Joe Hopkins

#67 – Joe Hopkins

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 we talk about their experience in game designing and the lessons they've learned along the way. My name is Patrick Rauland, and today I'll be talking with Joe Hopkins who designed Endangered, which as we're speaking is on Kickstarter, this episode will come out right after the Kickstarter ends, there will be some late pledging. But you can check it out on Kickstarter and find the late pledging link. Joe, welcome to the show.

Joe Hopkins: Thanks for having me.


Patrick Rauland: So, I've already done a little bit of research on you, but the audience hasn't. So I like to start with a very simple little lightning round in the beginning, does that work?

Joe Hopkins: Yeah, no that sounds great.

Patrick Rauland: So what is a game you play with someone every single time at a convention?

Joe Hopkins: Memoir '44, the Overlord version. You got to have four boards and eight people, so there's no way you can do it just at your house, but it's a spectacular game.

Patrick Rauland: Well, I have no idea what that game is, what is it?

Joe Hopkins: Oh, it's by Days of Wonder, you've got to check it out. It's a modular World War II player versus player game, so it's one versus one. But, they do a really good job at making a war game that is very approachable.

Patrick Rauland: Ah very cool, yeah I'm looking at some of the … And there's nice little miniatures or plastic little miniature things.

Joe Hopkins: Yes, yes.

Patrick Rauland: Cool, looks very cool. What is your favorite endangered animal, which sounds like a really bad question.

Joe Hopkins: My favorite endangered animal is a Gorilla, anytime I go to the zoo I like spending a lot of time watching them.

Patrick Rauland: No, they're great, and they can speak sign language which is pretty cool, and if you could visit any place on the planet where would you want to go?

Joe Hopkins: I would go back to Australia to see the Great Barrier Reef again.

Patrick Rauland: Oh, that sounds great, for diving or?

Joe Hopkins: Yeah, well I mean snorkeling, yeah.

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

Patrick Rauland: Snorkeling, very cool. Awesome, so first real question is how did you get into board games and board game design.

Joe Hopkins: Sure, so ten years ago I bought a copy of Agricola with some friends, and it was $70, so I didn't pay for it all, we all co-owned a copy of Agricola, it was a very expensive game. And I said, “Oh well, I could make a game for cheaper than this.” And so I started making games, and it kind of went from there and exploded from there, and I've certainly spent more than $70 since on game design, but yeah I've been designing for ten years and for most of that time I was designing competitive games. After seven years of not getting anything published, I finally said, “You know what? I'm going to try a co-operative game.” And my first cooperative game Endangered got signed with a publisher, and it's on Kickstarter, and I should have done a cooperative game sooner.

Patrick Rauland: I-

Joe Hopkins: So-

Patrick Rauland: Oh, go ahead.

Joe Hopkins: I guess the moral is, if the direction you're going isn't working try something else, try something new.

Patrick Rauland: I was just thinking it's funny, in our culture we very much have the push through the pain and eventually you'll get there, right? It's very rarely that there's a fairytale or a fable where someone's like, “This sucks.” They change course and it works.

Joe Hopkins: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: But it's nice that it worked out for you.

Joe Hopkins: It is.

Where Did The Concept Come From?

Patrick Rauland: So, I want to talk to you about your game Endangered. Number one, it's a very cool theme, the goal is you're trying to protect animal species, and it sounds like for every single game it's a specific animal species. And I like that you're kind of taking different roles, there's the TV celebrity, and sorry I'm forgetting the roles, but there's a bunch of them-

Joe Hopkins: Philanthropist, there's a wildlife host, and then there's the zoologist, yeah all kinds of different roles, and each player plays as a different character with different abilities, and you try to save different species. The core game is tigers and sea otters, we have stretch goals for other animal species and then we have expansions already lined up for a bunch of other scenarios.

Patrick Rauland: Oh, fantastic. Yeah, and sorry let me double check, but this morning oh my gosh, you were like $800 away from funding, you still have 11 days to go, so it's definitely going to happen, that's really cool to see that. So I was going to ask, did you intentionally design the game around saving species, or did you sort of realize that later and add the theme to it?

