Chris Brooks

#120 – Chris Brooks

Patrick Rauland: Hello, everyone. 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 learned along the way. My name is Patrick Rauland, and today I'll be talking with Chris Brooks, who designed Space Empire, which was in the mint tin challenge along with my game. Space Empire got fourth place out of 183 games, which is amazing. Chris, welcome to the show.

Chris Brooks: Thanks very much. Glad to be here.


Patrick: So, you and I talked a little bit ahead of time, and obviously, we know what we want to talk about. There's some cool things about your game that I want to chat about, but the audience does not know who you are. I've got a lightning round to introduce you to them, all right?

Chris: OK, great.

Patrick: All right. Favorite planet, excluding Earth. What do you got?

Chris: I'd say, Jupiter. It's the biggest, so it is obviously the best. But also it's got metallic hydrogen under the surface, it's got storms. It's its own little miniature universe in there.

Patrick: That's cool. This is totally unrelated, but I was listening to a podcast about why Earth hasn't been hit by more meteors, and it's because Jupiter is in our solar system. It has so much more gravity that it pulls meteors away from Earth. So, Jupiter is just meteor heaven.

Chris: So it's like the good guys, saving us by jumping in front of the assassin's bullet.

Patrick: It is. I don't know if civilization can work on Jupiter because they just keep getting hit by meteors. But, very cool. OK, Galactic Governor is a role in your game. Would you rather be galactic governor or king of Earth?

Chris: Galactic governor has the power of peace or war over the entire galaxy, which is pretty tempting. But then you have to pass it on to the next player. If the king of Earth is a permanent post, I would definitely consider it.

Patrick: Permanent until someone usurps your throne.

Chris: In that case, maybe it's galactic governor, so I can just declare war on them.

Patrick: There you go. Then if you're at a convention and you're exhausted, you're tired at the end of the day, and someone says, “What about one more game?” What is that one game that you would totally play even if you're tired and exhausted?

Chris: I think something like Coup or Love Letter, quite quick and quite fun. You can play a few rounds of it if you want, and it's easy to learn and easy to teach as well.

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

Patrick: OK, awesome. All right, Chris. How did you get into board games and board game design?

Chris: Board games I've been interested in since forever, actually from childhood with a friend of mine, Malcolm, who I still game with and who's also a designer now too. It's been nice to do that journey together. More recently, I got into board game design properly, maybe about a year ago through my work as a video producer.

I went on courses for After Effects and then illustrator, and I wanted a way to practice. That's when I thought I could design games and practice these illustration skills. Then I started doing that and thought, “This is fun and rewarding.” I haven't looked back since, and I've just been building on it from there.

Patrick: This started with video?

Chris: Yeah. My day job is as a video producer, and I've been learning how to do more graphic design and animation stuff as it's more and more asked from a video producer. Although I do have a background as well in science, and the statistical bones of a game, if you like, I find very interesting as well.

It's lots of different things that I've been interested in all coming into the same point, as well as being very interested in games and storytelling as well. So it's just been a perfect combination of different things that I'm interested in for me to press on with.

Space Empire got 4th place in the Mint Tin Contest. Where did Space Empire Come From?

Patrick: Yeah, very cool. We will definitely chat about videos later, that's something that's on my list a little bit later. But awesome. OK, so Space Empire got fourth place in the mint tin contest, again out of 183 entries. That is amazing. Where did Space Empire come from, and maybe give me a timeline?

Had you been thinking about Space Empire before the contest, or did it just start with the contest? Or did you somehow finish it all two weeks before the contest? What was the timeline of the process for Space Empire?

Chris: I'd been looking for a competition to do. So again, to go back to video, I love doing 24-hour and 48-hour film competitions. I feel like the process of doing a competition, having a deadline, having a theme, I find it invigorating. It helps me finish something, so when I saw the mint tin competition, I thought, “This is great. It's quite small, and it's compact. It's going to be quite a simple little game. I feel this is something I can take on and get engaged with as quite a new game designer.”

So that came up, and I thought, “Yes. I'm definitely into this.” I worked through a couple of different ideas before I came up with the idea for Space Empire, so it came up entirely after I decided to do the competition, and it came from a love of old science fiction books. I have a bit of a collection of books with the word-space in the title, and my favorites are Space Pirates and Space Gladiators. You've got these incredibly silly, pulpy covers with bright colors and a space man with a space helmet and a ray gun, and that sort of thing. I love that aesthetic, which is also in [inaudible] films like Forbidden Planet or Flash Gordon.

