Q&A with A.J. Porfirio of Van Ryder Games

A.J. Porfirio Interview - Van Ryder Games

These are exciting times for fans of Hostage Negotiator as the end of the month will see the launch of the game's next (ultimate?) expansion; Hostage Negotiator: Career. The President of Van Ryder Games, A.J. Porfirio took time out of his hectic schedule to answer a few questions.

Van Ryder Games is a fairly new but burgeoning company. Can you tell us about its origins? What are its goals and what standards do you hold yourselves to?

We've been around a bit longer than you might think, about eight years. But we've grown quite a bit and many people are only just now learning about all the cool stuff we are doing! We strive to publish the best thematic board games (and now game books!) in the industry.

What about yourself? What sparked your interest in developing games, especially solitaire games? Do you think there is enough provision for the solo player in the market?

When I got into the hobby, I had a tough time getting together with folks because we had two very young children and a lot going on. So, I wanted to play some games solitaire. At the time, we didn't have nearly the options solo gamers have now and so I wanted to make a solitaire zombie game. That is how it all started. [Now] I think it is a great time to be a solo gamer. There is a plethora of great options out there.

On to Hostage Negotiator specifically. What were the origins and inspirations for this game? The game is very cinematic in its tone. Are there any specific movies or scenes that you’ve adapted into scenarios? Are there any you would still like to adapt or that have proven too problematic to adapt?

I wanted to design a solo game with a unique theme that put the player in very dramatic and intense situations. The hostage negotiation theme was perfect. I definitely went for more of a cinematic feel as opposed to a true simulation. There are influences in the game from several hostage movies such as Die Hard, John Q, and The Negotiator.

Hostage Negotiator uses cinematic inspiration, but hostage situations are an all too real concern and have been throughout history. Have any situations you have developed or considered given you pause? Could you foresee working out scenarios based on the Battle of Stepney, the Iran Hostage Crisis, or the Beslan Massacre for example?

It is a serious theme to be sure. I was and am very intentional about being respectful of the theme and the players that play the game. For some, the game is too much for them to take. Hostages can and do die in the game. From the beginning it was important to me that the hostages are not personalised. They are yellow meeples with no names, and no faces. And that remains true. As for scenarios of real life situations, that isn't something we do necessarily although we sometimes draw on certain events during the design process.

I’m very excited for the next wave of Hostage Negotiator expansions. The most pressing question is will you continue the tradition and present it in a box big enough for the Crime Wave Expansion to fit in? Is there anything you are willing to tell us about the format the expansion might take?

Hahaha. No, the Career Expansion will be similar in size to the Hostage Negotiator base game. Everything will fit into the Crime Wave box, which is what was intended since that expansion was released. Career will introduce campaign play to the game and really takes it to a whole other level. I cannot tell you how excited I am to get this into the hands of the Hostage Negotiator faithful.

The box art I’ve seen on BoardGameGeek looks incredible. You seem to take as much care with the graphic design as you do with the game design. Considering the game is driven by chance do you think this strong characterisation is essential to engage the player?

Now you've triggered me...  I disagree that the game is "driven" by chance. It is an important element to the game, but really it is about managing risk and applying sound probability in your decisions. It is true that many people think it is "luck driven" but I would guess those are the same people that think Poker is luck driven. You have to factor in odds and risk in each situation and decide accordingly. Players (should) get better and better at the game the more they play. In my opinion, some luck is important in a solo game to prevent it from being something that is solvable.

As for the box art and the art in the game, we really value the art and graphic design aspects that Evan Derrick, Vanessa Kelley, Kristi Kirisberg Harmon, and Ivan Pushkov have brought to the Hostage Negotiator line.

There are hints at there being new abductor packs in the works. Is there anything you can say about these? Can we expect another demand pack as well?

Yes, there will be two more packs in the Kickstarter for Abductor Pack 9 and Abductor Pack 10 - designed by TC Petty III and Shaun Varsos respectively. These packs, like those before them, add some new, never before seen themes and mechanics to the game! Players are going to love them. But you'll have to check out the Kickstarter on April 30 to get more info than that.

There is a slightly troubling element to the box art. The tag line reads “It all comes down to this”. Are we about to experience the last instalment of the Hostage Negotiator series?

Well, I'll put it this way... this is the last set of products we have planned for the Hostage Negotiator line. I reserve the right to do more down the road, but for now, this is the planned end of the "series" if you want to call it that.

What else can we look forward to coming from yourselves in the future?

Van Ryder Games has SO much in the pipeline. What I can say is to look out for several new products this summer including The Crusoe Crew, Detective: City of Angels, and Season 2 of our Graphic Novel Adventures books.

We'd like to thank A.J. Porfirio for taking the time to speak to us. To learn more about the Hostage Negotiator series, please read the following reviews: