Game-O-Gami’s David Sanhueza Talks Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule! and Digital Games

Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule!

Green goblin drawn by Mike Maihack stirs his pot of Earwax Stew for rhyming card game Goblins Drool Fairies Rule!

One of Sanhueza’s Favorite Cards

CG: First: Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule! How much thought went into fairy vs. faery or faerie?
DS: A bit, actually. Originally, being the fantasy nerd that I am, I spelled it “Faery / Faeries”. But a friend of mine suggested that “Fairy/Fairies” would be more familiar to a broader audience. He’s a smart guy, and I agreed, so there you have it.
 
CG: Please tell me that I’m not the only one that inverts the name and messes it up, Fairies Rule, Goblins Drool, Goblins Rule, Fairies Drool, etc.
DS: Yeah… it’s a mouthful. I knew it would be rough because even I have a hard time saying it sometimes, haha. So yes, you’re not the only one who gets the name mixed up. I tried coming up with some other names, but “Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule!” just felt right for the game. And it’s good branding too, because even when people screw the name up, you still know what they’re talking about.
 
CG: How did you decide on the number of cards in the pack?
DS: It came about mathematically. The whole game is based on a matrix of stats: Side (fairy or goblin), Rhyme Group, and Symbol. 2 Sides x 5 Rhyme Groups x 4 Symbols = 40 characters. 2 characters per side, so 20 cards. 4 cards per player made for a quick, fun game. And this worked out well for a game up to 4 players (with the last 4 cards going into the Fairy Ring.)

I think at one point it might have been 30 cards (by having 6 symbols instead of 4) and been up to 5 players, with each player getting 5 cards (and 5 in the middle.) But with so many symbols, the game was too easy and more unpredictable at the same time.
 
CG: What’s your personal favorite goblin or fairy?
DS: Concept wise, I love Earwax Stew and Goblin Soup. They’re silly and delightfully gross, and I’m glad the illustrations turned out so well for those two. Also, Kokopelli, who has quickly become a fan-favorite. The line art for Cringe and Cower and Poppy Smock are just awesome. And the colors of Pixie Power and Salamander Snoop came out beautifully. Mike really did a tremendous job on all of the characters for the game, but to me, these ones stand out.
 
CG: Were there any goblin names you had to eliminate? I forget if there is a Poop in there.
DS: Haha, nothing gross… just some incorrect rhymes. For example, “Hiccup Howler” used to be part of the same group as “Dusty Dour” and “Cringe and Cower”. That kind of rhymes, but isn’t a true rhyme, so it got changed to “Needs a Shower”.
 
CG: When you watch gamers play your game, how easy is it to read their strategy or see whether they even have one?
DS: Pretty easy, since many players tend to strategize out-loud. It’s not just with GDFR!, either. Often when I play other board and card games, I observe that people like to talk about their strategies. Sometimes gloating, sometimes complaining, or sometimes just trying to reason things out to themselves. It’s part of what makes tabletop gaming so social. 
 
CG: How did you connect with Game Salute and when will Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule! be available in stores?
DS: I contacted Game Salute directly with a phone call back in January. I had seen their stamp on a few other game company websites, and later listened to a podcast interview with their CEO, Dan Yarrington. After a couple of conversations over the next few months, and sending them an early demo copy of GDFR!, we signed a support agreement and got to work on getting the game ready for Kickstarter.

Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule! will arrive in stores by December of this year.
 
CG: With the successful Kickstarter-funding of Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule!, is there anything you would have done differently? 
DS: One of the things we owe the success on Kickstarter to, is all of the very positive reviews that the game received. Each time a review was posted on a site like Geek Dad or The Dice Tower, our pledges spiked for the next 2-3 days. Unfortunately, we had very few copies of the game ready when the project launched. More copies were printed, but not until mid-way through the campaign which gave us very little time to get them out to reviewers. I believe we could have done even better if we had printed many more copies and mailed them out a week or two before the campaign even started.
 
[The Game Whisperer has an informative podcast interview with David Sanhueza that further details his successful Kickstarter campaign, including details on shipping, the goal of $5000, and more on the game’s scratch-n-sniff inspiration.]
 

David Sanhueza’s Gaming Background

Game developer David Sanhueza photographed reading

Game-O-Gami Founder David Sanhueza

CG: Backing up, what’s your background as a gamer?
DS: I’ve been playing all sorts of games for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I really got into video games around age 6. I spent countless hours playing games at arcades, on my Atari 2600, and my Commodore 64. When I got a little older, I started playing lots of board games with my family, like Battleship, Risk, and Chess. I went through an RPG phase, and then a CCG phase. They weren’t just fun, they really inspired my imagination.
CG: What games did you play during those phases?
DS: For RPGs, it was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness, Champions, and the Amber Diceless Role-Playing Game that I loved and played the most. Also some World of Darkness games. I used to spend hours and hours simply reading other RPG books, like AD&D, even without ever actually playing them. Great for the imagination.

