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.


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.



Meet the author… again!

Greetings All,

As requested here’s a bit more about me. Don’t forget to check out the Meet The Husband and Meet The Bartender posts!

For starters, as far as board games goes I really only played Monopoly, Scrabble, and Boggle. I played the occasional party or trivia game, but it was very rare. And with card and dice games I played Yahtzee and Poker. I was particularly gifted at Poker, which I think paved the way for some of strategy in games these days. So yeah… that’s really it. Games were not a large part of my childhood.

My husband and I met in 2011 and we got married the following year. I married into three lovely children and we were all very big on family time. It wasn’t long before we started branching off into games thanks to my husband. Among the first games purchased were Dixit, Catan, and Castle Panic. Two of these have become personal favorites. My husband loved the idea behind Castle Panic, it was something the five of us could do together… a game we could play fighting against a common enemy. Boy did that start one heck of loyal patronage to Fireside Games. Dixit was something that I got for me, it was one of my first selfish purchases. It’s art is so amazing and beautiful and I am quite a bit artsy myself.

I remember going to our now shutdown FLGS (friendly local game shop) and being super nervous. I was that way with everything really, my first visit to the comic shop was the same. I went through quite a large overhaul of personality when I met my husband. It was less a change and more of a discovery. I was very timid and sheltered. I didn’t have a whole lot of experience in anything but a not so family friendly lifestyle. The journey of discovering that there was more to the world, more to me… was exhausting and fun all at the same time. It was fantastic realizing that I am a geek. 🙂

From there, I just kind of rolled with it. I keep in great contact with board game companies and comic writers/artists. I started this blog, started volunteering for Extra Life, and started hosting International Tabletop Day. I maybe have gone a bit overboard with geek culture, but it shouldn’t be so fun to dive into. Haha.

My husband and I had been trying for a baby for a while despite being in a rough custody battle (It was awful, the other party sucks. Don’t ask.) during which we got 50/50 custody of our older three. We got news from the doctor that my chances of having a baby were low. My husband bought me my first cat Saint to cheer me up. Four months later a friend of ours knew of some kittens and my husband got my our second cat T’Challa thinking that it’d help cheer me up even more. I had finally accepted not having a baby when I started feeling rough. I went to the ER early one morning after taking my husband to work. I was told that I had a stomach bug and (at the same time Harry Potter was playing in the back, when Harry is told “You’re a wizard, Harry.”) that I was pregnant. Also note that this was right before my birthday, haha. I had to sit on that news all freaking day. I picked my husband up from work and let him complain about his day all the way home. I finally let the beans spill when we got home and here we are now. My baby is almost 16 months old. We procured a pug named Ganthet to grow up with the baby knowing that for half the week he’d be an only sibling. There are now six of us and three pets and it is tiring, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. We’ve started introducing the youngest to giant polyhedral sets and water proof cards. We’ll make a sixth gamer yet.

I now fill up my free time with several volunteer positions, a personal assistant job, Etsy shop, and this blog. You must be wondering where I get this free time. I don’t, things get done when they get done. My husband has made a lovely life for me and our children and I am grateful to him for it. We have a good lot of friends that game as well and it makes life that much more worth it. This year will be my first year attending Gen Con, why did I pick the 50th anniversary?? 🙂

Thank you for reading, I hope it wasn’t too long and boring. Please take a chance to like us on Facebook and follow of on WordPress and Twitter. Take a peek a the Etsy page while you’re at it. And until next time… Live by the board.


Tabletop Day 2017

Greetings All,

So as you may have noticed, “The Husband” and “The Bartender” will be joining the blog once in a while and I am grateful to have them. Also new… my site is no longer, it’s just How cool is that?! I have also joined multiple accounts of mine: Facebook, Twitter, and Etsy. Please check us out and give us a like. 🙂

-Tabletop Day 2017-

This year for TTD we had several sponsors that helped provide games, party favors, and prizes. Literally everyone went home with something, which is a great way to keep the spirit alive because we hold a competition every year. If you’ve ever heard of a television series called The League (If you haven’t please check it out, it’s great.) then you will be aware that it is about a group of friends that play Fantasy Football. During the Superbowl the two people with the highest points go to the Shiva Bowl and the two with the lowest points go to the Sacko Bowl. Well we copied that for our TTDs, except it’s the top four and bottom four players. These players go to two separate games to decide the winner and loser. To get to that point, however, we play three mega games that get graded. The way we grade this is by using the Mario Kart point system.

