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#36 – Nicole & Anthony Amato

Patrick Rauland: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Indie Board Game Designers podcast where I sit down with a different independent game designer each week, and we talk about their experience in game design, and the lessons they learned along the way. My name is Patrick Rauland and today we’re talking with Nicole and Anthony Amato, who are the designers behind a ton of games. One of which is one of my favorites called RESISTOR_, and I play that game a ton. Nicole and Anthony, welcome to the show.

Nicole Amato: Hi, how’s it going.

Anthony Amato: Hi.

How Did You Get Into Game Design?

Patrick Rauland: All right, so first question I ask basically everyone, how did you get into board games and board game design?

Nicole Amato: I started playing board games when I was really young. My family would do family board game night, which always ended poorly. My uncle once flipped a Monopoly board on me, and accused me of cheating when I was six. Yeah.

Anthony Amato: I don’t think there’s any particularly special way that we got into board games. We just played a lot of video games, then played a lot of board games, then we kind of said hey, maybe we can do this.

Nicole Amato: We actually met, I don’t know if you know what D&D Encounters is.

Patrick Rauland: No.

Nicole Amato: It was something that wasn’t so the coast did fourth edition D&D where they would send stores a packet and they would encourage people to play. It was basically one encounter per week. I was like, “Hey I haven’t played D&D in a long time.” “I’m gonna see if I can play D&D again.” I found a local store and that’s how Anthony and I met, at a store that his friend owns. It’s a board game store.

Patrick Rauland: That’s awesome.

Nicole Amato: Yeah, it was pretty cool.

Anthony Amato: Yeah, so we came from beta games and role playing, and then anytime somebody makes a game they basically say, “I think I can do this better than this last game I played.” “How hard is it gonna be?” Then you try it out.

Patrick Rauland: And you find out there’s a lot to do, and it is harder [crosstalk 00:02:02]

Anthony Amato: It is a lot harder than you think it’s going to be.

Patrick Rauland: So there’s a name for this effect. I’m forgetting it right now, but yeah there’s a name for that. Basically, whenever you’re ignorant of something. You think it’s really easy, but it’s actually a great thing because, without that I don’t think humans would do anything right?

Nicole Amato: Yeah that’s totally true.

Anthony Amato: Yeah.

How Connected Are You In The Game Design Space?

Patrick Rauland: So speaking of local things, one of the things I noticed, I was checking your website, and it sounds like your apart of a ton of local organizations. I saw Game Makers Guild, Tabletop Co-Op, Game Loop Philly, Philly Game Mechanics. I’m sure there’s a bunch of others. How have those influenced your game design?

Nicole Amato: Philly Game Mechanics is actually how we started actually making games. They started as Dev Night, which was a local video game developer group, and they would meet once a week, and they started doing game jams, and Anthony and I were like “Well, I mean, we can’t make a video game, but we can make a board game,” and the theme was pick an Oasis song title, and make a game out of it, and that was how we made Resistor_.

Patrick Rauland: What. Alright.

Anthony Amato: I have to settle in [crosstalk 00:03:11] on how many times she can tell this story in a year, and that’s one down.

Tell Me About Game Jams

Patrick Rauland: I think you’re only the second guest to mention game jams, so I wanna cover that again, because I think game jams are so cool, and I maybe I haven’t looked for them, so I haven’t found them, but what is a game jam just in general, and then tell me more about Resistor, because it’s one of my favorite games.

Nicole Amato: First of all, thank you. I really appreciate that. Game jams are where you’re given a certain amount of time, and usually everybody has to be the same theme, or work with the same tools to make a game, and then everybody kinda gets together at the end, and then shows of their games to each other.

Anthony Amato: A lot of times it’s with a group of people, and you try to find somebody that you haven’t worked with before, or a lot of it’s about meeting other people, and cross-pollinating skills and so forth, as well.

Nicole Amato: Yeah. For this one, they always picked really fun jam themes, and this one was literally just pick an Oasis song title, and we were like “What, that’s absurd,” but if you google Oasis song titles, there are some really interesting Oasis song titles.

Anthony Amato: Yeah, if you’re looking for a springboard to try to make a game, picking something really random like that just to have a nail to hang it on.

Nicole Amato: Anthony focused on the song “Roll it Over,” which was how we came up with that mechanic that RESISTOR_ has [crosstalk 00:04:38] of the cards having lines on both sides, and connecting them.

Anthony Amato: And flipping the cards over on the board.

Patrick Rauland: That’s very cool, and sorry I personally just went down a rabbit hole of googling Denver Game Jams, and I will have to put that away for right now, because there actually are at least a couple. I will have to check that out later

Nicole Amato: But this one is Global Game Jam, that’s worldwide and sponsored by the IGEA.

Anthony Amato: Yeah, it’s a video game, game jam generally.

Nicole Amato: Well they also do board games. You can make video games or board games, it’s just that the themes are typically easier done in a video game.

Anthony Amato: Yeah, and it’s also easier to work with people globally [crosstalk 00:05:17].

Nicole Amato: Yeah, that’s true.

Patrick Rauland: Got it. So I’ve been to start-up weekends, and that’s in the IT space, and you create a little web app in a weekend. It sounds very similar, but that’s all the same medium right? So if you do these game jams, when you submit a board game, are they like “What do we do with this?”

