Developer Spotlight: Dr. Finn’s Games
PAX Unplugged was an unforgettable experience that granted me unfettered access to some of the hottest, newest, latest, and greatest board games in the industry. It is my great joy to bring these experiences to all of you and open the gates to new hobbies and pastimes. In this series we will learn more about the industry and different companies directly from people in the thick of it. These will be released in standard Q&A format with answers transcribed from audio taken during Unplugged. Some answers may have been edited for clarity as the actual interview was done in a discussion format that gave the developers, designers, and staff more room to talk about their ideals and products.
This is our Developer Spotlight series, please enjoy!
Now Interviewing: Dr. Finn from Dr. Finn’s Games
Q: So you’re a philosophy professor right? How does that influence the games you make, if at all?
A: Philosophy has given me skills in writing rule books and helping pick themes, but I try to keep philosophy my day job and board games my hobby. I was studying medieval philosophy at the time which is how I ended up with Biblios. Usually with my games, the mechanics come first. For example, Biblios has people who say it is a pasted on theme, but I feel that most Euro games could be anything. Catan could’ve been anything.
C.O.G. is relatively different. One day I said to myself, what would happen if Stephen Feld (Castles of Burgundy, one of my favorite game designers) designed Scrabble? So I combined a worker placement game with a typical crossword game and threw a steampunk theme on it. It’s a strange hodgepodge of stuff. If you like Scrabble and Euro games you’ll probably be drawn to it. It has a lot of stuff going on, more than my typical games. There isn’t any other worker placement game out there like this. It’s pretty unique.
Q: How long have you been making games for?
A: I started making games 15 years ago. Biblios being the first. I used to manufacture games myself. I had a deal with a local print shop that had a high end printer. I got really high quality paper directly from the distributor. Then I bought a Kluge letterpress. It’s massive and has a big wheel, it’s very steampunky machine and I used it to die cut cards in my garage. It’s amazing. Card stock was a problem at the time. It was tough to find black out card stock and I used to package them in VHS cases. I’d make 50 to 100 at the time and I’d sell them. Then iello, one of the major publishers, somehow made it to their headquarters in France at the beginning of their foray into board games. We pulled each other up with Biblios. They licensed it from me and are still licensing it. This helped my name get out there and I used that to start self publishing.
Q: Do you have any advice for people looking to break into the industry right now?
A: There’s a lot of people out there now. I think it’s a lot harder to get your game out there now. There is a lot more competition. My name is already out there, since the beginning, so it’s very easy for me. But others don’t have that to work with. First time creators must have a very hard time and have to put out a huge investment. You need to be really dedicated to enter this industry now. Unless you’re really sure you want to do this, don’t put in a lot of money. Or make sure that you have enough to front most of the costs. Be prepared.
You have to love it.
Q: Do you have a favorite game you’ve made?
A: My favorite game is always the one I’m currently designing. I do really love C.O.G. though. I have a lot of fun playing it, even though I’ve had to playtest it a bunch. It’s hard for me to stop critiquing and enjoy my own work. I wouldn’t change anything about COG though. And Cosmic Run is definitely different as well.
Q: Anything you’d like to share with everyone?
A: In February I’m doing a double Kickstarter. It’s for a new version of Cosmic Run and the Waters of Nereis.
For more information on Dr. Finn and his fantastic games, check them out here: http://www.doctorfinns.com/games.html