DTD: …Whether it’s false or not, they give the impression that the designer woke up at three in the morning and said, “You know, I’ve got a brilliant idea.” Wrote down two lines on a piece of a paper and the game was done. I know that never…
JDC: Well, actually, Space Base was that kind of game.
DTD: You’re not supposed to say that. You’re supposed to talk about the months and months of ceaseless effort, design after design.
JDC: There was a lot of balancing effort, but it’s obviously inspired by Machi Koro, right?
DTD: Which, taking it back, is basically Catan.
Roll dice, get stuff based on the number, try to improve your numbers.
JDC: Yeah, exactly.
DTD: A lot of people play Catan. I love the dice rolling. Everybody gets to collect. Everybody gets to do stuff in their turn. But some are a little turned off by the stabbing in the back and all that negotiation.
JDC: Catan started the mechanic, and, remarkably, it wasn’t reused until, I think, Machi Koro, and it’s a brilliant mechanic.
DTD: Machi Koro blew me away when it first hit. I played the Japanese version a bunch, but Space Base has done it so well. It really does have that level of elegance to it.
JDC: So I played a game of Machi Koro at Board Game Geek Con (BGG.CON). And I had played it before, but then when I was lying in bed that night, I was just thinking about that, and what I didn’t like about Machi Koro, and what I would change, or what other kind of systems you could do with it. I basically thought up the entirety of Space Base that night, while lying in bed, and how the cards work.
DTD: That’s fantastic!
JDC: The balance was off when I first made the prototype, but the core game didn’t change almost at all from lying in bed that night thinking it up, to the final product.
DTD: It’s a brilliant variation, and everything about it from the actual physical design of it on up just works. It just fits. I’ve yet to find a group that doesn’t take to it easily, and really enjoy it. And that’s the other thing, it seems like a number of your games have taken some ideas and modified them in that perfect little magical way and made it really good. Ecos has that feel as well, taking the bingo mechanic. I’ve only played it once.
A token is drawn from a bag, then all players mark a space that matches that token. Unlike Bingo, Ecos: First Continent and Rise of Augustus give you some choice about which space to mark.
JDC: Have you played Rise of Augustus?
DTD: I have not. But I’ve heard about it when everybody talking about Ecos. I hadn’t heard about it until Ecos.
JDC: Definitely the inspiration for Ecos.
DTD: Okay, so you had played Augustus. But that bingo mechanic is lovely. I mean, Karuba kind of does similar things in their tile laying. It does similar things, but the filling out cards, reusing cards, rotating cards really feels like the bingo mechanic doing to other games what you did with Space Base: that final modification.
JDC: Any time a mechanic can have all players playing at the same time.
DTD: That’s the other thing I was going to talk about, that your games have. Background play, nobody’s really out. No downtime.
JDC: I love things to do in between turns, or when just the core system itself has everyone involved on everyone’s turns. Or in the case of Ecos, no turns, essentially.
DTD: And it’s such a crazy turn from, you know, the big Avalon Hill games that we would play the seventies.
JDC: Where you take a 10 minute turn, then the next player goes.
DTD: Yeah, you know, it would be great, “Let’s play this over email. We’ll talk in a month.” No. Bravo on Ecos, it’s a really beautiful game.
JDC: You played at GenCon?
DTD: It wasn’t a whole game. I was demoing, but it’s now on my short list to buy.
JDC: Yeah, I’m really proud of that game.
DTD: It looks really good, and it’s got a whole emotional sweep. When it was first announced, I have to admit it went under my radar, and then when I started diving into it more, the bingo looked good. But then all the card play, and the collection on the cards and the animals in a play, makes it so much better.
JDC: There’s a lot of hidden depths in the game that I’m happy with.
DTD: And that came out more as I played it. It was hinted to me because I didn’t get a full game in there. But then when I started looking into it, researching it more, it really just bloomed in my mind. So it’s another one of these games where the mechanic is not the end-all-be-all of the game. It’s not purely a bingo game.
JDC: When people first hear about it or learn it, it seems like it gets compared to Rise of Augustus. The other comparison I’ve heard the most from people who played it is Terraforming Mars.
DTD: I get that from the card interactions. But to be fair, people are comparing Terraforming to everything, and I don’t know how warranted it is. But it’s kind of a mark of every new game that is good.
