Dale Yu – 9:07 PM
This year, the Opinionated Gamers are in an interesting position – normally we report back on the new games from Essen… but this year, we have a number of our writers who are involved in games of their own!  I thought it would be a good idea to get us in a chat room and discuss our new games for a bit.

[Based on the length of the chat, I will split this into at least 3 pieces for the blog, but what is published here is pretty much what we talked about without edits.  If you’ve ever been in a chat room, you know that the conversation gets a bit fractured from the lag.  There are a few places where I have re-ordered the chat to keep the conversations intact (and to make it easier to follow), but I have not changed any of the words of the participants.  The timestamps have not been altered, so you can try to follow my edits if you want.]


[Any extra text will also be denoted in brackets, just so you know]
The people involved:

Dale Yu – more of a host than anything else, though I do have a game (Suburbia Inc) which I have developed

Brian Yu – has 2 games coming out from Mattel Germany: Geister, Geister, Schatzsuchmeister, Kronen für den König

Jonathan Franklin – Plunder, from R&R Games

Brian Leet – New Haven, from R&R games

Ted Alspach – Suburbia Inc from Bezier Games (he also happens to own Bezier games)

W. Eric Martin – editor of BGG news.  He has no games that he’ll admit to designing

Jeff Allers – Artifact from White Goblin Games and Citrus from dlp games



Dale Yu – 9:55 PM
so, jeff – you’ve got two games. where do you want to start?
jeff allers – 9:56 PM
I wish I had more time to co-design with people.

Dale Yu – 9:56 PM
umm, at least one of your games is a co-design!
with Bernd, your game cafe buddy

jeff allers – 9:57 PM
Yes, Artifact goes back to the beginning of our friendship
He just moved to Berlin, fresh off of winning the Hippodice competition on his first attempt

jeff allers – 9:58 PM
We decided to show each other some of our unfinished prototypes
He took a really cool action/market mechanism that didn’t fit in his game and spliced it into my thematic-but-lacking archeology game

Dale Yu – 9:59 PM
so i’ve read the rules, and it sounds like a tiered worker placement game – with a timing mechanic.
you are placing tokens on spaces on the board, and depending on when you place them, that affects the costs or rewards of your actions?

jeff allers – 10:00 PM
It’s almost a “reverse worker-placement” in that actions are less expensive when there are more action markers there.
Players choose 6 actions they may want to take in the following round (they usually won’t take all 6, however), and they pay for an action only at that moment when they return the marker to the board and take that action.
Besides the timing aspect, it also gives players an opportunity to manipulate the prices of actions to mess with their opponents.

Dale Yu – 10:00 PM
how would you characterize the level of complexity? above or below say… Settlers? Carc?

jeff allers – 10:02 PM
Definitely higher than Carcassonne, perhaps slightly more complex than Settlers, especially with the “full game.” It’s difficult for me to judge, as I’m so familiar with it.  We always intended it to be for gamers, but it’s also not the most complex game out there and has a 60-90 minute playing time.


Jonathan Franklin – 10:04 PM
The two tiered ruleset appears to be a trend.  Was that something you created later in the process, or was it part of the game from the start?
Dale Yu – 10:02 PM
for readers of this blog, who likely read a lot about games and play a lot of games, would you suggest going straight to the full game, or is it still helpful to get a play of the base game in?

jeff allers – 10:02 PM
The base game made it to the final round of the Hippodice competition in 2009 (Nobleman won that year, and Hansa Teutonica was also in the top 6). The “expansion modules” were later added for more options and more “spice.”  I think that experienced gamers would not have a problem jumping into the full game right away.

Dale Yu – 10:03 PM
nice. so the base game is in good company then

Jonathan Franklin – 10:03 PM
For games with long gestation, sometimes there is a feeling of aging, as new games come out.  Did you see other games that felt related to yours come out between when you designed it and now?

jeff allers – 10:04 PM
Thankfully, Jonathan, no.  I was holding my breath with every archeology-themed game that came out during that time (at least 4 or 5)!
Brian Leet – 10:04 PM
how did you decide to do a game with both a base and expanded version, rather than just settling on a rules mix you like?

jeff allers – 10:06 PM
Brian– because the base game functioned well on its own and the expansions would be easy to separate component-wise, it made sense to offer versions that would make the game more accessible and more variable.

