Patrick Rauland: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Indie Board Game Designers Podcast, where I sit down with a different independent game designer and we talk about their experience with game design and the lessons they've learned along the way.
My name is Patrick Rauland, and today, I'll be talking with Jason Slingerland, who designed Unreal Estate, Into the Black Forest, Water Balloon Washout, and probably more important for me is he also runs the Building the Game podcast, which I listened to a lot when I was getting into game design. Jason, welcome to the show.
Jason Slingerland: Hey, Patrick. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Patrick Rauland: Yay. So, I've listened to your podcast, and I think I had maybe even sent in some questions on Twitter like a year ago. Then of course, we've emailed back and forth, but the audience doesn't know you. So we're just going to do a little lightning round, all right?
Jason Slingerland: Sounds great. Sounds great.
Patrick Rauland: All right, so if you could live somewhere else besides Kalamazoo, where would you live?
Jason Slingerland: Alaska.
Patrick Rauland: Ooh. Why Alaska?
Jason Slingerland: I am a big fan of wildernessy stuff, you know? Yeah, my wife and I are big fans of doing all sorts of wilderness stuff. We love camping and everything, so Alaska's just kind of this cool, cool place. I've been there once, going back again in a couple years, and just love visiting there.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah. I've never been, but I imagine it is probably the state that is best for nature.
Jason Slingerland: It's certainly one of them. That's for sure.
Patrick Rauland: Okay. How about this? What is your favorite component, excluding like regular cards?
Jason Slingerland: That's like the hardest question ever for a game designer, to say, “Oh, yeah, this is…” You know? But wow, you know, cards are also kind of my go-to, right? Well, yeah, because I design mostly card games, but I would have to say probably meeples. I really like meeples, or cubes. It's a tough… Wooden bits. Can I just go general, wooden bits?
Patrick Rauland: Yeah.
Jason Slingerland: Okay, I'm going to go with wooden bits.
Patrick Rauland: Love it. A follow-up lightning round question, which isn't a thing, but we're doing it anyways, like-
Jason Slingerland: Awesome.
Patrick Rauland: … do you like… I love anything custom cut, wooden bits, I freaking love.
Jason Slingerland: Yeah, yeah. It's the… You know, cubes are cool, right? Meeples are cool, but when things are custom cut, that tactile experience is just so much better. Yeah, I just really enjoy that about games, and that has hooked me on many a game, to try it out because of that.
Patrick Rauland: Yep. Perfect. And let's say you're at a con. It's the end of the day. You're exhausted. You really want to go to bed, and then someone says, “Hey, Jason. Do you want to play a game of _____?” And you're like, “Dang it, I have to play.” What is that like one game that you'll play no matter what?
Jason Slingerland: Oh, that's… Man, these questions are tough, because you know, as a designer, obviously there's a million games that I can think of, but when it comes to a game where somebody could always get me to play, it would probably be the party game, Monikers, which is based on the original open source game, or open license game, Celebrity. That is just a game, it's a lot like Times Up actually, but it's a silly party game that involves charades, giving clues, and all sorts of things, and it's played over three rounds, and I've had such amazing, good times playing that game with friends that I will always… Yeah, I would always be up for a game of that, even though a game is probably a good hour. So it's not always a wise decision, but I'm in.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah. And if I remember correctly, isn't this… I think you've had a couple episodes on your show where you've talked about Monikers, right?
Jason Slingerland: Oh, yeah. Yeah, it's a game one of my friends found, and we played it, and it was just instantly, I fell in love with it, because I like a good party game, and that one just checks all the boxes for outrageous fun without being completely out of control. So yeah. Also, I'm really good at it, so there's that. That helps.
How Did You Get Into Board Games & Board Game Design?
Patrick Rauland: Yes. That helps with any game. So first real question is how did you get into board games and board game design?
Jason Slingerland: I've been interested in board games, like most people, since I was a small kid. Even back when I was a kid, I would mess around with, “Oh, I'm going to change this game, and house rule it, and make it be played this way.” It wasn't until I went to Gen Con for the first time, and I had been playing some different games, and one of my friends introduced me to Settlers of Catan, right? The evergreen gateway game, and I played that and was like, “Wow, this is different from the stuff I've been playing.” So from there, I kind of went on this quest, to find new games to play.