JDC: Uses a bunch of cards…maybe?
DTD: I think it’s synonymous for “Wow, this is good, and the other, ‘wow this is good’ game that I know about is Terraforming Mars.” I’m not trying to talk bad about any of the games. Terraforming is a great design. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but it’s a beautiful design.
JDC: I would second that. It is not. The production of the game leaves a lot of question marks in my mind. But that aside…
DTD: I remember buying it at GenCon knowing nothing about it, because everyone else bought it. Then opening it and going, “Oh, no, what did I buy?” And then, you know, being just so blown away by it. Yeah, Ecos has just impressed me. I’m looking forward to playing that one a lot in the repeated play thing.
JDC: I hope it fits well.
DTD: So, when’s the official…
The confused wait staff, afraid to approach too closely as we inhale rice and curry, took this moment to politely ask if everything was to our satisfaction. Much like breathing, thinking and existing, we indicate our acceptance: it is good.
JDC: Yes, official release is at Essen.
DTD: That’s what I thought.
JDC: They’re doing pre-orders off their website. I think they’re trying to copy what Stonemaier’s doing.
DTD: I saw a lot of that. Actually, I’m going to Essen and I saw a lot of games through BGG trying to do pre-orders.
JDC: I think people are saying, “Wow, what Stonemaier did with Wingspan worked really well.” He basically said, “Here’s a brief window where you can pre-order, and then get it before everyone else.” Then there’s the normal retail release some amount of time later. I think that’s what AEG is hoping to do. They’ve got a week-long window for pre-orders, and then people get it around the same time or slightly before Essen. Then it will release at Essen. That’s the official launch day.
DTD: That’s not that far away. It keeps kind of blowing me away Essen is in weeks, not months.
DTD: I need to panic about that pretty soon.
JDC: You’re going?
DTD: Yes. Yes. I speak just enough German to get myself in trouble and I know a couple people who live in the area. I’ve never actually been before.
JDC: I’ve been there once. The year Mystic Vale released I went, so this year my wife and my kid are coming.
DTD: Oh, fun. Make it a vacation of it.
JDC: Made a little room for a week beforehand. I know they’re going to probably come for, like, a day of the show and then hang out with Grandma in Berlin.
DTD: I have been completely unsuccessful in getting my wife or kids to go to any of the shows.
JDC: Are they gamers?
DTD: My daughter really likes thematic games. My son really likes strategic games. They’re both in their twenties. I’m old. And my wife, actually, her favorite game in the entire world is Space Base. Also, I was supposed to give you grief about that, but yeah, they all play. I just can’t get them to travel to the shows. Too many people, too much time. Too crazy.
JDC: I brought my wife to GenCon a couple years ago.
DTD: How’d that go?
JDC: It was great. She helped demo Edge of Darkness.
DTD: Wonderful! She plays? She’s drunk the Kool Aid? She’s fully on board?
JDC: She’s fully on board.
DTD: That’s awesome.
JDC: She prefers lighter weight games. Our kid is six months old. So the last six months, she’s been playing a lot less games.
DTD: So just a few games? No, I get that. It’s just the pure crowd size, chaos, and insanity of the big shows like GenCon. I get lost in that. So GenCon for me is mostly afterwards being upset by how much I missed.
JDC: Sure. Have you gone to BGG?
JDC: I haven’t gone to any of the Dice Tower Cons.
DTD: You should go!
JDC: I’m planning on going. I already have a ticket. So I will be going to Dice Tower West.
DTD: I’ll probably see you there. It’s a great show. They’re focused on playing, so it feels like a smaller con. There’s always table space. There’s always somebody [who] will play a game with you, and just, in general, the crowd seems to be really friendly, not to plug my own horse.
JDC: Well, I’ve been to BGG the last four or five years.
DTD: It’s on my list.
JDC: BGG has that similar experience of playing games, and it’s right after Essen, so you’ve got all the new GenCon and Essen releases.
DTD: Which is beautiful. And Dice Tower East is right before GenCon. So designers tend to show off their GenCon stuff.
JDC: Yeah, they are good for just playing games. BGG is where I originally pitched Edge of Darkness to AEG. Made that connection.
DTD: Just a few days ago…
JDC: [laughs] Yeah, I know. 2014.