For those who don’t know, could you explain the history of Taiwan Boardgame Design (TBD)?
In April 2012, I initiated a playtest gathering in Taipei and to my surprise, there were 15 people showing up bringing about 10 prototypes to be tested. After the first gathering, I decided to run it as a regular monthly event to help designers find people to test games together.
In mid-2013, we learned about Tokyo Game Market (TGM) and some of the designers and indie publishers in the group would love to give it a shot.
So we founded TBD as a team to coordinate people to have a joint both in TGM in November 2013. After the first convention experience, TBD runs the joint booth for Taiwanese designers/publishers in every TGM. And, since 2014, we’ve also had a booth in Essen Spiel every year till now.
We’re holding our 72nd monthly playtest gathering in March 2018 and it will be the annual open playtest day (Playtest Taiwan 2018). TBD has been devoted to cultivating the design, playtest, and publishing environment in Taiwan for almost 6 years and will keep looking for interesting games to bring them to the world.
And what is your own relationship with TBD? How did you personally get involved in the board game community?
I’m one of the founders for TBD back in 2013. Since I’m the only one who is not designing or publishing games (right, I was not designing games at that time), I take care of most of the work in TBD so that other partners can focus on making good games. Right now I’m doing full time for TBD and my wife and a few friends will take some part-time work for TBD.
I was introduced to modern board games by my best friend in graduate school in 2009.
My hook was Frank’s Zoo. After playing the game, I kept asking my friend for MORE! Later on I played Carcassonne, Caylus, Agricola, Power Grid, and many many more. One day my friend showed me the BGG website and I was overwhelmed by the world of boardgaming.
I explored the world gradually and began to interact with some active gamers, designers and publishers online. After my first Essen Spiel in 2011 (as a crazy game collector), I was fascinated by the hype of the boardgame industry and can’t help but getting more and more involved in the community.
And then comes the story of TBD as I mentioned in the previous question…
We’re obviously very interested in board game culture around the world. What do you think is distinctive about the board game scene in Taiwan, and the games that flourish there?
I think the most special boardgame scene in Taiwan is that there are about 200 boardgame shops and cafe in the greater Taipei area.
Some of them are more cafe-ish rather than game-ish. But if counting only the game-ish shops, there are around 120-150 there. Most of them are located near universities and colleges (there are A LOT of universities and colleges in Taiwan, thanks to the educational competition…) and students are their major customers.
These shops make their living mostly by the hourly fee for people playing there. And Avalon is probably the most popular game in Taiwan.
HAPPY LUNAR NEW YEAR! Wish you all the best for the coming YEAR OF THE DOG! To celebrate the holidays with families & friends, check out the LNY discount on all our games! https://t.co/qIEstLhnvP pic.twitter.com/ERdjv4exZg
— TBD@Playtest'18 (@TaiwanBGdesign) February 17, 2018
My Story is one of those games where theme and mechanics instantly connect (in this case building a life and building a deck). Can you explain the design process behind My Story?
The inception of the game is actually a project from my friend’s company. They want to have a game about life and career decision for their in-house courses. When he mentioned that to me, the idea of “deck-building your life” instantly struck my mind.
After a few discussion about how complex and how long we wanted the game to be (we need to fulfill the requirement of their company’s needs), I got the theme and main mechanic ready. Since they wanted to encourage people to pursue a balanced life (not just making the most money to win), I put 6-7 tributes (icons) in the game but needed to cut them down to 5 (money, knowledge, health & hobby, inter-personal relationship, and family) to make the resource system work more easily.
As for the career decision part, I designed the color-matching bonus rules to reflect that your past experience can give you some benefits if you are doing a job of similar expertise. One thing I like a lot in the game is that you can exchange 1 year of your life for any one resource you need when buying a card or upgrading your CV. It mimics the real life situation where you might need to spend more time to get yourself ready for a project or a new job.
The final stage of the design was adding interesting things that happen in life into the game, and doing the balance.
It was a lot of fun during the process because we spent some time reviewing our own lives and thinking about what is really important in life. There is so much cool stuff in life we could not put into the game due to the component limit.
Maybe we will put them into a future expansion…
Does your experience as a biochemist inform your game design, or are these quite separate fields to you?
I have been thinking about designing a game about biology since the early days I began to play modern boardgames!
But it’s just an idea and a few bullet points written in my notebooks. I haven’t really put that into a serious project, yet.
An essential training for a scientist is “logical thinking,” and every experiment we did in the lab is to unravel the hidden mechanics of some biological pathways. Logic and mechanic are also the crucial elements in game design. So I think there are something in my biochemist’s blood driving me in game design, but probably subconsciously.
What’s next for TBD in 2018? And what’s next for your own design work?
In 2018, TBD will have more presence in conventions. In addition to TGM and Essen Spiel, we will go to UKGE, GenCon, and conventions in Korea. With the help from my new partner Jerry, we will also spread our wings to make some videos to cover our new and old games to get more exposure.
We’ll also build up stronger relationships with partners in Taiwan and get more involved in their product development. We have some exciting projects on the way now.
For my own design, there is another game about life – or more precisely, about “family” – under development. Hopefully we can bring it to Essen Spiel this October.