Some of the color palettes from those films and the covers of those books inspired some of the colors that I've used in the game, so hopefully, it's not that– Quite a tenuous link, but it's there, and I know it's there. But this specific idea for the game mechanism of Space Empire, of cards that you place one under the other and you build rows of the same resource, and I had that idea on a flight. I was sitting on a transatlantic flight for about eight hours, and I was just doodling in my sketchbook, and I came up with this idea.

That was before I had the theme in mind to combine the two together in this one flight. I don't know, maybe I was out of this world, and it inspired me. Close to space, so it came from there. That was quite early on in the competition, and I spent some time after that working on the– I have a game at work, and then doing play testing, and then all the art, which I did myself as well. As I say, to practice my illustration skills.

Patrick: What? Show off.

Chris: I had the game finished and ordered it as a prototype quite far in advance of the competition, so I was in quite good shape to make some more changes and do a video. Which we'll talk a bit more about, I suppose and have everything finished and entered in time. Because I enjoyed the aspect of photographing and videoing the game as well, that's much more what I do from a day job anyway, so I enjoyed that aspect. After that, we had waiting between rounds, and I thought of a few things I'd like to change, I have a Google doc now where I make my alterations. I have maybe one or two big changes and lots of little changes that I've now made for my own sense of satisfaction or to take the game forward. But that's the story of Space Empire, and how it got to be in the competition.

Patrick: That is cool. I want to talk about Space Empire, but right before I do that, one thing I think we don't talk enough about, how many ideas did you go through? Because you mentioned, you tried a couple of their ideas. Did you try two ideas, and how far did you go? Did you just have an idea, and write down a title, and then skip it? Or did you go all the way through, make a rough prototype of these other ideas, try it, and they didn't work, and then finally, eventually get to Space Empire?

Chris: I had maybe half a dozen ideas for things that I thought would work in a small box, different ideas for game mechanisms, and that sort of thing. But I only had one idea that I got to basically having written the rules for and how it would work. Which was about having a pupil and a master, and you were searching for the secrets of the universe. There would be a deck of cards, and you could either search for secrets of the universe or train your pupil. Every turn, your master and your pupil get older.

When the master died, the pupil would replace them as the master, and the more that you'd invested in their training, the better they would be at looking for secrets of the universe. It was this format where you would be trying to decide whether to draw cards and try to score points or invest in future turns at the expense of maybe losing out to someone who went for it quicker, and it involved dice. I just liked it because it had a sense of quite a big game and the passage of a large amount of time and lots of things happening, but in the end, I just felt it was a bit too random.

I also felt, when I thought how we would illustrate it, the way that I would like to have it illustrated was going to be very different from where my skills lay. I thought, “I'm going try to design something that's got a different aesthetic and a different style, and maybe start from scratch or come back to this, maybe.” So, I got quite far advanced with that one before deciding eventually not to continue with it.

Patrick: First of all, that game sounds amazing. I totally want to play that game. Hopefully, you enter that for a future contest when you have it a little bit more refined, but maybe a better question is like, how many weeks? Did you spend two days working on this, or was it like two weeks that you were working on these other ideas before you even got into the idea that got you so far?

Chris: It was only a few days, probably. Because I, like a lot of designers, I'm doing this part-time, so I feel like looking at it in terms of number of free hours spent on it is probably more of an accurate way. Because sometimes I can spend weeks on something, but I've only spent maybe two hours, two evenings on this game. I put quite a lot of thought into it, it was definitely a good solid day's work on it, of actual work, before I dropped it and moved on. I was quite taken with Space Empire when I came up with the idea because of this link that I had in my mind to this aesthetic that I really liked, of these pulpy space books and films. I think because I was like, “That's exciting, and I'm quite excited with this,” I didn't mind moving on from this other idea.

Although it's still where I could come back to it at some point, and then because I was away on this flight where I came up with the idea, but then I was on holiday for the following week, and I didn't have [in fact] any access to the internet for the first time in years, probably. I was making all my ideas as notes, so there's something to be said for analog pen and paper. I think after that week of having spent a few hours just with my notepad, I was feeling very excited about getting back and writing it all up and pressing on with it as my leading idea. I was pretty certain I was cool with it at that point.

