Thursday, October 22, 2009

Game Spotlight - Scrappers

Scrappers from Privateer Press

Scrappers is a 2-4 player game where each player is a Bodger working in a factory trying to complete a machine. Parts roll down the assembly line and if they are not taken, they fall into the scrap heap. Players want to position their Bodgers in front of the part they want, but the other Bodgers can move the assembly line forward or back, move their Bodgers, or move the other player's Bodgers. Action Cards represent all these options. The Part Cards are smaller squares and the Bodgers are represented by sturdy tokens. There is also a folding game board that shows the factory floor and the conveyor belt assembly line.

Each player starts each round with three cards. On your turn you must either play a card or pass. In a very clever bit of design, if all three players pass, the round ends and you take the part on the assembly line that is in front of your Bodger. This forces all kinds of decisions. Do you pass, hoping to play your card last, positioning your Bodger in front of the part you need to win the game? If you do and the other players pass, then you are stuck with the part in front of you that you don't need. On the other hand, if you play that card now, one of the other players can mess you up.

Scrappers is a great family game that offers a give and take mechanic that requires pre-planning your turn knowing full well that the other players may completely destroy your plans. There are plenty of twists and turns on the way to victory, and plenty of laughs, too.

There are 2 additional tokens and extra cards for an advanced game that adds more chaos to the factory floor.

My kids and I really enjoy Scrappers.


Publisher: Privateer Press, 2009

Game Concept and Design: Michael Faciane, Erik-Jason Yaple

Behind The Game

In February of 2008, Privateer Press, the publisher of War Machine and Monsterpocalypse, made an announcement that they were looking to hire a game designer. This was big news among the the creative types in the gaming community. Privateer is a young company that has made a major splash in the gaming scene with their outstanding game designs and beautiful game components. However, Privateer was only accepting applications for a short time and a big part of the application process was the inclusion of an original game design, with the winning applicant getting the game published as part of Privateer's Bodgers line of games.

I mentioned the contest in an online forum and several of the members there (a terribly creative bunch) were interested. One of my friends, Michael Faciane set to work on a design. He hammered out some concepts and came up with a card game he called Bodger Mines.

I was among those helping Michael with the playtesting of his design. He made the first cut and further refined his design. He interviewed. Then, in November 2008, Michael Faciane was chosen to be on the design team at Privateer Press. Michael relocated to Bellevue, Washington and got to work. The fruits of that work are arriving at stores this fall. Scrappers, now a board game, is first up. Grind is next.

I recently interviewed (via email) Michael Faciane, Privateer's guiding force Matt Wilson, and Game Developement Manager Erik-Jason Yaple.

What lead you to fill a game design position by having a game design contest in the first place?

Matt Wilson - Game design skill isn't something you can evaluate by looking at a resume. And for that matter, it's often very hard to evaluate by looking at a published game. When you play a game off the shelf, you really don't have full knowledge of what kind of development that product went through and how many people contributed to the final design. My belief is that game design is about 20% good ideas and know how, 30% experience, and about 50% tenacity and hard work. So, we constructed a contest that would filter applicants based on a short timeline with rigid requirements that would show us if they were the kind of people that could produce good work under pressure. We wanted someone new and unpublished that we could bring up in our own environment, as well. Experienced, working game designers weren't going to submit to this kind of contest, so we were able to hone in on what we were looking for: undiscovered talent.

How many entries were there?

Matt - It's been a while now and I don't recall. I think we had between 60-100 entries. It blew my mind. I would have been impressed if we had received 12 playable entries, but dozens and dozens came in. It was staggering.

Once you decided to enter the Privateer Game Designer Contest, how long did you have to create an original card game and what was that process like?

Michael Faciane - I had about a month to design and had a blast doing so. I started by getting familiar with the Bodgers and their wacky mechanikal endeavors by diving into Infernal Contraption. Chris Walton's excellent artwork made it easy for me to grasp the feel of the little gobbers. So I brainstormed a bunch of themes that would fit them well. After getting the theme narrowed down, I needed to develop the game mechanics. My thinking here was, "What kind of game could I get my wife to play?" She is a big gin rummy fan so that's where I began my development from. Once I had a playable deck, the real development began through playtesting. I had a good group of players that really helped this process along. One thing I learned early on is that the more minds you can get involved with your vision, the clearer it becomes.

Were you involved in the contest judging, and if so, how hard was it to make a choice?

Erik-Jason Yaple - I came on board in March of 2008 and Bryan, our Project Director who was originally handling the submissions, was quick to put the entries into my hands. There were something like 93 entries. Each entry had its own presentation and packaging. Some you could instantly tell were thrown together last minute, while others really deserved some attention.