Dale Yu – 10:05 PM
when i first read the description, i thought this game was like Pergamon. But after reading the rules, it’s nothing like it at all…. only related with the theme

Ted Alspach – 10:05 PM
Would it have been possible to retheme the game? It seems pretty tightly integrated to the mechanics.

jeff allers – 10:08 PM
I like just about every Archeology-themed game out there, especially Pergamon and Thebes.  Artifact was always designed around the theme (except Bernd’s original action mechanism, of course).  Unlike other archeology games, however, Artifact does not have a high luck factor.


Ted Alspach – 10:09 PM
+1 for not having a high luck factor!

Jonathan Franklin – 10:06 PM
Do you have expansions in mind for it, if requested to do so?

jeff allers – 10:07 PM
Several of the expansions were my idea after Hippodice when I returned to the design, and some were from the publisher, White Goblin Games, after they signed it.  Keeping them separate in the rules was my idea. As for futher expansions for game, I have not worked on any since then.  If there is demand, however, anything is possible.

Dale Yu – 10:08 PM
cool. what about your other game?
does it come with expansions too?

Jonathan Franklin – 10:08 PM
Is Citrus a newer design than Artifact?

jeff allers – 10:09 PM
Yes, but Citrus also has its origins with Bernd–not as a co-designer, but as a competitor.

And, Dale, it doesn’t come with expansions, but does come with a shorter game variant and a family game variant.

Dale Yu – 10:09 PM
that’s interesting

jeff allers – 10:10 PM
The game actually started out as a competition entry for 2-player dice games.  I challenged Bernd to a “duel” to see who could come up with the best entries. He came up with some, and I came up the beginnings of Alea Iacta Est and Citrus. I like competitions because they challenge me to design within a very specific set of limits, which sometimes can be more inspiring than having complete freedom. Citrus evolved over the years into a multi-player tile-laying game, when it was refined enough to present to publishers.
The original theme was the Netherlands, however, and the game Seeland had just been released, so there wasn’t much interest at that time.  So I put it back in my closet to age a bit, then took it with me to Essen last year. I have Klemens Franz, the illustrator for the game, to thank for bringing it to the attention of dlp-games’ Reiner Stockhausen, who signed it right away and developed it further with me.  As a designer himself, Reiner was able to streamline the game further, and he even improved the game inadvertently when he mistranslated one of the rules from my English rulebook!

Dale Yu – 10:12 PM
well as long as Bernd’s entry wasn’t Peloponnes, then i’m sure you won!

Ted Alspach – 10:13 PM
Klemens is great to work with.

jeff allers – 10:13 PM

The competition was cancelled, but I think we both “won”  He’s also still developing the cool dice mechanic he came up with.  Look for it in the future from Irongames!

Dale Yu – 10:13 PM
sweet. do you want to tell us which rule improved with mistranslation?
or do we have to play it first to figure it out?

jeff allers – 10:14 PM
Maybe we should run a competition.  The winner gets to change any one rule in my next game:-)

Brian Leet – 10:14 PM
that could be fun!

Jonathan Franklin – 10:14 PM
It is not just translations, I have found improvements when someone misunderstood an unclearly drafted rule.


jeff allers – 10:15 PM
Actually, Jonathan, your avatar (Kahuna) recalls a certain game from a Berlin friend of mine whose rules were mistranslated and then changed, from what I’ve heard!

W. Eric Martin – 10:15 PM
Jeff’ designer diary for Artifact on BGG News: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/21450
His Citrus designer diary is still in the queue. Don’t want to have Allers overload…

Jonathan Franklin – 10:15 PM
Jeff, can you tell us about anything waiting in the wings?

jeff allers I have mostly light games and children’s games at publishers right now, but nothing definite yet. I have some heavier prototypes too, but if previous experience is any indication, those could take years :-)

Dale Yu – 10:15 PM
Brian – what can you tell us about your two new ones from Mattel. Any awesome mistranslation stories?