You have a great looking page that describes your game. How did you make your really great video that captures the gameplay and is really engaging?

Patrick: Very cool. It looks great, and one of the things I just have to talk about. We hinted at it already, and I will link to this in the show notes because the Space Empire– I'm going to call it a product page, or the game page, the game detail page on The Game Crafter is gorgeous. You have animated gifs, and you have really good images with obviously your own art and really good video– I think even multiple videos. The video for your game is hilarious.

You have all these little jokes in the video, and just– Hold on. Let me set the bar. My video is, “Hi. I'm Patrick Rauland. I'm going to show you my game. Blah, blah, blah.” It's all one camera angle, there's no sound effects, and you just see my hands moving cards. Super boring. Your game has different shots, there's close-ups, and then you put in little jokes. There's a monster hand grabbing a card, and you see a tentacle hand grabbing a card, obviously different alien races playing and grabbing cards.

And we know a little bit of this is from your day job, but for people like me who just– Let's assume people can do a single-shot video. How do you make a great video like that? Because to me, I wanted to chat. I didn't even know that you would get fourth place, I knew I wanted to talk to you regardless of what place you got because I thought the video you did for your game was perfect. So, how do we do that? How do I copy you?

Chris: Thank you very much. That's very nice of you to say. I had fun making the video, as you can probably tell from the little in-jokes and things. But this was quite a new area for me. Making videos, yes, I do that all the time. But specifically making one for a game, and that's trying to get across the theme and have it please, and is clear, like a rules document in that sense. It was all quite new to me, and I watched a lot of rules videos and promo videos as well, to try to get a feeling of what works and what doesn't.

I found some of my earlier edits were too fast because the main guiding principle of this thing should be “How does the game play?” That takes quite a lot of concentration on the part of the viewer. The video should always be backing that up. It should always be supporting that, so having a single camera shot as many playthrough videos do, it's a really good thing to do because you've established in your head as the viewer the geography of the layout of the game.

If you cut around an awful lot, you can lose a sense of that, so I think actually to criticize my own video, that's something I didn't do enough of because I got a bit carried away with changing shots. But, when I showed it to people to start with, they said, “I don't know how this game looks on the table.” So I put in some more shots that show how the game plays.

Patrick: Can I jump in quickly?

Chris: Go ahead. Yeah, sure.

Patrick: Because I think a little bit of maybe nuance here is, at some points, you want to see the whole game, and you want to see different players sitting at the table and the cards in front of them. But other times, you want to see that close– In your game, you place a card down and match symbols on the card previously placed down to the left and to the right of it, or something similar to that. For those shots, you zoomed right in so that I can see the symbols and correct me if I'm wrong– Didn't you even circle symbols or highlight symbols?

Chris: Yes, I did. I think, yeah, it was all in the interest of clarity and getting across what it is I'm talking about, what match it is that I mean. I think one of the things I've learned not really from making the video, but just from play testing and showing the game is how precise you have to be for people to get what it is you're talking about. So I thought, “Anything I can do.” The gifs are the same, they circle the thing that I'm talking about, and the cards move and fan out organically as you might fan them out with your hand. So it's all visually clear what's going on, and I think to make a good video that gets across how a game plays, you should always have clarity as the underlying focus. One of the ways you can achieve that is by scripting the entire thing on paper first, maybe have one column with the script and another column with what you see before you turn your camera on so everything is really clear, and you just think, “How would this look? How is this going to work?” And then you film it, and maybe you film some stuff after that when you've seen how it looks. But that is the really important first step because every shot and every piece of script should serve the purpose of explaining the game and getting that across.

Patrick: Yeah. I know I've done both. For basically almost all my videos, I do a very quick– I just set up my camera, and I tilt it down, and I put something under it, and I just– Usually I've done so many play tests, I can just do my spiel of the game, or my little pitch. “Here's how the game plays,” and I just do that. But then for my Kickstarter campaign, for Fry Thief, I did what you said where I had a table, and I just had– “Here's the script on the left, and on the right is different camera shots.”

Because I did literally have to shoot different angles. Let me ask you this, though. I think so many game designers get stuck spending so much time just on the game, which of course, makes sense, that's the thing that most of us love for sure. But how much time–? When you get good at this, how much time does it take to make a good quality video?