Joe Hopkins: No that's a really good question, so when I decided, “You know what? I'm going to make a cooperative game.” I said, “I don't want something that you're building an ancient city in the past, or you're exploring the solar system in spaceships in the future.” I wanted something that people could relate to, that the players could see themselves in, and so I was looking for a real-world cooperative situation, and environmentalism is a passion of mine. So it was really great that I was able to connect my game design passion with environmentalism, so I kind of started with a theme but then I also said, “Okay, well what's a mechanic that I really love? I really enjoy worker placement, so I'm going to do a cooperative worker placement.” And just mashed the theme and the mechanics together, smushed them together until they worked.

Joe Hopkins: But, since I've been developing the game for three years, and so the theme and the mechanics have interwoven to the point where they're very commingled, at this point, there's no way you could re-theme this game.

What Did Publishers Make of the Theme?

Patrick Rauland: Mm-hmm (affirmative) that's really cool, I'm curious if you did pitch this to multiple publishers, did any of them give you negative feedback on the theme, because it's not the traditional theme. Did they like that, or did they dislike that?

Joe Hopkins: Well, actually yeah Grand Gamers Guild was the first publisher I pitched this to, but you're right it is kind of a controversial theme, it's happening right now and I've heard some people look at it and say, “No, I don't want that because it sounds too preachy, like you're trying to push your agenda.” And it's a fine line to walk because, for me, the gameplay has to come first. Yes it has a good theme, yes it has a good message, but I want the players to have fun, I want the mechanics to be intuitive, that's my primary goal. And then yeah, if it's educational that's just a bonus that comes along with it, but I can certainly see how some people would be turned off by the theme just because of the political atmosphere we're in now.

Patrick Rauland: So, Joe maybe I'm in like my liberal city, liberal metro bubble, but I mean people say saving endangered animals is political, sorry let me rephrase this, do you think there would be people who wouldn't play the game because it's about saving animals and they don't like that concept?

Joe Hopkins: It's more about the fact that during the game, some animals are going to die unfortunately if you lose the game … you're trying to save the species from extinction, so if you lose that means that there's no more tigers, and so for some players, they can't handle that, unfortunately. I've had one person play it and they were like, “You made a good game, but I got too emotionally attached to these cardboard tigers on the board.” It's not like when you play a different cooperative game and, “Oh you lost and so there's no more humans.” Everyone's like, “Eh, that's fine.” But people get really attached to these animals.

Patrick Rauland: That's really interesting because we definitely have that right? Like especially in older movies like if the prop master didn't load the prop weapons right, you could actually … who's the guy in the original Crow movie who died? Like the original-

Joe Hopkins: I don't know.

Patrick Rauland: The actor died because the prop master didn't lock away the gun right, anyways stuff like that happens, and we're like, “Oh that sucks.” An animal dies in the movie, and there's like outrage, right? So I wonder what that's like in the game design world because Pandemic is about saving the world from disease and presumably if you lose, the world dies.

Joe Hopkins: There's no more people, yeah.

Patrick Rauland: Or hundreds or thousands or billions of people die, and if a couple hundred tigers die people are like, that's too emotionally hard for them to process, do you think that makes more interesting, tighter games and maybe where people feel more when they win or when they lose?

Joe Hopkins: Yeah I mean, it's hard to find a game that elicits strong emotions whether they're good or bad, but those are the games that we remember, those are the games that we get involved in and we're like, “Aw man, I remember that it was so exciting, do you remember when that happened and this happened?” And one of the best moments in Endangered is you roll your die and if you roll well, you get an offspring, you get a baby tiger and everyone's like, “Yes!” so it's a great motive.

How Do You Design a Game at the Micro & Macro Level?

Patrick Rauland: That's really cool, so there was one thing though I obviously haven't played the game, but there was one thing, I was looking at the Kickstarter video and the page, and the graphics on BGG and one of the things that I thought was maybe hard to design is there's pieces that are sort of in the natural environments, like you can see tigers and they're in the environments and there's tiles and you can move them around and try to protect them from hazards. But then there's also this global political landscape and you're trying to get political leaders to buy in and to either give them the votes or money or something. And I just wondered like you're almost playing at like the micro level, and then you're almost playing at the macro level, is that a hard thing to design?

