Arel and Ro-El Cordero Talk Yards: The Game of Inches at the GAMA Trade Show

I am not a football fan by any stretch of the imagination. I enjoyed going to Cal games when I lived in Berkeley. I also enjoyed playing Yards: The Game of Inches at the GAMA Trade Show after meeting brothers Arel and Ro-El Cordero. Arel got his PhD at UC Berkeley, while Ro-el went to arch-rival (and inferior) Stanford for his undergrad. I very much enjoyed trouncing Ro-el the evening after the interview in his first miniature war game ever, Dark Age. We also all played Jabba Dabba Du from Sirius Games that night, but the Bay Area residents had a lot to say about their own game, Yards. They had to actually tell me that football is referred to as “the game of inches”, because I was puzzled by the fact that their prototype board wasn’t based on inches. The game is played on a gridded board with formation cards with 8 wooden pieces a side. Each turn the player can always move a playing piece one square OR make use of the game-changing formation cards to move one or more player pieces multiple squares. There aren’t really any downs per se, but possession changes when the ball carrier is tackled. Unlike actual football, the winner of the game is the first to score a touchdown, field goal, or safety. Craven Games will be following the Corderos’ progress on Yards as they turn their game design into reality.

Overview of Yards and Its Creation, Response to Yards

Cover image of football board game Yards

Yards box art courtesy Arel Cordero

CG: So I’m here with Arel and Ro-el Cordero, two brothers with their game Yards: The Game of Inches. We just played a demo of the game, it probably took about an hour, is that usual?
Ro-el: It was a little long, but we also had a lot of chit-chatting and-
Arel: Yeah, the game is so designed so that it should be around half an hour once you know the rules.
CG: Sometimes half an hour, but you guys have also played for half a day?
Arel: That was before we introduced the field goal mechanic. That was partly the reason-, in fact, the only reason that we introduced that mechanic was to make the game end.
Ro-el: Yeah, there was that one day that we played on and off for the entire day.
Arell: Yeah.

CG: What was the genesis of the game?
Arel: So I actually had the idea for the mechanic sort of spontaneously on a flight, the idea of using patterns on a grid. Ro-el and I had been, before that, playing a bunch of games like Stratego was one that we’ve always played together over the holidays. I liked the idea of a grid. I wanted a sports analogy. I’d been thinking of like maybe hockey or something else, soccer, and I had some ideas for a mechanic, but nothing really seemed to work, and then it just kind of came to me to do this and I went through lots of iterations.
CG: And how do you as brothers split the design or duties or what you’ve done with it, as far as the game goes?
Arel: It’s been very organic. It’s basically been a labor of love. I was doing this through graduate school and trying to graduate at the same time, so over the years, we’ve basically played a lot together and that’s how it has been evolving is through playtesting and playing it with other people.

CG: So part of the reason you’ve come to the GAMA Trade Show is to solicit interest in it or see what options are available to you, right?
Ro-el: Yeah, I think to solicit interest, but also really since we’re-, we just kind of came out to Orccon a few weeks ago and that’s when we first got exposure to people and started hearing about, you know, what the process is to get the game manufactured and published and distributed and in stores and retail, so we really, on the other side, came here to get information, to learn, to meet distributors, to talk to other game manufacturers, and find out, you know, how did they go through the process, and also to look for retailers and see what their reaction’s going to be like, whether they think it’s something that they would want to carry, so we can start kind of planning.
CG: What has the response been to the game in general?
Ro-el: So far the response, in terms of game play has been very good. I know at Orccon we got a lot of really good feedback, a lot of positive comments and liking it, and then, obviously it was a very strategy-heavy crowd, definitely a gamer crowd. We got a lot of very nice, very fine-tuned suggestions, but on the whole, I think I was pleasantly surprised at the feedback we were getting were all small variations or additions or things we could do as an expansion, but everyone kind of seemed to be pretty positive on just how the pace of the game, the kind of asbtractness of it. We got some people who didn’t like football who played the game and liked it, said that it didn’t have to be so footballish. And we got some people who were more into the football and not so much into the game who happened to walk by who also said, you know, well you know, “I can like this”.
Arel: It’s abstract enough that it can hopefully appeal to people just on the gameplay.

The GAMA Trade Show for New Game Designers

CG: You guys now are Contributing Members to GAMA, to the organization, so how did you guys make that decision that you thought that GAMA was going to be worth it? Did someone recommend GAMA?
Arel: Actually, yeah, someone did recommend it. We were at the Strategicon event-
CG: Just weeks ago?
Arel: Just a few weeks ago, yeah, and this was our-, my first game con and also the first time showing Yards to an event like that, in the public. We’d shown it to game testers, but not really the public. But there I met up with other designers, other people in the industry, who really gave us a ton of really good feedback and spent the time with us and GAMA was one of the things that we were strongly recommended to attend, just because it’s so informative, a lot of great people here.
CG: So you guys have found it to be informative then?
Both:: Yeah.
Arel: Absolutely.
Ro-el: It’s been a good contrast, I think, to Orccon, where Orccon was players, right? Really people who would be playing and buying the game for themselves, consumers, which was really good for us to get to play, the playtesting people, that kind of feedback, whereas here, it’s really more about going to the workshops and learning about the business side of the process and kind of end to end, how do you get your games into the hands those consumers that we were playing with at Orccon.
CG: Has there been a particular seminar so far that’s been valuable to you guys?
Ro-el: Yeah… The intellectual property one was very…
CG: With, I think, Greg Silberman.
Ro-el: Yes! Yeah, that was really interesting.
CG: Are you more inclined now to possibly look for a patent? Is that what seemed applicable to you guys?
Arel: Like it really depends. We’ll talk it over on the specifics. I mean, actually one of us, it’s an investment that you have to weigh out to see whether it’s worth it. We’ll have to talk it over.
CG: On the other hand, you summarized the game as what? Grid movement?
Arel: Yeah.
CG: So it’s grid movement. Is that something that you can really protect?
Arel: Depends, yeah. The feedback I think I’ve gotten the most of, which I’m kind of glad for, is that there is a novelty to the game, the mechanic, I think it appears to some extent in a few other games, but the use of these patterns, and the ability to chain and rotate them, is kind of a novelty.