Because for me, it'll take I would say, total time, even setting the game up on my little table and making sure there's a little bit of light from the kitchen that is pointing in the right direction, and getting my cell phone set up and pointed in the right direction. That only takes me an hour. How many more hours do I have to invest to go–? So let's say, to go to the next level. How many more hours do I have to invest to go to the next level?

Chris: Unfortunately, quite a bit more, I would say. For me, it was very enjoyable and very fun, and I feel like if it was for a video that you wanted to be a premium product for whatever reason if it was going to serve the purpose of marketing the game for a Kickstarter, it's probably worthwhile. But in terms of extra time that it takes, it's definitely exponentially more for several reasons.

One, every time you change the camera shot that involves not only time on the day you're filming, but also in the [inaudible] as well, just matching everything up, things become more complicated. Adding effects, like highlighting things or anything I used. I used after effects for my video, which is quite a heavy-duty program, and it's not necessarily the quickest way to do things because you're generally building up your effect yourself from scratch.

So I would say for my video, which is I think four minutes long, it probably took four or five days of work from the shoot to the edit to the special effects stuff, and then making tweaks once I showed it to some people I think. Yeah, I probably did. So worth it in some circumstances, and when I'm interested as I was for this, but for others, I think it's definitely diminishing returns. Having any video that's clear is great, and adding these little extra things is good when you can or when it's really necessary.

Patrick: I know I spent a lot of time doing the graphic design for my game, but it doesn't feel like work, which is why I put in so much time. I wonder if that's one of the keys to doing well in a contest, is to find the area– Like, I like art direction and making my game look a certain way. I will gladly spend dozens of hours over the course of a couple of months, but I will gladly spend dozens of hours making sure my cards—

I will find just the right texture on a stock photography site and spend weeks finding just the right texture, and then apply that to all my cards. I wonder if that's one of the tricks to doing well in a game design contest, is to take the– Because everyone has skills, I know so many people who can make cool custom shapes out of acrylic, or they do amazing math spreadsheets and balancing, and they can make a really big game that is perfectly balanced. I think that's one of the keys, and I think for you that your video so good it totally could be a Kickstarter video. It's really fun, and it's really good. So just one more time, just a job well done.

Chris: Thank you. And same to you, we've not mentioned in the podcast yet that your game was, of course, third in the competition. A big congratulations to you as well.

You’re in a similar place as I am, where your game is a finalist in the contest and it looks great. What do you do next?

Patrick: Thank you. OK, so let me– This is interesting. Both of us are finalists, and your game looks great. The video looks great. I'm happy to hear that you have some revisions that you're thinking about making, or maybe even already have made. But I'm stuck in this quandary spot where I don't know what my next step should be.

I'm 80% sure I should try to find a publisher, I'm 20% sure I should run a Kickstarter. What do you do when you do well in a contest, but you don't get first, and you don't have publishers knocking down your door to pitch your game? Or, for them to buy your game. What are you going to do with Space Empire? What is your next step?

Chris: It's really interesting that you name your percentages because I feel like it's very similar for me. I feel like I would rather go the publisher route, but I might go Kickstarter. It's something that I've thought about. When I spoke to Chris from Rampage Games, who was one of the judges, that's what he recommended. He said, “Publishers will have such a long lead time for getting things on Kickstarter, and your game is good to go for the next stage. If I was you, I would probably Kickstart it.”

Which is an interesting perspective coming from a publisher, so I think I'm going to leave it open for now with a slight tendency towards trying to find a publisher. I'm going to look into that. What I've been doing and is quite well underway now is making changes, some small balancing changes, and a couple of slightly bigger changes to components, and getting that looked at and tested. I'm also thinking of making some rules changes, but I think I'll do those and do some play testing and see how that works out because I think the game works pretty and it hurts my heart a bit to try and tear it down again in the hope that I'll build it up again better.

But I'll do a bit of that on my own time, as it were. I think after that it's going to be sending it to publishers. Maybe if the feedback I'm getting is “This is close, but needs some changes,” I would make some more changes. Or if they're saying, “That's not something we're very interested in.” I do believe in it, so it might be something I would look into Kickstarting, but I hope not.

Patrick: Why do you hope not? That's something I want to dig into.

