Developer Spotlight: Leder 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: Patrick from Leder Games
Q: Your games look very carefully crafted. What does your process look like and how did you get started?
A: A lot of Leder Games are very intricate. We’ve been dissatisfied with some games on Kickstarter and we like Kickstarter a lot because it’s really democratized with themes and very involved. It’s helped get a lot of work out there. In the 2000s, Euro games were very prominent but we’ve started to move away from that and offer more. That’s great but it also means that people who might have less rigorous testing methods have also appeared. So we’re here to make things that work. Whenever we start designing games we have a deliberate discussion about how this game is like other games and how can we make it different. Not for the sake of being different but for the sake of being innovative.
We talk a lot about the theme as well. The way you might do with a novel. What does the game teach you about being a human or a person. We start there. We play test extensively. We make two prototypes a week minimum. 200 playtests by myself and with other players. Root, which is being developed completely in studio, has also been tested to this extremity. Testing is very important to us. External testing is also important. Giving the game to people outside the studio and letting them tell us what they like or don’t like.
I feel like it is very important to us to make sure we’ve thoroughly tested something before we present it. There are companies out there who might only test turns or shorter rounds rather than full games, but we definitely prefer to test full games. I’m not the best rule writer and Vast went out with some holes, but we’ve since fixed it in the next edition. Sometimes things still slip through even after this rigor. We’ve even offered an upgrade kit to make sure everyone has what they need to play properly.
Q: You mentioned Euro games being a starting point for you. Do you have any games that really influenced you growing up?
Euro games weren’t really out when I was a kid but there was this one called Survive. I played a few of them and knew they were distinct compared to Life and Monopoly, etc. When Settlers came out, a friend was in Austria where they were playing it like crazy and brought it here a full year before it came to America. I think American games have a great connection to theme but Euro games play better. We’d like to bridge the gap, which is our inspiration for Vast. American theme with Euro mechanics and asymmetric roles on top of that. Our game is different because of this asymmetry. Everyone has different rules and win conditions depending on the character they play in Vast.
Q: And what roles do you play in the company now? Do you have a favorite role you like to fill?
For this company, I do most of the Marketing but now I have employees. I work with Kyle Ferrin and he is my fulltime illustrator. I’m very happy to be able to afford a full time illustrator rather than contract it out that way we can keep our work unified. I do a lot of Art Direction and Development/Designing. The other part of the rigor for game creation is design/development.
Being a developer is like a novel editor, they come in and say “you can’t have this for a story cut it” etcetera. They try to trim it down to something sellable. I was originally a Dev for Vast but I needed help so I switched to Design and brought someone on to help me out and clean it up into the polished game we have here.
We work on about 2 projects at a time. We just finished the Vast expansion. We’re going to Kickstarter with it in March. Root is being Kickstarted right now.
Q: Let’s talk about Root, it sounds fantastic.
A: Root is an area control game like Risk. It’s animals, people have compared it to Redwall. Anthropomorphic intelligent animals fighting for control of the forest. These cats have come from the city to take over and now they rule everything. They’re trying to build buildings for points. The old hawks have returned to take control and they’re trying to find a new leader to push forward. There is an alliance leading a rebellion against these two made up of rabbits, mice, foxes. The last player is a vagabond (there are a bunch of different types). The primary one is a racoon who is adventuring through the forest and stealing cards and keeping balance. We’ve also added otters and a river to the board because of a stretch goal from the Kickstarter.
Q: Any advice you’d like to give?
You really need the community buy in when you start. Open the game up to the community and get their opinion and change it based on the feedback you get. Work with other designers for promotion and make the best game you can.
You can learn more about Root and Patrick’s other games at http://ledergames.com/