Interview Hosts Leeuwarden: Friso Roolvink & Mitchel Bonnema

blokhuispoort-rechtenvrij-2660969_1280In this interview episode once again we have 2 people at the same time! We shine a spotlight on the hosts of the Tabletop Testing Nights in Leeuwarden, Friso Roolvink & Mitchel Bonnema. Besides facilitating playtesting tabletop games, they have more to do with games.


What work do you do?

Friso: I’m currently a producer at Grendel Games, a company that makes seriously entertaining games. My main job is managing schedules, budgets and resources. Managing resources is a really impersonal way of saying that every day I play a complex management boardgame called ‘who will work on which project and how do we make sure that every project meets its deadline’. Aside from playing around in excel sheets all day, I do my best to make sure everyone in the team is happy and works well together. So a lot of planning, puzzling, problem solving, communication and playing nice together. Who would have thought I’d like board games?

grendel games

Mitchel: I am a lecturer at the Hanze Applied University (Hogeschool) in Groningen, where I give courses in topics such as business, game design, graphic creation and agile development, but also do project and internship coaching. I basically have a hand in almost every element of creating a game related product from start to finish. I am also the co-owner of Critical Bit – a game and app development company based in Leeuwarden. I’m a game designer and graphics artist and work together with my two programmer colleagues. Whatever experience I gained in the last 7 years in owning my own game company, I can use as a teacher in front of the class.

critical bit

Any cool projects we should know about? 

Friso: Yes! The Board Game Jam! Together with 2 friends I’m organizing a yearly event where 20-30 aspiring and veteran board game developers come together to build board games in just a weekend. The time pressure combined with the fact that you are working in a team leads to very quick results. After just one day, most of the groups already have a playable game which can then be polished and tested during the remaining time. The end results are usually really impressive, especially regarding the time constraints. To give an impression of what is possible in three days: three of the games that we created during a Board Game Jam, were at a level of polish that we could pitch it with a publisher (which we have). The Board Game Jam is definitely a great way to learn about a lot of aspects of creating board games and always leaves me with a satisfied feeling.


Mitchel: With Critical Bit, one of our biggest projects is an app called Fighting Trainer – a free app where users can check out near 100 different moves of well known fighting styles. Fighting Trainer isn’t a big cash cow, but it’s the perfect project for us to tweak and look at user responses, where different little marketing ideas and app updates can be safely experimented with. Another project me and my colleagues are currently working on is in a very early stage, where we can already take some lessons from things we tried with Fighting Trainer. We released a game on Steam a few years back as well called Reign of Bullets.

In terms of personal projects however, being a teacher takes up quite a lot of my time, but I try to fit in a little side project here and there. I have some experiments for card games lying around, but never really gotten to take it seriously and getting to the stage of releasing something. At the moment I’m working on a little card game where players develop a culture and language together. You could call it a semi-role playing game, as people without role playing interest or experience are still given enough tools and are guided by the game to add something to the session, without things hopefully feeling forced. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I feel there’s some interesting steps to take with this.


How is the Blokhuispoort as a location?

Friso: The Blokhuispoort is very charming. I mean, it looks like a castle, what more do you want!? It really sparks the imagination and there’s always a nice story somewhere in the building. Aside from that it is also practical. We usually play in a big room with a lot of large wooden tables that seem to come right out of aforementioned castle. Now that I come to think of it, we should definitely host a big medieval feast there some time. Combined with a board game night of course.

Mitchel: These past few years the Blokhuispoort underwent a lot of structural changes, a modernization of sorts as some parts of the building with literally crumbling to dust. This basically meant for me and my company (and for a lot of others in the building) that we had to move around from section to section as the building was being renovated. Quite hectic. With these new changes the old prison building is perfect for small scale companies like mine. But also for events and meetings such as the tabletop testing night. There’s something inspiring about the old aesthetic while having all the modern functionality of a normal office building.


What affinity do you have with tabletop games?

Friso: I have been playing and creating tabletop games since before I can actually remember. Luckily my mother could tell me that I created my first board game when I was around 7 years old. It was probably also my mother who did most of the work and inspired me, but as far as I can remember, I really liked it and was very proud of it. Since then I’ve been doing it on and off as a hobby, both playing and creating. I’ve created about 15 prototypes in my whole life, of which 3 are multiple year projects which never got to see the light of day because of my inexperience. It’s really not that much compared to who I call ‘real board game designers’. That’s why I have a lot of respect for anyone actually being able to design, finish and get a game published, it takes a lot of perseverance.