Chris: I've not done a Kickstarter campaign before, and I think it would be– I've read that it would be basically another day job and dealing with skills that I'm not particularly adept within marketing and producing, the distribution side of things and the production side of things getting a game made in those scales. So it would just involve a gargantuan bit of effort on my part to learn how to do all of that stuff, and it's not an area I'm particularly interested in.

I would rather be spending more time on design and illustration, so I think it's remaining an option to me and I'll probably look into it, and it might be that the more I look into it, the more I feel like all these issues I'm addressing or have a handle on or an idea of how much time they might take. So actually just how I feel at the moment, from a position of relative ignorance.

Do you have a white whale of game design? Something you try to figure out every time but you haven’t quite cracked it yet.

Patrick: Perfect. That's super helpful. It's also really nice to hear. I know how much work it is, and I don't want to do that much work. That's a great answer. Let me move on here. So obviously, Space Empire is great, but do you have a mechanism or a theme, some white whale of game design that you want to get? You want it to work out, and it just hasn't? Nothing's come up yet?

Chris: I recently read the book Uncertainty in Games by Greg Costigan, I think his name is, and it talks about all the different types of uncertainty that you can have in a game. One of them is to do with how your understanding of what you're doing in a game can change depending on your understanding of what it is that you're doing. So the example he gives in the book, he calls this “Semiotic contingency,” by the way, which is a bit over my head. But the example he gives is there's this game called Trains.

As the player, you know what you're doing, which is you're trying to get as many people on trains as you can, and you're competing with other players to do this, but you don't know why. At the end of the game, it turns out that you are sending them to death camps. So your understanding of what you were doing, you thought getting people into trains was a good thing, but actually, your understanding has been flipped on its head. That's powerful.

I wouldn't necessarily want to make a game with such a serious theme, but the idea that you can surprise a player like a novel would or a film would because they thought they understood what was going on and then they're shocked by some revelation. I think that's a really interesting and powerful mechanism to try to work into a game. It's got issues through, such as replayability, for a start.

How do you make a game that has a twist on it, anything other than a one-shot? Also, I think I'm just looking at this more as almost a piece of art of how to get people thinking rather than as a game. If there is some way of combining all those elements together, perfect. But I don't know if it's possible.

Patrick: That was what I was going to say, I think it's either Trains, or it might just be Train. I've heard about that game a little bit before. I think the person who made that considers it a piece of art. I could be wrong there, but that's how–

Chris: No, that's what I've heard as well. I think it very much falls into that sphere more than it does, but computer games can do this quite well.

Patrick: Totally.

Chris: It would just be so interesting to see if it could be worked into a board game, whether you can do something even with randomizing whatever the twist is on cards, or whether that feels too shallow, or whether it's just a hint to this mechanism. I would love to see it, I would love to execute it well, but I would also love to see somebody else who has a better idea of how to do it execute it well.

Patrick: It's definitely worth thinking about, and when I first heard about Train, I thought about similar themes. I don't know how to tackle it, but I would totally be interested in that. That sounds fascinating if you ever do make that game, please let me know and we'll have to chat about it. Because it sounds challenging and amazing.

Chris: Yeah, I'll keep thinking. But who knows? Maybe something will– Maybe inspiration will strike.

What are some fun ideas or mechanisms that you’re looking into?

Patrick: So then, how about this? Are there any games or fun mechanisms that you are working on in a game?

Chris: Yes. Another book that I read recently is The Oxford Very Short Introduction to Game Theory by Ken Benmore. He's a specialist in auctions, and one of the things that he did was organize telecommunications auctions in the real world, not in games, and get as much money as possible for the government from selling particular bandwidths of telecoms. He talks about all these different types of auctions, and I was fascinated because I'm aware of auctions where one player bids and another player bids higher and so on.

But there's so many other different types, and one which I didn't know about but perhaps other people will, is a so-called Dutch auction where you start at a high price, and then you come down slowly. The first person who says, “I'm willing to pay that” wins. They use this for selling flowers in Dutch flower markets because they've got so many lots to get through, and it's a really quick, efficient way to sell things at the best price. There are several other different types of auction, and the one I'm particularly interested in as a game mechanic is one where it's a secret auction, everybody bids, and the person who wins the auction is the person whose bid the highest, but they pay the amount that the second-highest bidder bid.

