Sam Bryant & Gwen Ruelle

#28 – Sam Bryant & Gwen Ruelle

Patrick Rauland: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Indie Board Game Designers Podcast where I get to sit down with a different designer or a pair of gamers designers each week, and we talk about their experience in game design and the lessons they've learned along the way to get to where they are today. My name is Patrick Rauland and today I'm going to be talking with Sam Bryant and Gwen Ruelle who are the designers behind Fire Tower, which was just up on Kickstarter and it was on fire. Sam and Gwen, welcome to the show.

Gwen Ruelle: Thanks so much for having us.

Sam Bryant: Yeah, thanks for having us on.

How Did You Get Into Board Game Design?

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

Sam Bryant: You want to go first, Gwen?

Gwen Ruelle: Sure. I've always been a huge fan of board games. The first games I played when I was really, really little were card games more so. I played with my grandfather. Games like cribbage and casino. While he drank his martini and talked to my mom, I'd just sit there and wait for my turn. I always have loved games of all kinds. Later on when the beginning of the renaissance of board games started, I guess it was with Catan. My first one was Carcassonne. I don't actually know which came out first. I totally jumped on it and have been really excited about board games ever since.

Gwen Ruelle: It wasn't until I realized about Kickstarter though that I could potentially design my own board game. I think when I was younger, maybe seventeen or eighteen, I reached out to the company Cheapass Games I think is what it's called, and I asked them how they got into board game design because I wanted to be a designer. They wrote me back and for whatever reason it was a very encouraging response, but I read it as like it's impossible.

Patrick Rauland: Oh God.

Gwen Ruelle: It's going to be really hard to do it. I just thought “Oh okay, this is like an uphill battle.” and I had other interests and everything else. Then seeing all these Kickstarters popping up all of a sudden, board game design became a reality again.

Sam Bryant: Wow, I've never heard that story.

Gwen Ruelle: Oh, really?

Sam Bryant: Yeah.

Gwen Ruelle: I just really told the whole thing, I guess.

Sam Bryant: Yeah, I don't know. For me, I guess I spent a lot of my youth just rolling a die and then moving along various boards with various themes when I was younger. I'd say the thing that started to morph me into games with more strategic choice was Stratego itself. That was the first game where I really felt like I could match wit with someone and lay plans and come in with devastating attacks. From that, that led into playing Settlers of Catan. My mom really encouraged that and got me every expansion, and so we could fill the entire table with every little bit of it coming around.

Sam Bryant: Yeah, from there it was the same thing as Gwen had. At a certain point, we've been playing games for so long and all we ever talk about is games and we're only having fun if we're playing games that we should create our own was really the transition and how that happened.

Patrick Rauland: I think that's really cool. Let me first address. You guys are a couple, right?

Gwen Ruelle: Yes.

Have You Thought About Designing a Two Player Game?

Patrick Rauland: Okay, so I've played a lot of board games with one of my romantic partners in the past, and we almost always played two player games. One of the things that I'm just really curious about, because I think we always played them together like on a Saturday morning or something like that. Did you have any interest in designing a game for two people, exclusively for two people?

Sam Bryant: I don't know if it would be exclusively. I guess, yeah, we wanted a game that would be able to play with two players is Fire Tower was, which is nice for testing in the initial rounds because you can just play round after round back to back with each other, but I don't know if we ever completely thought about that.

Sam Bryant: Sometimes it's good. I can get a bit competitive, so it's nice when there's a couple other people in the group to water it down. When it's just the two of us, especially if it's a longer game, it gets to the point where on the last turns I'm cursing under my breath, “How dare you foil my plans, Gwen?” And she's like, “I had to take it. It was the last tile I could take.”

Gwen Ruelle: It's very true. Yeah, I guess I just … It's funny with Fire Tower because it's more of a classic style game than I think maybe I … that either of us even expected to create, but the two to four players is just sort of what you initially automatically go for. I really love two player games, actually. I'm a big fan of Patchwork and games like that. I think when you design specifically for two players a lot of great things come out of that, because you don't have to account for what if we have three players, what if we have four our whatever. I think that's a really interesting design choice, but for whatever reason I'm always picturing a big group of friends. Maybe that's way that's just because that's the types of games I've mostly played.

