DTD: Tell me how the trivia games came across, the Bezier games? Terra, Fauna, America. It doesn’t seem like the sort of game you would do, except that it’s an unusual trivia game.
FF: Yeah, my girlfriend at that time, my ex-girlfriend now, was very much into animals and very fascinated about animals, and then I was looking for a birthday present.
DTD: Oh. [laughs] Make one!
FF: Then I looked at books about animals. And I found a book with a lot of animals, and for each animal there was a little map with red areas where it lives, and the weight, the lengths, and…
DTD: The tail, yeah!
FF: Which is like I looked at it, then went away, and then that was just like, “wait a second!” And then I bought this book and just put my scanner to work [beautiful imitation of scanning noises], and I scanned all this stuff for this game.
DTD: And made a birthday present out of this, which was Fauna, yeah? Because then I made a map with these, and said, “Okay there’s this map on that, and you have to figure out where this animal comes from.” And I found out that this trivia thing is very good because it’s not a yes-no trivia.
DTD: That’s just really wonderful about it, is you don’t really need to know. You can guess and be close, or you can decide that that guy knows. And then the one who knows everything can say, “Well, I’m gonna guess wrong just to make them…”
FF: Yeah, you can even bluff.
DTD: I really enjoyed it.
FF: And I had a, really, really interesting discussion one day, about if Fauna is a worker placement game or not. And I believe structurally it is. Because you have a space where nobody else can go. And you get the benefit out of this space.
FF: It is a new worker place semantic category I think. I’m not sure. Because it has to be workers, I said, but here they are not workers.
DTD: I have pieces I’m putting in spots to do actions.
FF: Yes, but even in that worker placement, they’re not workers, they are farmers, but they work, yeah? But in worker placement games, you get a benefit to get victory points. But I said, “Yeah, but I left out a step in between. I just put it, and get immediate victory points. There’s no step of working, but it’s still the same structure. Believe me or not.” We had a long discussion.
DTD: You invented worker placement trivia.
FF: [laughter] And I convinced BoardGameGeek to put Fauna in Worker Placement. And someone said “What’s with this!? Why is this in worker placement? I looked for working placement, just saw Fauna!”
DTD: Is this when they just redid it now? Because Geoff Engelstein has taken that over, and he has now decided whatever…
I have very sad news. As of this writing, December 2019, Fauna is listed under Betting and Bluffing. No Worker Placement. I blame Geoff.
FF: I don’t know. It was fun because it was just—
DTD: That’s wonderful.
FF: And we had a research meeting. We bought worker placements, then I found out, I really found out that Fauna is structurally a worker placement, because worker placement for me was always, you have a limited number of resource pieces. To put in spaces where nobody else can go.
DTD: And you’re competing with other people. It is that grey zone, right?
FF: Of course, there are different worker placements by now; you can share, pay to share—
DTD: They’ve changed it so much. I love it.
FF: Whatever it is, it’s okay, it’s fine. To have, yes, to see different things. You see differences of how. So, if you allow in a worker placement that you can share a space, it’s still worker placement. So, why not allow Fauna to be a worker placement?
DTD: I agree, I think you’re right.
FF: Yeah, but it’s okay and of course and the next ones came and they really find out that it’s so much fun to play this. ‘Cause you see, okay, you know this animal is from Africa, but I really don’t know if it’s South or North, but it’s Africa. Okay. Or I don’t think it’s in the jungle. Oh, Africa? This is Africa. I don’t know. So, it’s all of this figuring. I’ve seen a lot of people playing Fauna making this: [Friedemann holds his hands out and weighs, compares them]. Just the gesture of weighing something, yeah.
DTD: I’m the veterinarian, so when I play Fauna, they watch me. And if I go first they need to decide whether I’m bluffing or not and they usually don’t trust me.
FF: [laughter] Yeah, and it was fun to play with a Chef. “It’s like a swine, it must weigh this way.” Or “Okay, it’s like a duck.”
DTD: I love it. So, now you need to do the next trivia, but make it your cannibalism game coming back. So, you know Frischfleisch.