Dale Yu – 10:16 PM
Maybe brian went to go watch Breaking Bad?

brian yu – 10:17 PM
i was waiting for jeff to finish

jeff allers – 10:17 PM
I am hopelessly out of the loop when US TV is being talked about..sigh

Dale Yu – 10:17 PM
that’s ok. more time spent playing games. it’s better for you
so… most people have one game per year per company

brian yu – 10:18 PM
I have 2 new games at Essen this year – Geister, Geister, Schatzsuchmeister! and Kronen für den König.

Dale Yu – 10:18 PM
but you have 2 this year
what gives?

jeff allers – 10:18 PM
For the German market, only?

brian yu – 10:19 PM
I just got lucky. Mattel wanted to try and expand into the German Market with a serious push, so we did 2 games this year.
Yes for Germany only right now. If the games do well, hopefully we’ll see other language versions of them.

Jonathan Franklin – 10:19 PM
Are they targetting the same market?  Is one lighter or more ‘family’ than the other?

Dale Yu – 10:19 PM
because previously, Mattel Germany was still just doing things like Bezzerwizzer, Uno and non-strategy… so this is a turn into more Euro-style games?

Ted Alspach – 10:20 PM
Will both games be playable for English-speaking folks?

brian yu – 10:20 PM
They are both targeting the lighter side of the German market. When designing them I wanted to stick closer to the family game mold.
Geister is fairly language independant, Kronen has a fair bit of text on the board, so that one will be harder to play for non-German speakers

Jonathan Franklin – 10:21 PM
Does their continued interest in this market depend on how these two do?  Is that a ton of pressure?

brian yu – 10:21 PM
but the rules for both are only in German

Ted Alspach – 10:22 PM
So with the rules being only in German, how does that work with Mattel. Will they allow you to post English versions of the rules online?

Dale Yu – 10:22 PM
If there were only a website somewhere that people would post unofficial translations of games in some humongous database


jeff allers – 10:22 PM
Do you spend 100% of your time working at Mattel designing games, or is that only a small part of what you do there (similar to Google’s 20% philosoph)?

W. Eric Martin – 10:22 PM
I’ll confess that I botched my early preview of Brian’s games at Nürnberg. The rules in the Mattel booth (which is more of an airplane hangar than a booth and which is isolated from everything else) are that you can’t record video or take any images. For some reason, my brain translated that as “Don’t take notes”, so I had little to say about the games once I returned home and tried to sort everything out. Sorry, Brian! We’ll have to get you on camera in the BGG booth to make up for it.

brian yu – 10:22 PM
I’ll have to see on that one – I don’t know if  can post them, but if some fan wanted to translate them on the geek, that would be swell
yea – i’d love t do a video at the BGG booth

brian yu – 10:23 PM
actually, there should be an upcoming episode of Game Night with Geister


Dale Yu – 10:37 PM
so Brian, you said you’ve done a Gamenight with the BGG folks?
they’re right in your back yard

brian yu – 10:38 PM
yea – i got invited to go up to lincoln and nikki’s and film an episode

Ted Alspach – 10:38 PM
Fun! Which game?

brian yu – 10:38 PM
I brought a copy of Geister

Dale Yu – 10:39 PM
you want to explain that one real quick for those who don’t know about it?

brian yu – 10:39 PM
Geister, Geister, Schatzsuchmeister is a 2-4 player cooperative game. All the players work together as a team to get the 8 pieces of haunted treasure and their whole team out of the castle before it is fully haunted to win.

Dale Yu – 10:40 PM
is it possible to win? As I recall, I think i’m 0-9 against the game, but it must be the people I chose to play with me, right?

brian yu – 10:40 PM
Jeff – to answer your question, I only worked on board games at Mattel. I worked on a whole bunch at the same time, but only board games!

Brian Leet – 10:41 PM
I’ve only played once. I think we lost, but there was a clear error made in the late game that would have allowed the win.

brian yu – 10:41 PM
the game is winnable, but you have to be smarter than the game

Ted Alspach – 10:41 PM
Talk about the awesome pieces, Dale. What’s the process like to get those designed and made?
Brian, not Dale

brian yu – 10:41 PM
was that on purpose?