Where Did Fire Tower Come From?

Patrick Rauland: Totally, totally. Okay, so let's talk about Fire Tower. First of all, where did the idea come from and what was that … I guess how long was it under … how long was this an idea?

Sam Bryant: It's kind of funny. We've been on the path for so long that the original inception has actually fallen into the void somewhere. I'm like where did it come from other than a big feeling of we're going to create a game. I think the first real thought I can have was this idea we were mulling around about creating a kind of a game where you all had a competitive aspect and dealing with other opponents, but the game also had a nature of its own that was also competing with you.

Sam Bryant: You had, I don't know, kind of forces everywhere pushing against you, some of them in the controls, some of them that you could gauge like what will my opponent do, but then other things completely out of your control that you had to contend with and force you to change your strategy. I think in some ways it was that idea not even so much of a mechanic, but just like a feeling, an atmosphere of the game that led to the beginning of Fire Tower, at least as far as I can recall.

Gwen Ruelle: It's something that we really liked about the cooperative games that we've been playing is this idea of playing against the game or having the game have this forward momentum. A lot of games that are … A lot of purely competitive games will have this aspect of the game can have a stale moment because the players aren't moving it forward, and if the players don't move it forward nothing happens. We wanted to keep that from happening by sort of having the game constantly pushing forward, so fire is a sort of obvious theme to achieve that.

Patrick Rauland: I really, really like that. I was just at Gen Con. I played this tournament, this Monsterpocalypse tournament. It's basically a game with two monsters, they're fighting each other, but if none of you steps in towards the center of the city to fight each other, like you're both playing chicken, then the game doesn't progress and you kind of just keep playing it until the round runs out and that's not fun, right? I like that you added … It was like a sinking ship, right? It's like eventually this bad thing is going to happen and you just need to make sure it happens to your opponent first.

Sam Bryant: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah, eventually the chaos will overwhelm you. Even if you're hanging back, the personality of the game is going to keep pushing things forward.

Did You Intend to Make a Visual Game?

Fire Tower Flame Crystals
Placing fire tokens in Fire Tower

Patrick Rauland: Oh, I like that. One of my favorite things about it, and the thing that really attracted … I guess attracted it to me, attracted me to it on Kickstarter was that it seems very visual, right? There are these really cool orange crystally things you've probably seen in other games, but these orange crystally things. You just keep placing them on the board and that represents an area of the board that's on fire. Did you try to make this such a visual game from the start or was that just sort of a happy accident?

Gwen Ruelle: My background is in graphic design. One of the things I really did want to do when we first started designing the game was to have a game that was beautifully designed. I am no illustrator or artist at all though. Luckily enough my father is an incredible fine artist and we worked together a lot on different jobs for our day jobs. He did the watercolor art for the game, which I think really brought it to life. Especially with a theme like this that could kind of go in a lot of different directions in terms of how you see it, we wanted it to be elegant and feel it's really bringing out the nature, and the watercolor just worked really well with that.

Gwen Ruelle: The search for the piece came later. We thought we were going to get away with these tiny little orange dots.

Patrick Rauland: Winks?

Gwen Ruelle: Yeah, winks, like basically tiddlywinks. Everybody said, “We love your game, but do you think you could change those orange pieces?” And we're like, “No, you need 135 of them. That's going to be completely cost prohibitive and we can't do it,” and then finally gave in to the beauty that is these gems. We're very excited to find the piece.

Sam Bryant: Yeah, I mean … sorry, man.

Patrick Rauland: No, go for it.

Sam Bryant: Yeah. No, that is definitely one of the important lessons we learned over time is being able to sift through advice that you get just as you go around play testing the game. I think that's what really helped us hone Fire Tower is just the hundreds of people we played with. Sometimes you'll get advice that's from out of left field that can bring some insight, but when you keep hearing something over and over again, like people longing for something else, it's like you got to … most times you have to bend even if it hurts and you have some conception. It's like the more you're wiling to bend around the initial foundation of what you thought your game was is good, I mean without destroying what it is.

Sam Bryant: Yeah, it was funny the evolution of those gems. We had those winks and are always like “I wish there was something more evocative of fire.” Then we finally got the gems, and the first convention we went to we put out a big pile. Someone just walked up and put their hands right into it and this is like, “This is a giant pile of fire.” It was like a nice proving moment. I was like, “Oh my God, we didn't even have to tell you what it was. You got it.”

