The Game Design Round Table

The Game Design Round Table

United States

Hosts Dirk Knemeyer and Jon Shafer talk game design each week with esteemed guests. Focusing on both digital and tabletop gaming, The Game Design Round Table provides a forum for conversation about critical issues to game design.


#154: Essen and Listener Mail  

Dirk, David, and Rob are back again to talk about what’s going on in their worlds and to answer more listener mail. Rob is back from Europe after attending the Essen (SPIEL) game convention and has stories to tell about where cultural stereotypes come from. Dirk’s Einstein game is doing well on Kickstarter and is available for purchase at that site. --------------------- Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Rob Daviau -@RobDaviau, ---------------------Episode Outline 0:01:02 - Essen 0:08:07 - Einstein 0:12:44 - 504 0:18:31 - Designing a Legacy game 0:30:37 - When is good “good enough”? 0:37:07 - Companion apps for games 0:43:26 - Incorporating setup and takedown 0:46:16 - Patreon vs. Kickstarter

#153: Riot Games  

Description Dirk and David are joined by Rick Ernst and Chris Cantrell of Riot Games to talk about their upcoming board game Mechs vs. Minions. Riot Games is best known for their wildly successful PC game League of Legends. Riot is taking that universe and condensing a part of it down into a board game that focuses on team play and cooperative strategy. Rick and Chris talk about how the game came about and what it’s like to capture the MOBA magic on the tabletop.--------------------- Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Rick Ernst Chris Cantrell --------------------- Episode Outline 0:00:51 - Mechs vs. Minions 0:04:30 - League of Legends 0:07:30 - Condensing a MOBA to tabletop 0:14:27 - Handling quarterbacking 0:18:34 - The early game 0:24:30 - Complexity vs. accessibility 0:28:13 - Build quality 0:37:37 - How the game came about 0:43:30 - Playtesting 0:47:31 - The design process

#152: Professor Rob’s Mailbag  

Description Dirk, David, and Rob get together to answer more of your questions. The Game Design Roundtable audience continues to provide poignant and intriguing questions, and our trio of hosts is ready to help.--------------------- Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Rob Daviau -@RobDaviau, --------------------- Episode Outline 0:12:08 - Anti-quarterbacking 0:21:33 - Creativity and inspiration 0:33:53 - Witnessing playtesting 0:41:41 - Emergence in boardgames 0:50:57 - Design and marketing

#151: Isaac Shalev and Kind Fortress  

Dirk and David get together with Isaac Shalev to talk about the fast-paced development at Kind Fortress. Since his last time on the show Isaac has had several games designed and put into print, and he talks about importance of artwork as well as designing a wide variety of games rather than a special niche. He also talks about the usefulness of Tabletop Simulator as a prototyping and presentation tool. You can check out his own podcast at ---------------------Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Isaac Shalev -@KindFortress,, ---------------------Episode Outline 0:00:43 - Isaac’s recent developments 0:09:36 - Artwork 0:18:23 - Working with a partner 0:23:35 - Broad vs niche design 0:27:43 - Business acumen 0:31:22 - Prototyping 0:35:35 - Tabletop Simulator

Travel Catch-up and Listener Mail  

Dirk, David, and Rob are here on the momentous 150th episode of the Game Design Roundtable to talk about their recent travels. David is traveling the globe to support his game studio and Rob returns from the prestigious Spiel des Jahres awards in Germany. They also tackle some more of your insightful questions. --------------------- Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Rob Daviau -@RobDaviau, --------------------- Episode Outline 0:00:58 - Star Trek Conventions 0:09:02 - Spiel des Jahres 0:20:49 - Prototype Cards and nanDECK 0:23:16 - Bidding mechanics 0:32:01 - Abstract games 0:40:50 - Well-written rules 0:49:13 - Designer credits

#149: Jellybean Games  

Dirk brings on guests Peter Hayward and Tania Walker to talk about their work at Jellybean Games. Jellybean places an emphasis on family-friendly games that can still be enjoyed by adults. Peter talks about his role at the company and what prompted him to start in the family game space and Tania shares her experience as an artist and art director. ---------------------Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, Peter Hayward - @PeterHayward Tania Walker -@TaniaWalker, ---------------------Episode Outline 0:01:34 - Jellybean Games 0:12:22 - Scuttle 0:16:05 - The first Kickstarter 0:19:59 - Dracula’s Feast 0:30:31 - Upcoming games 0:48:23 - Future plans for Jellybean 0:52:28 - Advice for Designers

#148: More Listener Mail  

Dirk, David, and Rob are back to answer more of your questions. How viable is it to break into the market and make a decent salary? Is high-quality art worth it? And just how do you get cards printed?---------------------Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Rob Daviau -@RobDaviau, Outline 0:00:41 - Games that use memory as a resource 0:14:04 - How to print cards and prototypes 0:25:39 - Art and artists 0:37:43 - Hobby market vs mass market 0:56:31 - The value of IP

