Patrick Rauland: Hello everyone and welcome to the Indie Board Game Designers Podcast or sit down with a different independent game designer every single week and we talk about their experience in game design and the lessons they learned along the way.
Patrick Rauland: My name is Patrick Rauland and today I’ll be talking with Jay Cormier who designed Belfort, In the Hall of the Mountain King, Junk Art and probably more than that. Jay welcome to the show.
Jay Cormier: Thank you very much.
Patrick Rauland: I did a little bit of research on you before I invited you to the show, but the audience hasn’t so I like to start with a sort of simple fast lightning round game. Ready?
Jay Cormier: Let’s go.
Patrick Rauland: All right. If you could be an elf, dwarf, or gnome which one would you be?
Jay Cormier: Oh, I’d be an elf. I don’t know they seem nimble and they seem more jovial.
Patrick Rauland: I imagine they live longer. You know what I mean? Like dwarfs [crosstalk 00:00:54]. Are you a fan of Trolls and Lord of the Rings? Is that your favorite troll … Since you have a game about trolls-
Jay Cormier: Right, right, right. That’s a good question. I don’t think I’m a fan of them. As far as like … I’m not gonna be putting pictures of them on my bedroom or anything. Yeah they’re a fair representation of trolls.
Patrick Rauland: Cool. Then you have a game about art or junk art. So do you like garage sales?
Jay Cormier: My wife loves garage sales. I can’t say that I enjoy them. No.
Patrick Rauland: I feel like you like garage sales as soon as you found that one piece-
Jay Cormier: Comic book or something? They don’t realize how expensive it is?
Patrick Rauland: As soon as you find one of those I think you’ll like garage sales, but I also found that thing, so …
How Did You Get Into Board Game & Board Game Design?
Patrick Rauland: First real question. How did you get into board games and board game design?
Jay Cormier: I think like most people I played a lot of games. I played a lot with my friend Sen-Foong Lim and him and I just eventually … We could probably make a game, right? Then we started making a game. I think a majority of people that dabble in anything that’s creative we failed miserably at it at our first go. We kind of stopped talking about it and stopped doing it.
Jay Cormier: Just because we know what good is because we would paly a lot of games. We knew that our game was not good. So, we just stopped doing it. Then it wasn’t until I actually relocated to a totally different … going to use a Canadian word here, province. That’s what we call our states up here.
Jay Cormier: Then Sen came to visit and we needed a way to stay talking to each other. I don’t know if that’s a dude thing or not. Where we’re not just gonna call each other up and say, “Hey, how was your week?”
Patrick Rauland: Yeah. I know. I know.
Jay Cormier: So we decided let’s do this game thing again. Let’s really make a go of it. It was actually because we were far apart and had to rely a lot on technology and a lot of tools available online. That actually helped us to stay motivated and connected. That’s the quick story.
What Tools Help You Design Remotely?
Patrick Rauland: That’s great and that gives me a nice segue into the next question. I was just saying right before we started recording. I find it very challenging to design with someone who’s not in the same place. But you said it helped you. What tools helped you design stuff?
Jay Cormier: We started way before there was any online resources to help designers. There’s tons now. We just kind of created our own … We actually have our own forum. I don’t know how we got it. I don’t know … Sen got it and figured out somehow. We have our own forum that we just for Sen and I we go on and every single game idea that we … Gets to a certain point gets its own thread and topic and we can post all our play testing notes in there. We can post all our rules, questions in there. The idea of it …
Jay Cormier: The reason I think why it became so great for us and helped us is the law of reciprocity where if Sen goes on and posts some sort of comment about what do you think about this idea? I read it and I feel like I have to respond. You can’t not respond. So I respond. I say, “Well that’s cool but what about this?” Then he feels like he has to respond and before you know it because this is kind of permanent and we can see the trail of all these questions and comments, we’ve got a game and we’ve got something like we gotta make this. Let’s do it. I think that really helped us a lot.
Patrick Rauland: That’s really cool. I was mentioning earlier … I use Google sheets and I’m tracking sort of cards and there’s a little bit of threading you can do. Kind of by commenting on specific things but it’s not … It just doesn’t seem nuanced enough. You know what I mean. I feel like I wanna have a lengthy response. The way-
Jay Cormier: Slack is better at that kind of stuff. It’s still not as good as a forum in my opinion. Like Slack. I felt it’s hard to find things way later about things. Whereas a forum, everything can have its own sub category thread which is great.
