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#60 – Jonathan Woodard

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 design and how they got to where they are today. My name is Patrick Rauland and today I’ll be talking with Jonathan who designed Potemkin Empire, which is on Kickstarter as this episode airs. He is also a local designer here to Denver, which I think makes him the third Denver area designer, and I have a few more in the Denver area that I’m looking to bring on the show in just a little bit. But Jonathan, welcome to the show.

Jonathan Woodard: Thanks for having me.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2012515236/potemkin-empire

Patrick Rauland: First, also Jonathan you get extra kudos. We just dealt with like 30 minutes of technical issues, so in addition to being a game designer, you also can handle crazy technical weird issues.

Jonathan Woodard: They were my issues, so all good.

Introduction

Patrick Rauland: Okay, so I like to start with a little game in the beginning, basically three lightning quick questions.

Jonathan Woodard: [inaudible 00:01:05]

Patrick Rauland: What is your favorite pro sports team in Denver?

Jonathan Woodard: Well, I grew up in southeast lower Michigan, which is Redwings country, so mostly I just hate the Avalanche, but I’ve enjoyed all the Rockies games I’ve gone to, so I guess the Rockies?

Patrick Rauland: Nice. Have you sat in the purple seats?

Jonathan Woodard: Is that the rock pile?

Patrick Rauland: No, no, no. The purple seats, they’re pretty high up but it’s exactly a mile above sea level.

Jonathan Woodard: Oh, that’s cute. No, I haven’t.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, it’s cute, exactly. Yeah, yeah. Cool, so what game on the market has stunning table presence?

Jonathan Woodard: There’s a lot and honestly, table presence is something that I think about a lot in terms of game design, but the first thing that came to mind is it’s called Tower of Madness by Smirk & Dagger, and it’s basically a kerplunk tower except it’s set in the Cthulhu universe, which is also a theme I’m sort of over but on the table it looks amazing because it’s this tower and the sticks that you pull out are tentacles on the end. So when you pull out a tentacle, then the marbles fall through, and if you pull out a madness marble, then you have to add it to your tableau, and it’s crazy. But the tower looks like a clock tower with a bunch of tentacles sticking out of it.

Patrick Rauland: I have not yet seen this game but I’ve heard really good things about it, so I’ll have to check it out.

Jonathan Woodard: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: And then I know you’re doing a bunch of traveling around the world. Where are you right now?

Jonathan Woodard: Right now, I’m in Amsterdam until the end of the month and then I’ll be heading to Edinburgh.

Patrick Rauland: Very cool. Both of us are in tech, and a lot of people who work in tech have very flexible work from home jobs, and it’s so amazing because you can take these two or three month, or year long, trips and just keep doing your job.

Jonathan Woodard: Right. Right, it’s pretty nice. I feel pretty fortunate to be able to do it. And my wife is self employed also so we’re able to live wherever and we just sort of shift the schedule. It’s almost 9:00 right now, but it’s midday for you. So we have a lot of meetings and stuff are all scheduled late in the evening.

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

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, yeah, that’s really cool. Okay, so first real question is how did you get into board games and board game design?

Jonathan Woodard: I think my answer to this is really similar to a lot of people in our age demographic. I played a lot of the Ameritrash games in the ’90s. I was really big into those. Omega Virus and Forbidden Bridge and It from the Pit and Flying Thunder. Hero Quest was a real pivotal one for me. And from game design, one of the early things I did is I made my own quests for Hero Quest and tried to get my mom and my friends to play them. [inaudible 00:03:53] printed off the blank map and tried to fill it in with all kinds of monsters and stuff. And then I feel like I’m at that age of life where I know some people also [inaudible 00:04:06] and we’re emptying out our parents house as they’re downsizing or moving to another place, and I found a bunch of games that I had designed even earlier, as early as elementary school. So it just seems like a thing that I do and I’ve just been lucky enough to find inspiration for it along the way.

Patrick Rauland: That’s really cool and also, the games you just listed, the only one I’m actually familiar with is Hero Quest. So I’ve actually missed those other ones that you talked about, which is kind of cool.

