Patrick Rauland: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Indie Board Game Designers Podcast. Today, we’re going to be talking with Eduardo Baraf, who is the founder of Pencil First Games, a game designer himself, and a prolific game reviewer, and is one of the developers behind Herbaceous Sprouts, which just finished on Kickstarter. Ed, welcome to the show.
Eduardo Baraf: Thanks for having me. Yeah, Herbaceous Sprouts will have wrapped by the time this goes on.
Patrick Rauland: I guess I first saw you on Kickstarter reviewing a whole bunch of games. But before you were famous on Kickstarter and game reviewing, how-
Eduardo Baraf: [crosstalk 00:00:43].
How Did You Get Into Board Game Design?
Patrick Rauland: Yeah. Well how did you get into board games and game design?
Eduardo Baraf: That’s a good question. I’ve had the fortune of being into video games and video game development my entire career. Starting in college, I had an independent campus organization called Wolverine Soft, which is actually still around today for making games. Then essentially, I moved into QA and production and design and studio management in video games. I was at a company called Mind Control Software, and at the time, Thomas Denmark was the art director. Thomas Denmark was famous for a game called Dungeoneer among other stuff. He does a lot of fantastic art and magic cards. He was working on a game called Murder of Crows, but was struggling with the hook and just making it tight.
Eduardo Baraf: He brought me on to co-design, and we worked together on that title, and that was the first game that I … board/card game that I designed and sort of got me into the hobby. It wouldn’t release for many, many years later because the art took so long to finish, but that was a start. Then later on while I was at Blue Fang Games, I kicked off a work on Lift Off Get Me Off This Planet, which was the first Pencil First game. So it was sort of a transition from video games and designing in video games to taking on the board game design.
Isn’t There More Money In Video Games?
Patrick Rauland: So I imagine there’s more money in video games. Why did you decide to go into board games?
Eduardo Baraf: Well, I mean, from a salary perspective perhaps, you know, you could get jobs making video games more so than the board game industry. But no, I mean, I think for me it’s a creative endeavor. And in particular, making a board game is a much more confined, approachable effort. I’ll often say board games don’t have engineers, and mean that in a … No. Nothing against engineers. Actually, you know, a lot of engineers are designers.
Eduardo Baraf: But just the amount of work you have to put in place to have a functioning video game is far less to have a functioning prototype that you start putting art on and get going. So, it was a great opportunity to be creative, but not be bound to having large expansive teams.
Patrick Rauland: Got it. Got it. By the time this posts, Herbaceous Sprouts will have just wrapped on Kickstarter.
Eduardo Baraf: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Why Design a More Lightweight Game?
Patrick Rauland: Now, this is what I would say sort of a little bit more of a lightweight game, and it’s actually like a follow-up to the Herbaceous, which is a bigger, more complicated game. Why did you decide to make a more lightweight version?
Eduardo Baraf: I can understand that impression from the fact that it uses dice, but it’s actually the reverse. So, it’s atypical. Herbaceous is about as light as it gets. So Herbaceous is this ultra-light, simple card game that’s a mixture of push-your-luck and set collection. It’s easily Pencil First Games’ most successful title in terms of fan interest and just units sold. With that team, Beth Sobel, Steve Finn, Keith Matejka, Ben Shulman and I worked on Herbaceous. We’d go into that story, but it was an awesome experience. We then rolled into Sunset Over Water, which is also on the lighter side, but we really wanted to do something more with Herbaceous.
Eduardo Baraf: And because Herbaceous is such a light game, going and doing, like a dice game with Herbaceous that was what you typically would see. A lighter game would have been like Batman Dice. It would have literally been, like grabbed dice out of a cup, roll them, pick and push your luck to see if it … you know, click, sets and push your luck, which isn’t … I mean, it’s fine but it wasn’t interesting to us. What we really wanted to do was take dice and push it out further and have more of a fuller experience with Herbaceous Sprouts, albeit still very light.
Eduardo Baraf: I mean, Herbaceous Sprouts is absolutely a gateway game, whereas … I mean, Herbaceous is gateway for, like somebody who’s only played Gin Rummy and Hearts, like super, super entry level. But that was the approach though.
