Welcome back to dinner with Sagrada designer Daryl Andrews. We have jumped the border into Ontario, Canada, from the quiet calm of The Gathering of Friends convention in Niagara Falls, NY. The Tide and Vine restaurant was kind enough to supply us an entire Tower of Seafood, which we felt obligated to devour. Duty calls.
DTD: There you go. So, what was the story with getting your first game published? Getting it out there? There’s usually a story.
Daryl: It wasn’t a roller coaster. It’s funny, actually. My first game that came out, I just got reminded… I always think of it as my second game. It was… You mind if I finish this off?
DTD: Not at all. Please.
And so another small piece of the seafood tower comes crashing down.
Daryl: My first game, and the one I always say is my first game, was a game called “The Walled City.” Have you ever seen it?
BGG lists Daryl’s first game as City of Gears, and his second as The Walled City: Londonderry & Borderlands. There’s often a discrepancy between when games are designed, and when they release.
Daryl: OK. I’m very proud of it. It’s one of my favorite games. That’s the game I could keep playing forever.
DTD: That’s awesome.
Daryl: And I never got sick of it. Which is surprising to me, actually, when I think about it. But anyways, I had an idea for a game. I played around with that alien one. I played around with a few others. And then I had this idea of like… It would be neat… I started with little tiles of saying like, “this piece counts towards two things.” And I was doing area-control and I was trying to do area-control in multiple ways.
Last episode, Daryl discussed his early idea for an alien area control game using sprues and dryer filters. Really.
DTD: What is that? Oh, it’s just a top shelf for decoration.
On the recording, there was a loud clang, as I picked apart the ruined remains of the once glorious Seafood Tower, searching for scraps.
Daryl: Oh, funny.
DTD: I think there’s one over here, too.
Daryl: Oh, yeah, yeah.
DTD: You know, I’m digging for gold. I’m seeing if there’s anything I missed. Sorry, I interrupted you.
Bad interviewer. Bad.
Daryl: Well, I showed the idea to my friend Stephen [Sauer], who also was a new designer, and lived in Toronto. Then we started going to designer nights at Snakes and Lattes.
DTD: Oh, Okay! So, Snakes and Lattes was going already…
Snakes and Lattes was one of the first, and some would ague, one of the most successful board game cafes. Started in 2010 in Toronto, there are now 7 locations in both Canada and the US.
Daryl: It just, just started. And we were like… Me and Stephen were new, but people like Sen [Sen-Foong Lim] had been doing it already. And I convinced Sen like, “Hey, let’s drive to Toronto.” This guy, Steve, and a few other people – Josh Cappel. A few other Toronto people. We all started meeting once a month at Snakes and Lattes and we would try putting our games in front of each other. I put this really rough idea in front of Stephen, and he was like, “Oh I have some ideas.” We started bouncing off each other. Very quickly I realized, “Oh, I love co-designing!” I didn’t know. [laughs] I never even tried.
DTD: I was going to ask about that.
Daryl is known for co-designing hundreds of games, while having few solo designs. I mean, it could be because he’s just so fun to hang out with.
Daryl: Well yeah, that was why! It was just really fun. It was like, whenever I hit a roadblock, then he would be like, “Oh, but let’s try this.”
DTD: “Try that!”
Daryl: And I’m like, “Oh yeah! Well, let’s go down that.” I felt like – you’re always saying “yes” when you’re improving, kind of thing.
DTD: Yeah, so I mean, how many of your games really were solo designs?
I found Back to the Future: OUTATIME, The Oregon Trail Game: Journey to Willamette Valley, Shop ‘N Time, Space Invaders Dice!, and some unreleased titles.
Daryl: I think maybe three or four. The majority of my stuff is with someone. And so that was the beginning of me and Stephen [Sauer] kind of pushing Walled City around. And then we pitched it, and it was surprising how many people were open. We just thought like, “This is never gonna work out.” But it was at Gathering [of Friends]!
DTD: Really? OK.
The Gathering of Friends is a private, invitation only, convention organized by Alan R Moon, designer of Ticket to Ride. They are his friends. Coincidentally, this interview dinner was done during the 2022 Gathering of Friends.
