A few days ago I was able to corner Jamey Stegmaier into doing a podcast with me. The transcription of the interview is below and you can always subscribe to iTunes and listen to the podcast there. In this awesome episode, Jamie and I talk about Between Two Cities, which should launch on Kickstarter on February 25th. We also talk about Viticulture and the cock jokes that can be made because of the rooster tokens, and then we discuss the Tuscany tile misprint and whether Jamey lost any sleep over that. We also touch on the topic of board games being a great tool that introverts can use to connect with other people and how board games can be used either during or as a part of therapy.
JAMEY: Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games.
RICHARD: Alright, well let’s jump into some Stonemaier Games news. In 2015 it seems like we will see at least two games from Stonemaier Games. We’ll see ‘Between Two Cities’ and ‘Scythe.’ Let’s talk about ‘Between Two Cities.’
RICHARD: This game will actually come out before ‘Scythe’ but I haven’t seen as much hype surrounding it. Have you seen a difference as well from ‘Between Two Cities’ and ‘Scythe’ and why do you think that would be?
JAMEY: Well, yeah they’re very different games. I mean I wish ‘Between Two Cities’ would have gotten as much attention and excitement as ‘Scythe’. But, and part of it is that we didn’t have art for ‘Between Two Cities’ until fairly recently and it was on the Board Game Geek list for like games people are most excited about in 2015 and it’s near the, at least it was nominations, it is near the top of that list. It was definitely in the top 20 and that vote is currently happening. So, my sense is that a lot of people are excited about it. It’s just not, like it’s a gateway game so it’s like getting super, super excited about ‘Settlers of Catan’ when it came out. Like it might end up being a game that hits the table all the time but you’re going to get more excited about the Star Wars Imperial Assault game, even if you don’t buy it because it’s so expensive you know. So I’m kind of putting it in that category, you know, of excitement and hype. This is the first game that we’re publishing that wasn’t designed by me, basically, right?
RICHARD: And do you think that has anything to do with the hype or lack thereof?
JAMEY: No I don’t. I mean that’s a good question and it was my concern. Like one of the major discussions we had early on was… So the designers are Ben Rosset and Matthew O’Malley. They’re both talented designers and they have a few games published and I knew going into it that I would be developing the game which was essentially like, you know, the designers design the game and the developer comes in and hones the game and helps balance and makes it better, makes every element of it interesting and fun. At least that’s the goal right? So, one of the discussions we had early on was: should my name go on the box as like ‘Developed by Jamey Stegmaier’? And so we had a big debate about it. And the only reason… and that may sound egotistical. Ego wise I don’t care at all about having my name on the box but I thought if it helped sell it to our followers, the Stonemaier followers, if that would help then I would put it on there. What we ended up determining was that that probably wouldn’t matter. Like all the people who already follow us, I could directly tell them through the Kickstarter page or through my e-newsletter that I was involved in the process and that I didn’t need to put my name on the box to ensure that that was communicated.
RICHARD: Since this will be the first game that is just kind of published by Stonemaire Games, that’s not a Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone game. Do you feel this is pivotal to the future and the success of Stonemaier games?
JAMEY: I do, I do think it’s a pivotal point for a couple reasons. The main reason is that I have realized that, well and I’ve known this for a while, designing a game takes an immense amount of time and as we expand our portfolio it’s simply not possible for me to design all of our games. I don’t think we can be a sustainable business if we did that. And plus I like spent the last year working on over a dozen games and none of them were really good enough to publish. So me being a game designer doesn’t mean that I continue to design what I hope to be good games. I’m only going to publish the good ones right? In that sense it’s a pivotal move for us. I think it’s also pivotal because if it’s successful I think it will help us attract some really some other really talented designers so we can publish some other really great games. That’s my, that’s my hope.
RICHARD: Yeah, yeah. You guys are setting the bar pretty high. And actually, if we can segue just a little bit over to ‘Viticulture’. When you’re playing that game with friends are there any weird things that come out of the tokens, the wooden tokens, and what people make out of them?
JAMEY: Is there like a… I don’t even know if I want to… I can’t think of any, no. Do your friends? Is there anything in particular that they make?
RICHARD: Uh, yeah. A few things. One person made a Popemobile. And so he put the yoke and the irrigation tower kind of on top of each other because the yoke looks like it has wheels. And so, he made a Popemobile. All the time he was driving around his Popemobile through the game. Also there were, er, I don’t know if this has happened to you, if this was intentional or unintentional, but there were a lot of cock jokes.
JAMEY: Oh yeah, yeah.