Patrick Rauland: I think that’s really interesting because I agree. Most games, when they make the dice version, it’s almost always a lighter version of the game. So, that was the impression I had just from looking at the kickstart. I’m like, “Oh this is like Herbaceous Sprouts.” I’m like, “Oh that looks probably better for me,” because from what I’ve heard, Herbaceous sounds heavier. But it sounds like I got that totally wrong.
Eduardo Baraf: It’s fine, man. Yeah, and I think that’s always a challenge. We talked about that creative endeavor. But for me, when I’m designing or leading a project, it’s all about the creative energy and work that we’re doing. Sometimes, we went down the dice path with what we were doing, and it just going super simple wasn’t interesting enough. We’ve played those games and this was … Herbaceous Sprouts was just much more of a wonderful experience going the other way a little bit. Again, it’s still pretty light.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah, yeah.
Eduardo Baraf: Okay, so, you have a lot of different things under your belt. So you’ve been a designer. You’ve done developments, game development for games, and you also do reviewing and you’re a publisher. So that’s like at least four different hats.
Patrick Rauland: Sure, sure. Yeah, yeah.
Eduardo Baraf: By title, it’s probably 15 different hats, when you add in other stuff.
What Job Role Do You Like the Most?
Patrick Rauland: Which of those is the most exciting for you? The reason I’m asking this is I think there’s a lot of designers who are thinking about becoming a publisher or doing development, but they don’t know which route to take, and I’m just … Which one of those for you is your favorite?
Eduardo Baraf: It’s interesting. I mean, at a high level, I consider myself a game maker. And so, for me, what’s the joy is working with other people to create an experience that then we share with a larger group of people who enjoy that experience, right? And so, it’s really the entire creative process that I enjoy and I’m excited by rather than any specific piece, and you talked about designing. If I’m working on a game and I’m really excited I want to do a game, I really want to do, like an epic war builder 18X game, because I’m really excited about whatever. So I’ve got air blowing and people doing gardening work on the outside of this building.
Eduardo Baraf: But I want to do this 18X game. Well I’m not necessarily the best designer for that. I don’t play them that much. I don’t know why I’d want to do it, but I don’t play them that much. I don’t know how to design them, so I’m just not a natural fit for that. I’d much rather find the perfect … I would, like everyone in their role to do an amazing job. And so, I have no problem with using somebody who’s better than me at any specific part of the product work.
Patrick Rauland: I think that’s really cool to look at yourself as a game maker because that’s a little bit more abstracted, and it’s kind of like, “How can I help?” as opposed to “I want be the lead,” or, “I want to be the designer or doing development of the game.” I think that’s a really cool distinction. It’s just, “I’m a game maker and you figure out what works best for each project.”
Eduardo Baraf: Yeah, and sometimes, it’s even to the extent of Heroes Welcome, which is going to ultimately be a Pencil First Games, but it was a Kickstarter by Marc LeBlanc that was earlier this year. He was the head of the project and running it and working with art, but they just needed development and Kickstarter and product support, and they’re good friends of mine and I wanted to help them. And so, that was really just me coming in and facilitating the process, right? Getting the people we needed to succeed, pushing them to get it done, and moving it through the process. And that was satisfying for me, even though it wasn’t a situation where I was driving it forward.
What is the Difference Between Game Development & Game Design?
Patrick Rauland: Yeah. So with Herbaceous Sprouts, you did developments. Can you just describe, like what is the difference between game developments and game design?
Eduardo Baraf: Sure, sure. It’s different for every title. I mean, ultimately, in many ways, it’s partnership. But from a practical level, coming to Herbaceous sprouts and knowing that I wanted to work with Steve again. I said, “Hey Steve, what do you think about moving and doing more Herbaceous work?” I was thinking about, “Wouldn’t it be cool to do a dice game? We could make these really fantastic looking dice and drive forward. What do you think about that?” He was excited, and so, he went off and started designing and coming together with essentially his prototype, which is on paper, standard-looking prototype from a designer.