Daryl: My very first pitches were Jay Cormier, who does co-design with Sen [Foong Lim]. I met Jay through Sen. And Jay said to me, “Hey if you wanna meet some publishers, during every one of my pitches you can just come with me. Just be a fly on the wall if you want.”
DTD: Were you going to the Gathering at that point?
Daryl: And I was just going to the Gathering because of the board game tournament I ran across Canada. There were people that got me in, being like, “Hey, this guy runs these game things, he’s really nice. Like, get in.”
Daryl ran The Great Canadian Boardgame Blitz.
Waitress: Hey, still working away over here?
Daryl: Yeah, chipping away.
Waitress: So sōrry I keep interrupting y’all. Sounds like you are having very interesting conversations.
DTD: [laughs] Thank you! That’s it, I’ve fallen in love with her.
I do tend to equate love with food. When waitresses bring me lots of food, I am fully and completely putty in their hands. Having said that, our waitress was amazing.
Daryl: Yeah, she’s amazing.
See, told you.
DTD: People who bring me food and are friendly. If the next time she comes by, she says “sweetie,” that’s like a $100 tip there. That’s it. I’m sold.
Daryl: [laughs] Then she’s got the trifecta. Jay [Cormier] let me sit in on all his meetings.
DTD: That’s so cool.
Daryl: And I kind of took it on as this chance to be like, “I’m gonna be his wingman. I’m gonna learn his rhythm, and have things ready when he wants it.” And it was funny because he never really said much of it, but I was like, “OK, while he’s talking I’m gonna set up the board.” And then he would be like, “Oh yeah, OK.”
DTD: You were the bag man.
Daryl: And then it’ll be like, I started to learn his… Yeah, I learned his repertoire of like, he’d go to say something, and I’d hand him the cards that showed that example. And he’d be like, “Oh yeah, OK.”
DTD: “Thank you, Vanna.”
Daryl: And I would just like step out of the way, let him do his thing. And then always, like at the end, he’d be like, “Oh yeah, and if you want, Daryl has a design, too. If you want to schedule a time?” And people would be like, “Yeah, you seem cool.” Because, I mean, I’m not getting in the way. I made it fast and productive. And then I’m like, “Yeah, if you have a time, I’ll write it down.” And I’d schedule something. So, for like, especially the first half of the con, I just ran around with him. And then the second half, then I started showing my game around. And I was shocked that I had multiple people that were interested.
I cannot express just how charismatic Daryl is. I can totally picture him winning over every publisher he met.
DTD: That’s awesome.
Daryl: While I was doing it, the funniest thing that happened was there was a guy – he was here… I haven’t seen in the last few days. His name is Doug Morse – he made a documentary, The Next Great American Game.
The Next Great American Game crowdfunded on Kickstarter in June 2013.
DTD: Oh yeah.
Daryl: He hadn’t figured out what his movie was yet, so he filmed it all. To this day, I haven’t seen the footage. I’m sure it’s horrific in some ways. But he filmed a bunch of my first pitches. Because he was just there, like being like, “I don’t know what the film is yet.”
DTD: It’s documented.
Daryl: There’s a few… I mean, I have no idea what I said.
DTD: That is a trip.
Daryl: I remember at one point, which was a funny moment now in hindsight… I was pitching the game and Frank DiLorenzo – it was him and someone else, I think it was two publishers. But I remember Frank going, “Yeah, if I sign this game, I know how to fix it.” And I was like “Feedback?” He was like, “No, I’ll only tell you if I sign it.” And I just remember being like, “Uhhh, okay.” [laughs] And he never told me.
Frank DiLorenzo is one of the founders of publisher R&R Games. Interesting fact – it is a secret exactly what R&R stands for.
DTD: Need-to-know basis, man. Need-to-know. You. Did not need to know.
Daryl: Yeah. I guess so.
DTD: Wow. I am so blown away by the Gathering, I can’t even describe. It’s such an amazing atmosphere, and everybody has been so ridiculously nice. I very easily can see myself coming every single year. This is… It’s going to be a hard one for me to ever say “no” to.
Daryl: Oh yeah, man. It’s a can’t miss. It’s like, you can’t miss it unless there’s something really up. Because, why would you? You love playing games, hanging out with people.