Jason Slingerland: So at Gen Con, I would just run around looking for the weirdest, most different things I could find. There was this company called Rio Grande. Maybe you've heard of them, and they had these old Descartes Blue Games for sale, that they were getting rid of I think, and I found the game Lawless, by Bruno Cathala.
It's his first game he ever signed, but not the first game that actually was published, and that game for me… It's not a perfect game, but it spoke to me in a way that I thought, “I want to do this. I want to create this experience.” So from there, yeah, that was the first game I designed, was a total clone of that game. It was absolutely garbage, but that kind of sparked the interest for me. Yeah.
Selling to Friendly Local Game Stores
Patrick Rauland: Cool. And I do like hearing when people start off copying or modifying games. It just seems like the easiest place to get started, so it's nice to hear that story, yeah. Okay, so one of the things that I think is exciting, and one of the things that I really like about your podcast, Building the Game, is you've been going… I think you're on episode 400, so you've been talking for a long time, and in some of your earlier episodes, like you're just figuring out mechanics, and then you came out with Water Balloon Washout back in 2013, and you went more of the drive around to local board game shops, and give them 12 units of the game, and see how long it takes them to sell them, and try to sell them another case.
But with your more recent games, you're going the traditional publisher route, like Into the Black Forest and Unreal Estate. I think it's pretty unique for people to drive around to their like local game stores and try to sell games that way. I don't hear many people recommending that, so would you ever recommend that to someone else, as like a good first step?
Jason Slingerland: Yeah, so it really depends on what your goal is, right? For me, doing the podcast, and I'd pitched some games to some publishers, I'd had some ups and downs, hadn't officially had any games come out yet, and I was really interested in Kickstarter, and the idea of self-publishing, but I didn't know anything about it, and kind of as the podcast does, I thought, “Well, you know, I'm going to just try it and see what happens. I'm just going to try it out and see if I can publish a game.”
So I designed the game. I was real happy with it, and so I published it on Kickstarter. And it was hard. It was really difficult. I ended up going with an onshore printer, who based on their price per copy, meant that there was no way to go the traditional distribution route. It just wouldn't have happened. It would have been bad. I would have lost all of my money on that.
Because of that, it kind of became this, “Well, I'm going to just try and sell it to hobby game stores, and sell it on my website,” and I printed 1,100 copies. I have well under 100 left, so I've done really well with that. I've more than made money back and everything on it, and yeah, it was a great experience. Would I do that again? Probably not, only because my goals have changed a bit. You know, getting publishers means that I can put out a lot more games than if I do it myself.
Now, that said, I've got some new games signed that'll come out in the next year or two, but in addition to that, I've also got two games, maybe three, that I'm going to self-publish, once again on Kickstarter, two of which I designed with each of my kids, so that's two games we'll put out. We're just going to do a short one. We're going to print them probably through The Game Crafter. Will I take them to local stores? A couple, in town, mostly because I know they'll sell them, and my kids will be real jazzed to be able to go in there and see their own games in the store for sale. So that's a family project. We're doing it for fun.
In addition to that, when it really comes down to it, I don't want to do that model of printing onshore again, and having it be so expensive that I can't do distribution. You know, on the other side of it though, doing the offshore printing, if you're new at that, is really hard. There is one game that I've yet been able to find a publisher for, that I think could do very, very well on Kickstarter. It's a party game. I've talked a lot about it on my show, so I'm working with an artist, and I think we are going to bring that game to life at some point, in the next year or two, that we would just hire someone to help us figure out how to print it offshore, so that we could save the money and then go the traditional distribution route. So I'm trying all sorts of things here, right? I'm not afraid to try new things and just figure stuff out as I go.
What's the Best Route to Release a Game as a Brand New Designer?
Patrick Rauland: That's really awesome, and I don't know many people who have printed in the United States, which is also a totally separate thing that you have to learn what they're good at, and what they can do easily, and what they can't do easily. So it's pretty cool. How about this? Brand-new game designer, they've never heard your show, they've never heard my show, and they just say, “Hey, Jason, what's the best way for me to get my game out there?” Do you have a favorite of the sort of three things you just mentioned?