Patrick Rauland: I was just going to ask. That's really cool that you tried this thing. You know what, maybe it could've totally not worked, right? Maybe people are like, “These are big, they're clunky, they're whatever,” but you tried it and it seems like you immediately knew it was better and the audience immediately knew it was better.

Gwen Ruelle: Yeah, it is really true. When you're trying something new out and you go and discover that nobody likes your new thing, that is definitely in the realm of possibility. I think what I really love about the game community, not just even game designers but even people who are playing games, I think that there's sort of this understood thing about seeing independent games at conventions where people are really excited to give their feedback and really want to be part of the creation of a product, which isn't something that's necessarily true with other industries. It's just incredibly helpful. As a designer you've got hundreds of people telling you what they think and how you cam make it better. As Sam said, it just really helps. It really helped make Fire Tower what it is.

Do You Need Custom Components?

Patrick Rauland: Okay, so the point of this podcast is to educate and inspire other game designers. Assuming a game designer is listening to this, and not just my mom, would you … I think components are a hard thing to prototype, right? I'm working on a game with fries. Do I need to get a prototype of a fry meatball, you know what I mean? Some custom cut thing? Is it worth getting these more premium components for your testing, or is that something you should figure out at the very, very end? Does that make sense?

Sam Bryant: I guess in some ways, yeah, depending on how intricate it is. It could be hard to procure it and cost prohibitive or time prohibitive, but there is something about having close to a finished game. It's almost like if you come … Obviously you can go with a rough prototype and play with people, but often you'll get feedback about “I wish the components were a little different.” People can almost get lost in the visual lacking of what's going on. They're like “Maybe the graphic design should be different,” and you're like, “Oh man, these are hand cut cards that we made inside a sleeve.” I would say that if people can settle into it more and then they just start really focusing on the gameplay rather than getting caught up on the visual mechanics of it.

Gwen Ruelle: Yeah, it's a really good point you made, Sam. It's a weird thing because you think, “I really want to focus on the mechanics, so I don't need to bring the proper components. This is really about getting the gameplay correct,” but in a lot of ways people aren't going to be able to focus on the play of the game until you've components that they can at least manage. Maybe you don't have to make a fry meeple, but if it is just a piece of index card cut into the shape of a fry, then people are going to have a really hard time working with it, and it's ultimately going to affect the way they view the game. They might even give you feedback about the mechanics that actually they wouldn't have given had you had the right components.

People aren't going to be able to focus on the play of the game until you've components that they can at least manage

Patrick Rauland: Sure.

Sam Bryant: Yeah, I had to learn that the hard way. I've always been someone who feels like “Yeah, the parts don't matter. Why do we need these metal things,” but then you start to realize how much of a game is the experience. It's like yes, the mechanics are there, but also it's just the sense that it creates around the table. Like the narrative it constructs is so much of the experience, like at least half I would say now, and I would've not admitted that in the past.

Gwen Ruelle: It's also part of the reason that people are choosing to play a board game instead of playing a video game. It's like a tactical thing.

What About the Box?

Patrick Rauland: Okay, so one of the questions sort of along the same lines is I'm thinking about … for one of my games I'm thinking about like not custom packaging, but slightly unique packaging for the box. That probably doesn't need to be done for a prototype, right? I don't think people usually give you feedback on a box.

Sam Bryant: Yeah, I wouldn't see that as being necessary just to lock down the core mechanics and everything. It would be cool. If you could pull it off you might wow some people as they're going in and enhance the experience, but yeah, I don't think something like that would be necessary in order to get honest feedback about the gameplay.

How Do You Handle Fire As A Touchy Subject?

Patrick Rauland: Okay, so yes on components, no on box. Good. Okay, so this is something … Last year I was in California and there were these crazy, crazy wildfires. I was out there for a work trip. Anyways, the company I was working for, they actually sent me back because they just didn't … there's like 0% containments and it was bad. One of the questions I really want to ask you just because it's … fire can be a really touchy subject for people. As I was heading out of California, I live in Denver, heading back to Denver, I was at this coffee shop just like waiting for my plane and people were talking about they didn't know if their houses were going to be there.