Mitchel: Back in the day I used to think board games were old fashioned. This idea spawned from years of playing games like Monopoly and Rummikub. When the surge of new era board games like Michiavelli, Carcasonne, Catan and Dominion popped up, it renewed my interest. I started buying “heavier” games with each new purchase, ending up with games like Gloomhaven, Arkham Horror and Civilization: A New Dawn. This in turn got me to start playing tabletop RPG’s as well, like Dungeons and Dragons. It basically meant that, with each purchase I did, things got a bit more complicated and out there.

Here and there I started experimenting with ideas of my own as well. It would be nice to release a board- or cardgame at some point, but for the most part I’m more interested in the back and forth that comes from generating these gameplay ideas than the actual production of games themselves. I found out that I like the fact that I can discuss, give feedback on and critique what game designs are being experimented with, including my own, which is why me and Friso Roolvink wanted to set up tabletop testing nights in Leeuwarden. It gives a chance for people to show off their own work, where ideas often come from very different places than my own. This in turn helps me evaluate my own ideas and findings.

What prior work experiences is really useful in your current job? What helps you now with game design?

Friso: A lot of what I did during my life revolves around games. Playing them was probably the most prominent activity, but in light of my current job and hobbies, let’s call it extensive research. I originally started out as a game designer (of digital games) which I have been combining with project management, teaching game design and running a business for the first 5 years of my career. Obviously the skills I developed then are very applicable to board game design as well. Now that I barely do any game design as I focus on my job as a producer, designing board games is more and more a creative outlet for me. It calms the creation craving monkey in me. What really helps me now to keep learning and developing my game design skills is talking with and learning from the people that attend the Tabletop Testing Nights and Board Game Jams.

Mitchel: Working as a teacher has me evaluating my own words all the time. Who am I to say students should do something differently when I do things wrong as well? This really got me to look at my own validity, which helps in motivating myself. Other than that, my own company of course gave me a lot of good and bad parts of all things considered in game design. Unresponsive clients, strict deadlines, unclear goals, but also on the flipside great cooperation, getting to know new tools and systems, and delivering on what you promised after months of work.


What games (digital and tabletop) do you really like? 

Friso: There are so many… Slay the Spire is one of my favorites since it is a very good roguelite with card based combat and deck building. So very much inspired by analogue games, but makes perfect use of the possibility of digital games. The latest Magic the Gathering digital adaptation is very good as well. Mystic Vale is one of my favorite analogue games because of its card crafting mechanic and polished feel and I really like the whole Civilization franchise because it’s basically a digital boardgame of epic proportions.

Mitchel: I don’t play a whole lot of competitive digital games anymore. In most cases I find that I just don’t have the time to keep up my skills enough to enjoy myself online. I much prefer single player or cooperative experience instead. Story based games like The Last of Us or God of War, or pick up and play games like Borderlands or Earth Defence Force are what I much rather spend time on. That interest sort of bled over to my boardgame preferences as well, where I now much rather play a game for its theme or shared goal rather than being victorious over others. As mentioned before, Gloomhaven – for me personally the perfect blend of exploration, cooperation and tactical choices having to be made. Or Arkham Horror the card game, where the deck you choose to build is part of what your character is like. The weapons, allies, skills and abilities you put in that deck defy how you interact with the challenges throughout a campaign. I find the emotional trigger to be interesting, where it isn’t just about winning and feeling victorious, but that you actually made a change or influenced something.


What advice would you give a game designer or someone aspiring to work with games?

Friso: You can get the best advice, buy the best tools available, read every book on game design, get inspiration from other games and people, but despite how much fun all of this can be, none of it will result in seeing your own game being played by other people. So stop wasting time reading interviews and, to quote a famous LaBeouf, ‘JUST DO IT!’.

Mitchel: Keep in mind player control. Where in a digital game you press a button and all things happen as a reaction, with tabletop games it’s the player who has to place the tile, give coins or turn over a card, and it’s the player who has to calculate the amounts, has to move the units by hand and has to keep track of scoring. Don’t forget about how the player influences the game. Something might seem very different on paper compared to when you’re actually playing it. Getting your hands on 15 abilities can be fun, but having to hold all of them in your hands less so. What does this do to the game’s feel? Think about the logistics of all the actions as well as the effect on the game itself. My solution to this is to basically “fail faster”. Build something playable from your idea as soon as you can. If it doesn’t feel right when placing those cards or moving those units, change things. The earlier you start, the easier it’ll be to change things.

