BrettSpiel is a blog about board game design, written by game designer Brett J. Gilbert.

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Coffee Morning

In which I meet Jackson Pope, and am able to combine my twin passions: board games and coffee drinking!

This morning I had the very great pleasure of meeting Jack, writer of the Creation and Play blog and publisher-in-chief at Reiver Games. We had arranged to meet in a coffee shop in Bedford, although Jack had the upper hand here, since my mugshot adorns these pages; how was I to tell him apart from the crowd of Bedfordian coffee drinkers? In the end we spotted each other simultaneously; the give-away for me was the game board sticking out of his carrier bag. (A shifty looking bloke had come in a few minutes before with a box in a bag, but he really didn’t seem the gaming type, and I was relieved when he left.)

Our mutual ‘show and tell’ session involved Jack taking me through all the materials for his upcoming release Sumeria, and me briskly pitching one of my prototypes.

The Sumeria materials were fascinating; Jack had proofs and plots and ‘white samples’ aplenty. He also had nothing but praise for the German manufacturers Ludo Fact, who sounded the apotheosis of professionalism. It was so nice to hear that they treated him and his business with such care. Perhaps the company is run by true gaming fanatics, and the pleasure of a well-engineered game is bred in the bone?

He also told an illuminating and salutary tale of the benefits of blind play-testing. In Sumeria’s case this highlighted a subtle mathematical truth about the game’s scoring mechanism which surprised Jack and Dirk Liekens, the game’s designer. Perhaps a game design can never really be considered truly complete? And how delightful, in a way, that a game may hold the capacity to surprise its designer! (P.S. ‘Bravo!’ to the playtester in question.)

Jack’s experience of becoming a game publisher — and there’s plenty more about that on his blog! — seems a positive, heartening one. It also sounds like a lot of hard work, of course, but I believe the business as a whole is a relatively benign and meritocratic one. Cream rises; effort is rewarded; and good games, good design and good people prosper.

They say that if you can find a job you like, you’ll never do a day’s work. I’m fairly certain that’s not actually true in most practical cases, and certainly when it comes to more creative endeavours. The personal and intellectual investment necessary is too demanding for the work to be so tritely dismissed as effortless.

I’ve always thought it better to consider the following, hopefully less trite, maxim:

Work is what you do for others. Art is what you do for yourself.

Stephen Sondheim

Hiya Brett,

Great to meet you too. I agree about the quotes at the end - I work very hard on Reiver Games, but I'm doing it as much for myself as anyone else.



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