Ted Alspach – 10:41 PM

Dale Yu – 10:41 PM
(1 point for me in the annual competition)

Brian Leet – 10:41 PM
I can’t tell them apart either, Ted

Dale Yu – 10:42 PM
i will tell you, there will be at least 10 occasions at Essen where we will be mistaken for the other. One year, it was so bad, we started keeping score

brian yu – 10:42 PM
Geister has awesome bits. I’m really in love with them

Dale Yu – 10:42 PM
I once, at Origins, signed a copy of Brian’s game that some guy demanded that I sign.  So he might have the world’s only signed copy of Desert Bazaar
signed by Dale Yu
I must say, the games look nice. You didn’t use the in-house artists, I see

brian yu – 10:43 PM
I got really lucky – at Mattel, we work in a really tight-knit team atmosphere. I can’t draw. At all. So I was lucky enough to work with another designer at Mattel, Rawn Trinidad, and he helped create the minis
yea – these 2 games allowed me to fulfill a personal dream of having Piero and Michael Menzel do art for my games
Piero did Geister, Menzel did Kronen
Piero has a nice write-up of his process on Geister on his blog:

Dale Yu – 10:45 PM
permalink here: http://pierosurlalune.blogspot.com/2013/09/geister-geister-schatzsuchmeister.html

brian yu – 10:45 PM

Dale Yu – 10:45 PM
you’re on your own to translate into English from French though

brian yu – 10:45 PM
he actually wrote an english version, it’s threaded in the post

W. Eric Martin – 10:46 PM
I mentioned Pierô’s write-up in a BGG News post, and apparently he felt compelled to create an English version.

Dale Yu – 10:45 PM
So what about Kronen (Crowns) – how did that come about

brian yu – 10:46 PM
For Kronen für den König, I wanted to design my take on a worker placement game. I wanted to make a game with little ramp up time. In a lot of worker placement games, I feel like the first few turns are rote, so with Kornen, I wanted to try to minimize the amount of turns where you can’t do awesome things.
thanks for guilting him into it!

Dale Yu – 10:46 PM
permalink to bilingual version: http://pierosurlalune.blogspot.com/2013/08/geister-geister-schatzsuchmeister-la.html
so the start makes it different from Caylus. What else?
brian yu – 10:48 PM
the core concept is you need to pay to hire the artisans to use their special powers. It started out as a dice game, but the lack of planning ahead lead me to change it to a card play mechanism
When I first played the game at work, my group is apparently very non-confrontational. we all loved the design. But then I got the chance to get some play testing in at the Gathering and the players there really opened my eyes to a potential vicious cycle

Dale Yu – 10:50 PM
Oh really? I think I might have been involved in that playtest game. I can’t wait to see what you’ve done to it

brian yu – 10:50 PM
I went back and retooled the game to what is coming out now.

jeff allers – 10:50 PM
Mattel does a lot of license tie-ins.  Was it every suggested or attempted to get a popular movie/TV license for either of your games?

Ted Alspach – 10:50 PM
Barbie’s Nanny’s workday game sounds like it might have been a good theme for Kronen.

brian yu – 10:51 PM
No – luckily, i was able to design these games from the ground up. It was always my intention to make games that would fit in the German market
Yea – Dale, you played the original “nasty” version

Dale Yu – 10:52 PM
i actually hope the new version is friendlier. my kids would not have enjoyed the version i played
but i do think the world needs more family style/entry level worker placement games
not named waterdeep

brian yu – 10:53 PM
well, hopefully this fits the bill

W. Eric Martin – 10:53 PM
Ideally you don’t need to sell 50,000 copies to succeed in Mattel’s eyes.

brian yu – 10:54 PM
i can’t talk numbers, but suffice it to say Mattel has realistic expectations on what success is in this market.

Dale Yu – 10:54 PM
Suburbia would love another 50,000 buyers   just sayin’

jeff allers – 10:55 PM
I was just getting into the hobby at the time, so I can’t recall if 2006’s Desert Bazaar was aimed at the German market, or only the U.S. market?

brian yu – 10:55 PM
oh – something that came up in Jeff’s section that might be nice to talk about here: Geister has 2 levels of play. Normal and Advanced.