Jason Slingerland: Yeah. Again, first of all, I do think you assess your goals, right? If you just want to make a game for yourself and get it out there, sell a few copies, make it on The Game Crafter, right? If you are looking to get something published and out there into more and more people's hands, then you got to go to conventions if possible, talk to publishers. But the biggest piece of advice I would give to anyone, no matter which way you're going to do that, is get out there and network. Make friends with other game designers, right? Really just talk to everyone, make lots of friends with people in the industry, because that is how you learn, right? Yeah.
Getting to learn how to do these things, the easiest way to do that is to become friends with people who know how to do these things, and I don't want that to sound like, “Aha, I'm going to be your friend, Patrick, because you can teach me stuff,” because in turn, what will happen is there are things you know how to do, and they will learn from you, right?
Patrick Rauland: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jason Slingerland: You'll get friendship, but you also have these reciprocal relationships with people in the game industry, where I've got designers who've been out for a long time, who I've learned things from, but they've also learned things from me, right? Because I bring a new perspective, as any new designer does, right?
Patrick Rauland: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jason Slingerland: So making friends in the community, I think serves two purposes. The obvious one, that I just said, of you know, the more people you know, the more people you can work with, and you can talk to, and you can learn from, but the other thing is, being a game designer is a long road, and it can be kind of an arduous journey at some points, right?
Patrick Rauland: Yeah.
Jason Slingerland: And having those friends to support you, and for you to support them, and to develop that community, that makes it all worthwhile, even when it sucks, you know?
Patrick Rauland: Yep. And you know what? Let me see, because I don't think I asked the question very well. I think you did a good job answering it. I don't think I asked the question very well, but I think maybe a first step for a game designer is to go out, meet friends, make connections in the industry, and they'll probably figure out what method of distribution is appropriate for their game, so that's probably [crosstalk 00:12:28]
Jason Slingerland: Yes. Yes.
Patrick Rauland: Cool.
Jason Slingerland: You know, I just- can I say really quick?
I just had Carla Kopp from Weird Giraffe Games on my podcast, and she said something that really, really stuck with me, that I've never heard someone say before, is she said,
You can go out to a website, and you can ask for an answer to a question, and you can do your research, and you'll get 30 answers, and every single one of those answers very well might be the right answer, but you've got to figure out what the right answer for you is.”Carla Kopp
And that really, really stuck with me, so I give her full credit for that awesome thing. Sorry.
Patrick Rauland: No, great.
Jason Slingerland: Next question, sir.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah, yeah, great. And I had Carla Kopp on in episode, looks like 35, so check out that episode. She has some good stuff.
Jason Slingerland: She is super smart, and has a lot of great stuff to say.
Can Documenting Your Process Help With Your Designs?
Patrick Rauland: So, one of the things I love about your podcast is that you're always talking about what you're learning and what you're working on, and I think that gives listeners an idea of what real game design is like, because it's not always like, “Look, it's amazing. I just published a game every other week. It's fantastic.”
Like, you're talking about your thought process in playtesting, and getting feedback, and pitching it to the publisher, but they didn't like it, but you're going to tweak it this way. You see the whole process. So here, my question is, do you think being autobiographical, and it could be in podcast form or in some other form, like you could just be taking journal notes or whatever, is helpful to the creative process? Do you get something out of being autobiographical, other than just making the podcast? Like, do you get something out of it? Does it make your games better in some way?
Jason Slingerland: I love that question. That's really good. You know, I actually don't think anyone has ever asked us that specific question before, so here's the thing. I think I get way more out of it than the listeners do. That said, I like to think the listeners are getting a lot out of it, but for me, the autobiographical nature of it, it does a few things.
One, it forces me to be honest. It forces me to not let myself dwell in perfectionism, because I understand that we're going to put a podcast out every week. Sometimes, it's going to be better than others, but it's always going to be honest, and it's always going to be… You know, we're going to talk about what's going on. Sometimes, those things really suck. Sometimes, they're really great. We celebrate the highest. We talk about the lows.
