Good afternoon, Adam and Mike. As you know, Endure the Stars has been the first upcoming game we have talked about in our blog, so we are very glad to be talking with you.


 

We know you enough to be sure you are great boardgame fans, but you've also had a professional career before Grimlord Games. What was the reason why you finally decided to join your hobby and your work (a decision lots of people would discourage others to make)?

Adam: Well actually I still have a full time career because, despite the large amounts of money you see being raised on Kickstarter, creating new board games is a labor of love that doesn’t pay that well! All of the money we raised when straight into the development of Endure the Stars, up until the launch of our campaign the entire thing was privately funded by Mike and I. At this early stage it’s not about a quick paycheck, we’re putting in the groundwork so that hopefully our board games will go on to sell well, and then we can start to reap the rewards.

It all started about 5 years ago when I had the idea for Endure the Stars. I felt like there weren’t any great Sci Fi dungeon crawlers out there, or at least any that I knew about, so I started coming up with a story and a list of things that I’d like to see in the game. Then I just put the idea to bed and didn’t really give it much thought for a long time. Then I discovered Kickstarter and finally saw a potential way to bring ETS to life. Grimlord Games was born shortly after, when Mike and I were chatting one day and I was telling him about the success of CMON’s campaigns. He said to me, “I wish that we had an idea for a board game” and I immediately told him I did!

Adam steppted into this on his trip to Japan, whe EtS was already in production! Maybe his mind was shapping reality?

Mike: I’ve always been an avid gamer, whether board or computer games so the establishment of Grimlord Games was a dream come true for me. I’ve spent the last ten years running my own businesses in one form another, and enjoy the challenge as well as the freedom and creativity that being an entrepreneur gives you. It just so happen that Endure the Stars came along at the perfect time for me when I was ready to jump into something new.

We talked in our article about how atypical your crowdfunding campaign was so, even though this is a very typical question to ask, we would still like to hear from you: what would you do differently if you had the chance to start all over again, knowing what you know now? And to finish asking typical questions, what do you think was the best part in the course of the campaign?

Adam: We’d do a LOT of things differently! We were quite naïve with our first campaign, which I suppose is to be expected, but we have a solid checklist of things that are a must for the next campaign. Things like a gameplay video, physical miniatures, independent reviews, etc. The first campaign was always going to be the hardest because no one knew who we were and whether we could be trusted, but once everyone gets their copy of Endure the Stars they’ll be able to see what a great quality game we’ve created and we’ll have that trust from the start moving forward. Best thing about the campaign? That first hour when the money just kept going up! The next 12 weren’t so great though :S

Evolution of the funding shows a big ramp at the end thanks to Adam and Mike listening to backers!

Mike: I would echo Adams comments, launching a Kickstarter project is no walk in the park. We completely underestimated how much prep and time needs to go into a campaign. I really feel for some of the projects out there at the minute that have a fantastic looking game and some really interesting and well thought out game mechanics but unfortunately their project isn’t as successful as it could be by not having an equally well-thought through KS. Unfortunately, there isn’t really a 101 guide to producing a successful Kickstarter, you have to learn the hard way and react/listen to your backers. That’s what we did and lucky with their support we shaped Endure the Stars into a beautiful game. The best moment for me during the campaign was when we achieved funding, realizing that all that blood sweat and tears was worth it – even though looking back the hard work was just about to begin. I remember ringing Adam and screaming down the phone with sheer joy as we had made our game a reality.

Focusing on the game itself, we would like to talk about the theme. We are set in a Sci-fi environment, but with terrifying creatures as enemies. It seems as if you were trying to add some horror into it, as in the movie Alien. Is this the case, and then the environment led you into designing those creatures, or was it the previous design of the creatures what defined the game's atmosphere? In other words, were you looking for something similar to what Brian does based on a previously conceived idea? Or was it finding Brian what set the environment for Endure the Stars?

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Adam: I always had a clear vision on the setting for Endure the Stars. The first paragraph I ever wrote explained that it was set on a planet exploring ship, that genetically engineered creatures had escaped and that the players were the surviving crew. That being said, Brian was absolutely wonderful and felt like a member of the team from the very first day. All of the design work was a collaboration between the three of us (myself, Mike and Brian). Typically we’d start out with a description of the concept and some reference artwork of the style and mood we were looking for. For example, when we were designing the GEPs Brian was given a comprehensive explanation of the purpose, size and sort of look we wanted for each one. He’d then come up with at least half a dozen sketches and we’d narrow it down to two, then he’d go away and work on them some more, and so on until we got what we were after. He’s an amazing artist with a wonderful imagination and we’re honored to have worked with him. In fact, he came back as a guest artist for the next game!