#147: Black Straw Games  

Dirk and David welcome designer Sarah Graybill of Black Straw Games to the show to talk about their unique brand of games. Black Straw have developed a collection of abstract and family friendly games while also working to foster the game development community..--------------------- Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Sarah Graybill - @blackstrawgames, ---------------------Episode Outline 0:00:58 - Black Straw Games 0:04:30 - Abstract games 0:11:37 - Rocket Squad 0:15:32 - Publishers 0:18:17 - The design process 0:22:55 - Oolong 0:28:41 - Community development 0:36:59 - Goals for the company 0:44:27 - Oblique

#146: Soren Johnson and Offworld Trading Company  

Soren Johnson is back to talk to Dirk and David about his new game, Offworld Trading Company. Offworld is the product of Soren’s own game development studio, Mohawk Games. He dives deep into the development process and the early access model and shares how the game has evolved over time.---------------------Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Soren Johnson - @sorenjohnson,, - The development process 0:16:48 - Tutorials and concepts 0:21:01 - The campaign 0:33:04 - The daily challenge 0:37:15 - Black markets and goon squads 0:45:25 - Refining the campaign 0:47:05 - Early access and launch 0:55:47 - “Lessons learned”

#145: Seafall, Powering Up, and Listener Mail  

It’s a celebratory show as Dirk, David, and Rob talk about the latest releases from the crew. Rob’s Legacy game Seafall is finally ready for preorder after many years of hard work and Dirk is also pleased to share that his expansion for Tesla vs. Edison - Powering Up - is up on Kickstarter and exceeding his expectations. Our always-curious listeners have provided yet more questions for the panel, and they delve into a variety of topics on digital game implementations and why Rob wants to be a cardboard screen.---------------------Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Rob Daviau -@RobDaviauGamer, Outline 0:00:32 - Seafall 0:06:30 - Tesla vs. Edison - Powering Up 0:14:39 - Games in both tabletop and digital format 0:20:19 - App first before Kickstarter? 0:34:13 - Turn length on apps and tabletop 0:39:42 - When are you truly a game designer? 0:45:06 - What physical game component do you most identify with? 0:48:49 - Playing a bad game with a good group 0:53:24 - Memory as a resource

#144: Chris Zinsli and Cardboard Edison  

Dirk and David are joined by designer and board game community member Chris Zinsli. Chris and his wife Suzanne are the founders of Boardgame Edison, a resource for designers of board games. Their blog and other media have helped countless designers get their ideas into production. They also co-design and publish a slew of their own games that touch on a wide variety of topics.---------------------Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Chris - @cardboardedison, Outline 0:00:18 - Cardboard Edison 0:06:23 - The Process 0:09:58 - Cardboard Edison award-winner “Blood of an Englishman” 0:19:17 - Building the business and publishing 0:25:57 - Tessen 0:33:30 - Dubai 0:40:11 - Saltana 0:42:13 - Working with other publishers 0:45:43 - Co-designing with your spouse 0:49:27 - Pitching to publishers

#143: The Mailbag Tolls for Thee  

Dirk, David, and Rob peek into the mailbag once again and answer your questions. After a brief celebration over the recent success of Pandemic Legacy, the trio talk about design-driven narrative and a few questions about the dirty details of rules.---------------------Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Rob Daviau -@RobDaviauGamer, Outline 0:04:41 - Tools for design-driven narrative 0:22:38 - Errata and updates for tabletop games 0:39:22 - Handling obscure or difficult rules 0:49:00 - Game design vocabulary

#142: Tim Fowers  

Dirk and David sit down this week with game designer Tim Fowers. A physics major gone rogue in the world of game design, Tim has experience in both board games and the digital space. His games Burgle Bros, Wok Star, and Paperback have allowed him to make the transition to full-time independent game designer.---------------------Contact Info Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Tim Fowers - @tfowers, Outline 0:00:18 - Tim’s background 0:03:42 - From indie to big game studio 0:11:02 - Simplicity: the route to success 0:19:22 - Full time and part time 0:25:02 - Burgle Bros 0:45:03 - Direct sales numbers 0:49:03 - Current and future projects

#141: Star Trek Timelines  

Description Dirk and Rob help David celebrate the launch of his company’s game: Star Trek Timelines. Timelines was a long time in the making and is an extremely ambitious game for the mobile platform. David reviews the development process and how the team is stretching the Unity engine to its limits. We also have several listener mail questions to answer.---------------------Contact Info Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Rob Daviau -@RobDaviauGamer, ------------------------- Episode Outline 0:01:25 - Star Trek Timelines 0:08:35 - Blending different crews 0:21:51 - Board game genres 0:32:27 - Rapid prototyping 0:50:55 - How to price mobile transactions 1:00:24 - Win condition terminology

