Patrick Rauland: Hello everyone and welcome to the Indie Board Game Designers podcast, where I sit down with a different independent game designer every single week And we talk about their experience in game design and the lessons they’ve leaned along the way. My name is Patrick Rauland, and today I’ll be talking with Adam Rehberg, who runs Adam’s Apple Games. He’s one of the designers on Swordcrafters. He designed Brewin’ USA, and Thrive will be coming out on Kickstarter February 26th. So it should be out already by time this airs. Adam welcome to the show.
Adam Rehberg: Thanks so much Patrick. Excited to be here.
Patrick Rauland: So I met you at Protospiel Madison and I ran into some of your games earlier than that, so I know a little bit about you, but the audience doesn’t. So I like to start with just a little bit of a lighting round, all right?
Adam Rehberg: Cool.
Patrick Rauland: Great. What is your favorite craft beer?
Adam Rehberg: Craft beer? Bell’s 200 Ale. It’s an IPA out of Michigan and it’s delicious.
Patrick Rauland: All right. And what is the perfect game to play at a brewery?
Adam Rehberg: Las Vegas is what I’m going to go with. It’s a dice chucker. It’s kind of dice placement. You roll your dice, you place all of one number onto a casino. And so you are choosing like, do I want to place all my six’s onto the six casino? If you have the most dice on a casino at the end of the round, you win the money at the casino. And it is a ton of fun. A little bit of risk management, dice rolling, it’s great.
Patrick Rauland: Very cool. I’ve heard about it, but I haven’t played it. So I’ll have to add it to the never ending list of games to play.
Adam Rehberg: It was like five bucks at Target for the longest time too.
Patrick Rauland: What?
Adam Rehberg: Might be a good pickup, yeah.
Patrick Rauland: Oh wow, all right. And lastly, what is your favorite fish?
Adam Rehberg: Favorite fish? Gotta be the large mouth bass. We fish pretty often in Minnesota here. So my ideal Friday night is going out on a canoe and throwing the line out, catching a bunch of fish. They just basically just jump in the boat.
Patrick Rauland: And is that with dynamite?
Adam Rehberg: No, no dynamite. No, just normal lures.
Patrick Rauland: You and I fish different.
Adam Rehberg: Okay. Nice.
Patrick Rauland: So first real question is, how did you get into board games and board game design?
Adam Rehberg: So board games was interesting. I used to as a kid would play Monopoly, Don’t Break the Ice. Got into Magic: The Gathering just a little bit. But then really departed from board games for 15 to 20 years. What got me back into them interestingly enough was my parents brought home a game that was about farming, and they said we’re going to play a game tonight. And it turned out to be Carcassonne. And so we’ve just grown to love the hobby board game market. We’ve learned a bunch of new things, but then also really come back to Carcassonne as like the family favorite, where we just get really cut throat and duke it out.
Patrick Rauland: So have you ever played with the like double meeple expansion?
Adam Rehberg: I have not played the double meeples. We do the river and we do the builder expansion as our family favorites.
Patrick Rauland: I think it’s my favorite expansion because it makes it easier to steal cities from people, and like just holding on to that double meeple is like such a threat. It is great. So if you like cut throat Carcassonne, you definitely want the double meeple expansion.
Adam Rehberg: Cool, I’m going to look that up.
How Did You Get Into Board Games & Board Game Design?
Patrick Rauland: It’s good yeah. I think it’s included in a different expansion, but anyways yeah check it out. Okay, so your game Thrive is coming out soon and I really want to talk about that. And I actually got to see it at Protospiel Madison, which was cool. But first I want to talk about Swordcrafters. I think that’s the first time I saw one of your games, and I saw it on Kickstarter. Now this is obviously a podcast. For people who haven’t seen it, I will include a link to the Kickstarter page in the show notes. It is worth checking out.
Patrick Rauland: So if you haven’t seen it before, you’re making a sword, duh, based on the name. But you’re not just like laying cards down on the table in front of you, there’s like 3D pieces and they sort of slide into each other and it makes a thing that you can hold in your hand and swing around. So I love that concept and I’d love to know where did Swordcrafters come from?
Adam Rehberg: Swordcrafters was … It started out as a dungeon crawler and it was a dungeon crawler like many other. Have a lot of enemies, like things you’re doing, and nothing just set it apart. So we’re sitting there after a long Gen Con and kind of walking back to the hotel room to pick up and go. And this idea just came upon Chris and I, the co-designer on this one. We said “Hey, remember that dungeon crawler game? What if you actually were making a sword?” There were some sword crafting aspects that were very 2D in the game. We’re like that’s the most fun in the game, what if you were making a sword? So this thing just kind of puzzled together in my head over the next 24 hours and on the drive back to Minneapolis. And cut it out in cardboard first, put some stickers on it. The ugliest, craziest looking prototype you’ve ever seen. But within like 48 hours after this convention, we had like a working prototype that is pretty darn close to the rule set that we have on the final game.
Patrick Rauland: That’s really, really cool. I love that you were experimental there. I think that’s one of my favorite pieces of advice, is to just try crazy things and see what works. Because you generally just have to try it to see if it works, and then you can always go back to the safe idea later.
Adam Rehberg: Yeah, and the funniest part about the initial concept was I envisioned this thing as like a three sided sword. I cut out the pieces and they actually fit better together as a four sided sword. And I was like eh, this actually looks like a sword. So it was just totally a happy accident that it ended up that way.
Patrick Rauland: That’s really, really cool. Now I noticed, at least on the board game geek page, that you were one of three designers on the project. I’ve talked to people who are co-designers, and there’s a lot of husband, wife teams. But is it hard to work with multiple designers?
Adam Rehberg: It is not hard to work with multiple designers. As long as you are very fair in evaluating feedback, and very objective in looking at where the fun’s at. Every one had a billion ideas on the project and a lot of them made it in, and a lot of them were killed. And so nobody was really mad about which ones made it in, which ones were killed, as long we were trying to find the most fun.
How Do You Work With Multiple Designers?
Patrick Rauland: So this is now selfish question time. I am trying to work on a game design with someone else right now. So Fry Thief was all me. I made all the decisions. And what’s great about working with just yourself, is no one argues with you. But I am having some artistic differences of like I think this looks really good, I think this is clear and the other person thinks the opposite. I guess for me, do you get like a … I guess maybe that’s a good thing about three designers. Like we’re literally saying I think this is the best way forward, I think this is the best way forward. How do you solve those differences?
Adam Rehberg: Yeah. You need to find the same vision. So for us it was like everything about that game was making the sword. As long as we could make that sword look as awesome as we can, like that’s the vision and the games is going to succeed. On other projects that are a little bit less vision focused or vision clear, I’ll use a Pinterest board and we’ll start to get our graphical vision and our concepts tailored in the right direction. And so we’ll maybe pick one, two, or three styles, and then really stylistically try to nail down which one we think is most promising. At the end of the day, some of those things are just best in the publisher’s hand and not necessarily in a designer’s hand, just to say let’s crush the mechanics, let’s put a good looking prototype together so that people can understand our vision and where this could go, but at the end of the day, the publisher is going to carry the ball the rest of the way.
Patrick Rauland: Wow, I really love that. I think I’m sort of working hard, because there’s one of those … Like a game design contest, which does have some … They do look at the art of the game. But you’re right that we should focus on mechanics. And art is definitely something they’re looking at, but it’s not the be all end all. That can always be changed later.
Adam Rehberg: Yeah totally. And it always depends too, what’s the goal of the art on the prototype? That’s always something I ask myself. Is the goal clarity? Is the goal to get someone’s attention? Or is a little bit of both? If it’s a theme that’s been done a million times, maybe you do need to try different art style that gets someones attention. If it’s a unique theme that has never been done, you probably can just use componentry to get people’s attention, and care less about the art.
Are Unique Components an Asset or Liability
Patrick Rauland: I really like that insight. Okay so I want to talk about Thrive. Number one, I literally was just walking around Protospiel Madison and I saw it, and it just looked different. So again, podcast, not a great visual medium. But basically there’s these little tiles and it looks like they have a five by five grid on them. If I remember correctly.
Adam Rehberg: Yep.
Patrick Rauland: And you put these little pegs .. Oh yeah?
Adam Rehberg: Oh, go ahead.
Patrick Rauland: Oh, you put these little pegs in the grid. And then there’s a grid on the table. And these tiles that have the little pegs in them slide around. Is that about right?