Thanks for your time guys!


Interview by Arjan van Houwelingen



Leeuwarden – Tabletop Testing Night – 19 July 2019

blokhuispoort-rechtenvrij-2660969_1280De zomervakantie komt eraan, we gaan nog een keer speltesten voordat het zover is! Dit is het laatste event voordat we een pauze nemen en in september weer zullen gaan speltesten.  Hieronder meer informatie en kun je je aanmelden voor 19 juli. Overigens zullen we in de komende weken nog wat blogs gepost worden, verwacht nog wat content…

The summer break is about to start, we will have a final playtesting event and then have a short break. In September we return with playtesting event. Below more information about the final event on 19 July and how to sign up. We will by the way offer some more content during the next weeks…

Join the ‘Spellenmaakgilde’ playtesting night in Leeuwarden! On Friday the 19th of July we will have another playtesting event in the Blokhuispoort, Leeuwarden.
Do you love board / card / dice games? Like to play new concepts? Join us for a tabletop testing night! Or have you made a game and you want to have it tested? Bring it along to let people play it and get feedback!

We have around 25 free places. Please register so we know how many people are coming. The location opens at 18.00 for people who want to join for takeaway food. Around 19:00 we will start playing. There will be enough opportunities to hop in or out at any time during the evening. We close shop around 23.00+ hours.

Want to join? All you need to do is:

Sign up here
– Bring some drinks, booze, food or snacks
– If you have a game prototype, bring that
– Come over to the Blokhuispoort in Leeuwarden

About the location:
The Blokhuispoort is the old prison building in the centre of Leeuwarden (address: Blokhuisplein 40). The Tabletop Testing Night will take place in the ‘Boekbinderij’ room. This room can be found by entering the Blokhuispoort and on the first open square, turn right and go into the building into a hallway. The room is at the end of this hallway to the right.

We hope to see you then. Come over and play! Please spread the word (and this form) to anyone you think that might be also interested. Follow us on Twitter: @spelmaakgilde. Like us on Facebook and you can share the event there!

Thank you!

For any inquiries or questions about the Leeuwarden Testing Nights, contact Mitchel Bonnema or Friso Roolvink.

Interview Indietopia: Mendel Bouman & Merijn de Boer

logoIn this edition of industry interviews we have not one but two guests! As the ‘Spellenmaakgilde’ (aka Game Design Guild) we are sponsored by Indietopia, who offers their space for playtesting each month. To shine a spotlight on them, we approached the founder Mendel Bouman and the director of their Accelerator program Merijn de Boer.

What is Indietopia about?

Mendel: Indietopia is a foundation that strives to help build, support, and grow the Northern Dutch Game industry. It features a co-working space, Accelerator program with micro funding, and an in-house publisher.

Merijn: Indietopia is all about bringing like-minded developers and aspiring designers together. Our aim is to be the ‘go to’ networking hub for gamers and enthusiasts alike. We aim to create a safe environment where creativity can roam free without forgetting about the business side of things.

What is your role at Indietopia?

Mendel: I’m the founder of Indietopia, and am currently active as its informal ambassador, and member of the board at the Foundation.

Merijn: I am the Director of operations at the Indietopia Accelerator. This program acts as a launching pad for developers and we support them with seminars, networking, office space and, as a consequence, the tools to create great games.

Could you tell a bit about your prior work experiences?

Mendel: I started in ICT in ’98, worked as a project management assistant at Bombardier Transportation for 5, after which I decided to combine my hobbies -building computers, gaming, programming, writing, making music, drawing- and pursue these professionally. I ended up working for Wunder Wall (a pre-Wii, Wii for 50 simultaneous players) where I developed Game Maker games for the Wunder Wall. After that I joined Electronic Arts for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Fifa 08 (or 07, or 09, can’t remember 😉 ). Then I joined U-TRAX in Utrecht where I worked on the Dutch versions of many major PS3 titles, which I’m still no allowed to talk about, but you likely played them if you have a PS3. I was based at Ubisoft for a short while during this period. After U-TRAX, I founded Emagica, my company that was at the time providing aid in programming, writing, storytelling, design, and more, to any game developer in need of an extra hand.