What Type of Games Do You Design?
Patrick Rauland: You have a wide variety of games. Belfort is like worker replacement. In the Hall of Mountain King, I haven’t played it but it seems like it’s sort of like you’re building an engine and the cashing in for points. Then Junk Art you’re sort of making specific pieces of art with like random wooden pieces. These are all very different. I would love to know if you have a niche or do you just follow all sorts of crazy game ideas and see where they take you?
Jay Cormier: I think what works great is that if you have a partner, which I recommend if you can find somebody that shares the same ideals and same goals as you, that’s the key. The partner with the same goal … Our goal, Sen and I, was let’s get a game published. Which I can imagine is a goal of many new designers. When you have the same goal like let’s get a game signed and published. Let’s figure that out. Then we just started making all sorts of games. It wasn’t until we went to … I actually wasn’t the one at the time. Went to our first convention. It was GAMA. Again it was before anybody knew how to do anything really. There were for sure obviously tons of games but there wasn’t any online resources telling you this is how you go to a convention. I was literally cold calling. Literally walking up to booths and like, “Hi, are you looking for games?”
Jay Cormier: Not knowing what to do. It was through that, that I realized when I got back. I said Sen we need a lot of different games because there was some booths I couldn’t go up to because we didn’t have a party game in there. That’s all they were looking for. We didn’t have a kids game or this kind of stuff. So we started actually actively trying to fill in gaps of like well you know what now that Belfort’s out what’s our next euro game? What’s our next strategy game?
Jay Cormier: We just kind of kept filling in gaps so that anytime we went to a convention we’d have … Always we’d bring six to eight games to pitch to publishers.
Patrick Rauland: Wow.
Jay Cormier: Yeah. That’s always how we’d do it. We would by having a breadth of their variety of options it meant we could talk to almost any publisher and have something to show them.
How Many Games Did You Design Before You Were Signed?
Patrick Rauland: That’s really exciting. I want to talk about finding a partner in a second. I wanna go back to … Did you start with just one game and you just sort of got lucky with Belfort or were you actively designing multiple games even when you’re designing your first one?
Jay Cormier: Yeah makes sense. Belfort I believe was around our tenth game-
Patrick Rauland: Oh my gosh-
Jay Cormier: That we designed. Yeah. The first time I went to GAMA, Belfort wasn’t one of the games we were pitching. We were pitching about six I think games. All of them got interest and had got taken back by publishers to be assessed and none of them got picked up.
Patrick Rauland: Oh wow.
Jay Cormier: Yeah. Yeah. Then the next year I went again and I brought Belfort that year and it got picked up. That was the first game we got picked up.
Patrick Rauland: That was the tenth one you’ve actually designed?
Jay Cormier: Yep. Yep.
Do You Recommend Focusing on One Game or Working on Many?
Patrick Rauland: I always want to give people sort of takeaways. If an aspiring designer is listening to this would you say instead of focusing so heavily on that one game would you recommend … you know having five or six and approaching all these publishers?
Jay Cormier: Always. It depends, but I’m saying always because that’s me and that’s Sen and that was our goal. If your goal is to get this game that’s in front of you published that’s a different goal. Our goal was to get a game published. Now our goals is just to get as many games published because it’s just fun.
Jay Cormier: Yeah. You want to have variety. We have our MVP as we call it. Be our one MVP to be a successful game designer. M is to stay motivated. We found some online tools that helps stay motivated or even just the fact of having a partner helps you stay motivated through the valleys of motivation you have. The other partner can pick up the slack in the motivation.
Jay Cormier: The V is versatility. That’s what we’re talking about here is being versatile in all the different games. If that interests you. If you just like board games. You just want to make board games that’s up to you. For me wanting to get a game published it was about versatility.
Jay Cormier: Then P was positive, persistence and not being diswayed by the not getting picked up for every single time you submit a game. You’re gonna have tons of rejection, but I don’t find it as … It’s never happy, but I don’t find it like sad. It’s sad when a publisher rejects you and gives you zero feedback. That’s sad. What do I do with that?
Patrick Rauland: Yeah. I sent Fry Thief out … I had three publishers request my game Fry Thief and two of them sent it back with nothing and I really would have loved just like a note. Just, “Hey this is great but it’s too light for us.” Or like one sentence to give me some guidance. You don’t always get that which is a bit sad. Let me change gears.
