Brian Henk

#133 – Brian Henk

Patrick Rauland: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Indie Board Game Designers podcast, where I sit down with a different independent game designer, and we 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 Brian Henk, who designed the Zorro Dice Game, Good Cop / Bad Cop, New Salem, and a bunch of others. He does this as part of Pull the Pin Games. He is also the host for the Board Game Business podcast. Brian, welcome to the show.

Brian Henk: Thank you. Thanks for having me, and for your audience too, if you don't know “Pull the Pin Games” we rebranded recently. It was late last year that we rebranded to Pull the Pin Games. We used to be called “Overworld Games.”


Patrick: Boom, and now you have a piece of trivia too. There we go.

Brian: Yeah.

Patrick: I like to start with a lightning round to introduce you to the audience. So, starting with the first lightning round question, if you were a cop, which department would you be in?

Brian: As a cop, I have thought about it through the years. I've had this urge to become a cop, and especially because our main game is Good Cop / Bad Cop, I think it would– When I was younger I would have wanted to be on the street, and I would have been really in the action, but the older I get I think, the more a desk job appeals to me.

But I think I'd probably, as a software engineer, I'd probably want to be more on the cyber-crime division and try to figure out who's trying to scam me on the internet and that kind of thing. That's probably where I'd fit in now.

Patrick: Cool. I dig that, and I would also like to be lazy and sit at a computer if I could, that would be great. All right, so your other game Zorro, Zorro, has that black horse as his getaway transport. What would your getaway transport be if you were a Zorro-like character?

Brian: In Zorro, if I was trying to get away– See, the thing is I don't have a car, so I take public transportation. I take the train, I grab Ubers, or I walk, and it's not for any other reason except that I want to force myself to walk. I think I'd probably be– My transportation would be in my own shoes. I would just run away. If I had to run away, I would just run as fast as I can. That would be my transport, or just get an Uber.

Patrick: Awesome, great. I like the idea of robbing the governor and then calling an Uber. Good. We'll see how that works. So, what is a game you would play with someone–? Let's say you're exhausted, it's the end of a con, and you're about to go home, and then someone is like, “Wait, one more game.” What is that one game where you would play it even if you're tired or otherwise done with the event?

Brian: At cons, and I'm sure a lot of your guests probably feel the same way, it's just that you're there to work. I'm playing my own games, as much as I love playing them and seeing other people play, but I guess at a con a good game of the Resistance Avalon. Because we do some social deduction games, but they're usually– We try to keep, we try not to make people lie.

We make it so that they don't have to lie if they're not into that because that scares people away from game sometimes. But in Avalon, you have to lie. You have to say, “I am not a minion. I am a good guy.” You have to be successful in that game, so that's always just fun, especially with some close friends. If we can get into that and get into each other's heads.

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

Patrick: Awesome. Love it. So first real question is, how did you get into board games and board game design?

Brian: Yeah, I think with them also in a lot of other designers. I got in through Magic the gathering, and I would go when I was younger. I would go to chess tournaments and play in these tournaments. But there's a lot of waiting time, so usually around that time when I was in middle school, and high school and Magic was just big, so most people carried around with them a deck, and they would play.

If I get done with my game quickly, and someone else does too, we can play a game of Magic while we wait for the next round to start. That was the entry point, and then my social group growing up was also pretty big into Magic. And so we go to the friendly local game store, and we'd spend a lot of our Saturdays and Sundays, ride our bikes up to the game store and play Magic all day.

So that's where it started for me, and then and then I just moved on to other games. But playing board games and card games was always a part of my life ever since really middle school and on.

Patrick: Where did game design come from, then? When did you decide to make that leap?

Brian: Since I was into technology and a lot of my friends were into technology, we started designing games for mobile devices and Xbox Live and Windows. Especially one of my really good friends, Clinton Skanky, who's my co-designer and business partner in board games, we started out making games together, and it was our way of staying in touch because I had moved from South Dakota to Minnesota.

Now I'm in California, but as far as we haven't lived in the same state for over 10 years, he's still such a good friend. We keep in touch through making games. We made digital games for a long time, but they're just so much work. There's just so much that goes into a professional-looking game from animations and just all the technical details, keeping up with the latest hardware, video cards, or mobile devices or screen resolutions.

