Patrick Rauland: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Indie Board Game Designers Podcast where I sit down with a different independent game designer every single week and talk about their experience in game design. My name is Patrick Rauland and today I’m going to be talking with Eric Williams who is another local game designer here in Denver.
Patrick Rauland: About a year a half ago, just to give you guys some context, I attended my first game testing Meetup here in Denver and it was either the first meeting or the second meeting, but I actually played his game called House Rules at that Meetup. So, it’s really cool … I went to my first prototyping Meetup about a year and a half ago and played his game and now it’s on Kickstarter and it feels like it’s coming full circle.
Eric Williams: We’ve come full circle, yes.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah.
Eric Williams: The circle of life seems to roll on.
Patrick Rauland: Eric, welcome to the show.
Eric Williams: Thank you. Thanks for having me on. This is fun.
Patrick Rauland: I watch a lot of games on Kickstarter and then, if I ever know the designer, I’m like, “Oh, we’ve got to talk.” It was really cool to see your name and I’m like, “I know … Oh, I played that game.” Yeah, it’s also I want to build the Denver scene, so I think if I ever see any Denver designers, they’re coming on.
Eric Williams: Yeah, Denver’s super light. We have an ad hoc playtesting thing going on where … There’s one guy who’s in charge of it, Scott [inaudible 00:01:29]. Other than that, we try to set up little things here and there, but generally, they’re pretty light and you only get two or three or four people. You reply, “Who’s got a game?” Everyone’s like, “Um, I guess I got one that’s half finished.” Yeah.
Patrick Rauland: It is-
Patrick Rauland: I know.
Eric Williams: We’re getting there. We just need to brainwash a few more people and then we’ll get there.
Patrick Rauland: Okay, so Eric, I actually have some questions about that a little bit later ’cause I am fascinated with building community because I think a lot of people have enough game designers but there’s something missing so that they don’t all come together. I got questions for that. Don’t worry.
Eric Williams: Yeah, I’m not going to bury the lead, so …
Patrick Rauland: Eric, I want to start with, how did you get … Oh, wait. No, no. Hold on. I almost missed my game at the beginning. Eric, so I know you because we met at the prototyping Meetup, but I love asking this little game in the beginning. I got three quick questions for you. Number one, if I met you at a convention, what is a game you would play with me every single time?
Eric Williams: I really enjoy playing Secret Hitler with people ’cause you get to know people and also, there’s a good metagame for people that you already know. Every game feels quirky and weird.
Patrick Rauland: I love it. If you could pick one martial arts’ weapon, what would it be?
Eric Williams: I’m blanking on this, but I think the tonfa is a weird weapon. Isn’t it the one where it’s basically like a rod with a handle on it and you have to figure out how to strike people with it? That just looks like the most … I’m a Rube Goldbergian-type of personality, so I really like needless complexity. Having something that’s completely ineffective, is totally my style. Let me look up what a tonfa is, but I think that’s what it is. Anyways …
Patrick Rauland: Just curious, as a kid, my uncle gave me nunchucks. Have you ever played with nunchucks? They are so hard to use when you’re not trained in them.
Eric Williams: They are.
Patrick Rauland: You just constantly hit yourself.
Eric Williams: Right. That’s a good one to start with because in martial arts, what you need to do is build up your calluses, build up your skin to be hard and rough. Beating yourself up with nunchucks seems like the best way to go about that.
Patrick Rauland: If you couldn’t live here in the glorious state of Colorado, where would you live?
Eric Williams: I’m from Colorado and I tried to leave, but it’s always sucked me back in.
Patrick Rauland: Where did you go?
Eric Williams: I quit my job about six years ago and just did a big road trip and drove … I drove down to San Diego and up to Seattle and over to Montreal and New York City and Minneapolis, all over the country doing interviews and stuff, but the job I ended up getting was an hour away up in Loveland. I think I would go to Michigan ’cause I have a lot of friends in Chicago, but I don’t want to live in Chicago because it’s a big, gross city. Kalamazoo, Michigan’s two hours away and it’s a good place to be Chicago adjacent. I think that’s where I’d-
Patrick Rauland: Just curious, how is Denver different than Chicago? Aren’t they both big, gross cities?