FF: Oh, I would like to work on trivia again, which is fun.
DTD: There’s three of them out there, and they’re very good. They’re fun games. And I hate to say it, but way back in the 80s, I enjoyed Trivial Pursuit. We almost never finished the whole game, but we read all the cards.
FF: This is so stupid. So stupid a game. The system is so stupid. It’s just you roll the dice, and if you get in these corners you get this little triangle thing. If not, you went again. But you still answer a question, but it’s not worth anything, only a new die roll.
DTD: They didn’t make good games then. But they were so unbelievably popular in the 80s.
FF: Yeah, I had it. I think I got it from my mother for my 18th birthday.
DTD: You’re too young for that.
FF: For my 18th birthday I got it, or I think something like that. 16th or 18th.
DTD: I had the Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit. And I believe Rob Daviau is a designer on that. ‘Cause he worked for the company back then.
FF: [laughs] OK. Yeah, I do not care much about Trivial Pursuit anymore.
DTD: No, no, no, no. Why would you pick it up?
FF: Because there are so many better trivia games out there.
FF: And I don’t want to have just a question-answer trivia, but I like the others better where you have putting the markers on the—
DTD: Just yes or no is…it’s dumb at this point. You want to do fun things with it.
FF: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We have this, in Germany, these pop quiz thing from Moses which is only German by now.
FF: It’s covered. It’s just covered with trivia. You sit there in a group from 4 people, and everybody can contribute something, and say, “Ah, one is that way, but yeah, you’re right, George. It was there and do you know the name of the city? Ah, yeah, the city is—” I don’t know. So, you guess. It’s great. And it’s great to make a trivia problem.
DTD: There’s so many games now that have a wonderful idea, and they try so hard to make it a scoring game, and the scoring system is terrible. Concept. Did you play?
FF: I love Concept.
DTD: Concept is so fun, but it’s not a game. It’s an activity. The scoring is terrible.
FF: Yeah, but somebody’s—
DTD: It’s such a fun idea.
FF: I think it’s—I don’t know if it’s still on the rules, but I think it was something in the rules, or they wanted to put in the rules, but the scoring system is only for the Germans. So, you need points. [laughs]
DTD: My English edition had scoring and it was bad.
FF: No, no, it is the scoring is, but they kid around. It was like, if you sell it only in France you don’t need the scoring, but if you want to sell it to Germany too, we need the scoring.
DTD: I love it. [laughter] Oh, sell it to those Americans. They’ll buy anything.
FF: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That is so true. By now you have Just One, Spiel des Jahres, which is no scoring. There is a possibility of scoring.
DTD: Oh, they put a little—Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
FF: No, no. The official rules, you take 13 cards and then you try to manage and, there is even some stupid ruling on there.
DTD: I still think it’s just a fun activity. It’s delightful.
FF: Yeah, I’ve never ever played with the original rules where you—The idea is, if you are not sure, you should not answer. Then you get only one negative point. If you answer wrong you get two. I don’t need it, because we always play to the moment where you get it, yeah? Sometimes somebody says something wrong and then you get the double word. Yeah, that was cut out. Just because we wanted to solve it.
DTD: You want to keep playing. Yeah, you want to keep going.
FF: So, the player wants to solve it.
DTD: The other one, that’s—the new one, Letter Jam, have you tried that?
FF: No, I’ve not tried it yet.
DTD: It’s so clever.
DTD: Very fun and clever, Again, the scoring is terrible, but it is—it’s a cooperative word game. But you don’t need to know big long words. It’s wonderful. It’s Hanabi with letters.
FF: Okay, great. Oh, for the word games I had these very—I was last year in New York at the game center up at N.Y.U. for a speech. I was a speaker on this. And there was a lot of other speakers and there was this lady who had made a word game.
FF: And she started of course with Scrabble scoring. Of course. And then she was like, “Yeah, but Scrabble scoring is not useful for my word game because the Scrabble scoring scores a rare letter better than a famous letter. But the Scrabble system benefits you for not often used words.” So, it is not really a word game for your language. It’s just a word game for…
DTD: Yeah. You need to memorize the strange words.