Eduardo Baraf: I had to stick a lot of stickers on dice, but just the basic components on paper. So he brings that to me and then development really begins. So one is I’m playing it. I’m giving him feedback. I’m pushing and pulling it. In many ways, my job as a developer, in that context, and as a product lead, is to say, “Who are we making this game for? And what experience are we trying to give to them?” This was very much always aimed at people who loved Herbaceous and a broader audience, but we definitely wanted to make this a game, Herbaceous game … players would love, because, you know, why use the IP if you’re not going to leverage it, right?
Patrick Rauland: And how in describing a lot of stuff … This is very product-manager, product-centric, which is something you get from working in video games in an industry. It’s not necessarily how you think of it in that if you’re just doing design work.
Eduardo Baraf: So pushing and pulling them on the design, we’re talking about the different components and coming up with different ideas on how we’ll build it. Then while that process is going on and helping massage the design work with Steve, I’m then starting to run down and look at and talk to Beth about the look and the feel, and the different components, and the managing the schedules, and what everyone’s doing. So I’m doing all the coordination work. And then as assets are coming in, I’m pulling them together and helping them get integrated, updating The Game Crafter. Steve will typically do a base rule book, which is just his style of rules.
Eduardo Baraf: And then, I’ll move it over, and then I’ll start massaging it and then working with Ben Shulman, the graphic designer, to build those rules. I’ll interface with Ben a lot. I’ll interface with Beth a lot. I’ll interface with Steve a lot, as we pull it all together. Then again, as I’m play testing and seeing it in the world, I’m then filtering back that information and results to Steve and making recommendations and suggestions. So there’s always going to be something. For example, Steve had in Herbaceous sprouts, there’s a die that … One side of it lets you re-roll that die. And so, at the time, the game had your re-rolling and dice manipulation, like you’d expect.
Eduardo Baraf: But I never got the chance to hold a fist of dice and roll it. I’m like, “That’s a big deal.” And so, I push back on that and I said, “This is one of a variety of examples.” I’m not trying to take anything from all these decisions, but I’m just trying to give you an example, of where I said, “Wouldn’t it be better if when I re-roll this one, I get the option to re-roll as many as I want? What’s the drawback from that? It seems like it’s about the same impact, but it just lets me risk more and have more opportunity to swing my decisions but in a good dice rolling sort of way.” He said, “Well that’s interesting. That might work.”
Eduardo Baraf: And so, then, he goes back, and now, he’s doing a little development work where he’s trying and design work. He comes back and he says, “I think that works over here and here, but then I want to do something over here.” I said, “Cool.” So it’s really pushing and pulling that. I think in bigger companies, sometimes, the developer’s really just integrating assets or just running play tests. But from a Pencil First Games’ perspective, it’s really a very active engagement.
When Does Development Start (and Design End)?
Patrick Rauland: What percent of the game do you think is … I don’t want to say done. But what percent of the game would you say you kept when you first got it? Was 70% of the game complete and you were sort of figuring out that last 30%? Or is it like only 20%? What percent of it is sort of done?
Eduardo Baraf: Yeah, well, one thing I would say is if I’m from a design perspective, because if you’re just talking about the effort to actually build the graphic files and the work of manufacturing a game, like the design part is a very, very small piece. But if you’re talking about the design, one thing I’d say if I’m doing my job right, I’m never changing the last 30%. I’m just convincing Steve to change the last 30%. But honestly, I’ve now worked with dozens of designers, probably more, maybe dozens of dozens. It depends on the person. Steve, for example, is really good at having a clear vision, nailing it and at pretty much working.
Eduardo Baraf: We’re working on a future title now together, and this is one where it’s going through a lot of cycles. We’re playing it. I’m giving him feedback. He’s taking it back. He doesn’t usually do dramatic pivots, but he’s been doing some dramatic pivots of the design and it’s coming together. But Steve is definitely a person who comes at you with a really solid design.
How Do You Design Remotely?
