Interview with Åse Berg and Henrik Berg

Åse Berg and Henrik Berg

How did you come up with the idea to create “Rattus”?
Henrik read a history book about the black plague and the idea to make a game about this theme came up. There are not many games about this theme on the market, so we thought perhaps we could give it a try.

Where do you get the ideas for your games? Do they start with the mechanics, or the themes?
This varies, but normally it starts with us wanting to make a game about a theme. (Often some historic theme from a magazine, book, or maybe some place we visit) Then the mechanics slowly develops. But sometimes we have a good mechanic (from f.ex. an abandoned game idea) that we want to reuse in a new game.

What kind of mechanics do you prefer to focus on the development process of your games?
We like to use cards in our games. Often it is here the luck factor lies. We also try to make original turn sequence mechanics, this is an important part of a game. To make this part exciting is essential.

Which level of luck is acceptable for you in a game?
We prefer games with some luck since luck can make a game more varied and less prone to analysis paralysis. But it must be possible to influence the game play in some way though, obviously.

How many games do you work on at one time? Are you working on several designs simultaneously, or do you work solely on one project?
We work on 1 - 2 game ideas at one time, but normally we concentrate hard on one game to make it perfect before we start with a new game project. But we have a long list of ideas for new game projects that we might try to develop in the future.

Can you tell me anything about the project you are currently working on? Can you tell me any details about the game itself?
At the moment we are working on a game with a trading theme. But we have only just started, and haven't got it to work right yet. But we have two other games that are nearly finished and soon ready to be submitted to publishers. One about the stressful life of traveling around the world collecting the most valuable antiques you can find. The other about trading in the Mediterranean sea. The last game was originally a card game that we made a few years ago and abandoned, we made some improvements and it turned into a board game.

Your family and friends participate in your adventure to create a new game?
Yes. They have all been forced to test out our games, some of them against their will! We also have a brother in law that develops boardgames too! And every time we come together, we discuss our latest game ideas.

The creation of a game, have several moments? Creation, editing, testing and publishing? Which is the most pleasant for you? Why?
Of course, to get the game published is the most pleasant, but unfortunately this does not happen to all our finished games. We think we like the first phases the most. Coming up with an game idea that works is very satisfying. Developing it so it gets better, making a nice prototype and testing it on real players is also very fun. What we like the least is perhaps writing down the rules, and waiting for the publishers to test the game and make their decision. This can take up to a year or more and is frustrating...

How often do you play test a board game before publication?
This varies. It depends on how well it works from the beginning. Let’s say from 20 - 200 times.

What game that you've designed took the longest and had the most changes?
We think Rattus is the game we have spent the most time to develop. We started out with only a theme and a mechanism that didn't work at all. We played the game several times in many different versions before arriving at the final version that was submitted to QWG. Thereafter, QWG wanted some small changes, so another development phase started. Additionally, we have developed and tested several new cards that might end up as a future expansion.

Once you give a game to a publisher do they ever develop the game past your original design? Are you always happy with such development?
We have not had that many experiences with game publishers yet. Our first prototype for Oregon (which was called Texas at the time, by the way), had quite a few differences from the published version. This is quite normal for Hans im Glück games, they work very hard on improving and balancing the games before they publish them, which explains much of the success they often have. At first we felt all this development was a bit too much, but in the end we are very happy with the result. Things have been somewhat different with Rattus. The publisher (QWG) has asked us to make a few changes and add a couple of new options to the game.

How does the internet affect your designs? Do you read the feedback about your games online?
Yes, we read most of the feedback we have got on Oregon. But this does not affect our new games. We use the internet to get background information on the themes we are working on, tips from authors, graphics for the prototype and so on.

What do you think about playing board games online?
We play from time to time on, and This is a great way to play board games. We have often tried out some games here before we have bought the real game. Often you have no others to play with, not so much time or space, and then internet boardgaming is perfect.

How often do you play your own games after they've been published? Do you prefer playing your own games or the games of others?
We play it with family and friends when they want to play it. We play it on the internet sometimes, but not that often. We prefer testing our own games when they are developing, but when we've finished a game we usually want to move on to something else, either playing other games or developing new ones.

You play games time to time, or the games are part of your daily life?
Games are part of our daily life, but in some periods there are not enough time left to play games. But we think of games all the time!

Can you tell me the game you enjoy playing the most? Why?
Can you tell me your favorite game? And your favorite type of game?
We have several favorites, ranging from light and entertaining family games to more complex strategy games. Examples include Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan with various expansions, Revolte in Rom (Roma in English, we think), Puerto Rico, Agricola, Through the Ages and many more. Unfortunately, we have way too little time to play these games. Especially since we tend to spend most of our gaming time to play our own prototypes... (which we of course also enjoy, usually).

Do you prefer play the games or create them?
At the moment we enjoy most to create games. But in some periods we pause the gaming design and only play games. This helps us get some new inspiration for new game ideas and mechanics and is very important. And fun!

Do you think sales are a determining factor of whether a game is good or not?
No. A good game can sell bad because it is not promoted good enough. There are so many different factors that decide if a game is good or bad. Only the lightest family games win Spiel des Jahres. That does not mean that that was the best game that year. Of course can a well-selling game be very good, but maybe it sells well only because it is an author that is famous or a game publisher with a good reputation.

When did you realize that create games were your dream?
We started to develop games together about four years ago.

How do you define yourself as a game designer?
We are hobby game designers that like to develop light to medium weight games with some tactical elements and some luck. The games are for families, and have a theme that influences the game play. The playing time is from 45 - 90 minutes and the rules are short and simple.

Do you have another job, or you are a full time game designer?
We both have full time jobs and small children. So game design is only a hobby for us, but we dream of making it full time in the future!

Do you already have a release date for Rattus?
Unfortunately, due to production delays we missed Essen. The current plan is to release the game in Nürnberg in February 2010.

Do you normally follow any particular game designer with especial attention?
We usually pay close attention to new games by Martin Wallace, Uwe Rosenberg, Stefan Feld and Vlaada Chvátil.

Do you think that board games can be use for an education purpose?
Yes. Many board games are perfect for teaching children different subjects in a fun way, f. ex. mathematics, history, geography, geometry and so on.

What you think about the economic crisis? It will affect the games sales?
We have been thinking that it might affect the number of published games the coming years. Some of the small publishers will have to wait for better times, and the big companies will be even harder to get through to because they will only publish games that are guaranteed good sales numbers. But we think that people still will buy games like they did before, maybe even more, because gaming is a cheap form of entertainment. When people can not afford to go out one night, they instead come together in their houses for a good boardgame night.
The “Age of Empires III” and “Goa” board games retract the glorious days of Portugal history.

Do you think that Portugal history can be a theme for a game made be you?
Unfortunately, we don't know very much about Portuguese history, except that Portugal was a major colonial power. At the moment we don't have any ideas for colonization games, but if we do some time in the future, it will be natural to include Portugal in some way or another.

What you know about Portugal? Have you ever visited Portugal?
We have to disappoint you on both these questions... We know little about Portugal (except for the colonial history, as mentioned above), and we have never been there either. Maybe we will at some later time!

Thank you very much!
It was a pleasure, Åse and Henrik.

Quined White Goblin GamesRattus on BGG

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