Jonathan Woodard: Yeah, I think everyone’s goading Restoration Games into trying take on Omega Virus, which I think they’ll do an awesome job with if they do, so I’m really psyched for that.

Patrick Rauland: Oh cool. So it sounds like you’ve been doing this forever, but when did you really get into game design? Maybe, when did you really commit yourself?

Jonathan Woodard: Let’s see, so I had a friend who introduced me to the modern hobby world with Arkham Horror and Wealth of Nations, and between those two things, [inaudible 00:05:15] both, sort of set the tone for how I think about game design. But after that, I sat down and started writing up rule sets and coming up with things and I never really made the leap to playtesting things until I moved to Boulder in 2010 and someone said, “Hey, if you’re gonna do this, you should just do it.” And I chose a design and I started pushing on it, and I made a board and I got it printed out, and I bought all the components from some site in Germany that I had to use Google Translate to even get through the ordering process, and I had like a hundred dollars worth of wooden bits get lost in the mail.

Patrick Rauland: Ah, [crosstalk 00:05:56]

Jonathan Woodard: Somewhere between Germany and the States, and then I reordered them all. And so I just chose a design and worked with it. I had been wanting to do it forever and yeah, someone said, “Why don’t you just do this?” And so I was like, “You know, I should just do it.”

Patrick Rauland: Very cool. So how long ago was that, because you’re getting your first published games are about to release. I know they were signed a while ago. But how long ago was that when you started? A year, three years?

Jonathan Woodard: That was 2010 was when I first sat down and got serious about a design.

Patrick Rauland: So that’s a long time, right?

Jonathan Woodard: Yes.

Patrick Rauland: Almost nine years until you get something-

Jonathan Woodard: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: Cool, very cool. I think a lot of people, or maybe when you listen to these podcasts, or at least when I do, I don’t wanna put words in your mouth, but when I listen to these podcasts it seems like some people just make a game and it just happens, and it’s usually many years of hard work to look like an overnight success.

Jonathan Woodard: Yeah, yeah. That’s for sure. And I was fortunate and unfortunate with that first design because it was something that was, and I’ll talk to you about it in a minute, but it was something that was big enough that it got some attention at events like Protospiel and the conventions that I took it to. It got some attention and earned me a little bit of not name recognition but a little bit of notoriety.

Jonathan Woodard: People recognized me and they said, “Oh hey, you’re the guy with that game,” whatever, and so that was a good in and it helped me with a lot of the networking early on. But then it also was such an ambitious design that it got really hard to test and I felt like I was burning out my playtesters because it was a two or three hour game, it was complicated with lots of interacting systems, and so it made it a real struggle to get it to a point that was really complete and that publishers really were willing to pick it up. And it still isn’t signed so it was a good choice because it was ambitious but it was a bad choice because it was potentially too ambitious for a first timer.

Tell Us About Your Design Diaries

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, yeah. So I actually wanna talk to you about your process, and one of the things that’s actually pretty rare is when I google someone and I actually find their design diaries. Like I-

Jonathan Woodard: [crosstalk 00:08:16]

Patrick Rauland: I wanna say only like two or three people before you have actually had any sort of a blog post dedicated to [crosstalk 00:08:24]

Jonathan Woodard: Oh, interesting.

Patrick Rauland: So Potemkin Empire, it’s only four posts but those four posts share a lot about the game and the process and all the things that you did along the way. And just for the listeners, I will include a link in the show notes. But I guess number one I wanna ask you, did the design diary help you? And number two, was there any big problems that you had to solve and you solved by writing about them, if that makes sense?

Jonathan Woodard: That’s good. So I write a lot. I use a site called 750 Words, and so I sit down and write 750 words every morning and I’ve been doing it for a long time now. And so I do find that the daily writing habit is really good at clarifying things in my head, especially when I would …

Jonathan Woodard: I go to bed pretty early. When I do nights where I playtest, I end up being up much later than I normally would. And so then when I can get up in the morning and I can take all the notes that I took and I can either transcribe the notes out of my notebook and use that as my daily words or I can think through the interactions that I saw or the things I wanna change, or what bits of the experience I wanted to craft. And so I found that the writing habit was really beneficial in terms of getting my thoughts together about the game and about making changes after having experienced it with players.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, first of all I totally agree with writing. I do a lot of writing for my job and it’s always helpful. Once you write it, that helps. I think Tim Ferriss calls it “crystallizing your thoughts”.