Patrick Rauland: Very cool. Boy, there’s just so much stuff to consider there, and I think a lot of people design in a black … You know what I mean? You just design and you just work with your friends. I’m wondering if it’s helpful to get out of your head and get out of your local play test group and work with someone maybe like yourself or maybe an outside development group to get fresh perspective on the game. I think one of the other questions I had is, it sounds like you and Steve do, like you don’t live near each other or you don’t-
Eduardo Baraf: I don’t know if I would live near any of the people I work with right now. It’s all over the phone or email or Google Docs or that kind of thing.
Patrick Rauland: Is that challenging? Or does that give you more advantages or disadvantages when you work really far away from each other?
Eduardo Baraf: Well, I mean, I think there’s a little bit of a challenge on all parts. But once you get used to it, you get used to it. I mean, I love working on in teams together at an office. But at the same time, like if Pencil First Games is actually hiring all these people and housing them in a building, they have to be 20 times the company, right? So no, I think you the new world has distributed teams in many ways, and fortunately, there’s all sorts of tools and technology to facilitate that. I mean, again, I have to work regularly with my manufacturer in China. I use Skype and other tools in order to do that.
Eduardo Baraf: And so, there are challenging parts to it. One of my very earliest League industry videos that I did was about distributed teams or … No, it was actually a League article I did about distributed teams. But you sort of get used to it. You definitely should be taking your game outside of your core group, right?
Patrick Rauland: Yeah.
Eduardo Baraf: Like I said, it’s easy to get the same kind of feedback over and over again, and you want to go beyond that. I also think, again, one of the unique things here is, oftentimes, the designer is just working on their mechanics. If you go to a traditional mold, where they’re handing off their game mechanics to a publisher, they’re thinking about their game and their experience, but they may not … not exactly thinking about their audience because the publisher is going to theme it. He’s going to change it. He’s going to do all those stuff. But I like, you know, one of the things I think you can say about Pencil First Game products is they’re very holistic, right?
Eduardo Baraf: I really want … When you pick up a product or that we’ve created, it really has a clear and strong vision that is both the game, as well as how its presented and how it feels. So I really think having a strong aesthetic is important, and to do that, you need to know what you’re making in its entirety. You can’t do the first half and then slap on the second half and I think that’s a big deal.
How Did You Start Reviewing Board Games?
Patrick Rauland: Interesting. Okay, so, I first heard about you. I’m going to say you’re Kickstarter famous. So that’s where I first heard about you. I saw just a whole bunch of reviews of you doing reviews for games. So number one, I’m curious. How did you just start reviewing all these games? And how did you become such a big-name reviewer?
Eduardo Baraf: Yeah, I mean, I sort of question that whole big-name reviewer bit. I think I’m a big-name reviewer in the Facebook board gaming community, specifically. From an audience perspective, I wouldn’t consider myself a big-name reviewer. But setting that aside, it was actually after Lift Off. Lift Off was my first Kickstarter, and I had to go from zero to 60 in a very short period of time where I wasn’t a part of any online community in any way. I wasn’t active on Twitter. I wasn’t active in Facebook. I wasn’t active on BGG. I wasn’t a part of the community.
Eduardo Baraf: Up till that point, the community of board gaming were the people near me, not people online. When you’re doing a Kickstarter, that isn’t enough, right? Because if you just convince the people near you to do it, you don’t have enough people. So I had to go from 0 to 60 for the Lift Off Campaign. And afterwards, it was like, “How … ” Making a game takes so long. It’s going to be another year more before I pick my head up again and emerge in this group asking for help. But I appreciate it so much and what people have contributed. How can I give back?
Eduardo Baraf: At the time, I was like, “Well I think there’s a big shortage of short reviews,” like it’s frustrating. Who wants to watch 20, 30, 40-minute board game reviews? And there are plenty who do, but that was my perspective at the time.
Patrick Rauland: Sure.
Eduardo Baraf: So I then went and started my reviews, which were, “Hey, I’m just going to pitch you a game, like if you were at my house for game night,” and I-
Patrick Rauland: Cool.
Eduardo Baraf: … wanted you to play it, and then I just went from there. Then some Kickstarter folks asked me if I could do some for their Kickstarter, and I said, “Sure.” I just kept continued doing it. I’m really good at doing things. My superpower is organization and productivity among other things.
Speaker 3: And cleaning.