FF: And it was kind of very interesting of the way she led, and then she changed it, and she went to letter combinations.
FF: So, she went to the complete English dictionary with two- or three- letter combinations. And then looked what’s very often in there, and what occurs very often, there were cards added to the game. So, you now have a game where you build words that are very often in the language and not the rare ones. And I found it very interesting because for me it was crystal clear to take the Scrabble scoring if I would ever make a word game. But now I think, “No”. You could go beyond, you could go—
DTD: Yeah, I think they’re different things. There’s some people who love to remember the very strange words. That’s what they love. And that’s Scrabble.
FF: Scrabble is very, very popular.
DTD: Yeah, I’ve played Scrabble with German friends once.
FF: Oh! [very evil laughter]
DTD: And as soon as they ended up putting down Silberminenverkauf…
FF: [laughs] What?
DTD: Silberminenverkauf. One word.
Silberminenverkauf is a single German word which loosely translates to “the purchase of a silver mine”. Don’t get me started.
FF: Yeah-yeah-yeah. I know.
DTD: I just quit. I was just like, “I can’t do that.” Oh, they beat me so badly. I still own that German Scrabble edition.
FF: We tried this year to play Cross Talk with German words, it’s impossible. It’s broken, with German it’s broken. Just because in Cross Talk you need, if you can make these words, you can make several hints in one word. It’s a game about taking one hint word after another. And it was broken.
DTD: Do you see that with Codenames also?
FF: No, Codenames works very well.
DTD: I didn’t think about that, that you can have, you can make one very long, very specific word with a whole bunch of hints in there.
FF: Yeah, no, but, yeah.
DTD: Do you argue about, yes that’s a real word but I can tell you’re cheating? [laughs]
FF: By now I only play Codenames Duet, because its cooperative, and it’s a better way to play it.
DTD: Duet is very nice.
FF: So, we just don’t have to argue. It’s just like—
DTD: ‘Cause we’re working together.
FF: Yeah. Working together, so we found a word in a good game and we don’t want to spoil it. So, don’t use it. To us it’s fun, because this year one guy in my regular game group was I think, “Uh, I am not sure if this could be allowed.” We said, “If you’re not sure you don’t use it. It will be wrong, believe me.” People believe that it’s wrong. “If you already have doubts about it, we will have them even worse. Don’t. Stop. Don’t do it.” It’s like, “Man, but I want to do it.” “Yeah, but you already feel that it is cheating.”
DTD: [laughs] That means you know that you’re cheating. that’s what’s very nice about Letter Jam. It says in the instructions, use any word you want. Any spelling you want. Even make up a word, anything you want. But it’s cooperative and the other people are going to have to guess it. So, if you pick something that’s spelled wrong and made up, they’re never gonna guess it. So, it just takes those rules right out.
FF: Yeah, yeah.
DTD: So, what new games have really impressed you? And, I don’t know if you’ve gotten a chance to look around the Spiel, but certainly you’ve seen what’s been coming up in the past couple months.
FF: I was playing The Crew. Kosmos, Die Crew.
DTD: The Crew, the book?
I was thinking of The Crusoe Crew, a really interesting, interactive graphic novel.
FF: No. The Crew. It’s a cooperative trick taking game. I don’t know if it’s only German, but in German it’s “Die Crew.”
DTD: Oh, I don’t know it. Sounds really cool for sure.
FF: It’s just about 50 mission card game to go to the, 9th planet because Pluto is not 9th planet anymore but they go there to find a new 9th planet or whatever. But this is the story—the story does not really, is not really important for that game. But it’s just a trick-taker and you have…think of just normal trick-taking game, and you get randomly a card from the deck, not from your hand—from a second deck, yeah?
FF: You get a card from the second deck, and you put it in front of you and everybody knows that this is a card you have to have in one of your tricks. So, you have play that you get this card. And if the highest green card, and you do not have it, you have to try that somebody else should not follow suit, and put it in a trick you win. So this is the game.