Joe Hopkins: Yeah, that was partly intentional but yeah it was a little difficult to design, so in order to win Endangered you have to convince the UN to pass a resolution to save the species, and so that's your win condition, there's a couple of loss conditions including if you run out of animals, if there's no animals left if there's not enough habitat or you run out of time. In my opinion a good cooperative game has a win condition and one or two or three loss conditions that are independent, so what you don't want is, if you get to 20 points you win the game but during the game there's things that take away points and so if you get down to zero points you lose the game, because the problem with that is you might be really close to that 20 and so you're like, “Oh well we obviously are going to win this.” Or you've lost so many points you're down and you're like, “There's no way we can … We're going to lose.” So what you want is a game state where you are close to winning and close to losing at the same time.

Joe Hopkins: And so in order to do that, you need a win and loss condition that are completely independent of each other and so in my game, to win you are placing influence on the different UN ambassadors, and yes that's a global thing, it's one of the actions you can do with your workers as you're doing your dice placement. But you also have to balance, “Okay, well I also need to go and I need to be managing the population and removing deforestation, and dealing with that.” And so that's much more micromanaging, and those are all actions you can do as well. And so you have to find that balance of, “Well, if I spend too much time managing the animal population I'm not going to get the votes and I'm going to run out of time. If I spend too much time lobbying the UN to win, then my whole forest goes to crap and they all are going to pass away.” So it makes for a very tight game, and it makes for a lot of interesting decisions.

Joe Hopkins: And you will find sometimes people have to say, “Okay, let's let this tiger die, just this one so that we can get Canada's vote, we need them to vote yes.” And we're partnered with the Center for Biological Diversity, we have a partnership with them and they've played the game, and they've talked about us with the fact that the game really highlights the kind of decisions that they themselves have to make because you can't just focus on working in the filed, you have to get things changed in society, in the political atmosphere. So yeah, we're partner with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of our pledge levels you get a copy of the game and also we send a copy to the center and they're going to donate that to an educational group or a school, and we don't make any money on those second copies, those are a donation from us as well, so your pledge just covers the cost of producing those. We also raised about, right now we're at about $800 for the center just based on the thumbs up that we got from Board Game Geek.

Patrick Rauland: Based on the thumbs up from Board Game Geek?

Joe Hopkins: Yeah so for every thumbs up we get for the art on Board Game Geek, Grand Gamers Guild is going to donate a dollar to the Center of Biological Diversity.

Patrick Rauland: It's pretty cool to go from the board game world is saturated to … I mean I guess how about this, five, ten years ago it's like all dungeon crawls and stuff like that, and to go to like, “Let's have games about protecting the environment, and we're also going to partner with organizations that actually do this.”

Joe Hopkins: Yeah, no, absolutely. Yeah, we were really excited about that.

How Did You Design Two Different Scenarios With Two Different Species?

Patrick Rauland: So I see the game comes with two species, the Tigers and sea otters, and basically it's a double-sided board and one side's for the Tigers and one sides for the sea otters. I guess my question is, did you design two different games or are they very similar with just a slightly different board?

Joe Hopkins: A little bit of both, but pretty much it's two different games. So each species has their own way that they handle the mating events, so like getting more offspring. Each species, the destruction tiles come out differently, so on the tiger scenario, those destruction tiles are deforestation, on the sea otter side it's an oil spill and the oil spill is affecting the animals. They each have their own impact deck, which represents the different threats that those species face, things like that. So the game is very modular so each player plays as a conservationist with their own deck, with their own abilities, there's some shared but there's also some unique abilities that the players have. And so the action that the players are using are going to be the same from game to game, but the way that they affect the environment is going to be different. And then the UN ambassadors, in order to win the game, there are 12 of them but you only use six, and you don't know which six they're going to be so the game will play very differently. I tried to make sure that the game was very replayable.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, I really like that, and I think I like games where you can switch out like the villain or the objective, but it's sort of a similar gameplay, like I always liked the Legendary game because you can always just switch to a different villain and then also different heroes, but that just makes such a different game and I like that you basically have that built-in, you can do this a million times of sadly all of the animals that are on the endangered species list.

Joe Hopkins: Yeah, we have nine scenarios already designed to some level, so obviously tigers and sea otters are done, pandas is a stretch goal, sea otters is going to be our long reach stretch goals, but if we don't have that one, that'll be an expansion-

Patrick Rauland: I thought they were in the base game, the sea otters?

Joe Hopkins: Sea turtles, sorry, sea turtles.

