Christopher Kaspar

#104 – Christopher Kaspar

Patrick Rauland: Just a quick note before today's show, we did have some technical difficulties. You'll hear a slight clicking sound when the guest is speaking. We tried to fix it, but even the original file had these ticking sounds. Sorry about the annoyance, and onto the show.

Patrick: 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 Christopher Kaspar, who is working on a game called Keeps. Christopher, welcome to the show.

Christopher Kaspar: Awesome, thank you so much for having me. I've listened to a few episodes here, and actually, a couple of my good friends have been on previous episodes, people that have helped me develop Keeps. So, it's an honor. Thanks for having me.


Patrick: Cool. That's good to hear, thank you. We've chatted a little bit before the show and a little bit in email before that, and we had an introduction between a mutual friend, so I know a lot about you, but the audience doesn't. I like to start with a little game where I basically ask you three lightning round questions. Cool?

Christopher: Shoot. Go for it.

Patrick: What is the most–? I know you were at Gen Con, so what was the most interesting-looking game that you saw at Gen Con?

Christopher: When I went to Gen Con I said I wasn't going to buy any games because it's easy to blow your entire wallet here. But I got suckered into this one game called Moon Base. It just looks awesome on the table. It's literally a picture of the moon, and you set these round lunar landing modules, and you stack them up. It's an abstract strategy game, and it sucked me in, and I bought it. That was definitely number one. There were a couple others that were interesting, but that one took the cake.

Patrick: I have seen that one. It has these cool metal rings, right?

Christopher: Yes. You stack them, and it just looks so awesome at the end of the game. It's neat, and I'm a sucker for those types. There were a couple other ones. Big G Games have some games in Target, and one was called Keepin' It Saxy. It had Kenny G, and he was the star of the show. You have to play saxophone music to get him through his day. It's just random. There's a Bob Ross game. Those were the highlights, definitely.

Patrick: Yeah, that's pretty funny. What was your most expensive purchase at Gen Con?

Christopher: All right. I said I wasn't going to buy games, but I ended up buying some artwork. I have a master's in art, so I appreciate original art that people make. I bought one of Wingspan's birds from the artist that made the cards for Wingspan. I got her to sign it, and I got the designer to sign it, and for me, I was buying a piece of history because it won the Spiel award this year. It was the year it won the award, the number one most selling game right now, and I got both of them to sign it. It's just a cool memory that I'm going to have for the rest of my life. But definitely, the most expensive purchase there.

Patrick: That's awesome. It's cool that it wasn't a game. It wasn't a 200 miniature game, and it was a piece of art. That's pretty cool.

Christopher: I can Keeps it on my wall now.

Patrick: Lastly I want to know, what is a game you're so good at that you're definitely going to crush me in it?

Christopher: All right. I don't mean to brag, but Bananagrams is my jam. I was a camp counselor at Pine Cove Camps for the summer, and I played it– I was at a family camp, so every single night for an entire summer I'd sit down and play Bananagrams. Your brain creates connections, and it's a speed game. If you haven't played it, you're spelling words. By the end of the summer, I just murdered everyone. My brain had created words and shortcuts and mnemonics, and I was unbeatable. It was a lot of fun. So that, and then Catan I can hold my own. I probably have and 80% win rate, I don't know. I don't want to be too pretentious here.

Patrick: That's awesome. I'm glad you know what you're good at. I know that I am absolutely terrible with all word games, so I generally don't play them. If you and I played Bananagrams, I'd get one word, and you would get 10.

Christopher: I've lost the magic. That was almost a decade ago, so I think we might be neck and neck here now.

How Did You Get Into Board Games & Board Game Design?

Patrick: Very cool. So first real question, how did you get into board games and board game design?

Christopher: As I mentioned, Catan, that was my entry-level. I think many people listening to the podcast here that introduced me to this strategy [euro game] world. I remember in college, we played hundreds of games, but we'd always play them on top of different university buildings at Texas A&M. It added another level of adventure/not getting caught to it. I think the police found us once.

Patrick: The police found you trespassing on the roof of a building, playing a board game?

Christopher: Yeah, [We agreed] mutually that we shouldn't go back in that building. But anyways, it was pretty [rad]. We didn't feel too bad about it at the end of the day. That was my intro into board gaming and just sweet memories with friends, and then game design– My wife and I have two kids, and one's on the way, and for a while there we did foster kids so we had four kids under age five in our house, and I love adventure and travel. I love to get out and see the world and travel all over the world, but I can't with kids.