After moving to Groningen, I noticed a lack of game industry, or rather non-visible game industry and a strong lack in coherence and support, and after several years of networking, talking, planning, I founded Indietopia, which opened its doors on April 1st 2014. It’s been a rollercoaster ever since.

Merijn: I previously worked at several internet companies and noticed that the bigger the company, the more the need to utilize people like batteries – specifically when dealing with competitive upcoming markets. Having learned the value of people, specifically happy employees, I can now value my team and demonstrate on a daily basis that they are the core of our business and we hold them dearest.

Before joining Indietopia I did content acquisition at Softonic International, had my own companies in translation and text design and managed several innovation projects for foundations and smaller enterprises. I now combine my work at Indietopia with my own company: Human Approved Productions. We have one (gamified) app (CityBuddy), one digital game and two card games in development. One being The Epic Story of Blank & Blank.

What affinity do you have with tabletop games?

Mendel: I love complex tabletop games. I have been playing pen and paper roleplaying games for 32 years (The Dark Eye, MERP, Rolemaster, Paranoia, Vampire the Masquerade, Dungeons and Dragons 3.5) and still play them. I’m a Tragic the Garnering… I mean Magic the Gathering player since ’94. I love board games. Favourites are Roborally, Dominion, Pandemic (all editions and versions), Ticket to Ride, Eight Minute Empire, Carcassonne, Colonists of Catan, and even good old fashioned Risk and Scrabble. I love tabletop RPGs for the social aspect and its creativity and appeal to your imagination. I love board games for their challenges. Can I win? What different strategies can I try? Can I beat this really good player?

Merijn: I love tabletop games; both playing and designing them. Gathering with friends in a live tabletop setting is so much different than what we do online when gaming online. I think that personal contact, the laughs and fun around a table and the idea of questing with pen and paper is simply amazing. The talks we are having with several contemporary board game publishers are very inspiring and give off a clear signal: these games are very much alive and bring people together in ways digital games cannot.

What games (digital and tabletop) do you really like? 

Mendel: Top favourites would be Vampire the Masquerade, Roborally and pandemic. Digitally, I really love roleplaying games, in particular ones where you can fully customise and create your own characters and go about your unique adventures with multiple storylines and endings. I lately find myself not having enough time to play these (which is something I sorely need to address). Racing sim games are also a guilty pleasure of mine, I love to race, both virtual and actual. Last but not least there’s Singstar, Dance Central and Just Dance that just really tick my boxes. Singing and dancing is good for the soul. Doing this with friends in your own home is even better.

Merijn: Call me old-fashioned but I love playing Barricade (Malefix), Snakes and ladders (with my younger nieces) as well as the older magnate games like Hotels. I also love games that seem like card games yet are played on a table. There is one rather obscure game called ‘Vluchtweg‘ (Escape route) where players lay cards with routes in order to escape a prison in the center of your table. My own game The Epic Story of Blank & Blank (now being worked on) is also a game that we tied to the table by including boards with a special function. I love and play a lot of tabletop games and will probably continue to do so for the rest of my life.

Any cool projects we should know about?

Many 🙂 With the Accelerator program we have several serious game projects in development and several entertainment ones:

  • Budget buddy – a serious game that helps mentally challenged people in budgeting their savings and income.
  • Pedal Pushers – a serious game that re-acquaints cyclists with bicycle safety, and traffic laws, in a playful manner.
  • Terra Gardens – A Zen gardening experience for de-stressing. Expected Q4 2019.
  • Crimson Resonance – A Twin Stick shoot ‘em up with a unique ‘Suck and shoot’ game mechanic with beautiful combination of audio and visuals. They recently won an award at Reboot Develop.
  • Fringe Planet – A voxel survival game that mixes up Dwarf Fortress, Factorio, Minecraft, and HP Lovecraft.
  • Pilot Perils –  Excalisoft is developing a mobile cave exploration game in a Steampunk ‘helicopter’. This side-scrolling flying action-adventure game has great visuals and enticing puzzles. Out on iPhone, soon on Android, and Q4 2019/Q1 2020 on Nintendo Switch.

At the publisher:

  • Arctic Infiltration, a first person vehicular underwater game, featuring rogue AI, stealth, tactics, rockets and combat.
  • Super Secret project: a first-person shooter with a twist. We cannot say more about this one, except that we are very excited about it.