How Do You Find a Game Design Partner?
Patrick Rauland: I’ve talked to a lot of husband, wife teams. Those seem I don’t know to say common but they’re definitely not uncommon in the board game world. How do you find a partner when it’s not your spouse? Would you recommend looking for someone in your local design scene? Would you recommend trying to find someone online? How would you find a game design partner?
Jay Cormier: I was lucky in the beginning cause Sen and I were buddies. We were best friends. He was my best man at my wedding for example. That was an easy choice as far as that goes. Now that I’m out here in Vancouver and he is in the London, Ontario area you obviously make friends in your local game groups. You just start chatting and I just find that because I’m chatting with people. Eventually it comes up because I’ve just like …
Jay Cormier: You can kind of tell who you jive with and who you kind of meld and can get a sense of through feedback … Whether it’s on somebody totally different game. You can hear the type of feedback somebody gives. You can kind of get oh that person’s got a really good grasp of this or they seem really polite or very easy to work with. I like that.
Jay Cormier: Then sometimes it just comes up and I’ve not In the Hall of Mountain King came from that way because it’s with a different partner names Graeme Jahns. Him and I designed that game because we just liked playing games together and working on games and we’d give each other feedback and then eventually it was like we should make a game together. Yeah.
Patrick Rauland: I really like that. That’s cool. It’s a little bit hard for me to give up that creative control though. I have a vision for the game and it’s very hard to merge those. Maybe that’s something I should work on.
Jay Cormier: It’s tough if you come … at the point that you find that partner. If you have a game and you want a partner to help you design it that’s gonna be tricky. Like you’re saying you’re already have some vision in your head. But for Graeme and I it was like, “Hey do you wanna make a game together? It feels like we should make a game together.” They’re like yeah. What can we do? We actually tried almost very similar to this story of Sen and I we tried making a game and we got together a few times, but it failed and we couldn’t figure it out. It wasn’t interesting. We didn’t have enough motivation to stick with it because we couldn’t figure it out.
Jay Cormier: Then I think a year or so passed and we’re like we should make a game and Graeme came to me he was like I’d love to make a game based off the song In the Hall of the Mountain King. I was like that’s literally my favorite song ever. I love that song. I said if there’s a game about that. If you know the song that’s like do do do do do do do do do.
Jay Cormier: It’s goes sort of slow and then it kind of builds and crescendos so a really big finish. I feel like there should be a snowball effect in that game where you start off slow but by the end you’re getting a ton of stuff. Then together we came up with this kind of pyramid idea where you’re placing trolls above other trolls and you cascade all the production that troll all the trolls below it get and so by the end you’re getting a ton of resources and it feels really cool.
Patrick Rauland: That’s cool. I talked to a lot of people about inspiration and I don’t think anyone’s mentioned to music before. That’s-
Jay Cormier: I know-
Patrick Rauland: I need to get like a special sound effect for when people give me a new source of inspiration.
What Do You Look For While Playtesting?
Patrick Rauland: I want to talk about play testing because you actually reached out to me and you said you’re basically launching a platy testing journal. So I want to talk about the journal in just a second. Just tell me about play testing in general. How much play testing do you have to do for these games? What do you look for? What are some things that you find really valuable about play tests?
Jay Cormier: The most valuable thing for a game designer is your play testers. It’s 100% the most important part of the game designing process. It’s where we all know that game design is iterative process. Where no game comes perfect out of your mind and into the hands of your gamers. As much as we all think it will once we’ve designed it in our head and we’re like, “This is gonna be the best game ever.”
Jay Cormier: Then you just play it and you’re like no, no, not yet. We need our play testers. The challenge I find is that we don’t necessarily know how to make those interactions. Those play test interactions as valuable as they could be. I find them so I guess frustrating is a word or astounding really when I’m play testing a newer designer’s game and I start getting feedback and then I pause and I’m like, “Did you want to get a piece of paper and a pen to start writing some of this down?”
Jay Cormier: They’re like, “Oh yeah, yeah. I wanna yeah.” This is kind of important. This is why you’re really testing is for these notes that I’m giving you right now. In addition to the observations you want to make. So when you’re play testing in addition to some of the stats and stuff that you have to keep track of some of the biggest things you’re gonna be paying attention to is the behavior of your players.