Patrick Rauland: Have you had any people with like … and I know people who've had their houses burn down in just a regular house fire. Have you had any negative play experiences where someone actually had trauma with fire? The reason I'm asking this is like when you play Risk, it's so abstract and it's so unrealistic that I don't think it comes up much, but I think the little fire, while it looks so visual, it's also, I don't know, maybe more realistic and that's maybe more scary. Have you had any negative experiences with people playing?

Sam Bryant: I wouldn't say really negative experiences. I'd say people in the game community in general understand that these games are not set in the same world we inhabit. The logic behind the game wouldn't make any sense in our world as well. It feels like a very different kind of place. Also, you're not really … it's not going through a suburb. It's set in a remote forest. The funny thing is that people assume that it would be set somewhere in California, but I always imagine it as a pine forest somewhere in Vermont because that's kind of where the inspiration for the art comes from.

Gwen Ruelle: That's true.

Sam Bryant: We were at a convention once and we had a couple playing, and one of them asked a similar question. They said, “Is this something … Could people with trauma against fire?” The other person responded, “We play a lot of games where it's very direct that we're having a war, we're having a conflict, and you're eliminating the other people and you're taking their villages and destroying their roads, and it's like clearly … ” They said, “Clear people have issues with that as well, but it's just a game and you know that it's not intended to create a real experience. It lives within its own reality.”

Gwen Ruelle: I think also, too, is that you mentioned it looking realistic, which is true. I think we did actually put some effort into making it look sort of a bit removed, like the fire isn't supposed to be like this scary, ominous thing so that it wouldn't be as triggering for somebody if they did make that connection. That fires are something that even though there is a lot that's going on in California and it's really terrible to hear about everything that's happening there, there is forest fires that are …

Gwen Ruelle: You could make the argument it would be like a prescribed burn or something like that, but also too that fires are something that have been going on for years without injury or harm to anyone, and that's the type of fire that we're sort of going for in this case. We don't want to actually have anybody being burned to the ground or anything like that or that someone would lose their property, but I … We are sensitive to the issue. It's actually come up less than we were worried it might. Most people seem to think, like Sam said, it's another world, which is exactly what we were pushing for.

Patrick Rauland: I like that response. Just to be clear, I totally agree with you. I think most people are very good at separating the game world from the real world. I've just been thinking a lot more about the themes in games and what they say about stuff. It's really good to hear that basically no one's had, or at least no one you know has had, a bad reaction. Maybe just your theme is so clear that people self-select out, which is good, right? If they see you at a protospiel …

Gwen Ruelle: I think that might be part of it, to be honest. Yeah, I think that if somebody has an issue with it, we're probably the last who will hear about it because they just won't engage with our game at all.

Patrick Rauland: I also like your point about the art on the game. I shouldn't have said realistic, that wasn't the right world.

Gwen Ruelle: No, no, I understand what you're saying, though.

Why Did Your Kickstarter Explode?

Patrick Rauland: It looks really good, but not realistic. Yeah. Okay, so that was like kind of off topic. Just a cool thing that most games don't have to worry about that you guys successfully navigated. I want to go back to Kickstarter. You raised almost $80,000, which was 10 times your goal. What made your game kick so much butt on Kickstarter?

Sam Bryant: I guess we have to give a lot of the credit to the group of people we met over the year and months leading up to the Kickstarter who played the game with us. They were there. We had a community of people who were supporting us, and they were there for us on day one. All the amazing people we've met in the board game community were there to support us, and that really helped get us out in the public eye.

Sam Bryant: Then after that, I think I would give all the credit to Gwen after that because she was the graphic designer on the page. I think she did a really good job illustrating the positive visuals of the game on the page. Like translating a board game into a Kickstarter page, I think Gwen did a really great job of that.

Gwen Ruelle: Thanks, Sam. Yeah, we were really excited about the community that we found with game design, and sure you've had this experience as well. Game designers are amazing. Everybody wants to help each other out. Then the people who come to play indie games just like is so incredibly supportive. We just couldn't believe the … It was incredibly overwhelming, the first day of the Kickstarter watching the flood of support that came in and we're incredibly grateful for that.