Developed at the Indietopia premises:

  • Mecha Maddox, a Twin Stick shoot-em up where you fight gigantic monsters from the inside out, based on New York Times best-selling author Maddox (author of The Alphabet of Manliness and Fuck Whales).
  • Æther Void, a Pen and Paper roleplaying game where you can play (among many other races and archetypes) an Orc on Fantasy world Far Haven, a Vampire scientist on Steampunk planet Victoria, or an undercover agent on Sci Fi planet Sleeping Dragon. Explore these worlds and find your way across the stars to the other worlds.

What advice would you give a game designer or someone aspiring to work with games?

Mendel: Learn all about business development and marketing that you can. Or find a partner that wants to do this so you can focus on game design. Together you might just conquer the world.

Merijn: Designers are often told to ‘kill their darlings’. I advise designers to spread their darlings as much as possible. If an ambition is simply too large, divide the elements over different puzzles or games and you’ll notice some simple ideas work on their own. Like with good writers; your first story is never one that should cover all of your experiences or the fictional experiences you have lined up for your readers. Start small and never stop thinking big.

Gentlemen thank you for your time!


Interview by Arjan van Houwelingen

Looking back: Testing Night Groningen June 2019

De juni testavond was weer nuttig en gezellig. Dit was de laatste testavond in Groningen voor de zomerstop. Vanaf september zullen we weer verder gaan. Wel komen er nog een aantal toffe evenementen in Leeuwarden aan! Maak samen een spel tijdens de Boardgame Jam eind juni. Speeltest je concept tijdens de Speelwarden spellenbeurs. En natuurlijk komt de regulier speltestavond Leeuwarden er nog aan.

The June playtesting night was once again useful and pleasant. This is the last testing night in Groningen before the summer break. We will continue in September. However, in Leeuwarden a bunch of cool events are coming up! Make a game together during the Boardgame Jam end of June. Playtest your concept during the Speelwarden game convention. And of course there is the regular playtesting night in Leeuwarden coming up.

Interview: Richard de Rijk

Het Nederlandse interview staat onder de Engelse, klik hier om er naar toe te gaan.

5v4auTXq_400x400In our goal to shine a light on the tabletop game industry and their participants in the Netherlands and more broadly Europe, we present you another interview. After our earlier sessions with Liesbeth Bos, Christian Beiersdorf of the SAZ and Aerjen Tamminga, we have a chat with designer Richard de Rijk (translated from Dutch):

How are you active in the games industry?

Since 2013 I am mainly active as a game designer for large corporates in the railway industry. My games always involve an actual challenge or aim to facilitate a change or improvement at companies. Besides this I try to get [entertainment] game concepts published, but that is usually a long lastig venture. For example, a concept from 2016 is still under review. And since my visit to GenCon 2018 I am still working together with a Canadian publisher to adapt a concept to their wishes.

What is your background and what skills and knowledge have been of use as a game designer?

Since 1996 I have experienced different aspects of the entertainment tabletop games industry. I ran a webshop for around 20 years; self-published 6 games from 2001 to now (before kickstarter was as big as is it currently); I owned a play area for 2 years and I have been a distributor for a few years. In 2015 I succeeded to have ‘Thieves!’ (Dieven!) published by 999 Games, which has been internationally releases in later years. The game is now available in 10 languages.

I have studied Industrial Design in Delft and that supports game design: you learn amongst others the design proces, production and marketing of consumer products. Besides “product knowledge” it is advisable to to know a bit about retail, distributors and publishers. All those parties are needed to have a concept finally end up on the shelves in game stores.

So besides entertainment games you work on serious board games, what are those?

This is gaming for a serious purpose: games for large corporations meant to be played by employees for learning. And because I usually design board games (because these are much faster and cheaper than a digital game to develop), these are ‘serious board games’.

For ‘serious games’ the design process is relatable, but the client and target audience are completely different. For both you need to be creative and you game should be an exact fit.

What makes the way you are working on games special?

I estimate worldwide only a few dozen designers are working at a high level on board game simulations. I regularly encounter board games in workshops and see research results at universities being presented in game form. But games that solve a problem with certain content I see less. Often experts are not game designers and game designers often miss expertise within a particular field. I bring both to the table.

Could you describe a case of such a serious game?

About 5 years ago I created a board game which let players go through the core tasks of a company in about 1 hour. That way they get to know the different departments, learn about the challenges to be had and which choices need to be made. Plus they can see what impact their choices have. So far the game has been played by thousands of players, inside and outside the company. It is even used as part of a selection procedure: potential employees that play the game well, have increased odds of getting hired. A while ago a director needed to make an investment decision for 30 million euro’s. He wanted to play the simulation game with all companies involved before he made his final decision. The game sessions offered insights on important conditions critical for success that had not yet been identified prior.