Jonathan Woodard: Oh, sure.

Patrick Rauland: So in your first entry, you mentioned that you don’t … So I guess here’s one of the things I wanted to go towards.

Jonathan Woodard: Yeah.

Designing Out of Your Comfort Zone

Patrick Rauland: In your first entry, you mentioned that you don’t normally design games with a deception. And I thought that was really cool, you basically said you’re purposefully challenging yourself like, “Hey, I don’t normally do games with a deception so I really wanted to make this type of game.” Did that help you, or was it just painful to make a game [crosstalk 00:10:36]

Jonathan Woodard: I think it was some of both. So one of the tools that I also think is really helpful in addition to a daily writing habit is I call it my catch sheet, and it’s a Google doc that is just basically snippets of text and nonsense and meaningless little phrases, and anything that catches my fancy as I’m out in the world. I’ll pull it up and I’ll jot it down, and every once in a while, some of those ideas will percolate together or they’ll bump into each other on the sheet, and then that’s where a lot of my inspiration comes from.

Jonathan Woodard: So one day I was walking home and literally the name Potemkin Empire just jumped into my head. I don’t know if I was listening to some political podcast or what, but that jumped into my head and I wrote it down. And at another point, I had written down a note about countries that made external commitments to being able to fulfill things and then had a secret internal actual ability to deliver on them, and so this sort of playing up that eventual … The problem if those get out of alignment was another concept that I had written down in the sheet.

Jonathan Woodard: And so to circle back to my other design for a second, hopefully this isn’t too rambly, but Valor was out with a publisher who asked for an exclusivity window. They asked for the game for three months without me showing it to anybody, and so I honored that and said, “Alright, great. You guys look at this.” But then what that left me is in a spot where I didn’t have a primary design to work on. And it also left me with a concern that I wasn’t gonna be able to pitch things at the conventions that I’d already bought passes for and tickets for or whatever. So I went to my catch sheet and I’d already started, made some notes around Potemkin Empire, but that conceptual note and the name sort of clicked together and I said, “You know what? This is it. I’m gonna drive on this design in this gap. I’m gonna use this space to work on this other thing.”

Jonathan Woodard: And so while I was in there, I was like, “Alright, well what things am I really bad at as a designer?” And one, I’m really bad at deception games. Usually when I play Werewolf, I will pay the moderator because I’m terrible at lying, and there was a really bad game of Werewolf where it came down to I was the last villager to choose, and I had to choose between my best friend and my wife. And one of them was a werewolf and one of them was a villager, and I made the wrong choice, and it was horrible.

Jonathan Woodard: So when I had the space, I was like, “You know what? Why don’t I just consider this like a practice and I’ll do a bluffing game with cards, and just lean into the pain a little bit and see if it opens up anything.” Because generally, I do find that, I mentioned with Arkham Horror and Wealth of Nations and that era of designs, there’s a lot of meeples on a map kind of games and spacial territory control kinds of aspects, and it sort of upended the barrel and made me think about games and interactions in a little bit of a different way. And I think that was part of why it ended up working out as well as it did because it made me think about games sideways.

Patrick Rauland: I think that’s really, really cool. So I wanna go back to a couple things.

Jonathan Woodard: Sure.

Turning a Negative Into a Positive

Patrick Rauland: Number one, you said basically your first game they want an exclusivity contract, so for three months you basically couldn’t work on it, and I love that you turned that into a positive, “Now I have the opportunity to work on something new.”

Jonathan Woodard: Right.

What’s a Catch Sheet?

Patrick Rauland: I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone call something a catch sheet before. So I personally have an Evernote full of board game design ideas but they’re a little bit more, I think, organized than your catch sheet. Can you tell us an advantage of a catch, because I’ve never heard of that before?