Eric Williams: Yeah, Chicago’s bigger. Chicago’s bigger, definitely. My wife lived in Chicago for a bit and she really, really thinks it’s great and loves it, but the traffic there … Once you reach a certain threshold of traffic taking up more than half your commute, I think that’s what qualifies you living in a big city. That’s definitely Chicago. The traffic there is just insane and bad.
How Did You Get Into Board Games & Board Game Design?
Patrick Rauland: I get it. Totally get it. Cool. So, my first real question is how did you get into board games and board game design?
Eric Williams: I’m primarily a video game player. I enjoy lots of video games, have all my life. I had an interest growing up into board games, but I really never found a community to play them with. I was like, “I want to play Dungeons and Dragons,” but none of my friends wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons. I never really found a niche group to play it with. I played some small canned scenarios with some gifted and talented in school and stuff like that, but …
Eric Williams: See, I’ve been playing video games all my life and then just my co-worker, about six years ago, right when I started my new job, he … I work in the power industry, so electric power grid kind of stuff. Naturally, he invited me to his house to play Power Grid and I really enjoyed that. I just started thinking about games and thinking about design and stuff like that and then just started from there.
Patrick Rauland: Very cool.
Eric Williams: Yeah.
How Do You Connect To Your Local Community?
Patrick Rauland: Okay, let’s actually go back to that topic basically. Your game House Rules is on Kickstarter right now. While I was researching you for the show, I noticed that you went to the Denver Indie Games Expo, which I think it was just a couple weeks ago. I’d like to think that I’m pretty dialed into the scene, like I know about games and stuff that’s happening here. I’ve gone to this prototyping Meetup for a year and a half and this is the first time I’ve heard about an event like this.
Patrick Rauland: Going back to our original question, number one, how do you find events like that? Number two … Number three, sorry, really long crazy question, I guess how did you find an event like this and how did I miss it? Does that make sense?
Eric Williams: Right. No, yeah. That makes sense. Denver Indie Games Expo is run by a guy named [Bab 00:07:11] Jet. I ended up getting House Rules … I took it to DreamHack Denver last year. They had it in what’s called an indie zone where they had people with indie games like video games and board games and stuff. I applied and they actually accepted the game into that indie zone. It was awesome. I got to go show it off to all those people and it was fun.
Eric Williams: But, I met him through there ’cause he primarily dabbles in VR and video game design, small video indie games. I went to this Denver Indie Games Expo ’cause he invited me. He was like, “Hey, I think your game’s great. Let’s come on, check it out.” So, I showed up and everyone’s got these big displays big displays setup and VR setup and I’m like, “Oh, wait. I’m kind of a fish out of water, but it’s still cool. I’ll come and hang out and stuff like that.”
Eric Williams: Yeah, it’s primarily geared toward video games. I guess the circles that we run in, he doesn’t run in necessarily, so that’s why there’s no overlap, but it’s just from me meeting him at DreamHack. He thought I was cool and he’s like, “Hey, check it out.”
How Well Did Local Events Work For You?
Patrick Rauland: Okay, let me take a step back. How was the event? You went to this event in the middle of your campaign or right before your campaign?
Eric Williams: Correct. It was right in the middle, yeah. It was a couple weeks ago.
Patrick Rauland: Did you get people to sign up or at least check out the Kickstarter page?
Eric Williams: Yeah, yeah. I did. I have these business card swag things that I gave out to people. I’d say, “Hey, check it out.” The thing that you need to learn if you’re ever designing board games, is how to market. That’s 90% of designing board games is how to market them. I’m still learning all that stuff, so some people had tablets set up with, “Hey, go directly to the page and subscribe and stuff.” I didn’t bring anything electronic or whatever. I just did analog and handed out QR codes and stuff like that.
Patrick Rauland: Let me take a step back. Let’s say you’re me. Let’s say you think you are pretty dialed into the scene, how do you find events like this? Should I try to go to more video game events? It seems like there’s value in going to them especially when you’re about to launch your game on Kickstarter. Maybe, what do you do to find groups that you maybe haven’t yet found?
Eric Williams: I just got my chops on Meetup first and foremost. I looked at stuff through there. Then, I think the guys from the local playtesting group found me through Meetup initially. I was at the inaugural meeting and they were like, “Hey, we’re getting a bunch of group of people together to playtest games.” I’m like, “That’s awesome.”
