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Thunderworks Games: Q&A with Keith Matejka

Thunderworks Games - Monsters and Minions

Thunderworks Games - Monsters and Minions

Keith Matejka, of Thunderworks Games, is becoming a favourite of mine, we speak on a regular basis about all things board games. Just when you think he will run out of things to talk about he pops up with all the information below.

Could he be the most over worked man in this industry!?

Hey Keith so the new Kickstarter is about to start and last time we spoke you gave us a few details about the reprint - which can be found here. Can you give us any further details and what has changed?

"Well, I ended up fine tuning a few things. The minion deck is now stacked, like the market deck is stacked. So, there are easier minions to defeat at the beginning of the game, and the more challenging ones appear later in the game. I've been tuning the Scout's special ability to bring it in-line with the other class abilities balance-wise.

I've also added a few variants for players:

  • One allows the players in the multiplayer game to fight against the Monsters from the solo game, which are harder. So, if you want the monster fight to be harder, there ya go.
  • The other allows the players to play with the Adventure cards face-up at the end of the game. Some more strategic players like that better, though it removes some of the hidden information that I enjoy in the standard rules."

The expansion is adding a new level to an already brilliant game. What does it add to the base game and why should people back it?

"Because it makes it even better! Honestly, I love playing with the expansion, because it opens up new paths to victory, and it offers a lot more variety to the game. With the base game, in a four player game, you see the vast majority of the cards in the game.

With the expansion, the number of cards is much higher, and more of them are discarded at the beginning of the game, so the card make up is more varied every game."

After our conversations, I have joked about how quick your game will fund. I said it will fund in less than nine hours and even with the great response the game has had you remain level-headed and don’t get ahead of yourself. This is great and if you could give any advice to someone wanting to do a Kickstarter what would it be? 

"Expectations are dangerous. Expect for the worst, and plan for it, but have another plan hoping for the best result.

Be relentless when reviewing your page and game content. Be ready, and then add time to your schedule to account for the unexpected. You will forget something.  Just try to make sure it's not something super important.  Review other successful KS pages. Review ones that did poorly. Compare your project to those projects. Figure out what has worked for other creators and see if you can apply the lessons to your KS.

It's important to have a strong hold on your vision for the project, but sometimes you need to be open to change, even begrudgingly late in the process. But, you need to take your time evaluating a potential change. A rushed decision often is a bad decision. Don't react to every little piece of feedback people have, as especially when you're already so far down the road. It's easy to decide to make a change, and invest time/money into it, and figure out down the road it was a sideways move, and probably a waste of time."

So is this the end for Roll Player or do you have any future expansions in the work?

"I have lots of Roll Player ideas kicking around in my head and I have a few of them fleshed out in documents, but nothing playable yet.  I have lots of documents with card ideas or mechanic ideas,etc... I think this game is really expandable, if there's a market for it. I've been focusing on M&M for now. We'll see how it goes. I think the next piece will be something smaller than M&M.  And if there's still interest in the game after that, I have a much larger idea I'm sketching out early drafts for.


Ok enough of Roll Player lets talk about your future and where you want to go in the future?

"Ah! The future! Well, when I started Thunderworks Games, my intention was to work on one game per year. Year one was Bullfrogs. Year two was Roll Player. Year three was Blend Off! Now, since Roll Player has been doing so well, I've started taking on more and more projects as new opportunities are opening up to me.

I have the RP M&M Expansion, obviously, but I'm also managing the reprint of the base game of Roll Player. That has had it's own set of challenges.

I'm also working two projects for Eduardo Baraf's company Pencil First Games. The first is a solo version of an upcoming game, like I did for Herbaceous. The second one is a full game that I'm the lead designer on. It's an asymmetrical two player game set in a fantasy world with some really unique mechanics to is.  I'm not sure what I can say about it at this point, but Ed and I hope to have it on Kickstarter in the late fall of 2017 or spring of 2018. The working title is “Skulk Hollow”.

My next Thunderworks game will be a two player area control game called “Dual Powers: Revolution 1917” about the rise of power of the Soviets in Russia. It's designed by Brett Myers, who is know for Rome: City of Marble for R&R Games, and Nanuk from Steve Jackson Games.  He's a local guy here in Madison, and it's fun to work on a project together. That should hit Kickstarter in the Fall of 2017. 