It's so much work that we decided we love designing the game, not all this other [stuff]. So we switched over from digital game design and decided, “Let's just make board games.” He was my Magic: The Gathering buddy back in South Dakota when I was younger, so let's make board games together. We can just do the design once, and then we're done. We manufacture a bunch copies, and if we want, we can be done and move on to another game, or if it takes off, we can keep supporting it with more expansions and that kind of thing. But there's just so much less overhead work involved in it, so that's how we transitioned.

Patrick: Awesome. I know with one of your games, Good Cop / Bad Cop, you have a bunch of expansions. So it's cool to see that model worked for you where one of your games took off and you've got a ton of expansions, and the rest are doing well enough, but you don't have to keep updating them every couple weeks for the latest patches or whatever.

Brian: Exactly.

Why did you decide to do a Zorro game?

Patrick: Let me go to Zorro, just because I started following you because I was thinking of doing my own Zorro game at the beginning of this year. Then I discovered your Kickstarter campaign like a week later, and I was like, “Come on.” I had just had the idea, and of course, you have this– It looks great. I'll share the Kickstarter link.

It's a really good looking Kickstarter Zorro game, and it's dice, and it looks really fun. There's lots of re-rolling, and also you've got lots of premium components as an upgrade. All the things that I wanted to do, you did good. But where did you decide to get the Zorro game from? Or, why did you decide to make a Zorro game?

Brian: I think probably because I think you're probably not alone in that, because it did become public domain, or at least the original Zorro stories came out over 100 years ago. Those first couple stories are technically in the public domain, but that being said, the Zorro Productions, they are very– They're defending their ownership of the property and the IP, and they're very litigious.

It's not that cut and dry that– First thing, this was created over a hundred years ago. Everything is out there because there's a lot of Zorro characters and stories and things that are less than 100 years old, so those are not in the public domain. It gets really– There's a lot of gray area there. Nobody in this industry can afford to go through a lawsuit over this thing, so that's where we're paying them royalties in order to make this game. That's just a fun fact for anyone who's looking at something that's now in the public domain. Just be careful. It's not black and white.

Can you tell me about intellectual property and some of the nuances of it?

Patrick: OK. I was just going to say, you are reading ahead there. The reason I was thinking of Zorro is I looked up some giant Wikipedia posts on public domain works. There's a couple that you would recognize, like The Wizard of Oz and Zorro. And then I realized, “There's a lot of great public domain.” You can build on someone else's story like Alice in Wonderland, or stuff like that. You can build on it and make your own version of it.

That was why I got started, and then I learned, and here's my next question for you– That intellectual property and if something is in the public domain or not in the public domain is a little confusing. So just to give it, you just summarized Zorro perfectly, but with The Wizard of Oz, the original book is in the public domain, but then the movie is not in the public domain.

So elements in the movie, for example, the red slippers, are not in the book. If you had a Wizard of Oz game with red slippers, then that might be infringing on someone's public intellectual property. I didn't know these nuances. Basically, your Kickstarter campaign educated me on them because you talked about I think at one point in the Kickstarter campaign, you talked about paying royalties for it, and I was like, “Why does he have to do that?”

Anyways, can you just go into a few more of those nuances? Maybe for someone who thinks or suspects some intellectual property is in the public domain, what would you advise them to do to make sure that that's the case?

Brian: Yeah, definitely. Just don't go there. It's so appealing to fall in love with a book or a movie or some characters or a TV show, and you want to make a game around that world. You love that world so much that, like you said, you want to add to it or change it or give your own spin on it. Go for it, use that motivation, create that game, but don't use the license for it. Make up your own characters and just change it. That can be your starting point to build your experience, but then change it and make it your own.

Stay away from those potential infringements. Don't try to do a licensed game, because there's so much else that goes into it. You need to get liability insurance, which is not cheap, to protect ff somebody chokes on a piece of component in your game. When you sign a contract with a license, they're going to require that you have liability insurance, and you need to give them proof of that. That's not cheap. You need to pay royalties to the licensor, which is also not cheap.