This year our qualifying games were Mega Dixit, Disc Duelers, and Ticket to Ride. I have enough decks to where Mega Dixit was easy. We used post it notes to label the cards and to vote. Disc Duelers and Ticket to Ride can be utilized with multiple copies of the game if you have large numbers of players. Our Shiva Bowl game was Tokaido and our Sacko Bowl game was Takenoko. That said, just because we used Takenoko as the Sacko Bowl does not mean we dislike. Quite the opposite actually, it is a very easy game to grasp and has a fun subject matter which I feel lessons the blow of being in the Sacko Bowl. After the competition we played Kill Doctor Lucky.

We played for nearly ten hours. There was a potluck and a $10 charge at the door if you were drinking because The Bartender was our bartender – thus the name. Everyone got a gift bag with games and promos and there were door prizes. The winner (myself) and the loser both get plaques. I wood burn them so they are not ready on the day of, I’ll post pictures when my polyurethane dries.

One of my favorite things about TTD is watching newbies enjoy themselves and really see the new-found board game addiction blossom. There are several people who frequent our table, including myself, that are anxiety riddled or just really keep to themselves. TTD brings out the social, goofy person in those people and it’s a lovely sight. We have goofballs whom seem like they can’t take anything seriously, but the moment the competition starts… they are on the ball, it’s fantastic! We are all so incredibly different and to see the lot of all working towards one goal and having such a great time… well to be honest, it is weirdly breath-taking and yes I know that sounds odd. Let me explain. I am not social. Large crowds freak me out and I am slightly temperamental. This is the one time of year when I am not terrified of being smashed into a small place with tons of other people, and do you know why? Because it’s worth it. No matter who I am before I start playing a game, I can be someone else during the game. If I’m playing Castle Panic, for a little while I really feel like I am defending my castle. If I play Tokaido, I get to relax and believe I am on this wonderous journey. I love it and oddly enough I’m not a fan of RPGs.

Something that concerned me thins year is that I had my 15 month old son with me. We don’t have family that I trust or that are willing to watch him because of his age. We don’t have spare money to pay for a babysitter. What we do have is a great group of people whom do not mind his presence at all. Just like last year, these people were by our sides offering to hold him or distract him while I took my turn. I got to watch my friends feed him and play with him. I am very grateful for them and their reactions. Sadly festivities were cut short because my son caught a stomach virus from my ten year old. We took him to the ER. Luckily nothing seriously was wrong, but it did last eight days. He is doing much better now.

Anyhow, thanks for hanging in there with me through this extremely long post. Feel free to reach out with any questions, although I can not reveal my sponsors for TTD, so please don’t ask. Thanks again and until next time… Live by the board.


Castle Panic Attack (I made a funny about my anxiety, haha)

Greetings All,

I’ve got to tell you that I wrote, rewrote, and erased this post probably about a dozen times. I’m not very good about writing about my feelings and getting my point across. I’m more of an over the phone type person. Any who, between my husband asking me to put this up and some of you asking me to elaborate of how board games have helped my anxiety, here I am.

Let me start off by saying that anxiety varies, some people have mini panic attacks or stress induced sweat caused by the tiniest of things and for others it takes a great deal of pressure to evoke a reaction. I’ve had panic attacks that last for seconds and I’ve had some that had long-lasting effects, I’m talking the entire day. These things aren’t jokes or cries for attention. People with anxiety, just like any other mental illness are actually suffering.

I happen to have panic attacks brought on by the smallest of things, sometimes even something as simple as people chewing too loud. I have a great deal of trouble in crowded areas, stores are a nightmare for me, but sometimes even game nights cause issues. I know it’s cheesy and cliché’, but my husband greatly improves my anxiety. Where as my kids make it so much worse… Going to the store with four rowdy kids is very intense.

At game nights I occasionally have an attack, it has nothing to do with who’s there. I can be around people I am 100% comfortable with and still get worked up. A couple of years ago, we just started warning new comers by saying “Hey I have a bit of anxiety please don’t take it personal and please don’t judge me.”. Now, sometimes this worked like a charm and sometimes I’d be stared at all night, like people were waiting for it to happen. So I had to develop techniques to focus on the task at hand and calm my self down before it became a show. As much as I love International Tabletop Day, it takes a great deal of effort to stay focused.

Now on to the helpful board games. I’ve found that really focusing on specific parts of game helps. Games like Five Tribes (intense Mancala) are great for this. It is a game night favorite for me. Staring at the board to calculate and count up my next move and several back up moves in case mine get taken…is hypnotic. I hate to say this, but I think anxiety actually helps me with Five Tribes. I’m certain that if I wasn’t so busy trying not to focus on relieving my attack that I wouldn’t be so engrossed in the game strategy. Then you have games like Castle Panic and Love Letter that for me are so automated that if I need a break from the room I can literally block out everything and play those games in my sleep. I’m not sure if this is because of my love for these games or because I’ve played so many times, but when I say automated… I mean it.