Eduardo Baraf: My son said, “And cleaning.” So, for me, building out and being … One of the reasons I’m at least of some notoriety, I guess, is that I’ve been launching videos over the last almost five years or four or five years, probably four years, consistently, week over week, content over content. I probably have 600 reviews. I didn’t-
Patrick Rauland: Wow.
Eduardo Baraf: … stop, right?
Patrick Rauland: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Eduardo Baraf: I’ve been consistent.
How Does Reviewing Games Help Your Process?
Patrick Rauland: All right. So I do have a follow-up is, when you started doing these reviews, I imagine it helped your game design. Was there a specific example you can think of where some sort of review you did six months, a year earlier, has affected a game you did today?
Eduardo Baraf: Well I think it’s absolutely the case. What’s absolutely the case is, being board game reviewer has forced me to play so many more games than I would have otherwise, right?
Patrick Rauland: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Eduardo Baraf: My depth of experience in just a wide variety of genre of games from prototype stuff to AAA manufactured games is just dramatically different. Like, I was a guy, I’d buy a game, and I’d play it a ton, and we’d buy one more. You picked up a game every once in a while. Now, I’m playing and experiencing 20, maybe 30 games a month. And so, you just have so much more perspective. It’s hard to point at any specific, like with this one example, this other … I don’t think I can say this came from this. But without a doubt, it just gives you a better vocabulary and understanding of how mechanics work, what dynamics they produce in games.
Eduardo Baraf: You get into a lot of positions where somebody’s struggling with a problem. You’re like, “Well they sort of had a system like that in Kingdomino. Maybe … ” Okay, here’s an example. I’m working on the next game with Steve, and he had a mechanic for selecting your cards or for going was initiatives on the bottom of the cards. He actually has done that in a lot of games and does a very good job of it, but we had done that in Sunset Over Water. I didn’t want to do the same base mechanic, and he’s like, “Well people will know it.” I’m like, “Yeah, but I sort of want to expose,” like part of this line is exposing people some sort of different mechanics.
Eduardo Baraf: And so, the conversation was around, well how do we determine initiative and action selection? And so, I was like, “Well, you know, look at Kingdomino or a lot of Cathala stuff. He does a great job of your … select a spot in an initiative row, and then that selection sets you up for the next round, and it’s dynamic, but it’s based on your choice.” And then, also, It was parallel to his system because it gives you the ability to wait … you know, where you fall in turn order as something that’s of value, right?
Patrick Rauland: Yeah.
Eduardo Baraf: And that was what he was doing with his cards, but I didn’t want to use a mechanic again. So that was an example. I mean, you don’t have to play 400 games to give that example, but little things like that all the time.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah, I really like that. It’s almost like you sort of have … God. To me, I’m thinking of like the Boy Scouts Handbook, right? It’s like, you get into a spot. It’s like, “How do we make a fire? Oh well, I’ve already made 100 fires. Here’s this bark. There’s this tree. There’s this knot” It gives you just a whole giant toolbox of things to use versus someone who’s only played 10 games. You only have 10 pages of the handbook. You can still do things but you have to figure out a lot on your own.
Eduardo Baraf: Right.
Patrick Rauland: I think that’s really cool.
Eduardo Baraf: [crosstalk 00:21:06] gives you, which is super important, and there’s this incredible video/audio clip from the guy who does This American Life. It’s passing me right now. But anyway, Ira Glass.
Patrick Rauland: Ira Glass?
Eduardo Baraf: Yeah, yeah, about taste and what playing a ton of stuff is, exposing yourself to other experiences is it gives you a sense of taste. What’s good, what’s bad; what looks good, what looks bad; what’s clear, what’s not clear. And, having a really strong and fantastic palette and appreciation for all the different parts of a game gives you a lot of superpowers when it comes to delivering some things satisfying to other players.
Patrick Rauland: So I’ve seen the Ira Glass quote. I think it’s like, when you’re just getting into something, you dislike everything you do because you have high taste. But you don’t have the ability to make a product at that level, and you just have to keep doing it and doing it and doing it and doing it until your quality matches your taste. It was something like that.