But the other thing that I really get out of it is it gives me a chance to really digest these thoughts, and feelings, and ideas through game design, and putting them out there in a way where I'm forced to say what I feel, right? And put those feelings into words. So on that side, that's amazing. On the specific idea and design side, it's also helpful because, for the same thing, forcing yourself to put those things into words really changes your idea. There's something in programming they call the rubber duck test, or rubber ducking, right?
Patrick Rauland: Yep.
Jason Slingerland: Where you actually talk about the work you're doing. You try and explain a process to an inanimate object, because the theory is, and it's very true, just saying the words out loud can really change how you view something. So I use that technique in my design process all the time. I use it in my coaching and everything. I constantly… I work by myself most of the time. I'm just talking to myself, right? “Okay, what do I think of this?” I talk it through out loud, and it's so much more productive than just thinking about it, right?
Patrick Rauland: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jason Slingerland: So-that said, I really, really hope that the listeners, over the course of the last 400-and-probably-five episodes at this point, have really gotten a lot of that journey. We've heard a lot of good feedback about that, but you know, it's always in my mind, is is this helping someone else move forward? Because that's why we created the podcast, was to help other people. It just turned out that it was super helpful to us as well.
Patrick Rauland: I am such a big fan of… I think this was years ago, listening to Tim Ferriss. He talked about writing is like crystallizing your thoughts, and I'm such a big fan of that, where it forces you to have a complete thought.
By that, I just mean like… I think when you're thinking about your game in your brain, you can have like… You can have… What's the word I'm looking for here? You can have things that aren't fully thought through, but in your brain they make sense.
You're like, “Yeah, yeah, so we're going to have like a cool drafting system, and then we're going to do this,” but then you never explain what the drafting system is in your head, whereas when you write it down, or you talk about it on a podcast, or you pitch it to a friend, or you rubber duck it, you can literally tell the rubber duck sitting next to your computer… By the way, listeners, I am… It's rubber duck debugging. I'll have a link to it. It's on Wikipedia. It's fun.
Jason Slingerland: Yes. Thank you.
Patrick Rauland: You can literally talk about, “Okay, so here's how the drafting is going to work,” and that forces you to actually crystallize it, actually turn it into a real thing. And then from there, you can of course edit it, and update it, and do whatever, but totally agree that I think just getting your thoughts out there is helpful.
How Can You Document Your Process?
Patrick Rauland: Here's my follow-up. Not every single game designer… I think we'd have podcast apocalypse if every single game designer had their own podcast. What is a good method? Like, do you think like a game design journal would help? Do you think like a blog would help? What would be a good way to be autobiographical?
Jason Slingerland: Right. That's a great question. First of all, I agree with you, yes, please don't everyone go start a podcast. We do not need that. Well, it's just… I mean, first of all, starting a podcast is a lot of work, as you and I both can attest to.
But yeah, so I think that journaling is a great way to do it, actually, but again, that is not… You're not speaking, right? You're actually just writing, so doing a video diary isn't a bad idea. But the other thing you can just do is find some people that you can either co-design with or just talk through your process with. That is really helpful as well. I co-design right now with about four different people, and doing that allows me to sit down and chat through stuff.
That said, Neil Roberts, who was the first person I was co-designing with, and I still co-design with, he is my absolute go-to for reaching out and just saying, “Let me talk through this idea with you.” It's always Neil, because he's always up for that, so he's a really good kind of litmus test for getting those ideas out and making sure that they're not too stupid, or too crazy, or that they actually do make sense. Does that make sense?
Why Switch From Solo Designing to Co-Designing?
Patrick Rauland: Absolutely. And well, that actually transitions perfectly into my next question, which is… I mean, your first couple games were basically all solo games, or at least the ones that came out that were published, but I know from listening to your show recently that you have switched, I want to say heavily, into co-designing. Like, you are co-designing a ton of different games, so what prompted that? What prompted you to switch to co-designing?
Jason Slingerland: So yeah, my first three published games, four, several, everything I've had published until now has been solo designed, and I actually have two more solo designs that'll be out within the next year. But you know, I tried co-designing with Neil. It all started because I had a game I was working on, and it wasn't working, and Neil kept saying, “Change this, change this, change this,” and finally, I was like, “Why don't you just change it? Like, why don't you just co-design it and change it yourself?” So he did. He was like, “Okay,” so he did, and it took the game to where I needed it to be. It made it great, and I was like, “Okay, well let's do that again.”