On to the not so helpful games… There are games that I love like Dixit, Codenames, or Concept that just increase pressure if I’m experiencing an attack. In all of these games you are giving hints and such keep the game going . Something fun like giving the table a silly hint towards your Dixit card can become something horrible like: Was my hint good enough? Did I make it too easy? Too hard? Am I going to get any points? What if no one understands my hint? What if I got my Pop Culture reference wrong? It is exhausting, which is why I try my best to never play trivia games. There are also games like Ticket to Ride (love) and Disc Duelers (like) that become so competitive that it turns into an angry situation. We have an intense group of friends, my husband and myself included… and when someone takes the six train route on TTR that you’ve just got the final card for or someone knocks you off the table in Disc Duelers, it becomes a glaring match and sometimes a screaming match. For the most part my game night attendees are close to us, that these angry moments are because we are comfortable enough to say ‘Hey you d!ck! You took my route!”.

I want to clarify that when I say helpful and not so helpful, IT DOES NOT reflect the quality of the game itself. For instance I said I love Dixit, Codenames, and Concept… well I do, and they are party games. They are games that usually mean I’m in a bigger group. That isn’t always a bad thing, in fact, if not for party games I’d probably never be around that many people… so kudos to party games for making me less of a hermit. I absolutely love Ticket to Ride, it’s probably my favorite game, but it gets intense. I do not dislike Disc Duelers, I just have NEVER had a relaxed game of that (my husband refers to it as RPG battle pogs.) It is still a great game for a group… that you are comfortable with. Do not play that with strangers.

Moral of the story is, do not let anxiety hold you back. Although some games are not helpful to my anxiety… I would not trade my gaming experiences for the world. Each time I play it brings me closer to working though my issues, each time I play I feel closer to my friends and family. I try not to avoid games with the exception of a few, and even then, I do try play and enjoy myself. Not every game is going to help you and not every game is going to make things worse, but at the end of the day, you still played games didn’t you? You didn’t let your worries stop you and that itself is worth it. I’m sorry about how long this post was, but I do hope that it helped someone. Please look at board game names as there will be links attached to them. If any of you want to ask me questions please feel free.  If you liked this review and want to be kept up to date please follow my page and like me on Facebook. Until next time… Live by the Board.


Castle Panic: The Dark Titan

Greetings All,

I am so freaking excited!! We got our pre-ordered copy of the Castle Panic expansion: The Dark Titan last week! Our pre-order came with a promo card. No joke, in a three-day span, we played 13 rounds!!!

Castle Panic: The Dark Titan by Fireside Games

One hour, 1-6 Players


There are many great monsters and card editions this time. There a now Elite Monsters that you have roll for damage (D6 – Roll 3 or higher), so there is not guarantee you’ll hit it which sucks because either way you have to get rid of the card you used.  The most awesome out of them being Agranok. Agranok isn’t picked out of the draw pile like normal monsters, he has Heralds that are placed in his card as they are drawn, once you pull three of the six he is summoned. Drawing the Heralds to summon him sounds harmless enough until you read his card. When drawing the first Herald, each player must discard one hit card, when drawing the second, each player discards a special card (noted by the purple dots), and when drawing the third you roll for a giant bolder and Agranok has been summoned. Agranok happens to be the toughest monster in the Castle Panic series. He is literally placed in the game to draw all of your fire power. He has eight hit points and the last two MUST be taken simultaneously. When using a slay card against him it only counts as four hits points and is immediately banished from the game. He has five cards (six including the promo) that all contain new and different abilities that make you wish you never crossed his path. He isn’t damaged by structures, so he could literally demolish your whole Kingdom without breaking a sweat. Here’s the thing though… as painful as some on his abilities might be, for example: Banishing the top card in the deck (meaning it’s gone for the rest of the game) or moving two additional spaces… Agranok isn’t actually that formidable. The fact that you have to focus all of your energy on him is what makes him scary, because while your focus is on him all of the other monsters on the board are making their way to your castle unharmed.

Now I know what you’re thinking… “Why would I play something I am destined to lose?”. I promise it’s not all that bad, especially because the wonderful folks over at Fireside Games have seen it fit to give us comrade tokens. There are three tokens we can randomly draw like you do monster tokens. One of them has three points and if it makes it to the castle ring what ever health/hit points it have left is used to damage monsters on the board. The second one has two points and if it makes it to the castle ring, each player gets to draw as many cards as points are left. The third one is also a two-pointer, if it makes it to the castle ring we get to build one or two walls depending on the need and points left. The guys do not move the same way monsters move, they move by players discarding cards. Unfortunately monsters can damage our comrades and kill them, however, our comrades do the same to them. Another awesome comrade comes in the form of a card, The Cavalier card is a standing token we can move around the board to damage people, he has been our saving grace more than once.