Eduardo Baraf: Yeah, yeah. Actually, it comes from like a two-minute little interview answer he gives. That’s about right honestly, but it’s worth listening to the two minutes, especially if you’re struggling. It’s basically, “Hey, don’t worry if you look at your work and you think it’s terrible. That actually means you know what good is and you just keep working on it,” right?
Patrick Rauland: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I love that. I will make sure to find it, and I’ll link it up in the show notes. I absolutely love it. I think that’s really, really cool. Oh, the lawn guy’s back.
Eduardo Baraf: We’re in a complex, so you never know where they are.
How Can You Contribute to the Board Game Community?
Patrick Rauland: Oh that’s funny. Cool. So you said you wanted to get into the community, and you said, “Hey, there’s sort of like this type of review that I would like that’s not there.” I’ve heard that advice tons of times like, “Get in the community. Be involved.” Are there any holes in the community that you think could be filled? Is there space for an hour-long review of games? Is there space for … What is a space for in the community that someone can do that adds value that’s not just saying hi on Twitter?
Eduardo Baraf: Okay, well, you want me to sell my secrets? No. A lot of them … I mean, you have to discover them. For example, there was a brand new channel about maybe a month old, which is like … I forget the name of it. But basically, they’re using one of the 360 cameras where you can rotate and pan it around.
Patrick Rauland: Oh cool.
Eduardo Baraf: They’re just little micro, like Instagram reviews, but with the 360 pan camera where you can look everywhere and I thought it was super cool. I don’t know that it’s filling a gigantic hole, but it was like a piece of content. I was like, “Oh that’s neat. That’s cool.” I think, “Where do I think content’s missing?” I feel like content’s super missing in news and punditry. I feel as if there’s very little … There are very little channels that are actively talking about what’s happening in the industry and news in the industry and sort of like what you’d see from like the Turks and that kind of perspective.
Eduardo Baraf: I think that’d be super interesting. It’s a little bit of a challenge because it’s just a very busy and active thing. I mean, you have, like a board game, breakfast and that kind of thing. But I feel like there’s space there for providing an opinion on what’s happening. There’s only so much more review stuff you can take. If you’re going the review track, I just think you need to have a really super clear perspective, an audience in mind, and you want to be able to communicate it. There’s also very little like stunt/experimental stuff around board games like, “Hey, we’re going to take this board game and we’re going to see how it reacts at 5,000 degrees,” or, “We’re going to go out in public and pretend to be … ” Just the type of typical YouTube stuff that we don’t see.
Eduardo Baraf: One channel I just saw, Board Game Spotlight promoting, was this woman … I mean, Board Game Spotlight was promoting it because she was promoting The Grimm Forest. But, she makes cakes based on-
Patrick Rauland: What?
Eduardo Baraf: … game IP.
Patrick Rauland: What?
Eduardo Baraf: It’s not as if she only did The Grimm Forest, but she’s done … It’s like sugar hook game or something. And basically, I don’t even know … She may have a review or she might not, but she just takes board game IPs and bakes cakes out of them. So it’s like, you know, there’s plenty of opportunity, as the industry grows, to take content that is existing in other mediums and try to bring it over. I’ve always felt … I was on Tabletop Deathmatch season two, and I always felt that there’s been a lack in the visualization of game development, and I think there’s an opportunity to do something there.
Eduardo Baraf: But again, you got to dive in and have the time to do it. I think it’d be really cool if somebody went around and profile board game stores across the United States. I think that’d be awesome. You also then need to drive around the United States and profile board games twice, right? It takes work.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah. These are really great ideas. I really like it. The reason I started this podcast is because I was just like, “I just want to hear more designers tell their stories.” I’m hoping this is a need that other people finds … They find some value in it, but I’m not sure. But, it’s at least something that I think would be useful, so I’m trying this. I hope people can find something that they find useful, and hopefully, also provides value of someone else to someone else.
Eduardo Baraf: Here’s the challenge you’re going to face, because I’ve been in this boat before, man. You got to make sure that you’re excited and interested every time you do one of these, and you want to know the answers, because, one, it makes for a better interview. But at the end of the day, your audience is inherently pretty small, right?
