JonnyPac and I have arrived at Royal Dragon, a famed Chinese food buffet in the very heart of Gold Country. In this segment, we drink tea, which tends to make people talk. Conversation ranged from Kickstarting Hangtown, Coloma game design, love for Alan Moon, the healing power of Mancala, jazz and nonverbal yelling. You know, normal tea subjects.
JPC: So, before we go in, I’ll talk to you a little bit about it. I’ve been coming here for a long time. Now one thing that’s interesting about this place is they’ve got one CD of instrumental Chinese music that has been in the CD player for 15 or 20 years, playing on a loop. I have a favorite song that will come on at some point, so always gotta wait for that; It’s my jam. And I know some day if it’s not on, I’m going to be devastated that the thing’s not on. We have tried to Shazam it, and it just comes up with a bunch of Chinese characters.
DTD: That you don’t know. Oh, that’s so cool. There was a sushi restaurant that I went to all the time when I owned the hospital over in Vacaville and they had a loop, same thing. And we knew all the songs and we loved all the songs. And then one day it was not playing, and when we walked in we knew something was wrong. And we could not place it for a really long time. And all of sudden someone jumped up and screamed, “The CD is different!”
JPC: Yeah, I kind of wonder if it’s become a thing here, and maybe they’ve tried to change it, and maybe enough people complained that they need to keep it because it’s just part of this place. This place is great. I love the food. I love to come up here for birthdays or whatever else.
DTD: Royal Dragon. That’s awesome.
We entered the restaurant, small, humble, but smelling of Chinese goodness. The hostess politely told us we were crazy coming this early, but she would give us tea for an hour of so until they opened. Much to her chagrin, we made it clear we would wait for the buffet.
DTD: So, I had set up that I was going to go down to L.A. and I was going to do an interview with John Clair. I was writing him and I said, “I don’t know L.A. very well. So, you can pick a restaurant.” And L.A. is huge and there’s so much food. I said, “I have been to like 2 places in L.A.” And I told him one of them was this little hole in the wall Indian restaurant. And he wrote back and said, “I grew up around the corner from there! We went there all the time.”
JPC: So that was his spot?
DTD: That’s where we went.
JPC: OK, that’s awesome.
DTD: That was my in. I don’t know, I get fascinated by what restaurants get picked, and where people want to go, to and stuff like that. I think It’s cool.
JPC: I figured this was a little strange. And hey, let’s go do a gold rush thing and a Chinese buffet restaurant out in Georgetown. It works. It’s my spot.
DTD: I’m good with it. It’s perfect. You know sometimes they want to go to a big fancy thing, sometimes it’s just this wonderful little thing I’ll never go to otherwise.
Seeing that we were not joking, and really were going to sit and wait for a while, the owner took pity on us and brought some tea.
DTD: Thank you, thank you.
JPC: [listening, frowning] That’s not the jam. So, we will see if it comes on at 4:30 along with the food.
The hostess had already told Jonny the buffet wouldn’t open until 5. But, details, details…
DTD: Not a worry at all. So, you were the music store rat, the music teacher?
JPC: Yeah, for too long.
DTD: For too long. And then you stayed in games, even after that terrible experience with the first one?
JPC: Yeah, that was… Kind of the arc of it was: get excited, make a game, pitch a game, get devastated, get depressed, then not sure what to do after that. I heard of this Kickstarter thing, and I had heard a local guy made $10,000 on Kickstarter to make his own game. And I was like, “Wow, that’s amazing. What could I make for that?” So, I got some quotes for the game, and was like, “OK, I could do this.” Even if it’s a break-even thing that would be really fun. So, I decided to do that. I didn’t have an art budget with that, I just had enough budget for manufacturing X amount of copies – the smallest print run I could get. I ended up using historical photos for a lot of it and then, besides that, my brother did just kind of vector-y graphics on the cards. So, it looks like Glory to Rome kind of, graphic design-y kind of thing in one of those editions. Got that done, waited 6 months, it shows up. I even warehoused it in the back of a friend’s flower shop – had some extra storage.
Hangtown funded successfully on January 2, 2015 with 249 backers who had raised $15,846.
DTD: That’s awesome.
