Industry Interviews – Fireside Games, Justin De Witt Interview!

Greetings All,

I am so very excited to be able to bring all of you this fun short interview with Justin De Witt from Fireside Games! If you have ever had the pleasure of speaking with anyone from Fireside, then I’m sure you know that their customer service is astounding. I have spoken to a handful of members and they have all been so kind and great to talk to. Mr. De Witt is a great guy and really seems to care about his customers.

Fireside Games is probably my favorite game company, so it felt only right to start off Industry Interviews with this particular interview. Castle Panic is truly amazing and you should give it a shot, the expansions really add depth to it. I will be trying to get an email interview with someone from the board gaming industry once a month, but not all companies are as willing to do small time blogs so I may not actually have the chance to do this as often as I’d like.

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I asked Justin De Witt ten questions about his life and board games, read further to check it out!

1)Board gaming started out as hobby for you. At what point did you decide that this is what you wanted to do for a living?
After years of designing games in my spare time, we realized that the games I was coming up with were actually really good. Anne-Marie and I had always planned on running our own business of some kind and the more we learned about the hobby game industry, the more it made sense to move forward as a publisher. That was sometime around 2007 when Castle Panic was almost finished and my day job was going to be closing soon. We decided that rather than look for a new job we would take the leap and make Fireside my new job.
2)I understand that Castle Panic was the first game published by Fireside Games, but what was the first game you actually designed?
Ha! That’s a great question. Looking back I think the first game I ever designed would have been back in 1982. I remember coming back from seeing the movie “Tron” and being obsessed with it. We went to the local store a few days later where I just assumed I could by the Tron board game, but there was no such thing. I was shocked . . . so I went home and made my own. It was a light-cycle racing game and had a ton of these folded paper triangular pieces that you put behind your marker to represent the light wall as you moved. It was actually pretty good now that I think about it.
3)What is the inspiration behind the Panic Line and is the world going to get more expansions?
The whole idea behind Castle Panic was to find an authentic way to let players work together in a board game. This was back in the early 2000’s and there really weren’t any coop games back then, so it truly felt like an itch that wasn’t being scratched. I had some ideas for what that could be, such as players being the crew of a spaceship, or even different parts of a cell, working together to keep a body alive, but it wasn’t until I messed around with the idea of the players defending a castle together that it all clicked. A lot of trial and error later and I had an early version of what would become Castle Panic. As for expansions, yes we still have a few more surprises up our sleeves. I can’t say much right now, because there is still a lot of testing to be done, but look for a new expansion in 2018 that will give some fun new options for the players!
4)What is the first game you remember playing and what is the first game you played that sent you down the “rabbit hole” of the board game world?
First game ever? Maybe Tic-Tac-Toe or something like that, but I don’t think that’s what you’re really asking. Winking smile  I remember being really impressed with Stratego as a kid and loving the tension of not knowing what those pieces would be until you flipped them around. The first real “rabbit hole” game would have to be Settlers of Catan. I first played it back in 2000 I think and it really opened my mind up to how far board games had come and reignited the design spark in me.
5)Do you ever grow weary of playing board games with it being your profession?
Surprisingly, no! I may get a bit tired of all the testing I have to do with my own games, but if I get the chance I’m always happy to try a new game, or an older gwame I may have missed. I still love playing games and honestly, I wish I had more time to play.
6)What did you do for a living before Fireside Games?
My background is in Graphic Design and Illustration so I worked for several multimedia companies in the 90’s and into the 2000’s creating digital graphics, designing interfaces, and animation. I worked for Humongous Entertainment on the Blue’s Clues CD-ROM’s and that was a ton of fun. After the (first) tech crash I worked for the State of Texas creating printed materials and that gave me a chance to reconnect with print, which was really refreshing and definitely helped as I moved forward. I worked at Steve Jackson Games for several years after that and learned a ton, as well as made some really good friends there. We still keep in touch as they are also located in Austin and are a fun group to hang out with.
7)Where did the name Fireside Games come from?
Honestly Anne-Marie and I were brainstorming ideas and came up with a huge list, but we couldn’t get the right “feel” for what we wanted our company to be. It took a few days, but eventually we thought about the idea of gathering people around the fire to play games and the idea of a hearth, or central, cozy location really fit what we were looking for.
8)What is your favorite Fireside game and your favorite non-Fireside game?
Ooh, that’s always a hard question. The games really are like my kids and I love them all, but I do think they all do something different. I love how Munchkin Panic let’s you throw the whole coop thing out the window in a Castle Panic setting, but it’s hard to say it’s my favorite. Right now, I think Hotshots is my favorite, but that’s partly because it’s new and I’m really excited to get a totally new coop game under our belt. As for games that aren’t ours, I’ve always felt Star Wars: Epic Duels was an amazing game that does just the right amount of fanservice too. It’s easy to learn, plays fast. and let’s you put Darth Vader against Boba Fett and there’s no way that isn’t cool!
9)How did you and your wife meet and has board games always been a large part of your relationship?
We met in Seattle when we were both working at a Hospital. She was a Speech-Language Pathologist at the time and I was working the front desk. We worked in the Rehabilitation department where people would go for Occupational Therapy/Physical Therapy, etc. so I like to say “we met in Rehab.” Back then board games weren’t that big of a deal for us, but this was in the mid 90’s so the board game resurgence was a good 5 years off. Once we discovered a few of the early gems like Settlers, Chez Geek, and Lunch Money, it quickly became one of our most favorite things to do.
10)Do you have any advice for people out there aspiring to also have board games involved in their careers?
We are in a strange period right now in the industry. On one hand we are in a Golden Age of games with more titles available than ever before, but that is also turning into it’s own problem. It’s much harder to create a breakout hit than it was 5 years ago. There is infinitely more competition than there has ever been, and the customer is more bombarded with more choices than they can ever hope to really sort through. This means publishers have to run lean and store owners have to be really careful in what they stock. There is a lot more risk in the industry than there has ever been so if someone is wanting to get into design or publishing I’d really urge them to be careful and learn as much as they can before the quit a steady job or risk their savings. If you are interested in other aspects, I’d say think about how your skills might help a publisher, then do your research on which publishers you could match that with. A lot of publishers are very small and do most of their work via contract, but some of the bigger studios have openings that may surprise you.