Jay Cormier: You wanna look and see how they’re reacting to your game. If there are any frustrating moments. Is there any moments where they’re angry and they can’t do something they want to do? Maybe you should allow the thing that you want to do. Maybe. It’s up to you. You’re the game designer.
Jay Cormier: You should at least pay attention to when they’re frustrated. Because there’s some certain types of frustration that’s good obviously when you have only so many actions and you can’t do everything you want to do. That’s a good frustration. But bad frustration when people feel like I should be able to trade this amount of resources. This is frustrating and I can’t do it. Like oh okay that’s interesting. You should be making notes of that kind of stuff.
Jay Cormier: Obviously anytime they have questions like why does this … How come this? Why doesn’t this work? Or anytime they forget a rule. You should be making note of those things because either, A, maybe you just didn’t explain it right or B, it’s not intuitive enough.
Jay Cormier: Maybe that might lead you to make a player aide to make remind players and like they keep asking about this. Maybe I’ll just put this down here on the player aide. Those are some of the general things. Then once we get to the feedback portion, which I want to point out can come at different points in a play test.
Jay Cormier: There are some designers, especially new designers, that feel like they have to play test the entirety of their game before they get to feedback. I just want to make sure that designers, especially new designers, understand that because you’re play testers are the most valuable resource that you have as a game designer use their time as critical as possible.
Jay Cormier: What I mean by that is that if you find that you are not going to get any more new information by continuing to play. There’s just gonna be the exact same feedback you’re gonna get whether they stop now or whether you finish the entire game. Then stop the game right there.
Jay Cormier: This is what often will happen if you find that your game kind of derails itself and gets … It’s broken. Maybe somebody’s super far in the lead because of a broken system and nobody can catch up. Now everybody’s playing sub optimally and not playing as if they were playing to win because they can’t. So are you really getting any new information by continuing this test?
Jay Cormier: I don’t think it’s super valuable to use the time and I think people appreciate you. Oh okay well we only play twenty minutes actually this is great. We’re into feedback and boom we’re onto another game. Especially if you’re play testing to other game designers. I won’t even say especially. Even if you’re playing with your friends or family. They’re gonna appreciate not having to sit through an entire game because the next time you ask them they’ll be like well that last experience wasn’t that great. I don’t know if I’ll have the time to sit with you and play your game again.
Jay Cormier: Yeah it was broken.
How Do You Test Longer Games?
Patrick Rauland: I really like this. Our monthly game design meet up here in Denver. We have an informal rule of no more than an hour. Which is I think is really good. You basically get an hour of play testing and then you do feedback and then you go on to the next play test. Otherwise number one, you don’t get through everyone’s games and number two, I think the last bit of of … like if you do like a long game …
Patrick Rauland: If you have a two hour game then you’re play testing for balance, right? Then that’s I feel like it’s a different thing. Then you want to play test the whole thing and make sure that all the factions are bound and what not. I feel like we can get both kind-
Jay Cormier: Those kind of long play tests I think you have to organize you’re own play test group for that. Invite them over and pay for pizza and that kind of stuff.
Patrick Rauland: I think you’re totally right. I think I was sort of miffed when I first joined the group and you were limited to an hour. I think it makes total sense. If you have a game design group I love the idea of like limiting it to an hour because you’re generally gonna get all the feedback you need or at least I nearly stages of designing you are.
Jay Cormier: I would even recommend it can be way shorter than an hour. If you’ve got a quick reaction game or a quick party game or something like that it might be only 15, 20 minutes is all you need to test it and give some feedback. Obviously game a game I definitely in the middle of play testing somebody else’s game I’ll actually ask the designer. I’m like. “By continuing playing are we gonna experience anything else we haven’t experienced yet?”
“By continuing playing are we gonna experience anything else we haven’t experienced yet?”Jay Cormier
Jay Cormier: That question there it makes them think and they go, “No you’ve got everything.” I’m like, “Great let’s move to feedback then.”
Jay Cormier: Unless it’s so late in the game design that they’re actually testing the game end state where they actually want to get to the game end to see what their balance of scores is. That’s fine if you’ve got time to do that. If it’s just in the early stages it’s time to call it quit sometimes.
What Do You Do With “It’s Pretty Good” Feedback?
Patrick Rauland: Selfishly last month I went to my meet up and I brought brand new game. This is the first time I’ve tested it. I haven’t even tested it myself. I made it right before the thing. Went. People played it and the feedback I got was it’s pretty good. I got basically nothing super useful. Does that make sense? They said it’s pretty good-
Jay Cormier: Oh yeah. [crosstalk 00:18:31] Nobody wants to because critical-
Patrick Rauland: Selfishly I want to know. The next time I bring this game probably in the next two or three weeks how do I get feedback more than “It’s pretty good?”
Jay Cormier: Yeah that would be a great question. We’ll talk about it in a second. My play testing journal that is going on Kickstarter has these kind of questions that will help guide you to get better answers.
Jay Cormier: You want to start off probably with a general which probably what you did. Some sort of what did you think? What did you like about it? Try to get them to actually identify things that they liked. So what parts did you like? What aspects was interesting to you? Then you can ask a generic question of like what could be improved? Which you still might not get much out of.
Jay Cormier: So depending on the person some might go well it should be this or that or whatever, but yeah you might just get it’s pretty good. Then it’s the follow up questions after that is we want to start identifying things and there’s tons of questions in the journal to help guide you through it. Things like did you Feel like you had enough agency to effect your outcome? Did you feel you have enough control to effect your outcome? Did you feel like you were in control of your score?
Jay Cormier: This obviously if you can change the questions you have depending on the kind of game that you’re creating but really another great example of a great question would be, “What could make this game 5% better?” That question alone puts a positive spin on it. Because nobody likes to point out the negatives. Nobody else is like this part sucked that part sucked. They don’t want to hurt your feelings.
“What could make this game 5% better?”Jay Cormier
Jay Cormier: Like hey we’re all friends here. But if you say okay what can make it 5% better. Then people are like, “Well if there was a way to get money more that would be good, because it felt a little tight and I couldn’t do everything I wanted to do.” Oh okay now you’re getting somewhere, right?
Why Make a Playtesting Journal?
Patrick Rauland: Tell us about the play testing journal and just before you do we were recording before the Kickstarter but this episode should be live after the Kickstarter has launched, so if you are listening-
Jay Cormier: A raging success.
Patrick Rauland: Hopefully a raging success. You’ll probably have like $30 billion dollars raised already.
Jay Cormier: Wow.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah.
Jay Cormier: All right. I’m holding you to that.
Patrick Rauland: Okay.
Jay Cormier: It’s called the Fail Faster: The Playtesting Journal. The name is kind of tongue in cheek because of the whole idea that board game design is an iterative process where you have to keep failing in order to succeed sooner. That’s the kind of idea for the name of it. The core of the book is 36 pages of playtest notes. It’s broken up into a way to really guide you through your note taking process so you don’t forget anything that’s going to be important to you later.
Jay Cormier: Sometimes you take some notes and you get back to your computer or you get back with your game design buddy and you start going through your notes and there’s things that you’re missing. You’re like, “Oh, shoot what is that? I can’t remember that.” You didn’t take notes. For example it will have a section in here to list all your play tester’s names. That seems like a pretty obvious thing but it becomes important once you do get published because you’re gonna be asked to put a little thank you section in your rule book for all the people that playtested it. You’ll be scrounging for like oh shoot what are all the name so the people how and you’re gonna see posts on Facebook like, “Hey did anybody ever play this game? If you want to be thanked you better let me know.”
Jay Cormier: That’s obviously just not the traditional way to do it. There are different columns to keep track of all the different scores. Even it reminds you to put them in player turn order as you list them so that you can asses later on over time if there is a start player advantage or last player advantage.
Jay Cormier: It’s got a timing breakdown so you can time how long a game lasts. That’s pretty important.
Jay Cormier: Even a section of rules changes, so if this specific playtest what are the rule changes that you’re gonna be focusing on from the last game? I don’t know if this happened to you but I have played so many games before this came out not this journal where half way through the playtest I’m like, “Oh shoot I was supposed to add this one component or this one rule and now we’re half way through and now it’s wasted.” You feel like you wasted a whole playtest. You really wanted to test this new thing and you forgot.
Patrick Rauland: I haven’t done that too much but I can see me doing that.
