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#146 – Aaron Moline & Eric Manahan

Patrick: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Indie Board Game Designers podcast, where I sit down with a different independent game designer to talk about their experience in game design and the lessons they've learned along the way. My name is Patrick Rauland, and today I'm going to be talking with Aaron Moline and Eric Manahan, who designed Antematter, which is a combination of poker and space strategy.

It looks like a 4x game, it is launching on Kickstarter a couple of days after we record, and it'll probably be out for about a week or so before this episode comes out. So, I will have a link for the Kickstarter in the show notes. Last thing, Aaron is the co-creator, and Eric is the creative director. Aaron and Eric, welcome to the show.

Aaron: Thank you.

Eric: Thank you.

Introduction

Patrick: So, I know you, and I have looked at your game, and we've emailed back and forth, but the audience doesn't. I have a lightning round to introduce you to them, and since there's two of you here, I'm going to ask both of you these questions. All right?

Eric: Lovely.

Aaron: Let's do it.

Patrick: All right. I don't know about you, but whenever I watch a movie, and there's poker going on, there's all these cool terms. Either they have cool nicknames, or I've got a full house with a high king– I don't know. Sorry, I don't know that much about poker, but they just sound cool. So, what is your–? We'll start with you, Aaron. What is your favorite poker phrase or term?

Aaron: I love a boat. That's another name for a full house.

Patrick: I had no idea.

Eric: I didn't even know that.

Patrick: Great. What about you, Eric?

Eric: I got to go with a burn. So, before you deal more cards on the [inaudible] turn, you'd say, “Burn a card.” I was like, “That's cool.”

Patrick: What does it mean? Do you discard the card?

Eric: Yeah. Instead of saying, “Discard a card,” you say, “Burn that card.” It's so edgelord, and I love it.

Patrick: That's super cool.

Aaron: I think one of the most interesting ones, though, that people use in movies a lot, is the concept of a tell. Where they have this concept where if you learn someone's tell you can automatically beat them in poker.

Eric: Like, somehow, you crack the code.

Aaron: Right, exactly. It's not quite that simple, but it's a fun mechanic that they make up to make it more cinematic.

Patrick: Totally. “Every time Patrick lies, he blinks twice.” Right?

Eric: Yeah. I know sometimes I try to create a fake tell when I'm playing, so I'll wince even if I have a bad card. Like, “Maybe they'll pick up on it.”

Patrick: All right, there we go. I love it. So, Eric, I will start with you this time. What is your favorite pandemic activity? As in anything that you do in this pandemic time.

Eric: Besides designing Antematter? Because it's got to be Smash Brothers. It has to be. I play way too much Smash Brothers.

Patrick: So, this is going to– I'm going to lose nerd points. Listeners, please don't hate me too much. But I haven't played Smash Bros since GameCube.

Eric: OK. The plus is Melee is arguably one of the best versions of Smash Brothers, so you're good there. But how dare you sir, you've been missing out on–

Patrick: Fun?

Eric: Oh, my God.

Patrick: OK, great. I will– Do you know there is a arcade bar that if it survives this pandemic, I will totally go back to the arcade bar because they have Super Smash Bros tournaments and they have all sorts of fun things. I will try to get back into it.

Eric: Please do. Then we can do one Fox only, final destination, no items. It'll be awesome.

Patrick: You think I'm better than I am. I cannot win on no items. I need the hammer, and I need the lightsaber, I need to throw things at you because that's the only way I can win.

Aaron: Oh, no. With Eric, those don't even help because he's just better throwing them than you are. It's insane.

Patrick: Aaron, what about you? What's your favorite pandemic activity?

Aaron: I do play a lot of multiplayer games too, I don't play as much with Eric because he always wins. But I've been playing a lot of Fall Guys recently, the game show game where everyone's little beans. It's like MxC or American Ninja Warrior, where everyone goes through these wacky obstacle courses.