I hope you enjoyed this interview and I am so grateful to Fireside Games and Justin De Witt for gracing my little blog with its very first Industry Interview! Until next time… Live by the Board.

-Livingbytheboard

 

Fantastic Board Game Giveaway!

Greetings All,

Check out this gigantic and awesome giveaway!! There are 42 games in total! Some of my favorites are: Pandemic Legacy Season 2 and Gloomhaven. Check it out and good luck.

http://itbboardgames.com/ultimate-tabletop-giveaway/

Until next time… Live by the board.

-livingbytheboard

FREE RPG DAY!

Greetings All,

Just a friendly reminder that Saturday June 17th 2017 is Free RPG Day! There are some really nice promos this year, here’s hoping that you have a retailer near you participating. I unfortunately do not, it feels like Tabletop Day and Free RPG Day providers are falling off the map sadly.

I hope you guys get lucky and get some fun loot. Don’t forget to spend a few dollars at your retailer to show your continued support and appreciation for them standing strong.

Until next time… Live by the board.

-Livingbytheboard

Father’s Day Sale!

Greetings All,

Just a quick update here. There is a Father’s Day Sale going on right now at Cool Stuff Inc! It ends on Sunday, so go check it out. Steam Works is on sale for $17.99 right now, which is a heck of a deal. Shipping is free after $100. 🙂 Have fun and let me know what you got!

Until next time… Live by the board.

-livingbytheboard

Gaming for Adam West.

“Of what use is a dream if not a blueprint for courageous action?”

-Adam West

Greetings All,

We had a small game night on Saturday and four of us played five games.

We got a game of Pandemic by Z-Man Games in and beat it shockingly quickly, but I’m fairly certain that’s because we forgot the rules in the beginning and were only drawing one card from the player deck instead of two for like two rounds, so we didn’t get an epidemic card for a while. That said we were not wanting to restart the game, so we just fixed the rules and rolled with it.

After that we played Ticket to Ride: First Journey by Days of Wonder. Being that it’s a kid version of Ticket to Ride, the trains and map symbols were huge and cute. The rules were simplified and yet there was some difficulty. I’ll do a review of this later because I was annoyingly excited to play it and I totally won.

