Jeff Morrow SlugFest Games

Q&A Today: Jeff Morrow

It’s not every day that we get to enjoy seeing game designer Jeff Morrow chime in on RED DRAGON INN and all things gaming, so let’s do this, with relish.

Q:  RED DRAGON INN 6: VILLAINS looks like great fun.  What can you tell us about this expansion of the game, without giving too much away?

JM: We’ve been mulling this expansion over for a loooong time, and we think people will be excited about it. There are four new characters, each of which is fully compatible with other characters. In other words, you can still mix-and-match characters any way you like in your game. However, there are several new ways to play, as well. You can add the Dungeon Event deck to move your game from the relative safety of The Red Dragon Inn to the villains’ own tavern, The Black Dragon Depths. And RDI 6 includes new team variants to the game, such as Two-Headed Dragon and Boss Battle.

Q:  Two-Headed Dragon sounds lethal.

JM:  It’s just like a regular game of Red Dragon Inn, but instead of playing by yourself, you have a partner. You have shared Fortitude, Alcohol Content and Gold, and you win or lose the game together. You can look at your partner’s hand and consult on the correct plays, and you can even defend each other with Sometimes Cards! The concept is simple, but it can lead to some very interesting situations and interactions!

Q:  What was the Kickstarter experience like for you?

JM:  We’ve mostly got it down at this point. I think this was our sixth campaign. We’ve settled into a routine now where we follow a few basic rules. For example, we don’t generally do add-ons anymore. Instead, we just tell anyone who wants our other products to just buy them from our website. We also kept our stretch goals for this campaign very simple. We still have to handle shipping for the campaign, which is always a bear, but we have a very good plan in place, so we think things will go smoothly.

Q:  Are you surprised at all, with how quickly the crowdfunding culture has grown?

JM:  Only a little. The hobby game industry was really in need of the shot in the arm that Kickstarter turned out to be. The result has been less risk for publishers, more customers in the market, more games and better games. Kickstarter has really helped SlugFest Games grow.

Q:  What can you share with us about some of the real life Heroes and Heroines who really help to make the magic happen behind the scenes at SlugFest Games?

JM:  The core SlugFest team consists of four people. Sam Waller is in charge of development and playtesting, Kickstarter campaigns, social media and lots of random other stuff. Jennifer Kitzman is in charge of customer service and is doing a lot of work on marketing lately. Erin Wong is our staff artist, generating a whole bunch of the art you’ve seen from us over the last couple of years. And I take care of the business side of things, as well as working on development and manufacturing. Fun fact – SlugFest Games has no office, and we do everything via Google Docs, Dropbox and Skype. Only two of us live in the same state (California) and one of the four of us isn’t even in the same timezone as the other three!

Q:  When did you first begin designing games?

JM:  I was part of the “Settlers boom” of Eurogamers back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Around 2002 or 2003 I started dabbling with a few Eurogame-y designs of my own. One of them won the Kublacon game design contest (I think it was in 2005?). I spent a few years trying unsuccessfully to get a publisher to pick up one of my games. Around that same time I met Cliff Bohm, who was in charge of SlugFest at the time. They weren’t looking for external designs, but I learned that Cliff had just moved to the San Francisco area, so he ended up becoming a regular in my gaming group (in Oakland). Later, I helped out SlugFest at a time when Cliff had less time to devote to the company himself, and eventually became a jack-of-all-trades for the company. So my first published design credits were on the SlugFest titles High Noon Saloon and The Red Dragon Inn 3.

Q:  What can you tell us about High Noon Saloon?

JM:  Three of our earlier games, Kung Fu Fighting, En Garde and High Noon Saloon, form a trilogy of sorts. We think of them as our “fighting game trilogy”. All three of them are fairly light and simple card games where the object is to punch/kick/stab/shoot the tar out of all of your opponents. High Noon Saloon is the old west themed member of the trilogy.

Q:  Ahh the “Settlers boom” of Eurogamers.  What a time that was.  Which tabletop games from those halcyon days of yore do you remember fondly?

JM:  Just the other day I managed to convince some friends to play Princes of Florence – classic. Back in the day, when we got bored with Settlers, my wife and I picked up Carcassonne and Eurorails. By today’s standards, Eurorails isn’t amazing, but the “crayon rail game” concept was pretty cool. Another “back in the day” game that I liked but which I could never find a copy of was Stephenson’s Rocket.