Nicole Amato: This one, the Philly Game Mechanics everything is local, so we all meet up, get the theme, and then you can work on for up to I think it was 48 hours.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. You were not supposed to not spend more than 48 hours working on the game over the course of I think it was 2 weeks.

Nicole Amato: And then everybody brings in their games, and everybody plays them, and there’s usually a judging, and we ended up actually winning that game jam with Resistor_.

Anthony Amato: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: Really?

Nicole Amato: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: That’s so cool.

Anthony Amato: Yeah some game jams have applications. Some you send in the games. I mean some are just kind of a “Hey everybody let’s do this thing” [crosstalk 00:06:15]

Nicole Amato: Yeah Ludum Dare is all online.

Anthony Amato: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: Got it.

Anthony Amato: [crosstalk 00:06:24] It gets the wheels spinning. [crosstalk 00:06:28]

Patrick Rauland: Oh totally. I’ve been addicted to The Game Crafter contests just as a deadline and motivation, and they’re really helpful, but I think even in person, where it’s like 48 hours for a weekend, that’s sounds super fun, and I wanna say productive, as opposed to me just reading about a contest on a website.

Nicole Amato: Yeah.

Anthony Amato: And it’s super fun to work somebody else that you haven’t worked with before, and just trying to cross all those barriers, and the other thing is, if you’re not a game designer, and you haven’t done it, as long as you go into it, honestly it’s a really nice way of kind of putting your toe in the pool a little bit, and not on the line for any big commitment.

Nicole Amato: Yeah.

What Is Your Community Like?

Patrick Rauland: Very cool. So one of the things I wanted to bring up here is just that it seems like a lot of the people that I talk to do not have a gaming community, and in Denver I’m pretty lucky that we have one that meets once a month, and there’s a different one that meets once a month in a different location, so basically twice a month there’s a pretty good prototyping game-makers thing going on, but most people don’t have that. It seems like Game Makers Guild and Tabletop Co-Op, and a bunch of other ones. How often do you get to meet people in your area and work on games?

Nicole Amato: The Game Makers Guild was actually started in Boston, and we were like “We love this model.” “We’re gonna use it in Philadelphia,” and we meet twice a month. We meet second Wednesday in the city at Red Caps Corner, and then fourth Wednesday at the Game’s Keep in Westchester. That one is twice a month, and then we also do local UnPub Minis. Do you know what Unpub.net is?

Patrick Rauland: Yes.

Nicole Amato: Those are more quarterly though.

Anthony Amato: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: I think that’s really great, and I think it’s really amazing you have that many resources near you, and I also wanna give you credit, because I think you said you founded some of these, or at least were members of these. So you’re not just attending these, you’re also organizing them right?

Nicole Amato: Yeah Game Makers Guild. We created that in Philadelphia. [crosstalk 00:08:33]

Anthony Amato: Yeah. We started the Philadelphia branch of it essentially, and it’s kind of its own thing now, but we still reference it back [crosstalk 00:08:39] and the Game Loop Philadelphia Nicole [crosstalk 00:08:43].

Nicole Amato: Yeah. Game Loop Philadelphia my friend Ray and I started that. That is Un-Conference, and that started out primarily for video games. We haven’t done it for a few years, but the last year that we did we definitely had more board game designers than I expected, and then Tabletop Co-Op is a group that we started. We were in the Indie MEGABOOTH a few years ago with RESISTOR_ in 2014, and the Tabletop Co-Op is basically the group that we were in the Indie MEGABOOTH with.

Anthony Amato: It started that way, yeah.

Nicole Amato: Yeah. We were like hey do you know what’s cheaper than buying your own booth, if a bunch of people team up together, and buy a booth together.

Anthony Amato: Right. The Co-Op part of it is that we’re all working together to share booth space, and sell each other’s games and so forth.

How I Heard About Resistor_

Patrick Rauland: Love it. Okay, so I first heard about RESISTOR_ thanks Level 99 Games. I think it was around Christmastime last year, and it was like a couple days before, or a couple days after Christmas I’m pretty sure, and I think it was you could buy a limited number of copies, and you only have to pay shipping, and it’s funny because I had no idea. I had never heard of your game. I hadn’t done any research. Normally, I like to play a game first before buying it, but that sales technique totally got me, and its one of my favorite games now. Is that something that you helped? Is that something they did entirely on their end? Tell me a little bit about that.

Anthony Amato: Normally, I’d love to take credit for it, but that was all Brad’s idea.

Nicole Amato: He does that every year with one of his games. [crosstalk 00:10:21] Our game was the first game I think that Level 99 published that wasn’t made by Brad, and then I think RESISTOR_ was the first game that he offered for free at Christmastime that wasn’t one of his own games.

Anthony Amato: Yeah, but that was all his idea. He actually had told us about it, and we were a little leery of it, because we were like “What does that mean for our sales,” and what not, but it turned out working out great. So I don’t wanna take credit for it at all.

Nicole Amato: Yeah it was really amazing.

Patrick Rauland: I don’t wanna dig into your contract, but did you get some sort of royalty for those sales, or [crosstalk 00:10:58] was it [crosstalk 00:10:55] nothing.

Nicole Amato: I think how it works is we end up getting a tax break, because it’s a negative on our taxes.

Anthony Amato: Yeah, but the main part was that even though they did that, and those games were largely free, sales of that game went up after that.