Jay Cormier: It’s got a section to write down all your observations. It has a section to write down the winning players strategy. So how did the winning player win? This will help you assess later on. Oh it looks like for the last ten playtests the winning player focused on heart stone and the key mineral. That maybe is too powerful. Maybe we should check out the valuations of the resources.
Jay Cormier: Then the biggest section of course is the feedback. The questions change from page to page. I’ve sorted it so that the first part of the book of the questions are assuming your game is kind of like in the alpha stage of design. Then the questions move on to as if you’re in the beta. Then finally the last part are gama. I assume that alpha is really basic and just trying to figure out what the game is. Beta is the core of your game and gama is when you’re getting ready to pitch it to a publisher.
Jay Cormier: The questions kind of proceed like that. Then at the bottom of every page there’s a pro tip from me. Also following those same kind of ideas as well. There’s a reminder on every page to take a photo of your end game state. If you’re working with a partner it’s super important to take a picture of that. Especially if they’re not there.
Jay Cormier: So you can share with them. This is how the game ended. Offer you another opportunity to maybe assess or rebalance or check if were hauling In the Mountain kind we’d do this all the time. What we did notice heart stone was super powerful. We said well what if we change the values? We could go back to our last three, four or five playtests and actually check and redo the math. What if heart stone was only worth this instead of that?
Jay Cormier: That helped us out a lot. That’s the core of the book is those things. But it has a bunch of tools as well that will help you as a game designer. Like the back cover flips open and there’s a scoreboard. In case you forgot your scoreboard for your game you could use this. It flips open so you can still take notes while the scoreboard is still flipped open.
Jay Cormier: It has a game idea generator. You roll two dice and choose a random mechanic, random theme, and a random constraint and you can come up with a new game. If you didn’t have a pair of dice you flipped any random page and in the bottom left corner is a random D6 result. Two D6 result.
Patrick Rauland: Is that why there’s 36 pages?
Jay Cormier: Exactly right.
Patrick Rauland: That’s awesome. I have to say that the thing that stands out to me the most is the different questions to ask at different stages of your game. I think we as designers maybe just me but I’m not very good at that. I tend to ask the same questions all the time and it’s really helpful to ask the right questions at the right time obviously.
Patrick Rauland: I’ll get more out of it. My play tester’s will get more out of it. Everyone will be happier. That’s really cool.
Jay Cormier: It’s not saying you have to use the questions on the page that you’re on. You could flip around and just ask all sorts of different questions. Is just a resource.
Jay Cormier: The last thing that’s kind of neat just to plug is that in and this is a fun … and just seemed like I had to do it. It is a gamified process of playtesting. on the front cover flips open and as you demonstrate any of the ten key behaviors that I think will help you become a better playtester and a better designer.
Jay Cormier: I just demonstrated if you shade in a little progress bar and then once you get to like a badge that’s along this progress bar and there’s multiple badges throughout you flip to the cover and the cover has all these different badges on the cover. You can shade that in or if we get to a stretch goal well they’ll turn into stickers. You need to put a sticker on it. I kind of starts to look like I guess like a Boy Scout badge in a way. A sash where you get all these different badges.
Jay Cormier: I think for some people that will be a motivating thing. Other people might not need that to stay motivated. I think that will be a neat thing to help ensure you create the right habits as a game designer.
Patrick Rauland: Love it. I want to talk a little bit more about your games. I guess I wanna … you have a wide, wide what is the word I’m looking for here? You just have a lot of experience. Wide array. Whatever. You have a lot of experience-
Jay Cormier: Breadth-
Are Some Games Easier to Playtest?
Patrick Rauland: Sure. Words are failing me today. Are some of these games easier to design than others? Did your Junk Art game take a lot less playtesting or something like that?
Jay Cormier: It’s funny actually. Junk Art. This is super funny story. Started out as a card game with no blocks. It was called Up in the Air. It was a partner game. We really liked Tichu. We wanted to make a partner card game. So we made one that was all about juggling and we decided to make pictures on each thing. As the numbers got bigger we decided to make them harder and harder things to juggle. So like nine was a chainsaw. Then ten we decided to make cats. Cats are really hard to juggle.
Jay Cormier: Fast forward to GAMA. I’m at GAMA and I’m pitching this and I believe it was to R & R games and I kind of explained the games as it’s a partner game and it’s about juggling and you’re juggling cats. He said, “Oh it sounds like fun. Let’s paly it.” I set up right there. At his booth. It wasn’t busy at the time and we start playing it.
