James Ernest - from Cheapass Games

November 13, 2015 - 7:34pm
james Recently, we posted an article about the recent Kickstarter for the new deluxe version of Kill Doctor Lucky - Cheapass Games' very first game. Well, as the Kickstarter nears it last few hours (and having been extremely successful) I had a chance to ask James a few questions and thought I'd share with our audience. Enjoy! How long have you been designing games? Forever. I invented a board game in high school, basically a chess variant, as part of a fantasy novel. I never finished the novel but I thoroughly playtested the game. That should have told me where my career was headed. I got my start in hobby gaming as a freelance technical writer for Wizards of the Coast, re-writing the rules for Magic. What genre of games do you normally enjoy playing the most? I like family games, like Boggle, Pitch, and Poker. I'm also quite fond of casino games; they are a challenge to design. I don't really like "genre" games as you describe them... the definition of such a genre is that once you have played one, you have played them all. What's your current favorite Game? Poker. What game designer inspires you? I got my start in the industry because of Richard Garfield. He understands the mathematics of game design, but he also understand that games are for entertainment. Robo Rally is a mechanically funny game, which is not easy to pull off; it's not about one-liners or jokes on the cards, but an environment in which surprising and funny things can happen. What are some of your favorite games you've designed? It's so hard to choose, because once I've played it a thousand times in development I rarely ever want to play it again. But I am fond of Pairs and its variants, along with Button Men, Diceland, and Girl Genius: The Works. Gotta ask - what's the meaning behind "Cheapass Games"
I can't tell if you are kidding. Cheapass Games were initially sold in black and white envelopes, without any of the generic components they required (dice, pawns, poker decks, etc.) A "cheapass" is a penny-pinching or miserly person. These days, there's no real cost savings in printing games like that... believe me, I've been trying. So we currently offer loads of completely free games at our website, cheapass.com, and deluxe games that we fund through Kickstarter.
kill doctor lukcy
What about Kill Doctor Lucky inspired you to produce this new edition and what was behind your decisions to modify the rules? Kill Doctor Lucky has always been an evergreen product for us, and from time to time we update our best-selling games. I have nearly 20 years of customer feedback, not to mention superior design skills, that let me retune the game in this edition. The opportunity came about when our licensees at Paizo Publishing agreed to let us take the rights back last year. But even if they had kept printing the game, we were planning to update it for its 20th anniversary. What can we expect to see in the future from Cheapass Games - do you have any projects you're working on now and, if so, what can you let us know about them? Our big project of the Spring will be a game called Tak. It's an abstract strategy game that I'm creating with Patrick Rothfuss, based on the game in his book, The Wise Man's Fear. Tak is in open beta at cheapass.com right now, and we will be Kickstarting it in late March. Another Spring project is Deadfall, a new game played with a Pairs deck. We've just announced it as part of the Kill Doctor Lucky project on Kickstarter. Deadfall is a fast bluffing game vaguely similar to Liar's Dice. The basic rules were included in the Lord of the Fries Pairs Deck, but the new Deadfall deck will have expanded rules and some very nice fantasy art by Bill McGuire. I've been working on a new revision of "Gloria Mundi" for some years now and it's nearly to the stage that I can post a print-on-demand edition, probably at the Game Crafter. I'm also looking at a way to revive Button Men as a boxed dice game, perhaps as early as next summer. And we have some more small game projects that we will be announcing during the final weeks of the Kill Doctor Lucky campaign. If you'd like to stay on top of the news from Cheapass Games, you can go to our double-secret website at cheapass.com and subscribe to our newsletter, by clicking "subscribe".