Interview with Bernd Eisenstein

Bernd Eisenstein

How did you come up with the idea to create “Porto Carthago”?
The main idea I found years ago, as I saw a documentary about legendary Carthage and its fantastic harbour. During the documentary my brain started to work the first mechanisms for this game.

Where do you get the ideas for your games? Do they start with the mechanics, or the themes?
That's very different. As for Porto Carthago stared with the theme, other (most of my) games started with a mechanism or two. You won't see in the final game if the mechanism of the "mechanism-game" is stronger than the theme in the "theme-games".

What kind of mechanics do you prefer to focus on the development process of your games?
I like civilization building games, but there are so many good games in this genre, that I had to go the lighter way with Peloponnes last year. I also almost like worker-placement games, but while there are tons of pure worker-games, Porto Carthago is a bit different. You have to manage your workers, because you gain income from the unused workers. Also the main fields (action cards) can be used by unlimited players.

Which level of luck is acceptable for you in a game?
That depends to the length and deepness of the game. With a very light game as Pack & Stack the huge luck-factor is nothing bad. It's almost not very necessary who will win, if the round is fun. Also Peloponnes has a moderate luck-factor (disasters, the row of the tiles and the supply rounds), but also here the game is not that long. A deeper game like Porto Carthago only comes up with very small luck-factor (only like the ships will come and the risk-factor through shipping the goods).

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?
Mostly I work on different projects simultaneously, but if a game has to be finished, I work very hard on this one game. At the moment I'm fixed for only one (maybe 2) game(s) which I'll release next year.

Can you tell me anything about the project you are currently working on? Can you tell me any details about the game itself?
I work on 2 games: the first one you are slaves of Rome that escaped. You try to gain influence in different categories (such as armies, ships, land, religion) to become stronger than Rome and also stronger than the other players. But at the end you don't know, if players are stronger than Rome or not. If not, the one who worked most for Rome will win.

The other game I work will bring all big ancient nations on the battlefield to fight against each other. But with your charisma you can hire mighty mythological creatures that will give you power and also Points to win. In this game it's possible to have some new nations and creatures to come up in 2012 to expand the game. But this depends to how people will enjoy the game.

Your family and friends participate in your adventure to create a new game?
Yes, totally. They help me during play testing, graphics, layout and for the game fair they help me explaining the game and work at the booth.

The creation of a game, have several moments? Creation, editing, testing and publishing? Which is the most pleasant for you? Why?
I think publishing is the best moment for me. For my self published games I love to see when the graphics will raise one after another. For the other moments: I'm always very afraid for the first test, so I test a lot with myself before that.

How often do you play test a board game before publication?
That depends to the game length. It was hard to get enough tests for Porto Carthago right in time. That was a reason why I built a second and third prototype to send them out to several groups. That gave me the most valuable feedback!

What game that you've designed took the longest and had the most changes?
Porto Carthago got the most changes. As the early days of the game were back in 2005, but with every other publisher that was interested in the past, the game got lots of changes.

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?
Not always. Maya back in 2003 came nearly exactly like the prototype. The only changes were to save materials. Pack & Stack came exactly like I wanted it, only Alea Iacta Est was a much deeper strategy game and during the last months before the publishing the game became lighter and lighter. I really prefer the old version.

How does the internet affect your designs? Do you read the feedback about your games online?
Yes, I try to read everything and I try to collect this at my own site. For next year I'll try to upload the rules before printing to get much better rules, then 2010 and 2009. The geeks are very critical and helpful with that.

What do you think about playing board games online?
I was very active in Brettspielwelt over years, but since 2 years I don't have the time to be there. I respect, that it's a good way for people who don't have a game round in their area to play good games. Nowadays there are also other interesting platforms to play a huge amount of board games, which is not a bad progress.

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?
After the publishing I don't play my games that often, but not for the reason I don't like them... With my self publishing work I don't have the chance to play other new games that often, so I try to test other designs as much as possible.

You play games time to time, or the games are part of your daily life?
I have two gaming groups. One is every week and one is every 2 weeks. At home I nearly test my own games with my wife or with myself.

Can you tell me the game you enjoy playing the most? Why?
Hmm - that's a difficult question. I think that Goa is the most incredible game ever. I really love the 2 different mechanics: first the auction, which is very tricky and second the upgrading and coordination of my own actions.

Can you tell me your favourite game? And your favourite type of game?
As I names Goa before, I would also name Puerto Rico, Caylus, Tichu, Phoenicia my other favourites.

Do you prefer play the games or create them?
That doesn't make a big difference for me. I also like testing the games of other Berlin designers and give them my feedback. Deep in my heart I will always be a gamer.

Do you think sales are a determining factor of whether a game is good or not?
No! The number of sold games mostly depends onto the amount of money to promote a game on TV. Almost the best games you'll find at the booths of small publishers.

When did you realize that create games were your dream?
In my schooldays I started to modify games, but that was nothing serious. Back in 2000 I had the first ideas for a full game and I started to write rules and tested at one of my gaming groups. That was very funny for me, so I realized, that publishing an own game one day became my profession.

How do you define yourself as a game designer?
Through the putout of released games and through the ideas which are still in my brain.

Do you have another job, or you are a full time game designer?
Joking - I have a fulltime job. Irongames and game designing is my hobby. For more there is not enough safety and money. It's very hard to manage everything, especially before and after Essen, but I'm glad to have such a satisfying hobby.

Do you normally follow any particular game designer with especial attention?
No special game designer. I notice if I have new games from the "big" designers (Knizia, Kramer…) in front of me and pay attention to them, but it's not my goal, to check out every game of them.

What you think about the economic crisis? It will affect the games sales?
Not that much... If a game is good, you will sell it anyway.

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?
Maybe one day... Portugal is very famous for his discoverer and seafarer, which is not a theme in so many games... I also remember Magellan, but this is almost abstract.

What you know about Portugal? Have you ever visited Portugal?
I was only for 2 Days in Lisboa, and then the trip went to Spain. Too bad I haven't seen that much. As I'm a big football-fan I'm very interested into the top leagues of Europe and the National teams, so I know Portugal has a very strong team. I remember Fernando Meira, who played for my favourite German Team Stuttgart!

Thank for the interview.
Thank you for your interest.

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