One of the excellent side effects of paying a visit to the Game Maker's Guild has been getting a glimpse inside the process that goes into developing a board game. As many of us are enthusiastic consumers of board games, it's easy to for your focus to fall solely on a finished product. By the time we get our hands on a game it's largely a matter of: pop out those chits and let the dice roll!
There's certainly nothing wrong with wanting to use a game for its given purpose, but we're all at least somewhat aware that the product wasn't magically conjured onto the shelves of our friendly local game store. We love to play them, but what's in a game?
That's why we'd like to bring you Developer Dialogues, a modification to our older Q&A series that seeks to bridge that gap between conceptual and content. This series will chronicle the development process, introduce you all to new designers, and, hopefully, culminate in a review of a game that you can bring home and play for yourself.
Phil and Josh are the minds behind Cray Cray Games. Their fast-paced card game, Find It & Bind It, is in the final stages of development with a Kickstarter to produce the title scheduled to go live in the first quarter of 2015. If you'd like to check out the game now, visit their page on Board Game Geek to download a black and white printable version.
|Picture via Board Game Geek|
It’s very clear that you guys have a passion for gaming, but what prompted you to want to become developers?
Josh and I have been playing strategy games for ages and we’re both part of a weekly board/card gaming group. In early 2012, we were playing a map domination game (whose name shall not be mentioned) and while it had a lot of interesting mechanics and game play, we didn’t quite understand it, at first, or like the combat mechanics.
During the game we “house-ruled” a different mechanic and moved on. There were also several places in the rules that were just not very intelligible and it was hard to find key items because they weren’t where you’d expect them to be.
You know how when you go through the setup portion of rules and it seems fine and then someone asks a question like, “So, what’s the hand limit?” or something like that and then you have to go searching? That happened. Then, inevitably, someone says, “Doesn’t anyone believe in proofreading or play testing games?”
Josh had written down thoughts on a map domination game of a different type with different mechanics and I read through it, asked questions and, in order to think about the game better and make sure I understood what Josh was getting at, I started writing the rules. A few back-n-forths in that process resulted in the earliest version of our first as-yet-unpublished game called Turf Wars. It is back-burnered at the moment because it is component-intensive and requires a lot of illustration.
Once you decided to put on the developer’s hat, what made you choose a strategy card game?
We had created two games prior to Find It & Bind It. We tend toward strategy games and like games with hidden identities or that give players the opportunity to be treacherous and traitorous. Good times. Those games were both manufacturing challenges for very different reasons and we set out to make a game that would be relatively simple with respect to components.
Josh facilitated us through a brainstorming session based on a blog entry by Fréderic Moyersoen (the game designer behind Nuns on the Run, Bacchus’ Banquet, and Ninja to name a few) in an effort to hone-in and develop the game we had itching to come out. We also knew we had to shy away from any components that weren’t cards because we wanted our first attempt at a crowd-funded game to have a low goal and be feasibly funded--Find It & Bind It is almost entirely cards. It does have 2 round colored discs for each player that represents their witches.
It seems as though fast-paced, great-at-a-party card games are enjoying a bit of a surge in popularity over the past few years. What do you feel sets Find It & Bind It apart from the other fast-running card games in the market right now?
Find It & Bind It is a game where each player controls two witches. Everyone is searching a 3x3 grid of Book Cards. One of them is the sought-after Book of Shadows. The other 8 are just “other books.” The goal of the game is to find and bind The Book of Shadows by getting both of your witches to it and then using the action portion of your turn to bind it (flip it over) before someone else does. The game works through the use of Spell Cards that enable players to Scry (look at and replace) or Obfuscate (look at and shuffle) the Book Cards so that they can search the grid for the elusive Book of Shadows. There are also Spell Cards that allow players to mess with the other players.
Find It & Bind It makes subtle references to a syndicated television show Charmed, but without overdoing it. The similarities include witches who are sisters--but only 2 so that’s like, really different--and the Book of Shadows and eventually the demon. For extra fun, the rules indicate that you chant some rhyming spell to bind Book of Shadows but that’s (sorta) optional. :-)
The game has elements of search, requiring some memory, and has the potential to have a bunch of fun bluffing and deceiving other players at the same time. Players can also fling spells at one another so it never feels like you’re simply playing Solitaire. It’s an advanced, themed version of the classic “Shell Game” where an item is placed under a shell and shuffled repeatedly before the eyes of an audience, who is then asked to identify which shell the item is under.