It's a lot of fun. It's just so unapologetically happy and colorful, and it's just, especially in these kind of times, just going into a very like– It's almost like playing through Candyland. It's so twee and cute, but also, the gameplay is just so addictive.

Patrick: OK, I can see that. I'm looking– I'm just trying to find– I'll have to try to find a link to that later, but I think I've seen ads for that type of show. Very cool.

Eric: It's the new hot thing.

Patrick: All right. Then Aaron, what is a game you'd play with someone every single time at a convention?

Aaron: It's funny because most of the conventions that I've gone to is running Antematter play tests, so definitely Antematter is the one that I've played the most and seen played the most at a con.

Patrick: Awesome, let me rephrase the question. If you are exhausted, you've done a whole day of play testing Antematter or whatever, and then you're about to leave, and then someone's like, “Just one more game of X” and you turn around and do one more game or something like that. What the game is it?

Aaron: Code Names. Code Names, for sure. That's the kind of game I love because it's simple in its construction but so diverse in the way that you can approach the problem. It really lends itself to different kinds of play styles, and especially knowing your partner and trying to figure out how best to express your code to them is the wonderful– It's an abstract puzzle, and I love it.

Patrick: Awesome. What about you, Eric?

Eric: He took my answer. That was it. Did something–? We played it together a whole bunch, but not on the same team per se, but either my friend from high school of over a decade where when I'll be with someone else we'll be playing the game, and we'll try to think of “What do you know, and I know?”

It's a whole different set of rules, but when I'm playing with someone I've known for over a decade, I can just do a single gesture. And he's like, “Beavis and Butthead do America,” and we're like “Totally.” There's just something about that that's so much fun.

How did you get into board games and board game design?

Patrick: Yeah, that's awesome. I love it. All right, so let's go into the first real question. How did you get into board games and board game design?

Eric: Want me to go first?

Aaron: Yeah, go for it.

Eric: OK. How did I get into board game design? All right, I suppose I realized very recently that it didn't click with me that I've been designing games since kindergarten. I used to take construction paper and make little maps or a board, and then just simple stuff. Just spots that you roll a dice and move around, and make little clay figures. So in that sense, I've been designing board games for a long time. But later, I got really into coding and pixel art and trying to make the next Metroidvania.

I got really into Gamemaker, then moved up to Unity. So I come from a lot of coding background, but that said, the way I got into this board game, in particular, is that I had a mutual friend through Aaron, and they said “If you're making a game you might want to talk to this guy.” Initially, I started out as just a designer, and then through over multiple years of working together and hanging out, they were like, “You also are a game designer amongst other things?” Like “Yes, sir. Yes I am.” “Well, come on into the writers room.” So I guess that's how I got into game designing right now.

Patrick: That's great. It's cool to hear that you've been doing it since kindergarten. That's great. You just have a knack for it.

Eric: I just, I've loved– I fell in love with a Super Nintendo at my best– The block I lived on, my best friend block guy. He had a Super Nintendo, and I played Megaman X for the first time, and that was it. I was like, “This is it.”

Patrick: Super great game. Love it. Aaron, what about you? How did you get into board games and board game design?

Aaron: For me, I was blessed and cursed with an older brother. When we were kids, he was always at the cutting edge of whatever new games were coming out, new systems were coming out, and so I had the benefit of his trailblazing. We used to play games together when they were co-op, I remember some of my earliest memories are Joe and Mack on the SNES. He got really into Magic: The Gathering and other kinds of board games, and drew me in. He still plays Magic quite a bit, I've trailed off, but he introduced me to some board games that were more complicated.

That had more niche than, let's say, Monopoly. Things that I played with my whole family growing up. So my brother and I, we connected over our shared love of games. That's what led us to want to make games ourselves, so him and I, we started Card Shark in March of 2017 to make our own games. When we started thinking about the games to make, and this goes into the second question, is we wanted to make something that we could make.