Patrick Rauland: Oh, sea turtles, got it. Okay, so I visited the Galapagos and I got to see lonely George who's of the many giant turtle species, he's the last one. And that's super sad to see that stuff, so it's cool you're covering those.

Joe Hopkins: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Did You Start with a Specific Scenario / Animal in Mind?

Patrick Rauland: Okay so a strategy question, did you design this game with an animal in mind, and then you later added specifically tigers and sea otters or did you design this as like, “We're saving some magical or some yet to be determined species.”

Joe Hopkins: When I first designed the game it was based on black rhinos, but I knew I wanted to do many different species, and so I tried to make sure that it was modular, so I did a fair bit of research on the different threats that that species faced and put the game together, we played it and it worked and so I immediately went and said, “Okay, now I'm going to do a new species.” I didn't keep working on that one because like I said, I wanted it to be modular, so that scenario will probably be an expansion at some point.

Patrick Rauland: Very cool, so I have to say one of the things I like is when people give … It's almost like you included a mini-expansion in the box by having the sea otters, and I like that you did that because then you know you can add infinite expansions, does that make sense? As opposed to if you just designed with tigers you might have made some decisions that kind of only make sense for tigers, but you include at least two species in the box, then you can sort of expand it infinitely because you know it works with multiple species. So I think if you're ever designing a game like that, I think it makes a lot of sense to design for at least two villains, two species, two heroes, whatever and then you know you can expand it as opposed to designing for one and then realizing there's some clunky stuff down the line.

Joe Hopkins: Yeah, for me replayability of a game is extremely important especially since I'm designing it, when you're designing a game you're going to play it over, and over, and over. I've been collecting statistics on the win rate of the game, I've played it 138 times, and so it has to be a game you're going to enjoy and replayability is an important aspect of that. I will say that having multiple scenarios is a double-edged sword in today's environment because if I had designed it with just one animal, people would be like, “Oh that's cool, I want to back that, that sounds good.” Having two in there, a lot of people have said, “Oh well, there's two, why can't I have that third one as a stretch goal, why can't …” because they see that as a stretch goal and we might not reach that, and then they're like, “Okay well why isn't that …” and so they get like, “Oh, I want four scenarios, I want five scenarios.” And so even though I have those, just the fact that people see that, I've been told that there are some people that did not back the game because they felt there was not enough content in the game.

Joe Hopkins: Even though like I said, I tried very hard to make sure the game is extremely replayable as is.

Patrick Rauland: That is interesting right, if you basically make it a scenario game and it comes with two scenarios, that sounds like a low number, does that make sense?

Joe Hopkins: It does, yeah, yeah

Patrick Rauland: As opposed to-

Joe Hopkins: but if I put one-

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, I think you're totally right, if it's like, “This is a game about saving tigers.” And there's a free stretch goal of otters included, that's kind of different than this is a game with two scenarios, and there could be more unlocked. It is funny how you work and phrase that does matter a lot.

Joe Hopkins: Yeah.

What is the Audience for a Game Like This?

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, so I just want to ask you about the audience, I don't know if this is entirely in the publishers hands, or if it was in your hands, but did you market at all the environmentalists, or do you pretty much just say, “This is going to be for board gamers and maybe five percent of the audience will be environmentalists.”

Joe Hopkins: We have been marketing to a lot of environmentalists, but the core group that I was trying to market to, or at least design to was gamers. Like I said, I love the theme, I love that there is a message, but for me the gameplay has to be fun, if the game is not fun then players are not going to be invested, they're not going to be emotionally invested in saving these animals and people are only going to play it one time and move on. So, it's a medium weight cooperative game, those are the kind of games that I enjoy, and so that was the focus. But yes, we have been marketing to a lot of environmentalists, and I know quite a few people that are not gamers that have backed the game and the game is actually very intuitive, it's pretty easy to pick up. I had a reviewer that they said that they read the rule book, it took 25 minutes and they were ready to play, they didn't have any questions, they were good to go because since it is set in a real world scenario and you're doing real-world things like collecting money and removing deforestation it wasn't like, “Wait, why are we doing this thing?”

Patrick Rauland: Right, so it felt pretty intuitive?

Joe Hopkins: Yeah, absolutely. They said, “The theme drove the mechanics.”

What One Resource Would You Recommend to a Game Designer?

