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Interview With Danny Devine

danny devine ghosts love candy too

To celebrate the release of Ghosts Love Candy Too from 25th Century Games I asked the designer, Danny Devine, some board games and non-board games questions. Danny Devine has designed some of my favourite games including Harvest Dice and Kohaku and was part of the team for Sprawlopolis.

When were you introduced to modern board games and can you still remember the first game you played?

March 30th, 2012. I know with surprising accuracy. A co-worker of mine mentioned that Wil Weaton had a new show called Tabletop on YouTube and that he had the game they played, Small World. I watched the video, played the game and the rest is history!

What is your favourite game currently in your collection? And how many games are in your collection?

You're asking me to pick my favourite? How dare you!

My favourite changes almost yearly it seems, but I have been a huge Marvel fanatic since I was a kid so when Marvel United came out I went all in (twice) and have been playing that like crazy with my kids. It’s a really thematic and diverse system with so much replay value.

Beyond that, Stockpile and Downforce and Castles of Burgundy are pretty high up there.

As far as how many games…too many for the amount of space I have. 200+ last time I counted.

How long were you designing games before your first game was published?

Not very long actually. When I first got into design I quickly discovered the Game Crafter. They had a 'map building' design contest and I came up with a game called Mob Town. It won the contest, then caught the eye of a small publisher who I worked with to Kickstart and publish the game. I later realized how lucky that was to get published so quickly.

You were part of the design team for Sprawlopolis, which has been a massive success with numerous expansions and sequels. When the game was being designed and play tested did it feel like it would do as well as it has?

Well, it had a rough start as an Egyptian themed game about building a pyramid. But once we found the City Building theme, it really started to click. We had success with its predecessor, Circle The Wagons, so I was hopeful that people would like Sprawl too.

That being said, I had no clue how big this little wallet game would get! I’m continually blown away by all the wonderful reviews and favourite games lists it makes.

You have designed games with other designers, are there any designers you would like to work with in the future?

Absolutely, there are several I would love to design with. One that jumps to mind immediately is my friend Jonny Pac, he is a brilliant designer and developer and while we have tested each other’s games we have not worked on one together. Maybe someday, we do have incredibly different design styles, but that’s kind of what makes that interesting to me.

Is it difficult to be a games designer as well as having a full time job and would the dream be to move to game design full time one day?

Oh man, if I could transition to full time design, and still support my family, that would absolutely be the dream!

As it is though, it is just a hobby, a hobby that feels like a second job sometimes, but I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it. Combined with a full time job, and a young family, the amount of time I get to spend on design is really limited. Basically it means that I often fall behind on shows, movies and video games because I often use what little free time I have to work on games. It's all about sacrifice and making time for what you really care about.

Your games are all very accessible with easy to understand rules but clever and interesting gameplay, is that your design ethos?

It absolutely is. So glad to hear that comes through. Most of the games I play fall into the "one hour wonder" or "filler" category. So when I design, I strive to make simple elegant designs most of the time. I want them to be easy to teach and play but still have some depth. Phil Walker Harding is the king of this to me…another designer I would love to work with.

Do you think you will ever design a heavier game?

Yes, I would love to try and design a heavier game. I actually have a slightly heavier one in the works with my friend and co-designer, Steven Aramini.

I do think I need to play more heavier games and honestly I need more free time to commit to a bigger project, so it might be a while before it happens.

When designing a new game does the theme formulate before the gameplay or the other way around?

I have done both. Ghosts Love Candy for example started with the name and overall theme oddly enough. Most of the time though, the seed is planted by a mechanic idea and then I quickly try to think of a theme that might work because themes can help develop an idea faster.

How many games do you currently have in development? And can you let me in on anything exciting like a follow up to Harvest Dice or Kohaku?

I currently have 6 games in active development.

While not officially a follow up to Harvest Dice, I do have a roll and write game in the same family called Roll on the Range in development. Currently it has been placed on the back burner so I can develop other projects, but I look forward to getting back to it.

Kohaku is going to have a follow up game currently being called Kohaku Pocket, it’s a small box card game with a similar feel to the original Kohaku but is definitely more competitive.

Do you ever go to board game conventions and have you ever thought of attending the UK Games Expo?

I don’t go to as many as I would like, but I try to hit at least one a year. Recently I went to BGG CON in Dallas Texas for the first time and had an absolute blast. It’s possible that it becomes my go to CON.

Dice Tower West in Las Vegas Nevada and my local Reno Con (Ragecon) would be the others I typically attend.

As far as the UK Games Expo…I have sadly never left the states before, doesn’t mean it won’t happen but if I did go to the UK, I would probably want to tie it into a bigger trip and not just focus on the con. Never say never!

Working with 25th Century Games you recently completed a crowdfunding project for a roll & write (Ghosts Love Candy Roll & Fright) to compliment Ghosts Love Candy Too. Is this something you think you will do in the future for other roll & write designs you have?

Yes, I really like the concept and the recent movement of the Print and Play roll and writes on Kickstarter. They are fun games to design and being able to remove the stress of production and shipping is amazing! Do not be surprised to see more Print and Play roll and writes from me in the future.

Talking of Ghosts Love Candy Too, was it good to go back to a previously designed game and make improvements? And are there any other games you would like to go back to?

It was an amazing opportunity to go back and revisit Ghosts Love Candy. I had a lot of extra content planned that I thought would never see the light of day, so getting to dust that off along with refining the gameplay was so much fun. This new version is everything I wanted the original to be and more. I really hope people enjoy playing it as much as I did making it.

As far as making improvements to my other games, I would love a chance to remake Mob Town. I have learned a lot since my first published game and I think I could apply that knowledge to make a better game than I did 10 years ago.

Away from board games what else do you like to do in your spare time?

I spend a lot of time with my wife and kids, they are into a variety of sports so that keeps us busy. Outside of that I have taken to running over the last couple of years and am really starting to enjoy that too. Beyond that though, I am pretty boring I guess. I watch movies and TV shows when I find time and still enjoy reading comics every night before bed.

Final question on behalf of the Zatu Bloggers. Do you dunk your biscuits in your tea / coffee or do you think that is a crazy notion?

I guess I would have to say no dunk, typically I have coffee without any cookies, biscuits or donuts, but even when I do they are separate. Then again, I’m also the kid that would eat dry cereal then drink a glass of milk, so what do I know?

I would like to thank Danny for his time and recommend you play some of his amazing designs. Kohaku and Harvest Dice are personal favourites of mine and I will be reviewing Ghosts Love Candy Too very soon which could be added to that list.