The cool thing about this expansion is that you can play it with just Castle Panic or you can add The Wizard’s Tower as well. When playing with The Wizard’s Tower instead of using the usual random three Mega Boss Monsters, you onlu use two. When it comes to the many cards of Agranok you can choose which one to use or you can pick at random.

We played six rounds of The Dark Titan with just Castle Panic, one round for each level of Agranok. Then we played six more rounds of The Dark Titan with The Wizard’s Tower, one with each level of Agranok. Each of these twelve rounds took roughly 45 minutes. When you play Castle Panic with any expansion, you are always instructed to take out certain tokens so that the game isn’t horribly overwhelming. Which brings me to round thirteen. My husband and I figured we hadn’t taken enough of a beating from Agranok so we played with every single token from every single game. It took us 90 minutes and in the end we survived with all towers and walls. Now some of you may remember my Steps to Awesomeness piece I put in my Castle Panic! post. I gave you numbers of tokens for each way we played Castle Panic to put things in perspective. I am still going to do that, just not in this post. I will be writing another post in the next couple of weeks regarding a challenge we have agreed to take on. We will be playing with every token in all of the games AND placing them back in the draw pile until we have killed every level of Agranok, that means will be killing Agranok starting at level one and putting his Heralds back in the draw pile until level six has been summoned. 🙂

In the meantime, please go support Fireside Games by going their website to purchase your Castle Panic products, they come with promos!!! 🙂 Until next time… wish us luck and Live by the Board!


Why I chose specific stress relieving games. (requested)

Greetings All,

This post will not be very long. I was asked to give a reason why I chose Ticket to Ride and Castle Panic to pull me out of the difficult time I experienced last year.

Ticket to Ride is a game that is very simple to grasp. My children latched on very quickly to mechanics of the whole thing. Connecting routes although simple, has a lot of thought process going into it. There are times when you’re calculating so many different things at once you forget it’s your turn. It’s great that you can be so distracted with your calculations, yet the moment someone tells you it’s your turn, your automated responses take over. I always have fun looking around the table and seeing everyone’s “thinking faces”. Some people will breath heavily and bulge their eyes, while others lips will move because they’re counting. It’s adorable. All of us have gotten in the habit of not only competing against each other, but competing against our old scores. It’s strange to think that this habit has come from a board game and is one of the biggest influencers in my children’s drive to always strive to do better in life. Anyhow, in short I love this game because it’s one my family loves. Regardless of who wins, we all acknowledge each others strategies and I love it.

Castle Panic is a game I’ve opined enough about that anyone who has frequented my blog should be well aware of my love for it. If I had to pinpoint the exact reason I love it, it’d most definitely be the chain of support that comes with co-op games. We can take risks because someone else on our team has assured us that if it doesn’t go as planned, they have us covered. We plan several turns ahead of time and in my head it becomes this beautiful piece of artwork we’ve managed to spin together. Togetherness is represented better in this game than in any other game I’ve ever played. It has great features for everyone. My husband and son both love tower defense games, my daughters love saving the day, and myself… I just love working as one for a little bit. In our day-to-day lives we are constantly working towards numerous goals for our lives and a great deal of them are competitive. It’s lovely to work towards something together and relax in our little security net.

I hope that my brief opinion will help you guys to make your own decisions regarding games. Please feel free to contact me and I will be more than happy to give you some game suggestions. Thank you and until next time… Live by the Board.


Thank you!!!

Greetings All,

I received so many nice private messages about my last post: How board games saved my sanity. I was asked several questions. One question was why the specific board games I mentioned were so helpful to me. Another was if board games had helped in any other aspect of my life. I was also asked to feature Ticket to Ride, so that those of you that haven’t been lucky enough to play it can become more familiar with it.

I told these people I would answer their questions. So consider this message a friendly reminder to come back tomorrow for why I chose Ticket to Ride and Castle Panic as the games the helped my family. I will also put up a post regarding other ways board games have helped me the following day!

Thank you so much for your support and I am so happy to hear that board games have helped all of you as well. It means a lot to me that people are starting to open up and contact me with their stories. I love reading them and I hope you will share your stories with others… perhaps if we all pitch in we can help to make board games a more common way to help people in their times of need. Thank you! Until next time… Live by the Board.