Sarah & Will Reed

#29 – Sarah & Will Reed

Patrick Rauland: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Indie Board Game Designers Podcast, where I sit down with a different designer, or pair of designers, each week, to talk about their experience in game design and the lessons they've learned to get to where they are today. My name is Patrick Rauland, and today, I'm going to be talking with another pair. Recently, there's been a lot of pairs of game designers, Sarah and Will Reed, who are designers behind a few different games, including Oaxaca and Project Dreamscape. Sarah and Will, welcome to the show.

Sarah Reed: Hello. Thanks for having us.

Will Reed: Yes. Thanks for … That music has some fat beats.

Patrick Rauland: Doesn't it? I mean, if you want, I can just loop it in the background. We can just talk over it the whole time.

Will Reed: I'd be too busy dancing, so that might not be great.

Patrick Rauland: Now-

Will Reed: What did he say? What did he say?

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. Now I'm regretting not recording video, because I think I could just go viral with just like a nerdy people dancing, like including me. It would be pretty bad.

Will Reed: Dance like a meeple.

Patrick Rauland: Dance like a meeple. So, I'm really excited to have you, because you are … I don't have that many board games. I purposely keep my collection pretty small, to about 70 games, and one of the 70 games is yours, Project Dreamscape.

Sarah Reed: Oh, that's awesome.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, former … It's one of those things … This is fascinating, because it's one of those things where I probably … Like, I look at the cover and I'm like, “What is this? I don't … Who wants that?” It took me like two years to play Love Letter. But my former roommate left it in my apartment when he moved out. We had played it a few times, and I intentionally chose not to remind him it was his game, because I really enjoy that game. It is a phenomenal little game.

Sarah Reed: Glad to hear it.

Will Reed: Yeah.

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

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. So, first of all, first question for you, now that we're past the comments section, how did you get into board games and board game design?

Will Reed: When it comes to board games, we both played the traditional Clues, and Monopolies, and Sorrys, and Mille Bornes, and what have you. From there, I moved on to video games. Sarah, on the other hand, didn't. She actually stayed with role playing. She moved in that direction.

Sarah Reed: Yeah, and we're talking like from childhood into our teen years. I did play some video games, but my group in high school was really big … And we weren't D&D. We were playing Palladium Fantasy, which even then was niche, because GURPS and the … I'm blanking on some of the other ones, were bigger, but we were really into it.

Will Reed: Yeah, so then when it came to college, Sarah decided to introduce me to like role playing, Magic the Gathering, and it's just the funniest thing, because my first experience running with a D&D campaign is I was a player, she was the DM, and she goes, “Okay, you're running across an orc,” and I go, “Okay. What's that?” And she goes, “You know, an orc.”

Sarah Reed: Because to me, I grew up with fantasy. I, “How do you not know what an orc is? It's an orc.”

Will Reed: So I'm like, “Okay, how many hit points does it have?” And she goes, “I can't tell you that.” It's like, “I don't know what it is. Just help me here.” And yeah, after those initial stumbling blocks, and after she was done laughing at me, yeah, we got heavily into Magic the Gathering

Sarah Reed: Unfortunately.

Will Reed: … Munchkin, and some of the side things like that, and just been casually playing board games. Then one year, I ran across The Game Crafter, and I thought, “Oh man. It'd be a really cool idea to make a game for Sarah, because we've had experience with games.”

Sarah Reed: And this is specifically, he wanted to make a board game for my birthday. He wanted to make it as a gift.

Will Reed: Yeah, so I looked at it and realized, “I am completely out of my depth.” Because I'm legally blind, there's a lot of the visual components in the whole making process that you kind of need in order for it to work, so instead of giving up on the project, I asked her. I was like, “Can we make this together?”

Sarah Reed: And I was just so thrilled by the concept, one that I was so touched that he would like want to make something for me for my birthday, and of course, I was like, “Yeah, let's give this a shot. What's the worst thing that could happen?” And it just kind of took off from there.

Patrick Rauland: I think it's a really, really cool story, and there's a couple things I want to go back to. So number one, what is GURPS?

Sarah Reed: Gosh.

Will Reed: It's a role playing system.

Sarah Reed: It is a role playing system, and it stands for something. I forgot what the G … Maybe like General Universal-

Will Reed: Role playing system?

Sarah Reed: … role playing system.

Patrick Rauland: Okay, but so more abstract, or-

Sarah Reed: Well, no-

Patrick Rauland: … trademark-free version of D&D?

Sarah Reed: It's more that it is a system, and that it allowed you to put any theme on it. That's why they went … It's like a general, universal … It's a system, so it gave you the tools to then make your own world, make your own characters, so-

Patrick Rauland: Got it.

Will Reed: Is that one that uses a percentile die system?

Sarah Reed: I think-

Will Reed: Like Palladium?