Jonathan's Catch Sheet
Jonathan’s Catch Sheet

Jonathan Woodard: Yeah, I think a catch sheet is a term … I think one of my high school buddies used it to refer to, I don’t know, a page full of notes that he was making for rap lyrics or something. And so when I first started this Google doc, it just seemed natural to call it the catch sheet, and so it’s just where it catches all the ideas that I have. And I wrote a blog post about this too, actually. And it’s nice because I tend to find that my most original ideas come from random stuff, like being in the world, and living in Colorado and going on hikes, or listening to podcasts, or experiencing other types of media, movies and films and stuff. And it’s always just a little spark, and so I put it in there.

Jonathan Woodard: And actually, I toyed around with the idea of building a whole software as a service products around the way that I interact with it. So what I’ll do is every once in a while, every time I’m bored or looking for something to do, sometimes I’ll go through there and just read through the old snippets that I put in there. And sometimes if a snippet catches my fancy, I’ll flesh it out. I’ll write some additional notes, and when it gets to the point that I have about a paragraph of interaction or thoughts or what I think might be interesting about the note that I left, I’ll promote it to its own sheet and I’ll just leave a link to the new sheet in the original sheet, and that’s how I spawn new ideas. But yeah, it’s a process around that but the ideation always starts with that nucleus of, “Hey, what about this weird phrase Potemkin Empire?” And then something grew around that with other notes that I had on the sheet.

Patrick Rauland: That’s super cool. So I think coming up with ideas is a little bit of a practice where I think when you’re not used to coming up with new ideas, it feels really hard to at first. And then once you get into the practice and you listen to a bunch of podcasts, you go about your hike, whatever, you watch a bunch of movies, whatever your input is, all of a sudden the ideas are just coming left and right. I think it’s really cool that you basically put them in a sheet, let them percolate, and then every once in a while just go back to it and add to it. So I hope other people do that. I’ve never asked my audience but I’d like to know what percent of them actually write stuff down in notebooks because I think that’s super important just to put ideas down and let them percolate, so …

Jonathan Woodard: For sure. I forgot, it’s a philosopher that I should remember his name because I love this quote so much, but he said:

“The best way to have good ideas is to have lots of ideas.”

Some philosopher

How Do You Get Deeply Involved in the Community?

Patrick Rauland: That sounds smart. I don’t know who that guy is, but he sounds like a smarty. Okay, so I wanna talk about something specific. You and I go to the same prototyping meetup. It meets basically once a month, sometimes twice a month, and when I joined you basically already seemed to know everyone. You know what conventions you have to go to, and then what specific people you have to talk to at those conventions, which I can only imagine helped get your games signed. So number one, how do get that deep into the board game community so quickly? What is it? Because literally it seemed like I talked to you and you’re like, “I know everything.” How do get to the I know everything stage?

Jonathan Woodard: [crosstalk 00:18:15] say that?

Patrick Rauland: No, no, no, no, no, it comes across well, but I left a conversation, I was like, “That guy knows things.”

Jonathan Woodard: I mentioned when I first started working on Valor, my first bigger design that’s still hunting for a publisher, I decided to be intentional about it and as part of that, I discovered that one of the premier testing events in America is Protospiel, it’s right up there with Unpub in terms of effectiveness for getting your designs tested and looked at by other really smart designers. Within my home town of Ann Arbor, so the very first Protospiel was in Ann Arbor, and it started in the early ’90s. But I never went while I lived there. And so I combined a trip home to see my folks with a trip to Protospiel, and I got Valor tested by people there.

Jonathan Woodard: So in the very first session of the day, Seth Jaffee, from Tasty Minstrel [inaudible 00:19:18] was one of the playtesters in the first session, and I was sort of peering at his notebook trying to see what he thought about it. His notes were, “[inaudible 00:19:27] game, early.” And I was heartbroken because I thought it was almost done but he said it was really early. And then the next year I brought the same game back but much improved design and I ended up playing it with JT Smith with The Game Crafter and James Mathe from Minion Games, and James asked for a copy of it to evaluate. And after a few weeks or a month, he got back to me and said, “Hey, actually I don’t think this is totally ready. My developer found a bunch of problems with it. If you can figure these out, maybe get back to me, but I don’t know.”

