Looting The Bodies With Meg McGinley

The battle is over, the kobolds are dead, the corpses are looted! Now, it’s time to get all that treasure back to the village pawn shop – and that’s where Pack the Pack, the latest Games by Play Date title to hit Kickstarter, comes in.  We were able to snag an interview with designer Meg McGinley, so read on to learn the secrets behind this colorful inventory-management game!



Being Unencumbered

Cardboard Republic: Can you give me an overview of Pack the Pack?

Pack the Pack is a real-time tile grab game for 3-6 players where everyone is playing a member of an adventuring party post-dungeon, standing around the giant loot pile at the end. Your job is to shove as much awesome loot into your bag as efficiently as possible and head back to town before the rest of your party to get the best prices on your stuff.


CR: I’m always curious about which came first, the theme or the mechanics. How did that work for Pack the Pack?

pack the pack tiles 2

Prototype tiles in action

The idea of an Inventory Tetris game came first, so that’s really part theme, part mechanics. It was the idea of making a game from that inventory screen of Diablo and other video games and making it fun. Since the theme, however, goes in a decidedly “more than” Diablo genre though, I guess it was more mechanics.


CR: What were your influences, both in terms of mechanics and aesthetics, when designing Pack the Pack?

Besides “Inventory Tetris”, I was inspired by real time competitive games like Bananagrams or Spoons because I love those types of games. The idea that the clock you are racing is the person sitting next to you brings an extra level of stress that changes each time you play with someone new. For aesthetics, there is a gem matching element to the Basic game which is heavily influenced by Super Puzzle Fighter or even Bejewled to keep the game strategic, yet light, and fun and for all ages.


The Finer Things

CR: The game uses thick wooden tiles rather than cardboard. How did you decide on the materials, and how are you working to ensure their quality and longevity? Since the game is so active, the pieces will have to be pretty tough.

I’ve been asked a few times why we couldn’t go to chipboard or cardboard to make the game cheaper, and you are hitting the nail on the head with longevity. It’s also a real tactile feeling that can’t be beat. The game started on paper actually and I really wanted to see if I could make it using cards, but the more we prototyped, the more apparent it became that to stand up against grabby hands, it had to be something sturdy. So we made it on dominoes.

The choices there are wooden pine dominoes or acrylic dominoes. The latter are ridiculously expensive to produce so we’re going for the wooden pine which will be fantastic, and when painted, will be like many dominoes you have played with before. They can also be printed to the edge, which acrylic tiles can’t always be and for a game like this, that is sort of essential.

pack the pack tiles

Prototype tile inaction


CR: Pack the Pack was one of sixteen Cards Against Humanity Tabletop Deathmatch finalists. Congrats on that! What was that experience like? Did the judges give you any feedback that you were able to incorporate into the game?

(Editor’s Note: This is the link to the Pack the Pack TTD Episode.)

It was surreal! It was great in that it really forced me to finish this game which was a basic prototype and idea for a long time, so I’m so thankful for that. As for advice, I was asked if I had considered moving the game to tiles instead of on cards, which at the time I said no to, and then ta-da! I did. The best part of it, though, was it connected me to the other finalists, and they have given me more support, encouragement and feedback than the judges ever did. It has been brilliant to be part of that group.


Open-Source Development

CR: Games By Play Date uses a very open development system. Your meetings, for instance, are broadcast online and a great many of your design documents are public. How has this openness influenced your game design process?

pack the pack phistWe know that everything we do could be watched at that moment and usually is. It makes us a little more cognizant of the larger game community, including fans and players, and this isn’t just about us. But we’ve also said from the get-go that we aren’t going to design by committee, so it’s not like we constantly change ideas either. We hope that the process is encouraging to other fledgling designers to take a peek as to what is involved in our small sample size and see that it is doable.


CR: Have you participated at all in the local New England game design community? If so, how has that changed the way you approach your own designs?

Yes! I’m on the Board of Directors for the Boston Game Maker’s Guild and brought Pack the Pack to those meetups for playtesting; that was crazy helpful. I’ve been part of the indie game scene as a player for quite a while through JiffyCon and other groups where I’ve been able to play amazing games and see that a game doesn’t have to be available in a superstore to be awesome. Then for a while I ran my own game days called Play Date. That’s how I met Glenn, who then introduced me to Dan, and they started doing their own Play Dates in New Hampshire. Hence the name of our company!


CR: Pack the Pack is GPD’s second Kickstarter, the first being Slash (which we’ll be reviewing soon). What did you learn over the course of the first campaign that you applied to this current one?

So much. Slash had a great Kickstarter, and we were able to send preview copies out, which really helped get a buzz going. That is definitely hurting us with Pack the Pack. But we also really learned how much of Kickstarter word of mouth matters and approaching all of the contacts you have to see if they’ll help get the word spread.


CR: Do you really have a Cobra Terror Drome in rural New Hampshire?

Ha! You’ll have to ask Glenn about that when you talk about Slash. I live in Massachusetts and am not invited 😉


pack the pack cover

Pack the Pack is the post-adventure adventure, letting players race against one another back to down for all the good payouts. Sure, you all could share the loot and continue your questing, but we both know that you did all the heavy lifting. You should get the lion’s share of the bounty. So we don’t want to keep you from your – hey what’s that over there?!?

Yoink! I’ll be pawning that Emerald myself, thank you very much.

The race is on for you and your party members to make the most of your treasure! You can begin by defeating the Pledge Goal Troll and heading over to Pack the Pack’s Kickstarter.


Photo Credits: Pack the Pack artwork by Games by Play Date.