#140: Daniel Doan and Black Shell Media  

This week Dirk and David are joined by Daniel Doan of Black Shell Media. Daniel’s career in games started with mods for the original Starcraft and grew into his breakout game, Sanctuary RPG. He then moved on to publishing and working with other designers on getting their games to market. Daniel offers advice on how to keep game designs focused and work with focus testing in order to deliver a final product that sells.---------------------Contact Info Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Daniel Doan - @doandanial, ------------------------- Episode Outline 0:00:16 - Daniel’s background 0:03:14 - Starcraft mods 0:04:55 - Sanctuary RPG 0:09:42 - Development and publishing 0:12:55 - Overture 0:20:47 - The rewards in company building 0:25:03 - Black Shell Media 0:31:53 - Influences 0:35:45 - Future platforms 0:40:10 - Future of BSM 0:46:14 - Board game design 0:49:32 - Focus testing

#139: Justin Gary  

Dirk and David are joined by guest Justin Gary, accomplished game designer of many deckbuilding games. Justin’s career started as a professional, award-winning player of Magic: the Gathering and has continued with several successful designs. His creations include Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer, and Solforge. He and David talk shop this week about deckbuilding games, including communication to players and strategies for expansions.---------------------------------------------------------------Contact Info Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Justin Gary - @justin_gary, Outline 0:00:22 - Justin’s background 0:01:50 - Ascension 0:13:34 - Expansions and mechanics 0:19:14 - Influence of Magic: the Gathering 0:21:27 - Early projects 0:26:05 - Law school 0:29:27 - Current projects 0:32:56 - Kickstarter 0:37:07 - Deckbuilding mechanics 0:48:33 - Game design process 0:54:37 - Future goals

#138: Checking in with Harrison Pink  

Return guest Harrison Pink stops by to catch up with Dirk and David and let us know what he’s been up to. Harrison recently moved to a new studio and is working as a world designer on the next Mafia game. He also had the opportunity to travel to China to talk at their GDC conference. He talks about designing for open world games, lessons he’s learned about what players want, and his international travels. Contact Info Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Harrison Pink - @colonialpink,, Episode Outline 0:00:37 - Harrison’s new digs 0:02:56 - World designing 0:08:10 - Team culture 0:14:47 - The Mafia series 0:27:42 - Lessons learned 0:30:20 - Other activities 0:36:51 - Talking at GDC China

#137: Once More Into the Mailbag  

Dirk, David, and Rob tackle more listener mail in this week’s episode. We had a lot of great questions come in from our listeners that cover royalty free assets, distribution for board games, and some more from Dirk on Tesla and Edison.---------------------------------------------------------------Contact Info Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Rob Daviau -@RobDaviauGamer, Outline 0:01:11 - How do you know when the mechanics are done? 0:10:53 - Not using regular distribution 0:22:25 - Using royalty free assets? 0:33:01 - Do you have any recommendations on finding royalty free assets? 0:41:37 - What are some clever design decisions that were used to cover up flaws? 0:45:50 - Can you comment some more on Tesla and Edison as people? 0:51:12 - Asymmetric design between two players 0:59:40 - Rules-based programming

#136: Playing Catch-up  

We’re back! Dirk, David, and Rob are here again to talk about game design after a flurry of activity and travel. David is knee-deep in Star Trek Timelines and Rob is pleased with the success of Pandemic Legacy. Meanwhile, Dirk was invited to the laboratory of Thomas Edison thanks to the work he did with his game Tesla vs. Edison.---------------------Contact Info Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, David Heron - @DavidVHeron Rob Daviau -@RobDaviauGamer, Outline 0:00:34 - Star Trek Timelines 0:07:02 - Game pacing 0:17:49 - Risk Legacy and Pandemic Legacy 0:27:48 - Expertise, failure, and learning 0:35:53 - Edison Innovation Foundation 0:47:59 Chronicles 0:48:00 - Disruptor Beam

#135: Isaac Childres and Gloomhaven  

Dirk and Rob sit down with game designer Isaac Childres to talk about his self-published and Kickstarted game Gloomhaven. Rob seems to have found the game he’s been looking for all along and has plenty of questions for Isaac, who has published several games on his own and appears to be looking at a hit with Gloomhaven.--------------------------------------------------------Contact Info Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer,, Rob Daviau -@RobDaviauGamer, Isaac Childres - @cephalofair, Outline 0:00:19 - Gloomhaven 0:06:43 - Retirement mechanic 0:14:06 - Inspirations for Gloomhaven 0:27:40 - Publishing 0:33:12 - Previous games 0:42:51 - Publishing lessons learned 0:50:23 - Upcoming games

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