Unscripted: Holidays #2
Welcome to Unscripted -- an easy-breezy off-the-cuff (too many hyphens?) Q&A series with Rose Gauntlet Entertainment founders and tabletop game designers Isaac Vega and Lindsey Rode. Perfect with a side of tea or coffee.
In this edition of Unscripted, we continue our holiday conversation with Isaac and Lindsey as we talk about lederhosen, French card games from the ‘50’s, and tasty board game homes.
Let’s start with holiday traditions? Anything specific you do year-after-year?
Isaac: Growing up, my holiday traditions have always been a mishmash of everything; traditional Thanksgiving/Christmas style stuff, but it's really about the people we have coming to our home. I love having my family in town whenever I can. But yeah, for me it's just about family and friends; spending time together, enjoying each other, eating good food together – that's the ideal time of my life. I just want to do that all the time as much as possible. So, the holidays are just a great excuse to make sure that it happens, <laugh>. But as far as specific traditions, things change all the time and I'm fine with that. I enjoy having things changed up as long as people are getting together and having a good time. That's all that really that matters to me.
Lindsey: Right. Let's see. So, I have probably two distinct traditions revolving at least around Christmas, which my family celebrates. The first one being movies that I watch. When we put the tree up, I will watch Die Hard, cause Die Hard is 100% a Christmas movie and I refuse to watch it any other time of the year <laugh>! We'll watch Die Hard, and we'll decorate the tree and it'll be amazing. And then for some reason we always watch K-9 with Jim Belushi, which if you're not familiar is John Belushi's brother and it has nothing to do with Christmas. It's just about a guy and a police dog having adventures together. I watched it so much when I was younger that we negotiated that I'd only be allowed to watch it with the family at Christmas to help control the quantity of K-9 in the house <laugh>.
The other thing my family always does is have these little light-up sandbags – like white sandbags and you put a little light in them and you line sidewalk with them? We always do it as the last thing on Christmas Eve. By this point my family's pretty toasted and singing German Yuletides. My dad will always go upstairs, not say anything, just go upstairs, and come back down in full lederhosen <laugh>. They're short, short, short leather shorts with overalls, like these little tiny straps. Then he will go outside and try to Carol to our neighbors in German and no one will understand what's going on <laugh>. And then we'll set up the bags and get him inside before he freezes the death. Also, one of my favorite family traditions.
How about strategies when it comes to bringing games to the table? Go with something small and simple first, or come in guns blazing with a heavy euro?
I: It just depends on the person. I usually have a pretty good gauge of someone before I'm going to introduce them to the hobby if they don't know anything about it at all. And I usually try to go for things that are a little bit easier and more visual. I think dexterity games like Flick 'em Up, Junk Art, Tokyo Highway – games that are visually interesting, have easy concepts, and are easy to understand are great to get people a little bit more enamored. One of my personal favorites to introduce people to if they want something a little bit more crunchy is a game by Ryan Lockhart called Roam. It's just a cute, easy game to kind of get the hang of, it's really neat, and I just enjoy the world building that he put into that game. But if it's people that I already know who are really into gaming, I'm just like, “You teach me some games,” <laugh>. I'm always down to play something new myself and I usually want to get into what they're super excited about. Flamecraft has been a big hit as of late with my friends.
L: Oh no. So jealous. I wanna play Flamecraft so bad <laugh>. So cute. It looks so good.
I: Yes! So, I'm going to get more of that to the table as well with people who haven't played it before.
L: Yeah Isaac, I would agree with you that it’s about having a mix of different difficulties on-hand in case you have to abandon ship. My general rule, and this is true demoing or playing with my family and friends, is that if I can't get them playing their first turn within seven minutes, I'm going to lose them. Even if like I haven't explained everything, if I can just get them starting to play within seven minutes, they can kind of learn while they're playing. Co‑op games are amazing for this because I can just help them through their turn, and it doesn't ruin the game for anyone or for me. So, anything that's cooperative would be really good. Dexterity is always a hit with my family too – the sillier the better. It never fails.
Also, so there was a game I remember my parents playing when I was a kid called Milles Bornes. It’s an old French car-themed card game that they would play with their big game group, and I remember always getting thrown out of the living room when they’d play, and I would sit by the door and listen and try to like hear all the fun and laughter. This year, I found a copy and I'm actually surprising my parents with it. I’m going to see what it’s like and see if they can actually teach me a game for once <laugh>.
While we’re on the topic of “The Teach,” as board game designers living this daily, how do you feel about being in the role of game teacher with family and friends?
I: I try to avoid that role at all costs. I don't love teaching games outside of work. I just like the relaxing nature of being taught a game and not having to think about, okay, are they going to enjoy this? Are they going to get engaged? Am I teaching it right? Did I forget something? Especially when I'm teaching game to gamers, it's always a little bit stressful. Luckily I have a lot of those teachers in my group who are naturally really fantastic at it or they've trained <laugh> a lot better than me. I just have a knack for teaching my own games and games that I've like really, really gotten into. So I usually try to avoid it, but I also don't mind doing it. it's a joy to have someone new get into something that you really enjoy. So, I'll do it if I have to, but if I don't have to, I'm happy to sit back and just be the one being taught <laugh>.
L: Yeah, I love being taught but I will probably always be the teacher, which isn't bad. I love teaching the games and honestly like the happiness I get from sharing something I love with my family. It also helps them understand what I do for a living and helps me feel closer to them and them feel closer to me and understand my career and everything. So, it's definitely worth every second teaching my family how to play games. Plus, we build so many great memories and we actually laugh about the prototypes I make them play.
Then like two years later the game comes out and they go, “Oh my God, it's so much better now.
And I'm like, “I know. So sorry <laugh>.”
So it's just like we build so many cool memories that the act of teaching will probably always be on my plate and I don't care. I'm happy to do it for the rewards I get out of it.
Ok, off-the-wall final question. There is no right way to go about answering. If you were building an abnormally large gingerbread house and had to use games as the four sides of the house, what games would those be and why?
L: I'll start cuz I know exactly what I would do <laugh>.
I: Good. Maybe you'll give me some inspiration.
L: Yeah. So you said abnormally large?
Yeah, considering we’re using board games, I’m expecting these houses to be a bit on the irregular side size/shape wise.
L: Right. Well then I think Frosthaven and Gloomhaven have to be the foundations of this house. These are the two walls because they’re never coming down. I would use Pandemic Legacy for the floor and then I would probably use Claustrophobia. Yeah, claustrophobia – that's an old game. I don't know if anyone remembers it, but that thing is massive. I think it would make a solid roof. Maybe another Pandemic Legacy thrown on top just to keep it protected? And then for a door, I probably use Zweihander RPG for a door that'll never be breached. That “tome” is like 700 pages long.
Try knocking down that house!
I: <laugh> I guess I didn't think about stability when I was thinking gingerbread house.
L: I only thought about stability cause that big bad wolf’s coming in winter <laugh>.
I: I was thinking about games that look the most tasty to eat I guess <laugh>. I'm thinking, okay Flamecraft? That’s cute <laugh>. Like, uh, uh, uh, Wingspan? Just games with animals on it. I dunno. This is a ridiculous question <laugh>!
<laugh> I know – that’s what makes it so much fun! There’s so many different angles you could take and motivations in building your house.
L: That’s not enough for a house Isaac <laugh>!
I: All those plastic miniatures will finally get their adequate use <laugh>.