DTD: Oh, I’ve played 50 titles so far.
Daryl: Right? And when else can you do that, where you’re just always with people available to play, and teach you. [laughs]
DTD: Well, at home, I have probably 3 or 4 rotating groups. And I’ve got a big library.
Daryl: OK, so you do have some options.
DTD: I average more than a game a day, usually. But what’s blowing me away, is I write news. And all the things I write about, that are coming in a year or two, are all here.
Daryl: All here.
The Gathering is a unique atmosphere, since most of the attendees are in the industry. Most of the games at the convention are not released yet. It is truly like traveling into the future for a week. Plus you often get to play them with the designer or the publisher.
DTD: And I’ve played them. And they feel done. That’s mind blowing.
Daryl: Yeah. It’s mind blowing, and it’s not unusual.
DTD: I’m gonna make you split this, because I’m feeling guilty if I steal it all. And it’s staring at me.
Daryl: All right. [laughs]
Daryl is a perfect dinner companion. He saves tidbits when I want him to, and he eats last bites when I need him to.
DTD: That is so tender and good and wonderful.
Daryl: Here’s a funny example of this, of the “future game” at Gathering, and how amazing it is. I used to always show up on the Wednesday or Thursday before anyone, because I live close, and I’d just drive up.
DTD: Yeah, you could just day trip it each day.
Daryl: Alan [Moon] would have me help set up a few things. And a couple publishers would always be like, “We’re gonna show you our games first, because our English isn’t great. And then you can teach people all week.” And I would be like, “Cool! I get first dibs. Sounds good.” Czech Games, and at the time, Eggertspiel – they always made great games, and I was like…
DTD: Of course.
Both Eggertspiel and CGE are known for interesting, mid-weight euros. Eggertspiel is now under the Asmodee umbrella, being part of Plan B Games.
Daryl: So many of those, the funniest part is… I ended up being the person who taught it to a publisher that would end up signing the rights in North America. And it became like a running joke, of people being like, “What’s your schedule of what you’re learning? I want to learn it before so-and-so.” Like, people would jockey for spots. Because they would know, I knew all the new games that no one knows yet. [laughs]
DTD: It’s such a small industry. I love that that stuff happens.
Daryl: [laughs] Isn’t that weird? And I wasn’t even, like a published… I had a game or two out there, but I was still doing that. And people knew me as that for this. It’s just like niche, niche, niche. My all-time favorite one was, Czech Games came up to me and they were like, “Hey, this party game we have doesn’t make sense for us, as a publisher. So can you find us a new… Someone to make this game?” And it was Codenames.
DTD: Oh my God.
2015’s Codenames by Vlaada Chvátil did incredibly well, winning uncountable awards, including the 2016 Spiel des Jahres.
Daryl: I showed it for 7 publishers within like the first two days, and I went back to them and I said “I think every person I’ve shown it to has said they would they would make it.” And they were like, “Oh, we’re not signing that, we didn’t realize how popular it was going to be.” But it never went back to the outside table. They had multiple, I think 3 or 4 copies. And you know how the games are around the outside? The minute someone would finish to go put it back, someone would be like, “Oh, I’m waiting for that.” And it was just the buzz of just… People were lined up waiting for a game to finish, so that they could get it and play with someone.
The outside perimeter of the gaming room at Gathering is lined with games on tables, each publisher bringing their newest and shiniest.
DTD: That’s amazing.
Daryl: And by day 3, they were like “Oh yeah, we’re gonna publish it.”
DTD: Vlaada is their dude, so…
Designer Vlaada Chvátil did many of the games for CGE, including Galaxy Trucker, Dungeon Lords, and Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization.
Daryl: He was there!
DTD: It’s funny that they didn’t want it.
Daryl: He said he didn’t want to sign it with them. He was like “Who do you think could be a good partner to do that?” And then, by that point, they were like, “Oh…”
DTD: I hear it did OK.
Daryl: [laughs] Yeah, it was an alright decision.
Spiel. des. Jahres.
DTD: You know, not terrible.
Daryl: Alright, one of these shrimps is you.
DTD: I thought I was a shrimp ahead of you maybe.
