Ghosts Love Horticulture – A Conversation With…Danny Devine

This time Tom’s joined by Danny Devine. Danny is the awesome designer of Ghosts Love Candy, the hotness from Steve Jackson Games, and several other super games.

Tom: Welcome back. Remind people who Danny Devine is.

Danny: I am a mild-mannered illustrator/graphic designer residing in Reno Nevada. In my spare time I like to make games which is probably why you’re talking to me. I have 4 published games so far with a 5th one on the way.

Game design wise you are doing pretty well. What are your games?

My first game was Mob Town, which is currently with Trfl in Poland. Ghosts Love Candy is with Steve Jackson Games, Circle the Wagons from ButtonShy, Topiary from Italian publisher Fever Games, and Harvest Dice will be released by Grey Fox Games later this year.

I love Mob Town. Is there any chance of it getting a real U.S. release?

Maybe, I have the US rights to it still. I haven’t been shopping it around at all, but it might find a new home someday.

Hey, publishers! Sign this game! It’s money in the bank family friendly one with just enough think and take that to satisfy gamers. It has great art, been playtested and successfully Kickstarted, and another publisher sees how fantastic it is. Call Danny. So Danny, how do you find the fun in a game?

I’m looking for the puzzle. What decisions am I giving the player, how hard are those decisions to make. When a player makes a choice, do they feel clever? To me, that’s what the fun is in a game, feeling clever.

That’s really good. I like that “…do they feel clever?”. I need to remember that.

The Controlling Idea – This is the idea that you are designing for a certain player experience. What are you trying to achieve for the player? What experience do you want them to have?

I strive for a smooth experience all around, none of my games are hard to teach, learn or play. They are often classified as “fillers” but for a lot of people, myself included, that’s mostly what I play. I don’t want new players to feel lost when playing with someone that’s played before.

I play a lot of those too. Ghosts was a sad story that turned real glad. Steve Jackson Games has really been supporting it. Even sponsoring Ghosts Love Candy Days recently and running banners on BGG. Must feel pretty good.

It does feel really good! Steve Jackson Games not only pulled this game out of the mud, but they made a really nice final product. I have seen banners for it at trade shows, people have been posting pictures on Twitter, and something I never thought I would see was one of my games for sale at my FLGS. Indescribable feeling 🙂

What is your most recent / current game?

My most recent game to be released was Ghosts Love Candy. Before that was Topiary, which currently is only available in Italy (hopefully it hits the US market soon!). Currently I am finishing up Harvest Dice and starting a couple of new projects.

Why don’t you talk about each of those? Start with GLC.

Ghosts Love Candy – A lighthearted family game about haunting children on Halloween and stealing their candy. I realize that doesn’t sound family friendly but it has really cute art and is more whimsical than terrifying. You can find this game pretty much everywhere at this point.

Topiary – A puzzly game about visiting a beautiful topiary garden (topiaries are what you call bushes that have been sculpted by the way). It’s a beautiful game where every turn counts a nice blend of tactics, strategy and luck. This one is only available in Italy at the moment, but they are looking to get a wider release soon!

Harvest Dice – A cute roll & write game where players draft dice, then draw vegetables into an empty garden. Don’t worry, the veggies are really easy to draw and a lot of fun. Any veggies you can’t plant, you get to feed to your adorable pig. This game is at the printers now, so it should be ready later this year from Grey Fox games.

Can you talk about the new projects?

I have 3 designs I am in early prototyping stages with, nothing is really that far along though. I’m working on a press your luck card game, another roll & write, and I am trying my hand at a more serious themed euro style game.

Pitch tag: Pitch a game about – laundromats. GO!

This game would be about timing, you have a lot to do so you need to make sure you are washing, drying and folding as efficiently as possible. I can see it being a real-time game using sand timers. You lose points if the timers ever run out so you have to keep moving!

That sounds pretty cool. What is the game design trap that you fall into the most?

Ghosts – with art by Danny himself!!

Starting final artwork was too soon in the process. Like I said before, I am an illustrator and graphic designer by trade, so when I am thinking of a new game, I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the art. Since most games don’t work out right away I end up shelving a lot of games. I often spend more time doing art for than playing on prototypes. It’s something I need to get better at. Prototype faster, so you can fail faster. Once its stable, bring out the polish.

I need to proto faster. I tinker too much. How do you battle designer’s block?

I try and play new games, or something I have not played in a while. Or if I can’t get a game night together, I watch video reviews of games. If I am designing a dice game, I’ll look for geeklists of the 10 best dice games, then go on BGG and look them up. Seeing what other people have done is truly inspiring.

What is your favorite part of game design?

When the game just works for the first time. It might be right away or it could take a few tries. When you test a game and the poor sap you suckered into playing a broken game with you says “That was fun!”. Knowing you are onto something is so motivating! Plus, that’s usually the point where i get to start doing art 🙂

Oh, yeah. That is really cool. Least favorite?

Writing the rules. Ughhhhhh I wish I could just paste a QR code directly to my brain so I never had to put the rules on paper.

Wouldn’t that be great. I have a hard time too. And I write protocols at work all the time. You’d think I would be good at it.

BEST EVER design tip, both that you give and that you have received?

Best advice I have received, don’t be afraid to put your game out there and share your ideas. No one is going to steal your idea for a board game. The industry is filled with passion, meaning that people don’t get into the board game industry to get rich, they do it because they LOVE board games. From designers to publishers to the owner at your FLGS, they got into this hobby for the community, they are here to support you and welcome you into the hobby not to run off and make “millions” off your idea. Put yourself out there, learn from other people.

Oh, and if you can become really good friends with other kick-ass designers, that really helps too (Shout out to Steven Aramini!)

Yup. I totally agree. And you are one of mine! One of the perks of doing this blog thing, I’m friends with some really cool designers.

What is your favorite thing that you have had to throw out of a game?

Well up until Harvest Dice, it was dice! I had a running joke with my game group about dice in my games, because I always started with them and never kept them. Mob Town and Ghosts Love Candy were both dice driven at first, but because of the unwieldy nature of dice, I switched to cards.

What is something about you that most of us would not know?

I love “bad” movies. I think I have seen more direct to DVD horror movies than I have Emmy Award winning ones. I would rather rewatch “The Room” than watch best picture of the year. While I love the cult classics like Army of Darkness and Dead Alive. I am a real sucker for Werewolves. Not sure why, I just love an awesome looking werewolf! So many movies and TV shows opt for the human into actual wolf type werewolf, no, that is lazy boring and not ok. I want a crazy detailed animatronics suit on an actor, larger than life standing on two ferocious hind legs. My favorite werewolf movies include The Howling, Dog Soldiers & Bad Moon. There are some sweet looking werewolves in Trick ‘r Treat as well.

We are brothers in this. I love bad movies too. Especially the old ones. I love horror movies from the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. The Howling is SO good. I need to watch the other. I enjoyed the recent Wolf Man for the most part but hated the ending. Have you seen Werewolf of London? It’s fun. I like the practical effects much better too.

Werewolf in London is also great, one of the better “transformation” scenes. Practical effects are so much more entertaining. Practical effects are the reason Jurassic Park will never look dated! That movie is absolutely stunning!

Yeah, it seems directors are moving back to practical effects more and more. I think it is because they don’t cause you to be jolted out to the movie by some obvious computer generated effect.

Well, Danny. It has been super talking to you again. Thanks for being my guest.

Readers, you should pick up Ghosts Love Candy asap. It’s great. Keep your eyes open for Topiary and Harvest Dice.

As always, you can contact me on Twitter –@tomgurg, email –, or leave a comment.

Thanks for reading!!

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