Tuesday, February 18, 2014

NIKA Interview with Game Designer Josh Raab (Tabletop)

Today's interview is with game designer and active member of the NYC gaming development community Josh Raab. Josh is currently running a Kickstarter to fund development of his tabletop game NIKA, which he describes thusly: "Command a Greek city’s hoplite soldiers. Push and rout enemy lines. Coordinate allied attacks to secure victory, but watch your flanks!"

Watch the video to learn more about improving Kickstarter success through building community before launch, the importance of playtesting, and thoughts on the creative process. I've included a partial transcript of the interview below.

Hope you enjoy!



Tell us a little about you and your game.


I'm a grad student at the NYU Game Center, MFA in Game Design. Studied Ancient Greek History in undergrad, which was the inspiration for NIKA. It's a game about ancient Greek warfare, where you have four Greek cities, two allied against the other two. You're basically trying to get one of your pieces across the board into your ally's territory.

What inspired you to go through the process of taking a game from idea to publication? Have you done this in the past? What makes you stick with the project when the going gets tough?


This is my first published board game, although I have a couple other things floating out there in terms of video games. After I graduated, I had a bunch of half-finished card games and board games. I wanted to pick the best one and really focus on getting that published. I went through the catalog and figured NIKA (which was then called Othismos) was the most promising. I was like, "If I'm going to get something out in the world, I need to focus." I started devoting more time to development, then submitted it to a contest on BoardGameGeek. The game ended up being a finalist, and I traveled to Salt Lake City to present it. One of the judges for the contest (from Eagle Games) decided to publish it.

There were times when I had an existential crisis and thought, "Maybe I should abandon game design altogether!" I stuck with it because of stubbornness, and also just knowing this was what I wanted to do with my life.

It sounds like a bit of a Cinderella story. Do you feel like this happens to a lot of designers?


There's definitely an element of being in the right place at the right time for every success story. In addition, there's a great board game design community in New York. There's a playtest group I go to every month run by Josh Debonis, who made Killer Queen and Meriwether. They're the best resource. It's full of brilliant designers who will give you really thoughtful critiques. That definitely was a huge help.

Where there any moments that stick out where you felt, "Wow, this was all worth it."


I got a lot of playtesting from my friends from high school, we were living at home after college. They would actually ask me to bring it over, or if I had it they would ask to play it. It was something they wanted to spend their time doing. They don't owe me anything. They wouldn't do that just to humor me or make me feel better. That was the moment I thought, "This has potential."

Could you talk a bit about what you did to build your community before you launched your Kickstarter?


There's two parts to it. One is that it's being published through Eagle games; they have their own marketing apparatus and fans. Second, I've been bringing it to conventions for more than a year. The first one was Metatopia in New Jersey, before we even had the art we have now. We've shown it at Indiecade East, MAGFest, RetCon. I've been bringing it around school and to NYU weekly playtests. Just getting it in front of as many people as possible is key.

Lastly, because this feature is about establishing bonds within creative industries, can you name one (or more!) game designer, game developer, publisher, community organizer etc. who's doing great things right now, and why?


There's so many people! One is my roommate Jon Stokes, who made the game Whiskers which is free on the iPad - it's a fun, cute local multiplayer. Andy Wallace works at Golden Ruby, and has a game called Particle Mace coming out. It's in pre-alpha, you can buy it. Hart Labs run by Chris Hart have a game called Synthesis that will blow your mind, where you program these particles to form into molecules. It's totally crazy, and totally awesome.

Thanks, Josh! Remember everyone, the game is called NIKA on Kickstarter. Time is running out - you should check it out today!

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