Sarah Reed: It might have used … I didn't play it that much. I had friends who played it, and that's why I said when I was in high school, playing role playing games, D&D and GURPS were more popular, and I'm still blanking on the other one that's like Palladium Fantasy, but it was a different-

Will Reed: [inaudible 00:05:40]

Patrick Rauland: I'm really not sure. I'm not that big into the role playing world, unfortunately.

Sarah Reed: Well, anyways, there are a lot of, obviously, different role playing systems out there. One that's more popular now is FATE, and I'd love to get into that, other than I'm not too keen on the FATE dice, but anyways, all these different role playing systems are just different ways to help you tell a narrative story together, so it's which rule set do you like, or which world do you like that they present to you, or do you want to make your own world? You know, that kind of thing.

Sarah Reed: So, I mean, we started, we got into D&D 3.0, 3.5, 4.0. I tried a little bit of 5th Edition. I didn't care too much for it. I mean, if you ask us, our favorite is 4th Edition, which generally speaking, most people absolutely hated 4th, but we had a great time with it, because we took it in a different direction than a lot of people did.

Why Is Getting into Magic Unfortunate?

Patrick Rauland: And there's one other thing I wanted to go back to. You said, “We unfortunately got into Magic the Gathering.” Why is that unfortunate?

Sarah Reed: Oh, the money sink. That's really it. I just look back and I'm like, “I don't even want to add up how much money I spent over the years on that game,” but I will say, it's not a terrible thing. I did really enjoy it. I was never good at competitive scene, or even really at the casual scene, but I enjoyed the … Well, everyone was just better than me. I mean, I enjoyed playing the game, but I was terrible at building decks, which was why once we found Dominion, I was like, “I'm not going back.” Because Dominion puts everybody on an even playing field, and gives me the opportunity to succeed, not all the time, but I had a better chance with a Dominion type of deck builder than a Magic the Gathering type of pre-constructed deck builder.

Patrick Rauland: Oh, absolutely no, and I left Magic back in high school for the same reason. So I was curious if we left for the same reason, and we did, so that's pretty cool.

Sarah Reed: Yeah.

Theme Or Mechanics First?

Patrick Rauland: Okay, so I want to talk about some of your games, because you have some pretty unusual themes. So, Project Dreamspace, sorry Dreamscape, is about finding the ultimate dreamer, and you're moving dreams around on your board, and I mean, when you come up with novel themes like that, as opposed to zombies, or space, or trading, I mean, is this … I want to come to the age old question, is that a mechanics-first thing? Did you come up with the theme first? How did this thing come into being?

Will Reed: When we actually approach a theme, it's usually really early on in the mechanics stage of things. Now, that's not to say it's always works that way. Sometimes, we have just a clear mechanical idea, and for Project Dreamscape, I had the idea of you have abilities, and in order to use them, you take them. That was essentially the core concept that I wanted to explore, and before I moved on any further, I really had to stop and think, “What type of theme would this work for?” And I did run across the normal, “Here's the fantasy. Here's the sci-fi. Here's the zombie. Here's the military.” All the generic themes that most people use.

Will Reed: So, I just had a brain session, all by myself, sitting there in the dark, thinking, “What do people want? What do people want? What do people relate to?” And all I could think of is, “Man, I'm tired,” so I was like, “Well, I look forward to sleeping, and dreaming,” and was like, “Hey, most people dream. That's my theme,” and then I ran away with it.

Patrick Rauland: I think it's really cool and novel, right? And it's so fun to explore that, as opposed to, you know, I'm a huge fan of zombies and all that stuff, but it's really fun to be like, “Hey, this is a game about dreaming,” and different types of dreams, and like the cards are pretty … like you know, recurring dream, and you get to see someone standing in front of a mirror, and it's like reflecting, and it was cool to, I don't know, to play games like that.

Do You Worry About Marketing an Unusual Game?

Patrick Rauland: Okay, so I want to go back to one of the things that I said, is that if I looked at your game in a store, I'd be like, “I don't know. It looks … There's zombie, zombie, zombie, zombies over here. I should get 4X zombies.” Do you worry about … With an unusual theme like finding the perfect dreamer, do you worry about sales or marketing for your game?

Will Reed: Not really, mostly because we're doing it at such a low, niche level, plus in addition, our game is going to be the one game that stands out in that big wall of zombies and that big wall of fantasies. You look, it's like, “What the hell is that pastel-looking … And what's the art on the …” And they have to almost pick it up by impulse. In that case, our attempt to go for a different theme really sets it apart and makes it stand out, to the point where we get more attention than another person, who comes up with just as solid of a game, but it's the generic, “Yes, this is going to appeal to all the fantasy fans.”