Patrick Rauland: That's so good to hear that right? Very cool, so pivoting off the specific game a little bit, I'd love to know in the board game world there's five thousand million podcasts, blogs, books, and youtube videos, what one resource would you recommend to another indie game designer?

Joe Hopkins: So the main resource that I would say if you're a new designer is other designers in your area, I started designing, and I knew the games that I liked, and the games that I'd played, I was really lucky to meet some other game designers that happened to work in the same building as me, and they invited me to their monthly game design night and without that there's no way I would be where I'm at now. Game designers have really good feedback for other game designers, I mean players and playtesters are very valuable as well, publishers are extremely valuable they're just harder to get a hold of. But yeah, so when I moved back to Michigan, I was like, “Okay, I need to find the local game designers.” And there wasn't a group, and so I started one, every game designer I met I was like, “Where you from? Give me your email.” And I set this thing up, I started at my house and now we have a monthly thing where we meet at a place and that's been really valuable.

Patrick Rauland: I love that you did that, I love that you're like, “Here's a problem, no one's solved this problem, I guess I'm going to do it.” I love when people do that, it's such a nice thing as opposed to, I've met people in Denver, I live in a giant city and I've met people who were like, “Oh, I wish I knew other game designers existed.” I'm like, “There's Facebook groups, there's, there's specific board game stores that promote it, and even if you hate all those at least start your own one that's out there.”

Joe Hopkins: Yeah, no I happened to know some game designers in Denver, the Denver playtesting group,

What's the Best Money You've Spent?

Patrick Rauland: Oh, very cool. Okay so then, I'm a little bit frugal, so I have a hard time spending money on some things, but what is the best money you've spent to move your game design forward?

Joe Hopkins: Absolutely, it was card sleeves. So the way that I make a card is I will print it on normal paper, just normal paper, cut it out and then I put it in a card sleeve with some random card from a game that I'm not playing anymore, or extra cards that I have just to make it a little stiffer, make it a little bit easier to shuffle. And that's how I make all of my cards because a lot of people will make like really nice prototypes, they'll go on The Game Crafter, or AdMagic, or these different prototyping places, which is awesome you can make a prototype that looks really nice, but as soon as you change it, as soon as you need to change it, it looks terrible because you have to write on it, or you have to scribble something off. And for me, I just reprint it, I just need to print a new piece of paper, and so the card sleeves that I bought, I did buy some nice Ultra Pro sleeves. So they're about three cents a piece, I just bought large packages of those and I can reuse them, I've started going back through.

Joe Hopkins: I'm like, “Oh no, I need some blue sleeves.” Go dig through some games that I am not working on and find some blue sleeves.

Patrick Rauland: No, that's great, I totally recommend that. Boy, I have to say, so I made a game called Fry Thief, I put it on Kickstarter a couple months ago, and when I got closer towards the end, and I was making Game Crafter prototypes it did get harder for me to make changes faster. Like when I was first making the game they're on index cards, and it was so easy, I ripped it up, threw it in the garbage, got a new index card, added a new title, new description, new icons whatever just all by hand. And whenever anyone has changes, I just crossed out words, I added words, I got a new card, threw it in, and I don't know why but there is a little bit of … like when it's my prototype, I don't want to rip up my Game Crafter card, that cost me money. There is a mental thing, so I love that you just yeah, card sleeves, some old cards just to put in the back, and you just keep printing out new stuff all the time.

Joe Hopkins: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

What Does Success Look Like?

Patrick Rauland: That's really good, pretty cool. So I'd like to know, I mean, this is your first published game, what does success in the board game world look like to you?

Joe Hopkins: It keeps changing for me, I mentioned when I first started my goal was design a game that's fun to play so I can play it with my friends, and when I did that, they said, “Oh, you should get this published.” And so my goal changed to, “Okay now I want to get a game published.” And now that I have endangered, and we're on Kickstarter, I've got my game published now, next step is, okay well, I want to be able to have people recognize, “Okay that's a game by Joe, I've played a game of his before.” And so actually for Endangered, we reached out to a couple of designers to get their feedback, or like a, “What did you think of their game?” So it would be awesome if down the road a publisher reached out to me and said, “Hey what do you think of this game? So we can put your review on this Kickstarter.” Or whatever.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah that'd be really cool. So do you want to keep making co-op games, or do you want to go back to competitive games or some other type?