The character designs were one of the first things that attracted us to your game, not only talking about the illustrations but mainly their conversion into miniatures. After the campaign you started to collaborate with Big Child Creatives, who as a Spanish company we follow them quite closely. So we would like to know, how do you value the work they have done? Why would you recommend other creators to work with Big Child?

Adam: Artistic quality has been the absolute number one priority for us when developing Endure the Stars, we wanted to set the bar very high so that people would think of Grimlord Games as synonymous with top quality board games. We had a bit of a rough start with the sculpts, the ones we originally had done weren’t sculpted by artists who had any experience sculpting miniatures, which we found out after is pretty important! Once the campaign was over we felt we owed it to ourselves and to the backers to do the best we could, so we made the decision to hire Big Child to re sculpt not only the characters we hadn’t sculpted yet but all of the miniatures we’d already had done and the results were spectacular. Jose, Elias and Hugo really did us proud and hiring them was one of the best decisions we made.

Mike: Yes who we chose to work with on sculpts was a key decision for the business and will continue to be a priority as we move forward into production of new titles.
Big Child are obviously well established, which was a major attraction for us. The guys over there were great and the final results are testament to their hard work and a good partnership. I would say though that working with language barriers, Big Child being based in Spain, can sometimes cause some issues. We certainly had a few hilarious misinterpretations on both sides. Thankfully they were quickly cleared up and we got there in the end.

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And now about the mechanics of the game, we would like to put you on the spot. As a result of how the campaign evolved and the extensive communication with all your backers, how much of the game mechanics that we will see in the upcoming Endure the Stars belongs to the ideas you already had in mind and how much comes from the ideas provided by your backers?

Adam: We had a great dialogue with our backers during the campaign and they certainly helped to refine and grow several elements of the game. No one person has all of the answers, I like to think I’m a good game designer but I don’t have all of the answers and the best games are ones that many people have contributed their opinions and thoughts to. A great example of this is one of the ranged combat mechanics in ETS. I had invented some overly complicated way of dealing with firing into zones containing both enemies and survivors, and then a wonderfully helpful backer named Guillaume Gagnon simply suggested that failed dice rolls should hit survivors. Brilliant! Such an elegant way of handling it, yet I hadn’t spotted it at all! You have to be careful though, as pretty much everyone has an opinion on almost every aspect of your game and if you’re willing to change everything about your game at the drop of a hat then you can’t have had a very good or strong idea to begin with. You want to streamline your creation, not change it altogether into some crowd pleasing mess. In short, the game wouldn’t have been as good without the support and help of our backers.

Mike: We listen to our backers a lot and in fact some of their missions have made it into our final rule book. The key thing we have learnt from this process is that understanding and working with your audience is vital. This takes time and feedback has to be monitored every day. At times is can be disheartening when you get a negative response but ultimately it all serves to make a better game in the end.

Zombicide casts a big shadow over games like Endure the Stars, and the discussion about how many similarities these two games have or not has been long and hard. We think that clearly EtS offers a bigger tactical challenge to the players, and then lots of different mechanics are included. The best ones for us are the ones preventing players from exactly predicting how the enemies will behave. Our doubt is how much playtesting and in which way shall it be made to be sure these mechanics will work on the table (meaning, for example, making sure that enemies are not stupid)?

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Adam: I’ve always seen the comparison to Zombicide as a flattering one; it’s a beautifully crafted game that’s enjoyed international success. There are definitely a few similarities; survivors have 3 actions per turn, only rooms and can searched and enemy movement is controlled by noise. But that’s where the similarities end and the two games go their separate ways. Endure the Stars features a Resolve mechanic that deals with survivor’s sanity and can cause them to behave erratically, Boss enemies that are controlled with their very own custom deck, an Accomplishment deck that gives survivor their own optional objective, item cards that allow you to teleport through walls, an Event deck which causes things like the gravity to fail and the lights to go out, you get to pilot an exo loader, the list goes on and on. There’s a lot to ETS, but we’ve been careful to keep the gaming experience as streamlined as possible.