W. Eric Martin – 10:55 PM
I know that mainstream publishers definitely have different expectations from the hobby publishers we normally care about, so it’s good to hear that.

brian yu – 10:56 PM
Desert Bazaar and Voltage were german-style games, but targeted at the US Hobby Market at the time.


Dale Yu – 10:24 PM
so Jonathan, I just had a chance to play your game and write it up. It’s called Plunder
i described it as a light deduction game

Jonathan Franklin – 10:24 PM
Yes, a piratey deduction game.

Dale Yu – 10:25 PM
My timbers were shivered, that’s for sure

Ted Alspach – 10:25 PM
Caribbean or Somalian?

jeff allers – 10:25 PM
I was so glad to be able to read about it before this chat!  Sounds like fun!

Jonathan Franklin – 10:25 PM
After a game of Black Vienna or Sleuth, people seem tired.  The goal of Plunder was to create a fun quick deduction experience.

Dale Yu – 10:25 PM
it is definitely quick. first game took 30 mins. 2nd took about 20
that is a big plus for me

Jonathan Franklin – 10:26 PM
As Dale mentioned, you can play a 6 player game with legitimate puzzling in 30 minutes or so.
I love what Frank and R&R have done with the base idea.  It works well and you can be as piratey as you want.

Brian Leet – 10:26 PM
so, there is a bit of a speed element at the end of each round as you want to quickly mark your card and set it down if you think you know an answer?

brian yu – 10:27 PM
did you set out wanting to design a pirate game?

Jonathan Franklin – 10:27 PM
I am not keen on murder or mayhem, so I was looking for a scenario where everyone is skulking around at the same time.  Pirates worked and the world of clipart is a wonderful thing.
Gems, gold, and beautiful things are fairly universal, so the game can work in a wide array of people enjoying their Ayes and Nays.

Dale Yu – 10:29 PM
Brian – to answer your question, players can make answers at any time, not just the end of the round
you have to try to figure stuff out as quick as you can. or be willing to guess a bit
it’s a nice tension

Jonathan Franklin – 10:30 PM
I have played deduction games where it is multiplayer, but each person is deducing something just on the person to their left or right, which means it is easy to tune out when it does not matter.  I wanted everyone involved all the time
Yes, you can be fast and score more, but I have also seen people curse and beg to take back their slip because they were trying to be so fast that htey messed up.
It felt quite real world.

Brian Leet – 10:31 PM
Nice, I think that aspect is what I find most appealing to try

Jonathan Franklin – 10:31 PM
Again, no one should bet their house on a game of Plunder, but it is a great way to spend 30 minutes and have a sense of achievement, whether you win or lose.

Brian Leet – 10:32 PM
Do you frequently playtest with players who bet their house on your games?

jeff allers – 10:32 PM
And I’ve been beating my head against the wall trying to figure out how to breath new life into the deduction game genre.  Sounds like you did just that!

Jonathan Franklin – 10:32 PM
nope, but sometimes players take games seriously even when they are not intended to be taken that way.
I hope so. It is always a good sign when you don’t tire of playtesting your own game.

Brian Leet – 10:33 PM
Agreed, deduction card games are a tough genre. I love Sleuth so much when I was young it is hard to break out of that expectation

Ted Alspach – 10:33 PM
You should probably insist on there being a “don’t bet your house” disclaimer on the box. Just in case.

Jonathan Franklin – 10:33 PM
Ted, I have a game design for you called “Don’t Bet the House!”  We’ll talk later.

Ted Alspach – 10:34 PM
I totally agree that if you love playtesting your own game, and when you stop finding things to fix change, you still want to play it (and show it), that’s exactly where you need to be.

Dale Yu – 10:34 PM
and then you get a developer

Brian Leet – 10:34 PM
absolutely Ted!

Jonathan Franklin – 10:34 PM
According to Ted, that is when the publisher get sone.

brian yu – 10:34 PM
yea – thats the place you want to be for sure. it’s rare…

Ted Alspach – 10:35 PM
I can’t WAIT to show off my games at Essen. That’s even more fun for me than picking up new games. And that’s pretty amazing.