Joe Hopkins: I don't know, I really enjoyed this co-op one, I do have a second game under contract with different publisher right now, it's called Pew Pew, it's going to be from Academy Games and it's got several different modes, one is cooperative but for the most part it is a competitive game. But I definitely have learned that designing a cooperative game is easier than I originally expected. I thought that designing a cooperative game is going to take a lot of balance and it's going to take a lot of math and testing, and that's true because you can't rely on the other players for that balance. Like in a competitive game if one person starts getting a lead, well the other players aren't going to just let them win, but in a cooperative game like you, the designer of the game has to provide that balance. But it turns out with a cooperative game, your development time is lower than you would expect because you can self-test, you can play that cooperative game by yourself over and over and over, and it's much harder to do that with a competitive game. Yeah, you can multiples handed, but if it's competitive, different people are going to have different strategies to try to mess each other up.

Patrick Rauland: Totally, actually that's a good question, let me just dig into that for a second, so you said you recorded a hundred something games, what percent of them was just you?

Joe Hopkins: That's a good question, so just me, somewhere around 30 to 40, another 10 to 15 are me playing with other players, the others I really did want to be able to say, “Okay here's the win rate of the game without my influence.” So I had to do one of the very difficult tasks as a designer, and let the players play and not provide feedback, and not say, “Oh don't do that.” So I was aiming for a 40 to 50% win rate, right now it's somewhere around 42%.

Patrick Rauland: I was literally going to ask you that, I love that you know the win rate.

Joe Hopkins: And that's excluding my games, my games I'm at like a 70%, I'm not bragging I know how the game is played.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's great, and you know what's interesting is, I think I'm in the crowd that wants co-op games to win slightly more than 50%, but on BTG, I've seen so many threads where people are like, “I only want to win 25% of the time.” Like I'd be too depressed, but some people love that.

Joe Hopkins: Yeah, and the important thing is you have to have different modes, so that's on normal mode, I have easy, I have difficult if you really want that 25% win rate. So yeah, so you have to have different modes which is the important thing, but one thing I've had to add to my statistics is, I mentioned that I do a lot of testing myself but since my win rate is so high, I've learned like, “Okay here's how you do well at my game.” I had to start recording how many mistakes playtesters made. Like if they did an action that I'm like, “No, that was dumb, you should have done this.” That way when I'm self-testing, I can say, “Okay, I have to make seven mistakes this game on purpose because that's what players will do.” So, it's been interesting.

Patrick Rauland: Joe that is amazing, there are very few activities where you can record mistakes, I'm thinking of baseball, you know what I mean? And you know there's one to three errors a game or whatever the average is, and it's nice to know literally it's not just you weren't fast enough but literally, a player drops the ball after they've already caught it. I've never thought of recording mistakes, I have noticed once or twice when a player has done something unusual and I'll ask them a question about it, but I've never written down, “In this game, player one made three mistakes and player two made two mistakes.” That's a really interesting thing to know.

Joe Hopkins: Yeah.

Overrated Underrated Game

Patrick Rauland: Very cool, all right so this has been phenomenal information, thank you. I like to end with a silly game called Overrated/Underrated, have you heard about it?

Joe Hopkins: No, go ahead.

Patrick Rauland: Great, so if I said, I'm going to give a word or phrase and I'm going to say like, Hershey's Kisses let's say, and I ask you if they're overrated or underrated, you would obviously say “It's chocolate Patrick, it is underrated, it's the best thing on the planet.” Got it?

Joe Hopkins: Okay, okay.

Patrick Rauland: All right so, here's a specific one, game tournaments of hobby games, so that'd be like a tournament for Pandemic, I'm not talking about poker, or euchre, or hearts, or traditional card games. So game tournaments for hobby games, overrated or underrated?

Joe Hopkins: Underrated.

Patrick Rauland: Oh, why's that?

Joe Hopkins: I mean, one of the things that some games have that are really large is tournaments, the big one that comes to mind is Magic The Gathering, or other trading card games where you have a large group of players and it's a one on one game, it's a two player game except that the community comes together in these huge tournaments and it makes the game much more exciting. And yes, a game like Dominion, you can play two to four players, or five or six if you have the expansion or whatever, but you set it down, you play the game, and then you move on, that's not as exciting as we have this whole tournament where one person wins and we're all together and we're all playing these, yeah.