It became my source of adventure was to play different board games with my wife and with family and friends, and out of that came this desire  to start making them. A little bit more background here, as I traveled, I did a lot of film traveling. As a filmmaker, your job is to create experiences for people. You have to sit in the audience's seat and craft this experience for them so that they can have whatever emotion at that moment that you're trying to create as a director of film.

Game design is almost exactly the same. You're creating an experience for someone, with the one exception is that there's a whole lot more math involved. But those two things have a lot more crossover than you would imagine.

Why Do You Make Games?

Patrick: That's pretty cool. So let me talk about– I want to talk about your philosophy in game design. What is the thing that you put into–? What is your, what is the reason you make games, and what is the beliefs behind them? If that makes sense.

Christopher: Yeah. My background, I head an ad agency, and for the last 5-6 years I've gotten– I've honed in on brand positioning. [Inaudible]. If you have a company, what makes them unique? Then, how do you show that to consumers? Again, just like film making you're creating an experience for people. In the same way, games that truly are breakthrough successes, if you look back at the history of them, they all contain a unique position in the mind of consumers.

Monopoly was the first-ever real estate trading card game, and Magic: The Gathering was the first-ever collectible card game of its type. So I tried to– My underlying philosophy is to try to make something truly unique. A very simple thing but it's 100% unique, that people can latch on to, and let that be a new experience for them. That's my hope for success within games, is to try to separate myself from the pile because there are a lot of games coming out right now.

Patrick: Absolutely.

Christopher: So that's what I'm chasing, is that unique element.

Patrick: I love that. I didn't know you worked at an ad agency– Or, run your own ad agency. That was one of my first roles, and I think it was my second job out of college. I worked at an ad agency, and I learned a lot about branding and positioning, and have you–? I'm just curious, have you read the book Positioning by Jack Trout?

Christopher: Yes. That book, I literally have bought more copies that book and given it to people, because– Even game designers. It's not a game design book, it's a brand book, but it applies so much to what we're doing. If you are looking for breakthrough success as a game designer, I'd highly recommend it. It's a quick, easy– Probably a two-hour read. But that's my favorite business book, so I'm glad that you've experienced that.

Patrick: It's a really good one. I read it a couple of years ago, and for people who are too lazy to read the book, the one-sentence takeaway is “People can know you for one thing. So, what is the one sentence that people know you about? It has to be unique and different from everyone else, otherwise, you just get forgotten.” Or, maybe I need to reread it.

Christopher: No, that's great. It's to pick one word and hone in on that one particular word. Snickers honed in on “Hungry,” Coca-Cola is “Cola” in the end.” You don't want to water down that word, as much as possible.

What is Keeps?

Patrick: Very cool. So, tell me about Keeps. What type of game is it, and how did you get started?

Christopher: Keeps is a tiled placement block building strategy game for two to six players, and players are kings in the hundred-year war. So think back to historic France, there was almost this period in history where it was almost a joke and Kings kept taking over each other's territory back and forth.

It was comical, and I started by wanting to create a game built on voxel. Voxels aren't pixels, and they're what Minecraft world is built out of, this 3D world. If you look in the digital game space, the top 10 games in the Appstore are all 8-bit or voxel-based games.

They are the art direction that's thriving in digital, but there's only a few games in the tabletop world that are using that. I think Pixel, and there's a couple. But I wanted to tightly integrate mechanics blocks. Very highly tactile, something you could feel like dominoes or dice. I wanted to build a game using blocks tightly integrated with mechanics, and that's the overarching background that I built the rest of the game around.

Patrick: Very cool. I want to see more games like that. I don't know if you listen to my– There's a recap episode of the Simple Elegance contest, which I'll link to in the show notes. One of my favorite games was a game that looked like a video game platformer. It just looked amazing with the pixel-y art. It looks cool, and I think there is a lot of space there. Very cool. So what makes it unique? Like, mechanically?

Christopher: Building on that whole voxel world that I'm trying to create, I have two things that are unique. One is the whole– The primary commodity of the game is a block, and it looks like a domino. So imagine a domino in your head, and if you lay it flat, it's a worker, and it produces things, like a typical worker placement.