Nicole Amato: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:11:11] It really went up it was great.

Anthony Amato: Because of that, at one point we were first on the [crosstalk 00:11:21]

Nicole Amato: We were the BGG Hotness Number 1.

Anthony Amato: Weirdly enough, years after it was released was Number 1 on the BGG Hotness, because it was given away free at that point. [crosstalk 00:11:29]

Nicole Amato: Our friends were messaging us frantically like, “Why is your game Number 1 on BGG?” “What’s going on?”

Anthony Amato: Right, and since then the sales of the game has gone way up. All in all, it was much to our benefit that he had done that.

Nicole Amato: Yeah.

Anthony Amato: [crosstalk 00:11:46] One of the great things about being a publisher is they know how to do things like that, that we would never have even thought of.

Nicole Amato: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: So I wanna get into that, because I noticed on your website, and I’m forgetting was it Cardboard? [crosstalk 00:11:59] I’m totally blanking on that.

Nicole Amato: It was Cardboard Fortress.

Why Did You Find A Publisher After You Funded Your Game?

Patrick Rauland: Thank you. I should have had it open in front of me. Yeah, Cardboard Fortress Games. You talked about selling RESISTOR_ at different conventions, and so you were selling it yourselves, and then you did find a publisher. What motivated you to find a publisher once you were already selling.[crosstalk 00:12:16]

Anthony Amato: Well that’s not exactly what happened. We promoted RESISTOR_ around, and we had it in Mega Booth and so forth, and then we ran a Kick-Starter for it. We actually ran it while we ran in Mega Booth X East. [crosstalk 00:12:29] Which was pretty stressful, and the Kick-Starter did really well, and I think we made our goal in the first

Nicole Amato: 36 hours.

Anthony Amato: 36 hours, which is a weird number to say, but the Kick-Starter’s doing fairly well. We made our goal, and I think doubled it eventually.

Nicole Amato: Yeah. We more than doubled it.

Anthony Amato: Yeah, and so toward the end of the Kickstarter through contacts with Brad, Brad found out about the game, and was interested in it. So we actually found him as a publisher before our Kickstarter had finished, which meant. He took over all the tail end of the Kickstarter stuff, but we had already raised money for the print. Our contract is really weird situation.

Nicole Amato: It’s super unique.

Anthony Amato: I don’t know how often this kind of thing happens nowadays, but at the time it was pretty unique. When we went and asked all of the other game designers we know, what they thought about the situation. [crosstalk 00:13:28]

Nicole Amato: They were like “What?”

Anthony Amato: That never happens. So in truth, we’ve never actually fully sold our own games. When we printed it, it went straight to him, and he started selling it through all of his stuff. We sell the game ourselves only in circumstances where we’re at a convention that he’s not also selling the game at.

Patrick Rauland: Oh.

Anthony Amato: And that’s kind of a thing that we like to do for all of our games, because a. We like selling our games, and demoing them, and we like going to conventions, and that gives us a reason to be there, and dealing with our game, with the public.

Patrick Rauland: So correct me if I’m wrong, but you were planning on selling it yourself, and then you sort of finalized this deal with the publisher, in the middle [crosstalk 00:14:12] of the Kickstarter campaign?

Anthony Amato: Yeah we had sort of planned up to fulfilling the Kickstarter.

Nicole Amato: We planned up to “Oh no, there’s gonna be a lot of boxes at our apartment.”

Anthony Amato: Right. We had only planned up to fulfilling the Kickstarter, and then we were gonna see what to do with the rest of the print, and then Brad kinda swooped in, and let us not think about the rest of that. [crosstalk 00:14:30] It was great.

Nicole Amato: Which I was so grateful for.

Patrick Rauland: Actually, that’s pretty cool to know that, even if it’s really rare, it’s pretty cool to know that can happen right, and for a publisher I’m sure it’s great, because he’s like, cool, hey, they funded in the first 36 hours. They’re gonna get at least this many sales. I know it’s a good game.

Nicole Amato: The art was done[crosstalk 00:14:51] We already had a printer set-up. Everything was so crazy.

Anthony Amato: Yeah.

How Does This Affect Royalties?

Patrick Rauland: One more question there. I’m just really curious. I’m imagining you’re getting a higher royalty percentage because you had [crosstalk 00:15:04] all the stuff you had already done?

Anthony Amato: Yeah, because I had already done all of the art. The box design and everything. [crosstalk 00:15:09]

Nicole Amato: The rules were done.

Anthony Amato: All paid for, and also the biggest part of getting a bigger royalty was that we were bringing all the initial print money from the Kickstarter. So the first print of it was paid for essentially by our effort.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah.

Anthony Amato: Yeah.

What Is Your Game Design Process?

Patrick Rauland: That’s really cool. So I’ve been talking about Resistor_, because I like it a lot, but you’ve designed a ton of games. Do you have an overall process for game design in general, or is it kind of haphazard and [crosstalk 00:15:41] goes all over the place?

Anthony Amato: I wouldn’t characterize it as haphazard.

Nicole Amato: I would definitely say that’s a perfect word for our design process.

Anthony Amato: I was trying to think about earlier today, and it’s kind of you get a eureka moment, and then you just hope for the next eureka moment, and the next one, and the next one, and if you get enough eureka moments in a row then you’ll have a game at the end of it. [crosstalk 00:16:03] With a little bit of gut-checking and play-testing in between.