JPC: And self-fulfilled. Boxed up every box myself. Sent them out to backers and was selling the remaining stock from the back of my car, eBay, whatever else. And didn’t go into distribution, didn’t even try. And just kind of did that, and it took up a couple years of my life, and my net profit on it wasn’t that great. And a couple people discovered it kind of late, like Rahdo somehow picked it up and 2 years later did a run through of it and enjoyed it. And that was kind of exciting for me. And maybe even later than that the Secret Cabal’s Don had discovered it.
DTD: I heard them talking about it. I think I was listening to the Cabal pretty regularly when they were going off on it. Well certainly I had heard about Hangtown for a while and the vibe was, there was this really great game. It didn’t look great, but it’s a really great game.
JPC: Yeah, it doesn’t look bad I wouldn’t say. I mean there’s a lot of utilitarian type games out there like some of the GMT stuff like that, where it’s just… It’s graphic design that’s functional with no pizzazz. It falls into that. Then there were selected spots where I was able to use some historical stuff. Like the little board in the game. There is an aerial lithograph of Placerville from 1888 that appeared in one of the newspapers in the foothills. And I was able to get a high-resolution scan of that, and so I superimposed that in the background, so you can look down and see little roads and buildings and things. And it’s pretty much accurate to its time. And that was one of the coolest art assets in the game. Then, after that, it was like… I don’t want to Kickstart, I don’t want to be a publisher, and do this…
DTD: But Hangtown was a Kickstarter.
JPC: Yeah, yeah. I was the publisher and all that. So, I did the whole thing. I wanted to transition into just doing design, as a freelance designer. Pitch to companies and seek no bigger than I could possibly do. I didn’t want to build a name and slowly break into Europe and all that. I wanted to get picked up by a European publisher, so that way their main demographic might be Europe, right? And so, OK what I’m going to do is, in the amount of time it took me to design and publish Hangtown and all this, I could make a lot more games. So that’s when I decided to make a quick catalog of games, and not just have one game that is my baby, I would make a litter of different complexity level games. Even have different themes, even though the westerns got signed [laughs]. So, I kind of have this big tote bag full of a bunch of slim boxes…
DTD: To pitch?
JPC: Yeah. So, I went to some pitching cons. Caught word that BGG [Con] was a good one for pitching because it’s a small amount of people but a high population of industry people.
DTD: Yeah, certainly good for feedback, if nothing else.
JPC: So I went to the speed dating there, I got to meet the guys at TMG [Tasty Minstrel Games] and got to meet Seth Jaffe and Andy Van Zandt, and kind of struck a chord with those guys. To me, I always say, it felt like it was like getting a surprise music lesson from a guitar hero of some sort. Just hearing them look over my stuff, and even the critiques and suggestions and all that was kind of on that next level, compared to just putzing around on protospiel with a bunch of other guys, scratching our heads – “How do we make games that aren’t broken?” And these guys are looking at “How do we make games great?”
DTD: And their view on the game is so different. I’ve even seen it just explaining a game to someone who’s a designer, who’s been there for a while. You don’t have to explain it as much; they instantly get what the jabs of the game are. And then they will ask these pertinent questions, which basically are, “Did they fix this?”
JPC: Yeah, their uptake is really quick. They saw the systems. They even had some suggestions that really made it into the final print of Coloma, which was the shootout part. In Hangtown, it’s kind of this dice chucking, you win some, you lose some. It’s more or less output randomness with a little bit of mitigation baked into it. But they were saying, “Well, what if the shootout was more of a semi-cooperative thing, where everybody has to come together and defend the town, and all that?”
DTD: You either participate or you don’t. And there’s benefits and penalties to both.
JPC: Right, right. And what if we take the dice out of it and have some other thing? And I was like, OK semi-cooperative. What’s the… How do we know how bad the bad guys are? Because some people were like, “What if you rolled the dice or you flip a card, and it says there’s going to be 18 bad guys at the end of the round?” Well, maybe… And how are you going to know if you are going to win or lose this thing? There’s no uncertainty. So, I felt like that didn’t make sense, I feel like a shootout in the street needs to have uncertainty. And so, I was like, “Eh, OK.” And then I started to thing about the Tragedy of the Commons idea, and that was like if you’re greedy then things get generally worse for everybody, and if the outlaws have this stash of these barrels, these really good tokens you can go get. And if you go there and kind of piss off the ants, they will bring in more of their boys to fight.
