Rauland: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Indy 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 the lessons they've learned along the way.
Rauland: My name is Patrick Rauland, and today I'll be talking to another awesome human, because his name is Patrick Braun, who designed Silent Army. So, second Patrick, welcome to the show.
Braun: Hey Patrick. Thanks for the invitation. It's great to be here.
Rauland: Good. So I like to start with at very simple old game. So basically, I'm just going to ask you some sort of rapid fire questions. Ready?
Braun: Okay, let's try it.
Rauland: Okay. Do you prefer coffee, or tea?
Rauland: Coffee. Why is that? Just sugar, or …
Braun: Yes, of course sugar, but it's just because of the taste.
Rauland: Okay. What is your favorite sport?
Braun: Tennis and badminton.
Rauland: Tennis and badminton. I assumed soccer.
Braun: No, no, no. I play tennis, and badminton, and a few years ago I did karate and but no soccer. I like soccer, but it's not my favorite sport.
Rauland: All right, and what is your favorite board game conference or convention in Europe?
Braun: I have to say, I have never been to a game conference before. But this year, with Till Engel who was also your guest a few weeks ago, I'm going to the gaming event that's I the city where I live. This is in [Darmstadt 00:01:32]. Of course, its game conference here is much smaller than the better known German game conference, like in Nuremberg or Essen but it is only a few hundred meters away from my apartment, and so that's very easy.
Rauland: Oh, wow. That's great to have one so close.
Braun: Yes. But it's really a small one.
How Did You Get Into Board Games & Board Game Design?
Rauland: Very cool. So first real question, I mean how did you get into board games, and how did you get into board game design?
Braun: Okay. Interestingly, I was always someone who did not like playing classical board games that much. Instead, I preferred video games, or games that were more party games like Nobody is Perfect, or Activity, or Werewolf. I don't know if these names are the same names in English, but in German, they are called Nobody is Perfect, or Activity and these are party games. They had more action, and so I preferred them
Rauland: How did you get into board game design. What made you want to make games?
Braun: Nevertheless, one day I had the idea of Silent Army. It was just in my head, like a flash of thought. I like the idea so much I just had to implement it. So I sat down immediately and made the first proto type. For several weeks, I painted and made everything that was necessary for the first proto type. It was how I started.
Rauland: Wow! So you weren't really into board game design. Like you were just a board game fan, and then a game idea came to you, and you weren't really studying board game design. You weren't like reading books or podcasts on it and it just came to you?
Braun: Yes. It was like this. Yeah.
Rauland: That is super cool to hear. That's like the lightening bolt struck you, and you just went with it.
Braun: Yes. Yes. That's true. Yeah. It's interesting, because it gives me the possibility to combine different aspects together. My point of view is maybe different than the point of view of other people.
Why Create a Team Game?
Rauland: I bet so. So I want to get into your game specifically, because before we started recording, you talked about … Basically you talked about why you designed the game you did, and the question I have for you is why do you decide to make a team game? Why is it important to you do that instead of … you know most games are like single player on single player.
Braun: Yes. To be honest, in the beginning it was a single game, and with time, I found out that there's a possibility that more people can play it. Yes it was more fun, and more emotion in it when teams played together. And at the point where someone wins, or someone loses, it was together, and this was very interesting and very nice to see.
Rauland: So I mean, you had this initial strick of inspiration. You made the game, and then later, you added the team player aspect.
Braun: Yes. That's right. I have to say that there are many, many people who played my game, and they tested it, and of course my first proto type was not perfect, of course. I got some ideas of other people who told me to try this, or this, and so I developed it, and yes, in the end it was a team game and it's different than it was in the beginning.
Rauland: Yeah. Yeah. Didn't you say something before we recorded about, basically it was something about winning and losing as a team? Wasn't that something that you thought about?
Braun: In the beginning, it was not my thought. When I did the aspect of team playing in the game, then it developed to this point where everyone could see that it's very, very interesting how it works when the teams play together, or play against other teams. Now at the point that we are now, it's now imaginable that it's no team game, because it works the way it is now. I think yes, it should be like this.
How Has Your Game Progressed?
Rauland: So you've done a lot of … You've been doing some play testing. You had this initial concept, which works well. Then you added some teams, and you seemed to really like that. Have you added anything else in your play testing process? Have you made your game better? What ways have you made your game better?