Eric Williams: I think the first thing I did is I went on Reddit ’cause there’s a local Denver Reddit board game group and I just posted my thing up there.
Patrick Rauland: Is there?
Eric Williams: Yeah, yeah.
Patrick Rauland: I didn’t know that.
Eric Williams: Dude, Google-fu, man.
Patrick Rauland: Cool.
Eric Williams: Yeah, they’re a group that just goes around and plays. They don’t playtest games necessarily, they just play board games at random bars. I said, “Hey, I got a game that I’m working on.” They said, “Hey, cool. Come out and we’ll check it out maybe,” and something like that, so I got wrapped up with them.
Eric Williams: I think it’s just improv. You have to be like, “Yes, and.” You find stuff and just go to it and be like, “This worked or this didn’t,” and stuff like that. Obviously, there’s the big Prototopias and big Unpubs you can go to and stuff like that that are also good, but you may get drowned out in the noise almost sometimes.
Patrick Rauland: Definitely.
Eric Williams: It’s like a pro and a con. Yeah, I think I went to this indie game … I think just Google the name ‘Indie Game Your City’ and you will find something or something like that. I ended up going to some VR meetings and I was like, “I got a card game.” That’s cool. We just rapped about game designs and stuff like that. Yeah.
Patrick Rauland: That’s awesome. I’ve never looked for indie game. I think only until I started this podcast did I start thinking about myself as an indie game designer. I think I already searched for board game testing. I never search for indie. I wonder if that’s just one of those words that helps you filter and find the right people.
Eric Williams: Yeah.
Patrick Rauland: That’s cool. Hopefully, the next time Denver Indie Games Expo comes around, I’ll be aware and go to it.
How Has Tabletop Simulator Worked for You?
Eric Williams: This might be something to talk about at our meeting or whatever and maybe you can talk about it, but Tabletop Simulator is something that I haven’t really explored and tapped yet, but I hear that is also a place where people can just … If you can go put your game in there and find people to play it, people will playtest it through there as well. That’s something I haven’t really explored. I had my games up on Indie Tabletop Simulator, but I haven’t really dug deep in there to find folks to do that too.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah. Let’s dig into that for just a second because I actually thought about putting it up there for playtesting and instead of having a print and play, I can just literally show people how it works.
Eric Williams: Like Fry Thief or whatever?
Patrick Rauland: Yeah, for my game Fry Thief.
Eric Williams: Okay.
Patrick Rauland: Did you add your game to Tabletop Simulator or did someone else add it?
Eric Williams: No, I added it. For a card game, it’s super easy. There’s actually a template that you can just shove all your files into and make a deck and then just plop the deck into Indie Game Simulator and then put it in the cloud. It takes about an hour. It’s not super crazy, but …
Patrick Rauland: Here’s my thought with Tabletop Simulator is I actually did. I found the template and I uploaded all the cards to Tabletop Simulator. Then, I couldn’t figure out how to turn a card over. I’m flicking through all the buttons and there’s literally no buttons to do it. Then, eventually, I had to Google ‘Tabletop Simulator turn card around’. It was just the ‘F’ key. If you know it’s the ‘F’ key, it’s great.
Eric Williams: I think that maybe is a shortcoming of the software. I think there’s a lot of stuff in there. I think it’s a pretty powerful program, but they just don’t expose a lot of that stuff.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah.
Eric Williams: There’s a lot of stuff you can do. Shuffling a deck is a button.
Patrick Rauland: Yep. Yes.
Eric Williams: In real life, you have to spend 30 seconds shuffling cards together.
Patrick Rauland: Yep. Cool. I guess I’m not using Tabletop Simulator to its greatest advantage right now, but I will have to re-look at it especially for a game that’s a little bit … Fry Thief is so light that I can play with lots of people who would never use Tabletop Simulator. I think for especially a heavier game, it’s … Also, my game is really easy to make and ship.
Eric Williams: It’s a deck of card or whatever.
What Mistakes Did You Make With Your First Kickstarter Campaign?
Patrick Rauland: Yeah, yeah. Cool, alright. Okay, so I wanted to go on to the next question. You originally launched this game, I think, two years ago. Kickstarter in 2016, right?
Eric Williams: Yes.