Another case is the Rail Cargo Challenge Rotterdam. I contributed to the development of this and you can watch an overview video about it here.

What do you find most interesting / fun in designing games?

Every assignment and thus every game is unique. It remains very satisfying to come up with an concept and develop that into a well functioning and beautiful game that showcases a specific situation. It still is fascinating to see how effective this form of learning is for players. Sometimes millions are saved by the outcomes of one play session. That my board games can accomplish such a thing intrigues me endlessly.

Which game are you most proud of?

That is similar to asking which one of your children you love most. 😊 I will highlight a few entertainment games:

  • The first one (Anera’s Arena) remains dear to my heart. I needed 5 different companies to make this game a reality. The Dutch Gamefactory (Nederlandse Spellenfabriek) was needed for the box, the rulesbook and player boards. Reaper for the miniatures. Chessex for the die. An injection mold company for the plastics and an assembly company that combined it all. I have been injecting my miniatures myself for 3 weeks at Minifigs in Southampton, that did the production and distribution for Reaper in Europe in those days. The director during that time, Dave Higgs, managed that I could choose any of the Reaper miniatures for my game.
  • A few years later I had a stand on Spiel Essen demonstrating my game Atta Ants. Comments by the writing press that I earned were “close to the perfect board game” and “the pearl of Spiel”. I sold the game to the USA, UK and Germany. Recently I received compliments for the game by a few American publishers and a German publisher. Hopefully the game will get a another shot in this currently tough market.
  • Finally, I like to mention my game concept Pattaya. In 2016 this game made it to the finalist stage of the Premio Archimede (an international game design contest). With over 180 games being send in, this is something to be proud of. The jury noted: “This is a novelty we are looking for. We will find a publisher for this. But we don’t know who and when yet”. So far I have send over 15 prototypes to publishers in America, Netherlands, Korea, Germany, Italy and France. By all the feedback of the publishers the game has improved much more. It is a matter of being persistent and keep pitching it until it is finds a home.

Could you share some photo’s of prototypes that have been published?

Anera’s Arena, prototype and final game:

Atta Ants, prototype and game:

Thieves prototype and how the games look like in South-Korea and the USA:

What advice would give someone who also wants to design a game?

At any moment consider what you enjoy about it. This can be, for example:

– Love to being creative, or
– Make something to play with friends, or
– Design a game what consumer will eventually buy, or
– Wanting to make serious board games.

Realise that this list goes from easy to hard. And from ‘occasional activity’ to fulltime and from hobby to a serious profession. And sometimes from ‘this is fun’ to disappointment and issues of (much) money. As a director of a publisher said recently in a blog: “My job is 80% business and 20% games.”

Finally, check out this Youtube video “Reasons to NOT enter the boardgame industry”. Keep doing what you like and don’t push it too far.

Where can we find more about you and your work?

I am mostly active on Twitter (@RicharddeRijk) and sometimes on LinkedIn. You will not easily encounter my serious games as they are used within companies. However, I am working on a booklet about them. It should be a possible to arrange a copy for a few readers interested.

Richard thank you for your time!

Nederlands Interview: Richard de Rijk

5v4auTXq_400x400Met het doel om met regelmaat een licht te schijnen op de bordspel industrie in Nederland en breder gezien Europa, presenteren we wederom een interview. Na de eerdere sessies met Liesbeth Bos, Christian Beiersdorf van de SAZ § Aerjen Tamminga, spreken we nu met spellenmaker Richard de Rijk:

Hoe ben je actief in de spellenindustrie?

Sinds 2013 ben ik vooral actief als ontwerper van spellen voor grote bedrijven in de spoorbranche. Mijn spellen gaan altijd over een concreet probleem, een verandering of een verbetering van een bedrijf en de bedrijven waarmee ze te maken hebben.
Daarnaast probeer ik spelideeën uitgegeven te krijgen, maar dat zijn vaak lange trajecten. Zo wordt bijvoorbeeld nog steeds een concept bekeken uit 2016 en ben ik met een Canadese uitgever sinds GenCon 2018 met een idee bezig om het aan te passen naar hun wensen.

Wat is je verdere achtergrond en welke kennis of vaardigheden zijn van nut als spelauteur?