DTD: And that’s nice too, because if you are the guy who’s not getting involved, and you figure, “Well, I’m lost anyway.” I’ll just sit there and poke the bear for a long old time, because I’m getting eaten no matter what.
JPC: Right, exactly. Or you do the bare minimum, and you put one guy out there just so it cuts your losses in half, and then you poke the bear a whole bunch, and all that. It’s funny because Daryl Andrews messaged me this weekend, “Hey question – you there?” So, I said, “Yeah, what’s up man?” And he was saying “OK, we are playing Coloma and we are just starting off and everybody is taking the face-down barrels, which don’t add outlaws to the shootout, because they are afraid of losing dudes. And there won’t be a shootout, and just everybody is doing that. What’s the deal with the face-up ones? Why would you ever take a face-up one?” And of all my playtests, I never saw people that loss-averse, that they as a group all opted to take just the face down ones and leave the thing down there. I said, “Well, think about this a little differently. Think about it as do a little math, and look at what’s the worst you could lose? This isn’t like a Rosenberg game, where if you don’t feed your dudes at the end of the era, you are going to lose the game because the penalty is so strong. The penalty is survivable. And then if you happen to take barrels and things that work with your engine, you’re going to net better than whatever else, and you could be creating a fire that the other guys need to put out, so in a sense you are taking away the efficiency of them, because you are going ‘well now the place is on fire’. They need to come in and send in their dudes, and that means maybe they’ll have to make a stop at that place.” And he said, “Oh, OK. I get it, I get it.” And then a couple hours later wrote back, loved it, and said “Oh it’s the favorite thing I played all day.” And that’s great.
DTD: That’s awesome. Well you get that group, that usually everybody hangs back until one person jumps in and starts doing it. And then everyone else realizes, “Oh No!”.
JPC: [laughing] So that was kind of cool to see his feedback, and see the assumptions that people are going into these games [with]. Because we get these kinds of heuristics we are in now. It’s like, “Oh, if there’s a feeding phase, in Stone Age or Agricola or something like this, you will… If you don’t do it, you will lose.” I mean it’s kind of like that thing where it’s like… You’d have to do something crazy to make up the difference, and the penalty. And I think that assumption was kind of baked in with this one, and people don’t even look and go like, “Well, it’s not like per guy you don’t feed, you lose 3 points in Egizia”, where that kind of thing where that can add up and cost you the game. This is kind of a different bit, and there’s even characters in there like the renegade or whatever else, where you can purposely let your guys die, that way it does this other thing for you, and that role is based on that.
DTD: I think we are moving right now in a phase in these board games, where there used to be very hard and fast rules. You had to do A, B, C, D, E, and if you don’t, you lose. And now people are taking those exact rules, the A, the B, the C, the D, and they are playing with them. So, you’ve got Eric Lang’s group of games where the more damage you take, the more powerful you are. So, you really want to mess yourself up, so that you can survive the rest of the game. Just to the point of not dying.
JPC: Right, right, right.
DTD: And with the worker feeding, you’ve got like what you’ve done. You’ve got these things where you want to kind of mess with other people, and protect yourself a little bit, but I think we are playing with all of the preconceptions of how these games work.
JPC: Yeah, yeah. And I think that’s a good thing, kind of pushing those boundaries. Because there’s some designers and stuff right now which are focused on taking these things, which might be in a middle weight or a heavy weight game and making them accessible for more of a gateway audience to grow the hobby. And where I appreciate that, those games sometimes aren’t for me.
DTD: There’s a new breed of… not simple games, but elegant games. There’s a new push for games that are relatively easy to learn but then you realize pretty quickly they have got a really elegant mechanism to them that is really clever and can have a lot of strategy there. And I think that’s a bounce back. I think there’s been a pendulum shift. In the 70s we had this huge amount of very complicated, very involved games with 30- or 40-page rule books. All in type, that all said, “Here’s rule 126.96.36.199, except on Tuesdays.”
JPC: Right, yea. Kind of in that Avalon Hill board gaming tradition.