Patrick Rauland: And, you’re relaunching it now, two years later, and it seems like you just crossed the threshold a couple days ago. I think you have five days to go at the time of this recording. This will probably come out a couple days after you fund. Maybe can you talk about why you canceled your first project and what you’ve been doing with the game for the last two years?
Eric Williams: Sure. Yeah. I really would like to talk about that because it’s … I think I fell into every single pitfall the first time around of just not doing the due diligence to the project. 2016, I think Kickstarter was still like, “Oh, my God. You can put anything on Kickstarter and it will fund. It’s amazing,” and stuff like that. Now, I don’t think it’s like that so much nowadays.
Eric Williams: There’s two mistakes I made the first time around was that I didn’t do the due diligence of production cost and shipping. Also, the infrastructure back then wasn’t as great as it is now for making a game. My game back then was a lot bigger. It was 270 cards, 300 cards. I think it specked out to be about $12 a copy. In board game terms, that’s a very expensive game.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah, yeah. Can I ask why? Sorry. This is 300 cards. ‘Cause they have to be sleeved for your game, right? Is that why it was so expensive?
Eric Williams: Well, they don’t have to be sleeved, but there’s a polypropylene coating that you can put on top of cards to make them dry erasable. It didn’t add up that much to the cost, but I think that I just went with the first place that quoted me and I didn’t really shop it around too much.
There’s two mistakes I made the first time around was that I didn’t do the due diligence of production cost and shipping… and I just went with the first place that quoted me and I didn’t really shop around too much.
Patrick Rauland: Got it.
Eric Williams: I didn’t do a good job from that perspective because I launched my Kickstarter and one of the guys from my playtesting group reached out to me and he’s like, “Hey, your production cost seems way out of line. Let me put you in touch with one of my printers.” He re-quoted me and he’s like, “Oh, this is a $6 game.”
Patrick Rauland: Wow.
Eric Williams: My original Kickstarter goal was a $13,000 goal for a 300 card game and that’s super imbalanced. That just didn’t make sense. I think I raised about 3,000 of the 13,000 and I ended up suspending the campaign at the end.
Eric Williams: Also, I wrote a blog post about the … I keep a blog about my game and I wrote a blog post about this, but I get a really grimy feeling and I don’t know if I’m the only one, about board game review blogs and sites and things. A lot of them at the time like, “Hey, send us $100 and your game and we’ll review it.” To me, that felt weird.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah.
Eric Williams: So, I didn’t promote my game. I didn’t really promote my game that much. I felt like paying people to review my game would introduce bias in the review and they’d be like, “Hey, your game’s great. Thank for the $100.” I’d be like, “Well, I want this to stand on its own.” I just had a lot of pride in my game and anyone that [inaudible 00:17:51] on, that would be great. So, that felt weird to me.
Eric Williams: I sent it to a few sites that did it for free. That was a mistake because I realize the $100 isn’t for their opinion, it’s for their time. They do a lot of stuff and they produce content and they’re like you. They’re on the internet doing stuff. I didn’t realize that and it still feels like …
I realize the $100 isn’t for [the reviewers] opinion, it’s for their time.
Eric Williams: This time around I actually did some paid promotion. I think they enjoyed the game regardless of the price attached to that or whatever, but I think that was a rookie mistake going out of the gate the first time.
Patrick Rauland: Sorry, I just want to go back to that. I really like that nuance that the 100 bucks isn’t for the reviewer’s opinion, it’s for their time. That unlocks it, right? Instead of I’m not paying to get a good review, I’m just paying for them to look at this game because there’s a bajillion games that come out and they only have 24 hours in the day.
Eric Williams: Right, yep.
How Many Reviews Do You Need?
Patrick Rauland: Okay, so since I’m getting close, I actually have all my reviewers already set, but how many do you need to go with? Do you need one or two paid reviews? Do you need a dozen?
Eric Williams: You know, like I said, I’m still learning the marketing side of it. I think I sent my game to about six or seven reviewers for my campaign. Two of those were paid reviewers. Well, the other ones are like I’ve said, “Hey, I will give you a game for free.” And, they’re like, “Cool, we’ll review it.”
Patrick Rauland: Oh, cool.
Eric Williams: Or, I covered all the shipping and I sent them the game. Also, the first time around, I didn’t produce any prototypes and send those out. I basically said, “Hey, could you review my game and print and play it?” I don’t know. I didn’t know … Yeah.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah, yeah.