Sinds 1996 heb ik verschillende kanten van de (gezelschaps)spellenindustrie gezien. Ik heb ongeveer 20 jaar een webwinkel gehad, ik heb vanaf 2001 zelf 6 spellen uitgegeven (voordat Kickstarter breed bekend was), ik heb 2 jaar een speelruimte gehad en ik ben nog een paar jaar distributeur geweest. In 2015 lukte het om Dieven! uitgegeven te krijgen bij 999 Games en in de opvolgende jaren lukte het om het internationaal uitgegeven te krijgen. Dieven! is nu in 10 talen verkrijgbaar.
Ik heb Industrieel Ontwerpen in Delft gestudeerd en dat sluit mooi aan: je leert daar o.a. over het ontwerpproces, de productie en de marketing van consumentenproducten.
Naast “product kennis” is het goed om als spelauteur van gezelschapsspellen iets te weten over spellenwinkels, distributeurs en uitgevers. Je hebt elkaar immers allemaal nodig om een idee uiteindelijk in de schappen te krijgen.

Naast entertainment spellen deelde je op twitter in een aantal berichten ook dat je ‘serious’ bordspellen maakt. Wat zijn dat?

Dit is voor een deel serious gaming: Spellen voor grote bedrijven die bedoeld zijn om door de medewerkers van die bedrijven gespeeld te worden om te leren. En omdat ik meestal een bordspel ontwerp (want dat is veel sneller en goedkoper dan digitaal), gaat het dus om “serious boardgames”.

Voor “serious games” is het ontwerpproces vergelijkbaar, maar de opdrachtgever en de doelgroepen zijn compleet anders. Voor beiden geldt: je moet creatief zijn en het spel moet precies goed zijn.

Wat maakt de manier waarop jij bezig bent met spellen bijzonder?

Ik schat dat er wereldwijd maar enkele tientallen ontwerpers op hoog niveau bezig zijn met bordspel simulaties. Ik kom wel regelmatig bordspellen in trainingen tegen en bij universiteiten die een onderzoeksresultaat presenteren in spelvorm. Maar spellen die een inhoudelijk probleem oplossen zie ik niet vaak. Vaak zijn inhoudelijke mensen geen spelontwerpers en spelontwerpers zijn op hun beurt vaak niet inhoudelijk. Ik ben beide.

Zou je een casus (of meerdere) kunnen beschrijven van die serious games?

Een jaar of 5 geleden heb ik een bordspel gemaakt waarin de spelers de hoofdtaken van het bedrijf doorspelen in ongeveer een uur. Zo leren ze afdelingen kennen, ze leren over de problemen die zich voordoen, welke keuzes er gemaakt moeten worden en hoe die uitpakken. Dat spel is intussen door duizenden mensen gespeeld, binnen en buiten het bedrijf. Het wordt zelfs gebruikt binnen een selectieprocedure: speel je het spel goed, dan maak je meer kans om aangenomen te worden.
Een paar jaar geleden moest een directeur een investeringsbesluit nemen over 30 miljoen euro. Hij wilde de situatie eerst met de betrokken bedrijven naspelen voordat hij een besluit nam. De gamesessie heeft belangrijke randvoorwaarden voor succes opgeleverd die nog niet in beeld waren.

Een ander voorbeeld is de Rail Cargo Challenge Rotterdam. Ik heb mee ontwikkeld aan dit spel. Een mooi filmpje hierover staat hier.

Wat vind je het meest interessant/ leuk aan spellen maken?

Elke opdracht en dus elk spel is uniek. Het is steeds weer ontzettend leuk om met een idee te komen en dat te ontwikkelen naar een goed werkend en mooi spel wat precies laat zien wat er aan de hand is. Het blijft fascinerend om te zien hoe effectief deze vorm van leren voor de spelers is. Soms worden er tonnen of miljoenen bespaard door de uitkomst van een spelsessie. Dat mijn bordspellen dat kunnen bereiken blijft mij eindeloos boeien.

Welk spel ben je het meest trots op? 

