that shows a "+2". The First Action Token is increased from 10 to 12, so to carry out my "8" numbered action I will have to pay 4 coins.

When did you realize that create games were your dream?
Since I started playing games in my childhood. But only when I got back to the "New Deal" of gaming, five years ago, and met my current gaming friends, I realized that games could actually be designed.

How do you define yourself as a game designer?
I don't define myself as a game designer, actually... but I would love to. I have still an amateurish approach to this passion. I have a lot of ideas, but actually a really small portion of them makes it to the prototype stage, and a small portion of this portion is still alive after the first playtests. A kind of "million monkeys" game designer. From a lot of ideas, sometimes a decent one emerges.

Are you a lonely game designer or your family and friends participate in your adventure to create a new game?
I really like to share ideas with others, both friends and other game designers, and they are always a great help in the developing and playtesting stage. I also love to work on games together with other authors (although I really make things difficult for my mates!), and my first 'four-handed' design should be released soon (Pocket Battles, designed with Francesco Sirocchi).

The creation of a game, have several moments – creation, editing, testing and publishing – which is the most pleasant for you? Why?
I absolutely love the creation moment, because at this stage all the ideas perfectly work in my mind. Many ideas are simply wasted when you try to get a prototype out of it, or you propose them to your friends for playtesting. You realize that they have bugs, need balancing, or just don't work... They were best kept as ideas :-).

What kind of mechanics do you prefer to focus on the development process of your games?
There isn't any specific mechanic I prefer. It really depends on the type of game I am developing. In this period for example I like to play around with dice and new ways to use them. One thing I would really like to develop is a good diplomatic game.

Which level of luck is acceptable for you in a game?
Actually, it depends on the game. In the first prototype of Vasco da Gama, for example, I used dice to determine the actions that would have been allowed during the game turn, and cards drawn from a deck to check if the expedition was successful or not. It was a very violent and unpredictable game play, and could be very frustrating for a resource management game... So the luck factor was strongly mitigated in the current version.

You play games time to time, or the games are part of your daily life?
Games are part of my daily life cause every day I have the chance to read about them, and discuss about them with my friends. But I just have the chance to play games one or two nights in a week (usually one night is dedicated to playtest, and the other to published games).

Can you tell me the game you enjoy playing the most? Why?
I really don't have a game I prefer. It's difficult for me to play a game more than 4-5 times in a year, also because I actually love to 'discover' new games and look at the innovative parts of them. But there are games that I always enjoy playing, and these are games that in some way I consider 'elegant' in their game play: Coloretto, Bohnanza, Samurai, Web of Power, Diplomacy, A Game of Thrones, ...

Can you tell me your favourite game? And your favourite type of game?
I love Prototypes :-). I love them because they give me a lot of ideas, and because I prefer the 'creative' side of the game, rather than the 'competitive' one. I like the idea I am playing on an 'open' game, where you can notice all the ideas and choices of the author that hide behind theme and mechanics.

Do you prefer play the games or create them?
Andrea, a friend of mine, used to say that game design is the best solitaire game :-). So when I am alone I prefer to design games. When I am with my friends, I usually prefer (and they prefer too) to play 'published' games.

Do you normally follow any particular game designer with especial attention?
I follow many italian game designers that I have personally known through the authors meeting we organize, together with many others that didn't publish any game (yet). On the 'foreign' side, I usually appreciate Michael Schacht game designs.

Do you have another job, or you are a full time game designer?
If I was I full time game designer, I wouldn't have the money to buy any game (and any food, probably). So I have another job, of course. I work on the web and on the communication of the University of Parma.

What you think about the economic crisis? It will affect the games sales?
I still didn't realize the real dimensions of this crisis, and when I think about it, for sure I don't worry about games! Games will be affected like any other luxury item, and like any other product that relies on the work of many different industries.

Do you think that board games can be use for an education purpose?
Absolutely yes. But this doesn't mean that games must be designed to be 'educational'. It's the 'boardgaming' concept itself that is educational: it teaches people to accept rules, to play together, to lose, and to overcome their limits.

What you know about Portugal?
I know some history about Portugal :-). And I know it's a country similar to Italy for some reasons. The best coffee around after our espresso :-).

Have you ever visited Portugal?
No :-(. But I would REALLY LOVE to.

Thank you very much for your interview.

Thank you for your interest!

Vasco da GamaBorneo (2007)
BoardGameGeekUR (2006)
Designer Site

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