Eric Williams: This time I made good looking prototypes, mailed them out, all that kind of stuff.
Patrick Rauland: Cool. Oh, cool.
Eric Williams: I don’t know the cost-benefit of that. Yeah, you let me know how it goes and let’s compare notes and see how that goes. I think that having people review your game is good ’cause it also gets people’s perspective on it, like a blind perspective, but it’s also …
Eric Williams: Sorry, I’m kind of diarrhea of the mouth at the moment. I ended up getting probably six or seven people to do reviews for the Kickstarter. I think I reached out to probably around 30 or 40 reviewers.
Patrick Rauland: Wow!
Eric Williams: It’s a busy time. People were like, “Yeah, it’s great. I don’t have time to review your game.” It’s also a saturated market too.
What is House Rules Like?
Patrick Rauland: Very cool. Okay, I want to talk about your game a little bit just because your game … Obviously, most of the people listening to this haven’t played your game, but it reminds me a little bit of Fluxx but with more attacking. It seems like every turn there’s new rules. You have some input. Everyone can choose a rule that goes in. Would you call it light and like a party game?
Eric Williams: Yeah, it’s a party game. There’s rules in the game that are more mechanically driven. There’s rules in the game that are socially driven. There’s rules in the game that do a lot of … From playtesting the game, I’ve tried to create a there’s a rule for everybody kind of feel.
Eric Williams: Let me push the game real quick and we can go from there ’cause I don’t think anyone really knows what the game is. Let me explain.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah, yeah.
Eric Williams: So, House Rules, it’s a party game. The main tool of the game are these weapon cards. They’re all kind of funny and silly and various strengths. There’s a weapon card that has basically a number on it, which is its value or strength and then a description. There’s a nine, which is a two-ton bottle rocket, or a five, which is boiling hot slime. So, they’re all not super serious and kind of funny.
Eric Williams: The whole game is dry erasable, so a lot of the weapon cards have blank lines on them where you can just write in your own stuff. There’s some that are completely blank, but most of them are Mad Libs-style where it’s like, “My imaginary blank,” or like, “Magical blank,” or like … What’s another one that I like? There’s one that I like where … Is it? I’m going to have to look this up.
Eric Williams: It’s, “Mutant Ninja … ” No, it’s not Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but it’s like, “Cyborg, Alien, Ninja blank.” You can write your own stuff. What you’re doing is using these weapon cards to fling them around the table and attack other people and try to take their weapons away from them and put them in a big stash. The stash is your points. Whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins.
Eric Williams: The mechanics are pretty simple in the base game, but the way you augment that is that everyone at the beginning of every round has a choice between two rule cards. Everyone picks a rule card and they all put them in the middle of the table secretly and then when the round begins, what you do is you flip over all the rule cards and those become the rules for the round.
Eric Williams: My goal for the game is to give people agency in how they play. They have a choice and like, “Okay, I think I’m going to go in with this strategy and pick this rule and see how it goes.” Also, I really enjoy the ensuing chaos when the rules come up and everyone’s plans are dashed and they all have to make the best of the situation and figure it out as they go.
Patrick Rauland: So, one of the things I really enjoyed, and I played this a year and a half ago, is every round, the rules are different. That feels very Fluxxian to me.
Eric Williams: Right.
How Important Is Playtesting?
Patrick Rauland: The question I had for that is, if you’re making something like a party game or something where there’s rules are constantly changing, how important is the playtesting? Is it less important than if you’re making strategy game or an abstract game or something like that where there’s lots of intricate balance maybe?
Eric Williams: I think playtesting’s super important. No matter whether you’re doing a party game or a super complex one, it’s just what you choose the target in that playtest, I think, sometimes. This game needed intense playtesting because the permutations of rules could sometimes cause really game-breaking conflicts if that makes sense.
Patrick Rauland: Ah, so all the rule cards. Yeah, yeah.
Eric Williams: Right. Sometimes people would put two rules in and they’d be like, “Well, these two rules combine and does it do this or does it do this or does it just lock the game up,” or stuff like that. Also, just testing out stuff that people like. I can see what rules get played and what rules don’t get played and go from there and see.
Eric Williams: This game’s gone through about two or three years’ worth of playtesting. I think playtesting is super important for every single game. I don’t know a game that you can just … There’s a game called We Didn’t Playtest This At All and I’ve played it and I have a sneaking suspicion they did some playtesting with it.
Patrick Rauland: I thought that.
Eric Williams: Yeah. Yeah, you don’t do 100 with this, but maybe 10. You’re like, “10, it’s good. Let’s go. Print it.”
Is There Something You Couldn’t Fit In Your Game?
Patrick Rauland: Cool. I’d be very curious in your game, is there something you tried to get into your game, some sort of white whale of either mechanics or, probably not a theme, but maybe in mechanics that you tried to contribute to your game but you just couldn’t?
Eric Williams: Yeah, actually. This is my first game design so you try to shoot for the moon or whatever. The initial design for the game was a player-elimination party game. That does not make sense at all. The game played well. This version of the game, the game’s broken up into several rounds. Originally, it was one long game and it was balanced because the way it was initially balanced was that once the first player got eliminated, it wrapped up very quickly after that.
Eric Williams: The problem I had with that is that the playtime variance was just all over the place. Fluxx is definitely an inspiration for this game. I definitely love games that players have agency to change how it plays, like let’s figure this thing out together. But, Fluxx also has this problem of playtime variance and the games can last five minutes or games can last an hour. You don’t know what it is when you’re sitting down until you’re in the thick of it.
Eric Williams: The white whale I went after at the beginning was like, “Let’s make it … ” I made the scope too broad. It was like, “Let’s put everything in and see what happens.” Then, I had to pair own and whittle it and streamline it and make it into something that still had that feeling of anything goes, but in a tighter package, if that makes sense.
Is There a Game You Wish You Could Modify?
Patrick Rauland: Cool. No, I like it. Yeah, I like that. Sorry, I was just looking at the next question. I was getting excited. Is there a game that you wish you could change, maybe add something or take something away from that game?
Eric Williams: Like an existing game?
Patrick Rauland: Yeah.
Eric Williams: Yeah. There’s two actually. My wife really, really enjoys Trivial Pursuit.
Patrick Rauland: Okay, yeah.
Eric Williams: It’s a role-to-move-game, dude.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Eric Williams: I like. I like answering trivia questions and that’s a game about how smart are you, not did you roll the right dice to land on the pie square to get the pie to win the game.
Patrick Rauland: Yep.
Eric Williams: We’ve houseruled that game to where as you’re answering questions, you collect the question cards and you can use those cards … If I want to answer a pie question, if I collect three regular ones, I can cash those in and answer a pie question instead of rolling to move to be like, “Okay. Well, I guess I’m going to keep rolling until the end of time until I hit the square I want.”
Eric Williams: Trivial Pursuit’s about answering questions and being good at trivia, not about dice rolls. I understand that it’s good to have a luck element in the game so the game’s not just who is the best at trivia wins all the time. That make sense?
Patrick Rauland: Yeah, totally.
Eric Williams: Also, I have a special … People dunk on Munchkin. Everywhere you go, you can walk into a room and say, “Munchkin sucks,” and everybody’s going to be like, “Yeah, Munchkin sucks.” I have this special place in my heart for Munchkin ’cause I think it’s a really good game, it just has an endgame problem.
Patrick Rauland: Yes, it does.
Eric Williams: The endgame, that’s something I need to sit down and do eventually, is fix the endgame for my own personal [inaudible 00:29:39]. The game is fun, but the endgame sucks. Everyone hates the endgame. If you can just say everyone gets to level nine and we’re done and then walk away, but I don’t know.
What Other Things Are You Working On?
Patrick Rauland: Cool, I like it. I like it. What sort of future stuff are you working on, maybe future games or future mechanisms or whatever? Yeah, what is something on the horizon for you?
Eric Williams: Yeah, I don’t know what your designs look like and I’ve met … We all have our styles. I’m a very deep and deep. I compare it to going deep or going wide. I’m a very deep designer. I will stick on one design until it’s done. I’ve met people who have like, “I’ve got five games that I’ve designed that are all like … ” I’m like, “Okay.”
Eric Williams: House Rules is taking up a lot of my time and my attention and something. It is a white whale. It’s a passion project. I really like it and people that play it really, really enjoy it. I’m like, “That’s been keeping me going with this game is people like this game. I want to get it out there.” But, I do have some other ideas in my head.
