Where there’s Smoke & Mirrors, There’s Chip Beauvais!

Can I just take a minute and say how great the board game community is? I’ve been ears deep in running interviews, as well as first impressions reviews week after week. I had actually started this blog to give tips on strategy in various games, just as a taking off point for people familiar with games, but always playing with wrong tactics. (See my Small World Elves post). Anyway, with requests coming at me so suddenly and quickly, I haven’t had much time for those types of posts lately, and I couldn’t be happier about the opportunity! Anyway, on with the show.

So, I’ve been sitting here looking at my laptop for at least 45 minutes. I know that there is something so obvious that I can use with Smoke & Mirrors to make a great metaphor, but there is nothing coming into my head at all. My ideas all just disappeared. (Gimme SOME credit, I mean I at least got an awful pun out of it right?) So, why would I be looking for something to relate to Smoke & Mirrors? Well, if you haven’t heard, there is a new game out from Button Shy and their Wallet Series called Smoke & Mirrors, by Chip Beauvais. It’s a game about stage magicians, and their ability to out preform each others tricks, all the while trying not to be caught and having their tricks revealed. Let’s hear from Chip about a quick game summary as well.

Chip:  Players take turns placing cards face down and claiming that their cards add up to the next number in sequence. That is, the first player puts down a single card from his or her hand and claims that it’s a 1. The next player puts down one (or two) cards and claims that they add up to 2, etc. At the start of the turn, a player can accuse the previous player of lying. Whoever is wrong is eliminated from the round. This continues until only one player remains. (There are more details, but this is the core.)

Seems like a fairly easy game, but this week, we aren’t talking about the game and how it plays, as much as we are talking more about the development process and the unique way the Kickstarter is being done, with the one and only Chip Beauvais. (Don’t worry, a first impressions review will be coming later!)

Hi there Chip, thanks for taking some time out to do this with me. It’s always amazing to me to hear about all the different approaches with game development, and sharing a bit with us today is very exciting. So to start off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure! I live in Maynard, MA, with my wife, daughter, and two bunnies (one of whom you can see in the kickstarter video). I got into the hobby in 1999, when my wife suggested that we learn to play Magic together. I enjoy games that require optimizing systems, which makes me an Ingrid, according to my own set of player psychographic profiles. You can read more about these profiles here: http://whoseturnisitanyway.com/design-player-psychographic-profiles-part-1/

In our preliminary info emails, you mention that your title was designer, and Jason Tagmire was the developer. In which way did you guys work together on this game? Was he more involved in mechanics and yourself on theme and design? Or was it more of a partnership and just gave yourselves separate titles?

I should clarify – Jason is the publisher of Smoke and Mirrors, and he helped me develop the game along the way. In particular, he suggested the theme. The initial concept and mechanics were mine, and we collaborated on details (such as the distribution of numbers in each deck).

Ah, alright, that’s a good partnership to have if you’re looking to be published! So, Where did you come up for the idea of this game?

The initial concept was around misprinted cards. That is, the back of the card would mislead you about what was on the front of the card.

In an early iteration of this concept, the card backs showed Merchants (trying to deliver valuable gems safely), Thieves (trying to steal the gems), and Guards (trying to protect the Merchants). Most of the cards were who they claimed to be (most cards with a Thief back also had a Thief front), but some were in disguise. Players would reveal their cards and say, “Aha! I’m not a Thief, but a Merchant!”

This iteration showed promise, but it still required a lot of work. I put the bits in a box, labelled it with the year (2012), and left it to simmer for a few years.

And now look at where that idea has gotten to in 2015. It’s a wonderful thing to hear how games change along the way. When the whirlwind of the release dies a little, what’s next for yourself?

My highest priority is to find a new publisher for my other game design, Chroma Cubes. After a successful kickstarter last year, the publisher declared bankruptcy this spring.

I also have a few other game design ideas that I’m tinkering with, including a slot-machine deckbuilder.

Oh no, well, hopefully there will be no repeats on the horizon! What has been the most stressful aspect of this process for you so far?

So far, everything has flown pretty smoothly. Based on my previous kickstarter experience, I anticipate refreshing KickTraq every 5 minutes will be the most stressful aspect.

Do you(or does anyone else) give you any deadlines or goals to meet, or is it more about getting done a well made project?

I think it’s in the nature of a game designer to tinker and tweak ideas forever. Deadlines force us (or me anyways) to commit to an idea. I don’t feel rushed at all, but it’s good to have a set of gradual deadlines for “these things need to be done before the kickstarter, and those things can wait until after the campaign is complete.”

At what point in development did you know that you could really get behind this project to make it a reality?

I usually prefer to do a number of solo playtests of a game before presenting it to anyone. Unfortunately, even with my poor memory, I can’t bluff myself that often. So, I did a little bit of solo playtesting to see if the game flowed, and then brought it to my gaming group.

Although the initial design was more clunky (you could raise each turn by either 1 or 2, passing wasn’t an option) and more brutal (your claim had to pass every player), my coworkers liked it, and were willing to play multiple rounds. This gave me the confidence to pitch it to Jason. When he told me that his playtest group “played the game and had a blast the other night”, I knew we were onto something.

What’s your favourite card in the game? Either art, or ability, maybe both?

All of the artwork is amazing, but the 4 (in the spiral deck) might be my favorite. The magician is flourishing an old-style key in one hand, much like the sword you’d see on a Jack in a standard deck of cards.

What can you tell me about the Kickstarter you’ve got planned upcoming?

The details are still being determined, but the campaign will be for three separate wallet-sized games. Supporters can choose to get 1, 2, or all 3 games, and the more you buy, the more you save. The other two games are Fever Chill, by Kenneth Thompson (http://buttonshygames.com/pages/fever-chill ) and North South East Quest, by JR Honeycutt (http://buttonshygames.com/pages/north-south-east-quest ).

*Edit: The campaign is now live, and can be found right here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/239309591/button-shy-wallet-game-series-3-micro-games *

What’s it like having three separate games on the same Kickstarter? Do you think there is a potential to lose some people who may be interested in your game but not the other two? Or have you planned ahead for that situation?

As far as I can tell, It’s all upside. People can back as many or as few games as they wish. I know not every game is for every person, but I think it’s a great opportunity for people to explore different types of games that they might not otherwise be exposed to.

That’s a unique approach to help boost a bit of funding on three separate titles. Do you think that some larger games may take the same sort of idea of funding multiple games on one campaign to try and reach their funding goals, while selling slightly less copies? (On the assumption it’s possible for them to produce less components)
That’s a good question. A lot of pieces would need to fall into place for that to work. Jason’s unique approach to running a kickstarter campaign, as well as the goodwill that he’s developer with his backers and game designers, isn’t easy to replicate. While some larger companies have the reputation to try to emulate ButtonShy’s success, it would have to be the right combination of games to attract a wide audience.
Well, I think that’s about all there is time for right now, thanks for the wonderful chat, and good luck with Smoke & Mirrors! Hopefully as your games keep releasing, we can keep discussing them together. 
Thanks for taking the time to interview me. I’ve enjoyed answering these questions, and I hope to chat with you again about my next game.
Editors Note: I usually post on Monday night just before I go to bed. That didn’t happen this week, and I feel pretty crumby about it. I love to put this together a bit early and feel accomplished, but it was out of my hands this week. I’m sorry. I hope you enjoy it just as much this evening, even though it’s Tuesday night instead on Monday night! 

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