You can mine gold or make other blocks, or it could be a farm, so it produces. If you lay it on its side, it's a wall, and it provides defense, or it helps build castles or Keeps, which is the point of the game.

The name of the game is Keeps, and you build Keeps to win. Then if you stand it up tall, on its tallest side, then it is a soldier. It can move around the board and explore and do other things. So, that's the unique “Die-roll block” is what I'm calling it. It's hard, and there's no real language for that mechanic yet. But that's the best I've got.

Custom Dice

Then the other one that I was actually really– Publishers latched onto this one when I met with them at Gen Con. The idea of asymmetrical dice, so just like the blocks have three different sides and three different angles, the dice themselves have different shapes.

They're not a typical six-sided dice that's all the same. It has six sides, but I very carefully controlled the surface area proportions on them, so you roll a bunch of dice, up to 6 or 9 dice altogether at once depending on combat which pieces are called. Then you line them up from tallest to shortest, and the tallest dice win combat. A lot of people have fun with it. It took me a while to develop these dice. There's a–

Patrick: What?

Christopher: There's a lot of math behind it. I've literally rolled them many thousands of times and charted graphs of probabilities, and about 50 different prototypes on 3D printers. I finally got them honed in on the sweet spot here.

Patrick: So you made– You're like, “Regular dice aren't interesting enough. I'm going to have crazy-shaped dice so that they land in different ways and they have different heights.”

Christopher: Yeah. It's like glorified Pass the Pigs.

Patrick: OK.

Christopher: But these are just blocks. They're just blocks, but they're rectangles. The interesting thing is I have some dice that are large. Soldier dice are one dimension, and wall dice are another dimension, and wall dice are actually larger, but statistically, they're weaker in combat even though they look larger. So there's some mysterious probabilities here that players have to figure out as you roll a bunch, and between you and me there's a little bit of technique. Unlike old dice, where it's the same no matter how you roll it, there's some technique to how you roll it. So, there's some fun nuances to it.

Patrick: That is super cool. I don't think I've talked to anyone– Like, people talk about– It's funny because people talk about custom dice, but when people say “Custom dice” that means a custom die face, whereas you were talking about actual custom dice. I love that. Just curious, I want to talk to you about publishers at Gen Con in a minute. But I did see a Facebook post literally this morning about custom dice and publishers are worried about the costs, so did that not come up? Are some publishers thinking it's so unique that it's worth the extra cost and molds, and all that stuff?

Christopher: I only had one publisher who– My game costs a lot to make. There are over 120 blocks plus 9 custom dice, and I could even see upping it once we're further in development here. I only had one publisher scoff at the price, and I looked at that particular publisher where all of their games have artwork that's almost clipart-y because they didn't want to spend a bunch of money. That's this [inaudible] of that publisher. So in general, I was surprised at how open they were to the idea. It didn't seem to be an issue, and I thought it would be actually.

Did You Run into any Design Challenges?

Patrick: That's very cool and very good to hear. We will come back to that, to the Gen Con publishers, but I want to wrap up, and I want to ask one more question about Keeps. One of the things I like to ask is, did you run into any design challenges, and how did you solve them?

Christopher: Yeah. Who doesn't run into design challenges? The question is, “Are you losing your arm or your leg, or your head?” I remember play test number 30, and I was playing with a bunch of junior high boys who were all jacked up on testosterone. This game had so much spite. These guys hated each other afterwards, and they were just at each other's throats. I said, “I have to change this game. I cannot have this. It's not even fun for people.” I just did a fundamental redesign and took the conflict down a significant [amount and mad it less political]. Think Twilight Imperium [voting type stuff].

Patrick: Sure.

Christopher: So that was one big redirect, and then the other thing that– In my town, I live in a small town in Texas. 2,000 people and there's not a big board game community. One of the greatest challenges for me is actually, and this isn't a design challenge per se, but it's a challenge nonetheless, finding play testers that want to play mid-heavy, I'd say mid-plus weight games. A little bit heavier than Catan, here.

I think it's become such a challenge for me. I've burned through my friend list, and everyone is like, “I don't want to play test again.” I think now I'm going to start just designing lighter games, even games for my kids because they're always up for playing. I'll pull in my family a little bit more here on the next project.