ROCJARD: Because of the rooster token. So it took, you know, like three games… I played three games: no cock jokes. And then somehow the group I was playing with on my fourth game, they just wouldn’t stop. And this group of people, they’re all older than me so it wasn’t like maturity, as far as age goes anyway, and actually a female was the first person, you know guys are usually labeled more immature, but it was a female that brought up the first cock joke.
RICHARD: She was like: ‘Get your hands off my cock’ or something like that, because somebody picked up the wrong one or whatever. And then it just started from there. It just started unraveling with all kind of cock jokes. Does that happen at your table?
JAMEY: It’s happened a few times and I’m kind of glad people can have fun with it in that way. I don’t think that would’ve happened if the roosters were cubes.
RICHARD: No it wouldn’t, not at all. If there were alarm clocks or anything else, yeah no. I was very curious if that happened at your table.
JAMEY: You know, it probably hasn’t happened enough. Next time we play I’ll start the jokes.
RICHARD: About half the times I’ve played the game, and I’ve played it six or seven times now. Half the times there’s at least one, if not two people, that are confused about the number of trellis, trellises?, that a player has to have because there are three depicted on the player board. Like just as art work. I’ve had to explain this three or four times to different people that you don’t have to buy more than one.
RICHARD: I just wanted to see if that has ever happened.
JAMEY: That’s actually, you know, I’ve heard some, that’s always interesting to hear when people look at the art and transfer it to the mechanisms. I’ve actually never heard that one in particular. One of the things that I have heard, that I just didn’t think about it at all… Have you ever played a game called ‘Caylus?’
RICHARD: No, I don’t think I’ve heard of that actually.
JAMEY: So ‘Caylus’ is like a classic worker placement game and a key part of the board is this road ,this winding road. And when you place workers, where they are on the road matters. Because like you place all your workers and then you activate them based on where they are on the road. And on Viticulture, on the board, there’s a road on the art and it’s just, it’s just art. Like the road doesn’t mean anything. The important part of the board are the seasons, right? Like the summer actions and the winter actions. I actually only heard this once. I wonder if more people get confused by this, but one person asked me: ‘Do I have to activate them on this road?’ And they were transferring this idea that they learned playing ‘Caylus’ that was so ingrained in them onto this art that was just meant to be background art. That’s, I mean, essentially you said that and it’s a good reminder to me and maybe other designers too that the little things in art have a big impact on how people perceive or play the game.
RICHARD: Yeah. So as people who have followed Stonemaier Games and are backers of the Tuscany expansion know, there were a few tiles that were misprinted. What’s the first thing that goes through your mind when you find out something like that?
JAMEY: I was, I was devastated by it. I mean… devastated and embarrassed that I didn’t check it. Because it was basically a punchboard where the front of the punchboard, I mean it matched the back but the back was flipped on a vertical axis one direction. And so the tiles in the middle were correct but the tiles on the left and the right had one little thing that was wrong about it.
My initial reaction really, I was I was embarrassed and devastated because I knew that that was something that I needed to check in the soft proofs that I got from the printer and somehow I didn’t do it. I mean right away it was a good reminder to me that I really need to get more people to look at those soft proofs. Not the digital files because this would have never, it would be impossible to catch this mistake on a digital file but you can catch it on a soft proof.
Once I like kind of got over my own embarrassment and came to terms with the idea that it really is a very, very small misprint in the way that it impacts the game. And so once I realized that I kind of had to figure out how do I approach this with backers? Because I don’t want to make them think that their game is ruined by this very, very small, I mean I’m not going to say it’s a small mistake. It’s an embarrassing mistake that has a very small impact on the game. And what I end up doing, as you know, is that I offered to print stickers, little stickers, to place on the back of the tile where the misprint happens. It’s a little lira icon that needs to be replaced with a different lira icon. The tiles aren’t, normally I wouldn’t offer stickers but the tiles aren’t ever shuffled. Every player always has the same three property tiles. When you shuffle something you don’t want stickers on it because the stickers will catch on one another, but that never happens so I was very comfortable sending out stickers as a replacement rather than replacement tiles which would be an enormous expense and unnecessary for the level of mistake that this was. So I offered these free stickers to anyone who wanted them. We would print at our expense; we would ship them at our expense. How did you react to that whole process and that solution?
RICHARD: I am of the mindset that I would rather support the publisher that I chose to buy a game with by not making them shell out that money. Like that was my, that was how I looked at it. And I saw that you did that, and that is great, applaudable customer service, but I know that there’s a cost and I might not have to pay for it but I know that you will and I want you to keep making good games so I’m not going to burden you, so to speak, with that additional cost.