As most people know, there is there's a very small margin in our industry, and there just isn't enough money to go around. Even if you do make this happen, you're not going to make any money on this game after you pay for all these other things. These are lessons that we learned after doing a few licensed games. We tried to do Total Recall, we tried to do– We did one with Jamie Stegmeier, and we made a game in the Euphoria universe under his license.

Zorro is another one, and we did a game in the Valiant Universe called the Valiant Card Game. If anybody's seen the Bloodshot movie that recently came out, so we learned those lessons and signed a bunch of contracts. We thought, “Let's make all of our games licensed games. This is amazing. There's a built-in fan base that will just back any Kickstarter campaign you do under this license,” but there's so much more to it. There's so many things that make it unappealing. Zorro's probably going to be the last licensed game that we do for all these reasons that I stated.

Patrick: This is great. First of all, I love hearing when someone says, “This looks like it's going to work.” Then you go through the process, and you go, “Now that we know the actual numbers, maybe it doesn't work.” Let me ask you two follow-ups there. Let's say Zorro, and I think Zorro did pretty well. I think it made $45 grand on Kickstarter, so I consider that pretty good.

And presumably, it's going to sell, and you're going to get extra copies and sell them through your website or whatever. Would you consider doing an expansion, or is it so painful that even if you have a pretty successful licensed game, you wouldn't recommend it?

Brian: That's a good question. We'll have to see how everything shakes out because we haven't fulfilled yet. We're about to start fulfillment, and we're sending it out to backers now, and so it hasn't hit retail. We haven't been able to test the retail market. I think it's going to do well because it is a known property and I think it's going to do well.

There was enough success, though, with the campaign. We had over 1,000 backers. I say somewhere around 1,200 backers and more retailers that jumped on afterwards, and more people who jumped on through our [inaudible]. There's a lot of people who like this game who are excited about this game, but it hasn't hit retail yet. But with the already– We liked our partnership with Zorro Productions.

They were helpful to us in spreading the word and moving things quickly and not requiring too many changes. They gave us a lot of freedom, so because we liked working with them and because it seems to be a game that everybody's excited about, we are already– We signed a contract with Zorro Productions to do a second expansion, and we're going to plan to launch that, it'll be either at the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021.

But it's coming, because now with our new branding we're just making sure that these games are– We are doing everything we can to make sure these are going to be successful, and then supporting them with expansions and new content. That's part of our new business model, so we're going to continue that with Zorro and continue that with Good Cop / Bad Cop and the games that are going to be coming next down the line.

Patrick: OK, so the other follow up is something that is clearly in the public domain, for example, a lot of the things that are questionably in the public domain are things like Zorro. I think, correct me if I'm wrong here, I want to say some of the Sherlock Holmes– Some of the last books of Sherlock Holmes are not in the public domain, but the rest are. So there's a couple of these weird properties that are in the middle, but then really anything written in the 1800s or earlier is very much in the public domain.

As an example, Alice in Wonderland– I just looked this up, it was written in 1865. Would you still recommend someone not use a property like that? Because this does get a bit murky because if you just use stuff from the book that is clearly public domain, there's probably some minor differences with the various movies and other things that have come out afterwards. But if you're just using the original source material from 1800s or earlier, would you still recommend against that, or would you be fine with that?

Brian: I would still recommend against it. Why do that? Yeah, you do get people who will immediately recognize that world or that branding, but it's just not worth the risk when you can make up your own world.

Patrick: Sure.

Brian: I would just go that route. I just wouldn't risk it unless it's super clear like other people have made a bunch of things in that world under that license, or “In that world,” we'll say. That other people have done it, and nobody has cared if there's that kind of track record, then go for it. But still, I would still go back to the “Go ahead and use it as inspiration, but I just wouldn't try to make a game under that license or that IP.”

You help run the Board Game Business podcast. Why is business important?

Patrick: Got it, all right. So you run the Board Game Business podcast, and basically, we're already talking about business. Why run a board game business podcast? Why not–? There's so many board game review podcasts, so many board game talk– “Let's talk to designer” podcasts, like my own. Why talk about business? Why is that important?

Brian: I think it's because Jeremy and I, Jeremy Commander is my co-host on that show, and we would– We lived in the San Francisco area for a while together, and we played a lot of games together. We did designer nights and everything together, and we would spend a few hours there, but then we would go to the parking lot to go to our car.