Sarah Reed: But, will also have to point out, by going with such unusual art, and it was all purposely chosen, and purposely, like you said, with the person standing in front of a mirror and it goes on forever. We did a lot of art direction for this game, to make sure that the theme really comes out in it, but we also know it's a double-edged sword. We've had not a lot of people, but we've had some people say they can't play the game, because the art is creepy to them. It turns them off. The vacant eyes and things like that, that just creeps them out.

Sarah Reed: But on the other hand, that's okay, because it's dreams. It's also dreams can be unsettling, so it works both ways, and we know that by going with a unique theme, and going with really unique art, that it would turn some people off, but it would also turn some people on who might not give it a chance otherwise.

Art in Project Dreamscape

Patrick Rauland: No, I love that, and your art's … Actually, I should actually point that out. The art is … And I'll try to … I have transcripts afterwards, which I'll share with the world, and I'll try to include some of the cards there, or at least the box art. But it's almost watercolor-y

Will Reed: It is.

Patrick Rauland: It's not watercolor, but it … Yeah, like there's a lot of pastels, right?

Will Reed: It is watercolor.

Sarah Reed: It is watercolor.

Will Reed: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: Oh, it is actual watercolor? That's amazing!

Will Reed: We know the artist, Julie Okahara. She's actually, her and her husband's part of our Lego club, so that's actually how we ran across them. We played some board games with them, and we were telling them we were looking for artists, and she is a professional artist, so we looked at her art, so when we came up with a theme, there was no doubt in our minds that Julie was going to be our artist for this project. And one of the big things that she typically does is a lot of watercolor, and this is one of the things that we asked her to do for this. In fact, when the Kickstarter was going live, we actually had pledge levels that if you wanted the original art piece for each of those abilities, we were letting people actually buy them, and they would get it framed, and-

Sarah Reed: Yeah. I feel really lucky. We got two pieces. We got the front cover of the box, and we got the play mat art. So it's hanging above our TV in our living room, and oh, I'm so … Well actually, I have a lot of Julie's art around the house, because I love her art, but she does have a very unique … It's a Japanese-mixed-American style, because she was born in Japan, but she came over as a … I don't know how recently, but you know, somewhere in her childhood, or teens, or something. I don't really remember. So she has that mix of American style with her original Japanese roots, so it's a really different look in what she does.

Art On Kickstarter as a Reward

Patrick Rauland: So I normally like to talk about marketing at the end, but you just brought up Kickstarter levels. I just want to go back to that for a second, because it's something I'm thinking about for my game, Fry Thief, and I'm trying to design Kickstarter … Should I just have one? Should I have like 500? And I love the idea of having some sort of unique art, or something like that, in my Kickstarter. Did that work well for you, having … I imagine they were much higher level packages than [inaudible 00:14:01]

Sarah Reed: They were-

Will Reed: They were close to $80, I think. Or was it more? No, it was more-

Sarah Reed: No, it was more.

Will Reed: … because it also had … Ben, who was working with us, absolutely loves special editions, and we're talking special editions that are all just blinged out. They don't actually affect gameplay in any way, shape, or form. So, in this particular case, he was working with another local wood laser cutter artist, Barry, who lives not too far from us, and he wanted to have Barry create wooden boxes for Project Dreamscape, with wooden tokens, and that was the next level up from just the basic game. Then, they would also get a play mat. And then above that, you'd get all that plus an art piece, and I think that was $120.

Sarah Reed: I know it was over $100, but I don't think it was $150. It's been a while, because that was 2015. But for going to your question, pledge levels. You always want your dollar pledge level. I know people say, “Don't do it. Anybody can pledge a dollar,” but you'd be surprised the number of people who do not realize that you can pledge a dollar without doing a pledge level. So, always do your dollar tip jar. It just makes it really easy for people to be like, “Well, this is really cool, but I don't really want the full game, so I'm just going to back for a dollar.”

Will Reed: Yeah. The other thing about pledges is the more you do, the more work you're making for yourself.

Sarah Reed: That's true.

Will Reed: So, sometimes, we could be kicking ourselves for how much extra work, because usually, when it comes to like the ultra special edition, that is not so much a … What do you call those warehouses that ship out everything? You know, like ship [inaudible 00:16:05]

Sarah Reed: Oh yeah, fulfillment.

Will Reed: Fulfillment companies, yeah. The fulfillment companies.

Patrick Rauland: Fulfillment companies?

Will Reed: They're not doing those, typically, because you only have maybe 100 backers at that level, and all those, you're doing personally, so then you have to hand-pack everything, and annoy the people at the post office when you go, “Okay, I have 50 more in the truck,” and they're like, “What?” So, that is one thing that I know we've talked to other people who've got inspired by like Oaxaca's special edition, so they went ahead and did all this handcrafted stuff, and then she comes back and says, “It was a nightmare. It was an absolute nightmare having to do all that.”