The last big game we got in was Ghost Stories by Asmodee. I freaking love Ghost Stories, it’s so darn difficult and the defeat is sometimes earth shattering, but when you win… It’s a golden feeling. We beat the game and it was super fun.

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After hearing about the sad news that Adam West had passed away, we had to get some Batman games in at the end of the night. We ended it with Batman Fluxx by Looney Labs and Batman Love Letter by Alderac. The games are simple and relaxed and it was a nice way to say good-bye to Mr. West. I say relaxed, but truth be told Love Letter ended with our friend Sam comparing hands with my husband, beating him, and subsequently screaming WU-TANG!

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That said I’ll end this post by saying Sam… calm down. 🙂 And farewell Batman.

Until next time… Live by the Board.

-Livingbytheboard

This is where it all started.

Greetings All,

I was looking through my memories on Facebook and I found a picture of the start of mine and my husbands board game collection back in 2013. Back then, we had less than 30 games and now we have over 300!

It started with some of your standard card games like Uno, Phase 10, and Skip-Bo and some not so standard ones like Fluxx and Dixit. We had your standard Yahtzee dice game and some fun dice games in Cthulhu dice and King of Tokyo. We went a little crazy with Catan and got three different Catan games.

This is an unpopular opinion, but I don’t particularly care for standard Catan, however, I really enjoy Catan dice and Rivals for Catan. I remember sitting in bed with my husband and playing Catan Dice all of the time, but if I’m being honest Rivals made a bigger impact on me. We had two player games like Chess and Mancala, but Rivals was the first big experience with two player only games.

I think that Dixit and King of Tokyo were probably the biggest inspirations to us embracing board games as a way of life. To this day both get good play. Of course, we had our games that just didn’t stick with us enough. We got rid of Apples to Apples and Story Cubes pretty quickly and with that followed quite a few others from this original collection. We try to go through our games before Christmas every year to see what we are getting rid of and the weird thing is that no matter when the last time we played… it always hurts to say goodbye to a game. We still have Catan Family Edition and I’m certain that we haven’t played it since 2013, but my husband insists on keeping it. He says it’s because it’s a classic, but I know it’s because it was from the start of our wonderous hobby.

The great thing about this collection is that most of it came from a shop called Yottaquest. It was our FLGS until they closed it down. It was wonderful being able to go and physically browse shelves of games that could and for some, would one day be ours. Having a FLGS was a great feeling because even though they were greatly overpriced, it was almost like another home. I believe I was always nervous and shy when I would go, but I knew that I didn’t have to be… I knew that those were my people. What a greatly missed feeling… I am hoping that my first trip to Gen Con brings back that neat little feeling.

I know that this post was random and all over the place, but I just felt like chatting about it a bit. Do you remember when your collection started? Tell me about it!! Thank you for stopping by and until next time… Live by the board.

-livingbytheboard

Drink of the month – June.

Hello again board gamers!

With the beginning of June I figured I’d contribute a little more- and as your resident internet gaming bartender, it’s only best if I share my drink concoctions with the masses. For June, I’m going to start by giving some basic bartending tips and then teach you a simple drink for all you 21+ gamers and another for all you non-alcoholic drinkers. These tips should help anyone making either kinds of drinks.

Tips for Drink Making

Tip #1: Ice does make a difference – If you’re like me, you might get your pop or soda from a fountain without any ice. It’s already cold, what’s ice gonna do? Well, surprisingly, it can affect how a drink is made and the taste. You’ll find that some drinks don’t just require ice, but need it. Others you can strain and drain the drink with no problem. And what’s worse: if you have a packed freezer, bad water, or an ice machine that’s not been cleaned in awhile- how the ice is made can affect the drink’s taste. Now, each their own- but I personally grab a bag of ice for a couple of dollars or a fiver if it’s a huge group (those are 22 lbs here!). Not only is it easier, it just tastes better to me. Either way ice is definitely a necessity when mixing drinks, even if you strain it all.