Jason Slingerland: The second game was much harder, and we finally found a groove, and once we did, I realized that designing not just in a vacuum, for me, it really helped me… I deal a lot with like imposter syndrome, and the idea of like, “Oh, am I really good at this, or have I just been lucky?” Or whatever, and a lot of creatives deal with that, but I find that having a co-designer really reduces that, because it makes me feel like I've got somebody else that's saying, “This isn't stupid,” right? “This is good. You know what you're doing, and this is good.” And just having that is so helpful to the process, for me.
So what I started doing after that was I thought, “Well, I want to work with some more people.” So I started kind of looking at what type of people would I want to design with, right? It so happened that Isaac Shalev approached me. He said, “Hey, I've got this game I'm working on. It's based on some ideas you had. I think you'd be a good fit for it.” So I was like, “All right. Let's do it.”
We loved working together, so now we're working together on some other projects. I also co-designed with Banana Chan, and the way I found her was I was working on some ideas. I was stuck, and I thought… I'd only met her once, ever, but I was like, “I really like her voice and her perspective on things, from what I've seen,” so I sent her a message and said, “Hey, would you be willing to look at this with me?” And she said, “Yeah,” and again, we hit it off. It worked really well. Now we're on our third design together.
Then the last one being Ken Franklin, who you had on your show recently. He was joking. I had posted on Facebook this list of 20 projects I was working on, or 19 I think, and he was like, “Oh,” something about working with me sometime, and I said, “Hey, working with you would be a round out to a nice 20,” and he was like, “Let's do it.” So we're working together and we're really enjoying it. So that's how I got into loving co-design.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah. That's cool, and I've had mixed results with co-designing. I think for me, I have… Like, there are certain things that I want to own and do, and I don't know if I can give them up. So I think I need to work with a co-designer… If I ever do, like I think I want a little bit of control over art direction, and what the game looks like and feels like, and then I can kind of be flexible on everything else, but I have the things that I like to do. But it seems like you're pretty flexible, which is maybe one of the reasons that you're so good working with co-designing.
Jason Slingerland: It's tough. I am very, very flexible, for the most part, when it comes to co-designing, just because I'm not super attached to any of my ideas, and like I said, with the imposter syndrome thing, I feel like I just assume that my ideas are mostly not great. So I'm always willing to take someone else's as better. But yes, even being flexible, I've worked with other co-designers where just it hasn't worked for us, because… And not because they weren't flexible, just because our styles didn't mesh, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Patrick Rauland: Cool.
Jason Slingerland: Rob and I, who used to host the show, infamously tried to co-design two or three games together, and it literally never worked, because our styles were just too different. And that was okay. We're good friends, but it just didn't work.
Patrick Rauland: Cool. I like that separation, you know? Maybe I just need to try co-designing with someone else, as opposed to, “I'm not good at co-designing.” Cool. So let me shift gears a little bit here.
What Research Do You Do Before Starting a New Game Design?
Patrick Rauland: What kind of research do you do before you start working on a game? Like, do you do a whole bunch up front or do you only do research after the game has gone through a couple playtests? How does research play in with your games.
Jason Slingerland: It super depends on the type of game I'm designing that time around, right? Certain games, I've done zero research on. For instance, like Water Balloon Washout. Not a lot of research went into that game. You know, it was really just I just kind of felt my way through it, but other games, I've done massive amounts of research on, trying to get them all figured out and work it out, right? And that's been… You know, it depends. I would say that if my game is very theme heavy, I tend to do research right up front, to try to figure out what makes this game… you know, what makes this theme exciting, and I'll do research about that theme. But also, I will do research based on a certain mechanic. If I'm like, “Hey, I really like this mechanic. What games are good with this mechanic?”