Because neither my brother nor I were coders, and we didn't know anyone who could code, so we wanted to build a board game because we had games and ideas that we wanted to express and experiment with. When we started making Antematter, it just took on a whole life of its own. We brought in fantastic people like Eric, who had a whole different vision for what games could be, and now we've formed a company around this team where we're going to be making all kinds of different games.

Does basing your game on poker make it easier or harder to learn?

Patrick: So Aaron, I was looking at Antematter, and I was thinking about– I think one of the things that's hard about games, board games, in particular, is you have to learn all the rules. With video games, they can guide you through it. There's a lot of tutorial levels, and they limit– Like in the beginning, they give you helpers, or they don't give you the vehicle controls right away. It's just this first person shooter, and they give you the controls later.

One of the things that's hard about a board game is you have to learn this whole ruleset. Here's what I'm fascinated about, with Antematter, it's a combination of poker, and it looks like a space exploration game. I think if you could– For the listeners at home, like if you can envision space Catan, it's space themed. That's what the board looks like, space Catan with poker on the side. Does that make it easier or harder for people to play the game, that there's a foundation that they may or may not already know?

Aaron: That's a great question. It goes into a lot of the things that we talked about when we started making the game, thinking a lot about rules weight and how much we can expect a player to learn before they play the game when they read the manual. Also as they start to try to apply the things they have learned by reading the manual and start getting ready to play their first game, and the great thing about basing your game partially on something that already exists, like poker, is that the people who already know how to play poker don't have to learn anything at all for that.

All of the ways that our game uses poker, in terms of those who already understand the rules of poker, are pretty light in terms of the rules weight. We've added an extra card to each of our poker decks, another face card, and we call it the grifter. That functions the way that no other card does in a standard poker deck, and our game uses Antes instead of the normal blinds that you'd see in a Texas Hold'em match. But other than that, the poker aspect of our game is very close to what you would play with a bunch of your friends on a Saturday night.

Now for the other part of the game, we were cognizant that we wanted to create a game that was easy to learn but difficult to master, and we come from a team that is much more versed in video games than other games. So one of the challenges for us was getting those rules across, where in a video game you'd be restricted by the coding that wouldn't allow you to make mistakes on the board and trying to communicate the system and how it works and trying to make the system itself as intuitive as possible, and a lot of the time through development and testing was looking at the way people interacted with the game.

The questions that they had, and trying to lean always to a more permissive space where if they say, “Can I do this? Can do this?” The answer was almost always, “Yes.” So we've definitely mitigated a lot of the complexity by making it as intuitive as we possibly can, but that said, the board game of our game is a completely unique experience. It has certain similarities to games like Catan, but the way that you traverse the conflux, our board with your ships, is going to be very familiar to people who played Terminix strategy games on their computers and even asymmetrical RTSs like Starcraft. You're going to see some of that DNA in there with the asymmetrical design of our crews.

Patrick: Yeah, there's a lot in there. I guess I'm curious if you're teaching the game to someone who's never– They've played poker, but they haven't played Antematter, how long does that take? And if you're teaching someone who hasn't played Antematter, nor have they played poker, how much does that take? I'm curious if there's– Like, you can almost measure how much time do you save?

Eric: You can definitely measure it. For sure. We've had many, we've gone to a bunch of cons, and we've done a bunch of play testing, and it seems like it's like many card games. The common phrase in my household when playing a card game is “Play a round, you'll pick it up right away and we'll keep going.”

You play one round of Antematter, and you just pick it up. The first round, if you're brand spanking new to the game, you'll be like, “I don't know what's happening.” After one cycle, everyone's doing advanced maneuvers, and it's very intuitive. You pick it up very quickly.

Aaron: One of the things that we find is that players usually ignore their crew cards for the first round as they sort of onboard themselves and figure out how to move their ships around, how to use them in tandem to make the most out of them, how to collect the most currency off the board.