DTD: Bigger and more complicated was always better and more desirable. And that lasted for a little while, and I think that turned into a lot of our take-that games in the 80’s. And now, it’s a big push for easy, acceptable and elegant mechanisms. And we are getting our Splendor, Reef, Century Spice. All these neat little mechanisms that just work so well.
JPC: Yeah, yea I appreciate that stuff. I feel like some of those just take… Some people say that Splendor is not a game, Splendor is a mechanic. I disagree with that, because that’s kind of condescending.
DTD: It’s an abstract. It’s an abstract game.
JPC: It just teaches the most fundamental stuff of discount building and money management and light engine. But there’s also those really good Splendor players that know how to rig the system and sidestep the usual course of play.
DTD: Yea, you’ve got those little rules that at first you don’t realize why they are there. Like you can only hold this many tiles, or you can only take wilds if this many are left. And people take advantage. They horde and drive the game. And it’s neat little things like that that are very cool. Even Ticket to Ride. That’s got so many neat little corners to it. And that’s not that much more complicated than Splendor.
JPC: I mean there’s Ticket to Ride complexity levels, depending which you want. You can get the little introductory ones, like the New York or London, that just really just boils it down to a quick 20-minute filler.
DTD: And then the one that everybody wants, Märklin.
JPC: OK, yea. I haven’t played the big one, that’s like it’s got the…
DTD: Oh, there’s one with stocks, one with the bullet train, and there’s one with… All sorts of little mechanisms added in. I’m not the hugest Ticket to Ride player, so I don’t know all the little details. But I certainly talk to enough of them.
JPC: Sure, sure, yea. That makes sense. I’ve played a few of them, but it’s not something… I do actually really like that designer a lot, so I’ve actually followed a lot of his other work that’s not Ticket to Ride, just to see…
DTD: Alan Moon.
JPC: Yeah, but some of his other work with Aaron Weissblum, he was a co-designer he worked with a lot. They did some games like San Marco from way back – really cool territory control game with an “I cut you choose” mechanism in the front. Still one of the best iterations of that mechanism to this day.
DTD: Underused mechanism.
JPC: Yea, and that’s a really cool game. Even the art direction they had in that edition [art by Alessandra Cimatoribus] was interesting. Because it showed the geography, but it also had this kind of Marc Chagall kind of look to it, which I thought was really neat. Those guys have a few… Another one they did was Oasis, which I thought was underappreciated. It’s been out of print for a long time. But you are kind of making offering bids from a deck of cards, but kind of like Hanabi, you don’t get to see what cards you have until you commit to revealing them. So, I’ll reveal one card, and you flop it out there, and it’s one camel. And you go, “Ah, nobody’s going to buy my stuff for that one camel.” So, you flop out another one, and it’s like “A camel and a rug. How about that?” And then you see people kind of shaking their heads, and then you go, “OK, a camel and a rug and a patch of green grass, how about that?”
JPC: [gensturing] I’m going to leave that there. And everybody kind of does this blind flop of what they’re offering. And then, in player order, you exchange your token of player order for the lot, and you take that lot…
DTD: It sounds a little Medici like.
JPC: Except for, there isn’t a central auction. Each person is auctioning off, kind of selling off their offering individually. Really interesting game. And from there it is a territory control, kind of tile placement. Make a big trail of camel meeples, which are cute. It’s those indirect interaction games that I like.
DTD: There’s no bad games with camel meeples. You put a camel meeple in, you’re just good from the get-go.
JPC: Sure, camel cards. And we’ve got Five Tribes.
DTD: Five Tribes, excellent game. Camel meeples. Mancala mechanism. No one makes a game with Mancala mechanisms anymore.
Mancala is so passe.
JPC: [laughs a bunch] Yea, Mancala is kind of a fascinating one. I really doubled down my fascination with it when I was bartending at night. Something else I was doing. And I found an old 1964 copy of Oh-Wah-Ree, which was part of that old bookshelf series from 3M. It’s got this kind of sexy Egyptian lady on the cover and all that. I found it at a thrift store. Folds open, and it’s kind of a big circle of Mancala type pits, but it’s symmetrical instead of having large pit, large pit [points to the ends]. I mean it can be played by up to 4 players, by designating which quarter of the board is yours, then you just pass rocks around and do the mancala thing with it. And I found that I’d be bored bartending, and people wanted to tell me their life story while they’re sucking down their stuff. I would bring out this game and play it with people at the bar. So, I would leave it up there, and they would be getting drunker and drunker. But, just the enjoyment I saw people getting out of just picking up these little things and dropping them off one by one and seeing the outcome, showed me that there’s something ritualistic about board games. That people really enjoy.