Jay Cormier: Five minutes into the game he’s like, “All right I’ve seen enough. I don’t want it.” R & R is known to be very abrupt but in a good way. I actually appreciate it. I’m like, “Oh why not? What’s the deal?” He’s like, “Oh no big deal. It’s just like it might be a great game, but based on your pitch I thought it was going to be a lot wackier because you’re juggling cats and this is more of a serious game.” I’m like, “Oh interesting.”
Jay Cormier: So I brought that information back to Sen and we’re like trying to assess what do we do with that information? We had some options. We could either take the goofiness out of the game. Then we started brainstorming. Well what if we wanted to keep it goofy what would that mean?
Jay Cormier: Well it’s a game about juggling. We can’t really expect people to juggle. That’s silly because nobody would play it. Because nobody can juggle. We could do something like balancing or something. That might be neat and then literally from that idea we took the same cards but then put different shapes to them and it turned into Junk Art.
Patrick Rauland: That’s really cool. It’s funny how games can shift that much. You’re pitching this to publishers and it’s still changed a lot.
Jay Cormier: Like 100%. Like back to alpha.
What’s One Resource You’d Recommend to New Designers?
Patrick Rauland: So we’re running a little bit low on time. One of my favorite questions is besides your play testing journal what one resource would you recommend to another indie game designer?
Jay Cormier: Like an online resource or like a tool?
Patrick Rauland: It could be a book. It could be a podcast. Yeah it could absolutely be a tool. Whatever helps you.
Jay Cormier: That’s a good question. I mean Meeple Syrup is a handy podcast. It always has interesting guests to talk about the game design process. I’m fortunate that I have a play testing group. I belong to a group called The Game Artisans of Canada. We have chapters all across Canada. So we have our own kind of forum and our own Facebook group that we chat on and can compare notes and all this kind of stuff.
Jay Cormier: We have a process to become a member. You have to start as an apprentice and then move your way up. That whole process is really solid. The fact that we actually get together once a week, the Vancouver chapter to test games is awesome. That’s my favorite resource, but it’s not one that other people can necessarily leverage unless you’re in Canada.
Patrick Rauland: Well I just for the people who aren’t in Canada. There are tons of meet up groups so I encourage you to find those.
Jay Cormier: Yeah.
Patrick Rauland: Someone reached out to me who is someone who lives here in Denver and didn’t know that there is like a monthly meet up. And he’s a game designer.
Jay Cormier: Yeah.
What’s the Best Money You’ve Spent as a Game Designer?
Patrick Rauland: Explore. You’ll find stuff. My second question is sort of related. What is the best money you’ve ever spent as a game designer?
Jay Cormier: It definitely wasn’t on a corner rounder. We thought that we would need that. We bought this whole … This is way back before anything. We’re like we need a corner rounder because all cards have rounded edges. It was a waste of time. We used it like once or something. This is ridiculous. Other than that I would say it’s a color printer. I see some people still playtesting with black and white and their coloring it in with crayon, pencil crayon and stuff like that. I’m like, “Just get a color printer man. You need it.” You just need it if you’re serious about it. Obviously you can do whatever you want. If you’re just kind of dabbling. Not …
What Does Success Look Like?
Patrick Rauland: Okay so you already have several games published. What does success in the board game world look like?
Jay Cormier: To me it would look … True success besides getting published. Obviously that’s step one. It’s trying not to make a career out of this. If there’s a way in which that I can earn an income enough to sustain me and my family that would be the true success. There’s definitely a handful of people in the world that are able to do this. Like the Matt Leacocks and whatnot of the world. They’re able to do that. You need to crack. You need to crack in and a get at least one solid recurring kind of evergreen type game out there.
How Close Are You To Being a Full Time Game Designer?
Patrick Rauland: This is something I actually I guess maybe I want to start adding this to my sort of list of questions that I ask people. I’d love to know how close to that are you? Are you 5% of the way to that goal of being able to sustain yourself? Are you 50% of the way? How close are you to theoretically doing that?
Jay Cormier: I’m one game away.
Patrick Rauland: Really.
Jay Cormier: That one game has to be the evergreen game.
Patrick Rauland: Okay got it.
