Ian Moss is quickly making a name for himself as an accomplished game designer. The creator of Duelosaur Island. Will Moffat caught up with him to discuss design, Christmas, Wonderland and Dinosaurs (of course!)
Hi Ian. Thank you so much for chatting with me. Could you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got into the board game industry?
I'm from Ohio. I was working at a factory when I started getting into board games. I made friends with people who I saw at work and also at our local games store. One of my friends was a designer. He had made a print and play game for a holiday gift. He asked if I could help do graphic design on the cards for them. That's when I found out that making games starts out with just having ideas and writing them down. So I started writing down my ideas and making my first prototype. I talked to my friend (who was Jonathan Gilmour, designer of Dead of Winter) about what to do next. He told me that they had a group that meets every 2 weeks at our local store. I took my game and I was hooked from then on.
You have a dream job of being a full-time board game designer. What does an average day at work involve for you?
So my partner has a 'regular' job so I usually match her schedule during the week. Normally, I get in around 5am to the office (that Jon, his assistant Sarah, and I share). I eat and watch things in the morning before I start checking on work things. I answer emails and messages that may have come in from the day before and I start opening whatever game files I need to work on that day. Normally this involves opening notes and feedback documents, and spreadsheets (that have cards, player boards, abilities, etc in them). After that, it really changes from day to day what I'm doing. Some days I'm updating a prototype, so I'll be printing, cutting, stickering, finding pieces, and labeling boxes. Other days I need to write up new sections of the rules, so I'll be starting at a Google Doc all day, writing and then rewriting rules so the publisher or whoever can test my game remotely.
I work until 3pm and then I head off to pick up my partner from work and my daughter from the babysitters. Then I go home and (as long as I don't have any video calls that night) relax at home.
Arguably, your breakout hit was Duelosaur Island. How did that come about given that Dinosaur Island was already such a big hit in the industry? Did you approach Pandasaurus Games with the design or did they approach you to create a two-player version of Dinosaur Island?
Since I know Jon Gilmour and Brian Lewis (I share an Office with Jon and Brian comes to our local play testing sometimes), I had play-tested Dinosaur Island dozens of times. I enjoyed watching it become the game that people now have on their shelves and I asked if there was going to be more games in that world soon.
Jon said they wanted an expansion, but there weren't any plans for anything beyond that. It sparked an idea in my head that I couldn't get rid of. "What if there was a 'Duel' version of Dinosaur Island?" One that was made for 2 players and took all the best stuff about D. And mixed in the DNA of some of my favourite mechanics.
I started working on that game, wanting to include an 'I split, you choose' mechanic along with multi-use cards so players would be competing over the same things for different reasons. The play testing for it went really well, and before I knew it the game had come together.
I pitched it to Pandasaurus at Origins (I think) that year, they started off by saying they would play the game but didn't think they needed a 2 player version of a game that already plays 2 players.
After I had explained the game and they played a couple rounds, they looked at each other and said "Well, I guess we have to make this now."
Haha! I'm glad they did! Aside from your own designs (of course!), what are your top three board games by other designers?
Raiders of the North Sea (plus the expansions), by Shem Phillips, is my all time favourite worker placement game.
Concordia, by Marc Gerdts, has my favorite version of multi-use cards in any game. You don't get a lot of cards throughout the game, so you really have to weigh what Action the card has versus what End Game Scoring it has
Tidal Blades, by Ben and Tim Eisner, is sort of cheating since it isn't released yet, but I've played the prototype version they sent at least 10 times.
I have to agree with you on Raiders! Your latest design, Wonderland’s War, comes to Kickstarter on February 11th - What is it all about?
Wonderland's War is a co-design with Ben and Tim Eisner with art by Manny Trembley, where you visit a Wonderland unlike any you've seen before. This Wonderland is on the verge of War after the Looking Glass shattered, sending fragments of mirror glass all throughout Wonderland. This seems to be pulling the Madness from the realm, and leaving nothing but unpleasantness and War behind. So each Faction decides it is time they take control and lead Wonderland.
Players will take part in 3 rounds of Battle, before each round though there must be a Tea Party (obviously). The game is a Bag Builder with Drafting and Area Control where players draft cards that add Allies and other Chips to their bag, recruit Wonderlandians to aid them in Battle with their Miniatures, and place Supporters in the different Regions of Wonderland. During War, players will battle in the Regions using the bags they have built. They will even be able to Upgrade or Forge new Chips to help them in future battles.
It's been a great project to work on, I've taken multiple trips to Skybound HQ in L.A. to get the game ready for it's debut in February.
So you go to La-La Land to work on Wonderland! (Sorry about that awful pun!) Other than Wonderland’s War do you have any other games currently in design or being playtested that you are allowed to tell the World about?
I definitely have ones that I'm NOT allowed to talk about (but that should change before the year is up), but I can say that I have been working with James Hudson of Skybound for a few years now and we have quite a few projects based on their stellar comics lineup.
Tidal Blades: Rise of the Unfolders was announced during the first Tidal Blades Kickstarter and that is a cooperative dungeon crawl type game that Jonathan Gimour and I are working on
A fun project that I'm working on with Marshall Britt (of Yanaguana Games) is called the HRPG. It is a small RPG about working at a fantastical HR Firm and it uses the information from any business card to generate a Dungeon and Monsters for an adventurer to try to survive. It is our attempt to 'game-ify' business cards, since we always seem to have a ton of them lying around.
What board games did you get for Christmas? Did you get to play many board games over the festive period?
I don't really get board games as gifts anymore. (since I buy so many on my own throughout the year lol). But I did get some accessories this year that I'm excited about.
My partner got me a 10x10 tracker board from Etsy. So now I guess I have to do the 10x10 Challenge this year. I only have 8 games on it right now. (I assume there will be at least 2 games I get in 2020 that I'll want to add to it):
- Marvel: Champions
- Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth
- Clank: Legacy - Acquisitions Incorporated
- Valley of the Kings (Premium Edition)
- Sorcerer City
I also got a Quiver card card from QuiverTime, so that I can have a better storage system for my Keyforge decks and tokens.
As far as games I played over the holidays, I think Just One got played more than any game my partner and I have ever brought to our family gatherings. Such a great game.
Lastly, I have to know - what is your favourite dinosaur and why?
I've always liked the Ankylosaurus. Because it comes equipped with a flail. Who wouldn't want to have a flail on you at all times?
Thank you for your time.
No problem, this was great!