Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Chantilly2014 UNPUBMini Preview: Mike Karg

If you have not picked up your tickets for the upcoming UNPUB Mini at the Game Parlor in Chantilly, VA (in northern Virginia just west of D.C.) on June 21st, do not worry, you do not need no stinkin tickets to attend.  The event is free, so just show up and you will be rewarded with the latest board games from over 10 designers (including Dr. Wictz) ready for play testing.

To give you a taste of the upcoming excitement, I invited designer Michael Karg to talk about the games he will be demoing at the UNPUB Mini. I first met Michael at the 2013 Congress of Gamers UNPUB Protozone where I playtested his game Boondoggle.

Michael Karg:  You broke the game then, but I have fixed it and am looking forward to letting you try to break it again.

Dr. Wictz: Can you give people a quick run down on Boondoggle.

Michael Karg:  Boondoggle is a road construction game set in a corrupt city. Resources are bought and sold on a volatile market, players can become honchos of a particular resource and there is a great deal of shenanigans going on.

Dr. Wictz: And is Boondoggle the only game you are bringing?

Michael Karg: I’m also bringing Aesop’s Gambit, a card game with poker elements and characters of fables facing off in various predicaments.

Dr. Wictz: How has Boondoggle changed since you started presenting it at UNPUB events?

Michael Karg: I have edited and streamlined it since last year. Hoarding of the limited resources was a problem and rather than completely eliminate that possibility, I added a twist that sharpens the strategy and makes the final round much more competitive. Plus, I added Bus Lanes, which offers another route option and also eliminated a paralysis-by-analysis bugaboo.

Dr. Wictz: What inspired the theme for your games?

Michael Karg: The word “boondoggle” was the starting point. It’s a funny word and a pervasive problem –think Silver Spring Metro Transit Center for Maryland folks. A boondoggle is a project that takes on a life of its own with a bloated budget, no end in sight and no easy way to end it. The Concorde jet was another one –billions spent on an impractical project before it finally killed. Wonkish folks should also look up the “sunk cost fallacy”.

As for Aesop’s Gambit, after playing Pacific Typhoon, a WWII card game, I wanted to play around with that central mechanic of card play in a completely different arena. Besides Aesop, I threw in some Beatrix Potter and Wind in the Willows. Savagery and brute force may win, but sometimes the humble and clever slay the dragon.

Dr. Wictz: What are you hoping to learn about your games at the UNPUB Mini?

Michael Karg:  I want to constantly refine them so that game length goes unnoticed because everyone is fully engaged at all times and loving it. That’s a real challenge to pull off with unambiguous rules and mechanisms, but it’s fine to try.

Dr. Wictz: What piece of advice would you give first time designers attending their first UNPUB Mini?

Michael Karg:  Listen and observe. Take in as much as you can about what playtesters are saying and doing during your games, and do the same when you’re playing other prototypes. I love to learn how other designers think and see their own games, and how they evolve.

Dr. Wictz: How did you get into designing board games?

Michael Karg: I love to take things apart, which is the only way to learn how to create something. I love Agricola and in asking myself why I like it so much, I began to see how the theme and mechanics working together so beautifully. It’s a habitable world with difficult choices and a sense of humor, and it is endlessly playable. Reverse engineering like this can be as much fun as playing the game itself.

Dr. Wictz: So you really enjoy making board games?

Michael Karg: I enjoy the freedom of creating little worlds. I get to make up the characters, the rules and the story with the challenge of making it all familiar. The homemade, arts-and-crafts aspect is a big part of the process for me. Using wood and markers and glue reinforces the tactile nature of board games. The solid, physical aspects of board games are often not as appreciated as much as they should, but subconsciously, I think they make a big difference. I enjoy the raw, visceral nature of my games as well as seeing that handprint in other designers’ prototypes.

Dr. Wictz Any shout outs to your most dedicated game testers (cough  cough, wife, gf, etc.)?

Michael Karg: I have to thank all of the dozens of people who have played my games so far, but especially, my wife, Chris, who is always brutally honest in her critique.

Dr. Wictz: Thank you Michael for taking the time to talk with me.  If you want to learn more about Michael and his games you visit his website or follow him on twiiter @michaelkarg.

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