An Interview With Walk The Plank Designers Shane Steely and Jared Tinney

10 04 2013

planklogoThis is a special interview for me (Firestone). Jared and Shane are the designers of the new game Walk The Plank, which you can find on Kickstarter here. But more than that, they’re members of my own game group, and friends. I’m thrilled they agreed to let us interview them.

So tell us a little about yourselves.

J—I spend a good chunk of my time playing games or studying and dissecting games to better understand their inner workings.  When I’m not playing or designing games, I find myself interested in other creative pursuits such as programming or cooking.

S—What would you like to know?  Born and raised Colorado native.  Spend most of my time working, sleeping, or gaming.  On occasion I’ll go outside, but the sun is not my friend.

How did you guys get started playing these type of games?

J—I’ve been a gamer all my life.  This was mostly limited to video games until a college buddy introduced me to the local boardgame store and I’ve been hooked ever since.  I still love digital games, but board games offer something different, and it’s awesome to have such a wide variety of games available to explore.

S—I started playing board games with my family when I was a little kid.  The usual classics, and as I got older I spent a lot of time by myself playing board games and video games.  When you switched schools every year as I did from 2nd through 6th grade, it’s hard to keep friends. So I really got into gaming and it just grew from there.

How did Walk The Plank come about?

S—I had a dream. It was about pirates all trying to shove each other off the plank. It seemed like it would be a cool game, so I came up with a quick, and pretty much all random, dice game. I showed it to Jared, and with his help it turned into a much better and way-more-fun design.

J—Shane came up with the core idea near Talk Like a Pirate Day 2007.  Shane’s initial game was mechanically weak, but I loved the concept.  So, drawing on our experience from other games, we worked together to find better mechanics to truly make the concept shine.

What was the process for getting it published?

S—To be honest, most of that was on Jared. He pushed for getting it published, and so I’ll let him tell the tale.

J—We’d had some prior interest from Indie Boards & Cards, but they decided to pass. We also got a narrow 2nd place in a design contest run by Rio Grande. It was clear people really liked the game from this interest and our playtests, but we didn’t have the time and resources to pursue it further.

I was fortunate enough to have a chance to go to Origins 2012—my first gaming convention.  Making sure not to squander this opportunity, I printed up several spec sheets for the game, planning on presenting the game to as many publishers as possible. I was nervous and not really sure where to start; I’d already been chatting with the people at the Mayday booth a bit, so I decided to start there.

I met Seth, the owner of Mayday Games, shortly thereafter and showed him Walk the Plank. He was interested right from the start; the game fit perfectly into Mayday’s product line, and he found the theme and mechanics a lot of fun. A little later I had a chance to play a full game with Seth and his son—and he loved it.  Two days later I had a contract in my inbox.

Are there any other games you guys are working on?

S—I haven’t worked on any others with Jared, but there are always game ideas in the works. None that have turned out to be worth showing off yet. The closest I got to one I thought was playable, but haven’t finished, was my attempt at a dice game. I didn’t look to see if anyone else has done it yet, but after talking with another guy from our group, Devin, we decided there needs to be an Oregon Trail Dice game. If anyone wants to give it a go, let me know.

J—As Shane said we aren’t currently working on anything else together, but I have a handful of designs in progress. Several have interesting mechanics or concepts, but I don’t currently have anything I’m happy enough with to start playtesting heavily. I’d like to have a 2nd finished design within the next 1-2 years, so we’ll see what comes to pass.

What are your five favorite games right now? And what do you like about them?

J—My all-time favorites would probably be Time’s Up, Crokinole, Mao, Galaxy Trucker, and Liar’s Dice. The 5 I’m currently most interested in would be Hanabi, Article 27, The Resistance, Time’s Up, and Tzolk’in. Hanabi is an amazing cooperative game of deduction with a lot of room for clever plays. Article 27 I’ve only had the chance to play once, but it’s such a pure and elegant negotiation game that I’m very enthusiastic about trying it more.