What this does in practice is it forces people to think about the true value of what it is they're bidding for, and try to work out what other people are doing. It's very interactive and gets you thinking about other players strategies. I would love to incorporate this into a game somehow as a really core part of the mechanics.

Patrick: Yeah, that sounds cool. Because I'm just thinking if people aren't paying attention and one person bids one, one person bids two, one person bids three, and the fourth person bids 10, then you still only pay three.

Chris: And the fact it's in secret as well means that over several rounds you would get to learn people's strategies, and they would be trying to throw you off. So there's this really deep complexity to it that could come out, I think, with the right framework in a game. I'd love to try to work it into something.

Patrick: Interesting. Depending on how much gaminess you want, people could go “I definitely know Patrick is going to buy that, he's probably going to buy it for $6. So I'm going to bid $5.” Right? Because there's that, like–

Chris: Yes.

Patrick: Man, OK. That sounds great. Yes. Please put that into a game and let me know. That sounds fun.

Chris: I will.

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

Patrick: OK. So you've already recommended two books, so you can feel free to name those again, or is there another resource that you'd recommend to another indie game designer? A website, a book, podcasts not including this one? Something like that.

Chris: I've been very analog so far with recommendations, so I'll recommend a Facebook group. I like– There's lots of different Facebook groups that I like, so maybe “Facebook groups in general.” But the one that I would particularly highlight is the Board Game Design Lab Facebook Group, which was also the first one that I found when I was getting into board game design.

It's really good for advice, for interesting conversations, for some work in progress shots, prototyping, and just generally supportive people. It's a very nice community, but more generally, I think Facebook, when used well, is a really good resource. Because you've got groups, you've got pages, you've got announcements about games coming out. You can keep your finger on the pulse, as it were.

Also, by joining the right groups, get really good specific support from exactly the right people. It's been a renaissance for me a bit because I wasn't using Facebook very much anymore for its intended purpose of keeping up with family and friends. But I've been using it a lot more recently because of their ability to find these very specific groups to help with skills development or game design.

Patrick: I can definitely recommend that group. I'm in that group, and I posted so many work in progress pictures of all of my games, and I generally get very good feedback, as in actionable feedback, from that group. Which is nice, though the one thing– Let me ask you if you've figured this out, but I cannot– I think Facebook groups are really good for “I did two mockups of this thing, which one is more clear?” I get really good feedback on visual things and on very quick things, but I have not found the right way to get feedback on “Here's this problem that I have maybe 1 out of 20 games.”

It's just hard to, and I don't think you can get people involved. They have to know about your game, and you have to explain the context around the game and the problem, and then talk about the problem, and I don't think people have the attention span for that. But it's been really good for images and stuff like that. Have you found a way to talk about maybe deeper issues on Facebook, or is that still a mystery to you?

Chris: I would say still a mystery, although I know exactly what you mean. I've tried various different things. I think one thing when I've had something slightly more complicated to ask about, I've included a short question in the first line. Somehow that's led to a lot more traction. I think if I would just embark on a massive paragraph, it's not worked. But if I've said something like, “When you are games testing, what's the one question you like to ask people?” Then I'll ask my real longer question below that, which is related, and then some of the replies you get are just people who've read the first line, and that's fine.

But then I feel like it generates more of a conversation, and you get more replies to your actual longer question, I think probably just because people have seen, “Some other people have replied, I'll spend the time reading this.” I think that's an important aspect of engaging people in social media, is to make it snappy. Even if you do want to do something more complicated just to grab them from the start.

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

Patrick: Perfect. Makes a lot of sense. What about what is the best money that you've ever spent as a game designer? What's something that is worth every single cent you paid for it?

Chris: I think my blank dice in various colors because you can use them as dice with the faces marked in different ways for my game Fungus Sorcerer, which I'm developing. I've got the sides marked with swords or spears or bows or little magic things. I can change the number of them that arrange dice, and that sort of thing.

You can also use them as counters, though, that count down and use them just as game pieces. I feel like all I need is my blank dice in different colors and I can prototype almost anything just depending on what I use them for.

Patrick: Perfect. Great. That's a very specific resource, and I love it. Did you get those from The Game Crafter, from Amazon, or where did you get those?

Chris: I think I got them from Amazon, but it might've been eBay. It was just lots of dice in different colors. And they're cheap, and I think because blank dice are quite a– They're produced in huge quantities so you can get them for next to nothing. Cheap.