Braun: Yes, I have to say that I played the game with the children from the work, where I worked at this time. I worked in the kindergarten with older children, with children that went to school and came into this institution after school and I played it every day. You know, children always try to cheat, and try to find out where the limits of the rules. This made me realize why I had to change or revise the game. So it was a process, and it took two years until the game had its final version.
Would You Recommend Playtesting With Kids?
Rauland: So would you recommend that to other designers, to test with children? I think that's … I have a game that I think actually does really well with children, and I don't really think I tested with children until at least halfway through the game development process, which in retrospect, might have been too long. Would you recommend with children early on in that development process?
Braun: I think testing with children is always very great because children have very strong emotions. Of course, it shouldn't be the only people who test your game, but yes, I think that it's very important to play your game with children.
Why Did You Invest in Character Development?
Rauland: Cool. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay so you've done a lot of … I'm looking at your site, Silent-Army.com, and there's a lot of original art work. It seems like there's a lot of … I would call character development. You can click around, and you can read about the different characters in your game. Why would you … I don't think a lot of games do that. A lot of games are just you're soldier number one. You know what I mean. Or maybe they give the soldier a name. But you have background about your characters. Why do you decide to do that? Why not go with something boring like soldier number one, versus Wizard number two?
Braun: Okay. That's a very nice question. In my opinion, the characters are the soul of a game. Each player has certain favorite characters. Some characters are fascinating, or some are sympathetic. Some are unpopular. Some are beautiful and magical, others rather dangerous and dark. The differences between the characters make up the diversity of the game and bring life and individuality to the game board. I think it's very, very important to have several characters and give a soul to them.
Characters are the soul of a game
Rauland: You're blowing up all my stereotypes about Germans. The stereotype in German number one, is that they all like soccer. Stereotype number two is that they all like super hardcore Euro games. I think talking about this, you're blowing those up. Do other people feel the same way about characters and how they're the soul of the game?
Braun: Oh, I don't know. I can't say that. I know that people who play my game, that they really like the characters. Yes, it is something that I made this experience that it works this way I do it. If they create a game, I don't know if they will do it the same way.
What Resource Would You Recommend to a New Designer?
Rauland: Okay. This is such and interesting perspective because you basically are a gamer, and then just decided to make a game out of the blue. Was there a website or podcast, not including this one, like a website, some sort of resource to another Indy game designer?
Braun: I had something, but it was when I already invented the game. I search on YouTube for the experiences of other people, what they are doing in situations like I was. Then I found Till Engel who was your guest a few weeks ago. He has a YouTube channel about inventing a board game. I connected with him, and yes, that was very good for me. I asked him which experiences he made, and I told him about my experiences and so we yes, since this day, we connected each other and this is very, very nice for us.
Rauland: Okay, so would you recommend that someone search YouTube, or would you recommend someone try to connect with another board game designer, if you could only pick one.
Braun: Yes the second one. It's always nice to connect with another board game designer I think.
Rauland: Very cool. I totally, totally agree. Love it.
What's The Best Money You've Spent?
Rauland: So, what is the best money you've ever spent?
Braun: You know, I really think that the characters are the soul of the game, and so the best money I spent was the money I invested in my graphic designer for Silent Army, because she did a very, very great job of implementing my instructions, and helped me bring and incomparable atmosphere to the game. So, yes, the people. And, I love the graphics of the game.
Rauland: Nice. Let me ask you sort of a tangential question. If you want to develop characters for your game, but you're not the person drawing them, what sort of directions can you give to your graphic designer, so they come out the right way?
Braun: I can give you and example. The character that was difficult to design was the first one she designed for me. It was the [Scooth 00:11:43] Reaper. The game ultimately should be played by children, not only children but also by children. The versions of the Scooth Reaper were so bloody, and it was so … I looked very nice. The graphic was great, but it was much to bloody and there was a head in the hand the Reaper. So I sent details like the background or the colors, or some items in the picture, then she created something out of it, and it was really, really good I think.
Rauland: I think the advice I'm hearing is like don't be afraid to give your illustrator, or your designer feedback, and go through a couple different rounds of revisions, right?
Braun: Yes. I think it's very important because, it's still your idea, and you want the final result of your game to look like what you wanted it to look like. It's always very important to give the graphic designers feedback.
