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Q&A with Spy Club’s Randy Hoyt

Randy Hoyt Interview - Spy Club

Following on from last week's review of Spy Club, by The Game Shelf, Martyn speaks to designer Randy Hoyt about how the game came to be and the future of his company; Foxtrot Games! Let's see what Randy had to say;

Spy Club, can you tell me any more about this?

Spy Club is a co-operative game for 2-4 players that plays in about 30-45 minutes. Acting as young detectives, players work together to solve neighbourhood mysteries. Spy Club includes unlockable content and a campaign mode where players can play multiple games connected together to tell a larger story. Beautifully illustrated by Bartłomiej Kordowski (Dream Home), the art on Spy Club’s oversized cards adds to the immersive storytelling experience and draws players into the emerging narrative.

As a player, I enjoy immersive, co-operative games that challenge players with streamlined strategies and interesting choices. As a publisher, I work to make engaging, beautiful, and approachable board games. Spy Club is a nice mix of these ideas: a co-operative, family-weight strategy game with an immersive theme.

The art, for me at least, is great and one of the key selling points. What made you go with this style?

Because storytelling is part of the experience, we knew the art had to draw players into the game and bring in many of the nostalgic, immersive, and evocative elements you’d want from this theme. We mentioned the art style in Dixit (especially the Memories Expansion) and in Mysterium to Bartłomiej as a bit of direction, though we wanted something a little more concrete than those examples.

What I love about the finished art is that each card includes both specific and abstracted imagery relevant to each clue. For example, the “Love” card includes images related to romantic love, friendship, family, etc. This allows players to build their own story, letting the card art work as a prompt or a guide without being too restrictive. Bartłomiej has also done an amazing job surprising us with “Easter eggs” hidden within each card. A few of those elements in the artwork inspired us in the development of some of the unlockable campaign content.

Is Spy Club like any other game you have played, and if so was this a conscious decision?

Spy Club’s mechanics include action point allocation and set collection, which should make it feel somewhat familiar to what you’d see in other co-operative games like Pandemic or Forbidden Island. As in those games, players in Spy Club work together to manipulate the resources in their hands and assemble sets of cards, competing against the ticking clocks of the game timers. But Spy Club also includes an emerging storytelling element that people have compared to Mysterium and other games like that.

The gameplay also changes over time with unlockable content, in ways similar to a legacy game or something like T.I.M.E Stories. But in Spy Club you unlock the new content in a non-linear, non-scripted way. Play-testers commonly report that it feels like they are choosing their own mystery adventure as their decisions in the campaign lead them to unlock different modules each time.

You didn’t use the ‘stretch goal’ method some Kickstarters do? Why was this?

Just like our World’s Fair 1893 Kickstarter project, we chose not to have stretch goals: we included everything right from the start! I know many Kickstarter projects unlock additional content, artwork and component upgrades in small batches, but the campaign format we designed requires all that unlockable content be included right from the start. We wanted to encourage backers to join the project early instead of waiting for additional upgrades, and I was willing to pay for those extras out of my own pocket to make sure we gave backers the best game possible at a great value.

Finally, what’s next for Foxtrot Games? Will you be using Kickstarter again, or will your partnership with Renegade change how you operate?

We have a handful of games we’re working on for 2019, but we aren’t quite ready to announce them yet. (We’re planning to have prototypes for play-testing at a handful of events during the rest of the year, including Stonemaier Design Day, Conquest Avalon, BGG CON, and PAX Unplugged.)

We’ve been partnering with Renegade Game Studios for almost four years now, starting with our game Lanterns: The Harvest Festival. Since the partnership, we have continued to raise funds on Kickstarter for games that require a lot of unique artwork (World’s Fair 1893, Spy Club), but we have released our other games straight to retail (The Fox in the Forest, Sundae Split). We plan to consider Kickstarter for each project and use it where it makes sense.

Read our Spy club Review!