After that, I'm publishing a game from a new designer Stan Kordonskiy.  Theme-wise, the players control groups of fantasy monsters that have been imprisoned in the king's dungeons.  It's a lower complexity worker placement game, but offers some interesting player interaction and deception.  That should hit Kickstarter in the Spring of 2018.

Then, there's more Roll Player stuff.  I have ideas for at least two more expansions.  I'll probably get more serious about working on those after the M&M is in production.

On top of all that, I'm working with my friend Kirk Dennison of Piecekeeper Games (Flag Dash) on a few projects. We are both very small publishers and we're trying to find opportunities to lean on each other to make both companies stronger etc... He's got quite a few games in the works that I'm helping out on."

You seem to be the ‘Solo Rules’ master at the moment what with Roll Players and Herbaceous, what’s your secret?

In terms of methodology,

  • I try to recreate the multiplayer version of the game as best as I can, but for one player. Sometimes games feel different when the player count is low, vs high. I want to avoid that as much as possible.
  • I try to look at where the interaction and player tension exists in the game and make those important points to focus on. How can I simulate another player here?
  • I try to keep the footprint small. Many times solo game players are playing in hotel rooms or on airline trays, or some other small space. I think it's important to respect that and be conscious of how much space a game takes.
  • Many times I just start removing things that aren't critical to the core of the game, or are there to stimulate decisions in a multiplayer game. If they don't work for the solo game, and building in a simulation of how they work for the solo game adds too much complexity, I just remove it.

It's funny. I actually don't play many solo games. I used to play Arkham Horror solo, and now I play the card game version of Arkham Horror solo sometimes, but I much prefer the multiplayer gaming experience. I started looking at solo games more seriously when I was running the Kickstarter for my first game, Bullfrogs. Someone must have asked if it could be played solo, and I had never thought of it.  So, during the KS, I designed the solo version using some custom dice. I did a bunch of play-testing, and offered it as an add-on for the game. Solo players seemed to really enjoy it.

When it came to Roll Player, I hadn't designed the solo version until after the Kickstarter was live. Backers kept asking for it, so I decided to spend some time trying to get it to work. After a couple hours of playing, it started clicking for me. I was honestly surprised how well it worked. So, I included it in the rule book, and solo players have really been enjoying it. 

Herbaceous came out in an interesting course of events. I had talked to Edo Baraf a few times, mainly to ask his advice. We're both very small publishers using Kickstarter to bring cool games to the market, so we trade stories and contacts from time to time.  He had this game from Steve Finn called Herbaceous, and was looking for someone to design a solo version of it. I reached out on a whim saying I could take a swing at it.  He sent me prototype files and started working on it.  A few days  later I was polishing the final rules and trying to finalise the scoring scale.  It was a really quick/fun project and I got to work with Beth, Steve, and Ed, who are all awesome.

So, I have started to build a bit of a reputation for designing solo games.  It's a fun exercise devise them and I'm happy people are having fun playing them."

Okay, so what about you? What is your favourite game? Who is your gaming idol? And if you had unlimited funds what game would you make?

"My favourite games include War of the Ring, which I never get to play.  Maybe once every couple years. It's a long one, but I really enjoy it. My favourite card game is Glory to Rome. I love how many broken combos there are in that game, but somehow it all feels balanced.

In terms of designers I like, Martin Wallace and Reiner Knizia are at the top of my list. I love Wallace's Automobile, Brass, A Study in Emerald, Tinner's Trail, and London. My favourite Knizia games are Battle Line, Ra, Lost Cities, Lord of the Rings the Confrontation, and Through the Desert. Both of these guys have put out a huge catalogue of games, which is admirable.

I've never really thought about what I would do if I had the freedom to do any game on any scale with any amount of resources. I've never tried doing a miniature-heavy game, which I need to take on one of these days.  There are licensed properties that I would love to work with someday – Dragonlance, Dresden Files, Fallout/Wasteland, anything from Stephen King, or Neil Gaiman.

Besides board games, I think there's a lot of cool stuff going in on VR space, and I think there's opportunities to do some unique things there. I'd love to see a really high quality VR MMORPG, where role-playing was the emphasis."

We would like to thank Keith Matejka for taking time out of his schedule to speak with Zatu Games! Roll Player: Monsters & Minions is live on Kickstarter right now!