I set some standards that would place entries into a "Maybe Pile" and a "No Pile" - I looked for things like interaction between players, originality in design, knowledge of the Bodgers brand and an answer to the question: "Does the game work?" After running all of the designs through that filter I boiled the list down to a selection of about 15 games. From there, I selected what I thought were the best 5 and brought them to Matt. We chose three of those to move to the interview round and from there, Michael was chosen.

When you heard the contest results, how did you feel?

Michael - I felt like dancing. So I did.

You lived in Southern California at the time. How long did you have to relocate, and how has that experience been?

Michael - Well, I hitched a trailer to my car and took a 2 day trip up the west coast with my son and nephew. We stopped at a friend's along the way and camped out in his backyard, which is right next to a railroad track. Two trains that night (thanks again, John :) ). We reached Seattle on the weekend of PAX 2008 so I started work there. For about a week we stayed in hotels while I looked for a place then found some cousin's in Tacoma who took us in. A month later my wife and daughters fly in then we settle in Renton. We are enjoying Washington and all of its rain.

What qualities in the design lead you to choose Michael?

Matt - Michael greatly impressed us at multiple stages through the application process, demonstrating a huge commitment to the contest and a fantastic work ethic with a willingness to adapt to new situations as well as get a job done, no matter what it took. Game design is hard work. It's not about sitting around playing games all day, and Michael showed us that he knew what it would take. He also had one of the best submissions and made it through a fairly rigorous application process designed to weed out people who couldn't follow directions. Game design is all about being precise, and if you can't put your name in the right place on the application, you're probably not going to double check your rules writing either.

What led to Michael's original card game changing to a board game?

Matt - Every game goes through many stages of evolution and rarely does the initial concept closely resemble the final product. This is one such case. Once the rest of the Privateer development team became involved in evaluating the initial game design, we began exploring new directions and refining concepts until what was eventually produced was Scrappers.

Michael - Well, the conveyor idea came from our game development manager, Erik Yaple (the baddest man in gaming). The game went through quite a few iterations before getting to that point. I learned a lot during the development of Scrappers.

After the upcoming Grind, do you have any other game designs in development you can tell us about?

Michael - There are other game designs I have in development but none that I can tell about ;).

Now that you have been with Privateer about a year, how has your job developed and what is it like to work for a game company?

Michael - It's great! We get to play games all day and eat candy! Really it is a good time for me. I love to create so game design and development is a nice fit for me. I have also been utilized in other areas here like helping out in the graphics department. Seeing games produced that I have had a hand in is definitely a joy to me.

How many game designs are you overseeing at any given time?

Erik-Jason - Products move through the department in various stages. At any one time, we may have a couple games in a concept stage, the pitch stage (where it is run past Matt for approval to proceed), the prototyping and playtest stage and the final review and production stage. Right now we have one or more games/expansions/sets in each of those stages.

What are the main differences and challenges between designing for a collectable game like Monsterpocalypse and a stand alone game like Scrappers?

Erik-Jason - It's the difference between "tricking-out" a car and building a car. In a collectible game, the game is set, and you are just making new elements to add to the game. With a stand alone game, you are building everything from the ground up. With a collectible game you have to design to the play environment, providing them with answers and solutions to the challenges they come across. Where a stand alone game requires greater diligence in development as players will not have the opportunity to counter dominant strategies just by changing their deck or army list. Developing one type of game over another is not necessarily easier, but it does require a few different skill sets; although a good development philosophy will guide you in the right direction as you transition from one to the other.

Grind is following closely on Scrappers heels. Are there any other upcoming board games coming from Privateer?

Matt - Definitely. We're working on several different product designs right now, some of which are board games. We'll announce those at the appropriate times in the future when we have a more clear idea of when they'll release.

Are there any other Privateer projects or upcoming items you would like my readers to know about?

Matt - Well, we've got a slew of products coming out over the next year, including the MkII editions of WARMACHINE and HORDES as well as all of their supporting products, such as card decks, force books, and amazing new models released monthly. This is a really exciting time for those games because it's a great opportunity for new players to get involved at this sort of new-beginning-reset period. As well, Series 4: Monsterpocalypse NOW, just released on October 9th. This starts a whole new year's worth of brand new monster factions. Again, it's the perfect entry point for new players, and it's giving our Monsterpocalypse community a mountain of new options to integrate into existing armies. We'll also be seeing the Monsterpocalypse edition of Voltron sometime next year, which is really a little dream come true. That product is currently in process with our manufacturer and I can't wait to get my own hands on it.

So, make sure there's room on your game shelf because we're going to be filling it up in the coming months!

1 comment:

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