Adam Rehberg: Yep. They slide around. The pegs that you place in the game pieces … So the game pieces are kind of like a Cribbage board, if you want to think about that. The pegs that you placed in the game pieces will help you move more in the future. So you’re expanding the movement of your piece every time you take a turn in the game. What I’ve been saying is like, it’s this really fascinating like build your own chess piece kind of a game, where you don’t really need to know the moves when you start out. You don’t need to know a pattern or a strategy. You just build it as you go, and then just by knowing that rule, you can understand chess and something even more complicated than it.
What Are Some Challenges of Unique Components?
Patrick Rauland: Yeah, I really like it. So I just talked to someone else who has like really thin but cool looking cards on a previous episode. And I guess I’m impressed at how unique both his components and the components for Thrive are. Is it a pain to get manufacturing quotes for custom stuff like this? Is it hard to prototype it? What are some of the challenges you had with this?
Adam Rehberg: Yeah. This one … I mean every single game that I have worked on, every project that I’ve worked on has had new and unique component challenges. The more you do the more you know. But until you try it or ask the questions, you don’t know if it’s even possible. So the first one is the fabric game board. Fabric is really a pretty fascinating tool for game boards. You can use like a Printer Studio like bandana or handkerchief, and print off the game board for pretty cheap. What’s cool about it is, you can fold it up, and it doesn’t need to determine the size of your box. So you can get a big game board and a tiny little box with fabric, which is really unique. The second one is anytime you custom mold plastic you need someone to make that shape for you, or you need to be able to do it yourself. So we started out with some really simple shapes. The game designer on the project, Martin Grider. Fascinating guy. He has a lot of experience with VR, with some mobile games. His side hobby is like doing board games. So this is his first game he’s worked on for board games. He made that model and he sent it over, and we started 3D printing them out. And sure enough it started to take flight.
Adam Rehberg: Yes, those things are all tough. You need to worry about a high cost mold. You need to worry about how many different models that you’re going to use. How many pieces per model. These are things that the manufacturer will help you through though. But you need kind of a professional manufacturer to do something custom. Like something like The Game Crafter is going to be a lot tougher to do some sort of a custom plastic component.
As a Publisher How Do You Like These Components?
Patrick Rauland: Sure, oh totally. You’re a publisher and you’re a designer. As a publisher when someone’s pitching you on a game like this, does it make you hesitate when you see a custom component? Or does it make you go, oh this is an opportunity to stand out?
Adam Rehberg: No way. No hesitation at all. Basically if you can dream it, I can make it is my mentality going into it. It’s not always true, but that’s what I think. That’s what I want to think that I can do. And these days there’s a lot of games coming out. And so that’s to me what gets people’s attention these days, is when you have a really unique and different component and I get excited about it you know.
Patrick Rauland: No, I totally agree. And I do think unique … To be fair your games stood out on the table to me. Just looking at … There’s a lot of card games, there’s a lot of time games, there’s a lot of hex games. And then you see these like unique plastic pieces on the table. I’m like oh, I wanted to know more. I guess it’s good for me to know. I made an assumption that a publisher would hesitant to work with you if you have a unique piece. But it doesn’t seem like that’s the case.
Adam Rehberg: I mean every publisher has a different mentality about bringing a game to life. For me as a designer, I want to stretch the boundaries. And so I work on like a lot of new and crazy ideas. As a publisher too, I don’t have a ton of marketing dollars, and so I want to have awesome componentry so that people look at my stuff. If I had a ton of marketing dollars, maybe I would make more of a consistent, or more of like a normal euro style, or card game, or something like that that has just, I guess more standard components in it.
The Game Seemed Finished Months Ago – What Have You Been Doing Since?
Patrick Rauland: Sure. Sure, sure, I get that. So I saw you back at Protospiel Madison in early December. And even back then I think you were planning on launching at the end of February. What have you been doing in that time? I think a lot of people don’t know where that time goes, but that’s like almost three months of time. And it seemed like the game was pretty far along back in early December.