Eric Williams: We talked before the show that we both really enjoy economics.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah.
Eric Williams: Basically, the game that I want to make next is an Antique Road Show bidding game if that makes sense.
Patrick Rauland: Whoa! Okay, yeah, yeah.
Eric Williams: There’s a theory in economics called … I’m going to look it up real quick. Let me see if I can describe it to you and you can know it. It’s called the Endowment Effect. Any idea what the Endowment Effect is?
Patrick Rauland: This sounds really familiar. No, it’s not coming to mind.
Eric Williams: The Endowment Effect is that people ascribe value to something just by the aspect that they possess it.
Patrick Rauland: Yes! So, as soon as I own a pen and if bought for a dollar, now I want to sell it for like $1.10-
Eric Williams: Exactly, yeah.
Patrick Rauland: … because it’s mine and I … Oh, yes. Okay, I am familiar with this. Okay, go on.
Eric Williams: Yes. Yeah, my idea for this game is I give people random junk and they have to try to sell it to other players. It’s something you just come across. It’s trying to measure how much is this thing worth to you that you just possess or is it … That’s my next idea. I want to chase that and see where that goes and stuff.
Eric Williams: I’m really not interested in games that have already been done. That sounds really lofty and pompous I guess, but I will play an area-control game or a worker-placement game, but those games exist and people are doing them very well and I’m not interested in making that stuff. I want to make weird stuff. This is the next weird thing I want to chase down and ring this idea out and see where it goes.
What Does Success Look Like?
Patrick Rauland: Love it. That sounds really cool. What does success look like to you? Let’s say for this Kickstarter and then after this Kickstarter.
Eric Williams: Just success to me is I guess existing in the board game ecosystem I guess.
Patrick Rauland: What does that mean, existing?
Eric Williams: This game, House Rules, is funded and I’m super happy and I’m glad. It’s probably not an overnight Kickstarter success like Exploding Kittens or something like that. I’m not chasing that. I just want to make games that people find fun and will play.
Eric Williams: At some point, maybe commercial success is in my future, but I’m not sure. This is something I struggle with. This is a good question. I have pitched this game to a bunch of publishers and they like it, but it’s unsellable to a [inaudible 00:33:41].
Why Do Publishers Think Your Game is Unsellable?
Patrick Rauland: Why?
Eric Williams: Just ’cause it’s a risk. I see the board game industry and games in general as a very hit-driven industry.
Patrick Rauland: It’s not about having … I’m sorry, go ahead.
Eric Williams: Yeah, so I’ll use an example. Codenames came out last year and Codenames was something weird and something no one had really seen before and it was fun and unique. Now, everyone’s making a Codenames spin. Everyone’s taking their crack at Codenames and stuff like that.
Eric Williams: Like I said, I don’t want to make stuff that already kind of exists in the world, but I want to make stuff that’s fun and quirky and weird and janky and things like that. House Rules was a game that people were like, “Hey, this is great. I don’t know how to sell this ’cause the game doesn’t have very good art and the game is very text-driven and party games are … ” It’s a party game that kind of has a little bit of an ask when the people to play it to kind of get into it. It just doesn’t hit the marketing notes I think is what a lot of people were looking for.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah. I’m sorry, I think I derailed you. So, how does this relate to success? Did you want to sell it to a publisher?
Eric Williams: Yeah. I just want the game to exist whether it’s through a publisher or self-publishing or anything like that. It’s just a game that I think that people enjoy and needs to be out there. That’s enough to define success for me if that makes sense.
Patrick Rauland: Love it. Love it.
Eric Williams: Yeah.
Patrick Rauland: All right, lastly, we’re going to play a game called Overrated Underrated and you actually know this game-
Overrated Underrated Game
Eric Williams: Yes.
Patrick Rauland: … because both of us listen to The Indicator, which they have this game on The Indicator. For those of you who haven’t heard this before, basically, I’m going to ask Eric a series of phrases or words and ask him if he thinks they’re overrated or underrated. If I said, let’s say, “The art district in Denver,” which is where I live, Eric would obviously be like, “Underrated because Patrick lives there.” Something like that.
Eric Williams: Exactly.
Patrick Rauland: Yes. Card crafting games, are they overrated or underrated?
