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Rogue Seas – Interview with Josiah Schwarz


Many moons ago, a mighty Spanish ship, The San Miguel, was barrelled up with precious metals and stones. To escape pirates hot on their trail, the crew ventured into the perilous Infinity Storm and were never to be seen again.

Since that fateful day, Pirate Captains from every port in the Seven Seas have flocked to these waters in search of the fabled lost treasure. Become one of these mighty captains, assemble a hearty crew, outfit your ship, and begin your search for treasure. Aye, but with so many greedy scallywags about, you must be prepared for anything as these ROGUE SEAS are not to be reckoned with!

Live on Kickstarter right NOW is Rogue Seas, a crew-building, swashbuckling, treasure hunting pirate board game, prepped for one to four players, at around 20 minutes or so per player. Want to find out a bit more? So do I, so who better to talk to than Josiah Schwarz, one of the design crew at Mighty Paladin Games?

Let’s get the important stuff out of the way: name your favourite pirate-themed movie, tv show or game, and tell us why.

I absolutely love Pirates of the Caribbean, those are some of my favourite movies! I love the character Jack Sparrow, he’s a classic! I wish we could make him a captain in Rogue Seas, but you know… copyrights!

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

Rogue Seas is my first board game! I have enjoyed board games for many years, but it wasn’t until I was in grad school that I had the idea for this game. Board games have always been my hobby, as my day job is accounting for an oil and gas firm in Oklahoma. I joke with my friends that I’m basically Ben Wyatt from the TV show Parks and Rec because I'm an accountant who also made a board game, lol.

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

I’ve enjoyed playing board games ever since I was 6 years old! I loved playing games like Monopoly and risk as a child! As I grew older, I enjoyed many other games like Catan, Axis & Allies, Dominion, DC Deck building, Formula D, Puerto Rico, and Everdell to name a few.

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

We're a rather small team! David Kloehr, one of my best friends from college, co-created the game with Cme! He has a background in finance and cinematography, so he has been very involved with our media. Brandon Thomas has been very involved in developing the game as well, helping with the graphic design and the videography. I’ve also had a lot of friends and family who have been very gracious to playtest this game many more times than they would like, haha!

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

It took us a full 2 years to develop Rogue Seas, as we are working on this game in our free time. There were moments where it definitely was a challenge. During 2023 I was studying for my CPA exams and working in public accounting, so it was incredibly difficult to juggle everything on my plate. But 2024 has been a lot better! I always find that working on a board game relaxes me and is a nice distraction from my day job.

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

I would say balancing the endgame of Rogue Seas was the most challenging part of development. One person would be leagues ahead of everyone else, with no way for others to catch up! I hate it when this happens to me in other games. It took us a really long time and so many playtests to find a solution to this problem. In the end, we lowered the rewards players get from defeating monsters, as we found this benefited player’s in the lead most! It was a simple fix, but it completely changed the game! I would say this is now one of the strengths of Rogue Seas, as we have a very balanced game!

Which is your favourite mechanic within the game?

I love the event cards! Every 3 turns they add a new game condition to everyone at the table, some good, others bad! It makes games so interesting, as no two will ever be the same!

I also like merchant ship mechanics. I felt like it was a simple way to add npc’s to a board game. It's fun how they move across the map and increase in health as the game progresses.

I also really enjoy building a pirate crew with the crew cards! I love deck building games, so it was fun a little bit of that to Rogue Seas!

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?

Personally, not a huge fan of AI art in games. It is generally pretty easy to spot AI artwork, and I think it makes a board game look lower quality. I understand why people might use it if your working on a first time game and don’t have a large budget. But a really successful game definitely should have human style artwork in it.

A board game I played recently with AI artwork was Terraforming Mars. It was really fun to play, but it has the worst presentation I’ve ever seen as far as components go. All the artwork in that game is AI generated, and the components were really cheap. The message that communicates to me is that the publisher doesn’t really care about the gamers experience and is just trying to grab your cash. But that is my personal opinion.

Having artwork is really important for a board game. It helps create an immersive experience for players. I want people to almost feel like a pirate when playing Rogue Seas! I believe beautiful artwork is one of the foundations of a good game!

What do you play in your spare time between sessions?

I love any game from Jamey Stegmaier! Scythe is probably my favourite right now, but I also have enjoyed Viticulture a lot! I also enjoy Brass Birmingham, Castles of Burgundy, DC Deck Building, Catan, and Formula D!

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

First, spend a lot of time learning from other game designers in the industry. I absolutely love the Crowdfunding Nerds podcast, as well as the Board Game Design Lab podcast! There’s a lot to learn from other successful designers, and they can help you avoid potential mistakes on your journey! I would also recommend joining their communities on facebook! Those are very encouraging groups, and you're more than welcome to ask questions as you're creating a game!

There’s also a lot of really good books out there on how to have a successful Kickstarter. Jamey Stegmaier wrote a really good one called A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide. I believe Gabe Barret of BGDL also has a fantastic book too!

How does it feel to be this close to launch?

It is very exhilarating! After 2 long years, we’re finally ready to launch Rogue Seas! We have had an amazing community supporting this game through the process and we are very thankful for them! I can’t wait for people to play this game and be able to hold a physical copy in their hands! It is very exciting!

We'll finish on another vital question. Who's your favourite pirate? Mine’s Cap’n Birdseye, he's got a secret history that would shock and awe.

Haha, my favorite is definitely Jack Sparrow, Savvy! He’s a classic and always makes me laugh!

As far as historical pirates, I think Henry Morgan is my favourite. Fun Fact: he was a privateer who was knighted and eventually became the governor of Jamaica!

There’s a grand voyage ahead of ye, scallywags. Head over to the Kickstarter now and check out this fantastic adventure game - Rogue Seas by Josiah Schwarz — Kickstarter

Some fine loot awaits!