Jonathan Woodard: But then I knew three people and so then I wasn’t showing up to things alone, and then I met a couple of other really great designers, Josh Sprung who has published a few games with Greenbrier and then Tony Gullotti who now works for Arcane Wonders, and they were both really impressed with Valor and so they were also willing to make introductions. And eventually I reached out to Tony to see if Arcane Wonders would be interested in Valor and he said, “Well, it doesn’t really fit on our line. But if you’re gonna be at Origins this year, I’ll introduce you to Stephen Buonocore,” who of course, you know the Pod Father, he’s on all the podcasts and he’s connected to everybody in the industry.

Jonathan Woodard: And while I’m chatting with Tony in the Facebook window … I haven’t told anybody ever this publicly, but I was chatting with Tony in the Facebook window and he asked if I was gonna be at Origins. In the other window, I checked the price of badges for Origins and I checked the price of flights to Columbus, and I bought my badge during the chat and then I came back to the chat, and I said, “Yeah, Tony. I’ll be at Origins for sure. Yeah, let me know when you connect me.”

Jonathan Woodard: And so then Stronghold took a look at the game and again they were like, “Well, this doesn’t really fit our line. It’s not exactly right,” but now I’m buddies with Stephen, and now I see him at the conventions and I can say, “Hey.” And it’s just the people at publishers are just people and they love games and they love seeing games and it’s just a matter of, I don’t know, being yourself and making friends and going to … I don’t know. I don’t know that I could package it up any better than that.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. I mean, so let me try. I think if I could summarize it down to one word, I’d say intentionality. You were like, “I am going to get this game signed or I am going to get my foot in the door,” and then you went to all the events. It’s almost like you followed a trail of clues. It’s like, “Aright, I’m gonna start with Protospiel. Oh cool, now I met this person. Now next year I’m gonna do this. Now next year I’m gonna do this. Next event I wanna do this.”

Jonathan Woodard: Right.

Patrick Rauland: The story I just heard from you, it sounded like you just take your first step and then all the other steps made sense.

Jonathan Woodard: Yeah, yeah, and it was always I couldn’t have started with, “Oh yeah, I just need to get an introduction to x and y person.” I guess I could have. I could have come to that conclusion at some point, but it didn’t really occur to me that that was a thing that I could just do.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jonathan Woodard: And so as soon as I started going out and meeting people and playing other people’s games and other designers … Because then other designers, if you try somebody else’s game and then they’re like, “Alright, what did you bring? Let’s try your thing next.” It’s such a people focused industry at every level. It’s a product for groups of people and the community when it’s at its best, it grows out of that same kind of idea.

It’s such a people focused industry at every level. It’s a product for groups of people and the community when it’s at its best, it grows out of that same kind of idea.

Jonathan Woodard

Patrick Rauland: Sure, love it. So moving on a little bit, I do wanna ask you some of my more generic questions.

Jonathan Woodard: Yeah.

What Games Inspire You?

Patrick Rauland: But I think it’s helpful for me to know that it wasn’t like magic, you didn’t just magically know all these people. You put the effort in. Okay, so yes, next question. What games do inspire you out there?

Jonathan Woodard: What was that?

Patrick Rauland: What games inspire you?

Jonathan Woodard: Oh, I think the games that always … I guess it’s interesting, immediately I’m thinking of games that impress me which is I don’t know if that’s similar or that’s …

Jonathan Woodard: But games that impress me are ones that have very smoothly interacting mechanisms, ones that have systems that work together really well. Because in those systems, you can get emerging game play in terms of the way the players interact or the way that the pieces interact. If you have a really smooth, well interlocking systems, then you can get a lot of that more interesting layers of strategies and stuff. I’m really impressed with Scythe. I’m still impressed with Scythe. A friend of mine bought the Rise Of Fenris expansion and we [inaudible 00:24:26] I played literally seven games of Scythe over 14 weeks and if anything, I’m more impressed and more interested to play it again, because the way the interaction between the top and the bottom halves of the board and the player interactions in that.