Back then, I had a car, and then before we would get in, we would spend hours and hours just talking about the business side of the industry after every one. So that's where we decided, “This is what we care about. This is what we're passionate about.” Nobody's not talking about it because the subject matter is pretty dry, but there are many people who need that.

It's like going to school, or it's like, “You need to do this kind of research. You need to dig into the boring parts of the industry because that's what's going to make you successful if you're trying to create a business out of your hobby.” That's what's going to determine whether you're going to make money or not.

It's about really doing the math on everything. It's about learning all the different ways you can make a game, fulfill a game, develop a game. All the most important questions are the most boring ones, but someone's got to talk about it, so that's what we do.

Patrick: What is a common business mistake that people make?

Brian: There's so many. What's a common one? I would say a big one is just doing the math on absolutely everything. If you're going to be an indie creator, if you're going to publish a game yourself, you need to calculate every cent that goes into everything. Every activity, every piece of marketing, every ad, every shipping a game to a reviewer.

How much was it to make that prototype? How much was it to ship it? And then times, however, many people you sent it to, every dime in the manufacturing process of even “How much is it for shipping of samples?” Or, “How much did you have to pay for the sample from a plant in China?” Every cent has to be calculated.

It has to, and you have to keep track of it because if you don't track every cent, you're not going to realize how much money you're spending on some of these things, and you're not going to make any money when it comes to it. Because there's going to be other pressures of customers saying something is too much, “Your shipping costs are too much, your price is too high.”

You see other campaigns who will have a lower price on something, and now you feel like you need to meet that price or go lower so people will buy your thing instead of someone else's thing. All these pressures are going to encourage you to reduce your prices. If you haven't calculated every cent, you're probably going to do it when you shouldn't. The most common thing is just doing all the math and documenting every number.

Patrick: Yeah, I'll say one of things I heard is you should make sure– I think people forget shipping with Kickstarters. So I definitely included shipping costs, but then I think I didn't plan for shipping costs for people who ordered two or four copies. So I definitely lost a lot of money, but luckily I at least had a big enough margin in my Kickstarter that I didn't overall lose money.

But the one area where I lost the most money was I calculated all the shipping costs around the world and how much they should pay and all this stuff, but for whatever reason, I was just thinking, I was assuming everyone would order one game as opposed to two, three, four games, whatever.

That was with a warning, like people told me, “Patrick. Don't mess up your shipping costs on Kickstarter, that's how you lose money.” Even with the wording, I still messed it up. So I hope people double-listen to that warning and do something about that.

Brian: Yeah, that's a good tip too. I want to just add to it because I've done the same thing too, where some fulfillment companies and the way you handle or create your logistic strategy will allow you to give a giant reduction in the cost of shipping on your campaign if they order multiple copies.

It depends on how big your game is as well, but then some strategies and fulfillment companies that isn't going to be possible. You're going to have to– I've worked with some where a game like Barker's Row, the cost of shipping two copies of Barker's Row to our backers was exactly double the cost of shipping one copy.

 I didn't anticipate that either, and I lost a lot of money on Barker's Row when I sold it to retailers and people who back for multiple copies. So, that's a good tip.

How did publishing your first game change your process?

Patrick: There we go. Great. So, let me ask you this. This probably leads into what you were just talking about, but you've published multiple games on Kickstarter and other places, what is something that you–? After publishing your first game, what is something that you changed about your process? What is something that has changed since that very first campaign?

Brian: Every game is different, every campaign is different, every project is different. Both what you're creating and the team who's creating it, and the skill sets that each person has. So what we went through is obviously very different than what someone else is going to go through, and the lessons that we learned, but there's always multiple lessons. I encourage anyone when they wrap up a project, whether it's a simpler project of making a game and putting it up on The Game Crafter or DriveThru Cards or something.

Still do a retrospective on it, and once it's done and you feel like that project is done and now it's just more support for it. Just think about it, what went well and what didn't go so well? It's a common thing to do in software development, to have a retrospective after every sprint. But the same thing works well after or for a project, for a board game project, because there's always things to improve, but you might not realize it until you sit down and allocate some time to think just about that. “That project that I just finished, what went well? What can I do better next time?”