Nicole Amato: Yeah. When we started this process, we both had full time jobs. It’s changed a little bit. I changed jobs last year when I finished my grad degree, and Anthony was like “Hey would it be okay if I quit my job to go full-time freelance?” That’s definitely changed our process a lot.

When Do you Commit More to Board Games?

Patrick Rauland: Cool. I’ve been thinking about this myself. At what point do you go more into board games. A friend of mine left his full-time video game position to freelance just so he would have the flexibility to work on his own games even if he doesn’t want to do so as a career choice, just having the flexibility of “Hey I wanna spend an hour today working on my board game.” He can now do that. [crosstalk 00:16:57]

Anthony Amato: I went freelance doing graphic design not board game design necessarily, [crosstalk 00:17:02] but that does afford the ability to spend more time on board game design.

Patrick Rauland: Was that factor? [crosstalk 00:17:10] That you wanted to do that?

Anthony Amato: For sure. [crosstalk 00:17:12] Graphic design I largely wanna do in the board gaming sphere. It’s all related.

Designing Games as a Couple

Patrick Rauland: So I’ve talked to a few board game duos, and it seems like there’s always a graphic designer in the pair? That seems like such a useful skill to have in the pair?

Nicole Amato: Yeah, it’s definitely the most magical thing. If I could recommend a fool proof thing to anyone it’s marry a graphic designer.

Anthony Amato: Well I think the skills and puzzle-solving of graphic design, the Venn diagram of that, and board game design overlap pretty well, and also any game is eventually gonna need graphic design, and I think graphic design is super important to the functionality of a game. The interface, the UI of it and everything. Frankly, from a graphic designer’s standpoint, I don’t know how you design a game without graphic design in mind.

Nicole Amato: Yeah, I mean Anthony is also very critical in a beneficial way. He’s not mean. He gives really good constructive criticism, and being with him, and designing with him has definitely made me just look at design differently, because I’m not just looking at a card, and being like “What can I dump on this card?” No, how is a person going to hold it in their hand.

Anthony Amato: Right.

Nicole Amato: That’s really changed how I think about what goes on a card, and what goes into a game.

Anthony Amato: I also think it means that, from my perspective, we make a lot of game design choices based around graphic design choices. I’ll change the amount of rules that are on a particular card just based on how big I want the fonts to be, and how much text I want to have on the card. If it’s a lightweight game, I don’t wanna have a whole bunch of text on the card. So how can I get these rules to be small enough to make the graphic design choice work? It seems backwards, but a lot of times, it’s a good way of slimming things down.

Patrick Rauland: I get that.

Anthony Amato: Just thinking about the final experience.

How Much Research Do You Do?

Patrick Rauland: Yep totally get it. I wanna ask you, RESISTOR_ is about circuits, and wiring, and stuff. How much research do you do on the theme of a game, either before or during the design? Did you research how a circuit works, and that type of stuff, or did you just go with “This is probably [crosstalk 00:19:48] how circuit works go?” [crosstalk 00:19:49]

Nicole Amato: Much to our chagrin, we have had many electrical engineers come and play the game, and they are definitely not shy about telling us that we don’t know how a RESISTOR_ works.

Anthony Amato: Yeah, RESISTOR_ was a situation where the game started out really as cards with red and blue lines on them without any theme, and largely the mechanics were designed in that space, and then a theme came upon us that worked for it.

Nicole Amato: What was funny was the theme that were like “Oh, let’s do it to supercomputers,” and literally that day I turned the T.V. on, and board games was on T.V. I was like “That’s really creepy.”

Anthony Amato: Yeah, and that fit really well for some of the aspects of the game, and so what was our research? We watched board games. That’s for sure, and we both love 80’s stuff, and I like that era, and the nuclear threat, and that stuff is interesting to me. As far as the “circuit-boardness” of the research, I mostly avoided using any terminology in any kind of hard scientific way. There’s parts of the cards I wanted to call Busses at one point, because I know that’s a thing, but I couldn’t live up to the actual knowledge of it. I’m not an electrician, or a computer designer. We get a lot of people that deal with circuit boards in reality that tell us this is not what that is. [crosstalk 00:21:08]

Nicole Amato: “Hey do you guys know that you don’t know what you’re doing,” and we’re like “Absolutely.”

Anthony Amato: Well they just say this isn’t what that is, and everything, and then I’m like “Yeah, I know. [crosstalk 00:21:14]

Nicole Amato: They’re actually really nice about it yeah.

Anthony Amato: It’s just a game, but I [crosstalk 00:21:15] shocked at how many fans we got based on the fact that it looked like that.

Patrick Rauland: That’s so funny. I have a background in web development. I love when I see hacking scenes in movies. It makes me so [crosstalk 00:21:34] happy at how silly it is.

Anthony Amato: Enhance.

Nicole Amato: Or “He’s hacking the kernel,” and you’re like “What?”

Anthony Amato: The one where they both type on the same keyboard at the same time.

Nicole Amato: Yes.

Patrick Rauland: I think my favorite hacking scene [crosstalk 00:21:49] is in Swordfish. Have you seen that? [crosstalk 00:21:55]. Somehow his computer program is a cube, and if all the pieces of the cube [crosstalk 00:21:55] fit together that’s the virus. [crosstalk 00:21:58]

Nicole Amato: And he’s chugging that bottle of wine. That’s such a good movie.

