Phoning Home With Eduardo Baraf: A Lift Off Q&A

As part of our June Spotlight on Lift Off!, 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 Lift Off designer Ed Baraf, he’s quite up for a little bit of attention.

So we’re going to give that to him. Because we’re just that kind of nice.

Like others before him, Eduardo Baraf is a longtime veteran of the video game industry, but a series of changes prompted him to venture offline into the board game world. Although technically not his first title, Lift Off was the first to, erm, take off. Quite fitting really, no?

In the game of Lift Off, a distant alien homeworld is about to be destroyed. Boom. Kaput. D-E-D dead. The race of aliens hanging around there tried everything they could to salvage the situation, but alas, the core is going to go. So go they must also. Thus, in this light semi co-op game, players must attempt to lead a group of these aliens to safety by any means necessary. Seemingly anything is on the table so long as it’ll help them escape the planet.

On second thought, don’t get too attached to the table. We may need that…

Time is of the essence of course, as there are only a few days remaining to get everyone evacuated. The catch is that many of the game’s escape routes can’t be achieved unilaterally; in many cases it will require cooperating with other players to get offworld. As the number of aliens start dwindling, however, that mutual assistance can will go out the window as it becomes a mad dash to get as many of your remaining alieneeples to safety.

To best understand how these seemingly harmless aliens got to this point, we’ve brought in an expert on exobiology for some quick clarifications. Ed Baraf just happens to be that expert, contrary to what he or his qualifications may say. Hopefully he can help us understand how we can best help this displaced race going forward, and maybe, even the motivations of the native and ill-tempered Garglore. Enjoy!

Round One Questions

CR: What was your Gateway Game?

Good question. I’ve always loved games. I grew up on typical americana and video games. My gateway card game though was likely Guillotine and an early favorite board game was Alhambra.


CR: What was the last game you really enjoyed playing (besides Lift Off)?

biblios diceFive Tribes and Biblios Dice – both are awesome.


CR: How big is your game collection?

I have a pretty excellent video game collection. On the board game side, I’d probably say 100 titles or so.


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

I really like all games, but I tend to love games with 30-45 minute play times. I like to play multiple games a night.


CR: How do you feel about Monopoly?

I’m absolutely fine with it. Played it a lot as a kid and still enjoy it.


On Lift Off!

lift off jetpackCR: Lift Off is a light game about alien rescues. What was the inspiration behind the game’s premise?

At the time, I was closing up a video game studio where we were making online games. They all disappeared. So I wanted to make something physical. Key inspirations at the time were Small World, Ticket to Ride, and Super Mario Galaxy.


CR: You come from a lengthy background in video game design, but Murder of Crows was your first foray into board games. What prompted you to try a different medium?

Thomas Denmark was my Art Director at Mind Control Software (the video game company). He was stuck on the design and the hook and invited me to develop the game with him!


There may be a relation here...

There may be a relation here…

CR: What sort of lessons did you bring with you from that project into Lift Off as your first solo board game design?

The value of playtesting and outside feedback. Also, I think it is important to level up your design at the same time as you level up your art. I’ve always tended to that.


CR: What would you say are the strongest overlapping thoughts when it comes to making games in general, whether digital or analog?

Do. Or do not. There is no try.


CR: Lift Off got a good reception during its Kickstarter, and the game generated a decent amount of attention. What is the most surprising aspect of the game’s existence thus far?

Just that it exists, really. From idea, to prototype, to trying publishers, to sitting on a shelf for years, to a Kickstarter, to manufacturing, to being delivered to players. It is an amazing thing. The other piece is just how incredible the aliens and components came out. I didn’t think it would be so fantastic.


lift off tilesCR:┬áThe game has a number of escape methods for these poor aliens. Do you have a particular favorite? And were there any escape plans of note that didn’t make it into the final product?

My favorite is trampoline! And yes, we had tons left over, with tiles like Geyser, Volcano, Police Box, Phone Booth, Hot Air Balloon, Space Elevator, Escalator, Bridge to Nowhere, etc…


CR: How does the Garglore relate to the rest of the aliens? Is he another species on the planet, or was this a case of too much core radiation? Why is he so disgruntled?

He is an inhabitant of the planet, but he’s not an Alien like the other Aliens.


CR: Lastly, we have to know: what will become of this alien race? Where will they go? What will become of them? Are you their only hope?

Not you, but we are their only hope!

obi-wan help liftoff

Of course, getting this poor race of aliens off the planet is just the first part. With no real destination and limited resources, they are going to be a displaced people quickly in search of a new home. Their journey to find such a place will be perilous, and it’s pretty much a guarantee that they’ll need bailing out yet again. And again. And, well, you get the idea. To that end, we are seeking help in watching over these aliens until they can get back on their feet…ish, and we’re raffling off a copy of the game to all those who willing to lend a hand!

Join The Alien Preservation Society!

Lift Off Spotlight cover



Photo Credits: Lift Off! cover and artwork by Pencil First Games; Biblios Dice by Dr. Finn’s Games; Star Wars by Walt Disney Studios.