Patrick Rauland: Very cool, no I like that, I like it. And okay, so this one let me just add a little bit of context before I ask you, there is a wolf sanctuary in Colorado, which is very cool to go to, if you're ever in Colorado driving around the countryside, go to the wold sanctuary it's very cool. So, wolves are an endangered animal, underrated or overrated?

Joe Hopkins: The sanctuary or wolves themselves?

Patrick Rauland: I'm just going to go with wolves in general, because then there's the possibility of saying overrated.

Joe Hopkins: Okay, I would say underrated. Just a little bit underrated, so I mean obviously environmentalism and endangered species is a passion of mine, and gray wolves in a scenario that I'm hoping to create at some point, I haven't started on any of that. But it is one of the things that the Center of Biological Diversity works on, but yeah I used to do a lot of deer hunting and the deer population definitely gets out of control without wolves and that actually is damaging to the economy. My father was dairy farmer, and so definitely managing deer populations is important and wolves are one of the ways you do that.

Patrick Rauland: So, just in case since you're into environmentalism, there is an amazing video about how wolves change rivers, and it's about when they released wolves into Yellowstone, it is the coolest, like you would not imagine that wolves can affect a river, but because of the way they hunt things, the way those things run away from them, it literally changes the depth and width of a river. So it's super cool to anyways, think about that stuff, so more resources for you dear listeners.

So, I went to a con recently, and they were demoing a two-hour game but they only showed you like 30 minutes, so partial demos of long games, are those overrated or underrated?

Joe Hopkins: Overrated, oh my lord.

Patrick Rauland: Oh?

Joe Hopkins: Very overrated, I can't stand partial demos, when I'm looking at a game that I want to buy, I'm very much in the try before you buy camp, I realize that makes me a hypocrite because I put my game on Kickstarter and I'm saying, “Hey, you've never played this game but you should back it, you should pledge money for this game that you'll get a year from now.” But definitely for any game, I would prefer to play a game before I actually purchase it, I have bought games in the past that I bought unplayed and ended up just not liking the game. And there have been a few gems that I hadn't played and then I bought it and it turned out to be an amazing game, but I feel like those are much more rare.

Patrick Rauland: So you want the full demo?

Joe Hopkins: I do, and I haven't been to Essen but I've heard if you go to Essen they don't do partial demos there very often, it's you get the whole experience. And the other thing is, when I go to a convention, that's when I get to play those long games, I play a lot of games on my lunch hour, I play a lot of games with my friends and family who are not hardcore gamers, and so you can't fit a three hour game in a lunch hour, you can't tell someone, “Hey let's play this really long, arduous game.” With friends and family that are not games, so when I go to a convention, I tell people, I'm like, “I'm here to play long, arduous games.” And they're like, “Okay, okay.”

Patrick Rauland: Very cool. And last one is Blue Planet, overrated, underrated?

Joe Hopkins: I would say underrated, it's actually really good. When we did the Endangered video they said, “Read the script as though David Attenborough is reading it.” So I had that voice in my mind while I was reading the script.

Patrick Rauland: Very cool, well hey, Joe, thank you for being on the show.

Joe Hopkins: Yeah, thank you for having me.

Wrap Up

Patrick Rauland: Where can people find you and your game online?

Joe Hopkins: Sure, so you can find me on Twitter @AvgJoeGames, that's A-V-G JoeGames, you can also reach me at, on Board Game Geek I'm Joemagicman, and my game is Endangered. So it's published by Grand Gamers Guild, the art is by Beth Sobel and Ben Flores, and I'd love to talk to you about the game or talk about game design or whatever.

Patrick Rauland: Awesome, listeners if you like this podcast please leave us a review on iTunes, or where ever this audio is streaming into your earholes, if you do, Joe said he would give an animal a high five in your name, so that's pretty great.

Joe Hopkins: Absolutely.

Patrick Rauland: And then just lastly, I just want to say, my game Samhain on The Game Crafter is still in the finalists round, so hopefully in another couple weeks I'll have some news, and I've won a billion dollars because that's how game contests work. You can visit the site at, you can follow me on Twitter, I am @BFTrick, B as in board game, F as in fun, Trick as in trick-taking games, and till next time everyone, happy designing, bye bye.

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