Tip #2: You get what you pay for, most the time – You might be thinking well no duh, you get a higher shelf quality drinks it’s going to taste like a higher shelf. Thing is, for mixed drinks the higher shelf is really not going to make that big of a difference most of the time. For liquor I usually stick with what I’ve tried and liked. Sometimes I’ll buy a brand because it’s cheaper or the only option in the store to find I’m not a fan of it. Use your budget to truly figure out what you can buy, and what you might like. For your mixins, again it’s going to be what you like, your budget and what’s available to you. I personally prefer the Simply brand for juices and similar premade drinks, while going with the name brand pops like Sprite or Mt. Dew. If you however drink or prefer 7Up or store brand Mountain Lightning, it’s perfectly OK but might change the taste a bit. Realize that your mixins are going to be the majority of the drink, so those are really going to make or break it. You might be able to mask a bad tasting liquor but you won’t be able to mask a bad tasting mixin.

Tip #3: Research what a drink is – If you’re not someone who has ever dealt with mixing drinks, you might not have any idea what amaretto is supposed to taste like. For the record, it’s almond. When you look up drinks online to try to mix, you’ll find that they have all these fancy names. Well, those are typically brand names. Midori for instance is a brand named melon schnapps, which means a lower end melon schnapps should be more than fine. Don’t worry though- all the drinks I’m going to be making are going to be simple and should be easy to find all the ingredients for. “Should be” is mostly for those gamers in remote places where it’s going to be a tad harder. But knowing what you like, and what mixes well together, means you’ll start making your own drinks in no time.

Tip #4: Have fun no matter what – The key point of playing these games is to have fun! And if it starts to get to be a pain to make these drinks or you’re hurting in your wallet: stop doing it. My group might love when I make them, but they totally understand when I just want to sit back and not worry about it. I’m thankful my group doesn’t have anyone wanting to stop the game every few minutes to make a new drink- because that’s not fun. Occasionally having drinks ready though is a great way to add something to a gathering to make it themed or just to celebrate. We never pressure anyone to drink, and it’s why I decided to have both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options- so everyone can join in.

I’m gonna start you all off with some classics that are popular.

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Sake Sunrise

This is a fairly simple drink that can get a little complex only in finding the right ingredients.

What you’ll need:

Sake

Grenadine

Orange Juice

Ice

How to prep:

Fill cup with ice. Pour in desired amount of Sake. Fill cup with orange juice leaving a little room. If in a clear glass, slightly tip the glass and use the side to pour in the grenadine.

What’s it taste like?: It really depends on the kind of sake you use. In America, sake is a rice wine that comes in a handful of different flavors. This is where it gets complicated: I have no way to tell you which to get. If you’re in America, you might be able to find some sake labeled all sorts of things- sweet, ruby red, etc. Because of this it’s difficult to know what exactly you’re buying as it all depends on branding. You’ll also have imported sake, which makes it a tad more confusing as some are meant to be heated while others are room temp- not the kind you want in your cold drink. We typically use a low end brand you might find at Kroger for around $10, while I’ve tried a more sweet sake that cost double that to find it wasn’t great in this mix.

All in all it’s going to have mostly an orange juice taste to it, with an aftertaste that can only be described as ‘rice wine with a hint of grenadine. If you’re not familiar with grenadine, actual grenadine varies but is meant to be a blackcurrant or pomegranate flavoring. The Rose brand by Mott’s, the most popular brand, has almost a cherry-esque flavoring to it but not quite. The more sake you use, the more alcoholic it is- but I typically use the 1-2 method of pouring around the cup twice with all liquor unless specifically noted.

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Shirley Temple

An even simpler drink that’s a classic staple and can be made multiple ways.

What you’ll need:

Sprite/Mist Twst/7Up

Grenadine

Ice

How to prep:

Fill cup with ice. Pour in desired amount of grenadine. Fill cup with Sprite or lemon lime soda of your choice. Optional: You can also use ginger ale in place of your lemon lime soda if you prefer.

What’s it taste like?: It’s really just a flavored lemon lime soda. If you like cherry Sprite, you’ll probably enjoy a Shirley Temple. The ginger ale version is really similar.

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Well that’s all for this month board gamers. If you’ve never made a mixed drink for your table, give it a go at your next meetup! And remember: drink responsibly, play to win and don’t party foul on the board.

  • The Bartender