Sarah Reed: So you really got to be careful what you want to do with your higher level, but do your dollar. If you think it's an easy enough game to print and play, and you know how to or have someone who could make a professional print and play, figure out what you want for it, somewhere between 5 and $10. I'd always do it closer to five, because there's enough people out there who'll give you five bucks just so they can make it on their own, because they're not saving money, necessarily, unless they're international, and international people will be more likely to give you five bucks so they can print it off and do it at home, rather than pay you $40 in shipping charges.

Will Reed: Yeah, because there was one person that we needed to ship something to, and it was like $70 just to ship to them. So Ben, unfortunately, had to say, “Okay, this just doesn't make any sense for either of us,” refunded the person the money, and the person still, of course, really wanted what they … They wanted the game, so we then had to go around and work out a way for us to hand it to someone who was going to Gen Con, because they were going to Gen Con, and then hand it off that way.

Sarah Reed: Yeah. But yeah, you'll want your dollar, something about $5 for a print and play, whatever your game is, and then one more level for whatever you want to do special, and the less … I hate to put it this way. The less unique you make your higher pledge level, the easier it's going to be for you. So for example, if you just want to do art prints, that'd be a lot easier to do. You could even maybe ship them separately. I mean, I'm just throwing it out here, because we've never done art prints, per se, but if you add like play mats like we did, the wooden boxes, or any type of … And these were framed art pieces. They add more and more expenses on the packaging and shipping, because you want it to get there safe.

Sarah Reed: So, it's just be very careful what you're going to add at that special tier of, “Hey, you really like my game. You want something unique, or unique enough, or only a certain group of people are going to have this thing.” Make sure it's going to be easy for you to handle, and that you appropriately judge how much it's going to cost you.

Patrick Rauland: So I like that nuanced answer of print-and-play, the game, and some sort of higher level that is carefully calculated. That sounds very achievable, and I need to figure out what I'm going to do for mine, but I think that sounds like good advice for basically any game out there.

Sarah Reed: Right. Don't get bogged down in … Don't do t-shirts. Don't do fancy dice that have absolutely nothing to do with the game. Don't do plushies. If this is your first or even second rodeo, or even I'd say this to people who've done it for 10 times. You don't want to do the merchandising, because that bogs it down. It takes money away from actually making the game. If you want to do merchandise, do a separate Kickstarter for merchandise.

Don't do t-shirts. Don't do fancy dice that have absolutely nothing to do with the game. Don't do plushies. If this is your first or even second rodeo, or even I'd say this to people who've done it for 10 times. You don't want to do the merchandising, because that bogs it down. It takes money away from actually making the game.

Will Reed: Or, there's plenty of sites out there, like we printed out shirts from Zazzle, and Zazzle is a print-on-demand site, and you can do all sorts of things with it. We just wanted to make commemorative shirts, so we made some Project Dreamscape shirts, some Oaxaca shirts, and we've taken various selfies with them. Well, Ben kept getting bugged by one of our backers, saying, “Okay, I got to have a Oaxaca shirt. I've got to have a Oaxaca shirt,” so what we did is we didn't put up another Kickstarter or anything. We just set up a Zazzle store, and say, “Here you go. If you want it, you can buy it,” and it's not going to affect any other funding, because budgeting a Kickstarter is very, very delicate.

Sarah Reed: Yeah.

Will Reed: So that's another way you can have the merch without messing up your Kickstarter.

Sarah Reed: Yeah, and going off a little on a tangent, shipping is just … It's getting worse and worse.

Will Reed: Internationally, especially.

Sarah Reed: International. Even if you judge what it would take to ship in the United States today, if you're not going to ship for another year, it could change, so one of the … And I call it unfortunate trends, but I also recognize why it's happening, is that creators are not charging shipping until it's like two months before they're actually going to start shipping. Backers, most backers, absolutely hate it. I can't say I'm fond of it, because I usually forget. Most people do. It's six months later, or eight months later. You don't keep a note to yourself. I mean, I'm pretty darn organized. I'm a huge Kickstarter backer, but I don't remember. So it's unfortunate, because then I'm like, “Well, dang it. That's one less thing I'm backing on Kickstarter this time, because I've got to pay 30 bucks in shipping.”

Sarah Reed: But it's also one of those things that I completely see why people are doing it, to protect themselves, because at the very least with your Kickstarter, you should break even. And that's always been our goals with both of our Kickstarters, is let's just break even, maybe make a little profit, maybe enough to just print the next prototype. I mean, that's us, because this is our hobby. We're not doing this to make money. As long as it pays for itself, that's really where I think you need to go with a first Kickstarter.

Patrick Rauland: Love it. So that was an amazing discussion about Kickstarter, and that helps me, and I'm sure it'll help the listeners, all two of them.

Sarah Reed: You mean 200. Two million.

Will Reed: Two million, two million.

What Does Your Design Process Look Like?