One of the things that I always love to plug is Building Blocks, the encyclopedia by Geoff Engelstein and Isaac Shalev, is… So, I'm somebody who never feel like I've played enough games. Like, when I work with a co-designer, they're always like, “Have you played this game?” And I'm like, “Nope.” And that was hard for me as a designer, and having that book allows me to say, “Oh, I'm interested in this mechanic. Oh, here's four games I could try, or I could just go read about them and watch some videos, and see how it works in that game,” you know? So that's been a huge time saver and a help with that, so yeah.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah, and I'm just getting the link for that, so I'll have a link for that in the show notes. So at Tabletop Network, they basically printed out all of the mechanisms in the Building Blocks book, and they kind of had these cool little cards, so it was almost like a mini version of the book in card form. So I need to get the actual book.
Jason Slingerland: That's cool.
What Type of Games Do You Like to Design?
Patrick Rauland: Yeah, but it's really cool, so for at least the version I have is great, so listeners, definitely check it out. How about this, then? What type of games are you interested in designing moving forward? Because I know not all of them are, you know, “Here's the latest work replacement game.”
Jason Slingerland: Yeah. That is something that I struggle with, not because I'm like, “Oh, what type of game do I want to design?” It's because there are too many types of games that I'm interested in working on, and because of that, I have to kind of pull myself back, right? And say, “Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa. Calm down.” But I can tell you that the thing that I've been focusing on a lot of late is the experience of the games I design and the story of the games I design, and what are those doing for the players, and how are they engaging the players?
You know, Neil and I's most recent game that we've been working on, well not the most recent, but the one we've been shopping around to publishers right now, is called Compulsed, and it is a game about approximating for people what it's like to perform basic tasks while having obsessive compulsive disorder.
It's very light. It's not heavy-handed about it. It's not like, “This is the pain that we go through.” It's just, “Hey, you're trying to put cards and numbers in an order, and we're going to give you really, really inane rules that make your life harder with that.” That is a game that's been a huge passion project of mine for a long time, that I've wanted to make this game but didn't think that I could, and Neil really was able to step in and help that come true.
I, myself, have obsessive compulsive disorder, and it's really hard to explain to people what that's like, and we've found that with this game, it's very easy to show someone what it's like. It's very easy to give them a sympathetic understanding of it, but in addition to that, it's also just a really fun puzzle-y game that can make you want to rip your hair out while you're trying to complete it. So yeah, it kind of checks all the boxes for me, but I really have been focusing on games that provide a specific experience. That is kind of where I see myself going more of. Yeah.
Why Not Stick to One Genre?
Patrick Rauland: Yeah. So how about this? Because I think Water Balloon Washout is… I think so many game designers start with like a, “I'm attacking you, you're attacking me,” type games, right? And you get points, or you do this, or you do that, and I think eventually, people maybe develop their own style of game, and I think you're moving into like a, “Here's a topic I really want to cover, and it's really different, and it's really unique.” Why? Like, why not just stick with the Water Balloon Washouts, where you're throwing water balloons at each other?
Jason Slingerland: Well, yeah, that's a fair question, right? You know, I heard one of the questions we got on our podcast, one time, and this could have even been from you. I honestly do not remember who it was from, but they said, “Why not just make every game medieval themed?” Right? Because people buy that theme, so why not make every game that? And my kind of answer to that is, “That's not the story I want to tell,” right? Somebody told that story. I want to tell a story that's unique. I want to tell a story that I care about, right? And for me, theme is so important. Like, great example. The game Century: Spice Road. Have you played that before?
Patrick Rauland: Yep. Love it.
Jason Slingerland: Yep, great. Great. I'm glad you do. So many people love that game. I played that game, and it was so boring, so boring, I could not stand it. And here's why, because the theme is nonexistent. I am changing cubes for cubes, and the fact that there's even a theme on it is dumb. Like, to me, I would have actually enjoyed the game more if it'd just been an abstract, with no theme whatsoever, if it was just like legit like, “You're trading brown cubes for green cubes.” You know? But I'm very, very much… I need a theme that gets me excited about it, and I will take a less perfect game with a theme that's exciting to me than a game that is perfect but has a really boring theme.
Jason Slingerland: And Century: Spice Road, mechanically, is a fantastic game. It's just really dull to me, you know? Had they made that a game where you were working in like a whimsical factory or something, trying to make different things, I would probably have bought the game and played it a ton. But because the theme was boring, I didn't do that. That said, one of the other games I love is Splendor, which is the most boring theme possible, but you know what Splendor has that gets your attention? It has those cool tokens, right? So it's very tactile moving them around and such, and that got my attention. You know, that drew me in, and now I love that game, so-
Patrick Rauland: You know what [crosstalk 00:31:05]
Jason Slingerland: I don't know if that was a good answer or not.