Then they there's always a moment where they take a look then at their hand of crew cards, which are all abilities that they can use during the loot phase on the board and during the poker that can augment their efforts and change the game for them. That “Aha” moment where they realize how many wonderful options we've given them for these cards is a fantastic thing to see in the player.

What’s it like marketing a game that is based on another game, or has similar mechanisms? How do you find your audience?

Patrick: I guess what I'm thinking about is the next thing on the list here when you're marketing a game I was thinking if you're play testing your game and you say, “My game is based on poker,” is that exciting for people who already know poker? Or is it disappointing because it's like poker but isn't poker?

Aaron: I think that people usually have one of two responses to it. We found pretty much that everyone likes poker, and the people who aren't as big fans aren't fans because they think they're bad at it or they've lost money playing it, and they haven't had the incentives to keep trying.

The fun thing about our game is that you can play poker with your friends for the currency that the game is based on, so there's still weight to the chips. You don't bet them as if they were nothing, but at the end of a game of Antematter, if you lose and you go all in, and you lose all of your chips, you're not out the $20 dollars you paid to play in a tournament with your friends. But the other thing is that people who are bad at poker, I think Eric can speak to this– No offense.

Eric: None taken.

Aaron: Our game gives players like that options with our crew cards to mitigate some of the things they don't like about poker, some of the reasons that they don't feel comfortable playing. We have cards that can reduce enemy bets, and we have cards that give you the ability to bet for free. You have players who weren't as comfortable playing poker, and they start to get into the role of their crew, whether it's the [inaudible] who were very aggressive.

We see meek poker players start betting aggressively because that's the flavor of their crew, and then you have someone like Eric who's not as comfortable playing poker playing as the Cadillacs, where they can mitigate a lot of that aggression from the other players and stay in hands longer.

Patrick: Interesting. So poker is a relatively deep game, there's lots of strategy you can learn, and there's lots of– “Tactics” is not the right word, but lots of strategy. But also, little things that you can learn about poker.

Eric: There's a high skill ceiling, for sure.

Do high skill ceilings contribute to high game replayability?

Patrick: What I like about games that have a high skill ceiling, and I love that you're using that term, I don't know how universal that term is so I love that you're aware of it. But for games that have a high skill ceiling, do you think that makes people want to play your board game again?

Eric: I think so.

Patrick: Because [inaudible] “Played it once, got it. I learned all this stuff and I can get better at poker, and I can get better at this game.”

Eric: I think so, and it's something that we've injected into our design philosophy. It was something I was very adamant about, and I want something with easy access and a high skill ceiling. Going back to Smash Brothers, it's one of those games where it's one of the– I think it's– I'm pretty sure it is the highest selling “Fighting” game of all time. It has easy access, but if you go to the competitive scene, the skill ceiling is so tremendously high.

That said, each faction is like another character. Once you play one character, and you say, “Got their thing, you got it.” Maybe you've mastered them. “I want to try a different angle, a different play style.” We have a different faction to that, so I think there's many different avenues to come back and play again and again and try to just master the game of poker and Antematter.

Aaron: Yeah, and just building on that, one of the cool things about our crew cards is that we worked hard to make them useful to a novice, but have additional effects that a more advanced poker player or Antematter player can discover for themselves.

Certain combinations of cards, certain ways of using cards that give you more information than your opponents, those things will be always useful, but to a more advanced player, they'll see the hidden power in some of these cards and be able to use them for effects that aren't as clear to a newer player.

Eric: None of it is obvious.

Aaron: [Inaudible] designing all 60 of these cards.

Eric: On top of that, we should also mention that these cards aren't just for the poker aspect. We also have, there's two phases of the game. There's the poker phase aptly named, and then there's the loot phase. That's more of the board. These cards are also applicable to the board phase, so–

Aaron: And there's a whole lot of value in these cards for players to discover on the board, the same way that a poker pro would read a card very differently than a poker novice, the same card doing the same thing. You know what I mean?