Patrick Rauland: Yes, two million. So, I want to go back to your design process, because I think for a lot of people … Some people spend a ton of time. Some people spend no time at all, or not no time, but some people just sort of have lightning in a bottle, and just get the perfect game very quickly. What does your design process look like? And maybe use Dreamscape as an example, or some other game, of like how do you go from idea, how long does it take you, what is the hardest part, stuff like that?

Will Reed: Usually, what we do, since we work in a partnership, is we work towards our strengths. My strength, personally, is the initial concept, as well as mechanics. So, when I start a process, nothing actually gets written down on paper. I live mostly up in my brain.

Sarah Reed: Now, I'm going to interject here. Will is legally blind, and I think that's made him a super genius, so just to give you guys an idea, when we play board games, and we play lots of board games. We have a library of over 200 games. He does not look at the board games. I describe what things are. So I mean, we do have to avoid some games like heavy maps and route building, but of the game that we play, I describe the board, or I read to him all the cards. We play Dominion. I read him all the cards, and he plays it all in his head, all of it. So go ahead and continue, Will.

Will Reed: So, you simpletons, as I was saying, I design a lot of mechanics in my head, and I'll start working in the early stages of thematics, not so much that that's the theme it's going to end up being. It's rather I need a template to help the narrative of the story, so that mechanics actually flow and make sense to people when they're actually playing it. This'll probably go on for anywhere between two weeks, to a few days, to a couple of months, depending on how enamored I am with the idea, or how many problems and holes I see with it, because I'll also be play-testing in my head.

Sarah Reed: And also, every now and then, he'll ask me … He'll be like, “Hey, I'm thinking about this. I'm not sure what to do. Here's where I'm stuck. What would you do?” So he does bounce ideas off o me, so there are times where in this process, he reaches out to me, and I give him some direction, or help, or advice, or whatever.

Will Reed: Yeah. So after that bouncing process, and where I finally feel it's right where it needs to be, like a madman, I spend the next couple days just writing down every single note, and trying to roughly structure it into a quasi-game flow. Then I say, “Okay, it's now expunged. Here you go,” and I hand it off to Sarah.

Sarah Reed: And I'm like, “Yay. I have a long sheet of unorganized notes that I have to turn into rules.” But don't get me wrong. I love this part. For me, I know, because everybody's different, this is how it works between Will and Me, is because he gives me the game flow. The first thing I need to do is wrap my brain around it, and the way I find I do that best is to turn it into rules. I know there's other designers who don't do rules until they play-tested it several times, but then again, Will's play-tested it in his head.

Sarah Reed: So, I turn those into like a structured rules, just the intro if he's written anything, the goal, what components are going to be needed, setup, just kind of how you would do rules, but it's very rough at this point. Then, once I see where things are, and I ask him questions if I have questions, I actually start making the prototype, because again, this is where Will has trouble with his vision. So I've learned, because we've been doing this for about six years now.

Will Reed: Yeah.

Sarah Reed: Six, seven years. Yeah, we've been doing it since about late 2012. We've used The Game Crafter a lot, so we've downloaded a lot of their card templates, or component templates, player mats, and tokens, and things like that, so I start taking these templates, and I create a folder on my computer, start organizing everything of what I think I'm going to need, and I start working out the graphic design in my head. So I talk extensively to Will. Right now, we are still on the mainly a card game based or focused around cards, because it's the easiest component to work with.

Sarah Reed: So I get in my head, “Okay, what elements need to be on the card? Where do they need to be? What's the clearest, easiest way to do this?” And most of the time, I start with just really basic techs. I go to, because it's one of my favorite sites, or I'll do The Noun Project if … Game-icons is very much focused on fantasy and sci-fi themed icons, so like recently, we've been working on a game called Warm and Fuzzy Feelings, which I needed smiley faces, and sci-fi and fantasy just does not really have smiley faces. So, The Noun Project.

Patrick Rauland: That's such a basic icon. You'd think they … You know what I mean? Even though they focus on fantasy and … You'd think they'd have that.

Sarah Reed: Well, they have really good board game specific icons, like if you want an icon for draw a card, they have a fantastic icon for drawing a card, or a hand of cards. I mean, they have really good, basic those kind of icons, but not your modern-day themed icons. So I start working that out. Again, Will and I go back and forth if I'm having any questions, and then I print out whatever we've got, and usually it's printing it out. We have a printer that does card stock, and I've got a cutter. We sleeve things, and between Will and I, we get it to the table.

Will Reed: Yeah. Then it's actual play-testing. So far, I haven't had a game that hasn't worked. I've had games that worked too slow, worked too fast, some games that just weren't fun, but yeah, my initial play-testing in my head has worked out most of the time, where yeah, I don't actually get a good gauge of speed, I think is my only downfall.

