As part of our October Spotlight on Lagoon, 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 are reclusive, while others are about as public as you can be without actually knowing them. Resident Archdruid David Chott happens to be one of the former. However, we have traversed through wooded thickets and remote lakes just we can share a few words of wisdom of his with you today.
The game of Lagoon: Land of Druids is all about choice. This is a world that existed in harmony with the land’s spirit energy. All was right and pure and perfectly in balance. Keyword ‘was’. See, once mankind came to prominence in this land, the spirit energies were split into three forms, each tied to a different ambition. Now, each of these energies vie for dominance over the other two, and in turn, control over the future of Lagoon. As druids, it’s your job to decide which faction you want to win, and use all of the magical skills at your disposal to guide the land to your will.
You may be a bit new to the whole “druidic guardian of a planet” thing, but the game’s designer is here to help you with your first lessons. Enjoy!
Round One Questions
CR: What was your Gateway Game?
I’ve been gaming pretty heavily since I was a kid in the 80’s, so I don’t know that I had a Gateway Game per se. My family played lots of card games like Cribbage, Oh Hell, Hearts, and so on. Meanwhile my friends and I played Monopoly, Risk, Fortress America, Diplomacy and a ton of different roleplaying games. My family had a subscription to Games Magazine, and through the Games 100 I discovered Civilization and Cosmic Encounter among other titles. In college I was consumed with Magic: The Gathering, but also played plenty of Acquire, Settlers of Catan and other early Euro games of the 90’s. I just kept going from there.
CR: What was the last game you really enjoyed playing (besides Lagoon)?
The last game I played was PitchCar, and I always enjoy it!
CR: How big is your game collection?
About 100 games probably. But I’m only really interested in playing about 1/4 of them anymore. I plan to cull the collection soon.
CR: What is your favorite type of game to play?
Games with strong emergence are my favorites. Some examples include Hive, Tigris & Euphrates, Magic: The Gathering, Innovation and Liar’s Dice. I love the huge range of possibilities and surprises that strong emergence delivers. Games with strong emergence tend to yield novel game states regularly, which makes them interesting to explore. They often give players freedom to make clever plays as well, which is satisfying. Unfortunately, these games do not constitute a genre, and it can be hard to figure out which new games emphasize emergence to the degree I like.
CR: How do you feel about Monopoly?
My friend is designing a game he calls “The Dumpsters of Atlantic City,” which uses all the Monopoly components in order to play a new game with a different theme and mechanics than Monopoly. I’ve played Dumpsters a handful of times in the past year, and that’s the first thing I think of now when I hear about Monopoly. The last time I played Monopoly as Parker Brothers intended, I was probably in junior high, and we had fun with it. I have no desire to play it today, but I think that’s great if anyone else has a good time with it.
CR: Lagoon has a pretty unique world setting. What was the inspiration of this druidic landscape?
I relocated to Portland in part because the Pacific Northwest forests are my favorite landscape. I love backpacking in the wilderness here and feel very at peace in the forest. Another inspiration is Burning Man, a real-life fantastical landscape. Lagoon is to some extent a blend of these two landscapes.
CR: The game has a semi-abstract quality to it, as it’s neither a Euro game nor fully thematic one either. Did you want that degree of abstractness from the beginning or was that an evolution of the game’s design?
Lagoon took inspiration from Euro games, collectible card games, abstract games, and more. So it’s semi-‘a lot of things’. It doesn’t really fit neatly in any single genre box, and I’m okay with that. As a player, I tend to prefer games that blur genre lines.
My goal was to create a fresh experience for players that doesn’t feel like the games we’re used to seeing. Many players who enjoy Lagoon seem to particularly appreciate how different it is.
CR: One of the things that initially caught people’s attention was Lagoon’s artwork. How important was the art component when putting the campaign together?
I had a specific vision for the feel of the art in Lagoon. It was hugely important to me, and I wrote a five page guide to orient my artists within Lagoon and lay the foundation for the visual look and feel. I wanted a fantastical world filled with stunning natural landscapes, evocative characters, and eye-grabbing composition.
The search for the right artists was very time consuming, and in the end I was wildly, extraordinarily lucky to have worked with Eduardo Garcia, Chase Velarde, and Peter Wocken to bring Lagoon to life.
CR: Lagoon is listed as best as a 2-3 player game. How much balancing went into deciding you didn’t want to have a higher number of players (i.e. 5)?
The rock paper scissors power dynamic between the three energies is the core of the game, and fortunately this design pattern is pretty self balancing through all the player counts. The feel of the game is different at each player count, and players need to adjust their tactics and strategies accordingly. Consequently, I haven’t really seen a consensus yet in players’ preferences for a particular player count when I ask them. The max player count is 4, which is played as a team game.
Initially, the 4 player game was a free for all, but the proportion of control each player has over the world often was insufficient for the 4-sided game to work consistently. Changing the 4 player game into a partnership game with two teams of two players solved this problem. It also created an interesting new experience, particularly for experienced players.
The most surprising thing was how helpful, kind, and supportive the backer community could be. When you align yourself with that community and listen to their finest ideas, it’s better for everyone.
CR: Kickstarters are also a big learning experience. Now that it’s at the end, what single thing would you most want to know at the beginning of the campaign that you know now?
I can’t go back and do anything differently, and if I did then I wouldn’t be where I am today. But if I undertake another campaign, I won’t work myself so unsustainably again. I was extraordinarily out of balance after the campaign ended. I’ve always been capable of working exceedingly hard when I’m passionate about something, but for months I kept pushing myself harder and harder, well beyond what was healthy for me and my body. I’d rather raise less money and have fewer backers than abuse my well being that way again.
CR: Lastly, say you were a druid of Lagoon. Which of the three factions would you belong to? Be honest.
The yellow energy, Elemeen, which is the energy of the spirit!
The land of Lagoon is in need of some spiritual guidance. Now is your chance to help guide its future and ensure that the right energies permeate the soils, sands, and living beings within. Only you, druid, with your ability to tune in to that part of the world beyond the veil, and direct it where it needs to go.
We understand you may not be incredibly familiar with your newfound role and powers, and that being in charge of the destiny of an entirely foreign realm may be a bit unnerving. So we’re going to give you some practice runs in the form of this game. It should prepare you for the road ahead.