Dat is een beetje hetzelfde vragen als van welk kind je het meeste houdt. 😊 Ik licht er een paar entertainment spellen uit:

  • De eerste (Anera’s Arena) blijft je altijd bijzonder goed bij. Ik heb 5 verschillende bedrijven nodig gehad om dat spel voor elkaar te krijgen. De Nederlandse Spellenfabriek voor de doos, het spelregelboekje en de spelerbordjes, Reaper voor de miniaturen, Chessex voor de dobbelstenen, een spuitgieter voor de plastic onderdelen en een assemblagebedrijf die het uiteindelijk allemaal in de doos kon leggen. Ik heb zelf drie weken mijn eigen miniaturen staan gieten bij Minifigs in Southampton, die destijds de fabricage en distributie voor Reaper in Europa deed. De baas toen, Dave Higgs, heeft zelfs met Reaper USA geregeld dat ik alle bestaande Reaper miniaturen mocht kiezen om in mijn spel te gebruiken.
  • Een paar jaar daarna stond ik met Atta Ants op Spiel. Dat leverde o.a. de opmerkingen “close to the perfect boardgame” en “the pearl of Spiel” in de schrijvende pers op. Ik verkocht het spel naar Amerika, Engeland en Duitsland. Recent ontving ik complimenten voor het spel van verschillende Amerikaanse uitgevers en is een Duitse uitgever het spel nu aan het beoordelen. Hopelijk krijgt het spel in de huidige moeilijke markt weer een nieuwe kans.
  • De laatste is mijn concept wat Pattaya heet. In 2016 haalde dit spel het podium van de Premio Archimede (een internationale ontwerpwedstrijd). Met meer dan 180 ingezonden spellen iets om trots op te zijn. De jury gaf aan: “This is a novelty we are looking for. We will find a publisher for this. But we don’t know who and when yet”. Intussen heb ik meer dan 15 prototypes moeten versturen naar uitgevers in Amerika, Nederland, Korea, Duitsland, Italië en Frankrijk. Door feedback van de uitgevers is het spel steeds weer beter geworden. Het is nu vooral blijven volhouden met verbeteren en presenteren totdat het een keer raak is.

Zou je wat foto’s willen delen van prototypes die gepubliceerd zijn?

Anera’s Arena, prototype en uiteindelijke spel:

Atta Ants, prototype en spel:

Dieven prototype en hoe de spellen er in Zuid-Korea en de V.S. uit zien:

Welk advies heb je voor iemand die ook een spel wilt ontwerpen?

Bedenk op enig moment wat je er nou zo leuk aan vindt. Dit kan bijv. zijn:
– lekker creatief bezig zijn, of
– iets maken om met je vrienden te spelen, of
– een spel ontwerpen wat consumenten uiteindelijk gaan kopen, of
– ik wil serious boardgames gaan maken.

Besef je dan dat dit rijtje van makkelijk naar moeilijk gaat, van “soms mee bezig” naar fulltime en van hobby naar een serieus vak. En soms van “dit is echt leuk” naar teleurstelling en kwesties over (veel) geld. Zoals een directeur van een uitgeverij laatst in een blog schreef: “My job is 80% business and 20% games.”

En bekijk ook eens op Youtube “Reasons to NOT enter the boardgame industry”. Blijf vooral doen wat je leuk vind en ga niet te ver.

Waar kunnen we meer over jou en je werk vinden?

Ik ben het meest actief op Twitter (@RicharddeRijk) en soms op LinkedIn. Mijn serious games zul je niet zo snel tegen komen, omdat die binnen een bedrijf gebruikt worden. Ik ben wel bezig om daar een boekje van te maken. Het moet vast lukken om voor een paar lezers een boekje te regelen.

Richard bedankt voor je tijd!


Interview by Arjan van Houwelingen

Groningen Tabletop Testing – Friday 7 June 2019

Indietopia oude pand DvhN nieuws groningen foto Indietopia FacebookVrijdag 7 juni 2019 is weer de volgende speltestavond in Groningen. Kom langs met je spelconcept of om lekker spellen te spelen.

Schrijf je s.vp. in via het formulier hieronder. Daar lees je ook de verdere details.

Eerste bezoek testavond? Indietopia zit in het pand waarin ook de krant Dagblad van het Noorden zit en Het Kwadraat, deze locatie is 10 minuten fietsen vanaf het centrum en mocht je met de auto komen dan kun je er gratis parkeren. We zullen een telefoonnummer ophangen bij de deur wat je kan bellen om toegelaten te worden! Je kan een berichtje sturen om telefoonnummers uit te wisselen als je dat fijn vindt voor de zekerheid.

Friday 7th of June 2019 will be our next tabletop testing night in Groningen. Join us for a pleasant night with games to play and test!

Please enrol below.  If you are new, you can contact us for extra support in finding the entrance! Other details can be found in the form below: