Benny interviews up and coming game designer, Derik Duley. They discuss his roll & write game, Ancient Artifacts, and his plans for the future.
Benny: Welcome everyone, today I’m visiting with an up and coming game publisher and designer, Derik Duley. Derik is preparing to release his game, Ancient Artifacts, a roll and write adventure! Coming to Kickstarter August 2017
What inspired you to design Ancient Artifacts?
Derik: Well, over a year ago, Ryan Sanders (The Inquisitive Meeple) introduced me to roll and write games by asking me to make one. While it started on a sheet of paper, the project quickly exploded into cards and tons of tokens. He also made some notes in my private forum for the idea of players drafting dice and using them on a rondel. I “failed” but the seed was planted.
A few months ago, I heard about this game called Wurfel Pie. I reached out to the designer out of curiosity and was blessed with the opportunity to play a ton of Benny Sperling roll and write games. Then, I received Octodice (Alderac) – which uses a few tiles as a board – and my mind was BLOWN.
I wanted to tell a story – send players on a multi-stage adventure. Mr. Sanders’ note gave me an operation I could use a board for. The first draft was basically Mad Max traveling around the wasteland trying to gather supplies. It allowed me to build a rondel with several locations and different actions. Unfortunately, my desire for the board and direction the sheet was going didn’t make sense with the theme. So, I went to Twitter. Carla Kopp (TIGR’s own!) recommended Indiana Jones and it was PERFECT!
With my sights set on Indy, everything fell into place in about a day. As I fleshed out each step on the player sheet, I just kept asking myself “How would this work in OctoDice and Wurfel Pie?” No joke, “What would Sperling do?” fixed a few roadblocks 🙂 And that was it!
I’ve played AA, it’s a great game! How did you find the right mix of game mechanics for it?
That is very kind of you to say. Partly, dumb luck (also called persistence). I spent a lot of time analyzing OctoDice and Wurfel Pie, and came to the conclusion that the different ways to use the exact same dice were the key to their fun. And that’s what allowed the draft to be so good.
Drafting dice to choose your location was only a means to get to the sheet, though. I tried to keep the same mindset of dual purpose on the sheet but I was still carrying push-your-luck from the previous version. Building sets and runs were the only other things I knew how to do with dice, so I tried that out. Turns out, some results building gradually and other results being all-or-none worked thematically and felt really good, too.
Check out this related TIGR story
You’ve made a decision to self-publish under Lagniappe Games. What do you see as the benefits of this path versus a traditional publisher? Do you have any concerns?
I wish I could say I had a unique answer here. I went for the typical benefits: control over MY game, ability to publish anything else I want (because it’s unappreciated or touches my heart), and the chance to build a business I can poor my heart in to. Ugh, there are so many concerns, but they are almost all related to execution. Did I calculate shipping correctly? Did I withhold enough money for taxes? How accessible is this game? It can be a tad unnerving sometimes, but it’s an adventure I’m excited to be on.
Where does the name Lagniappe come from?
Lagniappe is a French word for a gift or bonus – “something extra”. I chose the name because I want the company’s priority to be people. Customers and designers should come away feeling like they got something extra – more than they paid for, even.
You have attempted a Kickstarter before. How will that your knowledge from that one help Ancient Artifacts?
Yes sir, I did. Hot Pursuit failed for a few distinct reasons which guide most every decision I will make for Kickstarter campaigns going forward. The game was a tough sell – sketchy player count (1-10), low components (32 cards), and a brain burning filler. Worse yet, I had almost nothing to share to generate interest: the cards only needed 4 illustrations, I only had two reviews, I didn’t take pictures at the two conventions I attended, and I didn’t even have how-to-play videos ready for launch.
I will never launch a campaign again without actually being ready. I HAVE to take pictures, share on social media, and feature eye catching illustrations. I think most importantly, though, I am now willing to let other publishers have some of my games when they clearly can handle them better than me.
How long have you been designing games?
Roughly 5 years. Up until recently, I’ve been too cautious to go anywhere/do anything with the work.
Do you have an heroes in the game design community?
In no particular order:
Benny Sperling. This guy is crazy prolific, terribly nice, and excels with a component that I just can’t wrap my head around: standard six-sided dice. He has more than a few auto-buy games coming in the next year or two. (Author note: thank you for the kind words, Derik!)
Jason Dinger. Another awfully nice indie designer, Mr. Dinger broke onto the scene with a game that stopped me dead at work: Captains of the Gulf. He seems to excel at another thing I’ve failed to conquer in nearly 5 years: making games about Louisiana. This guy makes me homesick like no other. He also just happens to be a thorough and clever designer.
While these two have had a huge impact in my recent life, there are so many minor heroes, too.
You mention being home sick for the Gulf. Tell us about New Orleans, would it make a cool setting for a game?
Mon dieu! New Orleans is stupid hot and muggy and infested with mosquitoes. But it is also covered in old vegetation, surrounded by wildlife, and filled with a friendly mixing pot of people who celebrate incredible food, lively music, and the decaying old city.
While I love the place (I cried when I found my favorite author’s last books before he died were set there), it’s tough to gauge how other people will feel. The real challenge setting games there, as opposed to movies and books, is that we tend to really lean on the audience’s familiarity with the setting. Mr. Dinger and I were both pretty floored to see how many people jumped on board for Captains of the Gulf based on theme and story alone. To be fair, he does an amazing job of setting the theme in that game.
There are so many opportunities there, though. It has a long, notorious history of corrupt police, was a critical port and supply lane during the Civil War, and and, thanks to its history as a French, then Spanish, then French again, and finally US territory, had some fairly unique traditions. I’d love to make a game about the downtown tribes coming together every year to make a new suit for their chief and compete with dancing and singing; Mike Mullins was a finalist in last year’s Cardboard Edison Award with a game about street bands; and Mr. Dinger is even working on a farming game about sugar cane (Louisiana’s #1 crop).
What are your top 5 favorite games?
7 Wonders, Isle of Trains, Into a New World, Captains of the Gulf, and Santorini.
What is next for you on the design horizon?
Well, next for Lagniappe (after Ancient Artifacts) is a game from my friend Craig Chenoweth called Space Bacon. Players are pigs racing through SPAAAAAAAAAAACE!!!!!!!!!! I’m also trying to get my hands on pretty much anything from that Jason Dinger guy.
Personally, I’m still trying to make that Mad Max roll and write work, and I’m also trying to build a cyber-noir detective game with an expansive story, persistent game elements (Legacy-ish), and which (hopefully) teaches itself.
But I think I’m most excited about a series of pocket-sized book games that I’m working on. Each one has to be crazy cool and special to make the small format worthwhile. The first one is a solitaire roll and write civilization game featuring legacy-style progression and an evolving story. Stay tuned to find out more!
It’s interesting you mentioned wanting to get your hands on a Jason Dinger game to possibly publish. How does the developer hat suit you?
Oh my goodness I love it. I mean, I HAVE to design – if I don’t that creative energy builds up and festers within me. But developing just makes my heart happy. It’s the one activity which combines all my joys: playing, problem solving, finessing, and helping. That time spent working with someone else to make their pet project better is just… I will do everything I can to do that for the rest of my life.
Thank you so much for your time, Mr. Sperling! It means a lot to me that you have so much faith in/excitement for Ancient Artifacts. 😄
Thank you, Mr. Duley for bringing an excellent and challenging game like Ancient Artifacts to the board game table! Looking forward to your next great adventures!