Dirigible Disaster: The Interview

Hey everyone, it’s a new week, so here is a fancy new post. This week, I am interviewing the designer, and the publisher of a Kickstarter game that is currently out called Dirigible Disaster, Dan Letzring(publisher) and Dan Grek(designer). They have put together a real time game, which I will bow out of explaining, and let the publisher, Mr. Letzring tell you about himeself, before we hop into our interview.

 

Letzring: Dirigible Disaster is a fast paced co-op game where players work together to keep an airship afloat during its ten minute maiden voyage. Players seed the game board with negative events such as steam leaks and broken cogs and then have one minute of real time play to fix as many of these issues as they can before time runs out. Each player takes one action at a time and the only limit to the number of actions you have is the speed at which the players work. If the group makes it 10 rounds, they win and the Dirigible lives to fly again.

Having this background, lets dive into another fun interview!

Page: Hey there guys, to start off, can you tell me a little about yourselves?

  Grek: I am a Civil Engineering professor in New Jersey. I’ve played CCG’s most of my life and that eventually translated to Dominion and Race for the Galaxy which then opened the door to a love of hobby board games as a whole.  My favorite game is Empires: Age of Discovery (formerly Glenn Drover’s Age of Empires III).
Letzring: I live in Rochester NY with my wife and two daughters. I am a scientist as my “normal” day job. I have been designing games for a few years, and while I have been self-publishing for about a year and a half now, this is the first game I am publishing by another designer. Growing up, I was always into games like Stratego, Clue, Rummikub, Tripoly, Hearts, Poker etc and about 8 years ago I was introduced to Settlers of Catan. I shortly after was introduced to games like Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, and eventually Dominion, and the rest was history!
Page: Excellent group of games to start off in the hobby! I was introduced to Magic: the Gathering after high school, which lead (somehow) to Catan and as you say, the rest was history! On to the game you have put together now. Where did you come up with the idea for this game?
Grek: Dirigible Disaster actually came from the Steampunk Dice Game Contest at thegamecrafter.com. The contest provided a framework for me to work in and because co-ops were big in my gaming groups at the time I wanted to create a co-op game that focused primarily on dice.
Page: How does a realtime game playtest compared to a game that has no set time limit, and you can learn at a more reasonable pace?

Grek: The real-time aspect gives a designer a handful of different challenges to deal with. The biggest is balancing out the number of actions each player gets. Because players only have one minute for each round, groups with more experience playing together will do better than a brand new group. We’ve had to look at average amounts of actions that players get each turn and use this as a basis to make sure most groups have a chance of winning, even if they are new to the game.
Page: With the design of the game, what were some of the bigger issues you ran into during development?
Grek: The toughest thing about the development of Dirigible Disaster was dealing with the randomness inherent in so many dice. I had to find a way to embrace the luck that dice games bring while still creating some choices and agency for the players. There was also a great deal of numerical balancing to be done with the different types of dice.
Page: I believe a famous man once said “Dice is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” That was the line right? [Laughs] Sorry, bad joke. Anyway, have you got any plans for a new game, or expansions on this one in the future?
Grek:  After this Kickstarter I will be finally going back to my first card game I was working on. Now that I have learned a great deal about designing games I want to improve my original idea and get it ready for pitching. This is a game that I put on hold to start working on Dirigible Disaster and had to shelf for a little when a friend who was helping me with the card layouts got incredibly busy with one of his own designs. I’m really excited to start on it again.  I also had a small game I was recently working on that I just wasn’t happy with the final product. I’m going to try to do a complete design overhaul with some mechanics I like and make something that I am more proud of playing. There is already some great art done for the game so I would love to put together something solid to compliment the visuals.
Page: Sorry to leave you out like this Mr. Letzring, let’s get into some questions that you can chime in on as well now. What are your goals for Dirigible Disaster on Kickstarter?
Grek: Currently, the monetary goal is $8,400. Of course I would like to see it exceed that amount but the real goal for me is to get a game into people’s hands that can be played and enjoyed by a variety of people. While the heaviest of gamers most likely won’t find the choices they are used to this game has been able to bring light to heavy and young to old game enthusiasts together at the table and I think that is Dirigible Disaster’s best quality.
Letzring: I would like Dirigible Disaster to do better than my last campaign for Dino Dude Ranch in both number of backers and total pledges raised. I do not want set the bar high with unreal expectations, but I would like to think that I can continually improve how I run my business. My goal is also to do well enough in the campaign to set the game up for success in its life after the campaign. So many campaigns run, do well, and the game is never heard from again once it is in the backers’ hands. I would like the campaign to just be the first step in a successful run of this game.
Page: What style of player do you think will enjoy this game?
Grek: The gamers that normally focus on heavier board games may not find everything they are looking for in Dirigible Disaster but the game has thus far produced fun for a variety of gamers. If I had to specify a group I would say gamers looking for a frantic co-op game that they can play with family or fellow gamers would have a great time with Dirigible Disaster.
Letzring: This game appeals to a wide audience. Kids love it, gamers, love it, really anyone can play it. It obviously caters to those who enjoy pure co-ops on the lighter side, such as Forbidden Island. However, the real-time aspect adds a unique gameplay experience unlike any other I have ever played, which is truly great to be a part of. It almost makes it feel somewhat like a dexterity game (even though it 100% is not a dexterity game).
Page: When this game is on Kickstarter, How much will it cost a backer to get a copy of the base game?
Letzring: $29, which includes shipping within the United States. EU friendly shipping is also available so that our friends overseas will not have to worry about extra fees upon import. If backers would also like to receive my previous game Dino Dude Ranch, they can bundle Dino Dude Ranch and Dirigible Disaster together at a discounted $49 (US shipping included as well).
Page: Do you plan to get your game out into local game stores, or will you sell mainly online?
Letzring: I have been working with a few smaller distributors as well as directly with a number of stores in order to get Dino Dude Ranch on shelves post-campaign and I plan to continue these relationships with Dirigible Disaster as well. Outside of the brick and mortar stores, I plan to have it available online on my site and on Amazon.
Page: Sorry to back track a little, but regarding the “life expectancy” of games, do you think that games die off due to people putting their funding levels so low? Only charge enough per game to create those games and that’s it for example.