Adam Rehberg: Yeah. So at Protospiel, we actually tackled Protospiel in a really interesting way. We set up the Thrive game, and just a rule book and basically said, please, we’re looking for blind play testers. So people would come over, read the rules, and learn the game. And we were nearby, but we were basically letting 20, 30, 40 people that were interested in it, because it looked cool right, to learn the game. So between then and now, there was a second Protospiel. There was sourcing a lot of artwork. So there was some artwork on the game, but we’re sourcing more artwork that is going to make it cooler and better. And we actually made an expansion between then and now. So I think one of the tough parts about the market these days, is like a game gets launched, and it dies really quick. And so if you have some momentum or some new ideas coming down the pipe, why not harness all that creative energy into one event, or one big time? So sure, I mean I hope the game funds. It’s always a question going into a big crowd funding event, but I hope it funds. If it does, we’re ready to release something extra dazzling on the back end as well.
Patrick Rauland: Oh that’s really cool. So you’re sort of … I mean you’re obviously hoping it funds, but then you have all the stuff planned for expansions and whatnot.
Adam Rehberg: Yeah. One of the tough things these days is a crowd funding event happens, a game hits, and if it goes into distribution it gets instantly discounted. That’s a tough sell these days. Because you’re like, well why don’t I just wait and see if it actually makes the market? Why don’t I just wait and see if it’s any good? We want to throw that in right from the start. So we’re going to be adding this expansion day one. So you’re on Kickstarter, you have access to a game and its expansion, and both are fantastic. And we’re not going to release the expansion for months after it releases into the wild. That’s one of the reasons to try to get people excited.
Patrick Rauland: Can you go back to that? So what you’re announcing that there is an expansion, but you’re not selling it immediately?
Adam Rehberg: We’re going to give it free to everyone that back us on Kickstarter-
Patrick Rauland: Oh, right, right, right. Got it. So then the main game goes into retail, and the expansion will come later?
Adam Rehberg: An expansion will come at some future date, yeah.
How Do You Blind Playtest?
Patrick Rauland: Got it. Okay cool. I mis-heard you. Cool. So you did this blind play test at Protospiel Madison, how did you like … Did you wait until someone sat down, and then you like took out your notepad? Did you have secret cameras setup? How did you get the feedback?
Adam Rehberg: Well we were about two tables over and just kept an eye on the play tests. This game is pretty simple because you can learn it in 30 seconds if I’m teaching it to you. But if you’re reading the rules, it probably will take you two minutes. So it’s not going to make people really scared just by picking up the rules. It was like a front and back side page. And then once we saw them playing, I would kind of just do another check in, to see do I think they’re doing it right or not. And then after the game is really when I would approach them and say “Hey, we’re the team working on this project. First off, we want to know what you thought. But second, what was confusing, what was frustrating?” And try to evaluate the game state, and see if it looked like they played it correctly. There were definitely a few times where somebody said “Well we played it until the last piece was gone, and that was end game.” In the rules it says, there must be one piece left and that’s the end of the game. They played it until absolute completion, and it took them too long. And so we’re like, well why did you do that? So you start to probe into like how somebody interpreted your rule set.
Adam Rehberg: And we improved upon it. So we circled and stared some things that we thought were actually misleading people. And changed some order of operations, and like when we introduce content.
Do You Use Video Cameras?
Patrick Rauland: That’s really cool. Now I do see sometimes at game conventions, people have like video cameras setup. Do you not do that type of detailed analysis?
Adam Rehberg: I think video cameras are great for engaging someone’s interest, and how excited they are about something. And especially when you are not in the room. We were in the room, so we were just kind of a fly on the wall. I was able to kind of keep an eye on it. I have sent out prototypes to people, and asked them to video tape it. And my gosh, people will send these like six gigabyte files. What’s fascinating to me though is, like I kind of understand their experience within the first five minutes of the video tape. I don’t really need to watch the entire thing. So I don’t know. It’s hit or miss. Like it probably depends on the type of game too. Maybe if it’s a game that goes through multiple different types of mechanics, or like phases of mechanics, or something like that. You know like it’s got like a first phase, second phase, third phase.
Patrick Rauland: Sure.
Adam Rehberg: Like I could see really trying to probe into where people are getting frustrated or where they’re missing the game.
Do You Go to A Lot of Playtesting Events?
Patrick Rauland: Love it. So you’re in the mid west. So you have access to a lot of Protospiels. There’s fewer of them out here in Denver, or the west, not the mid west, the west area.
Adam Rehberg: The west, yeah.