What Mechanics Are You Working On?

Patrick Rauland: Yes. Alright, I am going to find that clip, and I am going to put that in the transcript, because it’s so ridiculous. It’s so good. Okay, so changing gears a little bit. Going into some mechanics. Has there ever been a mechanic that you’ve really tried to get into a game, or maybe not tried, but a mechanic that you just can’t get to work? Even though you love it, and you really want it to work.

Anthony Amato: I think that in large part, a lot of our games are because of the graphic designer element of it, focused around visual stuff, and we kinda stay away from any sorta heavy number crunching labor.

Nicole Amato: That’s not to say that we haven’t tried to make heavier weight games. I would say that we have been working on a co-op game for 5 years. I mean we’ve shown it for the last year and a half, but there are definitely games that we’ve worked on that were like “Okay, we like this game, but it’s missing something. It’s missing that oomph.”

Anthony Amato: Mechanics wise, I wanted to make a worker placement for a while.

Nicole Amato: Yeah.

Anthony Amato: But what I was getting to was that for a worker placement, you’re going to have to start dealing with economies, and monies, and transfers. [crosstalk 00:23:15]

Nicole Amato: And spreadsheets.

Anthony Amato: When it’s get to the excel spreadsheet kind of level, that’s where I kinda get lost in it. I’m much more of a visual thinker, so it’s hard for me to piece out the econ part of the game design.

Nicole Amato: Yeah.

Anthony Amato: But I’ve always wanted to do a worker placement, and I’ve got a lot of ideas for worker placement.

Patrick Rauland: I am right there with you. I was at Tabletop Network earlier this year, and in one of the sessions, the person next to me, I could see him typing literally making the algorithm for the game. There’s a multiplier, and how many are there in the game, and what should be their expected value, and I was like “Oh my.” [crosstalk 00:23:56]

Anthony Amato: We have friends that do it entirely in spreadsheets, and I’m just completely bamboozled by the idea of doing it that way.

Nicole Amato: I did work with somebody who made a game in a spreadsheet, and oh my god. Seeing how he did it, and working with him on it to design the game, because he had hired me on as a freelancer to perfect the theme of it, and I was like “Oh my god. This is actually amazing.” “Can you help me build foundations of these for our games?”

Anthony Amato: Right, and I’ll make a game almost entirely in Photoshop, which some people would be aghast by, as well.

Nicole Amato: Yeah you’re such a demon.

What Resources Do You Recommend?

Patrick Rauland: One of my favorite questions is, so I’m a frugal person, and because this is a hobby, for me it’s not a business, for other people it is, but I think for many aspiring game designers it is not a business, or at least not a business yet, is there something that you’ve spent money on that was absolutely essential, even if you are frugal?

Nicole Amato: I think Anthony’s got a different answer than I do.

Anthony Amato: I mean I like Nicole’s answer.

Nicole Amato: My answer is just that we bought this $3 corner cutter that makes all the difference in making cards look really nice.

Anthony Amato: Yeah, if you wanna make your cards look real nice, just get a rounded corner cutter, and everybody’s like “Where’d you get your cards printed,” and it’s like “he he he”

Nicole Amato: And we’re like “my house.”

Anthony Amato: Yeah. The copy center.

Nicole Amato: Staples.

Anthony Amato: Yeah, we like to say that game design is the one hobby where

Nicole Amato: Cutting corners is actually a good thing.

Anthony Amato: Cutting corners makes things look more expensive. I would say [crosstalk 00:25:31] one of the best purchases [crosstalk 00:25:33] we made was our banner for RESISTOR_ when we started out. [crosstalk 00:25:37]

Nicole Amato: It was so beautiful.

Anthony Amato: I found a banner site would make it for $30, and we’ve taken that to convention after convention, after convention, after convention.

Patrick Rauland: It’s just a little 2 foot?

Nicole Amato: It’s got a little aluminum base, and you pull it out and it makes that neat noise.

Anthony Amato: It’s not one of these giant 6 foot banners, or something. It’s just a tabletop banner. It’s about 2 feet tall by about a foot wide, and it just gets the job done for most of the demoing. [crosstalk 00:26:03]

Nicole Amato: Anthony actually designed another one that looks like a cardboard box, and it’s got a bunch of blank space at the bottom, and if we go to an event like UnPub or something like that, he’ll print out a nice image of whatever games we’re bringing, and we’ll just use magnets, and put them on the bottom of the banner. He blends in the image to make it look like it’s apart of the box.

Anthony Amato: Basically, I made a big company banner that I can modularly put on specific game banners. Talk about being cheap.

Patrick Rauland: I’m pretty sure I know what you’re talking about, and no one has mentioned this before, but what is the price range in one of those tabletop banners? [crosstalk 00:26:41]

Nicole Amato: $30 [crosstalk 00:26:41]

Anthony Amato: The little one we got was actually $16 and $15 to put your art on it, but the funny part is that if you go [crosstalk 00:26:50] up even a little bit in size to a 3 or 4 foot banner, and then you get up to those big tall ones. There’s stretch ones and everything.

Nicole Amato: It jumps $100.

Anthony Amato: Yeah, the prices just skyrocket.