Patrick: That's so interesting to hear that feedback, that finding play testers for let's call it a “Medium-weight game,” it's so hard that you're basically– You just know where you live there's not that many people who are into board games, but you're basically going to change your– One of your design philosophies is to design lighter games. I don't think I've heard anyone articulate that the problem is that bad that they have to change the types of games they're making.

Christopher: Yeah. The other thing too is it takes a lot of time to develop a heavy-weight game. I was at Gen Con, and I got to talk with Eric Lang, the designer of Blood Rage with [inaudible]. They were working on a game called True Vein. I think it has a few days left on Kickstarter, but they've been working on this game six months, and this was him plus three other game developers. Four guys, full-time working on this game for 6 months, and they had another 6 months of dev time. That game was a little bit heavier than mine, and I'm just looking at that math. If they're putting that many hours into a game that's a little heavier than mine, then it's hard for me to hit the level of excellence that I need to. So I've just lowered my ambitions intentionally a little bit and gone for simpler things here.

What Was Your First Gen Con Like?

Patrick: Interesting. I know we chatted about Gen Con a little bit, but what's interesting for me is I think my first time was like 11-12 years ago when I was in college. There was a local game store that somehow arranged a bus that drove us all down, and they arranged hotel rooms for everyone. So my first Gen Con was pretty easy because they did transportation and hotel and it was walking distance to the convention. Anyways, that was 11-12 years ago. So as someone– I did go this year, but as someone who it's been over a decade since my first time, what was your first–? Because this was your first Gen Con, what was it like for you?

Christopher: Yeah, first time. I knew what to expect. I talked with enough people about it. First, they didn't have Dr. Pepper anywhere. What's a Texas guy supposed to do? But no, I was surprised at how heavy retail it was and how actually light on board games it was. I had just come out of BoardGameGeek Spring, which was literally 100% people there to play board games. That was their only purpose.

This was more RPG, cosplay, a lot more writing events. It was about 40% board games, so that was interesting. Very heavy retail focus. But I had two purposes going there. One was to pitch my game, so I emailed a bunch of publishers ahead of time and had meetings set up, and that was half of Gen Con.

The other half I was with a group called Love Thy Nerd where you packed up on a bus and traveled [inaudible]. I found a group of guys, and they're Christians that are just there to level on people at Gen Con. It's a pretty diverse crowd there. It was pretty– I just put on a Love Thy Nerd T-shirt, and you'd be amazed at the conversations I'd have because of that.

Patrick: That's cool.

Christopher: Just hanging out, and it was really good conversation. That was the two halves of my Gen Con experience. I had deep, good, fulfilling conversations with lots of people, and I had really good conversations with publishers. It was a very encouraging time there.

First Time Pitching Publishers

Patrick: Is this the first time you pitched publishers in person?

Christopher: Yeah. At BoardGameGeek Spring there were a couple publishers sitting around because they have 6 booths or so. I got to work the willies out there and get over my nerves, and get to know them as people. This was my first time, and I had probably 5 really big publishers that I was pitching to, and it was just– They were so approachable, and I worked hard. [I didn't come up with a terrible game concept], but they were just encouraging, and yeah it was my first time ever. I learned a lot, and I'll do better next time. I actually overprepared, I had one publisher tell me “Chris. Spend more time developing your game and less time trying to impress me.” Because I had this 25-page packet with a letter to them saying, “This is for your particular thing.”

Patrick: What?

Christopher: I was like, “Here's why I think it fits in your line,” and all this type of stuff. But that was overkill, I learned. He said, “Come with a sell sheet for your game,” and that was good enough.

Patrick: That's cool, and it's also nice to hear that it's “Focus on your game and a simple sell sheet.” OK, that's good to know.

Christopher: Yeah. So, you can overdo it. I was trying to be the nicest guy dressed in the room, and it got me in the door, but at the end of the day, they're like “You're overdressed.”

Patrick: You mentioned something that I– This actually lines up with my experience of Gen Con, where you said there's a heavy retail focus. I find that so fascinating, because I don't know if you hang out on Twitter, but I saw a whole bunch of people posting their Gen Con hauls over the last couple days after Gen Con. It's just dozens of board games. It blows my mind because I think I have about 80 board games total and I've been in this hobby for let's say 12 years.