For CCGs, Magic: the Gathering, of course. Also Jyhad (Vampire), Star Wars, Middle Earth, and Rage. Loved the visceral style of Rage. And that feel of quick and brutal combat is the inspiration for another card game that I’ve been working on for a while now.

More recently, I got back into playing board and card games like Dominion, Carcassonne, Stone Age, and Samurai. And of course, I still love video games.
CG: Is this Konstantin Krivenko and Richard Borg’s Samurai Battles from Zvezda?
DS: No, it’s the Reiner Knizia board game Samurai. Very elegant game. 
 
CG: How did you get into the computer game industry in 1998 and where did you study animation/art?
DS: I studied animation at Northeastern University, in Boston. One of the great things about NU is their co-op program, which requires students to work paid internships with companies in their field of study. On one of these co-op assignments found me working at Turbine Entertainment as a playtester on Asheron’s Call, an MMO game they were developing at the time. It was a great job, and I learned so much about game development and the industry from my time there, even though I didn’t get to do any animation.

The first job where I really got to apply the skills I had been studying came after college. In 2003, I landed a position as a 3D artist at Stainless Steel Studios. I got to work on some pretty awesome games, like Empires and Rise & Fall. Also made some of the best friends I’ve ever had there.
 
CG: What specifically did you do as an 3D artist, character designs? Backgrounds? 
DS: As a 3D artist in a small-to-medium-sized game dev studio, you often end up juggling a variety of roles depending on the needs of the project you’re working on. I created model and textures for environment objects as well as characters. I did a lot of character animation, which I love, including doing the technical setup. I even scripted  and animated full 3D cinematic sequences. Later, I moved into management roles directing and mentoring other artists.
 

Game Design and Game-O-Gami

Fairy in blue dress named Baby Blue totes some Teddy Bears for Game-O-Gami's Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule!CG: What goes on at the Game Developers Conference?
DS: The GDC is the biggest annual conference where computer/video game developers meet up to talk shop. There are seminars and round-tables where industry professionals talk about development techniques and business practices related to making games. There are floor-shows where companies promote their services and new games get played. A lot of networking and publishing deals go down as well.
 
CG: What new game did I see you playtesting the other night at the Vegas Board Games Meetup? Was this Deck Tactics?
DS: It’s a deck-building strategy game based around mythology. In the game, you and your opponents build your own dream-teams of gods, heroes, and monsters. Clever placement of your characters allows you to turn your opponent’s forces against them, and use them to build up your deck in successive rounds. And of course, your opponents are trying to do the same to you.

The working title was “Deck Tactics”, yes. Virtually everyone I’ve talked to has agreed that this is a horrible name, haha. So the working title has changed to, “Legends At War”, as you can see on the GAME-O-GAMI website. Whether that will or will not be the final name for the game, I’m going to leave up to our followers. On BoardGameGeek.com, and on our own website, the community will be given the chance to suggest names and then vote on which title finally gets used.


CG: How does being an artist yourself help you in your game design? Would you have ever drawn the cards for GDFR! yourself rather than having Mike Maihack do them? 
DS: It helps immensely. I’m able to do the art direction and graphic design on my games, which are important aspects to a good game that sometimes go overlooked. My experience also allows me to communicate clearly with other artists, which is incredibly important when it comes to developing a cohesive vision and making sure illustrations get done without needing a lot of revisions.

For a long time, I considered drawing the characters for GDFR! myself. I would have loved doing that. But in the end, I had to embrace my limitations. GAME-O-GAMI is a brand new company, and I am the founder. That means I am the full-time designer, producer, chief financial officer, webmaster, art director, and marketing guy. So getting someone as talented as Mike Maihack, whose natural art style fit so perfectly with the soul of this game, to take on those illustrations was a godsend. The quality of the artwork in my games is so important to me. Choosing the right artists for each project allows me to proceed with confidence and focus on the many, many other tasks that need to get done. That said, I would love to sneak some of my own art in here and there if I found the time, and Legends At War might give me the opportunity to do that.
  