DTD: Oh yeah.
JPC: And that was kind of turning point for me. It’s like, well there needs to be a play pattern that’s kind of ritualistic that you enjoy doing. People will say it is fiddly, and if they don’t enjoy doing it, becomes a chore. But if Mancala is… Could be described as fiddly by nature. But it’s good fiddly.
DTD: I think it’s the raw joy of the physicality of it. I think Mancala video games would do terrible. Because there’s something about picking them up and holding them and plunking them in.
JPC: Oh gosh, imagine like dragging a cursor over something like that.
DTD: Click, click, click… click… No, it just speaks to how much people like picking up big chunky things. And that’s a big part of why I think board games are making their resurgence, is it’s a rebellion against video games.
JPC: It’s a rebellion against a lot of disconnect, I think. Which is huge. We have outlets as musicians, that you can go start a band with your buddies, at whatever skill level you are at. And you have this outlet where you can go do something chunky together and talk shop and do that thing. But then you go, “Aw man, can’t start a band with this guy because he’s not a musician. Hasn’t spent the last 10 years beating his head against this thing.” With the boardgame you can bring in people of different skill levels and you have a happy medium where you can do that thing. And I think that’s huge. And the direction I think the worlds going in the gaming world, I don’t see it as a bubble. I know some people are like, “Oh it’s a bubble, it’s all doom and gloom!”
DTD: And the market is specializing so much.
DTD: So, you can pick, you know, the story telling thing, the artsy thing, the party thing, the social thing.
JPC: Yea, even the meta-game. Because I hear at your party, we had that one going on. Don’t Get Got.
DTD: Yea, I didn’t do that. But man, they were having fun with that. I remember when that came out, I was reading about it, it was such a bizarre idea. And there’s even a couple games now that are just games about picking the next game you are going to play. My brain is too old to play with the metagame of all of that. [laughs]
ShilohCon – somewhere between a large party and a small convention, over New Year’s eve. One of the activities was the small game Don’t Get Got. Everyone got a list of things to catch other people doing – make up a word and get someone to google it, get someone to compliment your hair. It lasted days.
JPC: I think it’s a good thing. I don’t try to make games that please everybody, I don’t try to make music that pleases everybody. I just know that you make ones that you’re most passionate about and you hope that there’s an audience of people who have similar taste as you, that there is an outlet. You go, OK, if you play jazz, not everybody likes it. Not everybody likes all kinds of jazz, amongst itself even. Because you could say Dixieland, Miles Davis are kind of two different things.
DTD: Well for a medium that essentially started as “unmusic”, you know it’s, “We know all the rules. Let’s break every one of them.” So, they almost strove to make unpleasant music at the beginning of experimental jazz.
JPC: [laughs] Sometimes.
DTD: So, it’s a very weird thing to talk about, making jazz that people love, and making jazz that people hate. It’s a crazy world.
JPC: Sure, sure. I followed a pretty interesting chorus of its history, of how that stuff split. Going from marching music and party music in one area. Then it turns into the swing era and the dancing and all that. Then you’ve got the war, and they drafted away all the musicians, so you couldn’t do big bands. So then you got these small combos making music, and they’re playing more, faster lines than bands do, all the be-bop stuff. And then you’ve got these guys, they get itchy, they’ve heard too many things working and they want to step outside that line. You go that free-bop and free jazz. And then you’ve got the introduction of all the electric instruments.
DTD: And I love that transition, when it was definitely music to just sit and listen to, and there was no way to dance to it. It turned into just almost academic, listening music.