Patrick Rauland: You're in the manufacturing process now. You've gone through the awesome Kickstarter. By the way, I just want … one more thing I forgot to mention my question is. I think you were funded in two hours, which is amazing, right? It's like not just the total dollar amounts, but reaching your goal in two hours is insane.

Gwen Ruelle: Thank you.

What Didn't You Know About Manufacturing?

Patrick Rauland: You're in this manufacturing process right now. Is there something … What's kind of cool about being in the manufacturing process is maybe there's things that you didn't … I know you said in a podcast earlier when you're launching your Kickstarter, is there something you didn't think of that would … Is there a problem that came up or something unexpected that an indie board game designer, if they're running on Kickstarter, needs to know about with manufacturing?

Gwen Ruelle: It's going pretty well right now, but manufacturing is a whole beast that we … I think when we first started making this game, I don't think we even really looked that far ahead. Similarly to starting a business and anything like that, the learning curve is just gigantic. We're manufacturing in China and we are really actually having a great … So far everything's been going really well. We'd got our first sample not too long ago, and we'll be probably printing another one soon.

Gwen Ruelle: It's just that when you put out this prototype and a lot of people have seen your game and a lot of people have interacted with something, you really have this vision by the end of exactly what it needs to be. Making sure that the product that's actually created is that is tough. It's just a lot of back and forth and a lot of feeling like you're reaching across the ocean and being like “Please, please, please get this right. We need everything to be perfect for our backers and for the community that has been so supportive of us.”

Sam Bryant: I would definitely say be prepared to be humbled by the manufacturing process. From beginning to end I'm sure I will be humbled again. It's just so much to take in. It's a whole different language, terminology, but you can get it. If you keep working at it, look at examples of other people, talk to people in the industry, and just having conversations with manufacturers. It all becomes demystified over time.

Sam Bryant: I will say in the beginning when we first … years ago, long before the Kickstarter when we first realized if we're going to manufacture this game on a large scale, we're going to have to do it outside of the country. I was reading some stuff on Jamey Stegmaier's blog and I just had a panic attack. I was like “Wow. International shipping, this is beyond me at that moment.” I don't know. You keep at it, it becomes more manageable and you become well-versed in all the different topics of it.

Gwen Ruelle: What's really funny is we … Yeah, we're learning all of this. So much of this is the first time we've learned it. There's just small things that will totally blow your mind because you just have never done it before. Luckily I've worked with printers in the past because of graphic design, but the fulfillment is probably the thing that shocked me the most was like what it takes to ship your game.

Gwen Ruelle: You don't actually think about your game being on a ship and coming to the United States or going to wherever until the moment actually comes where they're saying, “Okay, it's going to cost this much extra because we have to go through the Panama Canal to get it to New York.” All of a sudden, the reality of what that actually is, and it doesn't mean anything to you until it's your own product and it's the thing that matters the most.

Gwen Ruelle: Partly, of course, you're hearing all these crazy stories about all these nightmare things that could happen, but I think it's really just the huge reality of what it takes to make a product, and that is … Yeah, like Sam said, you'll just be humbled and humbled again and again. There's unlimited research, and there are people out there who can tell you everything there is to know and it's incredibly helpful.

Sam Bryant: It's kind of funny. I feel like I almost misspoke before. Because I realize sometimes that the manufacturing process for me, I have this wonderful force in my best friend, Gwen, in the way that she is a graphic designer. When they're like, “You have to format the box this way and move the components around, “I'm like, “All right, Gwen, we got to do that.” Then I sit there and she's like, “How does it look?” And I'm like, “I think it looks great.” Yeah, definitely that knowledge that Gwen has has been invaluable in the process.

Patrick Rauland: Advice for other board gamers is to be in a romantic relationship with your … have a romantic partner as a graphic designer?

Sam Bryant: It definitely helps.

Patrick Rauland: Okay. I'll work on that.

Gwen Ruelle: I think just kind of knowing what you know and knowing what you don't know, to be cheesy, but realizing where the learning curve is and what you need to figure out is so huge, because I think … There's just the two of us, which I guess for a lot of people there's just one, so we're lucky to have each other. You look at these people with teams and at first you're like, “Why do you need all those people? I can design a game. I could do this.” Then all of a sudden you're like, “That third person, that fourth person, that tenth person would be really helpful because they might know something about this really specific thing that I have no idea.” Yep.