CG: What platform are your digital games going to be on? Is this playing Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule on Facebook or would this be an app for smart phones and pad devices? Console games?
DS: Initially, we’ll be creating games for smart phones and tablets: namely the iPhone, iPad, and Android platforms. There’s a good chance that those games will be released on PC shortly afterwards, through platforms like Steam. I have a lot of fun ideas for console games that I am excited about, but that’s at least a few years away. Baby steps.
CG: Will GDFR necessarily be the first digital release or is that still up in the air? 
DS: Probably not. Although I can’t talk about it yet, there are other things in the works.
 
CG: Will your electronic games be developed in-house? 
DS: They will be developed partly in-house, and partly with outside contractors. This allows me to focus on what I’m good at, and find the right people to take care of the rest.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview! I look forward to bringing more fun games to light in the future.

All images copyright Game-O-Gami or David Sanhueza, used with permission.

Vegas Games Day – May 12 2012

Savage World of My Little Pony

Blue dice are arranged on Savage Worlds info card with Rainbow Dash action figure

Part of GM Jerrod Gunning’s Elaborate Prep

What do you get when you combine the Origins award-winning Savage Worlds role-playing game system with the Emmy-nominated My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? A whole lot of fun and a game called Savage World of My Little Pony. I intrepidly signed up for the session when I saw it open on Warhorn, only having seen some old episodes of the original My Little Pony ‘n Friends series from Sunbow. When I was a kid and went along to my sister’s Girl Scout meetings with my mom and sister I would also play with the My Little Pony castle and the dragon Spike that the troop leader’s daughter had.

However, I knew this feeble background probably wouldn’t be enough to convincingly role play as a pony or pegasus. I wanted to be prepared after all, so I watched an episode of the new Friendship is Magic series, which seems to be Flash-animated. Given the opportunity to play as a pony, my wife decided to join me at the Vegas Games Day where the session was being held and she watched a number of further episodes. I caught a few more episodes in the background while painting miniatures. This would also be our first exposure to the Savage Worlds system.

Cupcake Justice

My Little Pony action figures square off at Vegas Games Day

The My Little Pony Epic Boss Fight Against the Evil Queen

As it turned out though, it was everyone’s first experience with Savage Worlds, for our GM and the 4 players alike. As it also happened, we would not be doing the publicized adventure from the show’s pilot and second episode, collecting the Elements of Harmony, because we started out with 3 PCs, and the planned adventure would require all 6 of the Mane Characters. I took the more butch tomboy Rainbow Dash (if a character with rainbow in her name can be considered masculine), my wife played appropriately enough Fluttershy, and Perry took the show’s chief protagonist, the scholarly and arcane Twilight Sparkle. We set off on our adventure, Cupcake Justice.

Pinkie Pie and all the other pony bakers and confectioners in Sugarcube Corner had been busy baking. Princess Celestia would be visiting from Canterlot for the Cupcake Cantillion, but disaster had struck! All of Pinkie Pie’s precious cupcakes had vanished. Twilight Sparkle sent messages to our characters via Spike and the investigation was on. We entered a flashback as Pinkie Pie tried to recall what she’d done earlier in the day. This was further complicated when our fourth player, Dylan, came along and took on the role of Pinkie Pie and hit the REWIND button in the flashback. One of Pinkie Pie’s Edges is Breaking the 4th Wall, as she frequently turns to the viewer in the cartoon series and contrives all sorts of odd anachronistic inventions. In the Flashback we’d seen a vial with some Icky dripping from it. We only discovered it was Icky after Fluttershy got too scared trying to investigate it, rolling a Critical Failure. Our GM decided that Fluttershy would be Shaken for 4 rounds as she trembled with fear. My bold and brash Rainbow Dash snatched the vial, unstoppering it, and tossed it up in the air to down it. This earned the character a fit of vomiting, but earned me the player a Benny for RPing my character’s Hindrances/Edges.

Unlike most games of Savage Worlds, we could share our bennies. Bennies are used to make rerolls, to escape from Shaken effects, and so on. We each started the game with 3, but through role-playing our characters Edges and Hindrances gained many more, in the form of gum drops. Later in the game, when Pinkie Pie Broke the 4th Wall for the last time by building a helicopter in the forest, we confronted some Changelings who were trying to get to Ponyville. Pinkie Pie crashed the helicopter and she and Twilight Sparkle were Stunned or Shaken. I spent 2 of my Bennies to get them unShaken and RP’d encouraging them to get up to their feet.

