In a special two-part interview, we speak to Daniel Alexander of Intrepid Games. In part one we discuss how he became involved in the board game hobby. We also learn how the idea to create a game came to be, and give you an introduction to Lander.
What is it about board games that has led to you becoming a designer?
My first experience playing board games was playing Chess with my grandfather. It wasn’t as though he’d go easy on me either! I think I lost every game I played against him for many years, until I eventually beat him, and then he very rarely beat me thereafter! I played all the classics like Monopoly, Risk, Scrabble, etc. as I grew up and there are so many great memories surrounding the time playing them; beating my friends and family; always a feel-good factor on the occasions I won.
If we go back to the philosophy of: “Why do we play games?” it could be strongly argued that games themselves provide a ‘safe space’ for us to simulate life, learning and growing as a result. My time playing board games has taught me many things that I find useful in my every day professional career: strategy, planning, dealing with failure, being a graceful winner, being calm under pressure, negotiating, emotional resiliency, as well as teaching skills like patience, encouragement and the importance of good communication.
I’ve played many video games in my life, but even online multiplayer games with friends and pseudo-friends are isolating. I believe the human condition is such that we need the energetic social interaction of other people in the same physical space as us and the very special nature of board games is that they bring people together and satisfy this requirement.
I can relate to this. I absolutely love the interaction around the table and the journeys we often go on together each game night. So, how did this translate into you becoming a designer?
I started to identify elements in various games that I thought could be improved upon to make the game better. It wasn’t until Boxing Day in 2014 that my friend Charles said, “Should we make a game?” and upon saying “yes” subsequently asking me “What rules should we have in our game?” that I ever really thought in detail about game mechanics.
We were surrounded by our favourite games at the time such as Catan, Battlestar Galactica, Munchkins, Carcassonne, a Texas Hold ‘Em Poker set, Risk Legacy and many more. One of the aspects of scientific development is the process of building on the shoulders of giants to develop and refine the science further. In this regard, the answer to Charles’ question came from looking at all these games and seeing the elements of each of them that make them fun and identifying their respective weaknesses too!
Having had the biggest army I’d ever amassed in Risk and going from that position on my turn, for the game to get to the point whereby I was eliminated before it was my next turn, due to statistically ridiculous bad dice rolling.
We’ve all been there!
My first answer to Charles’ question came very quickly … “NO DICE!” I exclaimed. We then went through discussions about how all our favourite games were ‘three players and up’ and that we wanted to make a ‘two-player and up’ strategy game that we could play, that satisfied all the elements of ‘fun’ that we enjoyed from our favourite games. A
s we are both avid Sci-Fi fans, the space theme was quickly agreed upon, then some sort of expanding board with tile placement, resource management, trading, a crew of people with different abilities and so it went on, effectively putting all our favourite mechanics in a bucket and stirring them around with a spoon, until LANDER kind of ‘popped’ into existence!
Lander looks amazing and I’m particularly grabbed by the mix of so many great mechanics. Can you tell those who haven't had the chance to read up or watch much about it, what Lander is all about?
Lander is a 2-4 player (+5-6 player expansion), space themed, resource management, strategy game, whereby you develop a crew to complete missions, with the player who completes the most Mission Stars being declared the winner.
The game is founded upon four key principles: infinite replay-ability, non-linear gameplay, an immersive experience and for the game to reward bold plays. It includes three distinct game styles with the following victory conditions:
- Basic Simulation – The first player to reach seven Mission Stars wins.
- Early Arrival – The last year is triggered when a player reaches 10 Mission Stars. The player with the most stars at the end of that year wins.
- Planned Arrival – The player with the most Mission Stars after five years wins.
To earn Mission Stars, players must grow their resource base and develop their crew with specific combinations of traits and classes.
This might sound like your typical Euro-style game where players focus on their own playing area with minimal interaction, however in LANDER, players directly impact each other's strategies through various game mechanics.
Negotiation provides a framework for trading resources and Activity cards between corporations. Leadership Abilities and Action cards can be used to pull back a rival or further your own interests, while Event cards force players to make difficult choices that can impact themselves or the entire colony.
Lander is like life. You will experience highs and lows and be faced with challenges that will force you to solve problems and pivot your strategy.
Once you've played several times, you may realise that Lander is more than what you initially see. Beneath the surface, there is a multi-dimensional, game within the game, whereby the study of your opponent(s)' actions is crucial for developing your own strategy.
Observations give players the ability to 'do nothing' as their Official Order so they can wait and see what orders their opponents perform. Like poker, players can study their opponents' hands, crew and orders to predict what they might be trying do.
The interplay between reading your opponents, using your Observations, bluffing and playing your Action cards becomes the game within the game. Knowing how and when to employ these different tactics is for you to master...
Your story begins here!
Join us for part two of our Intrepid Games interview. There, you can expect to learn about the design process and development of Lander.