Eric Williams: This is something like Mystic Vale you’re talking about?
Patrick Rauland: Yes.
Eric Williams: Mystic Vale.
Patrick Rauland: Where you can add things to a card.
Eric Williams: I think they’re underrated. I think that that’s a super cool mechanic that gives … Like I said, I’m all about player agency in games. I want to give people the tools they have to play a good game. I think that’s super cool so I think that’s underrated.
Patrick Rauland: Netflix original shows, overrated or underrated?
Eric Williams: I don’t really watch a whole lot of television. I think they’re probably appropriately rated because they’re probably great for people that watch them and not for people that don’t. I think they’re appropriately rated ’cause I think there was the Mindhunter. I don’t know if you watched that one. It was about interviewing criminals for CIA profiling and …
Patrick Rauland: Oh, yeah.
Eric Williams: It was good, but I think a lot of Netflix shows have a great premise, but they don’t know how to end them. They just end on a weird note.
Patrick Rauland: I just finished season three of The Travelers a couple days ago and it’s a time travel show and it had a very weird ending. So, yeah, that is very relatable right now.
Patrick Rauland: What about Twitch? Is Twitch overrated or underrated?
Eric Williams: I think it’s far, far underrated. Twitch is one of my favorite platforms. Twitch is probably the reason I don’t watch a lot of television ’cause I’m just watching streamers play games. Twitch is the new television I think because it’s cool to watch and interact with people who enjoy the similar things you do. I don’t have to put people in an echo chamber or something like that at some point, but I just think Twitch is a fantastic platform.
Eric Williams: I think more people need to get into … So, you’re talking about just Twitch specifically or the whole Facebook Live or …
Patrick Rauland: Yeah, just Twitch.
Eric Williams: Just Twitch? Okay, yeah. Twitch is great.
Patrick Rauland: Cool. All right. How about, last one, having a white Christmas, aka having snow on Christmas, overrated or underrated?
Eric Williams: I think it’s underrated. This is coming from a person that doesn’t like … I think Christmas is okay. I’m not a, “Oh, my God, 12:01, Thanksgiving night, we need to deck all of the halls.” Having a white Christmas is a good, tranquil, chill, moment in time and I think it’s underrated. I think it needs to happen more often.
Patrick Rauland: Love it. Well, thank you, Eric, for being on the show.
Eric Williams: Thank you, dude. It’s a pleasure. I appreciate just rapping about games and stuff like that.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah, yeah. So, where can people find you online?
Eric Williams: I’m on Twitter. It’s a brain dump for me, but if you like weird stuff coming through, my Twitter handle’s @brotund, B-R-O-T-U-N-D. Then, the Kickstarter campaign is live right now. Well, it’s live as of this recording, but the campaign’s funded and I think if people want to jump in after the fact, I’ll have some late backer stuff up there. Search Kickstarter for ‘House Rules, An Absurd Party Game‘ and that’s where I’m at.
Patrick Rauland: Very cool. I really appreciate it. So, listeners, if you like this podcast, please leave us a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you leave a review, Eric said he would us you as a weapon in one of his next games in House Rules.
Eric Williams: Yep.
Patrick Rauland: Perfect. I mentioned in previous episodes that I did put up a landing page for Fry Thief. Actually, this past weekend, over Christmas, I started working on my video. Holy cow! I’m almost said a bad word. Holy cow, working on a video takes forever.
Eric Williams: It does.
Patrick Rauland: I will have to write up a post on how not to take forever on your Kickstarter video because it’s … Anyways, it’s a process and it’s one of those things I think you just learn, but … Anyways, I’m writing about that. You can check-
Eric Williams: I think mine ended up taking three or four days of filming and editing and tweaking and all of that stuff.
Patrick Rauland: I’m going to be right there with you, buddy. Yeah, it’s way more work than I thought it would be. If you want to follow along, go to www.frythief.com. If you want to, you can visit this site, indieboardgamedesigners.com. I have show notes for all of these things, so if you want to reference all the games you mentioned or the blog posts that we talked about, go ahead and go there.
Patrick Rauland: And, you can follow me on Twitter. I’m @BFTrick. That’s ‘B’ as in board game, ‘F’ as in fun, and trick as in trick-taking game. That is all from me. Bye-bye, everyone.