Interview with designer Matthew Parkes, on his game, Burger Up. For 2-4 players, in “Burger Up is a card matching puzzle game about the art of burger making. Fill orders, earn prestige and be the best burger chef around!”
Matt, could you share a little with us about yourself and what got you into tabletop gaming?
Matt: I’m 30 years old and my day job is in IT.
I’ve always been interested in tabletop gaming. My parents played HeroQuest constantly when I was quite young and off the back of that, my friends and I got into Warhammer at around 10 or 11. Because we couldn’t really afford armies at that age, we gravitated to Games Workshop’s smaller, packaged games like Warhammer Quest, etc. After that, the classics like Catan and Carcassone were stepping stones into the hobby. These days, I play anything and everything.
What are some games that have been hitting your table lately?
Matt: Colt Express is getting a lot of table time. I missed the hype when it first came out and only experienced it recently, but it’s been very popular at my gaming group with beginners and veterans alike.
We’ve also been playing a lot of Agricola (playing with the Intermediate and Advanced decks for the first time).
Your game, Burger Up, is finally out after a successful Kickstarter. Could you tell us a little bit about what type of game it is and give us an overview on how it is played?
Matt: Burger Up is a game about building really big burgers, for 2-4 players and plays in about 30 minutes. There are Top Bun cards in the middle of the table with requirements that you must satisfy. On your turn, you place ingredient cards, paying attention to match the correct colour, as you try to satisfy these Top Buns and score them before your opponents do.
It will probably make you really hungry.
What is the story behind the game’s creation?
Matt: I started out making 2 drastically different games than Buger Up and the stacking mechanic which is central to Burger Up was something I came up with for one of them. I realised that the mechanic itself was quite fun and not particularly common, so I started exploring it in isolation. Stacking lent itself to ice cream or burgers and as I played around in that design space, everything clicked into place to make the foundation of Burger Up.
Did any games influence you when you were creating Burger Up?
Matt: I guess all of them I’ve ever played did in some shape or form.
I looked at other “food” based games in the market and saw that lots of them are quite light and cartoony. After discussions with Allen and Alistair, we decided we wanted to position Burger Up as a slightly more serious game, with more realistic artwork and to treat it as a love-letter to seriously good burgers.
There is a special card found in the game, the Spatula. Could you tell us a little bit about it and what makes it important to the gameplay?
Matt: The spatula is great because it allows you to do some stuff outside of the normal game actions and move ingredients around on your burger, or discard ingredients entirely.
It’s important to the gameplay because it means players aren’t overly punished for putting the “wrong” ingredients on their burger (it’s a free action during your turn to invoke your Spatula) and because it’s very satisfying to turn two smaller burgers into a large, high scoring burger and catch your opponents unaware.
How does the 2-player game differ in rules or overall feel compared to 4-player game?
Matt: The two player game uses exactly the same rules, just with a few less Top Bun cards in the Top Bun deck (to keep the game length the same as three and four players).
Rule & Make has an expansion for Burger Up called Burgers of the World (it was also a stretch goal that KS backers got). Could you explain what this expansion is and what it adds to the gameplay?
Matt: Burgers of the World adds a whole bunch of ingredients from all around the world. It came about from interacting with our backers during the Kickstarter campaign, with lots of them asking us why we didn’t include their favourite ingredient or if we’d consider adding something unique to their country.
It adds ingredients like beetroot, tofu, sauerkraut, jalepeno sauce and a special wild “globetrotter” card which is intended for people to use as a proxy for their own favourite ingredient.
What is your new favorite topping Burger of the World expansion?
Matt: As an Australian, definitely beetroot. Nothing makes a burger like beetroot does!
Which leads me to ask about real hamburgers for a second. What toppings are on your ultimate burger?
Matt: I like a classic “works” burger as we call them in Australia: a nice thick beef patty, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Egg, Beetroot and a nice BBQ sauce.
What is the weirdest topping you’ve ever had on a burger?
Matt: I’ve not really had any weird burgers.
Oh I don’t know, I think many readers would think egg and beetroot on a hamburger is pretty weird. What is an actual topping you’ve seen or heard on a burger that you would never try?
Matt: I’m not a fan of fish-based burgers. Maybe it’s a purism thing?
There is also a Burger Up recipe book you can download on BGG. This let’s you use the cards to play different versions of the game – like one inspired by Hanabi or Galaxy Truckers, correct? How did this come about?
Matt: This came about in a brainstorming session for Stretch Goals and a recipe book seemed like an obvious choice. Allen or Alistair from Rule & Make came up with the idea of “Game Recipes” and we all got excited by the possibility of paying homage to some our favourite games.
What is your favorite variant of the game, found in the recipe book?
Matt: I really like Between Two Burgers, because of the co-operative nature and because of the imagery that the name conjures up.
When you were still prototyping Burger Up what was the best piece of feedback you received from a playtester?
Matt: Early on a few playtesters game feedback that they felt that people who had better luck and drew cards which all went together had more of an advantage because they could place them all down, or that they felt compelled to place all 4 cards down, even if it would be more tactical to hold onto a card for a turn or two (to use on a different burger or use in the opposite orientation as a Perfect ingredient).
I took that on board and explored quite a few fixes. A simple change was to have a hand size of 4, but only play 3, which allows you to “bank” a good card for later. That simple change proved to quite a lot of depth.
What was your favorite part of designing the game?
Matt: I liked the iteration. Branching out and trying some absolutely crazy ideas, which either ended up in the bin, or led to something more, was really fun.
Several times during the development I came up with what I declared to be a “brilliant idea”, only to see that it was completely game-breaking and unplayable a mere 2 or 3 turns in.
Fail early, fail often is definitely my mantra for game design and development.
What about has been your favorite overall experience with Burger Up?
Matt: Engaging with our Kickstarter backers was my favourite part of the overall experience. They were so passionate and so eager to offer their ideas to help improve the game.
What was the most challenging part of designing the game?
Matt: The rulebook was tricky. The core idea was easy to convey and the game didn’t have too many edge cases or strange interactions, but covering everything in the rulebook and making it completely unambiguous, yet concise is difficult.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in designing Burger Up?
Matt: How accessible designing and publishing a board game is. Kickstarter drastically lowers the barrier to entry. If you’re reading this, you can probably design and publish a board game.
What is one thing we haven’t covered today that you think fans of Burger Up would find interesting?
Matt: In the first version of Burger Up, Top Bun cards were in the ingredient deck and players matched dynamic Orders in the center of the table (they stacked like Ingredient cards do and dictate what burgers could and could not have). When you finished a burger, you had to give it a name.
Several of the Top Bun cards in Burger Up are named after and inspired by particularly good names playtesters came up with.
When you step back and look at the finished product, what makes you the most proud that you designed Burger Up?
Matt: Interacting with fans at conventions makes me really proud. I love hearing their experience with Burger Up and seeing their passion.
If you had to describe Burger Up in 3 adjectives, what would you choose?
Matt: Delicious. Fun. Burger-ific.
For those interested in Burger Up how can they go about getting a copy?
Matt: You can purchase copies from your friendly local games store, or from www.ruleandmake.com
As we wrap this up, is there anything else you would like to add?
Matt: I’m still not sick of eating Burgers.
Thanks Matt for taking time out and sharing the story behind the game of Burger Up.