Any Advice For Someone About to Launch A Kickstarter?

Patrick Rauland: Okay, so maybe … I just want to change the question slightly. Is there something that you absolutely need … It sounds like everything went well or is going well in the manufacturing process. Anything that's coming up you're handling. Is there something that you would recommend like you absolutely must do for another person who's about to launch on Kickstarter? Is there something that they … like a critical step?

Gwen Ruelle: About the launch?

Sam Bryant: Yeah, just before launch? I would say, I don't know, one thing that was helpful for us, too, is having a semblance of what you want your stretch goals to be and having those priced out before rather than thinking, “Well, maybe it will go moderately well and I have a few ready, but maybe there's some vagueness in the future.” I feel like that could definitely run you into some trouble in the end. Because all of a sudden you're adding all these things are coming into the game that you weren't necessarily actually believing were going to be a part of it, but you're incited to incorporate, but obviously that changes the whole math of the entire project.

Gwen Ruelle: Yeah, prepare for success.

Patrick Rauland: Got it. Okay, so I've submitted a few quotes to manufacturers or requested a few quotes from manufacturers. Do you submit each one? Do you submit like eight different quotes to manufacture, or do you just send here's the bottom, here's the top and figure out … just sort of do a rough idea of what's in the middle?

Gwen Ruelle: We submitted probably like eight as well. Yeah, I think we did do eight, but that's partly because we were also getting to know who the manufacturers were. I think it's not just the price that they give you, but also how quick they are to respond, how much of an issue they have with answering questions.

Gwen Ruelle: Not to name names or anything, but we did have one manufacturer that we were moving forward with, but at some point they were so sick of answering our questions …and granted we had a lot. We didn't know what we were doing, so we had a lot of lot of questions … that they started just being like, “Why don't we just figure that out later” and “Once you've done your Kickstarter we can figure that out.” For us, that didn't work for us.

Gwen Ruelle: That might work for somebody else, but personally we needed to know the exact number so that we could calculate what our game should cost. We also just needed to have someone who is wiling to hold our hand through the whole process. Even though they gave a quote that was appealing, it ended up not being the manufacturer that we went with.

What One Resource Do You Recommend?

Patrick Rauland: Super. That's very, very helpful, thank you. Okay, let's change gears a little bit. As an indie game designer there's a lot of information out there, and I never know what is the best or most helpful information. What is a resource that you think is essential for a game designer?

Gwen Ruelle: I would say going to every event you can and showing your game, partly because you'll get that feedback from other people. Because you'll meet people and having those conversations was probably where we got our best advice, and it's so much easier to sort through that advice in person from somebody than it is to try and sort through what's online. Obviously Jamey Stegmaier, I'm sure people have mentioned before, is incredible and is the first place we go for everything we need, but being able to talk to someone at an Unpub event, so Unpub is an incredible resource. The Boston Festival of Indie Games ended up being … and the Connecticut Festival of Indie Games, the sister festival, ended up being incredible resources for us for not just networking, but finding a community that we could then reach out to the day before our Kickstarter and say “What do you guys think? We're trying to decide between setting our shipping this way or this way,” and they'll just say, “Okay, go with this.” Having those people that you trust that you can just reach out on a moment's notice to preview your page or whatever it is, is a lot easier than trying to sift through these advice websites and stuff like that.

Sam Bryant: Yeah, it can be hard because with them they have … you can ask a very specific question and they're like, “I had a personal experience” rather than being on Google like, “All right, if I want to change this type of card to this type of paper at this point” and then you hit search and nothing comes up because clearly you've gotten way to targeted. Yeah.

Gwen Ruelle: Yeah, yeah.

Sam Bryant: It's great having people who have gone through the process. They can also … The best part about it is when you're in the middle of the Kickstarter and you're kind of losing your mind. They can all look at you and be like, “Yeah, we were all there as well. This is a very stressful and wonderful time all at the same time mixed together with all the emotions flying around.”

