Q&A with Joe Hopkins – Board Game Designer

Joe Hopkins Interview - Endangered

After buying and falling in love with Agricola in 2009, Michigan USA resident Joe Hopkins decided the best way to keep the costs of the board gaming hobby down, was to design his own games. 10 years after he started creating games for his friends and family to play together at home, two of Joe’s designs will be hitting Kickstarter.

In April, Joe’s first release, a co-operative game called Endangered launches on Kickstarter. Dexterity game Pew Pew will launch later in the year. I wanted to find out more about his upcoming releases and Joe was happy to answer my questions.

Endangered caught my eye when Marc from Grand Gamers Guild e-mailed me about it. I know the artwork is mind-blowing, but can you tell me more about what this game has to offer?

Endangered is a co-operative dice placement game where two to five players work together to save a species from extinction. The base game will have the tiger and sea otter scenarios. The art is by Beth Sobel and Ben Flores, and looks beautiful. Play time is 60-90 minutes.

In Endangered, each player plays as a conservationist with their own abilities and fixed deck. Some of the actions are shared and some are unique. The conservationists available are the TV Wildlife Host, Zoologist, Philanthropist, and Lobbyist. Each turn, you roll three dice and place them on three different actions that let you play cards, give Influence, remove deforestation, and so on.

However, your dice must be higher than the dice that are already there. That means you'll be getting in each other's way. So, you'll have to co-operate. You win if you can Influence enough UN Ambassadors to pass a species protection resolution. You lose if you run out of animals, habitat, or time.

The theme of a co-operative game where you campaign to save endangered species seems pretty unique. Where did you get the inspiration to design such a game and how did you go about developing it?

For all my games I try to avoid standard themes like building ancient cities and aliens in the future. For my first co-op game, I wanted something current, and the environment is a passion of mine. I did a ton of research on the threats endangered animals face. Players get very engaged because the theme is relevant today.

When I first started designing games I avoided making co-op games because I knew how much testing and balance was needed. After seven years I finally decided to try a co-op game. The game took off from there. I should have done a co-op sooner. I started with the theme and combined it with a twist on worker placement. It has changed some since the first prototype, but not drastically.

You are working with the Grand Gamers Guild on the Endangered project, who published games like Endeavour: Age of Sail, among others. How did this collaboration come about?

Grand Gamers Guild is awesome. They are in Michigan which has been really helpful with collaboration. We met at Protospiel, an unpublished board game convention in Michigan. Grand Gamers Guild will be donating $1 for each thumb up we get for Endangered images on BoardGameGeek.

What can we expect from the Kickstarter campaign? Do you have any interesting stretch goals planned that you could tell us about?

Our funding goal will be for the Tiger and Sea Otter scenarios. One of the stretch goals will be the Panda scenario. I started designing Endangered when Giant Pandas were still classified as endangered. They still require protection, so I decided to keep the scenario. There will also be a stretch goal for the family version of the game for kids ages 6-10.

So, the game is scenario based, does that mean there are plans for expansions? Apart from the animal in question how do the scenarios differ?

I have nine scenarios that I've designed so far and I keep coming up with more. I've spent a lot of time researching the threats these species face. Each animal scenario has a unique deck. Each scenario also introduces new mechanics for how the animals mate, how habitat destruction occurs, and the threats the players need to address.

What types of games do you like to play? What's your favourite game at the moment?

I enjoy co-ops and Euro games. My favourite game is Sentinels of the Multiverse. Sentinels drove some of my vision for Endangered.

Beyond Endangered, can you tell us about any other projects you have in the pipeline?

I have a dexterity game called Pew Pew with Academy Games. As you can expect, it's very different from Endangered, but also a ton of fun.

It's in a Battle Royale or First Person Shooter setting. Each player has a team of characters that collect shields, walls, and weapons to battle. We have many different game modes and crazy dexterity weapons to test your skill. Pew Pew will be on Kickstarter later in the year.

Endangered - Coming Soon

The Kickstarter for Endangered launches on April 2 and runs until April 26. You can go to GrandGamersGuild.com and sign up for the newsletter to stay up to date. You can also find the Grand Gamers Guild on your social media of choice.

I’d like to thank Joe Hopkins for taking the time to answer my questions and Marc form Grand Gamers Guild for putting me in contact.

Make sure you keep checking back on the Zatu Games blog. Luckily, I’ve managed to bag myself a preview copy of the game, once it’s in my hands I will let you all know what to expect.