Friday, March 21, 2008

Adam West Interview

Today we have an interview with Adam west who is the designer of the much anticipated Galactic Emperor. This interviewed occurred a few days before Adam announced that pre-orders are now open for the game.

OBG: Today we're talking with Adam West, one of the founders of Crosscut Games, about his upcoming board game Galactic Emperor. Crosscut games has created some real quality computer games in the past like Runesword 1 & 2, even a game called Bronze Dragon which I recall playing on an Apple computer back in my teen age years. Adam thanks for taking the time today to discuss the game with us.

Adam: Happy to be here!

OBG: Can you tell us a little about yourself and crosscut games?

Adam: Sure. I'm the President of CrossCut Games, a tiny game company located in Indianapolis, Indiana USA. Dan Schnake is the co-founder and all around great guy. We're long time friends and have been running CrossCut for over 10 years now. Prior to that, we were called Commonwealth Software. So we've been making games together for about 25 years. We've published several computer games and are now getting ready to launch our first board game.

OBG: How long have you been designing games?

Adam: Since grade school. Well before I had a computer. My friends and I use to play home made games after school. Dozens of the things. Some I still have in my basement.

OBG: How long have you been into board games?

Adam: I can remember playing Panzer Leader in the late 1970's. I played Risk. I played D&D for the first time about then as well. I still have an original copy of the Chain Mail rules! Man, those were good times.

OBG: What was it that made you make the transitions from coding computer games to designing a board game?

Adam: I've really been back into board games for the last 7 years or so
and the games today are incredibly fun and very different from games
many of us played when we were younger. So after getting back into board games, I began thinking about board games again. Really, all my computer games were made so I could play board games by myself - specifically D&D by myself. So in a sense, I'm going back to my roots.

OBG: Is Galactic Emperor your first board game design?

Adam: It's my first intended for retail sale. But I've designed zoodles of board games.

OBG: How would you describe Galactic Emperor?

Adam: It's a very fast playing 4X board game of galactic politics and conquest.

OBG: I like the concept in GE on roles and how every player gets to take an action with each role, but only the player with the throne can use that roles special action. Can you gives us a quick run down on one or two unique roles in GE and which one is your favorite early in the game?

Adam: There are 7 roles in the game: Explorer, Steward, Merchant, Engineer, Warlord, Regent and Scientist. The person who chooses the role gets to use the special ability - a bit of a bump for the chooser if you will. That's just an incentive to pick a role rather than letting someone else do it for you. So the optimization here is deciding which role benefits you the most at different points in the game or hurts others if you choose a role they are not ready for. Early in the game, Explorer is pretty much a no-brainer since getting good sectors early (those with a nice amount of resources) is important. That depends a bit on what sectors are available of course. Also, Scientist is important early since there are limited technologies and Scientist goes out of the game about 2/3's through. A Regent is a good choice (if you didn't get the throne) so you can control the flow for a few rounds.

Hmm. I guess it depends!

OBG: If GE were a computer game, would you consider it a 4X game? If not what kind of game would you equate it too?

Adam: Yes, it's a 4X game - but without the micro-management. In fact, while we were making the game we looked up 4X on wikipedia and we meet all the attributes very well. Think of GE as a lighter 4X game - all the X with less fat.

OBG: Is there a lot of combat / conflict in a typical game of GE? Can you briefly describe how conflict is resolved?

Adam: That's something we worked on through out development. Early on, combat didn't happen too often - maybe only at the end of a game, some gigantic clash. So we had to tune the game over time - loads of play testing - to get combat to happen at the right time in the game. Now the economy is turned up so you can afford to have combat and you can get all your ships into play if you work it right.

Conflict is resolved by rolling dice - the big dreadnaughts roll 3, crusiers roll 2 and fighters roll 1. It's resolved in phases - dreadnaoughts fight and remove casualties, then crusiers fight and remove casualties, etc. So if you've played for example Nexus Ops or Axis and Allies or other American games, you'll quickly pick up what happens. But a given battle resolves in just a few rolls - it doesn't go on and on.

OBG: From reading the rules it sounds like every game of GE can play out differently. By that I mean there is not set opening strategy and a player could win by brute or diplomatic force. Would you consider that a correct statement? If so how much time was spent in play testing GE to make sure if had that dynamic nature?

Adam: Yes, I think that's right. That's been my goal too - to allow for various strategies to be viable. It starts pretty easy - find sectors, take them over. But as the galaxy unfolds, things begin to settle in, you need to start on a path that will work for you. For example, maybe you have several food sectors. Then playing the market is your best bet - since you get money for food and can control prices. And then you have to think about technologies that fit that strategy. In general, you have to always watch out for a balance in economics, warfare and politics. I've seen players win without a single combat, I've seen them win with loads of combat. The best strategy is playing what's in front of you - and figuring out your opponents.

