This week we have an exciting episode of Think Like A Game Designer Podcast this week because we have Isaac Childres; if you play board games you likely know this name already. 

Isaac Childres is the creator of Gloomhaven and Frosthaven. Gloomhaven is the #1 rated game on BoardGameGeek for three years, and Frosthaven, the highest funded game on Kickstarter. We’ll dig into what motivated Isaac to create these legendary games, and what he’s learned along the way.

Check out this episode and the previous ones here:

“You keep iterating and hopefully, people are good enough friends with you to keep working on it with you or playing it with, or at least something interesting there to keep them coming back.” (9:20)

Here we discuss Isaac’s first prototype from grad school, which he explains, “didn’t go so well.” We go in-depth about the emotional rollercoaster of having your first game not work out, and how you continue to pursue the iteration process to make it something great. He speaks about challenging himself to get the game published, and lessons he learned while pushing to finish the game.

“No matter how great your game is, no matter how great your Kickstarter is: you need an audience.” (26:20)

Isaac talks about an awesome review he received the night of his first Kickstarter, and how it affected his funding. Here we go into detail about building audiences or acquiring them through reviewers. Spending time to think about how you’re going to grown an audience is something all designers should think about before deciding to Kickstart a game.

“I wanted to create a world that felt like a world—that felt like something you could go into and explore and pursue whatever plot thread that you thought was interesting.” (36:14)

The design of Gloomhaven flies in the face of basically every piece of advice that other game designers might give. In this section, we dig into what made Isaac go so big with his hugely successful game. We also talk about his choice to reprint Gloomhaven and move forward creating games almost completely on his own.

“I never expected it to hit a large enough audience to see this success on BoardGameGeek.” (43:30)

The number one spot on Boardgamegeek is a revered spot in the tabletop gaming world, Gloomhaven is number one. We discuss how a game that takes so much time and has such a high price point, makes it to the top of the list. Then we go on to talk about what comes after success and how you deal with the responsibility attached of the popularity associated with your game.

“I went through a whole phase when I first started designing games where I was like: no dice, I hate dice, I’m never going to put a single die in my game, ever.” (1:03:10)

For the last segment of this episode, we dive into the crunchy mechanics of Gloomhaven, and how Isaac found his way to the final designs including a big choice to shy away from the traditional dice element of your average RPG. We talk about planning a game with Gloomhaven’s scope and what makes it so great.