The game is touted as being extremely easy to learn, but a highly satisfying overall play experience. How long would you say it takes people to pick up Find It & Bind It and what demographics do you think would most enjoy the game?
So far, the youngest players have been 8 years old and they were able to play the game and asked to play it again after they finished. It was adorable watching them try to bluff. That’s a skill that takes some practice. We’ve tested Find It & Bind It with players who play strategy board games all of the time and with people who rarely play. And even hard-core gamers who can settle in for hours have enjoyed it as well.
Let’s say your upcoming Kickstarter campaign goes smashingly well. Would you be open to continuing to develop Find It & Bind It? What would your first improvements to the game be?
Absolutely! We have already come up with, and thoroughly play tested, two expansions to Find It & Bind It.
The first, The Demon Expansion, replaces one of the Book Cards with a Demon and adds mechanics that enable the demon to attack players’ witches. It also adds a selection of demon-specific spells to add to the fun.
The second, The Hexes and Relics Expansion, adds a full deck of Spell Cards that get mixed in. There’s roughly 1/3 each of hexes, relics and search Spell Cards. Hexes are played on other players and adversely affect their witches. Relics are played on yourself and they bestow positive effects on your witches.
One of the play testers who liked the game and the expansions a lot joked and said he wanted to see a lot more expansions with each one replacing a Book Card and adding special mechanics as with The Demon Expansion.
We can promise you, and everyone, that if the Kickstarter campaign for Find It & Bind It goes smashingly, we’ll be ecstatic about coming up with more content for it. And we happily incorporate suggestions and ideas from play testers and backers.
How long did it take you to get the game to the point it’s at now? What would you say were the most enjoyable or most enlightening parts of the development process and what were some of the biggest challenges you faced?
I described earlier when Josh facilitated a brainstorming session. That night Find It & Bind It was born and its mechanics were almost entirely worked out in, literally, a few hours. This was about 1.5 years ago and we’ve been play testing and tweaking the text on Spell Cards and the rules to make them as intuitive as possible.
Balancing out the strengths, weaknesses, and abilities of the individual spell cards obviously has an enormous role in ensuring that that Find It & Bind It is an enjoyable playing experience. Was striking that balance difficult?
Yes and no. We had one real constraint that we were working with—trying to keep the card count down so that everything (for the base game) could be contained within a single deck of cards. After taking 9 cards for the books, 2 cards for row/column labels and another 6 for the player reference cards (a component we think every game should have) that left us with 37 cards to play with.
We split that into thirds so we could have an even number of Scry, Obfuscate and other Spell Cards. From there we experimented with different spells and play tested, play tested, play tested. Seriously, you can never play test a game too much. Watching how others use or choose not to use a given Spell Card is valuable information. Josh and I always chat after we witness a game play with some detail we want to remember to address at a later time.
Classical Art features heavily in the prototype of Find It & Bind it. What prompted you to go with existing works?
There are two main reasons. First, neither of us are illustrators. While we’re both artistic and have graphic design and photography skills, using fine art images seemed like a no-brainer. The second reason a lot of the specific art was used was because I’ve done a great deal of international travel and had almost all of photographs of the works of art already.
There’s a lot of art by Van Gogh and Goya Y Lucientes in the game and that’s not accidental. It helped that my own artistic taste leans toward darker imagery. And with the original content being in the public domain, that definitely makes the use of the photos even more legally safe.
Is there anything else that you think potential backers and players should know about Find It & Bind It?
Find It & Bind It is a labor of love. Even though it was conceived in one dark and stormy night, it has undergone more than a year of play testing and convention appearances. We may be new to board game development, but we got involved in the business exactly because we felt other games were doing a disservice to their players with incomplete rules, broken mechanics, and contradictory or convoluted gameplay. This is our first attempt at making an exceedingly accessible gameplay experience for almost all ages and gaming backgrounds. It also leaves room for expansions and variants--all of which add to the potential of an already unique game that is never the same twice.