Update Posted by Jonathan Liu, Designer
Hello! Today's update is the promised follow-up to Update #4, where I mentioned that I've been gravitating toward storytelling games and casual games. There, I talked about storytelling. Here, I'll talk about casual games. Also, I'll be at PAX East next weekend—but more on that soon!
Meet the Artist: Nina Matsumoto
Nina Matsumoto is an Eisner Award–winning artist for Simpsons comics, and clearly has a deep love of pop culture and video games, as you can see at her website SpaceCoyote.com. Her ability to work in different styles is important in a project like Emperor's New Clothes, which needs to have a uniform appearance despite incorporating the work of several artists.
Nina also designs T-shirts for Meat Bun. Although she's not known for her work in board games, perhaps Emperor's New Clothes will change that! You can follow Nina on Twitter, or check out her website for more of her work.
Designer Diary: Just Play Casual
There's a term that is being bandied about a lot these days: casual game. It's been in use longer in the world of video games, but it has been adopted by the tabletop game industry. Last year a few game publishers and game industry professionals even joined up to create a magazine/movement called the Casual Game Revolution, as a way to help both retailers and customers identify casual games more easily. (The magazine was Kickstarter successfully, and has printed just a couple issues so far.) This is how they define a casual game:
- A casual board (or card) game is played in under an hour, set up and taught in under 10 minutes, and requires some light strategic thought. Casual games are not specifically marketed to children, but can be enjoyed by anyone from older children to adults.
Pretty simple, right? That's exactly the idea. This is an attempt to give a more standard (but still flexible) definition to a term that could mean different things to different people.
Another common phrase is "gateway game," the one that opens the door to the world of modern tabletop games. The thing about "gateway" is that it can imply a need to move beyond—you don't stay at a gate. It's not a destination. Many gamers, though, are finding that they are perfectly happy in the world of casual games, and have no desire to delve into so-called hardcore games. Some people play Settlers of Catan and long for something even more involved like Agricola; others are quite happy with the level of engagement that Settlers offers.
I like a bit of everything. I'll play Zombie Dice and Loot and I'll play Power Grid and Eclipse. Here on Kickstarter I've backed big Eurogames like VivaJava and this curious single-card CCG called Shift.
But in recent years, as I mentioned in my Weaving a Tale update, I have found myself shifting back toward the casual end of the spectrum. My game of the year for 2012 was Escape—a raucous real-time dicefest that doesn't allow much time or room for deep strategic thinking. So why do I love it so much? Because it's fun. I can get it out, explain it in a few minutes, and play it to completion in ten more. It can take that much time just to set up a game of Agricola (which I also love) and start teaching it, and that's because I already know what I'm doing. For somebody who's just opened the box, it may take you longer than that just to read the rulebook and sort out all the pieces.
So even though I love hardcore games, I recognize that my gaming group has a diverse mix of people. Depending on who shows up for game night, I'll look for games that I think will satisfy the most people. I'm not going to throw a brand new gamer into Eclipse; but I also probably won't play just Zombie Dice if everyone there is itching for Power Grid.
This is why I wanted Emperor's New Clothes to have a flexible ruleset, one that you can look over at a glance and get started playing. Like some of my favorite casual games, it's one that you can play in under half an hour. But for the hardcore gamers, I also wanted something with a little more depth. That's why we've got the deluxe version—if we hit stretch goals, we'll be able to afford additional components needed to expand the game even further, but those introduce new rules and gameplay options that may not make sense in the compact version.
I've been asked about the target audience for Emperor's New Clothes, and it's interesting that many casual and new gamers I've shown the game to have responded positively and they can see the ROOS right away and have fun playing it. It surprised me that often it's been hardcore gamers who won't give it a chance—perhaps because it feels too much like a party game. I admit: I'm guilty of that myself sometimes, turning up my nose at something that doesn't feel like a "real game" to me. But it's harder to argue with the sight of people having a good time and laughing and interacting with each other.
So, for anyone attending PAX East next weekend (March 22-24), I'll be at the Game Salute booth for much of the weekend, running demos of Emperor's New Clothes. Come on over and introduce yourself, and we'll let you try it out—it'll give you a better feel for how the game works and I think having the real components is a definite improvement over the paper tokens in the print-and-play.