JPC: Yeah, there’s a good share of that. I remember getting into some of the early free jazz. I never struck a chord with Ornette Coleman. It didn’t feel like he had chops, and he was explaining why his weird sounds were weird. Parallel him, I really enjoyed Eric Dolphy, who was kind of a woodwind specialist who was famous for playing bass clarinet. And he did some stuff, where he got the best guys that would play all the technical inside stuff, but then they would go and do a free jazz album. And one of them was called Out to Lunch. And it’s these bizarre compositions and sounds and kind of indeterminate meter lines. Very, very cool album, and that was one of those things where it wasn’t just a bunch of people tuning up in the same room, or not listening to each other. There was a sound collage…
DTD: And there was a lot of that.
JPC: But there was, exactly. And there’s a difference. You can tell the difference; I could tell the difference when I heard that. That was one of those albums where my mind was kind of blown. And there’s going to be a very select amount of people that like that album, but it is heralded as one of the greatest jazz albums.
DTD: But it is music for people that know music. So, you enjoy the changes they made to your conceptions of what music is. And you have to have that base knowledge to make it fun. Make it weird.
JPC: There is kind of a… that second school of atonal music that popped up and was… that was doing stuff, working up the idea that what was once dissonant became acceptable as time went on… And then years later, brain science pops out and goes, “Due to the frequencies and this, this, and this… and the fact that we are humans, we will never like this for reals. It won’t resonate a chord in your ears.”
DTD: Well, they were always arguing whether it was cultural or whether it was biologic. There’s something very real about octaves and intervals. Octaves are doubling of frequency. They mesh together and we like that.
JPC: The ear finds the symmetry in these sounds, even if it has a very symmetrical pulse to it. When people hear a 5th, that overtone, it just sounds right to people. And if you play with that and give somebody a tritone, a flat 5th, it immediately sounds off.
DTD: They want it to resolve.
DTD: Now we call it heavy metal.
JPC: [laughs] They’ve got some tritones in there. It’s playing with those expectations. And then there’s kind of that jazz… They were able to make all the notes sound good in one context or another, but the minor ninth was the last dissonant interval in jazz.
DTD: You get the really strange, it was Giant Steps that really made those strange intervals work.
JPC: Yea, that was a fascinating piece of music.
DTD: It is incredible. That’s the one that they asked a whole bunch of musicians, “What can you not play? What is the hardest thing for you to learn?” It was always Giant Steps.
JPC: Yea, sure. It’s a chop buster. Even famously, Tommy Flanagan, who was on the session, couldn’t play it, finish his piano solo, and starts to stride and Coltrane comes back in.
DTD: And it wasn’t that it was technically difficult, it’s that it made no sense. And your brain wanted it to go one way… Well, it was technically difficult, but not technically impossible, is what I want to say. There’s other pieces that are technically much more difficult. You start getting into Zappa, and some of Zappa’s stuff is famous for just being hard. And it was only made to be hard.
DTD: So, what do you think about board game? Where’s the jazz in board games?
JPC: [laughs] I feel like it’s there, though. Because a lot of the guys I run into at protospiels out here on the west coast, are Silicon Valley guys. “What do you do?” “I work at Google.” They program software, engineers of some sort.
DTD: That is a crazy group of people.
JPC: They are sharp guys, and they are making games. And I am kind of the knuckle-dragging musician that walks in the room from the sticks. I don’t program stuff, I have a flip phone.
The buffet is laid out for our perusal and consumption. The soups are souped, the dim is sumed, and the chow is lo-meined. Everything smells wonderful, looks great, and strangely, makes me nostalgic for childhood.
DTD: I got that excitement when The Mind came out.
The Mind has become extremely divisive in the board game world. People are dealt out a hand of cards, with numbers from 1 to 100. And the cards need to be played out in ascending order. You play a card whenever you feel it’s the right time. And there’s no communication. At all. People love it, and people hate it. All I know is it is undeniably unique.
DTD: Because it was so vastly different from anything else. I don’t know if I like it. [laughs] But it thrills me no end that it’s there.