Gwen Ruelle: That being said, we offer it to anybody we meet. If anybody ever has any questions, feel free to reach out to us. We're happy to answer whatever we can. We've gotten so much help from the community that we want to give back in any way we can. I think there are a lot of people like that who would be willing to check out your rules, look over your page, whatever it is and help you through the process. It's amazing.

Is Game Design Energizing or Draining?

Patrick Rauland: You're just getting through the manufacturing and then fulfillments. Getting to this point is insanely cool. Is this process energizing for you or is it draining?

Gwen Ruelle: It's such a funny question.

Sam Bryant: I guess it's a mixed bag. There's certain moments where you feel like a limp piece of noodle stuck against the wall that's slowly sliding down to your doom, but then …

Gwen Ruelle: Yep.

Sam Bryant: You know what it is? The thing that will energize you more than anything is showing your game to someone and having a good time playing it with them or having them play it, and then they're like, “I had a great time” and you can see the joy on their face, and you're like this is why I'm doing it. I'm trying to bring an experience to people. That will really keep you going even at the point where you feel really overwhelmed by the rest of the process.

Gwen Ruelle: I also love when you come up with a new mechanic for your game. That is the most energizing thing when you find something that you love or you solve some sort of problem. It's really good.

Sam Bryant: That's true. My favorite cards, every time we develop a new card that's my favorite card. I'm like, “Isn't that the best mechanic in the game?” I show it to my other friends, they're like, “I don't know. I still like the other one that you made before.” I'm like, “But this one's new and exciting. I haven't used this one 10,000 times.

Gwen Ruelle: Yeah, so true.

What Does Success Look Like?

Patrick Rauland: That's awesome. Okay, seriously, you're getting so close to the end. What does success look like for you in the board game world? Are you going to keep designing more games? Are you going to go full time? What does the roadmap look like to you?

Gwen Ruelle: Oh man, full time would be amazing. For me, success is just to continue doing what we're doing and designing games in any shape or form. We started with a Kickstarter and it's been a really great experience and I hope to do that again. I think we most definitely will, right Sam?

Sam Bryant: Yeah, for sure.

Gwen Ruelle: I also am interested in designing games in other forms. As long as the word design is part of it then I'm happy.

Sam Bryant: Yeah. Yeah. No, I'm just excited to keep pushing forward. I already feel like the fact that we took an idea and it became a tangible thing and it's going to be in a box and it's going to be shipped to all these people, that already feels … I couldn't be more thrilled about the way it's gone. As Gwen said, just to continue with that process and just keep making ideas into something concrete. I'm excited to do that again.

Patrick Rauland: I muted myself, so you guys did not hear me blabbing to myself. Great. I don't edit, so the podcast listeners are going to have a nice three Mississippi of silence. Were you two freaking out on the other end?

Sam Bryant: I was like, “It's my fault. It's my internet. It's too slow. I'll be blamed.”

Patrick Rauland: Nope, that was me.

Sam Bryant: Is it something we said?

Patrick Rauland: Yes, I was so offended by what success looks like to you. Okay, so here's what I said is that congratulations. Best of luck. Happy, happiness. That was what I said.

Sam Bryant: Thank you.

Overrated / Underrated Game

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. I like to end my show with a little game called overrated/underrated. Have you heard of this or played it before?

Sam Bryant: I've not played it, no.

Gwen Ruelle: Heard of it.

Patrick Rauland: Oh, excellent. Basically I force you to take a position on a topic, and then I ask you for one or two sentences to describe it. I think since there's two people here, I think we should just take turns or you two should take turns and alternate. If I said Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, overrated/underrated, you'd say, “Oh, I think they're underrated because pizza and turtles is the two best things on the planet,” something like that. Got it?

Sam Bryant: Yeah. All right.

Patrick Rauland: All right. All right, so first one, let's go with you, Gwen. Metal coins or metal dice in games, like really, really premium components in games. Overrated or underrated?

Gwen Ruelle: Sam, you go first.

Sam Bryant: Oh, you're throwing me in now? Did you just tag me in? Deluxe components themselves, overrated or underrated, or were you rating the dice against the coins?

Patrick Rauland: No, no, just deluxe components.

