Building A Better Tourist Trap With Ben Harkins

As part of our December Spotlight on Epic Resort, we strive to inform the readers of little extra tidbits surrounding the game. Games are made by people, and one of those tidbits we enjoy is learning a little bit more about the people behind them. Some designers shy away from the public stage, while others enjoy being front and center. In the case of Floodgate Games founder Ben Harkins, he roams somewhere in between. He’s happy to interact, but when part of your daily routine is traveling through time and building holiday getaways for stalwart champions, that’ll keep anyone busy.

The game of Epic Resort theoretically gives players a reprieve from that same hustle and bustle. Well, presuming they’re real world champions. (We assume you are). In Epic Resort, players are given the task of building up their own tropical resort location. Each player is trying to attract normal tourists as well as those all-important heroes, and part of the way to do that is by increasing what your resort offers via different workers and newer attractions.

The only problem is, with all of these do-gooder heroes showing up, monsters usually aren’t far behind. Thus, while you benefit from leaving the heroes to recooperate, you may also have to ask them to occasionally get out of the hammock and stop them from wrecking up the place.

Alright, so many it isn’t all that restive after all. Still, that’s what it apparently takes to make an epic resort, and designer Ben Harkins was kind enough to share some of his own experiences from his forays into the hospitality business. Enjoy!

Round One Questions

CR: What was your Gateway Game?

I grew up playing a lot of Chess and Risk, but Acquire was the first tabletop game I fell in love with.


libertalia game coverCR: What was the last game you really enjoyed playing (besides Epic Resort)?

Libertalia has been an absolute blast for me lately. The theme is so strong in all the mechanisms, and I love the slowly divergent symmetry of what each player has available.


CR: How big is your game collection?

Not counting a warehouse full of fresh pallets of Epic Resort, still pretty big. I try to cull it down, but it always seems to grow faster than I can cut. There are just so many good games now!


CR: What is your favorite type of game to play?

Whatever fits the group I’m with the best. I love picking the right game for the people I’m playing with at the moment. I tend to steer away from dexterity games, though.


CR: How do you feel about Monopoly?

It’s fantastic as a baseline to start a conversation about games with just about anybody in western culture. Regardless of the game itself, the universal recognition and reference is invaluable.epic resort hero party



On Epic Resort

CR: The theme of the game seems very tongue-in-cheek. How did it originate?

I enjoy thinking about alternate perspectives and unique interactions, so it was pretty natural for me to ask, “where do heroes go on vacation?”.


CR: The artwork also keenly matches the theme. What went into finding the right visuals for Epic Resort?

Tiki Hut

Tiki Hut

I’m a big believer in tabletop gaming as an experience in its entirety, so finding the right illustrators was key. Lots of emails, test pieces and negotiations on timing.  I worked with 3 illustrators on Epic Resort, and I’m still so impressed by their ability to blend and adapt to each other’s styles. Then Peter Wocken brought it all together with his graphic design wizardry!


CR: What is your favorite attraction in this game?

epic resort slaughter coaster

Well, who wouldn’t?

Mechanically, I love the Frost Cone Hut, since it enables so many options. Thematically, I’m pretty proud of the Slaughter Coaster.


CR: Epic Resort works around a deck optimization mechanic rather than a standard deckbuilder, so the deck size doesn’t actually change much. Was that set from the beginning, or was it changed during development?

I’ve always believed that deckbuilding is a mechanism in a game, not a game itself, and wanted to make sure that came through here. The feeling of “steering a ship” that you get from classic deckbuilding games hasn’t ever sat well with me, and almost all of them seem to have some sort of deck culling as a de-facto mandatory strategic component. Approaching Epic Resort’s design from this perspective had deck evolution as a focus from the start.

The deck evolution design in Epic Resort really shines by mitigating the need to cull your deck while playing, keeping everything streamlined as you go. The Lazy Peon (equivalent to the traditional “trash” card) creates some interesting tension since he actually has situational value (chucking him at attacking monsters). The permanence of the 1-for-1 card exchanges helps give a little more gravity to your choices on how to build, too.


Relaxed and ready to go.

Relaxed and ready to go.

CR: We were pondering: if such a resort would be known to attract monsters and evildoers, why is there a total lack of security there besides the heroes? Seems like that would be something to invest in.

If the security could keep the monsters away, would that make them the heroes?


CR: Epic Resport was your fourth and most successful Kickstarter to date. What sort of things did you do differently, if any, that might have helped its chances?

It’s 100% due to an incredibly supportive group of people I’ve had the opportunity to meet, talk with, learn from, and game with! The tabletop gaming community is so refreshingly amazing, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did without them.


CR: Lastly, we imagine that for some non-hero folk visiting this locale that it might not be the most fun trip. Do you have a particularly memorable bad / crazy/ epic resort experience?

The moment when new players realize that they build an attraction right on top of their tourists, then make an audible “SPLSHHHHH” noise… that just makes my day every time.

epic resort beach


We know that making a truly Epic Resort needs a lot of heavy lifting and cooperation. Yet all of this shop talk has made us want to try our hand at it all the same. We think that with your help, we could make the most epic resort destination going. We want to make it grand enough to entice prestige class heroes. It’ll take a lot of work, and we know that you may be busy comtemplating your own tropical destinations. So think of it as a joint venture business.

We have the land and the resources, but we need people with ideas. People like you. And we’re prepared to compensate you for your assistance. No, not in a stake of ownership – the board would never go for that. Instead, in exchange for your consultation services over building Awesomesauce Island, we’re prepared to give you a starters kit for your own venture when we’re done.

Click here to help us build Awesomesauce Island!

epic resort cover



Photo Credits: Epic Resort cover and artwork by Floodgate Games; Libertalia by Asmodee Games.