Sarah Reed: Yeah, or complicatedness, if that's a word, because Will loves math, and so like one of the most recent ones we're working on, Slime Farmer, he presented me with a chart for scoring, so it's like, “Yes, you count up how many slimes are in your stack, how many colors are in your stack, you cross-reference on the x-axis and the y-axis, and you find how many points you just made,” and I'm like, “Will, that's a lot of numbers. I know it's not math, but a lot of numbers does overwhelm people,” so we're working on slowing that down.

Patrick Rauland: Can we go back to Slime Farmer? I want to know more about … What is Slime Farmer? What is this?

Will Reed: All right, so you are a person who lives in a fantasy realm where slimes are absolutely the best money-makers you can find, because they give off [resigoo 00:29:10] whenever they breed, when they're combined together. So, as a entrepreneur of this growing industry, you have your farm, and as does everyone else, and you start adopting slimes. Usually, it's taking a card, which'll show three types of slimes in a particular arrangement, which you'll put on your board. Everyone else gets whatever's on the bottom of the card, and then you toss the card away. The next step is essentially either managing your farm, where you're moving things around, or actually breeding, where you're actually taking slimes and stacking them in-

Sarah Reed: And your farm is a grid. It's a grid board, so it's very puzzle oriented, because you're trying to make stacks of either the same color of slime or a pattern, so if you do red-green-yellow, then it has to be red-green-yellow, and you have to keep doing that pattern for as long as you can, and the more you can breed together, the better the score.

Will Reed: Yeah, so at the end of your stack, wherever you end up with, because you're essentially making your own puzzle that you're trying to build, you'll actually put a special slime there, and then look at your stack and what type it is, and actually then gather … now it's graded resigoo, which are these little chips that will have points in the underside of them. But yeah, that's-

Sarah Reed: But it's inspired by our love of video games, very prevalent mostly in Dragon Quest or other copies and clones of Dragon Quest, because slimes, the cute little, bubbly little, bouncy smiley face slimes, that's kind of what our game is. You are a farmer, where you are putting them around in your farm, and you are … They're like cattle to you, sort of, except that you do put them in specific plots, so they're kind of like vegetables, but not quite. So it's interesting.

Will Reed: Yeah, Sarah fell in love with it, so much that she immediately got Julie to draw up the five different types of slimes we needed for a prototype.

Patrick Rauland: So, I don't know this game, but I've just Googled Dragon Quest slime, and they're very cute.

Sarah Reed: See? Yes. Aren't they? So adorable, and I got the idea to contact Julie because she does a Twitch stream, and one time, what she comes out with, she usually puts up on her store for sale. She takes suggestions from people and combines them, so she took my suggestion of breakfast with someone else's suggestion of slimes, and it shows this person eating a bowl of breakfast slimes, and it's all the different slimes from the different Dragon Quests, and it's the cutest thing ever, so of course, I had to buy that piece. Then when we got to this game, I was like, “Okay, Will, I know we're not supposed to …”

Sarah Reed: Oh yes, tip. Do not pay for art before you play-test a game. I did this. I am not upset with myself, because you know, it was a reasonable price, and I wanted to support Julie, and I knew, even if it didn't work for this game, I would use the art assets somewhere else, but in general, 99% of the time, don't buy art before you play-test or even a couple of play-tests in.

Do not pay for art before you play-test a game.

Patrick Rauland: Oh yeah. Fry Thief is on play-test 50-something, and I'm just looking at artists, so …

Will Reed: Yeah, yeah.

Sarah Reed: Yes, that's good.

Will Reed: That's a good pace for-

Patrick Rauland: Yay, I'm doing one thing right!

Will Reed: Right.

Sarah Reed: Well, you're play-testing. You're play-testing. That's the other thing you're doing right.

What Does Success Look Like?

Patrick Rauland: Okay, so I try to keep these under 40 minutes, so let's talk a little bit … We're going to skip a few. One of my favorite questions is always asking people about success, and it sounds like … I'd love to know what success looks like to you, and it sounds like it's about spreading your games as far as they can. It's not really about making money. Is that about right?

Will Reed: Yep.

Sarah Reed: Yeah.

Will Reed: That's pretty much it.

Sarah Reed: What makes me happy is when I see people tweet, or post, and say, “Hey, I just played Project Dreamscape. I just played Oaxaca, and I enjoyed it.” That makes me happy. I succeeded. I can go on with my day with a smile and know that if we don't ever make another game, that's okay. I hope we do, because we're having a lot of fun with it, but yeah.

Will Reed: Heck, Sarah just likes to socialize with other designers, publishers, and board gamers, so I mean, just recently, she got invited as a special guest to RinCon, in-

Sarah Reed: Arizona.

Will Reed: Tucson, Arizona at the end of September, and she was tickled pink, because, well, she's going to be able to sit up there on a panel, next to like James Ernest, and Michael [Koh 00:33:55], and Seth Jaffee?