Daryl: No, I think we’re even. This is me.
DTD: I mean I know it’s not a race here, but I think I’m winning.
Daryl: You won the race.
There really was no question. I excel at dinner-ing.
DTD: I’m good, I’m good. I won’t say “no” – I mean, if you’re going to give up a shrimp, I’m gonna eat a shrimp.
Daryl: It’s like you got me talking or something.
DTD: That’s my secret goal, is I keep eating, you keep talking.
Daryl: [laughs] Amazing.
DTD: I feel bad, I’ve had some of these where I swear the designer just did not eat anything.
Daryl: Well, you’re never gonna have to worry about that. I like to eat. [laughs]
DTD: [laughs] You want more? I could eat more.
Daryl: I could eat more. This is amazing.
One Tower of Seafood is just not enough. Do not think this idle talk, dear reader.
DTD: This is! There’s a little bit more mussels in there, and I had a lot of that.
Daryl: I’ll go for that.
DTD: So, what have you played this year that really impressed you? Can you process yet? Because I always find, I have no idea when someone asks me that during the con. But you know, you give me a week or two, and I’ll go “Oh my God, it was this and this were so good.”
Daryl: [laughs] Yeah, it definitely takes me time. It’s funny because everyone always asks at the end.
DTD: Oh, every single new person because – I know I’ve got the red badge.
At the Gathering of Friends, badges are color coded. Red badges are given to new attendees, and yes – people do have to be nice to them. Black badges go to people who have attended for more than 25 years. Yellow means industry people, blue goes to designers I believe. And there was one purple badge, which was proudly worn by Alan Moon’s wife.
DTD: They have to be nice to me. So, they always say “So, what have you played that you loved?” And I’m like, “I don’t even know where I am. I’m not sure what I’ve played. I think I’m in New York?” [laughs]
Daryl: [laughs] Right.
DTD: So now I’m gonna make you do it.
Daryl: I mean, I really liked Gutenberg.
DTD: I enjoyed it a lot. More than I thought I would. I was actually… I preordered it, because I’m easy and I preorder everything. [laughs]
Gutenberg by Katarzyna Cioch and Wojciech Wiśniewski is a delightful game of collecting resources and fulfilling contracts. And it has rotating cardboard gear pieces!
Daryl: That’s fair.
DTD: And I was actually feeling a little bit of regret, like I might not love this, I don’t know. But it was so good. I just played it today. Danielle [Standring] was demoing it.
Daryl: For Portal. She’s awesome. So funny.
Danielle Standring does the best board game related videos. And she is just as wonderful in person. Danielle was demoing Portal Games’ new shiny titles.
DTD: Oh yeah. I bumped into her in a couple of meetings. But this is the first time I’ve actually sat and talked with her for a while. She’s hysterical. Love her videos.
Daryl: So funny. Her videos are awesome. Huge fan of her videos.
DTD: Absolutrely. Yeah, Gutenberg was great.
Daryl: What else…? I mean, I played… This is a cheater answer, because I love “La Granja.”
DTD: I playtest with Ode [Andreas Odendahl]. He’s a good friend.
Someone should interview that guy. He seems super cool. La Granja originally released in 2014, and was a Spiel des Jahres recommended title. A new Deluxe Master Set with modular expansions crowdfunded in February 2022. There was a very early copy at the Gathering.
Daryl: [laughs] Oh! I love that game, it’s one of my all-time favorites.
DTD: So, I’ve been playtesting his new La Granja [La Granja Deluxe Master Set]. Jonny’s [JonnyPac] a developer on it.
Daryl: Oh, I didn’t know that.
DTD: Well, I don’t know if you’re supposed to know that, but I have loose lips. [laughs]
Many sunken ships in my wake.
Daryl: I have played four or five of the modular expansions that are in the Kickstarter, and I love them all. They were amazing. There was one that, I was like, I can’t wait to see the final version – the Buildings. They were described… Derek [Funkhouser] had a homemade version he made.
DTD: Oh, that’s cool. I playtested a lot of those modules early. Loved them.
DTD: And then have you played the new “La Granja”? El Burro.
DTD: Brand new game.
Daryl: But using a multi-card system?