Patrick Rauland: How many of those do you go to a year? Do you go to a bunch of Protospiels? Do you just go to those two?
Adam Rehberg: I try to make two a year. We also have a vibrant community in the twin cities that do many Protospiels, almost once a month.
Patrick Rauland: Oh wow.
Adam Rehberg: For whatever reason, I literally am traveling every single time that happens. But it is my 100% intent to make it out to these many Protospiels. So Madison and Minneapolis both have Protospiels and you will find me there.
Were There any Elements You Couldn’t Fit Into Your Game?
Patrick Rauland: Oh, very cool. So is there something that you wanted to get into the game that you couldn’t? You know, a mechanic or some elements that you just really thought you could get in there that it just didn’t work and you had to take it out? Is there something that you wanted to get in and you couldn’t?
Adam Rehberg: You’re talking about Thrive?
Patrick Rauland: Yeah-
Adam Rehberg: For Thrive … That’s a really good question. So I’m actually acting as the publisher, not the designer on this project. So what I say is going to get in, which is a pretty fun position to be in. That being said, the designer is a stout designer. And so he stays very true to his philosophy and his vision. And we met in the middle, and we’ve been very good partners the entire way. But it’s been … That’s an interesting relationship that you always need to figure out is like what do you want to get in as a publisher? What do you want to get in as a designer? There actually wasn’t anything that I really cut from the designer’s vision. I think what I was trying to do is just make it look beautiful. And so one of the biggest things that was really tough to convince was the theme. So the theme was essentially … Prior to Thrive and being a lotus flower theme, it was a just straight up track called, [inaudible 00:21:14].
Adam Rehberg: We had showed it at a few conventions. People liked it. It definitely resonated with kind of the mathematical and abstract game person, but did not necessarily resonate with someone that was not that person. So I said, well why don’t we open it up and try to make it more beautiful? And try to find a theme that resonates here as well, like makes sense? So after a lot of brainstorming and a little bit of hesitation on the theme and the name and the art style, we found something that we’re super, super happy and proud of, both of us. And yeah, it has really amped up the project. I think people look at it now and they say, this game looks really beautiful. This game look pretty. And it’s a cool new art style that I haven’t seen necessarily in other games.
How Do You Retheme a Game?
Patrick Rauland: And I think I’d agree. How long did that take? So in my experience, I’ve always designed a theme with a mechanism. My brain doesn’t work in abstract game ways. So I have no idea like once the game is made, how long does it take you to find a theme? To work with it? I don’t want to go into like hiring an illustrator, but like just finding the theme that works. How long did that take?
Adam Rehberg: Yeah, we had at least three to four months worth of back and forth. Not every day, but like maybe one a week re-visit the idea and say “Oh, I thought of this name, I thought of this theme.” And we’d share it out with kind of our friend groups. And we had anything and everything thought up. Some of the ideas may actually be a better game hobby fodder than where we ended up. But I think where we ended up is going to really be the strongest product I think. But it took a lot of brainstorming. I actually 3D printed multiple different theme game pieces to really handle them and like say hey, could this be a battleship game, or hey could this be a French army game, or whatever it is.
Patrick Rauland: Cool. Sorry. My brain. Like I can see the way the tiles move. I’m like okay, I can see how it could be a battleship, but I could also see exactly why you chose the theme you did. And it’s nice to be unique right, in the marketplace?
Adam Rehberg: It’s nice to be unique in the marketplace. There is a game called lotus out there, but I was not super impressed with their interpretation of the theme. And so we couldn’t use that same word. But I think what’s really cool is this game has a great learning curve. You move your piece and you place two pegs. And your piece grows, and grows, and grows. And so like the Thrive is almost like more of a positive spin on an abstract with capture mechanics versus like something that is a little bit more war game focused. And I didn’t really want that. Because I thought that the learning curve was just so smooth and elegant.
What’s Your Favorite Resource for an Aspiring Game Designer?
Patrick Rauland: Sure. So I really like asking people resources for aspiring designers. I think there’s a lot of information out there, and not all of it’s good, or not all of it should be prioritized. So what is the one resource that you would recommend to an aspiring game designer?
Adam Rehberg: One resource as an aspiring game designer.
Patrick Rauland: Like a book, a podcast, might be a conference.