Patrick Rauland: No, that was a great answer, and just to build on that, I actually don't like Century: Spice Road. I like Century: Spice Road Golem Edition, which is… They swapped out the cubes. They have cool crystals, and then all the cards, you like use these magic crystals to get… The victory cards are just cool-looking golems. And it's the exact same game, literally mechanically identical to Century: Spice Road, but they swapped out the boring saffron, and red, and orange, and brown cubes for cool-looking crystals, and you get golems. And I know that sounds so silly, but I like that so much more, which I-
Jason Slingerland: I bet I would like that game. I'll have to play it sometime, because that, having an engaging theme, would probably make it more interesting, so yeah. The idea to me of the spice road, right? Or any medieval type theme, it's just I've played that game before, right? So it has to really do something to get my attention. And that game wasn't doing it, so I will commit to trying that, the Golem Edition, though, because yeah, I bet that will fix all my concerns about the game.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah, give it a go. I mean, it's literally the same game, but I think for the same reasons you like Splendor, you might like the Golem Edition, just because like instead of boring, tiny, eight millimeter cubes, they're like the cool, jaggedy crystal shapes, and then sure, I'll use a green crystal, and a purple crystal, and a blue crystal to get this golem that's worth five points.
That, to me, feels better than the existing game. Anyways, listeners, play Century: Spice Road, and if you've played the Golem Edition and you've played the regular edition, let me know what you think, because I'm curious if other people like the Spice Road version better than the Golem Edition. Anyways, totally different, off topic tangent. Let me move onto my ending questions here, Jason. Otherwise, we'll talk here for the next eight hours, with [crosstalk 00:33:02]
Jason Slingerland: Yeah, sorry. I tend to be long-winded, so-
Patrick Rauland: No, this is great. But which [crosstalk 00:33:07]
Jason Slingerland: I'm another podcaster. It doesn't help, right? You get me going, and I won't shut up.
What Resource Would You Recommend to an Aspiring Designer?
Patrick Rauland: So how about this? You've been doing this a long time. What is a resource you'd recommend to another indie game designer?
Jason Slingerland: Yes. If you're new, other than listening to my podcast, which I'll always promote, but beyond that, I would suggest looking at Cardboard Edison. They are putting out some amazing stuff. They've got the awesome publisher database that I 100% think you should check out. Again, and the Building Blocks book has been really helpful as well.
What's the Best Money You've Spent in Game Design?
Patrick Rauland: Perfect. Yep. I will link to both of those, and then how about this? What is something that has been worth every single cent that you've spent on it? What is the best money you've spent as a game designer
Jason Slingerland: Best money I've spent in game design? Wow. That is… Hoo. I don't even know that I could answer that. Sheesh, because that's a really hard question. Honestly, I would probably default back to I bought the publisher database from Cardboard Edison. It was super cheap, and it was super helpful, in figuring out what publishers are looking for and who to reach out to, so I'm going to say that, because I think it's worth plugging twice.
Patrick Rauland: Cool. No, that's perfect. Let me ask you this. So I actually briefly looked at the publisher database, which is basically just a giant Excel file, and you can kind of sort different columns for like what type of games they're looking for, what type of games they make, and all that stuff. Where would you recommend I start with that? Because there's literally thousands of rows in that giant file. Like, what is like if you could filter by one thing or search by one thing, where would you start with that giant, epic file?
Jason Slingerland: Yeah, so that's a good question. I get it. It can be a little overwhelming when you first look at it. I would honestly suggest just getting it and looking down the publisher list, and seeing which publishers you've seen before and what you haven't, and I think there's a section that says the type of games they're looking for. That's worth checking out, once you kind of look through that, but it also allows you to just go out and do research for yourself, and say, “Okay, what are five games this publisher has published, and why would they care about my game?” That's where I would start.
What Does Success Look Like?
Patrick Rauland: Cool. So you've been doing this a long time. You've had a lot of games come out. What does success look like for you moving forward?