Because I'm constantly like, “I don't play this game anymore, or I haven't played it in the last year and a half, so I'm going to get rid of it.” I keep games moving. I do buy new games, but I'm always getting rid of old games. I'm just surprised at how much people– I'm just surprised how much people buy. But people love to buy a ton of games at Gen Con. It is very surprising, and I'm a little surprised at how little or few games there are. I wish there were a little bit more games. Does that make sense?

Christopher: Yeah. I have almost taken a policy that unless something has been out for a year and has climbed BoardGameGeek or been recommended by Tom Vassal or won a Spiel award unless it's an independent publisher that I know or have met– I might get Fry Thief because that's an awesome idea. But other than that, I'm not blowing my cash on something that– I've got limited dollars here, so I want to buy games that are good, and I don't want to take a risk on that. I've tried to take a step back from that whole retail craze.

Patrick: I worked a booth for the first time, and some people came up to the booth, and they were like, “What's this game?” I gave them a one-sentence description, and they're like, “Fine. Put it on my card.” They were almost like– It was almost like they had to collect every game at Gen Con. So it's like they almost didn't, but they just wanted to hear that it wasn't terrible and then they bought it. So anyways, it's a weird world out there. Gen Con, for me, is a very retail focused con, and there's other cons that focus a lot more on the playing. For listeners out there, you can find a con to your liking. Anyway, now that I'm done preaching. I'd like to know what games out there inspire you?

What Games Inspire You?

Christopher: My games that I like are what I would call “The category leader.” Again, back to my– I like exploring and adventuring, and I like exploring new mechanics and stretching myself as wide as possible. So whatever that category leader is, I've played whatever has been visionary in their mechanics. Pandemic Legacy is one of the first legacy games, Jenga is one of the first block building games. I'm a fan, Gloomhaven is one of those first scenario non-DM dungeon crawler types. Catan hit the American markets, so anything that's won a Spiel award. I'm a big fan of Tom Vasel's top 10 list. Whatever he has, I'm typically a fan of. I try to stretch myself wide as far as a designer. The 7th Continent is another one that was very innovative. Anything that's new and unique is what I'm going for.

Patrick: Cool. I like seeing that list of Pandemic Legacy, Jenga, Gloomhaven, Catan. It lines up with what you were talking about before, with Positioning. Where when you think of a legacy game, I think almost everyone thinks of Pandemic Legacy. I think they're almost the archetype of their category.

Christopher: Yeah. I have a master's degree in art, and if you think about the big artists like Warhol, Picasso, Jackson Pollock. These guys didn't do anything crazy like I could literally go in my studio and make a Jackson Pollock painting in a matter of a week and it would look just like his. But what was crazy was that he had the vision to do something that no one else had done before, he was the first to mark it. Therefore, he just blew up. So, I like those games. I even try– I'm trying to develop a game in this niche or new category that's not even defined yet. That's what I'm trying to hit here. Those games that have done that successfully, I'm a big fan of. Dominion is another example, first deck builder game. I love those games.

Patrick: That's a pretty ambitious goal, so I'm going to give you kudos for that. I want to make a game that people play, and you're like “I need to make a game that no one even knows exists yet. No one can comprehend it.”

Christopher: Yeah, I'm just trying here. But Keeps, for example, it's block building strategy. I don't know of any games that use blocks to build things or that use strategy. I don't know if it's truly unique or not, but it's pushing that edge a little bit. The ironic thing is the more unique something is there is a risk for publishers, so the less they are interested in talking to you about it because it's so different. It's this fine line between “How far do you want to push people's mnemonic of what a game does or how it works?”

Is There a Game You Wish You Could Change?

Patrick: Is there a game out there that you wish you could change, maybe add something or take something away?

Christopher: Yeah. Since we're talking about Gloomhaven by the way, I got to meet Isaac, the designer of Gloomhaven and get a picture with him at Gen Con.

Patrick: Cool.

Christopher: But yeah, in Gloomhaven, all the scenarios have the same exact timer on them. They all last about an hour and a half or so. For me, I like more variety, so I'd love to see a 30-minute scenario and a three-hour scenario. That would be some pretty major changes to the mechanics, so I'm not expecting it. It's my own personal idea.

I'm playing a game of Blood Rage tonight with some guys where I have a Viking drinking horn, and we're going to go for it. That's another game that's volatile, and people can run away with the game. It can be a little volatile. Then Wingspan, it's such a peaceful game. I wish that birds could swoop in and eat birds from other players, but I think that's a little too high conflict for Stonemaier. It's not going to happen.