Sarah Reed: Yeah, and David Short.

Will Reed: Yeah, so-

Sarah Reed: Yeah, so-

Will Reed: Yeah, success.

Sarah Reed: Success. We are there, and I hope it continues at this pace or more. Like I said, for us, it's not about the money. It's nice when we make some money, because then we know we have, well, money to keep printing prototypes, and buy a new printer when our printer dies, which unfortunately, it just did. So that's really for us, can this pay for us to continue?

Patrick Rauland: So my question for you is why not … I mean, why not pitch to publishers? You know, and not have to do all the hard … Right, because Kickstarters are a lot of hard work, right? So like why not [inaudible 00:34:37] easy way?

Sarah Reed: Easy way, honestly, when we first started out, we were just going to dump … I don't want to say it this way, but dump our games on The Game Crafter, and if they sold, they sold. If they didn't, they didn't. We never had any intention to be on Kickstarter, but our friend, Ben, one of the first play-tests he came to, he played Project Dreamscape. He literally stood up in the middle of play-testing, and said, “I'm going to help you publish this game.” If it weren't for him, we never would have done Kickstarter, because it's not anything either of us wants the headache for.

Sarah Reed: That business part is nothing we ever want to do. So he helped us with Project Dreamscape, and then he's like, “Yeah, come on. What's the next game?” He helped us with Oaxaca, and then after that, though, unfortunately, his life is taking different turns. Really good. He's got a promotion. He's got another girl. He's got two wonderful daughters now. His life is just really busy.

Sarah Reed: So, yes, our next steps are traditional publishers and pitching, and that was made a lot easier when we were actually able to go to Origins this past year. We met several publishers. We've got open dialogue, so I feel like we've got a good chance, that we can continue the more traditional route.

Patrick Rauland: Oh, cool. Okay. It seemed … I was curious if it was like a conscious choice of like, “We have to self-publish,” or mostly self-publish.

Sarah Reed: No.

Will Reed: No, no.

Patrick Rauland: Ah, so just sort of what was easiest at the time.

Sarah Reed: Yep.

Will Reed: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: Ah. Okay, so I was also at Origins, and I went to one of the two publisher speed dating events. Were you at one of those, or were you just at a different publisher meetings?

Sarah Reed: Yeah. I've seen people talk about the speed dating, and I've even talked to one of the publishers, Carla from Weird Giraffe. She, as a publisher, went to one, and she walked out halfway through, because it was too stressful, and-

Patrick Rauland: Oh, no.

Sarah Reed: Yeah, it was too stressful for her. And I'm like, “I'm a lot like Carla. I don't think I'm going to handle it.” And Will, with his vision disabilities, it would be overwhelming. So, what we did is we set up a couple of appointments, and we did have one … I'm just really grateful for this. One person reached out to us once they found out we were at Origins, and that was really … Again, talk about success. You know that you're at a point where you're being successful when a publisher says, “Hey, you're at Origins? What have you got to show me?” And I'm like, “I don't know, but we'll figure it out.”

Patrick Rauland: That's really cool.

Sarah Reed: Yeah. So yeah. We didn't do the speed dating. Again, I don't work well under that kind of pressure. Neither does Will, so we had a couple of really good appointments, and some really good play-testing, but we were mostly at Origins to meet people, because I've talked to so many people online for the last three or four years. I was just ecstatic to just start meeting the people I talk to online.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. That's amazing. I've talked to a few people who are like, “You've got to pitch. You've got to pitch. You've got to pitch. You've got to pitch,” and you guys are sort of taking it one step at a time, of like, “Oh, this is what's easiest, and we'll do this, and now we'll do this.” You have a much more chill approach, and it actually relieves me a little bit, to know that you don't have to be a pitching machine, as some people are, and some people do that amazingly, but some people [crosstalk 00:37:54]

Will Reed: But some people are also using this as their livelihood, and in those particular cases, yeah, I think you kind of need to be a pitching machine, because you're generating your own type of business. But if it is your hobby, then it should always be fun and fulfilling.

Sarah Reed: It should be on your deadlines. I mean, like Will said, if this is your hobby, and you want to do this for fun, and I'm not saying it's not work, but if you want to enjoy the work, it has to be at a pace that you want to be at. And I mean, yes, if you're unsatisfied with, “Oh my god, I'm not getting anywhere,” then yeah, pitch more, reach out more, but if you're good with the feedback you're getting and the pace that you're at, just ride it out. It's your life. What do you want to do for the next several years? And go at your pace, because you're not competing with anybody but yourself.

Overrated / Underrated Game

Patrick Rauland: Love it. That is great advice. All right, so I want to wrap up here with my game. It's called Overrated Underrated. Have you heard of it before?

Sarah Reed: Not specifically. The concept sounds familiar.