All aspects of Endure the Stars have been play tested heavily; a total of 27 missions that have been written, 25 of which I wrote personally, and every mission has been tested several times over to ensure that they play well time and time again. I’m actually constantly tweaking and revising mechanics right up until the printing deadlines because there’s always room for improvement!

One of the biggest values of Grimlord Games is their cooperation with other important companies of the boardgaming industry (not only talking about Big Child, but also Ludofact, and other companies), well-known for their quality, which could open gates for great projects. We guess Endure the Stars is your first but not your last product so, what could your customers expect to see in the future?

Adam: We’ve got big plans for the future! I’m constantly jotting down notes on new board games I’d like to create and one of the most important things for me is that anything we do feels fresh and exciting. Our second title is already very much in development and we’ll be announcing it as soon as Endure the Stars is off hand. We’ll be launching it on Kickstarter sometime in the first half of next year; it’s completely different from Endure the Stars in almost every way, but we think that a lot of our backers will love what we’re trying to do and (hopefully) support us for a second time round! We also intend to revisit Endure the Stars once we’ve launched a few of our other games and everyone has had some time with the first wave of ETS content. I get a new expansion idea every couple of weeks!

Mike: Ha, you’re keen! We are keeping our cards close to our chest until Endure the Stars has been safely delivered to all our backers but we are well underway to preparing our Kickstarter for our second game which is a very different concept to our first. And as Adam says we have at least 3 more ideas under our hat. Watch this space.

But we are following you! And we have not skipped the teasers you are already leaving through the net!

Now, a question we plan to ask all the entrepeneurs we will have the chance to talk with, to start a helpful trend for lots of our readers, and for which you will be the first ones to answer. What would be, from your experience, your main advice for a guy, or group of guys, who are thinking to start a boardgame related business?

Adam: My main advice would be to do your research and do it well. You need to talk to a lot of people and ask a lot of questions to have a good idea about what you’re doing. What makes a successful Kickstarter campaign? How much will my concept art/sculpting/graphic design cost? How long is my project realistically going to take? Can I actually deliver what I’m promising to all of these people? You cannot just guess at the answers and expect everything to be ok. You’re asking your backers to trust you with their hard earned money and you in turn have to honor that trust by delivering a great product. Also, getting a game to the point where it’s Kickstarter ready won’t be cheap, so you need to understand just how much it’s going to cost you before you start paying out.
I guess my other very important piece of advice would be not to rush things. Set yourself a deadline when you want to launch your campaign, but if everything isn’t in order by then just delay your launch until it is. People can spot a bad campaign a mile off, and if you’re not willing to put on the best campaign you possibly can, then how can people believe you’re going to deliver the best game you possibly can?

Last piece of advice! Hire the best artists you can afford. For me, the art is incredibly important, just as important as good game mechanics. I want a game on my table that makes me marvel and the beautiful illustrations and sculpts.

Mike: My role in the business is much more production focused, whereas Adam is the creative force behind the game concepts. My advice would be to make sure you have both areas covered off – whether one person can do this alone I don’t know. There is a lot to get your head around in relation to the commercial and operational aspects of running a board game business which is essentially a form of retail/wholesale. Get clued up on potential suppliers, manufacturers, shipping and publisher partners as early as possible.

And to finish with this round of questions without forgetting that we all share the same hobby, we would like to ask each one of you: who would be your favorite character to play with in Endure the Stars and why?

Adam: The male Marine is one of my favorites. He’s just such a badass looking character and I’ve given him some pretty cool abilities!

Mike: For me it’s the female Psychic. She looks amazing and is a strong female role model, which with having a little girl at home, means more than it used to. More importantly she can use her mind to move things!

Thank you very much, Adam and Mike. And don't forget! We will be following you closely!


 

More information

In the following link you can find more information about Endure the Stars, aditional products, Grimlord Games and their collaborators.

Our article about Endure the Stars

Offical web of Grimlord Games

Their Facebook

Group of followers of their Games

Campaign on Kickstarter

More about the work of Brian Coughlan

More about the works of Big Child Creatives

Information about Ludofact


 

¡ #moretimeforplaying !

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