JPC: I like it. I don’t like The Mind Extreme; I just played that recently. You’re playing with two different decks, and some of it is face down, and you can’t really work off of the body language of people, or the body language of people or the hesitations, because the face down one is…
DTD: And this is another part where you get the artists versus the I.T. guys, because you play with the artists… This is very broad generalization… You play with the artists, and they are reading people and guessing and figuring out what’s going on. You play with the I.T. guys, and they are all just silently counting [numbers] in their head. [laughs]
JPC: Yea, I played with an engineer and he didn’t want to play it, and he was like, “This isn’t going to work. How could this possibly work?” And a half hour later, his face is red, and he’s like, “I’m going to buy this!” And he’s all excited because of these uncanny moments will happen.
DTD: It works!
JPC: Where 46, 47, and 48 all fell out in this split second.
DTD: And they happen more often with a group you’ve played with more often.
JPC: And you start to read people. Like, this person hesitates even though they have a number I would pull the trigger on. And then this person is trigger-happy; you need to beat them to the punch, because they are going to do that. And other strange things, like breaking into the new group of tens seems to be perceived as… Somebody says, “Alright, well I’ve got the 54.” And then somebody else will throw down the 58, and they’ll think “Oh, that’s not too bad of a gap.” Somebody else will throw down the 59, then somebody hesitates to put down the 62. And it’s like the 62 is further away.
DTD: Yea, this is human nature. We always work off of our most recent tragedy. You know, whatever just happened to us is the framework for the whole rest of the world.
JPC: Yea, it’s fascinating. And I think it’s one of those games where “Are you cheating?” is going to be how much you give away by how much you’re gesturing or types of things you’re doing.
DTD: And the instructions… That’s the one thing I don’t like about it, is the instructions are very clear that there should be absolutely zero communication whatsoever. No moving, no gesturing, no facial expression, nothing. And I don’t dig that. But we’ve got a whole bunch of games nowadays that are “communicate without communicating”. And they’re always a little blurry about what’s cheating and what’s not. None of them are clear. I love them – The Game, I think is absolutely incredible. But then again, people pretty quickly pick up on… You’re not allowed to say what the number is, of the card you’re holding, but if you say, “I really like that spot” versus “I love that spot” versus “I really want to play there”. It pretty much defines what your numbers are.
JPC: Yea, it can help.
DTD: But I do love that mechanism where you’re communicating without communicating. That’s just a very nifty one.
DTD: Magic Maze did it so well, because there’s a tension with these games, where you’re not allowed to tell people what you’ve got. Serious tension. And so, you give them a big rock to just bang up and down. It’s the perfect way to break that tension. Otherwise you may just explode.
In Magic Maze, players need to move the pieces around the board following specific rules, but you are often just waiting for someone else to do their thing. But you’re not allowed to talk. So they put a huge wooden piece in the game to just bang against the table in front of someone. It’s a great non-verbal scream.
JPC: And the look when somebody’s shoulders shrug, and “I don’t see what you’re…! What?!? What?!?” And you’ve just banging.
DTD: You’re just banging those pieces in front of them and staring at them.
JPC: And they start moving just anything they can move legally. They just start moving it.
DTD: It’s the game that has had some people just be the happiest I’ve ever seen them in a game, and some people get so mad that they are never going to play any game ever again.
JPC: Oh my gosh, I haven’t seen that.
DTD: I’ve had some people absolutely explode at Magic Maze. Because you have people yelling at you that you’re not doing something right. In a very symbolic way.
JPC: That’s interesting that there is a reprimanding nature if you saw it in the wrong light. Hmm.
DTD: I have had the wrong group play Magic Maze before. It’s one of those games where I pre-empt with “You are going to make mistakes.”
DTD: The Game also. You are going to make big mistakes. Just deal. It’s going to happen. That’s OK. We all will. We are still going to yell at you when you do it, but then you’re going to yell at me later, so it will all even out.
JPC: Grab a plate?
DTD: Yeah, sounds good. [getting up. groaning noises]
JPC: [pointing] You’ve got your soups. Over there you’ve got your salad bar.
DTD: Oh, this is delightful. I’m a hot and sour soup freak.
JPC: And it’s so good here.
I will not describe the sounds, the pure animal noises of our descent on the buffet. Let’s just say I’ve worked in animal kennels, and I know noises. I would love to blame it on the huge crowds of uncouth patrons. Unfortunately, we were the only two people there.
Stay tuned next time, when Jonny and I actually get our food, and discuss the great truths of the world – prototyping, rating systems, and creator’s initial works.