Patrick Rauland: Excellent. No, this is even better. So, basically I'm going to give you an idea, a word, a phrase, and I'm going to force you … And actually, I'm going to have you do this separately, so I'm going to force each of you to take a position on a thing. So I could say, “Ramen, overrated underrated?” And of course, the answer would be underrated-

Will Reed: So we're competing.

Patrick Rauland: … ramen is the most delicious food of all time, or peanut butter. So you give me like an overrated … like an over under, and then like a one-sentence description of why. Sound good?

Sarah Reed: Okay.

Will Reed: So we're competing?

Patrick Rauland: No, you're not competing, but I like to force people into positions, because then they have to defend them, and it's fun.

Will Reed: Oh, okay. I got it.

Patrick Rauland: So, set collection as a board game mechanism. Is it overrated or underrated? And we'll start with you, Sarah.

Sarah Reed: Well, that's a funny one you say, because I would say it's overrated, and it's part of what we incorporated into Project Dreamscape because we felt set collection was rather boring, because all you do is collect cards and you don't do anything with them. So that's one of the things we incorporated into Project Dreamscape, is you collect cards, and you do something with them.

Patrick Rauland: Ah, I like that. What about you, Will?

Will Reed: Yeah, set collection overrated. It's an excuse for obsessive compulsive people to hoard.

Patrick Rauland: Oh my gosh. Wow. I didn't need to force you into that position. Wow, that was great. All right, so I alternate. So the next one is a little bit more silly. Lucid dreaming, as in people who can control their … Like, they know they're dreaming. They can control the dream.

Will Reed: Underrated. It's a valuable tool to let you get into your subconscious.

Patrick Rauland: Can you do it?

Will Reed: I've done it on occasion, but I haven't put in the time to make it a regular thing.

Patrick Rauland: That is super cool. What about you?

Sarah Reed: Yeah, I guess I kind of agree. It's one of those things, I wish I had that skill, so maybe … I would agree underrated, because I wish there were times that I could control my dreams, especially the ones I want to get the hell out of.

Patrick Rauland: All right, what about exclusive components or boxes on Kickstarter projects? Overrated or underrated?

Sarah Reed: Oh, terrible. Terrible. They're awful. They're the worst thing in the whole world, so I guess that means overrated, because you should never do them, never, ever. Well, as long as it's not gameplay related. If it does not impact gameplay, and it's just a fancy box, okay. But otherwise, I think it's overrated.

Patrick Rauland: So don't you do fancy boxes?

Sarah Reed: Yeah. That's why I had to catch myself.

Patrick Rauland: All right, what about you, Will?

Will Reed: I will say it's underrated. Games are pieces of art, and they should look and feel like art, so that's where I think that exclusivity and special components really fall into it.

Patrick Rauland: Oh, love that. All right, last one. Cocoa, the movie that Pixar made in the last year or so, overrated or underrated, Will?

Will Reed: Absolutely underrated. It's a fantastic movie, especially since it's doing everything it possibly can to promote the board game Oaxaca: Crafts of a Culture.

Patrick Rauland: There is a strong similarity there, which is why I picked it, yeah.

Sarah Reed: Oh yeah, when we were watching that movie, it was so hard not to be like, “Oh, alebrijes, alebrijes.” So yes, I would agree, underrated. That movie made me cry so hard. Oh, I just had all the warm fuzzy feelings.

Wrap Up

Patrick Rauland: Great. Those are awesome answers. Thank you for playing the game, and thank you for being on the show, Sarah and Will. Where can people find you online?

Sarah Reed: Well, I am the face of our duo, so you can find me on Twitter @EuroGamerGirl, and then I'm on Facebook, so you can catch me there at Sarah Reed. I don't know exactly what the whole address would be, but if you look for me in some of the board game groups, I'm sure you'll find me.

Will Reed: And then for me, I'd be Resourceful Games.

Sarah Reed: Oh yeah. If you want to contact Will via email, because he doesn't do social media, it'd be-

Will Reed: Resourceful-

Sarah Reed: …

Will Reed: Yeah, that's the one we chose, Yahoo.

Patrick Rauland: Very cool. Well, thank both of you again. Dear listeners, if you like this podcast, please leave a review on iTunes … Oh, so normally, I ask my guests if this is okay to ask ahead of time, and I will just go by it on the fly and hope that they're okay with it. If you leave a review, Sarah and Will said they'd analyze your dreams for you if you meet up with them at a con. Does that work for you two?

Sarah Reed: Sure. We'll give you some fun answers.

Will Reed: Yes, and Sarah's probably going to be the first one at a con, so yeah, go to RinCon at the end of September, Tucson, Arizona, and ask Sarah about your dreams.

Patrick Rauland: There we go. All right. You can visit the site at 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. Until next time, everyone, happy designing. Thank you so much. Bye bye.

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