More Game Design Aspects to Yards

Overhead image of Yards game board, wooden pieces, and game cards

Yards board and card images courtesy Arel Cordero

CG: What do you guys think of as a price point for the game?
Ro-el: Well, we’ve been kind of thinking somewhere like in the 25ish.
Arel: Yeah, 20 ideally, and depending on the cost of manufacturing, 25 that would be the ballpark, that we’d want to aim for.
CG: Which seems reasonable.
Ro-el: Yeah.
CG: It’s very generic, it’s not themed.
Ro-el: Yeah, there aren’t so many pieces that it’d make sense to charge 80 bucks or something for it. There’s kind of enough to it that 5 or 10 dollars would be invested to manufacture it.
CG: Who did you guys turn to for prototyping?
Both:: Oh, we did!
Arel: We did the prototyping actually.
CG: Even these? [The playing cards, I think]
Ro-el: We bought the wooden pieces online and painted them ourselves.
CG: Ok. What about the boards?
Arel: We made them ourselves.
Ro-el: Yeah, we basically cut the board, got the board at an art store, cut it, taped it ourselves, printed it.
CG: So the artwork right now, is this just clip art, or is this-
Arel: No, no, I commisioned art. I have a license for the artwork, but, yeah, this was-, I have the rest of the box art as well. That’s … I’m happy with.
CG: Have you guys started thinking of what age will your suggested age range?
Arel: So we’ve labeled it for 10 and up, in terms of game play. One thing that we learned here is like we’ll have to consider other types-, like choking hazards, et cetera, to decide what the actual age.
CG: They pointed that out?
Ro-el: Yeah, two people. Someone else came up a few minutes ago while you were playtesting. You have to put basically 13 up, otherwise you have to go through an extra set of testing that can be a couple more thousand dollars potentially. So it’s possible right now, we have it 10 up, it’s possible we might actually print it with a different age.
Arel: Or have bigger pieces.
Ro-el: Yeah, or have bigger pieces, yeah.
CG: I also imagine that one of the distributors or at least a publishing company, they could make that decision, for you guys.
Ro-el: Yeah.
CG: So at this point, you’re not thinking of manufacturing, distributing by yourselves, right? You are looking for someone to partner with?
Both:: Yeah.
Ro-el: It seems to be what we’re looking for, it seems that the most direct path to consumers is really to find a distributor who has access to al lot of different places, or several distributors.
Arel: Plus these prototypes take a ridiculously long time to make. In terms of cutting the cards, and painting the pieces, which could be expedited, but we’d really like to partner with someone to be the manufacturer.

More About the GAMA Trade Show

CG: At this point it’s still Tuesday night at the show, so is there anything else that you’re looking forward to at the GAMA Trade Show 2012?
Ro-el: Yeah, there’s a Domestic Manufacturing talk, I think, tomorrow. I forget what the title of it is.
Arel: 101 and 102.
CG: I think you’ll get 102, because I went to 101.
Ro-el: Yeah, it sounds like they switched it, yeah. Yeah, I think it’s actually where we met [laughs].
CG: You will get, there’s also international on Thursday maybe.
Arel: So that’s one thing we’re really looking forward to.
Ro-el: Yeah. So I think the next step for us really, I think, is once we kind of can figure out what it’s going to cost, we’re probably looking at doing something either with Kickstarter or, at least if we know how much it’s going to cost, then we know how much we need to invest in it, if we’re going to do it ourselves or get it Kickstarted, give us more or a better idea of what we need to aim for in terms of raising money.
Arel: And also for me, the expo, I’m really looking forward to see.
CG: The exhibitors’ hall? And then which one of you usually wins? [Both: laugh]
Ro-el: We could flip a coin and answer that, I think.
Arel: We could determine that in a tournament. I think it goes back and forth a lot, which is my way of saying that he has been winning lately. No, I sometimes win.
CG: I don’t know if you guys have heard this, but besides maybe a lot of buzz about Kickstarter, in a lot of different seminars we’ve been to, there’s also a lot of talk about Organized Play, so it sounds like you’re almost-, you mentioned tournaments, is that something you’re already thinking of, like this would help the game?
Ro-el: Yeah.
Arel: Yeah, absolutely. That’s one thing I want to find out more about, how people are organizing Organized Play here, but it’s a football game, so I think it really lends itself well to tournaments, because those already exist in many different forms in football. It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time to be able to have a tournament and actually be able to compete with other people. I might be at an unfair advantage having created it, but I still would want to participate.
Ro-el: Something that I think we’ve thought about and we’ve actually done this at a smaller level, is taking it and playing it at bars. It’d be great to have it at a game night at a bar, a local bar, and bring 10 copies, and have a little mini-tournament there or just have people play.
Arel: It’s a good game for beer. Two people over a beer, that kind of thing, I think. Actually the first time it was playtested by two other people was at a bar and it was a lot of fun to watch, because people were kind of crowding around and it was kind of like watching a game.
CG: It’s also a good game where maybe your opponent’s drunk, you can maybe take advantage of that.
Arel: That’s actually one of the benefits, yeah.
Ro-el: Or you could take a shot every time you get tackled, there’s also that potential.
CG: Well, I’m going to leave that in, but I think you will probably leave that out of the game rules. Thank you guys.
Arel: Thank you very much.