Jonathan Woodard: The game’s actually fairly nasty even though there’s no direct combat, you can still brutalize each other with it. And it sort of springs out of just the workings of the pieces. And so other games in that same vein, like Terra Mystica has so many complicated systems, but at the same time you can always do one fewer thing than you really wanna do and so you have to make those hard choices and then at the same time you’re like, “Alright, well everyone seems to be ignoring the cult track so I’m gonna go crazy on the cult track for just a minute, just to get myself into that last tier, then I’m gonna step back out,” and the systems work so well together.

Patrick Rauland: Sure.

Jonathan Woodard: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: So would you maybe classify those as games where it’s not like you get it on the first try, but games where there’s just a lot of strategy that you uncover over multiple, multiple plays?

Jonathan Woodard: Yeah, potentially. That makes a game good. Obviously you can play a game once and enjoy it and never play it again, and that’s fine. If you had a good experience, you had a good experience, but there is an intrigue to games that you can engage with deeper and deeper and get more and more out of them on subsequent plays, which I think is really fascinating.

What Game is Underappreciated?

Patrick Rauland: Love it. So do you have a favorite underappreciated game?

Jonathan Woodard: A game that comes back to me over and over and over again and I cherish my copy of it and I wish I had put a counter or something to know how many times I’ve played this game. It’s called The Great Dalmuti! and I bought it. For some reason I was intrigued by an ad for it on the back of a Scrye magazine when I was in middle school. Do you remember Scrye magazine?

Patrick Rauland: Yes!

Jonathan Woodard: They posted all of the prices for Magic cards.

Patrick Rauland: Yes!

Jonathan Woodard: So I bought an issue of it to price a bunch of Magic cards that I was gonna buy and on the back was this ad for The Great Dalmuti! I looked it up and it was out of print. This was before Amazon and the internet, it was easy to get ahold of stuff like this. It was sort of niche. And so I ended up finding a website that I could import a copy from Germany. So my copy is in German. It was bought in the early 2000s if not late ’90s, and I have played it hundreds and hundreds of times and it’s a really cool party game.

Jonathan Woodard: So the core gameplay is it’s basically Presidents And A**holes, and the deck is custom. There’s no suits, but the number of each rank is the same as the rank, if that makes sense. So there’s one one, two twos, five fives, six sixes, twelve twelves, all the way out. And the whole goal is to empty your hand and it plays up to eight. And there’s this really small but clever mechanism where the people who have lost in previous rounds have to give their best cards to the players who won in the previous rounds. So it simulates this futility of feudal life, but at the same time it’s possible to totally upend the rank order of players between rounds if you play really well.

Jonathan Woodard: And the game displays some of the immersion strategy where, what are you holding onto? It’s not always beneficial to slough as much as you can as fast as you can, because if you hold onto something then maybe you can get somebody later. I love it. I’ll bring it to any gathering and play it anytime. I love it and I don’t ever hear anybody talking about it. It’s very rare that I see it at conventions or anything like that, but I think it’s fantastic.

Patrick Rauland: Oh, that’s awesome. I actually have one friend here in Denver who loves that game. So I haven’t played it with him, but he raves about it.

Jonathan Woodard: Nice.

What One Resource Do You Recommend?

Patrick Rauland: So two raving fans. Okay, so I just have a couple questions left here. One of my favorite questions is, you’ve been in the board game design world for a long time. What one resource would you recommend to another indie game designer?

Jonathan Woodard: Man, you know, this is tough. So there’s a lot of stuff that I could think about. Whatever resource, I’m a big fan of Component.Studio or The Game Crafter. Those things are great and I love them, but I will say that the thing that I am missing the most while I’m on this trip is you guys at Prototopia. Without a group of designers who are all also working on their own things and all interested in stuff. Ralph has played Potemkin Empire more than anybody.

Patrick Rauland: Yes.

Jonathan Woodard: And so now, the designs that I’m working on, I don’t really have a place to take them, and so finding … I don’t know if that counts as a resource or not.

