The Highs And Lows Of Gaming: A Stockpile Q&A

As part of our July Spotlight on Stockpile, we strive to inform 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 designers Brett Sobol and Seth Van Orden, when they aren’t busy making the big bucks they’re trying to navigate through the sprawling board game jungle with their inaugural game. For these two newcomers it’s been a bewildering (though exciting) experience, and they’re still figuring out what make of all the attention their game has been getting. Still, they’re eager to share some stock secrets with us, and we’re happy to oblige.

Just remember us when you get rich off it all, ok?

At least, that’s the premise behind Stockpile, the game of insider trading. In this short exercise of unbridled capitalism and crossing ethical boundaries, every player is a stock trader who knows a little piece of information on how one company’s stock is going to behave that day before everyone else. During the course of a round, everyone helps build and then bid on piles of stocks – hence the name. Some of the stocks in that pile are public knowledge, while others in them are hidden. The goal here is, of course, to make the most money, so much of the game’s engagement is about figuring out which of those stocks to hold on to and which to sell off, all without tipping your hand to other players about what you know.

To succeed in this world of finance you have to be a little shrewd, a little cunning, and to get your opponents to overpay for their goods, also a little cutthroat. But the one thing you won’t need is a lot of time.

Speaking of which, we can’t keep these high powered executives all day. We lured them away on their lunch break with promises of juicy stock tips, and although they figured out it was just a ruse to get them here, they were surprisingly willing to stick around to talk with us about climbing that ladder of success. Enjoy!

Round One Questions

CR: What was your Gateway Game?

Brett: Ticket to Ride

Seth: Being the youngest of eight kids, I played a ton of board games. I’m not sure any game got me into the hobby. I really didn’t need any particular game to convince me that games could be fun. We played pretty much anything with a Star Wars theme like Queen’s Gambit or Epic Duels. We also played tons of fantasy themed games like Dragon Strike, HeroQuest, and Battle Masters. We also loved ‘dudes on a map’ games like Axis and Allies, Samurai Swords and Risk, as well as everything in between, like Acquire and The Farming Game.


kemet smallCR: What was the last game you really enjoyed playing (besides Stockpile)?

Seth: Well, I’ve played this one quite a few times before, but since I just played it again last night I have to say Kemet. I love that game, and I don’t see a need to play or own any other dudes on a map game.

Brett: Rolling Stock. You might see a theme forming here.


CR: How big is your game collection?

Brett: Only about 20 games because of space constraints. I keep around ten all-time favorites and then swap-in and out for recently released games.

Seth: For me, over 150 games. If you count expansions, it’s close to 250.


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

Seth: Games that my wife likes to play – because those are the ones I get to play the most!

Brett: Unsurprisingly, economic and Euro-style games.


CR: How do you feel about Monopoly?

Brett: Thanks for frustrating an entire generation enough to make better games!

Seth: I’m very grateful for it. I played it a ton growing up. It’s true that I have no real desire to play it anymore because there are plenty of more enjoyable games out there, but I definitely got my money’s worth of entertainment from that game.




On Stockpile

CR: We’ve seen plenty of economic games over the years, but few focus specifically on insider trading. What was the inspiration behind Stockpile’s theme?

Brett: The theme was really driven by the mechanics. We already had the idea of building piles of cards (the face-up and face-down) and then bidding on them, but we didn’t know what that would turn into. Through playtesting, it dawned on us that this bidding would be even better if the value of what you were bidding on would change. The idea of stock trading came into play from my background in finance, and the insider trading theme seemed to fit atop our game like a glove.


CR: Stockpile is a full-fledged economic game that takes place under an hour. Was this your intent from the start or a byproduct of development?

You have five minutes to hold my attention. Ready? Go!

You have five minutes to hold my attention. Ready? Go!

Brett: This was all by intent. With all of the alternatives for entertainment that exist today, modern board games need to be built to capture and hold your attention faster than ever.

The notion of a “game night” has largely changed over the past decade or so from a single game format to a multi-game format, often played back to back. If you can make a game that attractively and consistently fits into that game night line-up, then it stands a good chance of being successful.

A game needs to simultaneously be fun, engaging, and challenging, but it also must be approachable to have any chance at hitting the table. So, we specifically designed our game for the modern attention span by keeping the playing time short but densely packing it with interesting, meaningful choices.


CR: What is the craziest bidding war in the game that you’ve personally experienced?

Brett: There are so many great moments of head-scratching, face scrunching, nervous laughing, and fist pumping that come out of the bidding wars in Stockpile. Some of the craziest ones I’ve seen involve bluffs that take piles of hidden trading fees up to $15K and $20K before hanging a player high and dry.


CR: Brett, you work in the finance world. Did you get a chance it try Stockpile out on any coworkers?

Brett: Yeah, I had the chance to play it with other finance professionals, including a few S&T friends. Despite the game being thematically similar to their day jobs, my friends and coworkers enjoyed it a lot.


The ups and downs of Kickstarter

The ups and downs of Kickstarter

CR: As your inaugural Kickstarter game, what would you say was your biggest surprise about the campaign?

Seth: We were so impressed with the kindness of the board game community. It’s one of the best hobbies/industries to be a part of.


CR: While well received in previews, the campaign didn’t reach all of the stretch goals you initially laid out. What was the one aspect that you wished made it into the game but didn’t?

Seth: We actually chose not to reserve any gameplay elements for stretch goals, so mechanically I don’t think the game suffered at all. However, it would have been nice to raise enough for some upgraded components, such as the wooden stock tickers.


CR: Presumably these stockbrokers will eventually get caught, so the ride can’t go on forever. What lies next for the likes of Nauvoo Games?

Seth: We are currently looking for our next game. We’re working on several ideas of our own right now, but we are always looking at games from other designers. The bottom line is that we are only going publish games that we feel are really special.


CR: Lastly, who can we thank for the name Epic Electric? We approve of all six companies being full of alliteration, but that was our favorite.

Seth: Probably my employers. I currently work for a medical software company called Epic, and it was partially a shout out to them.

So much fun to say...

So much fun to say…


Now, what kind of wanna-be entrepreneurs would we be without playing the marketplace ourselves. As it turns out, due to a, let’s say clerical error down in the shipping department, we happen to have this extra copy of Stockpile. The forecast seems good for this game to find a wide audience, and we think it may be something you would be interested in seeing.

Normally, we do this unheard of thing where we simply give a copy of a game away, whether in the form of a donation drive, tax-deductible charity auction, partnership sponsor deal with fellow big corporations. You know, boring philanthropy stuff. Well, not anymore.

Instead, we’re turning over a new leaf. Embracing our inner 80’s Wall Street tycoon. We’re not going to give this game away simply out of some silly desire to do good. What were we thinking?

You want this game? Then we’re going to make you work for it. So go clock in; we’ve got work to do. Chop chop.

Come join us for a Stockpile Employment Fair

stockpile spotlight cover


Photo Credits: Stockpile cover and artwork by Nauvoo Games; Chess Clock temple by Wikimedia.