So that you consciously think about it and improve it, because for us it's been every time we think of something. After doing a dozen projects, that was when we finally figured it out after iteration after iteration of what our team does best and where we think there's an opportunity in the market.

That's where we've rebranded to Pull the Pin Games, and we're only making a specific style game, different mechanics, and things, but it's all going to be in the same box, and the expansions are all going to be in the same box. Everything is just streamlined based on all of those retrospectives that we did and the skills that we have as a team and the things that we just want to make.

Patrick: OK, now I have a follow up on my follow up. I've heard of other publishing companies that, basically, other publishing companies where they have only three sizes of boxes, and it's either the small, the medium, or the large. Or, whatever their boxes are. What benefit do you get by having everything come out in one size box? What is the advantage to you as a publishing company?

Brian: For us in particular, our name is Pull the Pin Games. So we made our box open where you have to pull a pin to open the box. That was one thing that we thought was cool, and maybe it doesn't matter but what we like about that is because our games are so similar, there's a lot of– At least these things in common between the games, whenever you open our box now you're going to have that unique experience of pulling a pin to open the box and then maybe chuckling or at least registering that “The game, that company Pull the Pin, you pull the pin to open the box. I remember that.”

Everybody goes through that experience of opening the box, and it just reinforces that branding. That's one reason we did it. But also, now we don't have to look through games. Designers who will send us sell sheets and say, “Do you want to publish this game? Here's my sell sheet. Maybe here's a video, let me tell you about it.” Now we can cut out 90% of those because they don't fit our model, so we just save a whole bunch of time that way. We can build our logistics model for Kickstarter campaigns around shipping games in this size by us with this size expansion with these sized packs.

Now we don't have to recreate a whole new logistics strategy every time we do a new campaign, because we've done it before. We know all the costs. It's not that we've gotten estimates of what fulfillment companies say, “This is how much it's going to be. This is how much it's going to cost,” but we've done it.

Because sometimes things or prices change, like “You wanted bubble wrap around here? You wanted your games to be in a box? That's going to cost more.” This is actually, we have proof of this is how much it costs. Maybe we can add a solid 5% for inflation. But it just really makes the whole process so much smoother for us.

Patrick: Got it. For you, this is about speeding things up. You already know some of the costs, and you don't have to do all the math because you've already done some of the math. All right.

Brian: From others, I've heard the same thing about how so many publishers do that. They have their three box sizes, and that works well for them, it's just you still now have to have three different– You still have to do everything now three times.

That manufacturing, that fulfillment, that kind of thing. It's all that development, and you're still doing it three times now. So we just want to do it once, especially because this is a hobby business for us and we don't have tons of time to do everything three times, we'd rather just do it once.

Do you have a white whale of game design?

Patrick: I hear you there. So, let me ask you about just game design. Do you have a thing you've been working on? A white whale or a mechanic or a theme that you've been trying to put into a game, but you haven't quite figured it out yet?

Brian: Yeah, I would say you mentioned earlier about Good Cop / Bad Cop, and we have some expansions. We have two expansions that we did pretty soon after that game came out, and that worked well for us. Then we tried to do some spinoffs of the games, but we didn't do an expansion to Good Cop / Bad Cop, we just found an IP, and we created a Good Cop / Bad Cop game under that IP.

That's the tactic we took, and it ended up not working very well. But now we're going back to a third expansion for Good Cop / Bad Cop, And that's going to be the next Kickstarter campaign that we're going to launch. That game took so many years because we created two really good expansions to Good Cop / Bad Cop, and we're proud of those two expansions, but now a third. Three is a lot.

We've already added to a simple game, and we've created new mechanics for them in those first two expansions, so what does that third expansion multiple years later look like? Because there's a lot of pressure on everybody who is a fan of Good Cop / Bad Cop in the previous two expansions, the third one has to fit in with the base game alone or both of them combined. We can't just add something just to make money into it. We have no interest in doing that, and we need this to be something people want and will enjoy. That was the hardest part about making this.

We created so many different Good Cop / Bad Cop expansions that just didn't feel right. It took years for us to find this one. The expansion, it doesn't– It's not that much. There aren't that many components in this expansion. It's fairly simple and elegant, but it's something that will add to Good Cop / Bad Cop the base game or any set of the expansions. People are going to enjoy it, but it took a long time for us to figure that out.