Patrick Rauland: [crosstalk 00:30:05]

Jonathan Woodard: But a local community of people that you can work with or you can succeed with together is really … It’s great and if you don’t have that, if it’s not something you can find out of the box wherever you live, create it. A lot of board gamers wanna design games and so if you have a board game community around you and you wanna design games, they will help or they will be working on their own game, so I would say a really strong designer community would be the best resource to seek out as a new designer.

What’s the Best Money You’ve Ever Spent?

Patrick Rauland: Awesome. Really, really love that. And, by the way, that sort of lines up with everything you’ve already said in this interview, so love it, love it. So what’s the best money you’ve ever spent as a game designer?

Jonathan Woodard: Oh man. It’s gotta be that first trip to Origins. Yeah, that first trip to Origins I mentioned earlier when Tony introduced me to Stephen. It was great. It just showed me how it works and I got to meet so many people and yeah, that was probably the best money I spent.

What Does Success Look Like?

Patrick Rauland: Love it. Okay, so last couple questions here. What does success in the board game world look like to you?

Jonathan Woodard: I don’t know. I’d love to have my name be the household name among board gamers, but that also seems a little bit pretentious so …

Patrick Rauland: [crosstalk 00:31:51]

Jonathan Woodard: I don’t know. For a long time, I wanted to get something signed and now I have something signed and I’m about to have a game on the shelf and it’s crazy. And it’s overwhelming to see all these art and the assets and these review videos that are coming in are crazy to see, and so now I’m seeing that and I’m like, “Wow, did I succeed at this?”

Jonathan Woodard: But at the same time, I mentioned earlier in the show that I’ve been designing games forever, since I was a kid, between elementary school and middle school and playing games and adding on and stuff like that, so I think success would just be being able to keep doing that. And I guess I don’t necessarily need to get games signed and sold or whatever to make them, but at the same time I do feel like the value of a game is for it to be played and so being able to make things that are impressive enough for a publisher or whoever to choose to take on and to reach a wider audience. So everybody’s into different kinds of games so there’s room for lots of things, and so if something I come up with ends up being somebody’s favorite game or ends up having a special place on some game group’s shelf, then I think that would be a success.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, so you want people to play your games. Love it.

Jonathan Woodard: Yeah, right.

Overrated Underrated Game

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, okay so I like to end with a game called Overrated, Underrated. Have you heard about it?

Jonathan Woodard: From this show, yes.

Patrick Rauland: Great. So normally you would get the airhorn, but because both of us had technical problems I don’t have the airhorn button installed. [crosstalk 00:33:35]

Jonathan Woodard: Oh no.

Patrick Rauland: So I owe you an airhorn, so I apologize. Okay, so for those of you who have never heard of it, basically I’m gonna give him a word or phrase and he has to tell me if it’s overrated or underrated. So first one, two player head-to-head games, are they overrated or underrated?

Jonathan Woodard: Underrated.

Patrick Rauland: Okay, can you give me an example or …

Jonathan Woodard: Sure. Yeah, so you know on this trip my wife and I are in these towns. Until we make friends, we’re sort of alone with each other, and we brought a few games with us, and a couple of our favorites are Odin’s Ravens by Osprey. It’s a really incredible two player game and we take it with us to a bar. The cards fit in my pocket and it has these cool little raven meeples along with it, but we bring the cards and that and we can sit across from each other at the high top at the bar. We can play it for 30 minutes or an hour or whatever. Or like Fox In The Forest, those kinds of games I think are super fun and it’s great because it’s a player count that people find themselves in a lot, I think, and servicing that market is great.

Patrick Rauland: Very cool. So I haven’t played either of those games and I’m adding them to my list to play at some point. Very cool.

Jonathan Woodard: Nice.

Patrick Rauland: Okay, so you and I have both been here. The food court next to the Origins convention center. Overrated or underrated?