Patrick Rauland: Yeah.
Eduardo Baraf: Your audience here is people who play and enjoy board games, but also, to the extent that they are designers of the board games, and it’s a pretty tiny audience. There’s nothing wrong with making content for a tiny audience. But it’s not like it’s suddenly going to become hot ones and take over the internet, right?
Patrick Rauland: Right.
Eduardo Baraf: You’re going to always sort of … And so, that’s just the challenge, right? I have found that as that group … There’s only so much that even that small little group can consume. So, as long as you’re okay, it’s like, “You picked the small pond,” so I don’t think you’re going to find any sharks in the small pond, but you could certainly go swimming, right? You can have fun.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah. So here’s my thing. The reason I started this is I thought, “The worst scenario, I’m getting something.” Worst case, like if it’s just me and my mom. I mean, I’ve only had this been live for a couple weeks. It might just be me and my mom listening to this right now, but at least I’m learning something while I do this, and hopefully, other people eventually pick it up. But you’re right. I’ve committed to this without … I’m just going to do this for at least a year and see where I am, and then I’ll figure it out from there.
Eduardo Baraf: Yeah. The podcast space is also different. So your audience is inherently going to be bigger on a podcast, and a YouTube video often is the case for this type of content, which is good for you. Again, I think for you to … Like one year, after six, nine, 12 months, and you’re like, “Okay, well this has been cool, but I sort of wanted to grow.” I think you need to think about how you can capitalize on the content you’re making to create something new or novel that’s appreciated by a broader audience than the limited audience. So I don’t know the answer to that question, but you’ll probably hit it at some point. I’m not trying to be a downer.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah, yeah. No, and you’re not being a … Whenever I encounter an obstacle of some kind, it’s almost always like, “How do I figure this out?” Not, “I’m screwed.” It’s almost always like, “Cool. This is an interesting problem to solve.” So, I look forward to six to nine months from now where I’m like, “How do I make this better?”
Eduardo Baraf: Yeah, and you might be okay with it, right? I still, you know, years and years later, I release videos, and lots of the League videos do 200, 300 views, and I know that it’s a pretty consistent audience. There are only a handful of things that break out of that and those things are usually ones where I talk about a topic that’s broader than game makers. One of biggest videos I ever did was when I responded to a video from The Dice Tower, where they sort of said, “This is what designers need to stop doing,” and I disagreed with a lot of it, and I did a very complete and full-throated response to it.
Eduardo Baraf: And so, that became … That latched on in a way to The Dice Tower audience, and it became an industry conversation as opposed to just a board game design conversation.
What Resource Would You Recommend to an Aspiring Designer?
Patrick Rauland: Sure, very cool. I like it. I just want to ask a couple more questions before I get to the end here. Totally changing gears. So, back to … You’re an indie game designer or maybe you’re an aspiring game designer. What one resource would you recommend to those people?
Eduardo Baraf: Honestly, I think it’s play games. I think those people should really just keep playing games. I think Facebook is a great opportunity, and having a cheap editor, like on Mac. There’s a program called Pixelmator, which is like 30 or 40 bucks. It basically lets you do anything you do on Photoshop, but there’s some other resources that will help you lay out pages and put things together. The Game Crafter is a great resource. But really, buy a blank deck of cards and some white paper and a pen. I think it’s about the gumption and about the sort of understanding what you want. Jamey Stegmaier has a great blog. James Mathe has a great blog.
Eduardo Baraf: I have some videos on game design and game creation. But I think a lot of it is about doing and less in not talking. So, I think it’s really just initiative. I don’t think there’s one tool that’s going to make it or break it for a designer.
What Mechanisms or Ideas Are You Looking Into?
Patrick Rauland: All right. And lastly, what are some fun ideas or mechanisms that you’re looking into for your future games?
Eduardo Baraf: Oh well, so I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but there’s a 40-year-old game called Situation 4.
Patrick Rauland: No.