Nicole Amato: It’s absurd how much it jumps.

Anthony Amato: Yeah. So whenever I see someone with a big giant banner I’m like, “Oh my god, that’s so much money.”

Patrick Rauland: I’m thinking about demoing one of my games at a con probably this winter, and I’m guessing it’s one of those things where maybe I don’t need all the signage behind me, but if at least I have a thing right in front of me, I can use that anywhere at a con, or even at [crosstalk 00:27:26]

Nicole Amato: We also have a nice little stand-up, portable white board that gets the job done.

Patrick Rauland: [crosstalk 00:27:35] Yeah what do you put on there?

Nicole Amato: When we were at UnPub in 2017, and Anthony made a menu. [crosstalk 00:27:41]

Anthony Amato: Of all the games we were showing.

Nicole Amato: “Pick which meal you would like,” and it was a blurb about each one.

Anthony Amato: Yeah I mean for the purposes of showing prototypes and stuff, you don’t wanna stick a lot of money into anyone’s thing. So buying a big giant banner that’s gonna be for a game that you don’t even know if anything will happen with is generally not the greatest idea, but a tabletop banner for $30 that’s not that rough.

Nicole Amato: We also get those acrylic standing frames that don’t have sides on them, and those are good if you maybe get a couple of nice images printed out, and you can just slide it in there.

Anthony Amato: [crosstalk 00:28:16] or even if you print a sell sheet out, you can slide it in there.

Nicole Amato: Yeah, sell sheets are good too for that.

Anthony Amato: Something tabletop is enough. [crosstalk 00:28:24] You don’t need to afford a Florida height. No one’s looking down, unless you’ve got really good final art. You don’t wanna see your art that big, and then people would see all the mistakes in it and everything.

Nicole Amato: Yeah.

Any Reading Or Listening Resources?

Patrick Rauland: Right. Very cool. These are really practical. Is there a resource, so not a thing you buy, but a thing you would consume, read, listen to, watch [crosstalk 00:28:46] that you recommend to another designer?

Anthony Amato: I usually recommend The Game Crafter. We really like The Game Crafter when we were starting out. I don’t use it as much as I would like to nowadays, but when we started out just even the chat room that’s constantly going on their site is a really good resource to talk to other people with if you can’t talk to anybody else, and to get advice on just even using their own site. I’ll be like “How do I do this on here,” or “What’s this gonna look like if I print like that?” So The Game Crafter’s a great resource.

Patrick Rauland: Totally.

Nicole Amato: That’s a really tough question. I feel like one of the most important things for us was that, when we were trying to get the word for RESISTOR_ out there, we submitted to a bunch of events, so Boston FIG, IndieCade, Indie Mega Booth. Stuff like that. I think that the most important things is to get involved in the Indie community. I don’t know how I would call it a resource. It’s not really a resource.

Anthony Amato: Yeah I mean the community itself is the resource right? One of the things when we were started out was we just contacted everybody we knew, or had met at conventions, and continued to do that, and just got advice from everybody. I mean, the biggest the thing I would say is the resource is the conventions right?

Nicole Amato: Yeah.

Anthony Amato: The UnPub’s are the resource. Go to the UnPubs.

Nicole Amato: Yeah.

Anthony Amato: Even if you’re just going as a player. You don’t have to bring a game, but go and get to know the people and [crosstalk 00:30:08] get interested in the games they’re making and everything. Once you’re in the community. Everybody is super helpful.

Nicole Amato: The best one for aspiring Indie game designers especially is Metatopia. Have you heard of that one?

Patrick Rauland: [crosstalk 00:30:27] I have heard of Metatopia, but [crosstalk 00:30:25] I have not yet been.

Nicole Amato: Metatopia is the beginning of November in North Jersey, and it’s similar to UnPub, but everything is heavily scheduled. You register for Metatopia, and then you register as a company, and then they call you on the phone, and they talk to you about the games that you wanna bring, and then you get to have I think one high test, and a high test is where only game designers play it, and you just get really good feedback. They just always make sure you have players at your tables. It’s really valuable.

Anthony Amato: Yeah, and it’s a good place to be reciprocal as well. If people are gonna be play-testing your games, you sign up to play-test their games, and so forth.

Nicole Amato: Yeah they did something new actually. Before you would buy a ticket as a designer, and that was it. Now it’s you can buy a ticket as a designer, with the intent to reciprocate, or you can buy a ticket as a designer with the intent to not reciprocate, and that ticket is more expensive.

Anthony Amato: Right.

Nicole Amato: So if you want to reciprocate to other designers, you pay less money, and then they’ll register you for other play-tests for other designers.

Anthony Amato: Also, we should mention that most of the things we’re talking about are East Coast of America.

Nicole Amato: Yeah.

Anthony Amato: There’s other organizations on the West Coast and Midwest, and stuff that we don’t know about, but know they’re out there.

Nicole Amato: Indie Mega Booth is East and West Coast, and IndieCade is West Coast. Well they have a small one.

Anthony Amato: Yeah, but there’s the League of Game Designers.

Nicole Amato: Oh yeah the League of Game Designers. [crosstalk 00:31:52]

Anthony Amato: Protospiel. [crosstalk 00:31:51] I just don’t know a lot about them, because they’re other parts of the country.

