Interview by Nicholas Johnson @DraconickGaming
I noticed Six-Gun Showdown is listed as being both EU-friendly and US-friendly in terms of shipping. Why is it important to you to extend the availability of your game to these places?
Whilst the largest demographic of my backers, both current and in the past have been UK based, I have had a significant number from other EU countries and also from the USA. If my game and kickstarter campaign is appealing enough to people outside the UK to support me, it is my responsibility to support them by making sure I can deliver the game without them incurring additional fees.
With an estimated time of 5-10 minutes, the game is played quickly. Is there any particular reason you wanted to keep length of play short for this game?
For Six Gun Showdown I wanted the gameplay to match the theme as closely as possible and I believe I have managed that with the different gameplay elements. So, as a shootout is quick, the game has to be quick too.
The game features 6 characters, and they all have somewhat differing playstyles. It’s clear some of these characters have historical inspiration (as well as one you mention as being based on a previous character of yours from a Deadlands RPG.) Did you base the playstyles for the characters more around this concept and inspiration, or did you create the playstyles first and map the characters to them after?
I designed the playstyle to match the characters. The cowboy was always going to be the “middle of the road” character – not great at anything, but not poor at anything either. The links to my Deadlands character is that he is an illiterate farm-hand (hence the deliberate misspelling of his name) who carried two pistols.
I put together a list of character tropes that people would be familiar with. It is important to me that there was gender balance in the characters, so that also influence the characters chosen. Once I had my list, I designed the card decks and dice to fit. Most characters were fairly easy to design and only needed a few tweaks to their dice and decks. Lucky Jo however was trickier. It took about 6 months of development to get the bluff card mechanic.
You’ve described Six Gun Showdown as being designed with an opposite philosophy of one of your previous games, Vote ME! Were there any transferable skills or design elements from your previous games that went into Six Gun Showdown?
With each new game you learn things from your previous designs, even if it is more to do with the final product rather than the gameplay itself.
For example, for a prototype from one of my other games, Ka-Zing, I was given feedback that it was tricky to know how to get into the game if you have never played it before. Thus, for Six Gun Showdown I labelled 6 cards for Ezekial with the numbers 1-6, and 6 cards for Daisy with the numbers 7-12. For people new to the game they can take these 12 cards and learn the core game elements, and then progress into choosing cards from the rest of these decks once they feel ready.
You’ve demoed this game at a few conventions. How has the reception of Six Gun Showdown been so far, and have you received any feedback that led to significant changes?
The reception has been very positive – this evening for example, I had given a local troop of scouts one of my prototype copies. They tried it and they all loved it. I demoed the first very early prototypes at UK Games Expo 2018. It was well received and so it encouraged me to fully develop the game.
The development of Lucky Jo excepted, the most significant changes have been to the format of the card design. I have refined the front of the card layout based on feedback at different points to make everything clearer. The last changes will be made from the current prototype to the final cards, where I will be removing the different coloured circles from attributes that lack a number. This was based on feedback from a gent from Norwich.
Six Gun Showdown: Single Shot was an earlier iteration of this game that was somewhat reduced in size and scope, playable as a promo version of the full game. In what ways has the game evolved since then, and how does the full version differ?
Single shot is actually a later version. I adapted the full version to something that was smaller and could be sold in small £3 packs yet covered the core gameplay elements. It lacks some of the depth of gameplay and variety (both “single shot” characters use the same dice and play very similarly) but it gave my a way to see what interest there was in the game before launching the main campaign. The response to the small kickstarter was very positive, giving me confidence for the main launch.
I see that you have a few Kickstarters under your belt. How has the experience for this one been different, and what have you learned from your past experiences with it that other prospective designers might be able to learn from?
Firstly, always learn from your experiences and be prepared to learn from your successes, failures, and crucially from input from outside sources. The gaming community is very friendly and no-one wants you to fail, so any comments and criticism you may receive will have been intended to help you succeed.
Secondly – Time. You never have as much of it as you think.
Start the pre-marketing early. Send out preview copies of your prototypes with plenty of time for people to play them and produce content for you, and still have time for their commitments to other people and for anything unexpected to happen.