Eric: It's like a setup, a novice like myself will see a single card and be like, “This will get me two extra chips.” But another player will see this setup, like “This sets up a bluffing situation or a certain high ratio.” It's beyond me, but I've seen it firsthand. I've used a card and then I've seen a card used properly.

How do you design a game that is complex enough for seasoned players while remaining accessible to newcomers?

Patrick: Yeah. One of the things I'm curious about is I would say I'm the game guy in my local group of friends, and one of that I find challenging is every time I play a game, someone will say, “Patrick. I really liked that game from last week, let's play that again.”

But there's always someone new, and there's always one person at the table who hasn't played that game. Maybe let me ask you this in a general way. How do you design a game where that's not a problem, but still, everyone else can still enjoy getting better at a high skill game?

Eric: It's pretty easy with Antematter. Let's say you have a new player, and hypothetically you have a new player and just to make them feel comfortable, you rig– We have a way of setting who goes first, and you just rig it, so they go later.

They don't go first. They watch a few players go do a turn, and they'll pick it up immediately. It's just, and you can see how they know how the pieces work, what you have to do, to see three people do it ahead of them they'll be like “Is this it?” And you'll be like “Yes. Done.” It is very simple.

Patrick: OK, great.

Aaron: We tried hard to have a game that once you know how to play it, it's very intuitive to explain. As someone who's been the chief explainer at these cons sometimes, I was struck by how easy it was to explain and how quickly players caught up with it.

Of course, everyone's going to have an easier or harder time based on their experience with games and all of that, but we tried our best to make it as beginner-friendly as we could while still keeping it deep and complicated for people who have been playing a bunch of times. For me, the joy of our game is playing the different factions and discovering ways of playing better with that faction and mastering it. I'm still not done mastering some of these factions.

Eric: Also, to your question, there's also, we've created a cheat sheet for lack of a better term. There's a small card the same size of the poker cards, the cards are all the same size, and this is a cheat sheet, and it has a front and back. It's basically like spark notes for each phase, it has poker hands on them, and it has what the ships do. So if any– If a player is at any time lost and doesn't want to lean over to a friend and ask what's going on, they can just look at this card and all the information they need right there.

Patrick: Fantastic. And it has those poker terms, like a boat?

Eric: Absolutely– Well, not boat. I have never even heard boat. But it has the more common tongue of poker terms.

What sort of obstacles did you encounter during your design process, and how did you overcome them?

Patrick: Awesome, that's great. Let me ask you just one more thing on your design process here, are there any things that came up in the design process that you just–? Was there a challenge that you saw that you overcame, and then you had to change your game design to overcome it? Like, was there something you can point to in your game where you're like, “OK. Here's a problem we had early on, but we did X and now it's fixed.”

Eric: I know I have a crux point. Aaron, do you have one?

Aaron: To me, there were two moments in the development of the game that we made a turn and took the game from what it was to a much better, simpler, cleaner version of the game. I think what I'll explain is we'll cover what you're talking about, Eric, but you can absolutely add to it afterwards. But the first thing that we built into the game were different win conditions for different ones, and the rule used to be that you had to complete three out of four win conditions and that would be– There would be two win conditions that you would complete on the board and two win conditions you can complete in poker.

What we decided ultimately after testing that at cons was to simplify those win conditions and distill the game to its essence, which has always been at its heart, getting a bigger stack of chips. So everything else we had to slightly amend to make sure that all of the incentives were there to do all the things that we want players to do on the board in pursuit of the singular goal. The next thing that we changed was at the loot phase, the phase that's all on the board, it used to be segmented into multiple separate phases.

There would be a move phase where all the players took turns moving, and then there would be a separate loot phase where they took turns picking things up off the board. Then there would be a build phase where they would build their bridges with their Ravens to help their rocks traverse the conflux. But what we did was we combined all of those phases into our now loot phase, where we do all of those things at the same time.