Nicole Amato: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: There’s a ton of ones on the East Coast, and I’ve heard the ones you’ve brought up before. There’s not as many where I am in Denver, but they’re definitely are board game things, but there’s not a lot of board game design things. I’m gonna have to look a little bit harder to find them I think. [crosstalk 00:32:17]

Anthony Amato: The crazy thing though is a lot of designers, kind of design in their own head space, in their own home, and don’t interact with other people, and usually the games that come out of that suffer for it I would say.

Nicole Amato: Yeah.

Anthony Amato: You’ve gotta be involved in the community just to get a pulse on it, just to find out what people are interested in. What’s big now? What’s working or not working? Even just to find out what other people are working on so you make sure you’re not doing the same thing at the same time.

Nicole Amato: And I’ll also say we go to events all over the country, and I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone to an event 5 hours from here, and met somebody from Philadelphia, and been like “How have we not captured you in our net yet?”

Anthony Amato: Oh yeah. People still show up to Game Craft to the Game Maker’s Guild and were like [crosstalk 00:33:01] “You live blocks from us,” and showed up with almost completely fleshed out, completely great games, with even close to finished art, and we’re just like “Where have you been, and how did you do all of this without any contact with us?”

Nicole Amato: Yeah.

Anthony Amato: We’ve got feelers everywhere. How did you slip on our radar? And we like to see less of that, if you’re out there, and you’re listening to this, and you’re making a game by yourself, or just with your own circle of friends.

Nicole Amato: I treat you like Pokemon, let me catch you.

Anthony Amato: Yeah, reach out because you need to be interacting with the rest of the community. To get en routes to what publishers you should bring your games to. You’re gonna have to find this information out.

Patrick Rauland: We actually had the exact same thing. My friend Neil and I. We drove to the Tabletop Network in Salt Lake City, which is not too far from us. It’s amazing. We found a game designer from Denver in Salt Lake City, at the same thing. How. We go to all the same things in Denver. How do we not know you. It was amazing. It was so weird. [crosstalk 00:34:11]

Anthony Amato: I think there’s this sort of romantic notion that a game is designed by some genius in their basement, and it comes fully formed into the world, and it’s really not how it happens in general. It’s gotta be churned through critics, and development, and play-tests, and blind play-testing, and there’s just so many checks and critiques that need to go on stuff.

Patrick Rauland: Totally.

Anthony Amato: That you can’t do yourself. You just can’t do it all yourself. You need a different set of eyes.

What Does Success Look Like?

Patrick Rauland: It seems like both of you are already pretty successful in the board game world in terms of what you’ve put out there, but I’m curious what is your [crosstalk 00:34:48] vision of success look like?

Nicole Amato: We did the math when we started with Resistor_, and we were like “Man, it would 3 successful published games a year for this to be a salary,” and it’s also hard, because you wanna be like “Oh if I can make enough money to live off of,” but at the same time, what does that look like? Does that look like taking jobs from companies where you’re making IP games? Does that look like selling your ideas to companies. It’s kinda tough. We released on game in 2016, 2 games in 2017. 3 games in a year. That’s what I think success looks like. I’m gonna up the anty.

Anthony Amato: I’m always aspiring to make the next King of Tokyo. That’s how I look at it. I like King of Tokyo.

Patrick Rauland: Oh I love that.

Anthony Amato: The designers, obviously were famous before that, but that’s the kinda game I wanna make. I wanna make a game that’s that big, and I wanna have that game [crosstalk 00:36:07] have our names on it. So that’s what I’m shooting for.

Overrated Underrated Game

Patrick Rauland: I love that. Alright, so the end. I think, Anthony you’ve listened to an episode before, so you have an idea what comes in the game part here? Ah, darn it. I like [crosstalk 00:36:21] Great. Well I’ll tell you. It’s basically it’s called Overrated/Underrated, and I’m going to give out a word or a phrase, and then I’m gonna force you to take a position if you think it’s an overrated thing, or underrated thing. So I might say, Aliens the movie. Then you have to say it’s [crosstalk 00:36:47] overrated because of blank or underrated, because of blank. Got it?

Anthony Amato: It’s a very American Politics standpoint. It’s only one or the other. Overrated or Underrated.

Patrick Rauland: It’s how I live [crosstalk 00:37:00] so it’s okay. [crosstalk 00:37:01]

Anthony Amato: I agree with that.

Patrick Rauland: It’s makes for good podcasts. It’s not a nuance view of the world. Let’s answer these separately so you guys can have separate answers here. head-to-head games. Overrated or [crosstalk 00:37:16] Underrated. Let’s start with you Nicole.

Anthony Amato: head-to-head like Chess?

Patrick Rauland: I think I meant one-on-one competitive games is sort of what I meant by that.

Nicole Amato: Overrated, because they really stress me out. I don’t wanna have games that are really stressful. Anthony and I struggle to find head-to-head games that won’t set one of us on fire, because we’re very competitive.

Anthony Amato: We like Jaipur a lot.

Nicole Amato: Yeah we love Jaipur. Actually I take it all back.

Anthony Amato: Are head-to-head games overrated or underrated? Probably underrated. I don’t think there’s enough of them. I don’t think they get enough credit for what they’re doing. So I say underrated.

Patrick Rauland: Alright. The movie, Hackers.

Anthony Amato: Overrated for sure.

Patrick Rauland: Oh man you’re such demon.