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

Patrick: Very cool. So the last real question is, what does success in the board game world look like to you?

Chris: If I have a feeling of a game that I've produced, and I think “If I saw that in a shop or in a board game cafe next to all the great and the good games, and I felt like ‘Yeah. That that stands up against them.' It's maybe different, or maybe it was good, or maybe I can see the flaws in my game more that I can see the flaws in other people's games, but if it got to the point where I was like, ‘This stands amongst them,' I would think I've made it in the board game world.” I think that is a long way off, but it's my shining guiding star.


Patrick: I love it. Perfect. So I like to end with a game called Overrated/Underrated, and I know you've listened to the show, so I'll very quickly explain this just in case someone is listening for the first time. I'm going to give you a word or phrase, like “Lacroix soda,” or “Soda water,” and you are going to give me “Overrated” or “Underrated.” And you're going to be like, “Obviously overrated. Because why get flavored water without sugar in it,” or something like that. Cool?

Chris: OK.

Patrick: All right. I'm just going to go in general here, mint tin games. Overrated or underrated?

Chris: Underrated. I think I'd never heard of a mint tin game before the competition. They're brilliant. It's a fun little game in a tiny little box that you can just chuck in a bag and take anywhere. Absolutely brilliant. Underrated.

Patrick: Awesome. How about 1917? That's the movie. Is that overrated or underrated?

Chris: I saw it yesterday, and unfortunately, I think it's overrated.

Patrick: Oh, no.

Chris: It's fine, don't get me wrong. But I think it's a little bit of “Let's throw all the stuff I know about World War I into one film and just have it all happen one after the other.” It felt a bit of a mess to me, but still a good film. Just overrated.

Patrick: Cool. So just for the listeners, I do have one reason why I like it more than many war movies. My one reason is I think in a lot of war movies, like Saving Private Ryan is cool if you like explosions and shooting and stuff. But it focuses on a squad, and in 1917 I focused on the two dudes, and that never happens in a war movie.

So that was cool for me like I focused on the two dudes. But I can totally see how it's just a war movie, and it was just war movie tropes. Got it, I don't need to blabber on anymore. OK, so I looked at your game, and there's this one card that says “Jungle World,” so I was just imagining, would it be overrated or underrated to live in a world that is just jungle?

Chris: I think it would be overrated. People would think it would be a nice thing to live in a jungle world, but actually, it would be so humid, and there'd be lots of mosquitoes, and there would be nowhere to go to just get away from it all if the whole world is jungle. I definitely would not want to live there. And also, imagine the jungle creatures that would live in a world that's all jungle, all that space jaguars.

Patrick: Space jaguars, yeah. Have to watch out for those.

Chris: Yeah.

Patrick: Then last one, the Oscars. Overrated or underrated?

Chris: Probably overrated. I like the Oscars, and I'm always very interested, but I think people put a little bit too much weight on the Oscars as the final word in all things about films. So I think it's good, I like the Oscars, and it's fun, but it could do with being a little bit less emphasized in the film world overall.

Wrap Up

Patrick: Perfect. Chris, thank you so much for being on the show.

Chris: Thank you very much for having me. It's been great.

Patrick: Where can people find you and your games online?

Chris: I'm Christopher Brooks on The Game Crafter, and I'm on Twitter, @ChrisBrooksUK, and Facebook as Christopher L. Brooks. That's pesky Facebook, and I'm needing to be very specific about which Christopher Brooks I am for you. So yeah, look me up and get in touch.

Patrick: Awesome. Listeners, if you like this podcast, please leave us a review on iTunes. If you leave a review, Chris says that he promises not to declare war when he's galactic governor, which sounds great. Theoretically, if everyone who plays in a game with you has left a review on my podcast, then you can never declare war, Chris.

Chris: I'm going to be a very magnanimous galactic governor, by the sounds of things.

Patrick: Great. All right, listeners. By the way, you can also fill out a survey at, that would let me know what type of content you like. So if you like interviews like these and you want to hear more, let me know. If you want to listen to different types of content, let me know. Stuff like that is helpful. You can visit the site at You can follow me on Twitter and BoardGameGeek, and I am @BFTrick on both platforms. Until next time everyone, happy designing. Bye-bye.

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