Start putting together your kickstarter page early. Next time realise you need to start it earlier! Critically, submit your Kickstarter page for approval with plenty of time so you don’t miss the date you have been advertising for months! You can still amend your page after it has been approved.
Thirdly, communication – post updates, talk/message your backers, other designers and other publishers. This goes back to point one – always learn from your experiences and communication provides you with more opportunities to learn.
From your Facebook and Twitter pages, it seems you’re very involved in local board gaming organizations and meetups. How has this helped with your development of Six Gun Showdown? You’ve talked about Sheffield Board Gamers playtesting it with you, but did you generate any early backers from these real-life connections?
I have definitively generated some of the early backers from real-life connections. Some are from the Sheffield Boardgames Club, some are those that have attended the monthly Playtest UK session held at the Treehouse Cafe in Sheffield. There are also backers that I have met at conventions and others I have met at the Birmingham Boardgame Bash events. Some of the backers for this campaign have backed my previous Kickstarters’ and I am very grateful to their continual support
I have benefited from the support and help of others and I think it is equally important that I help and support others. I have
What was the significance of launching the Kickstarter at the sixth of June, at six o’clock? Was “666” just something easy to mention and remember?
Exactly that – an easy to remember number.
As the game was going through development, it became apparent that summer 2019 would be when it would be ready for launch. My little sister’s birthday is actually the day before and we always referred to it as being the 5th of the 6th. This clearly stuck in my head, and so it seemed logical to have Six Gun launch on the 6th of the 6th at 6.
You state that there won’t be any additional game elements at any point, citing reasons of balancing and playtesting as a reason for not designing any more. However, you also mentioned that you’re working on something to allow for people to play in teams. Can you elaborate a bit on the reasoning behind your decision not to include extra game content, and how the proposed team-play rules might factor in to that?
From the start, I wanted the first full game of Six Gun Showdown to have six characters and so focused on developing these six despite having ideas for more characters than this. I will be designing and developing more characters, but these will be for future releases. I wanted to be honest and clear to my backers about what they could expect to receive in the box.
I have spent a lot of time stress-testing the existing six characters. If I was
I have several ideas that I will spend time developing on how to turn the game from a shootout to gunfight (think O.K Corale), but still use the same deck of cards and dice. I want to include a spatial/terrain element and enable characters to be differently armed (e.g. swapping their pistol for a rifle or shotgun). I have got some prototypes to help with this and will start testing over the summer. Critically, the adaption needs to maintain the tension of the current game, and so I imagine that there will be quite a lot of refining to undertake.
You list the game as being for ages 9+. In what ways have you taken efforts to specifically make the game kid-friendly?
The initial game design was not intentionally to be kid friendly, nor was it intended to be kid-unfriendly. However, with the “snap” element in the game, I suspected children might enjoy it. Once I had tested out the raw mechanics with very basic hand written prototypes with adults I made a set of prototypes that looked closer to the final thing. At this point I made sure that I got children to play the games (like I have with my previous games). I observe how children of different ages get on with the games before I reach a final age rating for the game.
For Six Gun Showdown, I initially thought that it would be acceptable for ages 8+. However, whilst most 8 year olds could play the game, they focused solely on the “draw” mechanic and didn’t use the other 60% of the cards. 9 year olds on the other hand tended to realise the benefits of choosing others cards first and so this influenced the age rating I put on the game.
I have given a local Scout group a prototype copy of the game and they have really enjoyed playing it and provided me with feedback. I consider the feedback given to me from children to be just as important to consider as feedback from adults.
In the interviews and gameplay demos I’ve seen, you seem to have solidified the mechanics and play of the game. Is it safe to say that the design process of the gameplay itself is done, or are there still some tweaks to be made before printing and delivery?
The core mechanics were locked in at the start of this year. Since then the game has been through a number of stress-testing play-test sessions to check whether the different characters are not unbalanced. As a result of these stress-test sessions I am confident that none of the six characters are overly powerful or overly weak.Thus the cards only need a minor tweak to formatting that I mentioned above.
The core rules have been written. I just need to finish (i.e write and re-write until the words are in a manner I am happy with) the background material for the characters and tournament play guidelines then lay it all out as a rule book.