A New Brave New World with Stonemaier Games, Part I

For most people, gaming starts and ends with the game in question. You arrive home from your local game store or unbox your home shipment, and you dig it out. Your precious cargo in hand, you unwrap the cellophane, open the contents, and take in the experience of a new game. Maybe there’s cards to shuffle, or items to punch out. Once you figure out the rules, you’re off on a new adventure; hopefully it’s a game that you’ll enjoy coming back to time and again.

Like most hobbies though, there’s a lot more to it than simply the item itself.

Gaming is no different. If you do only focus on the end result, you may not be aware of the extensive efforts that happen to games long before they reach your kitchen table. Chances are, then, you also haven’t heard of Jamey Stegmaier, one half of the founding duo of Stonemaier Games, and the creator of the well-received Kickstarted game, Viticulture.

When he’s not busy with the non-game aspects of his life, Jamey has taken to blogging a series of musings on the Kickstarter phenomenon. Part reflection of lessons learned, part reinforcing common sense, these articles touch upon many of the areas often overlooked or underutilized. They run the gamut from what steps you should be taking long before your campaign goes live, to managing stretch goals, to using social media, to promoting your game after the final pledges are in. If you are interested in the inner workings behind a Kickstarter campaign, or are contemplating your building own, they’re a valuable resource to look at.

But we’re not just here to talk about blog entries on past campaigns. We like new stuff too.

As it so happens, Jamey and Co. are doing just that. They are putting all of their previous lessons to use in the launch of their second game being released on Kickstarter: Euphoria.

Like Viticulture, Euphoria is a worker placement game that aims to bring its own twist to the genre. It’s a game that uses a dice worker platform, and through it players will plan, explore, scheme, and lay claim to the various parts of a warped dystopian future city on their path to victory.

We recently had a chance to chat with Jamey about this game, Kickstarter, and geekdom in general. In the first part of what follows, Jamey chats with the Cardboard Republic’s Ryan regarding our Round One questions. Rather than a standard Q&A session, we opted for more of a conversational approach this time around so that all sides get to learn something from one another. In Part II, we’ll talk a bit more in detail about Euphoria, and we’ll be sharing some exclusive artwork from the game with you!


Round One Questions

What was your Gateway Game?

Jamey: I played a lot of chess, Stratego, and Risk as a kid, but like many people, it wasn’t until I discovered Settlers of Catan as an adult that my eyes were opened to a much bigger world of gaming. Economic Euro games are my cup of tea. What do you think are the 2-3 ideal gateway games?


Ryan: Everyone’s instinct is to say Catan, isn’t it? And, honestly, I think it does actually serve the purpose well of introducing non-linear gaming to people who may have only had experience with the classics. A good gateway game in my mind has to offer new options and gameplay territory to the player while not being overly encumbered with too much strategy or different things to focus on. Usually that means it still has to have a fair amount of luck or be a co-op. So, in that I think Catan is still a good choice. Ticket to Ride also. Other ones that come to mind though would be Alhambra, Pandemic / Forbidden Island, and Survive!. I leave out Carcassonne because, while good, it has an experience issue with the farmers that can turn new people off.


Jamey: I think that’s an excellent description of what a good gateway game should be. I’ve only recently tried out Ticket to Ride, but I would agree that it fits into this category well. Both that and Catan feature an ongoing accumulation of points instead of an accounting for points at the end, giving them the slight edge over Carcassonne as a gateway game, in my opinion. And Pandemic is also an excellent choice. I’m slowly coming around to cooperative games, largely because they make teaching a game so easy. I would gladly bring Pandemic to a table with any level of gamer, new or old.


What was the last game you really enjoyed playing?

Jamey: I’m fortunate to have a regular gaming group that I host at my place every Wednesday, so I don’t have to look too far back in the past. In fact, just this past Saturday a friend hosted a gaming night where we played Viticulture and Citadels. I greatly enjoyed both games. I’ve found with Viticulture – which I designed and published – that it does get tiring having to teach the game time after time, but when I’m just able to sit back and play to win, I absolutely love it. Citadels is solid too–I like that there is direct conflict, but you target characters, not other players. What’s the last game you played that you couldn’t stop recommending to people? Is there one game that you will drop everything to play at any time?