DTD: It’s like Granja 1 ½. And it is awesome.
The waitress cleaned up the broken remains of our once mighty tower of the sea.
My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Daryl: Is there anything in particular you recommend?
DTD: This was so good.
Waitress: Are we thinking something small, something big, something shareable?
Big. Shareable. Big.
DTD: Shareable would be good. Medium – I’m not sure we’re up for another tower.
Waitress: Yeah, no worries.
Full disclosure – I could have done another tower.
DTD: But I definitely wanna throw something on top of this.
Waitress: Okay. Actually, in that case, I might do something that you guys can kind of do by yourselves. We have seafood chowder. It is absolutely amazing.
Daryl: Oh. OK.
Waitress: I absolutely love it. It’s fantastic. Or you guys can go for our award-winning lobster roll. That guy is really nice. If you need a little something extra, then the chowder. That’s really well done. Or you can get 2 cups and split the lobster roll in half. So you can try a bit of both.
You know we are going to do both. I will leave the waffling, and the polite discussion. But you know we are going to do both.
DTD: I would go with that last option. I got nothing against the chowder.
Waitress: Chowder and then split the lobster roll?
Daryl: That sounds perfect. I trust your judgement.
DTD: I love it.
Waitress: Yeah, awesome. We will do that. Perfect. Oh, thank you guys so much. I’m going to get this out of the way and I’ll be back for everything else, OK?
Daryl: Amazing. Yeah, thank you.
DTD: What’s the line? “Keep coming every 5 minutes until one of us drops, and then come every 10.”
Daryl: [laughs] Nice. Well, I’m looking forward to the next La Granja.
DTD: Yeah, yeah. The running title on it is “El Burro.”
Daryl: How do you spell that?
DTD: B-U-R-R-O. The Donkey. And it’s kind of a race along a road game. And it uses the multi use cards in really interesting ways.
Daryl: I love that. Oh boy. That’s gonna get me.
El Burro is currently dated for 2023.
DTD: I loved Granja forever. I love Cooper Island. I really like Ode’s stuff. And then he’s trying to get… His first game is a space game – Solarius Mission. He’s trying to get that out again.
Daryl: Oh, yes, yes, yes. I wasn’t as much of a fan of that, but maybe with a refresh, it might catch my attention again.
DTD: True. But Cooper is amazing, it’s so crunchy and so heavy.
Daryl: Super crunchy. I think that La Granja does this fine line of being lighter in a way that’s accessible, but still super crunchy when you pull off something really meaningful, that I love. It just gets me.
DTD: The problem I run into is now I’ve played La Granja with so many German play testers, who are very good at it.
And by extension, I am not good at it.
Daryl: Right, that you’ve seen the synergies.
DTD: And I get stomped. I am not good at it compared to these people. They play aggressively and they know THE Strategy.
Daryl: Right. That was like… A game that I really love is Russian Railroads. Big fan of that game. And I remember they were playtesting it at Gathering, actually. And the first time I played it, I thought I was doing alright, but I was in a game with…
DTD: Oh, then you actually played it.
Daryl: Well, I was with the two Germans from Hans im Glück, and Matt Tolman, one of the designers of Brass. And I’m like going do my thing, thinking I’m gonna have a pretty good score. And at a certain point, when they all doubled me, and I was like, “Uh oh”… And by the end, they were kind of like, “Well, you were a useless playtester.” And I was like, “What?” And they were like, “Well, your score was just so bad in contrast to us.”
DTD: That’s me.
I believe the German playtester for La Granja, in the most polite way possible, expressed the same concern over my skill.
Daryl: And I was like, “Well, you gotta remember, a bunch of people are gonna play like me.” And they’re like, “Yeah, we’re not worried about them.” [laughs]
DTD: “The game is not for them.”
Daryl: [laughs] I was like, “OK…” I still love that game, but it did very quickly show me there’s certain people that will just play games at another level.
The funny thing is, I recently played Russian Railroads and absolutely love it. And I don’t think I have ever won.
DTD: That’s it. A lot of times I kind of feel that there’s people who play the game to win. And that is the end all be all.
Daryl: Yeah. Right. Right.