In your email you said ‘just remember that if it’s a five it’s supposed to be a five, if it’s a seven it’s supposed to be a seven’ and I think I can do that. And if I can’t do that, you did provide files that I can print myself and kind of stick on there myself. So if it comes to it, I got that file and I’ll do that.
JAMEY: And we put in on the Board Game Geek store as well. I think they’re supposed to go up tomorrow. They have this, like we’re not trying to profit of that, it’s just we send the Board Game Geek and they’ll send it to you for, I think it’s like two bucks.
JAMEY: And that goes to them it doesn’t go to us.
RICHARD: That’s cool. If you don’t want to print it out yourself that is another option. I do like that.
This question is from Woody Harris, a friend of mine, he is a therapist and he uses games during therapy. He’s actually going to do a panel at this year’s Gen Con. I think it’s on that subject, but I could be mistaken. He wants to know if you are aware of any of your games being used for therapeutic or otherwise, kind of, beneficial purposes that aren’t just for gaming fun?
JAMEY: Yeah I like that question a lot and it’s actually something… my business partner Alan, he is also a therapist that uses games in therapy. So if Woody’s looking for someone else on his panel, Alan might be interested in that.
RICHARD: That’s cool, yeah.
JAMEY: So we’ve talked about it. The way Alan uses the game, he does not use our games because he works with kids usually between eight and twelve, somewhere in that range, and they usually play really really light games that kind of almost, I think they kind of distract the kid a little bit so they can talk freely like while they’re playing Candyland or whatever.
RICHARD: Exactly yep.
JAMEY: However, I have heard from, well there’s one specific backer who wrote me who has a child with some learning disabilities. I think he’s around eight or nine. Learning disabilities and communication difficulties, but he knows this kid is like a smart kid it just doesn’t come through very often. And so he sat down with him, and I think they were playing ‘Euphoria’, and with the first game his kid struggled a little bit to figure out how the game played but then he said, and this really me when I read this. There was a moment when playing the game when he just saw the gears, everything just clicked. I’m sure you’ve had that experience playing a game for the first time to where you kind of struggling and it clicks? And he saw that in his kid. He saw it click, and it just, it all came together and the kid just he played really well in that game. He played ‘Euphoria’ many times since then with a lot of different strategies and it was just it was really neat for this guy to be able to kind of communicate with his own kid through this game and to see his kid really excel at something when he struggled with a lot of other academic challenges. I know that’s just one antidotal example but that really, it meant a lot to me when I heard that.
RICHARD: Yeah, no, that’s cool and has to be kind of uplifting that your game was a part of that.
JAMEY: Yeah and I think I talk about on my blog, I talk about introversion and extraversion a lot and I think that maybe games provide a really healthy platform for introverts or people who maybe don’t have the best social skills because it gives us this construct to work around and to communicate with people so I can definitely see that. I think games are a great way to connect with people for people who maybe aren’t great at connecting with people.
RICHARD: Yeah, no, for me it is.
RICHARD: Like I’m a huge introvert. It is very difficult for me in large gatherings and parties or whatnot but, hey now there’s a game on the table and it’s all of a sudden slightly easier.
RICHARD: Yeah that’s cool. We really didn’t get back to ‘Between Two Cities’ if there’s anything else you want to talk about that we certainly can.
JAMEY: ‘Between Two Cities’ is launching on Kicksummer on February 25th. It’s designed by two awesome guys Ben Rosset and Matthew O’Malley and it was developed by me into its current form, and the really the reason that we published this game and the reason that we’re really excited about it is that it’s a competitive game where there’s only one winner but the core of the game is such that you are cooperating with players on your left and right to build two cities. One city with the person on your left one on your right and so it just gives you that feeling of togetherness and kind of partnership that you get in a cooperative game but you are still individually trying to win. So if that appeals to anyone I think they’ll really enjoy the game.
RICHARD: Awesome. Alright well we’ll be looking out for ‘Between Two Cities’ February 25th. Jamey thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. It’s always a pleasure.
JAMEY: Yeah it was great to talk with you Richard.
RICHARD: I’ve been your host Richard Miles for boardgameauthority.com. My guest today was Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games. You can find this podcast on iTunes. Subscribe please, that would make me very happy. You can also connect via Twitter @boardgameauth. We have a Facebook page, that’s facebook.com/boardgameauthority. And as always, there’s our website www.boardgameauthority.com. Drop us a line we would love to hear from you. Tell us who you’d like me to interview next, or tell me that you should be the next guest. I would love to hear from you. Until next time: Game On!