Anthony Amato: Overrated or underrated, let’s go with you Anthony.

Nicole Amato: Underrated. Ziracle’s the best!

Patrick Rauland: Oh man.

Anthony Amato: It’s so cheesy.

Nicole Amato: Hack the planet.

Patrick Rauland: Zero cool. Oh this is great.

Nicole Amato: It’s so cheesy I love it.

Patrick Rauland: Oh it’s definitely cheesy. Alright how about podcasts that just [crosstalk 00:38:27] do board game reviews. Overrated or underrated. Actually, any [crosstalk 00:38:35] sort of media that just does reviews?

Nicole Amato: I definitely think overrated, because it’s so hard. The problem with review podcasts in any medium is that you have to listen to enough of them, of games you’ve already played or media you’ve already ingested, because you have to see if that person likes or dislikes the same things that you like, because you can’t just go in and be like “Oh I’m gonna trust this guy’s opinion, oh wait, he loves Spiva.” “Of course he loves Forza”

Anthony Amato: Yeah, and I feel the same way about it. The thing about most reviews to me is, a. they don’t get in depth enough. I wanna know about the mechanics. When it comes to board games and stuff, I want a deep dive on mechanics and stuff, and the feeling of it. It’s always slimmer than I want it to be.

Nicole Amato: You want the mouth feel.

Anthony Amato: But the other thing is that most reviews like Nicole said, I need to know if the person has the same opinions, and same tastes as me, and the real problem there is that there’s just not enough bad reviews.

Nicole Amato: I agree with that too.

Anthony Amato: People aren’t critical enough of the games. If you don’t tell me what you don’t like then, then I don’t know what you really like. Do you know what I mean?

Nicole Amato: I’ve worked for multiple sites where I’ve done reviews, and they’re like “If you have a bad opinion of this, just don’t bother to write the review.” And I’m like “No, that’s not how this works.”

Anthony Amato: Right. I need to know your range to know if we have the same tastes.

Nicole Amato: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:39:54]

Anthony Amato: It’s not as bad in the board game world, but readers can be a little harsh. [crosstalk 00:39:57]

Nicole Amato: It’s egregious in video games.

Anthony Amato: Yeah, it’s real bad in video games for sure.

Nicole Amato: Oh god, it’s so bad.

Anthony Amato: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:40:04]

Patrick Rauland: Oh really?

Anthony Amato: If it didn’t get a review, it meant it was bad.

Nicole Amato: Yeah, basically.

Patrick Rauland: That’s such an interesting balance to find, because I totally get as the person who’s making the thing. Hey, if you don’t like it just don’t publish it, right, I get that, but of course as the consumer, I absolutely want to see the bad reviews, because that gives me context.

Nicole Amato: Yeah.[crosstalk 00:40:28] Do these people just give everything 10’s? Also, I feel like a lot of reviewers are afraid that companies won’t give them games to review if they put a poor review up there, and well now everything’s compromised. I have a lot of opinions on this, I’m sorry.

Patrick Rauland: Well just think about the opposite right? If there was a site that did reviews, and they all they did was bad reviews, slammed everything they got, you wouldn’t like that site either, so it has to be true for nothing but good reviews.

Nicole Amato: Right. Yeah. Absolutely.

Anthony Amato: As I said, not as big a deal in board games.

Patrick Rauland: Very cool. So [crosstalk 00:41:06] last one. Artificial Intelligence overrated or underrated?

Nicole Amato: Robot overloads who are for sure listening to this podcast right now.

Anthony Amato: Overrated. Artificial Intelligence is garbage so far.

Nicole Amato: We’re doomed.

Anthony Amato: We haven’t done anything of any import yet.

Nicole Amato: They’re gonna kill us now, thanks Anthony.

Anthony Amato: Current Artificial Intelligence, completely overrated.

Patrick Rauland: So Anthony when do you think it will be good?

Anthony Amato: [crosstalk 00:41:31]

Patrick Rauland: How many years?

Nicole Amato: Currently, Alexa is laughing and telling you the addresses of local funeral homes. That’s already happening.

Anthony Amato: I can give a grim world perspective. When humans get their crap together. I don’t know. 10 years to be safe I’ll say. 10 years.

Patrick Rauland: 10 years. Alright. Very good.

Nicole Amato: Thanks for having us.

Wrap Up

Patrick Rauland: Hey, thanks both of you for being on the show. [crosstalk 00:41:58] Where can people find you online?

Nicole Amato: Its un-updated, but its cardboardfortressgames.com. You can find us on Twitter at Twitter.com/Cbfort that’s probably where we’re the most active.

Anthony Amato: Yep.

Patrick Rauland: Well. Thank you again, and dear listeners if you like this podcast, please leave us a review on iTunes, or wherever you’re listening to this. If you leave a review, Nicole and Anthony said they [crosstalk 00:42:22] would help you if you ever get into a war games scenario. They’ve seen it so many times for [crosstalk 00:42:30] research and putting that in quotes.

Anthony Amato: All about the tic tac toe.

Patrick Rauland: You can visit the site at Indieboardgamedesigners.com. You can follow me on Twitter. I’m @bftrick, that’s b as in board game, f as in fun, and trick as in trick-taking games.

Nicole Amato: Thanks, bye-bye!

Patrick Rauland: Until next time, everyone. Happy designing. Bye-Bye.

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