How did you come up with the idea to create “12 Realms”?
Believe it or not, I initially developed 12 Realms as a complex RPG/board game hybrid. All enemy creatures had a series of stats like attack, defense, etc. and could actually harm or even kill the player’s characters. But later, during the process of refining and streamlining its rules, 12 Realms evolved into a very different kind of game. I tried to get rid of any mechanic that was not contributing to the game’s fun and eventually set out for a relatively abstract set of rules.
Where do you get the ideas for your games? Do they start with the mechanics, or the themes?
In the case of 12 Realms I would say that I developed both concepts at the same time: I wanted an innovative RPG/cooperative game, but did not like the idea of an over-used generic classic fantasy setting, so right from the start I added some fairy-tale elements.
What kind of mechanics do you prefer to focus on the development process of your games?
I must admit that I am relatively new to the world of board game design, as I spent most of my life working in the video game industry, and so I am still not as familiar and comfortable with most mechanics as some well-established designers of traditional table-top games. Still, if I favor some mechanics over others, I would say that they would be the closest to a video game design.
Which level of luck is acceptable for you in a game?
I believe that some level of luck is necessary to even the game experience between different gamers, especially if young players are involved. I cannot list an acceptable percentage or level of randomness as it depends on specific game mechanics.
How often do you play test a board game before publication?
Not as much as I’d like, unfortunately. But luckily the Mage Company’s team has greatly helped in that regard by presenting 12 Realms to dozens of experienced players. All things considered I believe that the game has been tested for over a year before its release.
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?
I am currently really busy with my daytime job in the video game industry, so I cannot dedicate much time to my board game designs, but I am usually tinkering with several parallel projects, and I would say no less than three at the same time.
Can you tell us anything about the project you are currently working on?
Sure, but please remember that most are still at an early concept stage.
One design is of a dungeon crawl game set in the same world as 12 Realms.
Another one could be described as an RPG game with a Tetris mechanic.
The last one is a very simple and fast conquest/civilization game set in a Napoleonic Steampunk setting.
Can you tell me any details?
The Dungeon Crawl game is entirely card based; where some cards (representing rooms and corridors) are laid down to create random dungeon layouts.
In the Tetris/RPG game each character and skill is represented by a differently shaped matrix that is matched against a monster’s matrix to determine combat results (it is not that easy to explain in a single sentence, but the concept is actually pretty simple, fun, and addictive).
As for the last one I can only say that its mechanics are quite innovative for a civilization game.
How do you define yourself as a game designer?
As mentioned above I am not that experienced with board game design, so I am still learning so much about the industry in general. I would say that (like probably many other designers) I am more concerned with developing ideas than the business aspect and all the work behind publishing a game.
Are you a lonely game designer or your family and friends participate in your adventure to create a new game?
Unfortunately I had to often move to different cities (and even countries) because of my profession. So it is been difficult to build and keep good gaming connections, so I guess that I am more of a lonely game designer.
The creation of a game, have several moments - creation, editing, testing and publishing - which is the most pleasant for you? Why?
I would definitely pick creation and editing, the first because during the conception process you can just experiment and try different ideas; editing because you get a chance to improve on the current design.
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?
I believe it is really helpful to have some experienced publishers edit your design. In my case, Mage Company (12 Realms’ publisher) has come up with some valid and interesting ideas that ultimately helped to improve the game’s variety and gameplay.
What game that you've designed took the longest and had the most changes?
Again, I am still a relatively new designer (at least in the traditional table-top market), so 12 Realms is still my only published title, and as such would also qualify as the longest I’ve worked on, but rules-wise it did not require much editing and the game is still similar to its early drafts.
How does the internet affect your designs? Do you read the feedback about your games online?
I certainly do read player’s feedback, which is really valuable as some players are definitely more experienced than I am and sometimes share really insightful opinions about my games.
When did you realize that to create games were your dream?
I’ve always been interested in games of any kind, including video games, traditional pen&paper RPGs, board games, miniature war games, and even to an extent sports. So it is only natural that I’d like to contribute to the market and develop my own games.
You play games from time to time, or the games are part of your daily life?
I play plenty of video games, but not as many board games as I wish I could, but that has mainly to do with my current social situation (see question 10 above).
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?
I still prefer to play other people’s games, simply because I find it fun to learn new rule sets.
Can you tell me the game you enjoy playing the most? Why?
That is easy to answer: Pandemic. I have probably played that game several hundred times. It is simply one of the most addictive and rewarding games I have ever played. And, as some players may have already noticed, I have even tried to include some elements of Pandemic in my own just released game.
Can you tell me your favorite game? And your favorite type of game?
That is tough to answer, but my all-time favorite would likely be Ghost Stories, which blends almost perfectly a clean design with very strong thematic elements. As my favorite game type, I honestly cannot answer that; I really don’t have one, as I like too many different games.
Do you prefer to play the games or create them?
Well, developing games is probably the most creative and challenging game in itself; so I would say that yes, I prefer to design games over playing them.
Do you normally follow any particular game designer with especial attention?
That would definitely be Ghost Stories’ designer Antoine Bauza.
What do you think about playing board games online?
To be completely honest, I don’t like the idea that much, as there are better video games designed from the ground up for the online medium.
Do you have another job, or you are a full time game designer?
I am currently working full time as Lead Artist for a big German video game publisher.
Do you think that board games can be used for an education purpose?
Definitely. No doubt about that. But I cannot elaborate further as the opportunity of developing educational games should be explored by more qualified designers than I am.
How have your games changed over the last years?
Like I mentioned above, I am still learning board game design, so I’m hoping that my creations are gradually getting better.
What have you learned to do and not do when designing?
The most important lesson I have learned is to simplify mechanics. To strip the original design of anything unnecessary, and then strip it some more.
Do you think sales are a determining factor of whether a game is good or not?
I believe that sales cannot (to an extent) reflect the game’s quality. Of course a good game will tend to sell more copies, but good sales are more a consequence of a smart business and marketing plan.
What you know about Portugal?
Actually quite a lot as I have a couple of very good Portuguese friends.
Have you ever visited Portugal?
Not yet, unfortunately, but I promised myself that as soon as I’m able to wrap up my current projects, I will take an extended vacation to visit Portugal, along a few more countries I’d always loved to visit.