Letzring: I think there are a lot of things that can affect the life of a game after Kickstarter. I think one of the biggest obstacles is the large number of games released each year and how people are very much a part of the cult of the new. Gamers (myself included) love to explore new worlds, try new mechanics, and delve into new games, so after the hype of the next newest thing dies down, there is something great that comes out to replace it. With Kickstarter, there are so many games tailored to so many mechanics and themes, that it is easy for games that were really cool or really successful to be forgetton in a short time. Also, this insane number of released games is making it harder for stores to stock everything and for distributors to want to pick up something or someone new.
Page: Do you plan on getting to a point where the funding could fund for a second printing, or sell half of the first printing and getting the other half in stores so it won’t die out as other games have done in the past?
Letzring: Yes, I am always thinking long term when working on these and try to make sure that we can keep up with demand for a game if the demand is there.
Page: How has it been as a publisher, developing a game that you yourself didn’t design?
Letzring: The first thing I had to do was find a game that was something I was excited about as much as a game that I designed myself. Once I did that, it was easy to spend the time working on it and developing it. It was extremely excited about Dirigible Disaster almost from the get-go, and I really embraced it as my own. So the entire process of developing someone else’s game was really really easy for me.  Hopefully I will be able to find more games that ignite that fire inside the way Dirigible has.
Page: I seem to be quite awful at focusing questions to one of you at a time, let’s see if i can start to fix that! While developing as a team, do you think it has been successful to focus on your area of expertise?
Grek: Because Dan Letzring joined in once the game was signed to Letiman games, he started looking at the game as a whole and any areas that could be improved upon or needed tweaking to make the game more fun and marketable. So when working on the game together we both didn’t focus so much on one particular area but looked at it through different eyes. I looked at the game as someone most experienced with the mechanics and game’s history, Dan L. looked at it with a set of fresh eyes but also as a publisher and family man seeking to make the game fun for as many as possible. I’d say the most important thing was we were both focused on making only necessary changes that increased the fun for our players.
Letzring: I have to second what Dan said in that we both looked at it from different perspectives and we both wanted to just do what was best for the game. I also was sure to try to keep the integrity of the game as it was intended while making the changes I thought would help it most. I also made sure to clearly let Dan know why I made some changes and the types of impacts I thought those changes would have.
Page: How much overlap into each others main focus has there been, if any? Has it all been productive?
Grek: I think there has been a great deal of overlap in our focus. We both want Dirigible Disaster to succeed so we both tend to work hard to come to a consensus on any new ideas or changes. I respect Dan L’s input and say as a publisher, Dan L respects my feelings about the game as the designer. This has made it fairly easy to make suggestions and have productive discussions that lead to a better game.
Letzring: I think we both give each other input into what we envision or what we think needs change and we give the other the room the work on those changes in their particular area. If there were mechanic or design changes I thought should happen, I let Dan playtest them and implement them how he thought best. Then I would try them out once he optimized the changes. Likewise, if there was something Dan wanted to see on the final designs of components etc, he would voice his opinions to me but then I would take the freedoms of the publisher to consider his opinion but still finish them how I saw fit. We both felt free to openly discuss everything we wanted to see happen for this game but then respected the other’s ability to follow through with it in their respective realm.
Page: Well, thank you both so much for taking time to do this with me, I am looking forward to your success!
As a note for everyone who is reading this, you can find their Kickstarter page here:
Have a good week everyone and remember, I love you all!
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