Sam Bryant: Oh. Overrated/underrated. God, that's so hard to say because there are certain points where I feel like, yes, that is true. This in this instance it is overrated. Then sometimes I'm clanking those little coins around in my hand and then I throw them down on the board as I take this action to decimate my opponents, and then I'm pretty excited that it's the metal falling from my fingers. I would say in general though maybe overrated because I think there's a lot of games that would be great without the extra weight.

Patrick Rauland: Good answer.

Gwen Ruelle: That's a good point. That's a good point, but I'm going to go with underrated because I really like metal. I think that metal pieces are awesome.

Patrick Rauland: All right.

Gwen Ruelle: Everybody knows that, so how's it underrated, but still.

Patrick Rauland: All right, so Fahrenheit 451, either the book or the movie?

Sam Bryant: Haven't seen the movie yet. The book, definitely I would say at some point maybe it was overrated when it had a lot of fanfare, but a lot of people don't know what it is now, so I think it has now moved into the underrated category because it's such an amazing book.

Patrick Rauland: I like it.

Gwen Ruelle: Agreed, agreed. Underrated.

Patrick Rauland: All right. This next one, exploding dice, and by exploding dice I mean like in a role playing game or any game where you roll the highest value and you can roll again. On a D6 roll 6 you can just keep rolling util you stop rolling 6's. Does it make sense? As a mechanic is it overrated or underrated? Sorry, didn't even ask you the question.

Gwen Ruelle: Okay, I'll start. I think it's overrated.

Patrick Rauland: Oh no. Why?

Gwen Ruelle: Now I'm really questioning my response to this.

Patrick Rauland: No, no, no. There's no wrong answers.

Gwen Ruelle: From what you just described, just because it's rewarding luck with more luck. THere's somebody sitting there who's just so, so annoyed, and they just have to go just wait through it and I feel terrible for that.

Sam Bryant: That's true. It depends on your position. If it's happening, the luck is against you, it's definitely overrated. If it's happening to you it's underrated. You're like, “You don't know how good this feels right now. I just got seven 6's in a row and won the game arbitrarily.”

Patrick Rauland: All right. The last one … If you haven't figured this out, they're all sort of fire related. Last one is the flash costume in the latest TV show. The reason I bring up the Flash costume is because I think Cisco, one of the characters, says it's based on a fireman's uniform that he made up. The Flash costume in the latest CW TV show, overrated or underrated?

Sam Bryant: Based on my knowledge of having not seen that particular show yet, I will definitely say that it's underrated, on my expert opinion.

Gwen Ruelle: I'm looking at a picture of it right now, and I'm going to go with overrated.

Patrick Rauland: Why's that?

Gwen Ruelle: I like it, but I think that if you're going to be Flash you wouldn't just be red. You should be multicolored with orange and yellow as well.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, it is pretty heavy. A dark red is pretty heavy.

Gwen Ruelle: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: A couple there's like yellow, there's like one yellow knob, you know what I mean? It's pretty loose.

Gwen Ruelle: You have this opportunity to not look like other superheroes, I feel like, and it's kind of generic.

Sam Bryant: I'm looking at it as well. The material reminds me a lot of like Daredevil suit in the new Netflix series. I don't know. It's almost like they all have the same material now. They're like, “This is what superhero costumes are made of from now on.”

Gwen Ruelle: Waffled. Waffled material.

Patrick Rauland: Hey, you completed the game and you both win.

Sam Bryant: Yay.

Gwen Ruelle: Hurray.


Patrick Rauland: Thank both of you for being on the show. Where can people find you online?

Gwen Ruelle: is our website, and we're on Facebook as Runaway Parade, Twitter @RunawayParade, and then Instagram is oddly RunawayParadeGames, but anyway. Really switched it up there.

Patrick Rauland: Thank you both again. You were phenomenal guests. Dear listener …

Sam Bryant: Thanks so much for having us.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah.

Gwen Ruelle: Yeah, thank you so much. We really appreciate taking the time.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. Dear listener, if you like this podcast, please leave a review on iTunes. If you leave a review, Sam and Gwen said they'd be willing to shoot a flamethrower right at you, which not many people are …

Gwen Ruelle: Right at you, okay.

Patrick Rauland: You can visit the sit at You can follow me on Twitter. I'm @BFTrick. That is B as in board game, F as in font, and Trick as in trick taking game. Until next time, happy designing everyone. Bye-bye.

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