Q&A With Grant Rodiek (by event coordinator Angel Traub) October 11 2016
Last week I had the chance to ask a few questions of Grant Rodiek, founder of Hyperbole Games and designer of Cry Havoc (one of the biggest games this month -- seriously if you haven't checked it out yet you reaaaalllly should). For those of you who have not made it to our Locally Grown Sundays, you may not know that in addition to being a very talented designer he is also a Bay Area local.
How long have you been designing games?
I've been working in the video game industry for 11 years, mostly as a producer, but also a designer. Around 2010 I started designing tabletop games and have been at it pretty seriously that entire time.
What has been your favorite game to work on?
They've mostly all been painful, long, tedious efforts. I suppose my favorite is Druids, which was quite simple and came together rather quickly. We tested it over a hundred times in a few months over coffee every morning. It was pleasant, versus Hocus, which took a year to even find the game, and Cry Havoc, which took 4.5 years to make it to market.
What does your game design process look like?
Very iterative. I usually get an idea playing other games or walking my dog. I take notes and think about it until I can imagine how it works, then I write the rules and build a prototype. If it's going to be a "thing," then I usually know within 3-5 tests. From there, it's testing, usually about 100 tests, until it's ready to publish or pitch to someone. Lots of iteration, experimenting, and trying different types of features to get the experience I desire.
Cry Havoc has a ton of content packed into it. What do you think this game offers that really takes it to the next level?
Cry Havoc is designed from start to finish to be all about combat and battles. You will fight constantly, but not get knocked out of the game for a defeat, and I think it adds a nice experience that you don't often see. It also features deep asymmetry - four very different factions, as well as euro style mechanisms, for a relatively smooth, thematic game. I'm very pleased with it. It's a very strong "Euro-Ameritrash" hybrid.
I know many of your titles you designed on your own, how was it working in collaboration with other designers on Cry Havoc?
Honestly it wasn't too weird. By working at my day job on design and production I've learned quite a bit about working collaboratively with others. I think more difficult or different than working with other designers is working with a publisher. Plus, a publisher in another country (Poland). Different time zone, different native tongues, different methods of talking and such. I had to be patient, wait to hear back, then it would be VERY BUSY, then it would be slow again. I had to be patient!
You put A LOT of time into Cry Havoc so what were some of the biggest challenges you dealt with during its creation?
The core idea was to make a game about conflict, purely card driven (no dice), for 2-4 players, that was relatively short (as in, no more than 2 hours). When I began Cry Havoc I was still relatively new to tabletop and I didn't know any games that did that (though some have come out since, and already existed that I didn't know about). Figuring out how to make combat interesting, not too analysis heavy, and not too deterministic, using cards, was tough. Figuring out how to keep all four players in the game until the end was difficult. Trying to design the asymmetry was a pain. And, trying to keep players from turtling and playing defensively was also a tough nut to crack. I learned a great deal. Many of the lessons will influence my work for years.
You have created many titles: Hocus, Farmageddon, Druids, Cry Havoc (just to name a few) and they all have very different themes and mechanics. Is there a theme or mechanic you have wanted to work on?
Hmmm...I always want to make new games that do something differently. I'm very inspired by Vlaada, who always makes weird, bizarre games, ranging from Bunny Bunny Moose Moose, to Codenames, to Mage Knight. For a long time I really wanted to make a drafting game, which I finally did with Solstice.
I think it'd be fun to work on another Euro/Ameritrash hybrid like Cry Havoc. I started a design -- still VERY early -- that starts with worker placement to create a conflict game. So, perhaps that's my answer? I wanted to see if I could make a very pure euro interesting and fresh.
You have told me that being a game designer can be a difficult career choice, what advice you would offer to other aspiring designers?
Don't quit your day job! Play lots of games and study them. Work very hard. Be diligent. Be patient.
Cry Havoc and Farmageddon are both available in stores now and you are working on Sol Rising. What you tell us about that upcoming title and are there any other games in the works?
Solstice is probably my next title, to be released in 2017 with Hyperbole Games (my company). It is a game of drafting, hidden information, and deception for 2-5 players that plays in about 30 minutes. Very excited to release it. It's a relatively simple game with deep, interactive play.
I need to get cracking on Sol Rising for a pitch in December. Sol Rising is a relatively streamlined game of space fleet combat, all built around a persistent, 12 mission campaign. Your choices in one mission can affect the next, but it's not a legacy game. I think it's a really neat mix of interactive narrative with a fun dice drafting combat mechanism.
Other than that, I started a new abstract, I have that worker placement game, and who knows what else? If Farmageddon is successful I have expansions I'd love to make, and I hope I get to work on some Cry Havoc expansions.
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