Jason Slingerland: You know, I've always said that as long as I can keep putting out games, I will design for as long as everyone'll let me, because I love telling stories. I love giving people those fun experiences. So success, for me, is just continually putting out games, you know? Getting some games out every year, for people to see and play, and I will do that in whatever way I possibly can, whether or not it's myself or through publishers. I'm excited about just getting games out there.
Overrated Underrated Game
Patrick Rauland: Perfect, just keep making games. Love it. And then, I like to end my show with something called Overrated-Underrated, which if you listened to the Ken Franklin episode, you're probably familiar with it. Just in case someone's tuning in for the first time, I'll give them a super quick recap. I'm going to give you a word or phrase, like cell phones, and you're going to give me like a one… You're going to tell me if they're overrated or underrates, and like a one-sentence reason why, so cell phones are overrated, because they're constantly pinging you with notifications, something like that. Cool?
Jason Slingerland: Sure. Sounds good.
Patrick Rauland: All right. Running a board game podcast, overrated or underrated?
Jason Slingerland: Underrated, because it's a lot of work, but there is a lot of payoff from it, and a lot of impact you can have.
Patrick Rauland: How about renting… As like an apartment, or a condo, or something, so renting just as a concept, overrated or underrated?
Jason Slingerland: I'm going to say underrated. Everybody really dogs on that, you know? And you got to own your own home, but I don't think that's actually right for everyone. Yeah.
Patrick Rauland: Perfect. How about this? I've been thinking about this one recently. Board games that are based on video games, overrated or underrated?
Jason Slingerland: Highly underrated, because I think that board games based on the right video games… There are so many more I would love to see. I just think that they aren't always done as well as they could be, so I guess you could say overrated based on that, but I'm going to say underrated. I would like to see more of them.
Patrick Rauland: Perfect. Then, I'm hoping you've seen this last one. Well, as we're recording, the relatively recent Birds of Prey movie, overrated or underrated?
Jason Slingerland: I haven't seen it, but I'm going to say underrated, because I've seen some cruddy reviews of it from some jerks, but from all of my friends that have seen it, they have been really impressed, and I trust a lot of their opinions, and I do plan on seeing at some point, so I'm going to say underrated.
Patrick Rauland: Perfect. Awesome. Jason, thank you so much for being on the show.
Jason Slingerland: Yeah. I'm happy to.
Patrick Rauland: Where can people find you and your games online?
Jason Slingerland: Yeah, so the easiest place to find the podcast and everything is buildingthegamepodcast.com. You can find me on Twitter at @JASlingerland. I would love it if you followed me, and looked me up, and we could chat. Then, also, so Building the Game, for the 400th episode, we just released a free game, called Beavers Be Dammed.
We released it both on PNPArcade, where you can download it for free. That's a cool roll-and-write game. Or, you can go to The Game Crafter and you can actually buy it. We don't make any money off it. It's put at cost, but it's in this roll-and-write contest right now, so you can all take a look and give it a vote. I would love that. We did it just for fun, but yeah, kind of a thank you to all the listeners from over the years. It's got some amazing artwork by Corinne Roberts, and Gray Dietrich did an amazing job with the graphic design, in the was designed by several people who… myself and several people who've been listening to the show since the beginning.
Patrick Rauland: Oh, very, very, very cool. It's nice to hear that. Listeners, if you like this podcast, please leave us a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to us. Also check out their podcast, his podcast.
If you leave a review, Jason said he'd be able to help you find some Unreal Estate of your own, so that's exciting. Then, just in terms of some of the things I'm working on, I am planning on sharing the progress for all of my games on Patreon. Right now, I'm trying to find a publisher for my game, Kintsugi, which got third place in the Mint Tin Challenge, so if you want to see how I'm trying to find and pitch publishers, which is probably going to me going through that giant file that Jason and I talked about just a minute ago, you can follow along there, and you can see me struggle, and hopefully, you can help me with Excel. You can visit the site, indieboardgamedesigners.com. You can follow me on Twitter and Board Game Geek. I am BFTrick on both platforms. That's B as in board game, F as in fun, and Trick as in trick-taking games. Until next time, everyone, happy designing. Bye-bye.
Jason Slingerland: Bye.