Jonathan Franklin – 10:35 PM
I have to go, but would love to do this again, even if it is not for a column.
I think it must be gratifying as a publisher.

Dale Yu – 10:35 PM
maybe we’ll do this again with the OG people going to essen

Jonathan Franklin – 10:36 PM
As a designer, the process is quite long.  I think Plunder was seen by R&R over 18 months ago.

Ted Alspach – 10:36 PM
But that’s Frank, he’s a slacker.

Jonathan Franklin – 10:36 PM
I am excited to play Plunder as a player, but I have started thinking about other challenges.
Actually, that is really fast.
There are plenty of games that are signed and come out 60 months later or not at all.

brian yu – 10:37 PM
it’s still awesome just as a designer. to see people getting excited about your game. there’s something visceral about seeing someone face to face – way better than reading about it on the internets

jeff allers – 10:37 PM
I think that’s why we like to play tabletop games in the first place!

Jonathan Franklin – 10:37 PM
I agree.  That is a great topic for a chat too.


Dale Yu – 10:58 PM
anyways, thanks to everyone for showing up at this hangout
it’s an exciting time with many of us having new games coming out at Essen this year

brian yu – 10:58 PM
thanks for having us – this was fun!

Brian Leet – 10:58 PM
Thanks for organizing us and hosting!

Ted Alspach – 10:58 PM
It was fun. We should do this again, but on a night when there’s not the penultimate episode of a highly acclaimed dramatic series airing.

jeff allers – 10:59 PM
Great to hang out with ya’ll

brian yu – 10:59 PM
meh – i told you, it’s all a dream

Dale Yu – 10:59 PM
you’re right. we’ll do it on the ultimate night of BrBa for the enxt one

W. Eric Martin – 10:59 PM
I’ll join in for the 2014 session.

Brian Leet – 10:59 PM

Dale Yu – 10:59 PM
maybe we’ll do one in 3 weeks or so to talk about what our plans are for the actual Essen trip

brian yu – 10:59 PM
you’ll find out Walter was crushed by the bathtub from season 1 episode 2 and this is all his dying dream.

Ted Alspach – 11:00 PM

jeff allers – 11:00 PM
I’m just happy to get college football on the TV again

Dale Yu – 11:00 PM
Walter? I thought it was JR who had the dream. No wait, it was Sue Ellen who was dreaming about JR

W. Eric Martin – 11:00 PM
That bathtub only maimed me.

Ted Alspach – 11:00 PM
You forgot to say “spoiler alert”. For people who haven’t watched the first episode, they’ll know that Walter survives through it. Nice.

Brian Leet – 11:00 PM
well, I need to go. Thanks guys! Can’t wait to see most of you in a month

Dale Yu – 11:01 PM
yup. see you! thanks again everyone

Ted Alspach – 11:01 PM
Bye all, I’m off to dinner and DVR with the wife.

jeff allers – 11:02 PM
Thanks–and it was fun to hear a little about your job and your games!  Hope they go over well in Germany!

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Essen 2013. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. brianfrahm says:

    Great job guys. Enjoyed the banter and the info about your games. Wish I were going to Essen this year… alas, it remains a bucket list item!

  2. Clyde W. says:

    Jeff, what games inspired you to create Citrus? I sort of got a vaguely Carson City-like feel to it, although it’s considerably more abstract. Perhaps it was just the Cowboyeepls.

  3. Clyde W says:

    (See my Comments on BGG for my thoughts on Carson City.)

  4. jeffinberlin says:

    Hi Clyde,
    I have not yet played Carson City, so I can’t say if there are similarities. From what I remember reading, though, CC was more of a worker placement game, right?
    Citrus is really an “old-school” tile laying game with battles for position and majorities and races to reach bonus tiles seeded on the board. It’s an homage of sorts to the classic tile-laying games of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, back when I first entered the hobby.
    The original mechanisms have to do with the economics and timing of when to let go of some of your plantations in order to earn a better income so that you can put more plantations on the board. One reviewer described it as a “circle of life,” which I think describes it well.
    Hope you enjoy it!

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