Q:  What are your thoughts on today’s market for board games and the overall state of the industry today?

JM:  We’re in an interesting spot. Kickstarter has really brought our industry to the next level. The market has grown quite a bit, but there’s an interesting caveat: it looks to me like supply is growing faster than demand. So yes, there are more gamers, but there are also waaaaay more games. Even big companies are considering scaling back production because the market is so crowded right now.

Don’t get me wrong – the overall state of the industry is pretty great, especially if you’re a consumer. But there may be a bit of downsizing in upcoming years.

Q:  What do you enjoy most about SlugFest Games?

JM:  Getting compliments from fans who tell us that they like playing our games!

Q:  Which of the SlugFest Games are you presently enjoying the most?

JM:  I’ve always had a soft spot for En Garde, but of the games that are currently in print, my favorite is Battle for Greyport.

Q:  What do you enjoy most about RED DRAGON INN: BATTLE FOR GREYPORT?

JM:  The fact that it’s cooperative, with everyone doing something on everyone’s turn. There’s a ton of small decisions that need to be made. Get any one of them wrong and you’re probably still OK. Get enough of them wrong and you’ll probably lose.

Q:  What hasn’t really happened yet, in the world of tabletop gaming, that you would love to see happen next?

JM:  I want to see more tabletop games on mobile devices. I want to see someone develop a generic framework where I can develop a mobile version of a board game in a few days. I want to just load up assets, do some programming to control game logic and flow and be done. IMO, the reason we don’t have more tabletop games on mobile is because development of such a game will generally cost far more money than the game can possibly ever make in revenue. However, many tabletop games are similar enough that creating such a framework should be possible, IMO.

Q:  Which tabletop games would you enjoy seeing appear on mobile devices?

JM:  Libertalia, Blood Rage and T’zolkin. Mainly, the games I’ve played recently that I’m bad at and want to practice!

Q:  How much gameplay do you get to enjoy these days, and which games have you been enjoying?

JM:  I have a weekly game night at my house. We’ve been playing some old classics like Ra and Princes of Florence (one of my all-time favorites), but we’ve also been playing newer stuff like Fire and Axe, Libertalia, Blood Rage and Codenames. My personal favorites out of the more recent stuff have been Pandemic Legacy and Scythe – both phenomenal games.

On the computer side, I’ve just been trying to slowly work through my gigantic Steam library (thanks, Humble Bundle!) Ones I’ve enjoyed recently are Offworld Trading Company and Demon Truck. If, like me, you often only have 10-15 minutes of gaming time at a time, Demon Truck is perfect.

And I play Dance Dance Revolution a few times a week for exercise.  😀

Q:  What goes on in Demon Truck?

JM:  It’s a super-simple indie PC game by Jim Shepard, the same guy that made Dungeonmans. Demon Truck literally has just two controls – boost and shoot, mapped to your two mouse buttons. Your self-steering truck goes down the roads of hell and you shoot demons and other bad guys. It’s fast-paced, funny, and great.

Q:  Which books have you been really enjoying lately?

JM:  I’m a big fan of the Saxon Chronicles series, by Bernard Cornwell. I also just got (again, through Humble Bundle), the first 15 books of the Warhammer 40k Horus Heresy series. I’m toward the end of book 2, and so far so good. Like a lot of fantasy, the philosophical themes can get a little blunt, but it’s a fun read so far.

And I just bought one of the new Star Wars novels (Aftermath, by Chuck Wendig.) I’m looking forward to that one.

Q:  Bernard Cornwell is aces.  Have you also viewed The Last Kingdom on BBC?

JM:  Yep. I thought the actors who played King Alfred and Father Beocca were particularly good.

Q:  What advice do you have for parents who are looking to introduce their kids to the wonderful world of tabletop gaming?

JM:  Teach sporting behavior first. Once you’ve learned how to be a gracious winner and not a sore loser, the rest is easy.

Q:  What are you most looking forward to in 2017 and 2018?

JM:  We already have a bunch of ideas for The Red Dragon Inn 7 that we think our fans will go crazy for. So stay tuned!