Ryan: I can’t quite remember which one was last, so I’ll give two here. Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards is a fun, brutal, generally quick social card game where you’re powerful wizards blowing each other up. For something a little more substantive, I’ve been a big cheerleader of Nevermore Games’s Chicken Caesar. I was skeptical of the game at first glance (Roman-themed chickens?), but it’s become a group favorite. It has a lot of strategy, deal-making and scheming, but the fact that you’re all, thematically, chickens, really keeps it from becoming too serious.

My two drug-like games would be Magic and Arkham Horror. With Magic I prefer casual, multiplayer games rather than one vs. one slugfests though. But for a board game, I will play Arkham just about any time that numbers, time, and interest will allow.


Jamey: I think I heard the Ludology podcast reference Epic Spell Wars (maybe it was the Plaid Hat podcast, not sure). Sounds interesting. Nevermore Games is in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, so I’m always rooting for them. It sounds like Chicken Caesar is great with the right group of people. Do you like multiplayer games that let you target specific players? I must admit that I generally stay away from them, and Viticulture was designed to prevent any outright hostility. Euphoria too, except for one of the factions.


Ryan: Sure, I don’t mind targeting if I have to. I’m what we call a Tactician archetype of board gamer: strategy is often paramount to my enjoyment of a game, whether it’s against the game state or other players. I’m not super provocative though, so I do have to be in the mood for the really combative games. It’s also dependent on my other gamers: I wouldn’t try to force that kind on a group who won’t enjoy them.


How big is your game collection?

Jamey: Not all that big. I’m very selective about the games I buy. I’m expecting a bevy of Kickstarter games in the next 4-5 months, so my collection will grow quite a bit. Most of the games I support on Kickstarter are because I’m friendly with the designer or like what they’re doing with the campaign. What is the top Kickstarted game you’ve played?


Ryan: I’d echo both your statements about being selective and waiting for the Kickstarter tidal wave to hit me in a few months. I didn’t have a lot of interaction with Kickstarter before the site was put into development last year, so I don’t have a huge, huge list to choose from that I’ve actually played. To date though, I’d say the one I’ve been most impressed with is Greenbrier’s Zpocalypse. It really hits that spot of what you hope for and expect of a complex zombie survival game.


Jamey: Feel free not to answer this, but I’m curious: Have you gotten any Kickstarted games that you were disappointed in? Either when you opened the box and/or after you actually played them?


Ryan: Well, I think anyone who follows crowdfunded games regularly can attest that just because a game is listed doesn’t mean it should be funded or that it’ll necessarily be any good. Just like games released traditionally, you are going to get your share of bad games with the Kickstarters. I try to be optimistic since developers of the projects on these sites clearly have put a lot of work into them, and, good, funded or otherwise, I can appreciate that love of their project. But you can’t escape the reality that they aren’t all phenomenal. So, yeah, we’ve done some prototypes and print-and-plays that looked good on the surface that ultimately we decided to skip.


What is your favorite type of game to play?

Jamey: I’d have to say economic Euro games. There’s something about them that fills my brain with endorphins. I used to think that I prefer games with no luck. I think I came to that conclusion after too many games of Catan when nothing happened as a result of the dice roll. But I’ve come to learn from a number of other games that luck of the roll and the draw can make a player’s choices really interesting. It makes you think on your feet while constantly adjusting your long-term strategy. That thought process inspired the visitor cards in Viticulture and the use of dice as workers in Euphoria.


How do you feel about Monopoly?

Jamey: Does Hasbro read this blog? Haha. I didn’t mention it on my previous list, but I played a lot of Monopoly as a kid. I didn’t know any better. You know what my favorite part of Monopoly was? We always played with 4 players, and we had a rule that said that when there were only 4 properties remaining, we would take turns selecting one property each. Favorite part of the game, by far: the ability to choose what we wanted to own instead of letting the dice dictate it.

Recently I read an article about Monopoly (over at Geek Dad, I think) that pointed out one very clever aspect about Monopoly that I had never thought about: the best things happen in Monopoly when it’s not your turn. Because that’s when other people land on your property and give you money. Because of that, you’re constantly engaged in every roll of the dice, similar to Catan. For that I give Monopoly some respect.


Click here for Part II of our discussion. We did also say you’d have to wait until then for the series of the exclusive artwork too. . . but we’re feeling generous.

If you want to see one of the four new art pieces of Euphoria now, step right up!

[spoiler show=”Click here to see The Spa of Fleeting Pleasure.”]

The Spa of Fleeting Pleasure
The future is tough. Take solace where and when you can. And in style. Enjoy!