So you move your chip, your ships, you pick up the chips, you loot the planets for cargo, and then the next player goes. It's made the pacing of the game a lot more– It radically improved the pacing of the game, it's increased the onboarding time or decreased the on boarding time. That was a purely a result of just showing the game to people at Cons and seeing what they thought and what their hang ups were and trying to make the game better.

Patrick: Anything from you, Eric?

Eric: Yeah, I would surmise that with the crux of the simplification of the game, it was definitely a moment of it was bloated. We had a game that was just a little too bloated, and it had too many aspects, too many win conditions, too many ships, too many pieces, too many options for the player to do.

Even now, after being stripped down, it still seems like a wall of text at times, and it was way bigger before. So after a few cons, we came back, and we stripped it down to the bare essentials, I remember suggesting it should just be about money. If we put it into money and boom, it started to click. We got rid of certain ships, and we basically were able to, as a team, trim the fat and make it very digestible and easy to explain. That was the time it started to be like, “We found the fun. This is no longer tedious, it is now fun.”

Aaron: One of the things for me about game design is that it's a process that's reminiscent of sculpture, where you have a block of marble, and you have to figure out what to chisel and what to leave. We had a lot of conversations based on the feedback and the testing of what things our sculpture could do without and what things were integral to the structure of the thing. The reason we did that testing was to make sure that the structure of the game, when we change things around, it's still held up its own weight and it still worked as a game.

Patrick: Cool. I dig that, and I think I'm a game designer who– I think I'm unusual in that I make small games and then try to make them a little bit bigger, but I think many people make really big games and then try to make them smaller.

Eric: It's one of those, your eyes are bigger than your stomach. Where you're like, “We could do this, or we could do this, or we could do this.” Then coming from coding, it's usually “I don't have time to code that. I don't know how to code that. That's too much to code.” And then you just start stripping out assets and features, tearing it out, and then you realize, “That wasn't necessary.” And we did that, not digitally but physically we did that.

What one resource would you recommend to another indie game designer or an aspiring game designer?

Patrick: Moving on to some of the more general questions, you guys have spent a lot of time working on this game and doing game design, doing play tests. What's a resource that you would recommend for other indie game designers? And by resource, I mean like a website or a podcast excluding this one, or something like that. Something easily accessible.

Eric: So, not make them have a bunch of friends to play test for?

Patrick: That could totally– No, you can totally put that in there. Yeah, that's easily accessible.

Aaron: The most important thing for me was my team. I think that without a team behind you, whether that's friends or family or people you meet because you have the same passion, I think that it's just so important to have the reinforcement, the momentum, and the– It's just a shared experience has been at the times where you come to a problem, and it seems insurmountable. Your team is going to help you think it through and come up and over to the other side with the better game in your hands. That's been invaluable to me.

I couldn't have done this game without my great team, but the other thing that I'd like to suggest is that there's a fantastic gaming community online, on Facebook, on Instagram. All these places that you're probably already connected to, they're full of people who are interested in the things that you're interested in. All it takes is for you to introduce yourself and be open-minded, and you can meet some great people and get some great responses.

What was the best money you ever spent as a game designer?

Patrick: All right. So Aaron, let me ask you another question here. What is the best money that you have spent as a game designer?

Aaron: The best money I've spent as a game designer?

Patrick: Like, what is worth every single cent that you've put into it?

Aaron: It had to be going to those Cons. It had to be. We're in New York, GenCon was in Indianapolis. It was a bit of a trek for us. Of course, you're paying for the entire team to go. It wasn't cheap, but it was absolutely worth it.

Eric: Yeah, I'd agree with that. We got so much good feedback data, and it expanded the pool of– It just exposed a bunch of bugs that we just didn't know were there.

What does success in the board game world look like to you?

Patrick: I've also had played testing events where they have been invaluable, so I totally get that. I'll start with you this time, Eric. What success in the board game world look like?

