Hi Sandra, thank you so much for letting us take up some of your time and sharing a little bit about you and the team at Skyport games.
Thank you for your interest. We hope we will make for an interesting read.
Having read up a little, I understand you are quite a small company and the company was only founded a year ago. So who are you? How did you come together? and what is different about Skyport games?
We are indeed not big and since Ark: Awakening will be our first project of this kind, we are for now less known in the boardgame community. But we aim to change that by publishing quality games. The founder and the main driving force of Skyportgames is Zharko Lozanoski, the designer of our boardgames. The rest of the Team are mostly contributers that offer their free time in order to give voice in the fields of marketing, social media, prototype design, video editing.
We come together as most newly starting passion projects do: friends and family. A tight net of people trying to make something great.
Important to note about us is that we stride to make a quality product. We put a lot of thought into designing our games so that the end product is fun and versatile. We offer different levels of difficulty, modular board, cooperative play as to make the games appealing to players with different play styles. And we incorporate the feedback from the community: Print and play, Tabletopia and café meet and plays in Berlin have all provided us with valuable opinions about how to make the game the best version of itself.
We hear our community. We want them to be able to own a game that they can come back to over and over again and each time to be challenged by it.
Your latest game: Ark Awakening is due to launch on Kickstarter. I am really intrigued by the many choices of play style you are offering those who back it. For those who haven't heard anything about it, could you give us a brief overview of the game?
It is a thematic game, so anyone enjoying sci-fi will have a blast. And the theme is not skin deep. For example you can only discover so many alien artifacts and use them. When the deck is empty it does not get reshuffled… because thematically it makes no sense to do it, you have no more artifacts to discover.
The storyline provides you with an out-of-this-world setting, where you need to make sure your alien race wins by being the first who finds out their mission on the Ark and achieves it. You would have to plan, staregise and be head down in the board. But you can only do one thing in a turn, and this decreases analysis paralysis. It is a heavy game, modeled for seasoned players.
That being said, we also want the game to appeal to groups that are a mix: you can play cautious or aggressive, collaborating or separating all in one play. There is a co-op version with a dark player opponent with simple mechanics, which can be played by someone in the group not in the mood to strategize 🙂 .
It is a race-rushed game, competitive only in that sense: be the first to win. You choose how.
What makes Ark Awakening different from other area control and engine building games?
Couple of things. The mix of area control and worker placement is unique. Power cylinders in the game are workers in the game mechanics, you place them anywhere to power up a room and get something in return. If more players power up a room they all share the benefits. But you do not have to use them, instead you can go with your units, hack the room and lock other players out, exclusively getting the room benefit. So what you can do is either collaborate or compete or maybe a mix of both.
Second, your engine building gives you speed to act. In the game there are no VPs and no second place. First player to achieve their separate random secret mission wins and the game ends. You can completely dominate the board, but only the mission counts. So, do I use my turn to build up my engine more so I have better actions next turn or do I pursue my mission? Players would need to balance. Go too much one way and you will lose.
Replay-ability. Each game the board is constructed differently. There are asymmetric factions, each game you will draw a different mission and each game you play with only half of the 30 different room cards.
What are you most excited about people finding when they receive a copy of the game?
The cool looking alien meeples. I honestly love those. But mostly we want the players to get excited over all the opportunities the game offers. An exciting element for us is the speed, as every turn is a micro move and waiting time between players is minimal. After the initial phase where everybody learns the game, we want them to get excited about future sessions. Will you play better next time?
How did the team go about designing Ark Awakening? In particular, how did you decide on the mechanics and how to balance them all?
Starting with an initial idea and giving it a setting was the first step. Defining the rules and seeing what works. A LOT of playtesting and balancing the factions. Balancing asymmetrical play. Some more playtesting amongst us, and then, as the beta was done, putting it out for the world. We showcased it at conventions like BerlinCon 2019 and Essen Spiel '19. We offered Print and Play, Tabletopia, Meet and Play. We wanted to see how people react and the general feedback we received was very positive. And we listened to the players: adjusting few of the rules that seemed non-essential to the gameplay.
You have said you are all boardgame enthusiasts, what are your favourite go to games you play when you get time?
We'll name just a few here: 7-th continent, Race for the galaxy, Call to Adventure, Legend of the 5RINGS and Empires of the Void 2… Kind of.. because we used the elements of this game to create a new game with explorations that can be played by toddlers. It's a work in progress. We named it "Little Planet" - you can see details about it on our homepage.
What is your favourite gaming memory?
Well, it's teaching a game to others and seeing that they enjoy it.
Do you have anything in the design pipeline you could let us know about?
Yes, read further for a short overview, or see our homepage.
“Little Planet” : A family game where even the youngest members (3 to 6 years old) can participate. Imagine a galaxy of tiny Planets, the size of which is best described as the ones in the book “Little Prince”. Explore these worlds and find ways to take good care of them and their little inhabitants. It is imagined as a learning game: to immerse the players into exploration, empathy and creative solution finding. Clean up the polluted waters of Durini by flying your space ship to the robotic planet and bring robots back. Introduce umbrellas to the “forever raining Planet” and help them make a machine that clears the sky.
“Heritors” : A competitive game where you all strive to conquer and hold the most of the kingdom under your command. You are competing against each-other, but at the same time, the winner will be determined not only by his advances, but also his alliances. Not only strength or luck, but also wisdom is a defining feature of a future ruler. He who finds the balance between cooperation and domination, wins. Form alliances, fight, build a strategy, sometimes lie and always know that any empire, sooner or later, will have a new Heritor.
“Survive the woods” A family friendly tablau building game. The gameplay could focus on Teaming up because when working together you have a better chance to survive the obstacles coming your way. Immersed in the life and daily perils of the forest creatures, experience first hand their challenges. Find creative ways to help each other; fend off unavoidable threats. Even when set up to be a cooperative game, the way you play and the choices that you individually make will determine who among you was the bravest, most compassionate and most valuable critter. And he will be named winner.
You can also choose to play competitively, as this offers a more challenging game which requires different types of strategy.
We hope to make all of these games and many more a reality.
Thank you again for sharing your time and thoughts with us. We wish you all the best with Ark Awakenings and look forward to getting to play all the games you will develop.