DTD: And it’s cooperative.
FF: It’s cooperative.
DTD: So the other people, by knowing your card, are helping you be able to use that card. I like that; it’s an extension of partners. And I love partner trick-taking games, they make you think in such unusual ways.
Since this interview, I have acquired and played The Crew, because I have impulse problems. The first time I put it out to play, my group obsessively played almost 30 times. We won 5 of them.
FF: Yeah. I like this a lot. Surprisingly, I played the Battle for Hogwarts card deck builder game, also from Kosmos. I just got it for my son. It came out earlier from Kosmos.
DTD: I actually really liked it, the beginning was very easy, but it got very hard.
FF: We are still unbeaten, and we have six chapters done and we are almost on the seventh step.
DTD: Wow, that’s incredible.
FF: But maybe we made something wrong because we played in a rush.
DTD: Ah, you play it much better than I do.
FF: I don’t know. Whatever it is, we already played it. From OSTIA I played Tea or Coffee.
DTD: I don’t know Tea or Coffee.
FF: It’s just this box, a tin box that size, [small gesture] it’s just only cards. And you only have cards with tea, coffee, cake, bagel, buns, marmalade, sausages, something like that. Eggs, yeah. And so you build up breakfast for eatings, yeah?
FF: And you can play coffee for one point, you can play tea for one point, yeah? But you can play, whatever it is, I don’t know. The two cakes together are five points, a cake and some coffee is three points. So, if you have these cards and on the cards is, a very good thing about this, on the cards is the scoring for every card. So, if I have a cake, I see every combination for the cake. So, I don’t need a sheet, I only have it on the cards. And I have a full set of cards in my hand.
DTD: A little bit of Point Salad.
FF: Yeah, so you put it, and you build combinations, and you get a good benefit if you get rid of all your cards. Then you get a new five cards and then an additional three points. So, you try to build combinations that you get rid of cards. And then there is this nasty sausage card where you draw two cards and you can give another player one of your cards. So, he’s just building up and he’s only one card, then you say, “Oh this is for you,” so, yeah-yeah-yeah?
DTD: You get a sweep.
FF: Yeah, something like that. And the marmalade you can put something from the discard. The end scoring is kind of nasty, because if somebody gets 40 or more points, the game ends after the next player gets rid of his cards, or hers.
DTD: Oh. So not a solid timer.
FF: If you go for 40 with your last cards, you get five new cards. With no structure, no collection just random, and somebody else may finish it and get these bonus points which is 10 for ending the game. So, you might not want to go for 40.
DTD: I like those games.
FF: I don’t know if you want to play it forever, but it was just like one-, two-, three-time shot, it is cheap, it is easy.
DTD: That sounds not bad. I have to look at that one, especially if it’s small, because I have to bring everything back in a suitcase. I really enjoy the games where one of the players has to decide, “Now the game’s going to end.” And then it goes around a little bit and it’s not necessarily the person who decides it, who ends it. They might not win.
FF: Yeah, and you play parts a little for the new ones, which is okay for me. It is the good part about Point Salad is that I can play it with everybody and at any time.
DTD: And it takes five minutes.
FF: You just put it on the table, play it, and you have fun. It’s maybe not the best game in the world ever but it is just…
DTD: But you have six people, who can’t decide what to play. Warm ’em up, five minutes, get it, game played.
FF: And I’m really looking forward to Merlin’s Beast Hunt because it looks so great. Merlin’s Beast Hunt from Wizkids.
DTD: Which one is that? No, I don’t know it.
FF: It is, you have beasts, fantasy beasts and you try to hunt them. And they’re standing on the board, and you have on the board there is a little square, where exactly fit four dice in. And they’re in the corners, and then you put them in there and if you have two dice here, two dice here then you can slide a card in, which is one part of the four spaces caged around the beast. And these are, translucent they are, you can look through it. And there are these things printed on, but they have plastic cards you put in there.
DTD: Oh, there’s a lot of those now.