Our GM, Jarrod Gunning, really knocked himself out with his prep work for the adventure. We each had name tags we proudly wore, helpful handouts on the Savage Dice system, flipbooks with character abilities, Edges, and Hindrances, RP tips, and actual toy ponies to represent us. During my wife’s research into Friendship is Magic, we were both amused to learn about bronies, “bro” ponies fans. Jarrod Gunning is not a brony, but his daughter is a fan of the show and he’d playtested it a bit with her, her friend, and his wife. Our fourth player Dylan was also not a brony, but I laughed when he said some “bronies” he knew had made him watch the show.

Cover of role playing game system Savage Worlds showing spacefarer and fantasy warriorIn our adventure, which Gunning had devised himself mostly on the fly, we encountered Parasprites, Changelings, and the Queen of the Changelings. Twilight Sparkle and I used magical powers in dealing with them, such as my Whirlwind and Twilight Sparkle’s magical unicorn telekinesis and spells. Fluttershy hid and Pinkie Pie was her goofy self. There were Twilight Sparkle doppelganger Changelings and pretty much every other cartoon trope Gunning could cram in enjoyably. Twilight Sparkle defeated most of them herself. The moral climax of Cupcake Justice happened when Twilight Sparkle levitated a single cupcake into the mouth of the evil Queen, forcing her to acknowledge the pleasure that can be had with a cupcake. The second climax was Pinkie Pie’s desperate battle against herself and her Sweet Tooth hindrance after we baked up a mega cupcake for Princess Celestia to enjoy, using Spike as a bellows to help heat the delicious baked good. Dylan must have downed a dozen gum drop Bennies before finally succeeding.

Savage World of My Little Pony did not originate with Gunning himself. Instead he slightly modified some of the characters and powers found on Rodger Marsh’s (giftkrieg23) deviantart page. Marsh’s 66-page Savage World of My Little Pony PDF is available for free download and requires at least the Explorer’s Edition of Savage Worlds to play. While our party never got into full combat and there was never a chance of PC death, Gunning had done away with at least part of Marsh’s restriction(s) against violence.

7 Wonders

Game box for 7 Wonders showing Colossus of Roades, Pyramids of Ghiza, and other wondersWe played two games of the basic version of Asmodee Games’s 7 Wonders. I found the game to be enjoyable and easy to learn. It may even be a game where the cliche, “easy to learn, difficult to master” could apply. At the same time, I found myself agonizing each round over which card I would keep to expand my civilization. The “board game” aspect is using a random civilization playing board in front of you. In my first game I was Olympia and in my second, the more scientific Babylonians.

Players are able to purchase resources from adjacent neighbors, yet it involves no social interaction or bartering. There are no hurt feelings or manipulations as can be found in the Catan family of games (or indeed Munchkin later that night). Smart players keep tracking of their neighbors’ advancements and play off of those; I found myself too engrossed most of the time in my own developments to really begin trying to strategically block my neighbors. The only thing vaguely resembling conflict in the game occurs at the end of each age when Military Achievements are totaled. If you are stronger than your neighbors you get 1 VP in the first age, 3 in the 2nd, and 5 in the 3rd. Meanwhile the penalty for being weaker is a measly -1 VP token for each “defeat”. While there is a card that gives additional bonuses for defeated neighbors (Strategists’ Guild), the VPs it awards can be game changing, but not game breaking.

Wooden table with playing pieces for 7 Wonders, cards and tokens

An Unfolding Game of 7 Wonders in Progress

I also enjoyed how 7 Wonders scales as a game. Yes, we had fun with 5 people playing the game, but I barely glanced at the 2 people who weren’t my neighbors. I didn’t trade with them, I didn’t have to beat their Militaries, and I didn’t know the game well enough to keep track of which cards they had already deprived me of. The second game with only 3 players was much more intense. Many cards in the game award Victory Points, coins, or resources based on what your neighbors build, so every card brought out in a 3 player game can directly affect you. With 7 cards in each Age, you also will get 4 of the cards you initially passed on at the begging of the Age in the 4th turn. The other aspect of scale that I find encouraging is that I don’t see any reason why, in smaller games, players couldn’t agree to be dealt more cards. This is very appealing since I enjoy building and developing. Instead of 14 cards divided by 2 players, you could have 24 cards for a longer more developed session each Age.

7 Wonders has a more advanced B version and also has expansions with leaders and cities, so I look forward to exploring those in future Vegas Game Days or at other conventions.

Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule

Chubby goblin Gobble T. Goop on playing card for Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule
Guitar-jamming Candy Rock fairy from Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule

Example Card Art from Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule

In between the games of 7 Wonders, we played two quick games of Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule, the first offering from Game-O-Gami. The game’s developer, David Sanhueza, had brought his prototype of the game to Vegas Games Day and quickly walked us through a demo. The game consists of 20 double-sided playing cards depicting a Fairy/Faerie on one side and a Goblin on the other. Mike Maihack’s Froudesque illustrations are consistently strong throughout the cards and will doubtlessly appeal to fans of Faeries, young and old. Players are dealt a hand of Goblins face up. The first player to get rid of all of his or her goblins OR to have 6 Fairies in hand wins.

