I’ve always played the standard family games from before I can remember. Then at 14, while I was ill in bed and off school my mum gave me the Warlock of Firetop Mountain Fighting Fantasy book. I played it several times in that first day.
I discovered Games Workshop and spent way too much money on games like Apocalypse, The Awful Green Things From Outer Space and Rogue Trooper to name but a few. I can’t remember when I began making games but it almost certainly started with amending wargame rules with plastic WWII figures (I do remember that a five or six was a hit).
In 2008 I wanted to do something for a charity that’s very important to me. The Foundation for Conductive Education helps children and adults with conditions like Cerebal Palsy, Parkinson’s and M.S. I’m a firm believer that if you give your time, energy and talent it’s worth much more than just money, so I published a game called Niche.
I paid for the publishing, I designed the game, I sell the game, they’ll get the profits and the promotion. I am in their debt. Without this commitment to them I would never have made a game, one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.
I learned an awful lot in the process and I went on to make Mijnlieff (Best Abstract at the UK Games Expo 2010), Zoom Zoom Kaboom (Best Board Game, Uk Games Expo 2012) and Disgrace & Favours (Nominated for Best Card Game 2013).
Designing games takes awareness of what works, grinding your way through endless playtests, writing the rules (that’s the hardest bit), watching people read your rules badly (the second hardest bit) and building a prototype (several prototypes).
When publishing games independently you discover a lot about what goes into just making them as well, sourcing products, creating artwork, balancing prices and costs, putting the components together, making sure everything is ready by the time of the show and then selling them, hoping you’ve made a profit.
In 2013, whilst playing a prototype at the UK Games Expo I was joined by the Coiledspring team. We had a great time and they expressed an interest in what has become Dodekka (the original title is another story).
I am really excited to be part of this process as it opens a new chapter for me, not least because it has allowed me to concentrate on designing while they get on with what they do best. I’m immensely pleased with the final product which has excellent artwork and that professional polish that’s really hard for an independent publisher to achieve.
For me making games has always been about the players more than the actual game.
When I play anything I watch people, I keep my eyes open for when they shout, laugh, hold their hands up, even stand up in excitement. I try to get people doing this as much as possible and apply the model of "Laugh, Think, Shout" to every game I make.
I’ve made hundreds of games, most of which are on the design room floor, still stuck to the drawing board or waiting to be cannibilised to have elements added to other games that just need that certain ‘something’.
Every game you playtest that doesn’t work tells you something (usually ‘don’t make this game’).Sometimes you have a ‘sure-fire-winner’ that just falls flat or a ‘this’ll-never-work’ that suddenly clicks. My advice is, playtest everything.
My favourite game? The right answer is "there are just too many", the cheesy answer is "I haven’t invented it yet", the actual answer is "It’s a straight tie between Twilight Struggle and Lemon Jousting" and if you don’t know what Lemon Jousting is, find four wooden spoons and two lemons, and come and find me.
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