Adam Rehberg: Yeah. The key here to me on this question is aspiring game designer. So to me, my favorite as an aspiring game designer, and actually was the one that I think I resonated the most with and pushed me to actually make prototypes and make games and tests, and talk to other people, was a podcast called Building The Game. It documents two game designers in Michigan and their interaction with a hobby. And what hilarious about it is, and amazing to see is, they really go through the ups and downs of the game design cycle. And this totally resonates with me. Some days I came home, I’m like, I’m the best. Some days I come home I’m like, I’m the worst. But they have so many nuggets of information in there. And they pitch. They pitch all the time. And so they’re always pitching like what is the new game idea on their brain. And I think to be a game designer, you need to fight through about a thousand bad ideas to find the golden ones.
Patrick Rauland: Awesome suggestion. I’m going to second this. It is one of my regular board game podcasts. I listen to Building the Game. And I will totally agree, that I think one of the best things is, you hear regular everyday life. Like I got this thing at work, and I couldn’t work on any game designs. I spent 10 minutes, came up with a pitch for the end of the show. That type of stuff is really, really, really cool. And I think it is helpful that they record their show basically … They release it every week, but it’s like recorded every two weeks. And so they’re making at least a teensy bit of progress almost every other show, which I think is really impressive. I have a monthly meetup here, and sometimes it’s just the monthly meetup that helps motivate me to make changes and test them. And I almost wish I had something that was like every other week. Like if I had an event every other week, then I know I’d update my prototypes more often.
Adam Rehberg: You know you have to display something on the table, and so people are expecting it. They’re like well we played it last time, we want to see what you’ve done. I think that would be super helpful.
What’s The Best Money You’ve Spent?
Patrick Rauland: Cool. So what is the best money you’ve ever spent as a game designer?
Adam Rehberg: So this was the question I saw on your sheet Patrick, and I was like oh my gosh, that’s an amazing question. Okay. So I’m going to cheat, because as you were talking I was thinking about this. And the best money I’ve ever spent as a game designer for answer number one, has got to be a cover art or something like that. Or the logo probably. Solidifies the vision of the game. It just feels awesome when you put a logo onto a game. But number two, and maybe the more serious one, is a 3D printer. So as a game designer, a 3D printer, it’s tough to learn. And it is frustrating. And it is not the easiest thing. But it’s a cheap way to crank out some of the most fascinating prototypes that you’ll ever have access to. I literally run that thing almost 24/7 when I’m home. It’s not super safe when I’m not home, but it cranks out a ton of prototypes for me. And I can try so many crazy new concepts without spending a ton of time or money in other places.
Patrick Rauland: So I’ve had one or two other guests mention 3D printers. Is there a specific model? Is there like a good getting started model that you might recommend?
Adam Rehberg: There are some really bad ones, so do your homework before you buy. Know what you’re getting into. Make sure there’s resources out there and a community to support you if it fails. Because that’s one of the biggest issues is like, there’s a little bit of a headache that you need to get over with. What I have right now is called a Maker Select, and it was 250 bucks off Monoprice. It had some safety issues, so I had to like mod it. It had some wobble issues so I had to mod it again. The one that I’d suggest now … This is like two years later. Is called the Crealty Ender version three. It’s like 210 bucks, and I think it does everything better than the one I have right now. So I’m actually on printer number two. So I’m starting a little plastic farm.
Patrick Rauland: A little plastic farm, I like that. I’m looking up pictures of this right now. Very cool. These look really good. Yeah, but basically do your homework right. Because I’m sure if someone listens to the podcast a year from now, the answer might be different?
Adam Rehberg: Totally. It’s progressing very fast. The printers are becoming cheaper and cheaper and the quality is going up and up and up. It’s really a fascinating field to be in right now, and to be monitoring and utilizing the benefits from.
Patrick Rauland: I’m sorry. Just to make sure I heard the word right, it’s Creality Ender?
Adam Rehberg: It is Creality, yeah.
Patrick Rauland: Okay cool. All right cool. I will put a link to that in the show notes, because I had a hard time spelling it, but figured it out. Love that. So I actually, literally am working on a game right now, where I basically want to mount a piece on top of a pretty standard game piece. So you know like the little roads in Catan?
Adam Rehberg: Yes.
What About 3d Modeling Tools?
