By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Dan Spiller is a name in the Downtown Victoria gaming and nerd scene. He has high hopes Ruby Roundup! a game he made will set a new standard for what card games can offer to gamers and it is on Kickstarter for those who want to help bring it to a larger market. He’s the creative mind behind the newly minted, Always Gold Games. It’s one part board game and two parts random draw. It’s been in development for a few years, and the goal is to accumulate treasure to win. It’s kind of like the days of hunting for gold; stake your claim and dig up as much mineral as you can to get a lot of money. This product had been getting test demos at local events, and according to this game designer, it is not like other card games currently in the market.
His experience in development stems from not only his passion for this subculture but also in being a lifelong enthusiast. He is one of the principal operators of Yellowjacket Games and Comics here in this city. This store is one of five hubs in the capital region to host Magic the Gathering events. When the staff is just as enthusiastic playing these games as they are in making them, it’s a good sign anything they like to create will have that passion behind it too!
This establishment does not limit itself to just this one game either. While this Wizards of the Coast product brings a lot of the downtown residents (and nearby) here, there’s also comics to be found and the occasional oddity which always bring me back here to discover. They tend to have a lot more variant comic book covers on display than other operations; To browse here is always a delight. When I’m on the hunt for specific MtG card for my jank decks, I tend to come here first when I’m in town. I had the opportunity to speak to Spiller about his game. The Western theme caught my attention, and I hope that after crowdfunding, it can be purchased via mail order or at this store.
DS: I first started working in the gaming industry because I was drawn to a game called Magic the Gathering. I quickly became friends with Dave Herder, the original owner of Yellowjacket Comics and Toys, who immediately hired me due to my ability to learn and teach new games (Pokemon had just come out and it was being completely overrun by a throng of super-enthusiastic youths).
What were some of the games which influenced you while growing up?
DS: I started off with family light games such as with Monopoly and Risk—before moving into heavy strategy games such as Axis and Allies and Mechwarrior. Before Ruby Roundup! I made three other games – A role-playing game called Boundless, a card game variant of said RPG, and the predecessor to Ruby Roundup! none of which I tried to market.
Is there a backstory?
DS: This isn’t a narrative based game — you pick a character, fight over the various claims, then someone wins. Most characters “represent” the various themes of the game, or are designed to manipulate its mechanics. For example, The character Ruby manipulates the Ruby treasures you can get from claims, while Oberon the Wise manipulates drawing cards.
How did this idea come about?
DS: Originally I wanted to design a game that had super easy rules, yet was complex enough. It began sort of as a chess-like duel but it didn’t scale well beyond two players. It felt a little dry and dragging. So I threw out the core game and changed it to something with a lot more chaos, shenanigans, and fun interactions. Ruby Roundup! was born – and I never looked back!
How many months or years would you say this has been in development?
DS: Technically Ruby Roundup! is one and a half years old, but I didn’t work on it “full time” so to speak – probably 8 hours a week, with a bunch more time placed on demoing it and polishing it up for production.
Why the Wild West theme?
DS: Happenstance really – when I decided to change the game from calculating and brooding to bluffing and gaining treasure, the natural “draw” to the Wild West gold rush era (treasure) and stealing those claims (bluffing/interactions) fit like a glove.
What were the challenges in play-testing?
DS: It required at least 3 players to play, and since it had a large bluffing mechanic I couldn’t just test a bunch of games myself. I overcame this conundrum quite quickly by leaning heavily on symmetrical game design, with almost 100% of my playtime being geared at making the game fun and interactive whenever I could find a playgroup.
In terms of the gameplay you previously demonstrated at local events like Van Isle Con, what kind of skills will it help players hone?
DS: “Organic Game Play” is a term I like to use when describing Ruby Roundup! The game rewards adaptation to change and enhances aspects such as: Bluffing, keen observation, and min/maxing your gains and losses in real-time. Despite seemingly chaotic, Ruby Roundup! has only 2 cards that add any significant random elements, making the majority of decisions and chaos completely in the players hand!
Who do you think will gravitate to this product?
DS: Ruby Roundup! is geared to be a light fun game that takes less than an hour to play. This makes it ideal for people that don’t have a lot of time, or for people who want to play games with people that might be reluctant to play games (non-gamer girls, parents, children, etc). Anyone between the ages of 9-90 will have a blast, and it’s still deep enough to make people really think about their moves and dig into it. If anything – it’s the opposite of its predecessor, so it’s NOT for people who like dry 8-hour games…
Who did you commission as artists?
DS: Kitt Lapena did all the art. Kitt has done lots of art for me before (mostly fantasy art for a game called Boundless I posted online in 2008), and is quite talented in an array of things from landscapes, characters, to borders and templating.
Why use Kickstarter over another crowdfunding medium?
DS: Currently Kickstarter is the most popular medium for board games, as well as the most far-reaching. I dove into Kickstarter just as much for the advertising as I did for the crowdsourcing.
What will some of the stretch goals be?
DS: To set it apart from other games I’ve already snuck in a ton of secrets and Easter eggs in the base game, but in addition I want to: Add a metal sheriff’s star to represent first place, foil all of the win condition cards, have even nicer player pieces (which are already excellent!) and have a cloth playmat as an add-on. Other cards, characters, and mats/art books would be nice as well – but I can stretch those as we go.