Jay Cormier: Last year only I had a handful of games come out. A couple I think. This year I have six or seven games come out. So this year will be a good year but last years wasn’t. Then next year who knows. It’s year by year until you get a game that always is being printed and always is being requested by stores. Especially if you can get into mass market.
Patrick Rauland: So is that sort of what you need? Do you just need a game that literally will not stop selling and you just have to keep ordering print runs? Is that the only way to do it?
Jay Cormier: Yep. Because otherwise you’re going to burn out just designing ten games a year. Trying to get ten games published every year. That’s gonna be … I mean that’s fine but not burn out. But it’s like … It’s a lot more work not to say that it’s not a lot of work for Matt Leecock who has to design ten pandemic games a year.
Patrick Rauland: Think of the inside. I think I want to get a better idea of cause I talk to a lot of publishers or designers and I get the impression they’re full time. They’re often part time or not even close-
Jay Cormier: I’m part time yeah.
Overrated Underrated Game
Patrick Rauland: I like to end the show with a game called Overrated Underrated. Have you heard about it?
Jay Cormier: No.
Patrick Rauland: Great so excellent. Basically I’m going to give you a word or phrase and you need to tell me if you think it is overrated or underrated. SO if I said dogs you’re gonna see clearly underrated. They’re the best pet ever. Something like that.
Jay Cormier: Suer sure.
Patrick Rauland: Great. In some work replacement games there’s like the grande meeple. Like the big one that can … and that one can usually always take the action. So in work replacement games some sort of meeple that sort of ignores the rules and can always take the action. Is that overrated, underrated? Is that too-
Jay Cormier: Sure. That’s underrated. I think that’s a great idea. Like it’s … I don’t see it used a ton. I mean obviously Carcassonne has a work replacement has a grande for scoring more. But no I don’t see it a ton. It’s a nice idea.
Patrick Rauland: About the Hobbit movies in general? Overrated underrated?
Jay Cormier: Way overrated.
Patrick Rauland: Okay I agree.
Jay Cormier: If it could have been … If the whole thing could have been a two hour movie then we’re talking.
Patrick Rauland: Yep. Just for comparison. What about the book?
Jay Cormier: Sorry I never read it.
Patrick Rauland: All right. Games with flicking. Overrated or underrated?
Jay Cormier: It’s underrated because I think there’s more design space to be explored with flicking. I think people just flicking there’s more than just flicking in some of these games. I think we’re gonna see some more coming out soon. Not from me though.
Patrick Rauland: Fresh snow. Overrated underrated?
Jay Cormier: Overrated. ‘Cause I live in Vancouver and I hate snow.
Patrick Rauland: It’s Denver and it’s been snowing like the last couple of weeks.
Jay Cormier: Oh no. I can drive a hour and I can get snow on. We obviously have awesome world class skiing up here but I’m not a skier, so I don’t really care for it. That’s why I moved to Vancouver partly is because it’s much like Seattle in the sense that it’s mostly rainy but hardly any snow.
Patrick Rauland: Jay thank you so much for being on the show.
Jay Cormier: I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.
Patrick Rauland: Where can people find you and your projects online.
Jay Cormier: Well you can start by going to failfaster.ca. That’s gonna be for the book and that will have links to the Kickstarter which is FailFaster/Kickstarter. Otherwise I’m @failfasterjay for Twitter and you can check me out on Facebook at Fail Faster Journal.
Patrick Rauland: Yeah I Googled you and I found the Facebook page first. This again his playtesting journal should be up on Kickstarter right now as you’re listening to this. Otherwise you can find it in a bunch of other places. Jay thank you so much. Listeners-
Jay Cormier: Thank you.
Patrick Rauland: If you like this podcast please leave us a review on iTunes or wherever you heard this. If you leave a review Jay said he would make a piece of Junk Art in his front lawn for you which I think is pretty awesome.
Patrick Rauland: I pressed the ending music too soon. Gonna have to hang on for another second.
Patrick Rauland: Last thing I want to say I’m gonna say… I’m looking into some sort of Kickstarter coaching group because I’ve talked to a few people who have had trouble launching a Kickstarter. So just contact me if you’re looking into that. Okay now the real outro. If you can visit the site IndieBoardGameDesigners.com you can follow me on Twitter. I’m @BFTrick. That is everything I’ve got so until next time everyone happy designing.
Patrick Rauland: Bye bye.