Patrick: In Scythe, they have plenty of mechs that blow up other mechs. But I guess in Scythe, if I remember correctly, don't the pieces respawn at your base? They're still on the board, and they're just back at your base now.

Christopher: Yeah. It's funny. Two of the publishers at Gen Con that I talked to, two of them said, “This is awesome, we like your game. Except we have a universal policy for every game that we publish, which is that you can never have direct player confrontation. One person cannot attack one other person. You can take the whole group and set everyone back.”

In Dominion, you play a card, and it hits everyone at the table, but not one person. So I'm thinking about changing Keeps possibly to accommodate that, but the ironic thing is that I didn't see the value of it. But then later that night I played a game, I taught a game of Twilight Imperium, and one player trolled on the other players and literally just ruined the entire game for everyone. So I think it's a pretty interesting rule in company policy. One thing to keep in the back of your mind as a designer.

What Resource Would You Recommend?

Patrick: That's awesome. I like to end my interviews with the same three questions. The first one is, what one resource would you recommend to another indie game designer?

Christopher: One resource I would go with is design competitions. They push you. If you finish something and cross the finish line and kick it out, and wherever it is, it is. You have to be proud of it when you let go of it. So I've entered a couple of design competitions, and that's actually how I got connected with you is through one-design competition. So, I highly recommend just as good exercise to stay up late and work your tail off to submit.

Patrick: I love that. Anything else?

Christopher: Yeah. A couple other things. Your podcast is awesome, and there's another podcast called The Board Game Design Lab with Gabe Barrett. I think you actually [inaudible] in episode 34. He's been good, and I've gotten to know him pretty well. Then at Gen Con, they had this thing called the first exposure play test hall, and it's a little expensive. It's $300 bucks, but you get two badges which are over $100 dollars each. So you're paying $80 bucks total for four 2-hour play test sessions with legit game enthusiasts. So next year when I go back to Gen Con, I'm going to bring a friend, and we're going to sit down and do play tests there. Because it's totally different playing with people that know board games than people that don't.

Patrick: 100%. One thing that I learned about the first exposure play test hall this year is that they find people who want to play your game. So they have a whole list of games, and it's is like “We have a four-player, everyone attacks everyone war game. We have a two-player storytelling game. We have something that's like an RPG,” and then people who are coming in– All these slots are sold, all the play testers they've already purchased tickets for this, and they're showing up, then they will sign up for whatever game fits best for them. I want to give you, to be specific, it is people who love to play test who are board gamers, and they are specifically choosing your game over other games. I think that's– Even at Protospiel, sometimes it's like “I'll play your game, you play mine.” But they might not be my target bored gamer, whereas I think in first exposure they are.

Christopher: Yeah, definitely. I saw some big names. There's no promises here, no expectations, but I did see some dice tower guys walking around. Some bigger publishers were play testing games there, so there's some action in that play test hall. Anyways, it just looked like a really good positive environment. I saw terrible prototypes, and I saw some just awesome ones, so it's a good opportunity.

What's the Best Money You Spent?

Patrick: Cool. What's the best money you've ever spent as a game designer?

Christopher: We were talking about the Positioning book earlier, Positioning is a business book. But if I was to pick the game designers version of it, it's called The Game Inventor's Guidebook. I think Brian Tinsman wrote it, and it is basically the Positioning book for game designers. I know it's $12 dollars on Amazon, The Game Inventor's Guidebook. That was a good $12 dollars. Then other than that, I just bought good games. I first started, instead of buying games at conventions I just went down a list and carefully researched and bought a lot of the Spiel award winners. Just followed the top reviewers and just bought best in each category, and that was a lot of money, but I'm glad I did.

What Does Success Look Like?

Patrick: Awesome. Then one of my favorite questions is, what does success look like to you?

Christopher: I want to make people's lives better. That's my purpose in life. I'm not sure where everyone's beliefs are, but as a Christian, I think one of my goals is to bring joy and peace to people's lives. I think fun is something that God made for us to laugh with one another and give one another deeper grace and build relationships.

When I was at Gen Con, I'm wearing a Love Thy Nerd shirt at a Christian group, and I had great conversations with Jewish, atheist, and LGBT people. Just good stuff about deep– We'd play a game for two hours and then talk for an hour and a half. I think that fun brought us together in a really neat way, so if I can continue to allow other people to build relationships in that way and have great times with one another, I think that's valuable.

