Asking for Trobils....and an interview with Christian Strain

January 9, 2016 - 11:37pm
christian slain One of the hottest new games recently has been one that's flown a bit under the radar - Asking for Trobils, from Kraken Games and designed by Christian Strain and Erin McDonald. It's a fun game that takes an interesting slight twist to the normal worker placement mechanic. Specifically, the idea that turns are spent either placing a worker (ship) or removing one. This might not sound like much, but it certainly increases the strategies one needs to consider while playing. Both Tom and Zee, from the Dice Tower, have reviewed the game and it's been featured as a top 10 "Family Game" as well as a top 10 "Surprise" of 2015. It's also been awarded the Dice Tower Seal of Excellence! After obtaining a copy of the game myself, I reached out to Christian for an interview (Q&A below). Of note is a particular post on Boardgamegeek where it's mentioned how low stock is presently and how to obtain a copy of the game. Christian also discussed, in the post, about a reprint as well as an upcoming expansion. trobils06 I had a chance to play a few games and wanted to mention a bit of a surprise. The game is known, quite well, as being a family game - and don't get me wrong, it works well with some of my younger kids, but I was very surprised that it was quite a hit with my 17-year-old and, believe it or not, my wife. The simple rules made it a hit along with all the different choices that were available during game-play. From picking up ores, slugs, money, and traps to capturing Trobils and hiring pirates - Asking for Trobils was a game that seemed to be a bigger hit with the older crowd in my house. Asking for Trobils will not let you down. It's a fantastic game for both young and old alike. Christian was kind enough to answer some questions I had about him, Kraken Games, and the future of Trobils... Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? I was born in a tower on a floating mountain made of orc skulls. The tower was made of orc skulls, not the mountain. The mountain was just a mountain. I think. I'm also a multimedia designer and have been for 14 years; which has been very helpful in boardgame design. What was your gateway game? Hmm, that's tough. My brother is 7 years older than me and a gamer as well, so I was just born into it. The earliest games I can remember playing is RPG's and Talisman. So I guess I come from american-style games, but I feel the gamer was awakened in me when I was introduced to euro-style games. Acquire was probably m first nudge into a much bigger gaming world. The benefit of that is, I love all kinds of games. Can you tell me about your co-designer? Erin McDonald, the other designer of Asking for Trobils and co-founder of Kraken Games has been my girlfriend for almost 8 years now. She and I design and play games together on a nearly daily basis. I'm incredibly lucky. Our living room has toys and boardgames along the walls. It's like we live in a comic book store. What inspired you to start designing? I came upon a lake, and the lady of the lake rose from the water and handed me some index cards and a sharpie. Actually, I've always been that guy with too many projects. I get an idea at least once a day. One day, I got an idea for a boardgame where the players are villains trying to take over the world called Evil Intent. Finally I said, no more projects until I finish one. That was the one. What's behind the company name Kraken? I turned down Erin's more ridiculous ideas lol. We knew we wanted something powerful, something mythical. Then I thought it would be fun to say something like, "Kraken releases this and that game!". It is. It is fun to say that. Tell me about the history of Trobils. One day I saw an ad on tv where they used orange text on white and I thought it looked really nice. So I shouted to Erin in the other room that I wanted to make a game that was nothing but orange. She shouted back that she wanted to make a worker placement game. Then she asked what theme. I said space. She was like, cool. Then she said we should make it like tribbles in Star Trek. Did I mention I was a lucky man? It all came together pretty quickly after that. We kept talking and drew up the board, cards, etc. on index cards and sketch paper. We had a working prototype in about 3 hours of me seeing some nice orange text on white. We played with the game for a couple of months after that, making changes and adjustments along the way. I argued for bumping, she argued for more than one type of resource. We're both very happy with the result. The unique mechanic in the game of being able to customize the space that you land on for yourself happened organically. With space you think about upgrading your spaceship. It just made sense. As you might know, the first Kickstarter we ran had a game that was completely orange and white. That didn't start out as well as we had hoped, so we canceled and went back to the drawing board. I added the blue and other bits of color and the entire game came to life. I was much happier with my artwork on the second run. Obviously, our second run on Kickstarter was great. It was almost green and purple though. We had the first group of backers vote on which colors they preferred. I'm glad. I like the blue, but I think Erin secretly still wishes we did the purple and green. A lot of it happens that way for us. We throw ideas and challenges at each other. She's a heavier eruo gamer than I am, so while I'm trying to put blasters on everything, she's taking dice out of the game box. What surprised you the most about the KS campaign? The way the customer mind works was actually the strangest part. We'd get messages like, "I'd back this, but I'm waiting to see if others back it". It just didn't make any sense to us.
I will say that the best part of the Kickstarter were those backers that became a part of the process. We had backers translating the rules to their native language, making their own versions of ships, and yelling from the rooftops about the campaign. It was a lot of fun. I slept about 4 hours a day during the month-long campaign. I'd spend hours every day just talking to backers. It was great. I honestly miss it. I still see some of them on though. I'll be eternally grateful for their enthusiasm.
What does the future hold for Trobils? Thanks to Tom Vasel for setting up a connection, we're in talks with reprinting Trobils with another publisher. With the Kickstarter, we were only able to make 1000 copies. We are out of stock in the US (although can ship out of Canada, while supplies last, for $25) and less that 45 worldwide (as of Jan 1, 2016). With all of the great reviews and being named Tom's #1 Family game of 2015 and earning the Dice Tower Seal of Excellence, we're ready to make more. We've also designed an expansion called TrobilMakers. It'll have a curved board that fits on the outside of the current circle board. It introduces two new paths to take when starting the game. Right now, when you start, you can basically choose the "grab Trobils quickly" strategy, the "get all of my extra ships" strategy, or the "build many connections" strategy. We're introducing 2 more strategies to start off. You can read more about it on the boardgamegeek page here What does the future hold for Kraken? Kraken Games has announced just yesterday that we're no longer going to be a publisher, but a design house. With publishing, we'd only be able to make just 1 or possibly 2 games a year. There's just too much work. Plus, Kickstarter is changing. There's just not enough room for the little guy as much as there was when we started. Now, with design being you only focus, I feel we can really knock out some solid games. We already have two games that have been picked up by another publisher, AdMagic. One of those is Flippin Monsters. The other hasn't been announced yet. Mostly because we can't decide on a name lol. We're working on two designs right now with a journal-full waiting. We're not going anywhere.