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

Patrick: Awesome. Very cool. I love hearing all this. So, let me move into some of these ending questions. You've been doing this for a while. If you go into your BGG page, there is a whole bunch of linked games, including all the expansions that you've put out.

What is a resource that you'd recommend to another game designer? By resource, I mean something that's free or cheap that's easily accessible online. Sorry, not just online. It could be a book or something like that too, but just a resource that's free or cheap.

Brian: OK. I think some of your other guests have given a lot of the most common ones, so I'm going to take a little bit of a different approach here. That is a design partner because it is a free resource. It will make your game so much better by finding someone because I think a lot of your listeners probably are making a game on their own, and they're figuring it out on their own.

They're listening to resources like your podcast to learn about it, and how they do it, and I think if they were to find someone else online, a local game group or a friend, and got them involved in their design, it would be so much better. The end result, they'll be able to make a game on their own. No problem. It's going to have rules, and it's probably going to be fun.

But if you get someone else involved, you can take it to another level, and you can speed up your process. They will stop you from going down the wrong direction with a game. It's just someone that you also have someone to bounce your ideas off of, and just there's so many benefits to it that it's the best resource that I would just recommend it to anyone. Don't try to design a game alone, find someone to do it with you.

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

Patrick: Fantastic. I love that. I don't think I've heard that answer before, so I love it. What about, what's the best money you've spent? What is something that is worth every single cent that you've put into it?

Brian: I think that the best, the thing that was the most– I don't know. I guess I want to go with my paper cutter because it was like $25 dollars at some big box office store that I bought 5-6 years ago. I still use the same one, and I don't even have to– I haven't had to sharpen it yet. It still works, and it saves me so much time. It lets me iterate so quickly through prototypes. I just chop, chop, chop and chop up my cards. I think that was probably the best money I've spent in this industry.

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

Patrick: Great, I love that answer. You are not the first to recommend a paper cutter. That is a probably one of the top timesaving pieces of advice for people, is just to make it easier to make prototypes. Brilliant. I am very curious about this last one, and it's one of my favorite questions, probably my favorite question. What does success look like for you?

Brian: Yeah. That is a good question because I think it is different for absolutely everybody. We've made a lot of games that have lost a lot of money, and we've made some games that have made– We've made some games that have made a little bit of money. But overall, I feel like I have achieved all the success that I need. I live in California, and the cost living is super high here. I can't make enough money to support my livelihood in California, making board games, at least not now anyway.

It'll just take a lot more building and building if I ever wanted to do that, so I don't think about it as a way to make money. I think of it as a hobby business, and I try not to lose money, I'll hopefully make a little bit of money. Where I am right now, I'm happy doing this for the rest of my life. I'm happy working my day job and spending mornings and nights and weekends making games and doing it for fun, and I think if it became more than that, if there was more pressure on me having to do this and make money on it to pay my bills, I wouldn't want to do it anymore.

I feel like I've achieved it. But also, I just want to re-emphasize that for your listeners that I treat this as a hobby. If once you go full time, it's probably not going to be fun for you anymore, and it's just going to put so much more pressure on you. So, just do it for fun. Anyone can do this as a hobby. You can do this, and you can make tons of games. You can fulfill all of your hopes and dreams about designing or publishing games without risking too much. So that's another piece of advice that I guess I'd have that hopefully, your listeners think about.

Patrick: Would there be any circumstances where you would want to go full time with your board games? Because it seems like you're a big fan of keeping it as a hobby, and I totally understand that. When would you, if ever, go full time?

Brian: I would have to save up so much money in our accounts with Pull the Pin Games. We would have to just have so much money that I could be a complete failure for years and still be able to take my paycheck out of the business. I don't take a paycheck right now, but I would have to be so confident in that in order for me to go full time.

It's just that we're going to keep trying to make money and we're going to try to keep building up, something to do and something special. Maybe one day it's going to be me or Clayton who go full time, but it's not something that we want to think about because there's no good. It doesn't do me any good to think about that right now, and it's just so far away.