Eric: Success in the board gaming world? Besides everyone, just everyone and their mother purchasing Antematter and having fun with it, we also took painstakingly a lot of time in creating a rich world and lore. Like politics, factions, religions, philosophies, clashing ideologies. We have a huge world behind this game. We also have a comic in tandem being released as a Kickstarter exclusive.

All that said, success to me with Antematter is not only do people love playing the game, I would love to be walking by– I don't know, like a school at recess and hearing kids talking, arguing and debating over what faction is cool and what character would beat up another character. Just having a people dive into our world and getting lost in it, and feeling it. Because everything we've designed, we want it to work and feel right, and not just be like “It just happened because the story needed it to happen.” Like everything needs a set up to a degree, we have a very rich world, and I would love for people to get lost in it.

Patrick: I'd love that. What about you, Aaron?

Aaron: As the person who started thinking up this world over 10 years ago, I'd have to agree with Eric that people getting immersed in our world through our game and our comic and the other content we're putting out, that would be a dream for me. When we realized that our first game could be set in the same universe, everything clicked for us as we were developing the game. It gave us some constraints, but also so much inspiration for how to design the game and solve a lot of problems. We've been excited about sharing this world with our fans and getting deeper into it as we build the game and work beyond it.

Overrated/Underrated

Patrick: So, I like to end with a game called Overrated/Underrated. Just to give you the gist here, I'm going to give you a word or phrase, and then you have to respond with if you think it is overrated or underrated. If I said “Coffee cups,” you're going to say “Underrated. Because they hold my favorite beverage of the day.” Does that make sense?

Aaron: Yes.

Eric: Absolutely, yeah.

Patrick: All right.

Eric: I love it. Bring it on.

Patrick: So listeners, we seem to have lost Aaron. If he comes back, great. If not, Eric's just going to take over. I think this makes you CEO, Eric. Congrats.

Eric: I've been planning for this day for many moons. It was bound to happen.

Patrick: The first one is blackjack. Overrated or underrated?

Eric: Underrated.

Patrick: Sorry, give me like a one-sentence reason why.

Eric: It's underrated because some people knock it off for being too simple, but I think if you can make a home movie around it, I think it's underrated. 21 was great, and I loved it.

Patrick: All right. Aaron, if you're back, is blackjack overrated or underrated?

Aaron: I'm back. Definitely underrated. It's so simple, but there's a lot of skill to it. There is just an inherent drama to it that I love. I'm not great at it, but we've been thinking about doing something similar with blackjack like we did with poker and Antematter, seeing if blackjack could serve as the basis for another kind of game.

Eric: Yeah, we have floated that. We've done some testing. It's in the works, perhaps. Maybe. Who knows.

Patrick: Awesome. So this next one, not game related, I'm just going to go with like literally painting a room in your house any color you want. Overrated or underrated?

Eric: Question. Are you alone?

Patrick: As in, do you live alone?

Eric: Yeah. Are you painting this home alone, or do you have–?

Patrick: I want to say that you have to paint it.

Eric: OK. Aaron?

Aaron: I'm not a big decorator. I like finding cool things and hanging them or putting them on shelves, but I don't know if I would tackle a paint job myself.

Patrick: Aaron, I just want to validate you for a second. That is 100% percent me, and I want someone to have already painted the room. I don't want to do the painting. I totally get that.

Eric: My God. Have you guys not seen–? It is underrated. Have you not seen The Karate Kid? It is Zen-like. Have you ever painted in something, like you have a– OK. You have a Sharpie, and have you ever filled in something with a Sharpie going back and forth and just seeing the color fill in like a loading bar? That is, paintings, friends. Oh, my God. Seeing the color slowly load across the wall. Oh, my God. It's amazing. I love it.

Aaron: It's sounds satisfying, but I just cannot get behind it personally.

Eric: Some of us like to use both sides of our brain, so it's OK. I get it. I get it, it's fine.

Patrick: All right. This is amazing. Eric, I'm going to start with you. Launching a game on Kickstarter during a pandemic. Overrated or underrated?