Eduardo Baraf: It is a two-player, head-to-head, jigsaw puzzle game, where you’re competing with each other to fill a board the fastest while scoring different points. It’s from Parker Brothers. And so, it is awesome. So whether or not it’s really a great mechanic or not, I’ve been messing around with jigsaw puzzles. [crosstalk 00:30:54]-
Patrick Rauland: That’s really cool.
Eduardo Baraf: … find some jigsaw puzzles. So that’s something I’ve been wrapping my head around.
What Does Success Look Like?
Patrick Rauland: I love it. All right. Sorry. I lied. I have technically one more question and then a little game at the end. All right. So, last question. What does success look like in the board game world to you?
Eduardo Baraf: That’s a great question. I honestly think you need to define that as a personal … like, what is it to you? What are you trying to accomplish? And that’s where you’re going to find satisfaction and happiness. It’s really, “If you’re concerned about the destination, you’re going to miss the journey,” right? And so, success for me is being able to work with people to make games that people get to play and enjoy. So, sure it would be great if I sold a hundred thousand, but if I show enough that I need that expectation and then I can make another one. I’m pretty darn happy about it.
Eduardo Baraf: So, I really think when you’re kicking off and diving in, you really want to be introspective and understand what you want as a person, and that’s going to really answer that question.
Overrated Underrated Game
Patrick Rauland: Love it. All right. So, last little thing. I like to play a little game with my guests called Overrated/Underrated.
Eduardo Baraf: Okay.
Patrick Rauland: I’m basically going to give you a phrase, and you need to say if people think it’s better than it is or worse than it is. So, if it’s overrated by everyone else or underrated by everyone else. Got it?
Eduardo Baraf: And you say the phrase, but is it phrase or is it [inaudible 00:32:09] games?
Patrick Rauland: You’ll see.
Eduardo Baraf: Okay.
Patrick Rauland: So the first one, are roll-and-write games overrated or underrated?
Eduardo Baraf: I think they’re underrated.
Patrick Rauland: Because? Give me a one-sentence reason why.
Eduardo Baraf: Sure, sure, sure. They are underrated because the audience for them is way smaller than the overrated people think it is.
Patrick Rauland: All right. Way smaller. Cool. So real, in IRL, as an in real life gardening, overrated or underrated?
Eduardo Baraf: I mean, I think it’s underrated. It’s fantastic.
Patrick Rauland: Do you garden?
Eduardo Baraf: Not as much as I could, but we have a little … We don’t have much space outside of our place. We live in this community, but we have a herb and vegetable plots, so yeah. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It’s great.
Patrick Rauland: All right. I saved this one for you. I thought of it a couple of episodes ago. Gen Con, overrated or underrated?
Eduardo Baraf: Gen Con is … I mean, I think it’s overrated at this point because It’s turning very much into E3 where … I mean, it’s sort of like you have to be there. It’s everything about it, but there’s just so much other stuff going on in the industry now, and it’s getting so spread out that I think it’s now a little overrated. If you miss Gen Con, you’ll be okay. That’s [crosstalk 00:33:17].
Patrick Rauland: Great. And last one, mechanical pencils, overrated, underrated?
Eduardo Baraf: I think pencils are underrated, both mechanical and plain. Everyone should be working with pencils because you want to be able to erase and redo.
Patrick Rauland: I like it. All right. Well thank you so much for being on the show. Ed, where can people find you online?
Eduardo Baraf: So the best places to find me online is Facebook. You can just look up Eduardo Baraf or Pencil First Games. And then on Twitter, it’s @ebaraf and Pencil First. I’m very active on those channels. You can also go to pencilfirstgames.com, but I’m very active on those channels. If you have a question or query, you just ping at me, and generally speaking, pretty quickly, I’ll respond to you.
Patrick Rauland: Awesome. Well thank you again. Dear listeners, if you really enjoyed this podcast, if you enjoyed the gardening or the lawn people outside, if you want to leave us a review on iTunes, that would be great. If you do leave a review, Ed said if you would use his vast knowledge of reviews and gardening to review your personal garden. So if you want a professional review of your garden, go ahead and give us a review on iTunes or somewhere else. You can visit the site at indieboardgamedesigners.com. You can follow me on Twitter, @BFTrick. Until next time, happy designing. Thanks. Bye-bye.