Patrick: Got it. OK, good to know. I like to end with a game called Overrated/Underrated. If you've listened to a few episodes, you know what it is, but just in case someone is listening to this show for the first time, I'll very quickly explain. I'm going to give you a word or phrase, like—

What's around here? I'm just going to go with fancy key chains, and then you have to say if it's overrated or underrated and one sentence why. You might say, “Fancy key chains are overrated. They take up too much space in your pocket.” Something like that. Got it?

Brian: Got it.

Patrick: All right. So first one, a linen finish on cards. Overrated or underrated? And sorry, I'm going to add one more thing here. Just in case someone doesn't know what it is, can you first explain what a linen finish on cards is?

Brian: Sure. A linen finish on cards is something in the manufacturing process. After they print your cards on cardstock, then they're going to add these ridges all over it, so if you hold it up to the light, you can see that there's a texture on the face of your card. If it's completely smooth, then there is no linen finish on it.

But if there's a little bit of texture, kind of like polyester, or you can just see these little ridges everywhere. But that lets you grip the card a little bit easier, so if you're not sleeving your cards, then you have this grip on them, so they don't slip out of your hand or slide off the table. That linen finish will just give it a little bit of a grip.

I would say right in between, and I would say underrated just because a lot of people probably don't know about linen finish and how nice it is. I think a very serious veteran gamer will open up a pack of cards and feel that linen finish and just be like, “That's such a good feeling.” But most people just don't know, [for them] it's like “That's a card.”

Patrick: Got it. Perfect. Love that answer. How about this? Graphic novels, overrated or underrated?

Brian: I would say underrated for graphic novels, not that many people are into it. I think quite a few people in our space or board games in general, there's a lot of fans of graphic novels, but I love it. We did the Valiant card game where I got to just dive into all these different Valiant comics and heroes and villains. It was so much fun.

I hadn't gotten into comics, when I was much younger, I did. I was really into anime and comics and stuff when I was younger, but I hadn't done that in my adult life. It was so nice to go back and do that and just appreciate the art and appreciate the writing and just have fun in this in this world and not think too much about it usually. So I would say underrated because I think most people don't know about what a great experience that can be.

Patrick: Love it. Let's go with sleeving cards. Overrated or underrated?

Brian: I'm going to go underrated. A lot of people don't like sleeves, but I love them. Any game that– It's almost like “If a game is good enough,” there's a threshold where maybe I won't sleeve it right away. Then when it gets to the point where “This is a game, I'm going to keep playing. I'm going to sleeve it so that it will last a long time.”

I love sleeved cards, every one of our Kickstarter campaigns, or at least like the last five, we've done these cool custom sleeves for our cards. Some people like it, some people don't so much. But I'm a huge fan of sleeves, and that's why I want to make sure these continue to be a part of our campaigns.

Patrick: The last one, inspired by Zorro, riding horses. Overrated or underrated?

Brian: I think I'm going to have to go overrated on that one. I'm not much of a horse rider. I rode my first horse about maybe a year or two years ago, and it was fine. But I'm still going to go overrated.

Wrap Up

Patrick: Awesome. Very cool. Brian, thank you so much for being on the show.

Brian: Yeah, thanks for having me. This was a good discussion. I hope your listeners found something useful, and I hope you can learn from the mistakes we've made so that you don't make them.

Patrick: Where can people find you and your games, and your podcast?

Brian: You can find me, just search for Brian Henk on Twitter or anywhere in social media probably, or Pull the Pin Games. So that's good. Then is the URL for our podcast. If you want to check out the Board Game Business podcast, that's where you'll find it.

Patrick: Very cool. Listeners, if you liked this podcast, please leave us a review on iTunes. If you leave a review, Brian said he would make sure that a dirty cop doesn't arrest you. So, that'll be useful. Then I'm sharing progress on Patreon, and I just finished one of the games that I'm working on. I submitted it to a contest, it's called “Skyhook,” and it is a print and play.

So if you want to play– And by the way, I designed it for the pandemic. So if you want to play a game where you print out your copy, a friend prints out their copy, and you can play together on Zoom or whatever you want to, you can get the print and play files on my Patreon.

I also talk about other stuff there, so I won't bore you. You can visit the site at, and you can follow me on Twitter and BoardGameGeek, I'm @BFTrick on both platforms. Until next time everyone, happy designing. Bye-bye.

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