Overrated / Underrated

Patrick: I absolutely love that. Very cool. I'm a big fan of, “Games are a tool to help us sit around the table and talk to each other.” I like that. So the last thing I like to do is I like to play a game called Overrated/Underrated. If you've heard the show before, you probably know how it plays or works. But basically, I'm going to give you a word or phrase and then you have to tell me if you think it is overrated or underrated. Sound good?

Christopher: All right. Let's give it a shot.

Patrick: All right. So, you were at Gen Con. You've probably experienced a couple of these short 15 minute or less demos. To be clear, for games that usually take an hour or two hours. What do you think of 15-minute demos?

Christopher: I think they're brilliant because then I can play that demo and not have to buy the game.

Patrick: Cool. No, I totally get that. I've played– Cool. Got it.

Christopher: I hope no publishers heard that.

Patrick: No, but I think it's good for both of you. They can very quickly find people who love the game and sell to them, and they can also very quickly find out “This person doesn't love the game,” and move on to someone else.

Christopher: You're absolutely right. Some of the games on my list to buy came from 15-minute demo.

Patrick: What do you think about Indianapolis in general? Overrated, underrated?

Christopher: I didn't get too much into the town. It was a great town. No Dr. Pepper, but– Can I go neutral on it?

Patrick: I don't know if I can allow that, but I think since this is your first time on the podcast I'll allow it. What about the vendor hall? So specifically, the vendor part of Gen Con. Overrated or underrated?

Christopher: It was awesome. I don't know if I'm using the right phrase. Overrated or underrated, but I spent most of my time there talking to people. So that was where a lot of relationships were made because that's where the publishers were. I enjoyed it. I spent 80% of the time there.

Patrick: Would you say that it was underrated because you had opportunities to meet publishers and designers? I would have assumed, just talking about the vendor hall, to buy games. But you liked it for talking to designers and publishers?

Christopher: Absolutely, yeah. People were more accessible, so talking to designers and publishers. The Spiel– I met a Kinder Spiel judge. I met him earlier, but we'd become friends. It was a guy named Christoph, and he's a German television writer [inaudible]. We just became buds, and he judges Kinder Spiel games. So you start trading relationships here, so underrated because people are accessible there. It's a really good opportunity to get to know folks.

Patrick: Awesome. The last one, it's the middle of summer. AC, overrated or underrated? I'm just going to leave it blank, but I have some thoughts.

Christopher: It's underrated. I live in Texas, so right now, the temperature is 103, but the heat index is 115. I almost don't even notice the temperature anymore, because I'm sweating here.

Patrick: Let me add the caveat. I think AC is already highly rated. Does that make sense? So, people like it quite a bit. Do you think it is over–? Like, compare your experience of AC to other people's experience. Does that make sense?

Christopher: Yeah. I like it about five degrees warmer than the average human being. So, I can go without just fine.

Patrick: OK, all right. Cool. Christopher, thank you so much for being on the show.

Christopher: Thank you. Again, it's been an honor. I appreciate you taking the time.

Wrap Up

Patrick: Where can people find you online?

Christopher: I have information about Keeps on a website called, not .com, but .co. That's where you can find more information. But other than that, I'm offline. My company is– I don't have social media and my company that I'm launching soon is about helping people with face to face relationships and taking them away from digital relationships. I'm living that out myself, so I'm hidden behind– You can find me face to face.

Patrick: That's awesome. Yeah, I'm just looking at the little notes you left here. What's the name of that company?

Christopher: Yes, it's called Techless. Again, think less tech. If you want to check the website out, there's not much yet, but it's called, and I'm making a minimalist phone. That's the first product I'm doing, but again the hope is to help– Just like board games, bring people together face to face in this tactile experience. The goal is to take something, a smartphone, that has taken away from a relationship and fragmented it, and help it be a tool for us instead of something that we're a slave to. I'm just getting started, and we're 6 months in but we're going to– We're launching our product come January, or so.

Patrick: Fantastic, thank you again. Listeners, if you like this podcast, please leave us a review on iTunes. If you do, Christopher said he would show you some of his favorite spots at Gen Con. You can visit the site at, and you can follow me on Twitter, I'm @BFTrick. Until next time everyone, happy designing. Bye-bye.

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