The Resistance continues to be a fantastic team game of deduction, though I wish it wasn’t so heavily biased in the spies’ favor. Time’s Up is always a blast and it’s just a great feeling to be in that zone where you and your teammate are in synch, nailing card after card. Tzolk’in deserves the hype and the gears aren’t just a gimmick—a fresh and interesting take on worker placement with a strong back-end to support it.

S—Favorite anything for me changes on a daily basis, but if I had to list them off the top of my head I’d do so in this order: Galaxy Trucker, Twilight Imperium 3rd Ed., Space Alert, Merchants & Marauders, and Ghost Stories.  I love games with theme. I don’t care how long it takes to play as long as I can immerse myself in the story.

winnie-the-pooh-angryJared, I know you’re a big Time’s Up! fan—having played many, many games with you. What’s your favorite Time’s Up memory?

So many to choose from! Probably the most recent great memory was the ferocious dinosaur-beast known as Winnie the Pooh… Other classics include the inability for anyone to remember Mr. E. Lee’s first name, Buzz Lightyear the Nazi, and of course Maya Angelou the fighter plane.

Shane, you’re a big Vlaada Chvatil fan. What is it you like about his games so much?

He is my favorite designer. Why? Theme and mechanics. I find most of his games just grab my imagination. And most of his designs are very different, so you can play several and know that each is its own game. I haven’t found one yet that I didn’t enjoy.

What upcoming games are you most looking forward to?

S—There’s a lot coming out lately that I want. I can’t wait for Zombicide Season 2, looking forward to trying Sails of Glory, and Star Trek: Attack Wing, to name a few.

J—I’m cautiously optimistic toward Bora Bora—I haven’t especially liked a lot of Feld’s recent games but I like what I’ve heard of the mechanics so far. Compounded looks interesting simply because I like alchemical themes. Beyond that, I’m sure there are plenty of other interesting titles coming out within the next year—I just don’t know about them yet!

5 Questions with 1-Word (or Phrase) Answers

Best thing about Babylon 5?

S—The Shadows.

J—The… space… pirates?

poopsmithWorst thing about Babylon 5?

S—G’Kar

J—It’s 110 hour-long episodes, so I probably won’t get around to actually watching it. Ed note: This explains your answer to Question #1…

Llamas? Yea or nay?

J—Llama School or bust!

S—Llama llama duck

The Cheat or the Poopsmith?

J—Does the Poopsmith perform lightswitch raves?  I didn’t think so.

S—Coach Z

What is “the” word?

S—Is this where I’m supposed to say bird?  I’ll play your game and say bird.

J—Hobo.

Thanks to Jared and Shane for answering our questions! And go check out the Kickstarter campaign! There’s less than a week to go; trust me: This is a really fun game.

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2012 Holiday Board Game Gift Guide—Party Games

26 11 2012

Today’s category for the Gift Guide is Party Games! These are the ones you bring out when everyone’s crashed your pad for Christmas. Or when your adult small group gets together for New Year’s and someone wants to play Catch Phrase for the millionth time… Or when you have a group of restless teenagers wanting to burn off some energy.

The Resistance—This is hands down one of our favorite games of the year. It’s also a great game for larger groups and supports play with up to 10 people! Take all of the elements you like about Mafia, or Werewolf, and leave out the bad, and you have The Resistance. Players are members of the Resistance trying to topple the evil oppressive government, but there are spies among them trying to sabotage them at every turn! The Resistance is a quick playing highly interactive game, that will have players wanting to play again as soon as the first game ends! We seriously can’t get enough of this game! You can read our review here. There’s also a new version called The Resistance: Avalon that has some special powers, and is a good next-step after the original.)

Cost: $20

Available From: Amazon, your local game store, and soon big box department stores.

Ages: Probably 14 and up for this one.

Fluxx—This signature game from Looney Labs has become a staple game for larger groups. It’s easy to learn, but hard to win—in fact when the game begins there is literally no way to win! Players take turns drawing and playing cards. As cards are played new rules, goals, and items are added to the game; once a goal is met, then the game is over. The game is always changing, and planning a turn in advance is nearly impossible; it’s high on luck, and low on strategy, which makes the game both fun and frustrating at times. Fluxx comes in many different flavors, including Pirate, Wizard of Oz, Zombie, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail! Check out our review of Fluxx right here!

Cost: $15

Ages: 8 & up

Available From: Amazon, most department stores and your local game shop.

Time’s Up: Deluxe—I’ve (Firestone) played this charades variant a RIDICULOUS number of times, and I love it. We play in teams, and everyone is given the same 40 names of famous people. You play in three rounds: In the first one you can use words and actions and sounds and pretty much whatever to get your team to guess the name. In the second round you’re all playing with the same exact words, but this time you can only use one word (but still actions and sounds). And finally, in the third round, again using the same batch of words, you can only use actions and sounds. So much fun.

Cost: ~20

Available From: Amazon, and your friendly local game store.

Ages: Adults (I don’t think this would be a good game for teenagers—too many names they’ve never heard of.)

Wits & Wagers—The great thing about this “trivia” game is that you don’t have to know a lot of trivia to do well. The game asks a question—such as “How tall is the Statue of Liberty?” Everyone answers, and then you bet on whose answer you think is actually closest. You do get points for having the answer closest to the actual answer, but you can still do well by betting well.

Cost: ~$20

Available From: Amazon, Target, and your friendly local game store.

Ages: 10 and up (There’s also Wits & Wagers Family, which removes the “gambling” element and has questions that are appropriate for kids and the whole family.)

Dixit—Bring your creativity for this game. There are lots and lots of wild and interesting pictures. Everyone is dealt a hand of the cards. On your turn, you pick a card from your hand, place it facedown, and say a word or phrase that describes that picture in some way. Then everyone picks a card from their hand that could also describe the word or phrase you said and adds it to the facedown pile. You shuffle the cards, place them faceup, and guess which card you think was the original card. You don’t want to be too obvious in your descriptive word(s), because if everyone guesses correctly, you get no points. And anyone who played a card that was guessed (incorrectly) gets points, too. I really like how this stretches me creatively.

Cost: ~$25

Available From: Amazon, Target, and your friendly local game store.

Ages: 8 & up

Spot It!—This might be a little short for a party game, but if your group likes short games, this is perfect for large groups. Everyone is trying to be the first to spot the symbol on the middle card that matches one in front of them. It’s harder than it sounds. This game is cheap, portable, and easily explained—perfect for a party! Check out our full review here!

Cost: ~$14

Available From: Amazon, Target, and your friendly local game store.

Ages: 5 and up. This would work great with any group.

Jungle Speed—Everyone has a pile of cards. Each person in turn flips the top card of their pile. If the pattern matches someone else’s, there’s a duel where you both try to grab the stick in the middle. Bandage everyone up, and continue! We reviewed the whole game a few weeks ago.

Cost: ~$15

Available From: Amazon, department stores, and your friendly local game store.

Ages: 7 and up

Say Anything—You’re asked a question, such as “What is the most overrated band of all time?” People write down what they think your answer would be. You secretly pick one of the given answers as the “correct” answer. Then everyone bets on which of those answers they think you picked. (BTW, the correct answer is The Dave Matthews Band.)

Cost: ~$20

Available From: Amazon, Target, and your friendly local game store.

Ages: 8 & up (Like Wits & Wagers, this one has a Family version with more family friendly questions.)

Bang!—The Spaghetti Western card game, another fun “role” based game in which players are dealt a role card that determines how they play and win the game. Lots of finger pointing, dueling, and just plain taking pot shots at your friends! Check out our full review here.

Cost: $20

Available From: Amazon and your local game store

Ages: 8 & up

We Didn’t Playtest This at All—A game that not only rivals the quirkiness of Fluxx, it surpasses it! WDPTAA is a very fast-playing game for larger groups. The goal is simple: win. There are a few ways to win, but the best way is to not lose. And there are a TON of ways to lose. Players can lose one at a time, or in large fell swoops, depending on the card played. It’s totally random, but totally fun! Every time we play it there are a ton of laughs! And you can read the full review on the game right here!

Cost: $15 (On Amazon, although my copy was $8 at my local game store)

Available from: Amazon, and local game stores

Ages: 8 & up

So what did we miss? Leave a comment and let us know. And thanks for reading!








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