FF: But this is—I don’t know if the game is any good, but this looks great. [laughs]
FF: And Sabotage from [Tim] Fowers looks great too. I don’t know if you’ve seen it. But I had it before the fair; I got it in my hands and it was just like, “This is so-” [very excited squeaky fan boy voice]
DTD: There’s so many of them and they’re so pretty.
FF: They look so pretty.
DTD: Itten Games has the prettiest, strangest games. Moon Base, or, the one with that pendulum?
FF: Oh, yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah!
DTD: Stonehenge and the Sun. Who puts a pendulum on their ceiling to play a board game? I like walking by and seeing one that’s just so- pretty.
FF: And I like, I think they don’t know what the name is, the mystery house thing where you look through.
DTD: Mystery House where you look through the box? Yeah, it’s Cranio.
FF: Yeah-yeah. I just bought it with the lights, an extra where you get these lights—
DTD: That one I want to get it, but I’m afraid it’ll crush in suitcase and then it would be ruined. So I’m going to wait.
FF: Yeah, of course, of course. Yeah-yeah. It’s what I’m looking forward to try. I have Irish Gauge because I am a real gamer, of course. I can do that, but still have it at home and want to play it.
DTD: That’s nice.
FF: So, there are some of these and something else, but yeah—
DTD: Yeah, Sorcerer City I was impressed with.
FF: Sorcerer City?
DTD: Sorcerer City, it’s a new one from Scott Caputo who did Whistle Stop. That’s why I was thinking Rail Games.
FF: Ah, Whistle Stop, yeah.
DTD: Yeah, and it—Sorcerer’s City is a tile-laying game. You have a timer and a pile of tiles, and you need to put them down and make your city. And you want to put like colors together and you’ll score points for all the—you know, yellows in a line—it says it on the tile. But then, your city will earn you money and you can buy more tiles, so it’s a deck-builder with tiles.
FF: Okay. And it’s real-time. I’m a bit fed up with real-time.
DTD: There is a timer on it, yeah.
FF: Because we just played from [Tim] Fowers again, Now Boarding. From last year, Now Boarding which is the—
DTD: Now Boarding, I don’t know the game.
FF: It is a cooperative pick up and deliver. You’re passengers in the US. For everybody has a fly route.
DTD: Oh, from Tim Fowers. Yes, okay, I know.
FF: Now Boarding—
Our ever helpful waiter returned and asked about bringing some espresso or coffee, now that the repast had…passed. I was quick to jump on the espresso, but Friedemann doesn’t drink coffee, and the tea at Tatort Essen was apparently more like, well, coffee. It was impressive the lengths the waiter went through trying to find a perfect drink, running through numerous choices. Hot milk came up twice. Leaving without an order for his charge, I suspect our faithful server has not given up this easily.
DTD: No, no. Fower’s game, Now Boarding, I know it. I am—
FF: There’s real time. But it is not that real-time, because you have a long time to discuss; there is no time limit for discussion.
DTD: I like that. I like a discussion period without stress. And then, you know, one minute of insanity.
FF: Yeah-yeah-yeah. Thirty seconds in that way. It’s good.
DTD: A minute might be long.
FF: Yeah, and it worked. Really let my brain work on something.
DTD: Yeah, Project Elite was also very fun.
DTD: Project Elite. That’s more of an Amerithrash.
FF: Wow, yeah.
DTD: But it’s killing aliens, but you talk about it for a while, and then all of a sudden, they follow paths and tracks and you roll dice frantically and kill them off. But you have one minute and then see if you’re dead. And then talk about it more.
FF: So, on the other hand, I just bought 120 games in my car. [laughs] I go home with them, and then I know what’s good. So, I’m just talking about the games, they were delivered before the fair. They will be, of course, but my problem is I cannot test anything here at the fair. I have to run the booth, peruse, do boring interviews… [laughs]
DTD: Sure, yeah, I know…
FF: [laughs uproariously]
DTD: You’re the worst.
Stay tuned next time when Friedemann and I discuss some of our favorite designers, true geek culture, game design in college, and the world of reprints.