OBG: So would you consider GE a streamlined alternative to TI?

Adam: Absolutely! You know this has come up many times now and I really do like what TI has done in board gaming. It's really epic - and there's a place in my heart for those types of games. Unfortunately, I can almost never play them. Partly because I can't find the amount of time that a game like TI requires and partly because my patience is shrinking over the years. So yes, GE is trying to fill my need for a galactic conquest game in a reasonable amount of time. It's epic in scale without an epic time commitment.

OBG: I know many of my readers might want to pursue getting a game published someday wit that in mind. How long did it take you to go from original concept to sending the game to the printer? How much play testing did you do with GE?

Adam: Hmm. I think it was about a year. The original concept was put together in about a week. But then we went into play testing. And that's where we've spent our time - a year of play testing. Hundreds of games with loads of different people. Game clubs, conventions, strangers - gamers from all over the world. I love the internet!

OBG: Did you do all the art work yourself?

Adam: I did everything but the box cover. That beautiful box cover is from Hugo Award Winning Stephen Hicks. Amazing and perfect for our game. I love the box.

OBG: Was there some information out there to get you started down the right path to self publishing a game?

Adam: There's been a few other pioneers, so I drew from their experience. On Board Game Geek (BGG), several folks have posted their experiences. And then there's Peter Morrison, the designer and publisher of Viktory II. If you haven't seen his web site, you really should. He poured himself into the effort and describes every part of it. So that was really inspiring. In the end, I came to the conclusion that I wanted CrossCut Games to have a top tier product with high quality production values. If we're going to do board games, we need to have the components that make it lots of fun. So that's why I went with a complete outsourcing of printing. No regrets at all. The game will be of the same quality as any AAA game - something I could never hope to do in a computer game.

OBG: What was the one thing that surprised you the most in getting a game self published?

Adam: Many folks have heard I made a board game and say, "You know, I've got this idea for a board game...." And really, it's a ton of work. It takes far more than a great idea. It's not like you can just send the stuff off and everything is done. And marketing, distribution, selling the thing - that's also a ton of work. I like it all right now - but it's so very much more than just a good idea and a color printer.

OBG: How did it feel to get that final production copy in your hands?

Adam: I don't have that feel yet! I'm still awaiting that feeling - and I long for it. I hope it's really as good as I think it will be. I'm pretty certain about parts of the product - but other parts - we'll just have to wait and see!

OBG: Many board games are making their way onto Xbox Live and doing quite well. Catan and Carcassone have been pretty big hits and there are rumors of more games on the way. Do you think this is a good thing for the hobby? Do you think a game like Arkham Horror for example could be put into that environment?

Adam: I do think this is a good thing. It exposes more players to the games, it explores interactivity, it gives players opportunity to play with lots of other people. It's fantastic for the console market - hopefully, console and computer games designers will wake up to what's going on in game design! I think a game that is more heavy on theme will translate less well. The mechanics are part of those games, but really, they are about the feeling of the game. So something like Arkham Horror or Descent - they have to compete more directly with other classic computer games. And you can get that same feeling with other computer/console games.

But Catan, Carcassone - these are perfect choices. They are simply great games.

OBG: When do you expect GE to be available?

Adam: June? I really hope June. I actually hope for sooner. But let's stick with June.

OBG: At what price?

Adam: $54.95 MSRP.

OBG: Will it be a limited print run?

Adam: It's just a very small run - 1,000 copies. I have a sinking feeling those will sell out too fast - that's actually one of my worries right now.

OBG: Will you be selling it at Origins or GenCon?

Adam: Naw, it didn't seem like a reasonable thing to do just yet. First, I don't want to be stuck in a booth during those conventions - I want to be playing games! Second, we only have the one board game right now - so it probably doesn't justify the booth cost. I do hope somebody else will have us on the shelf at those venues. We'll see!

OBG: Finally top 5 board games you enjoy right now that weren't made by Adam West?

Adam: Puerto Rico, Settlers of Catan, Memoir '44, Age of Empires III and up and coming is Race for the Galaxy. Age of Empires III came out of nowhere for me and I really love it. Race - I wanted to hate it, but dang it, it's just a flat out great game. I admire it - let's put it that way. I enjoy playing anything new too, so maybe "any new game" is #1 for me.

OBG: Anything else you would like to add?

Adam: If you want a galactic conquest game that plays smooth and fast, go get Galactic Emperor!

I'd liek to thank Adam for taking the time to answer a few questions and if you interested in Galactic Emperor you should head over to the cross cut games site and pre-order a copy now.


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