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Peaks Interview


Let’s get the important stuff out of the way: name your favourite walk or climb. Describe it to us. Make us want to go.

The Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands is my favourite place - rolling heather- covered hills with stunning views down the glens. Not a soul for miles. A truly magical place.

This leads us to the inspiration for the game. Was there a particular moment when Peaks was born? A singular panoramic view perhaps?

I wish I could say it all fell into place as I reached the summit of a big peak, but unfortunately the reality is rather boring… in 2019 I was thinking about how Wingspan had captured the imagination of myself and many others - it was such a clever idea to have a big deck of birds of the world like that. Suddenly I thought ‘what about a deck of mountains of the world?’. Although Peaks feels and plays very differently to Wingspan, I must credit it with the initial spark!

Give us some background. Is this your first board game? If so, what did you do before this?

Yes, Peaks is my first game! I had dabbled with game design in the past by designing some fan expansions for existing games. This was an incredibly fun process where I learned a lot about game design, and I would encourage anyone who wants to get into game design to give it a go - choose your favourite game and design your own expansion for it!

What's the first board game you remember playing? And what's the first one you fell in love with, and why?

I played popular board games throughout my childhood, and remember making my own rethemes of Monopoly, Cluedo, and Risk when I was about 10. But Catan really got me into games - I got it when I was 17 and played many times per week with my school friends for years!

Who’s on the team? How well does the team interweave together?

There are too many people who have impacted Peaks to mention here, but I will mention Nilanjan Malakar, who has created absolutely stunning artwork of all the mountains in the game, Dann May and the team at Quillsilver Studio, who have done a great job with the graphic design, and of course, the publishers Brandon Ohmie and Bryan Brammer have done a superb job steering the ship and making Peaks a reality.

How long has it taken to develop Peaks? Has development fitted comfortably into your daily life?

Almost 5 years, and literally thousands of hours! Can it ever be a comfortable balance with a full-time job, young family, and major house renovations? But a balance nonetheless!

Which board games is Peaks similar to? What kind of gamer would you recommend Peaks to?

Peaks is first and foremost an engine builder, where the cards in the game will help you build that engine through the rewards they give you. So it shares resemblances in that regard to games like Terraforming Mars and Earth. But the style of interaction in the game is quite different to most other eurogames, and I’ve yet to find a competitive eurogame with its distinct collaborative feel.

Anyone who likes medium Euros with lots of interaction should check out Peaks!

Have there been any major hiccups during development, and if so how were they overcome? How has playtesting helped in this area?

Game length was for a long time was the biggest issue that I gradually had to drive down over time. Gathering detailed data from playtesting, including logging every turn of the game, was instrumental in seeing where we could pick away at that play time until it was at a place we were happy with.

Which is your favourite mechanic within the game?

It’s got to be the tag-along mechanism - it’s very simple, highly thematic, and keeps players thoroughly interested in what other players are doing. It has also lead to some really great table talk, negotiation, and collaboration.

This is becoming a bit of a hot topic. What’s your thoughts on AI in game design? This doesn’t apply directly to your game as you have an artist with a distinct human style, but there are games out there which are heading to crowdfunding that seem to rely on it heavily. Is there room for AI in game design? Is there a limit to its acceptable use?

I can certainly see the benefits of using AI, but I do not find myself drawn to it. I am far more interested it what stems purely from human creativity, and hearing something is made with AI is a bit of a turn-off for me, as though a bit of life was sucked out of the project. So although for now I’ll stick to human-made products, I’m sure the use of more and more AI is inevitable.

Peaks is a hybrid of the competitive and the cooperative. Was this borne out of the theme, or was it always your intention to blend the two?

Peaks was a theme-first design. After I wanted to pursue a game with a deck of mountain cards, all sorts of things such as the game loop, mountains requirements, tag-along mechanism, and many others flowed directly out of this theme, and I think Peaks is all the better for it!

What do you play in your spare time between sessions?

Favourites include Terraforming Mars, Viticulture, Concordia, Blood Rage, Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig, and Star Wars: Rebellion. I’ve played Rebellion 138 times and counting - always looking forward to getting it to the table!

Which one game do you wish you'd designed yourself?

A really tricky question! Perhaps Terraforming Mars? The breadth and depth of the card play looks like it would have been so much fun to design, and the setting has enthralled me, as well as many thousands of others.

What advice would you give to other prospective designers? What advice would you give to yourself after a spot of time travelling?

If you want to get into game design, don’t try a whole game first; hit something smaller like a fan-made expansion or micro game first. The advice I would give my younger self would be to fail faster! Getting ideas to the table as soon as physically possible and not messing about with graphic design so soon. My first couple of iterations were made with a pencil and plain paper, but I could have saved a lot of time if I’d stayed at that stage a while longer.

Board gaming as a hobby is becoming particularly lively, especially on Instagram where the community is growing rapidly. How has the support been from the board gaming community?

There are some amazing groups out there for budding designers, and plenty of great communities for people to share ideas and support each other. I’d recommend the

Board Game Design Lab group on Facebook 🙂

How does it feel to finally launch?

So exciting! Having been looking forward to this moment for almost 5 years, it’s a great feeling for it to finally arrive. Although, my work of blind playtesting the rulebook, proofreading, and otherwise helping where I can to finalise files continues until it’s submitted to the factory, so no resting just yet!

We'll finish on another vital question. While out for a hike or a clamber, which essential snacks would you pack?

Lyle’s golden syrup cake - these have kept me going in the Cairngorms of Scotland and on multi-day hikes in the Yorkshire Dales - delicious stuff. And treating myself to a Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer on the summit always goes down well!