DTD: And there’s people who play it to explore the game, and try all the different things. That’s me. And there’s people who play it to socialize, and they’ll miss turns and forget what they’re doing. They’re there for the experience.
Daryl: Yeah. I like to explore the first time. I’m an explorer always during the first game. And I shift, I gradually shift to the third category you mentioned over time. Where I’m just like, “Eh. I don’t care about me, but I’m now more like watching and enjoying people discover the game.” That’s fun.
I play to explore. I suppose if I claim to play to lose, I may gain more respect, since I am so good at losing.
DTD: That’s cool. So do you like the – I’m not going to call them party games or social games – they’re the games where you watch everybody else, and second guess what they’re doing. Things like Glass Road, Coloma, Witch’s Brew. You know, these things where, if I do the exact same thing as you, I’m in trouble.
Daryl: Yeah, yeah! I do love that decision point. Like being like, “I really need one person to do this action, and I think they will. So, I’m going to do this, hoping they do that.” And like, those moments for me are really fun, when you get it right. And when you don’t, it’s even fun, because you’re like “Bah! I had a master plan, and now I gotta try something else!”
DTD: “Now you second guessed me! Arrggh!” Man, those are good ones. Alright, so at the show, you told me one that you were enjoying.
Daryl: Yeah, this show, what else have I really enjoyed? I am trying to think…
It is difficult to form coherent thoughts with 10 pounds of crustacean weighing down on your brain. Proven fact.
DTD: I know, I played First Empires.
Daryl: Oh yeah, I’ve been trying to try that.
DTD: And it I liked it. It scratches this weird itch I’ve only had in a few games. It is a super-fast area control game.
I tend to not enjoy the long involved area control war games. Likely because I spend most of the game trying to elevate from losing abyssmally to just losing a lot.
Daryl: Oh, I am super interested right away. I love area control!
DTD: It is ridiculously fast. I played it two player. It was like 20 minutes. Well, have you played Rumble Nation?
DTD: Weird Japanese game that is also a super-fast area control.
Rumble Nation by Yogi Shinichi is a two phase game. You roll dice to place cubes on countries. Then, once everyone has placed all of their cubes, you resolve the countries one at a time. Victories will spill more cubes into connected countries. Very fast with some wonderful chaos.
Daryl: OK. Another one that’s a Japanese game is Joraku.
DTD: I don’t know that at all.
Daryl: Oh, it’s a card game area control game. And TMG localized it, but it was mostly in Japanese.
After the Gathering, I looked on my shelves, and I was given Joraku by a good friend. And being a terrible friend, I still have not played it.
DTD: Oh, so it did come here.
Daryl: It did. It was a small box; most people think it’s nothing. It’s like a really clever area control game that’s super-fast. Another one: Eight-minute Empire.
DTD: Yeah! Ryan Laukat.
Someone should interview him as well. Such a nice guy!
Daryl: Does it scratch that itch a little bit?
DTD: Note quite as thinky. First Empires is really – don’t worry about your position anywhere, just kill. Just, you know, move this here to kill, move this here to kill. And it doesn’t matter, you’re going to lose this one. Who cares? And it’s got engine building in it, and it is so simple and fast. And it’s beautiful.
Daryl: [laughs] It is gorgeous. I saw it actually.
First Empires by Eric B. Vogel was a new shiny title at the Gathering published by Sand Castle Games. Dice-driven engine building, and constant, no risk, battling. You dont lose troops, you just move them away when they are defeated. Plus amazing components.
DTD: You saw the little boxes? Oh, that was so good.
Daryl: Yeah, I like those moments when a game cares about the details – that will always catch my eye.
DTD: I will fall for pretty every time. It’s… I like to say, “[pretentious voice] Oh the gameplay is what matters…” but I fall for pretty every time.
Daryl: I fall every time. Well, I shifted. Like, even as a designer, early on I used to always be like, “Oh, it doesn’t matter. It’s just show.” But we’re all human. If something’s pretty, we get into it easier.
DTD: Pretty helps.
Daryl: It just breaks barriers. It gets you in the zone faster.
Come back next time for more food, more game chatter, more food, more stories, and of course more food. Plus, discussion of legacy games, including the upcoming Sagrada foray into legacy.