Friday, September 26, 2014

Congress of Gamers Preview 2014: Austin Smokowicz

There is an unwritten rule (until now since I am writing it down in this post) that I do not do a game preview unless I have seen/played the game myself.  Excitingly for me, all the games that I know of that will be at the UNPUB ProtoZone at Congress of Gamers 2014, September  27th & 28th will be new to me.  Sadly that means I have no one to interview to get us all pumped for two days of board game playtesting heaven...or so I thought until I realized there was one game that will be in the UNPUB protozone that I have personally playtested in the past, my own.  So today one half of Dr. Wictz (Aaron) will interview the other half (Austin) about the games Austin is bringing to Congress of Gamers.  

Dr. Wictz:  Well Austin, I have known you since my freshman year of high school and I have seen many of your game designs over the years, including U.N. the Card Game. What new exciting game are you presenting at Congress of Gamers?

Austin Smokowicz: For this years Congress of Gamers I’m bringing the first in the ‘New Jersey’ line of games called Hoboken.  Players play as real estate developers building luxury hotels in the city of Hoboken, catering to the tourists coming to New York City.  Unfortunately the construction costs are too high for any individual player, so they must partner with each other to raise enough capital to complete construction, and negotiate over the ownership and profits of the new building.

Dr. Wictz: Where did you first show the game to Dr. Wictz? (I had to ask, apparently my questions are part of some sort of standardized form).

Austin Smokowicz: Huh? Where did I first show it to me? Well, I first playtested with some friends over the summer, but Congress of Games will be the first open-to-the-public testing of Hoboken.

Dr. Wictz: How has the Hoboken changed since you started playtesting it?

Austin Smokowicz: There were two major changes after that first playtest, one mechanical, and one componital. For the components, every round tourists are drawn from a deck as they enter the city and try to find a place to sleep. Because this deck is supposed to be random every round, I spent the entire playtest shuffling the cards! I decided no one should be stuck with that burden, and so changed it to chit pull, one simple shake of the bag, and you're good to go. On the mechanical end I had it so that once all of the hotels were available to be built, players drew from a hurricane deck that would end the game. But, I found that by then the game had already been won, and the extra deck drug the game out with little change in players positions.

Dr. Wictz: What inspired the current game theme, I mean New Jersey of all places, was New York City taken already? 

Austin Smokowicz: Well, NYC does have rent control…Honestly it was a mistake of geography on my part, I really thought it was by the beach, and thus the hurricane talk, and when I visited a few years ago I really, really, liked the street clocks.

Dr. Wictz: So you picked the name because you have trouble with geography, even after visiting the place, what next, a cattle ranch in central jersey?  

Austin Smokowicz: Well yes, but we’re here to talk about Hoboken.

Dr. Wictz: If you could see my face you would see a look of puzzlement.  So before you send our readers into a freezie by claiming all of Dr. Wictz games are set in New Jersey I am going to ask you a new question.  How did you get into designing board games?

Austin Smokowicz: I started back in middle school. In my first attempt at making a board game I tried to recreate the computer game Wolfenstein 3D using grid paper. And shortly thereafter I attempted to re-purpose my Stratego set to run football plays. If only I knew Space Hulk and Bloodbowl existed!  

Dr. Wictz: Why do you love making games, other than to profuse your love for New Jersey? (I always thought you would have some sort of grudge against Jersey, aren't you originally from New York state?) 

Austin Smokowicz:  Let’s go Buffalo, but I moved away many years ago. as for my games, nothing was intended to be in Jersey, just like everything else in Jersey, they ended up there. 

For myself, when it comes to the choice between being a consumer of content, or a creator, I’ve always chosen to be the creator. After a while it has become second nature to look at the world and ask ‘what can I make with this?’

Dr. Wictz: This will be your 3rd, 4th Congress of Gamers.  So at this point you must have some favorite past moment from previous Congress of Gamers?

Austin Smokowicz: My favorite past moment of Congress of Gamers came during the first time I attended. I spent the entire day in a room featuring unpublished games for a contest. And had a blast playtesting and discussing the games with their creators. It was only years later I learned that that event was the impetus for the Unpub network.

Dr. Wictz: What draws you to Congress of Gamers?

Austin Smokowicz: I enjoy the people who attend, the location is great, you can’t beat the price point for entry, and I get to play a lot of great published and unpublished games.

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

Austin Smokowicz: I would like to thank my supportive wife Rebecca, and her good friend Zhanna, who while having never played any of my games likes to be recognized for these sorts of things. 

Dr. Wictz: Is that all? (cough, cough)

Austin Smokowicz: Oh, umm, yes, I forgot to mention my good friend and design partner Aaron Honsowetz. Without whom I would still be sweeping the streets of Trenton…. I mean...

Dr. Wictz: Anyway, If someone wishes to follow you and your game designs where can they go to learn more? (I know, I know, we are in essence interviewing ourselves, but its on the form so I have to ask it).

Austin Smokowicz: If you want to follow me (and Aaron), congratulations, you have. You can check out our profile, twitter, and facebook page through the links on the right side of this web

No comments:

Post a Comment