This is accomplished by choosing one card each turn to go into the central Faerie Ring. If your card has a bunch of stars on it then all of the cards in the Faerie Ring will flip, otherwise whether cards will flip depends on a rhyming mechanism. There are five rhyming families in Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule. Once any cards flip or not, if your card’s “suit” matches the emblem on any others, you take those cards. The charms or Symbols are Frogs and Mushrooms and then Suns and Moons. If a card is showing a Fairy with a Mushroom, then the reverse side must be a Goblin with a Frog.

The speed of gameplay really depends on the wits of the other players. I spent a lot of time staring at the Symbols trying to figure out what card(s) I would have to pick up from the Fairy Ring. Overall though, I think each game took no longer than 15 or 20 minutes to play. The Goblins have fun gross names to say like “Boogery Boo” or “Soggy Soup” and I can envision children and parents enjoying the game. Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule is also possible to play as a Solitaire game with 5 Goblins dealt and 5 cards in the middle.

Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule will begin its Kickstarter campaign on Tuesday, May 15. David Sanhueza expects the game to retail for $10-15. It also sounds as though there will be iOS versions of all Game-O-Gami releases.

Munchkin

Deluxe Munchkin game board dungeon and Munchkin playing cards

Munchkin game in progress. Opponent is 1st Level with Tons of Loot

I have been living under a rock and had never played Munchkin from Steve Jackson Games before, though I was certainly aware of it. My wife and I played a game of it with two other players, with what may have been 3 decks’ worth of cards. It took a while, but I started getting the hang of Kicking Down the Door, Looting the Room, or Looking for Trouble. The dungeon board is a feature of the Deluxe Set and not required to play the game, only serving as a visual cue for what level each player is. My wife ended up winning, due more to the social aspects of the game than to any plan or tactics of hers.

Much like her My Little Pony character, my wife is shy. She did not try to harm the three of us during the game, didn’t get terribly upset when cards were taken away from her, and was seldom targeted towards the end of the game. She was also sleepy. Out of all the games that Vegas Games Day though, Munchkin aroused the most intense emotions and got a little ugly to me. Trying to pick up the basic card mechanics was complicated by the social aspects of players crying “He’s going to win! We all have to stop X.” This happened at least 3 times in the hour long game. There were social maneuvers against trading cards, against combating monsters together, and so on. There was a slightly awkward and puzzling whine along the lines of “Well I guess the game’s about to be over. Looks like you’re going to win” when my wife made it to Level 7, this coming from the guy who had been at Level 7 for ages ahead of the rest of us. Unfortunately his ploy of focusing the attention of the other players fizzled, even though I suppose he was right. She did win, just 15-20 minutes after he tried to distract attention from his lead.

I spent most of the game frustrated and at Level 2. Any time I got equipment it would be taken away because of Income Tax, other players’ Thief abilities, Curses, and so on. We were all frustrated by 5 or 6 Rangers that were very close to one another in the deck. When the game ended, one player had maybe 3 or 4 Wandering Monsters, but no monsters to play them on. By the time my wife won though, there were three of us who had moved to Level 9. The only way to get to Level 10 and victory is by slaying a monster at Level 9.

Munchkin got physical too. If a fight is too difficult other players can assist the player in the fight, usually for a share of the Treasure. When I found out that I didn’t have to actually honor arrangements made with others who joined me in a fight and then was so much of a Munchkin as to try to keep all the treasure myself, there was a 10 second clawing fingers match over the 5 Treasure cards we had unearthed or looted. Amidst some laughter, my “helper” pried away one of my Treasures. No blood was shed, but I could still feel the sensation of his badger-like fingers digging into my own 10 minutes later.

My thoughts also lingered on Munchkin. Despite the ugly emotions it had engendered, or maybe because of them, I found myself waking up in the middle of the night having feverish Munchkin dreams and nightmares. While my wife is not interested in playing again, I think I am. I want to see all the different cards that are possible. We didn’t play with Portals or Dungeons. No Elves or Halflings appeared in our games despite frequent references to them on other cards.

Goblins Rule, Faeries Drool card image copyright Game-O-Gami. 7 Wonders box art copyright Asmodee Games. Savage Worlds cover copyright Pinnacle Entertainment. All used with permission.