Patrick Rauland: I want to like mount something on top of that. It’s like a very simple basically modification to the Catan road piece that I’m going to use in a prototype. Any suggestion on like 3D modeling programs, to make the shape like that?
Adam Rehberg: Yeah. I use SketchUp. I think that’s probably a little bit more user friendly than Blender. There’s actually one or two online, I forget the names of them, but there’s like some web based modeling programs that are pretty darn good. They’re browser based and they’re free. But SketchUp serves me what I need. And then when I really need to make it look beautiful, I hand it off to someone that’s good at that stuff.
Patrick Rauland: Oh, very cool. Well that was a great, great, great answer, and also practical. Because I was just thinking about 3D printing something.
Adam Rehberg: Awesome.
What Does Success Look Like?
Patrick Rauland: So I’d love to know, what does success look like in the board game world to you?
Adam Rehberg: Yeah, this is something I think I’m re-evaluating every year of my life. If you’d asked me this four years ago, it was like just getting a game in people’s hands and seeing what’s how it goes and experiencing the process. Everyone has these dreams of like making it big in the board game world. To me, I think it is releasing super quality games. Not high quantity games, but super high quality games. And continuing to push the boundaries in terms of mechanics and components. And ideally, operating a successful business, a profitable business. It’s really tough to be profitable in this industry. As a designer, you’re more likely to have low risk. As a publisher you have high risk but potential higher reward if things go really well. So that’s why I’m doing that. I also love running a business. Even though some of the parts stress me out a ton. It’s a lot of work but to me I think that’s what success looks like.
Patrick Rauland: Are you full-time in the business?
Adam Rehberg: I’m a full-time packaging engineer actually for a retailer. And I do this on the side. But I’ve done one game a year for the past three years. So I have a pretty consistent clip that I’m starting to hit.
Do You Want to Go Full Time?
Patrick Rauland: Is a dream of yours to go full-time or do you always want to work for someone else or something?
Adam Rehberg: It is. That may be the best way to sum it up. Just to be full-time as a board game publisher. And I think that would be the pinnacle for me.
Patrick Rauland: I’ve talked to a number of guests on the show, and one of the things I did not realize getting into this hobby, is how many publishers are part-time, and they do it in addition to everything else they do. Because it isn’t easy to make it profitable. It’s not impossible, but it’s just not easy. So I did not realize that when I started this podcast. That’s fascinating to learn. And by the way, where you said you were four years ago, is where I am now. Where I just want to get my game into people’s hands. I got 300 people to back me on Kickstarter, or 330 or something-
Adam Rehberg: Super awesome.
Patrick Rauland: Thank you. And I just want to get real feedback from real people, not like reviewers. You know what I mean? Or not like play testers, and not that type of thing. So I’m excited to see what happens. And maybe a year from now, my definition of success will change. So it’s cool to hear.
Fry Thief Sell Sheet
Adam Rehberg: And one other thing that I wanted to mention too, that links us Patrick is, your sale sheet came through one of the competitions that crossed my eyes. And I was like, this looks amazing. I totally am in. Because I had a food truck game at the time. And I was like, oh my gosh, this is totally up my alley.
Patrick Rauland: When I was writing the questions, I’m like, oh I have to ask him about that, and I totally, totally forgot. Oh, that’s so funny.
Adam Rehberg: The sale sheet really impressed me. I thought this is a no brainer. Everyone likes fries. Fry Thief is so clever. I think the only hesitation as a publisher is always like what’s the size of the game? And if micro games or a smaller box game is something that the publisher is looking for at that point, then that would be one that they would definitely take a look at. It’s cool.
Overrated / Underrated Game
Patrick Rauland: Ah cool, well thank you. So I like to end my show with a little game called overrated, underrated. Have you heard about it?
Adam Rehberg: I have not. Let’s do this.
Patrick Rauland: All right. So basically I’m going to ask you a word or phrase, and you need to tell me if you think it is overrated or underrated.
Adam Rehberg: Okay.
Patrick Rauland: So the first one … This is a bit long. A line of games. And by that I mean a publisher having a common backstory that links several of their games. Is that overrated or underrated?
Adam Rehberg: Overrated.
Patrick Rauland: Okay.
Adam Rehberg: Like there’s just-
Patrick Rauland: I mean give me like a sentence why.