Eric: I think the amount of stress is underrated, I think– I guess it's all underrated. I'm going to say it's all underrated. It's not ideal, obviously, but I like to look at the world in these trying times for opportunities. I think it's an opportunity to bring a lot of stress relief and a reason to just play, even over Skype or Zoom, or what have you, just a reason to bring something to get together and mess with your friends. Talk some smack with each other, it's something I love to do, so hopefully, a lot of other people like to do it. In that regard, I think it's underrated.

Patrick: I love it. What about you, Aaron?

Aaron: Oh, definitely, underrated. God, I hope I don't cut out for this. I think that I agree completely with Eric, I think that there is some stress involved with the times of uncertainty. But being able to send out even our prototypes to people and knowing that they're playing the game and having fun with their friends, whoever they're spending their quarantine days with, has just been an absolute joy for us to see that we're sharing the good times with them that we've had playing the game.

That's been rewarding for us, and hopefully, by the time the game comes out, the virus will be abating a little bit. But I think that the world needs a little bit of fun right now, and I think that if we can be part of the fun the people are getting, I think that's a fantastic thing. It's what games are for.

Patrick: Love it. Last one, I'm going to start with you, Aaron. Casino Royale, as in the James Bond movie. Overrated or underrated?

Aaron: I've seen both Casino Royales, and I think they're both Overrated.

Eric: Heresy.

Aaron: I don't know. I like Daniel Craig, and I'm one of those– I'm a more of a Skyfall person.

Eric: Oh, my God. What? Why are we friends?

Aaron: We can all agree the Quantum of Solace was bad, right?

Eric: OK, maybe. Who cares?

Aaron: I thought Casino Royale it was a breath of fresh air after the Pierce Brosnan had gone to Batman and Robin territory with how campy it became. But compared to the other ones, now with Daniel Craig, I think that it doesn't age particularly well.

Patrick: Got it. Very cool. What about you?

Eric: All right. So the board team at Bardshark are going to have a serious discussion after this because anyone with such bad taste doesn't belong in our company. Skyfall, overrated. Quantum of– Casino Royale is so much better. I'm so upset with you right now, Aaron. I'm just–

Aaron: But is it overrated or underrated? It's not, “Is it good?” I didn't say it was a bad movie, and I said it was overrated.

Eric: OK, I guess it's not overrated. If everyone's saying it's amazing, it's not underrated. It's rated perfectly.

Wrap Up

Patrick: Love it. This is great. Eric and Aaron, where can people find you and your games online?

Eric: Bardshark.com.

Aaron: Or you can find us on your favorite social media platform. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, we're everywhere.

Eric: Yes. We have many pretty pictures if you want to look at gorgeous curated art. Go to our Instagram. If you want fun, witty banter between maybe even some people in our universe that have Facebook accounts miraculously come to our Facebook, and also on Twitter for any updates or anything else Antematter.

Aaron: Yeah. It's always Shark Week with us.

Eric: Damn right.

Patrick: Just one more time, the name of your game so people can search for it on Kickstarter?

Eric: Antematter.

Aaron: Antematter.

Patrick: Love it. Listeners, if you liked this podcast, please leave a review on iTunes. If you leave a review, Aaron and Eric said they would give you a cool poker game name. So if you need a nickname for your weekly poker game, just leave a review and then reach out to Eric and Aaron, and they'll help you out. Pretty awesome.

Then I do have a Patreon if you could donate a couple of bucks, it helps me keep the lights on and helps me keep making content. Also, you get access to some behind the scenes posts. Recently as an example, I had a publisher who was interested in the game and then not interested, and then they sent me a contract, and then I said yes, and then they said they're not interested.

So if you want to get the whole details there, you can become a patron and follow along. It's fascinating. You can visit the site at IndieBoardGameDesigners.com, you can follow me on Twitter and BoardGameGeek, I'm @BFTrick on both platforms. Until next time everyone, happy designing. Bye-bye.

Aaron: Bye-bye.

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