Rauland: I really like that. I guess I'm wondering, how much feedback. You can't go through a hundred revisions. How many revisions do you typically go through? Is it just like one or two, or is it 10?
Braun: To be honest, there were not many revisions. It was some characters I got were perfect from the beginning. I was very satisfied with them. Maybe the ones that should be … the ones where she worked again, I guess maybe five times.
Rauland: Were there different stages. Was there a stage where she sent you just a sketch, or did she finish the entire thing, and then-
Braun: Its an interesting question. No. She always sent me the final version because I knew the style of the character and normally I trusted in her. It was okay for me just to see the result. Because if something was not like I wanted it to look like, she just changed details. It was not a big problem. It was just little things in the pictures.
What Does Success Look like?
Rauland: Got it. Got it. Okay, so one of my favorite questions what does success in the board game world look like to you?
Braun: Yes. I think every one defines success differently. I think that if you can live on the money you earn from your games, then that's a huge success. When people play the game all over the world, because everyone knows your game, and a lot of people love it, that's even worse, and yes of course, that's a very, very long way to go, but this would be the best thing that could happen as a board game designer.
Rauland: For you, you want people to know your game, and you obviously want to be paid, and maybe would you want to design many more games, to be full time game designer, or is that not interesting to you?
Braun: That's a good question. It is very fun for me, but I have to say that it depends on the ideas. The ideas are … either they are in my head, or they aren't. If they aren't, I can't do anything because there are no ideas. So it's very difficult to plan with it.
Overrated Underrated Game
Rauland: Very cool. I have this fun game near the end called Overrated Underrated. Have you heard about it?
Braun: Yes. Yes I have.
Rauland: Yeah. We talked about this ahead of time. And we can get the air horn. So basically, I'm going to ask you a single word, a word or phrase, and you're just going to tell me if you think that thing is overrated or underrated. Got it.
Braun: Yeah. Okay.
Rauland: Cool. All right. So team games, where it specifically like two v two, or three v three, or whatever. Do you think those are overrated or underrated?
Braun: I think they are underrated. There should be more of it because I really like the principle of these games.
Rauland: Okay. I've been to Germany before and I know you have an awesome public transportation system. So public transportation, overrated or underrated?
Braun: Good question. I have to say underrated because I don't have a car, and I always use these yes, public versions.
Rauland: Just to give you some perspective, the average american, I don't think could function without a car. Many of us live so far away from our places of employment, that it would take us like and hour and a half to get to work vie a bus.
Braun: Okay. I understand.
Rauland: It's cool to hear that. Okay. Oh, I don't remember if I changed this question out or not, but I wrote down world building in games. So the example here is, in [Sife 00:16:48] they created a whole new universe where there's the cool Mex in the countryside. By world building I mean kind of like creating characters, creating backstory for games. You think that's overrated or underrated?
Braun: I think it's pretty cool. It's hard to say because it depends on the type of gamer that you are. It's very difficult. I can't say that it's overrated or underrated.
Rauland: Okay. Last but not least. Tattoos. Are they overrated or underrated?
Braun: I think they are overrated.
Rauland: Oh. Do you have any?
Braun: Yes, I have some, but nevertheless, I think they should have a meaning, and if you have too many of them on your body, so they lose the meaning they should have.
Rauland: So if tattoos, less is more?
Braun: What is about tattoos?
Rauland: Sorry that's an English expression. Less is more is like the fewer you have of something, the more valuable it is.
Braun: Yes. Yes. That's what I mean. Yeah.
Rauland: Very cool. Well hey Patrick, thank you for being on the show!
Braun: Thank you too.
Rauland: Where can people find you, and your games online?
Rauland: Very cool. Thank you again. Listeners, if you like this podcast, please leave us a review on iTunes. If you leave a review, Patrick, the other Patrick will play a co-op with you at some future con, if he goes to one.
Rauland: I just finished Fry Thief a little bit ago, and if you have questions, please hit me up. By the time this episode airs, I should have this Kickstarter audio diary out. It should be in the feed shortly. So just check that out, because it's sort of my experiences going through the Kickstarter. You can visit the site at indyboardgamedesigners.com. You can follow me Twitter. I am @BFTrick; B as in board game. F as I fun, and trick as in trick taking games.
Rauland: Until next time everyone. Happy designing.