An Interview With Elad Goldsteen Board Game Designer
Meet the Designer: Elad Goldsteen
Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Elad Goldsteen, I am the lead game designer and publisher at Golden Egg Games.
Where are you from?
I live with my family in Israel.
What do you do for a living?
Game design and publishing at Golden Egg Games, LLC.
How long have you been interested in board gaming?
I think from my childhood. I always preferred a cool board game over any other family activity.
What are your favorite board games?
Though question, it usually changes every year or so. I will try to be objective and pick other designer’s games. My top games, for now, are Seasons, Libertallia, Troyes and The Palaces of Carrara.
When did you decide to become a board game designer? What was the reason you wanted to become one?
I was always intrigued by designing my own games and writing my own rules. I made my first game when I was 8 years old and kept on inventing game mechanics as a hobby. Since 2006 my passion for board games started to rise again and I started to design modern board and card games. I never thought about a reason why to design your own games, I guess I just get enormous satisfaction seeing other players having fun playing my games. What is your favorite recent released game? “City Council”
What game are you really looking forward to?
I have two new games that I think will innovate the Euro game market and I have two new longer term projects that might be published in 2015.
What does it take to design a good board game?
I think that a lot of the good game designs out there were conceived in a 5-minute brilliant vision, that can take over a year to mature and become a solid, fun game. You might need to change, cut, detract, pull and rewrite every mechanic at least twice before play-testing it and seeing it break apart… A tough process indeed.
How long does it take to design a board game from idea to finished product?
I think that some simple ideas can mature to a game in a year or so. Some more complex games may take 2-3 years of a difficult process in order to become a fun and enjoyable game.
Do you think everyone is able to design a board game?
I want to believe that’s true. At least your own home-brew games that you would love to play with your kids and family – for sure.
Do you have any suggestions for those who are willing to design their own game?
If you are planning to design a game that you wish to publish to the world, I would suggest to start with your own gaming group and pitch the game to them. Then start play-testing it and finally, use the internet as a good place to find print-and-play testers – they can give you a world of solutions and great feedback.
Is there a difference between gamers from different countries? For example, is there a difference between American and European gamers?
Of course! There is a core culture-based difference. American style games can use tons of luck factors and must have a thrilling theme. The Euro gamer may be attracted to the fine game mechanics and the simplicity of the game flow rather than the thematic flavor.
Do you have a target audience in mind when designing a game?
I do now. I have some game designs that I didn’t like at first but now I think I found each one a target audience, and strive on that. Your games Where did you get your inspiration for your games? I can’t think of a single source, but I do think that my family and my trouble sleeping helped my state of mind a lot. Long quiet nights make your mind a nurturing ground for ideas to prosper.
Why did you choose dogs for your art for Alliances?
I love dogs! And I wanted to give the game a more thematic feel, like a parallel world where dogs are the ruling power and they fight over world domination. The second reason is that I always admired the “poker playing dogs” image and thought that some trick-taking classics should also have their “dog versions”. I have also a third reason: when we thought about art for the concept of world domination, we did not want to get into any stereotypes, so we chose to represent the super power nations with their corresponding breed – the EU and Germany represented by the German Shepard, the US represented by the Jack Russell Terrier, etc.
What can we expect from the expansion for Fallen City of Karez? Do you plan other expansions?
We have 3 new mini expansions for Karez in production. They will add a 6th player option, new core mechanics and more of everything (new buildings, adventures, encounters, equipment and heroes).
What can we expect from the revised rules of Fallen City of Karez?
We went over every FAQ entry we got and tried to solve it within the core rules. We also wanted to streamline some of the mechanics so the game will flow better and it might end a lot faster.
What can we expect from Golden Egg Games in the future?
A lot. We will publish 3-4 new games in 2014, at least one of them by another designer, as I decided to focus more on publication and production. We will have a 2-player game, 2 Euro style games and (hopefully) a financial game.
Are you working on a new game right now? Can we expect a new game soon?
I am working on 3 new designs at the moment. I hope that 2 of them will grow and mature in time for 2014.
Are there any exclusive sneak previews you are willing to share with Board and Games and its customers?
I can say that we will publish a new game called “Athlas” (the name may change). It is a unique fantasy 2-player game with tons of cool bits and amazing artwork by Antonis Papantoniou.
Do you work with an alfa group of testers? How do you balance a game? How do you make sure some strategies don’t have advantages above others?
I usually play test with a lot of different groups and we also have some foreign blind tests as well. My own desire when I play test is to explore weird strategies that I thought might break the game. Usually, I succeed, and most of my play testers hate me for it as they think I am cheating!
What do you think of Kickstarter as a platform to create new board games?
I think that for now, Kickstarter is not a good place to start with. The competition is tough and we barely raise enough funds to finish a game we already invested a lot of private funds in. There will always be some cool success stories, but most of the time the creators do not take into account a lot of variables that at the end cause them to lose money and create a mediocre game.
What did you learn about your campaigns?
That there are some amazing people out there. The support and love are intoxicating. We were overwhelmed on our first project and fell in love with our backers so we actually offered too many free rewards, which took us almost a year to complete. We have learned a lot these past two years and now we ask for the right amount of funds so we can fulfill the rewards with haste and with no delays.
Did you get a lot of feedback from players? How important is this to you as a game designer?
The games on KS were already play tested, edited and are usually final. The things I usually learn are the desired expansions and some feedback on the quality of the components, that we usually do not get from our distributor.
Do you incorporate feedback from users in your game? How do you do that?
We always learn from one game to another. We try to predict where the rules might be rough and try to solve these issues ahead of time.
What’s your opinion on bigger publishers as Iello and Queen Games who also come to Kickstarter?
I think that we are living in a free market – if backers love their games and are willing to pay a year in advance – who am I to judge them. I know for a fact that Queen games used KS to publish games that they did not have the funds to publish or could not risk publishing due to high production costs. If they are using KS to publish sub-par games, I think they should not publish them at all, and not try to fund them anyway at the cost of their reputation. General Board games have always been about bringing family and friends together and enjoying a game together.
What’s your opinion of digitalizing board games for PC and tablets? (for example Ticket to Ride, Smallworld, Talisman, …)
In general, I do not see the point in playing a digital version if I can just play the game with my friends or family. I only love to play Dominion on a digital version – as I hate to shuffle cards all the time. Some people don’t want to play board games because it takes too long or the rules are too hard.
How would you convince them to enjoy board games?
First, try to find a good teacher! I see a lot of new walk-through videos that can explain the game faster and more effectively. But you cannot convince a player to have fun – either they like it or not, you can only offer your best game and your companionship.
Have you ever been in Belgium? What’s the thing you absolutely would want to do when visiting Belgium?
I think I might have traveled through Belgium in the past. My printers – Cartamundi – always tell me that Belgium is best known for their great games and chocolate. I think that Belgium is an amazingly beautiful country, and my family and I will definitely strive to visit it. Great cities, great chocolate, and beer are always intriguing.
Many thanks for the interview and the in-depth questions.
To read some great reviews of two player games go to Board Games 4 Two.