Jonathan Woodard: Oh, man. This one is really hard because it is both. It is a total zoo while Origins is happening but if you mange to go outside of standard lunch hours, it’s amazing and I love spaces like that. I wish more cities had that kind of space, like The Source in Denver is also a really good example. I think it’s really good. It’s a really good thing for a community to have that kind of shops and food and area and that communal space. But man, it’s too much during Origins. But I will say, during Origins while Pride is also going on, it is the best. North Market is the best while Pride and Origins are both in the area.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, that’s cool. Yeah, I will definitely agree. If it’s like 6:00, it’s crazy, but if you get in there like 3:00 for a late lunch or early dinner, it’s pretty [crosstalk 00:35:56]

Jonathan Woodard: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: Jon, do we get the baked goods? Wasn’t there a donut place in there? I just remember donuts, I don’t know …

Jonathan Woodard: Yeah, actually yeah my wife’s little brother went to OSU and he worked at that bakery for a while while he was there. Not the one at North Market, but that bakery in another spot in town.

Patrick Rauland: Oh, that’s awesome. Anyways, I remember the donuts, but yes. Third one, paper money in games, overrated or underrated?

Jonathan Woodard: It’s a mess. I feel like everybody hates it and they’re right.

Patrick Rauland: Everybody hates it but they’re right. Okay, got it.

Jonathan Woodard: Does that count as overrated or underrated? I think it’s probably …

Patrick Rauland: Appropriately lowly rated, I guess is how I would say that. How about this, let me change the question. Are there any games where you think paper money is warranted?

Jonathan Woodard: Are there any games that I think paper money would be a good addition to? Yeah, anything … Well, let’s see. Obviously I wouldn’t ever swap out coins for paper money, but in something like a bonanza or a pit, where you’re yelling and you’re shouting at each other and you’re trying to make deals and you’re trying to do it fast, just waving a wad of cash would add a real thing to that [crosstalk 00:37:24]

Patrick Rauland: Okay, cool. I like that, I like it. Last one, oh man this is gonna be a popular one. Tax season, overrated or underrated?

Jonathan Woodard: Underrated.

Patrick Rauland: Underrated? Okay, why is that? Do you have like a …

Jonathan Woodard: Underrated. Well, on the one hand, they buy civilization so you can’t put a price on that. But on the other hand, I’m the nerd that always, not any more now that I’m self employed and it’s complicated and I have to have an accountant help out, but when I was a full time employee of somebody else, I was the nerd that was filing my taxes on January 15 because then the return would come back on January 30. But if you file it in mid April then you don’t get it back for like another month and a half. And so you have that sort of elastic timeline, and so I was always jazzed about doing it quickly to get the return but now it’s complicated so I usually file an extension. So tax season ends up being all the way to October for me.

Wrap Up

Patrick Rauland: Oh, man. Love it. Well hey, Jonathan, thank you for being on the show.

Jonathan Woodard: Yeah, thanks for having me.

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

Jonathan Woodard: Let’s see. So you can look for Potemkin Empire on BoardGameGeek. You can look for me on Twitter as @WoodardJ. Or my blog is a domain hack that was really cute at the time but is really complicated to explain, so I’m starting to hate it, it’s that Twitter handle, but dot DJ. So it’s woodar.dj is my blog.

Patrick Rauland: I will have links to all of these, so if you are bad at spelling like I am, you can just click the link.

Jonathan Woodard: Wonderful.

Patrick Rauland: And Potemkin Empire will be live on Kickstarter when this airs, so you can just search for it there. So yes, Jonathan, thank you again. Listeners, if you appreciate the podcast please leave us a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to this. If you leave a review, Jonathan said he would build you an amazingly interactive website for you or maybe just a screenshot of an amazingly interactive website, which I really enjoy.

Patrick Rauland: So I’ve been talking to a few people about running a Kickstarter coaching group and I’m figuring out the details, but if you want to chat about it or you’re maybe interested in it, hit me up. Yeah, that’s the only thing I wanna say right now. And then you can visit the site at indieboardgamedesigners.com. You can follow me on Twitter, I am @BFTrick, that’s B as in boardgames, F as in Fun, and trick as in trick taking games. Until next time everyone, happy designing. Bye-bye.

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