Adam Rehberg: I think that you are growing confidence with your fans, but you are not necessarily … I don’t know. You’re not necessarily broadening the horizons as a publisher. So you may fall into the trap of sameyness.
Patrick Rauland: Sameyness. Great insight there. Finding Nemo the movie. Overrated or underrated?
Adam Rehberg: Finding Nemo, underrated. Well it got a love, but it’s such a cool movie and I’m into fish.
Patrick Rauland: Cool. I’m going to go with like those gif explainers on a Kickstarter page, overrated or underrated?
Adam Rehberg: Okay. I’m going to have to say underrated, even though almost every page now has them. I think that just showing a little bit of motion in how a game works is a really, really powerful tool.
Patrick Rauland: So me personally, I did a lot of stuff for my Kickstarter, but I just didn’t want to figure out how to make gifs. You know with like 3D files. Do you have a suggestion on … Because even me personally, I feel like I did a pretty good job with the video and the graphics, but I still, I didn’t do the gifs. So is there like a tool you’d recommend?
Adam Rehberg: Yeah. There are a few tools. The best one out there that I’ve seen is just straight Photoshop. So it’s just like using a video or moving things around in Photoshop frames. And then exporting frames as a gif. It works. There are some really interesting things you need to know when make them. So one of the biggest ones is you don’t want to have a lot of color moving in your gif, because it will be a super high file size. So if you put it on like a white background, and it’s almost always a white background, but you may have like a hand glance over at some point, the files size will keep down real low and it’ll look high quality.
Patrick Rauland: Oh wow, that’s a really good pointer. Thank you. And maybe next time I launch a game, I’ll know that. Because I really did want to have them, but I just didn’t want to do the work.
Adam Rehberg: Yeah. It’s a lot of work. There’s actually a guy that I met on one of the Facebook groups that offered to … He charges. But he offered to make gifs. And he had done some work for some other publishers. And I was like wow, this is pretty affordable for really looking good. So I can share his information after the show if you want. I just need to remember the name.
Patrick Rauland: Sure, sure. Last one. You know what, it’s funny looking at this, because at the beginning of the show I think I figured this out. But fishing, overrated or underrated?
Adam Rehberg: Ooh underrated of course. We’ll do deep sea fishing, we’ll do lake fishing, we’ll do river fishing, I’m in.
Patrick Rauland: So I know very little about fishing, but I did grow up in Wisconsin and I remember my grandpa or my cousin always wanted to catch a muskie. Have you ever caught a muskie? It’s like a giant fish.
Adam Rehberg: I’ve never caught a muskie. That’s the white whale, yeah. In Wisconsin we grew up hand fishing, so I didn’t know game fishing until I met my wife. She taught me how to fish the real way. But I think we’re going to try to learn fly fishing later this year too.
Patrick Rauland: Cool. Well let me know when you catch a muskie and we’ll have you back on. You can talk about that [inaudible 00:37:36].
Adam Rehberg: Yeah awesome.
Patrick Rauland: Cool. Hey Adam, thank you so much for being on the show.
Adam Rehberg: Thanks for having me. This was great.
Patrick Rauland: Where can people find you and Thrive online?
Adam Rehberg: Yeah, so Thrive will be on Kickstarter, otherwise you can just search it. Adamssapplegames.com. I’m on Twitter @AdamsAppleGames. And yeah, basically search those words and you’ll find all about me, and we can interact. I like to work with and talk to indie designers as well. So don’t hesitate to send an email. My personal email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patrick Rauland: Awesome, that’s very helpful. Thank you again. Listeners, if you like this podcast please leave us a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to the podcast. If you leave a review, Adam will name a fish after you. That’s what I decided he can do. So by the time this comes out, Fry Thief should have just ended on Kickstarter, so I again, don’t have anything to promote. So here’s what I’m promising to you listeners. I have two designs that I’m working on. I hope to have something maybe more show-able by Origin. So in a couple months, I think I’ll have something that’s like a fun other cool idea. So stay tuned. Who knows, in a couple months I might have something. You can visit the site indieboardgamedesingers.com. You can follow me on Twitter. I’m @BFTrick. That is B as in board game, F as in fun, and trick as in trick taking games. That is all for me. So until next time everyone, happy designing. Bye bye.