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Het spel van...

Bordspellenbedenkers en -makers. Op het eerste gezicht mensen zoals jij en ik. Maar bedriegt de schijn? Wat drijft hen eigenlijk, hoe verzinnen ze het, en vooral; wat bezielt hen?
Daar proberen we in deze reeks interviews achter te komen. En ook in  hoeverre onze helden overeenkomsten hebben en waarin ze van elkaar verschillen. Deze keer zijn we in gesprek met...

... Stefan Alexander

stefan alexanderHello Stefan!
Hello Dick!

It's an honour to have you in this series
Is it? Why?

Well... I guess we're going to talk about Cubirds. This is the came I have played the most.
Have you? Really? And your are most known in relation to playing Carcassonne. This is odd.

I don't play Carcassonne that often, But I played Cubirds about 2200 times.
This must be online.

Yes... but in real life I am on my third box.
Ah.... this is good news for my royalties!

Okay, let's start! Can you tell us something about yourself? For example, do you have a relationship, children, pets? How do you live? What do you do for a living? Do you have any other hobbies? Tell, tell, tell!
I live in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Other than a game designer, I am an engineering executive working on Augmented Reality technology (smart glasses, headsets, goggles, etc.).

The game we are going to talk about today, can you please introduce that to us?
Cubirds is a quick and simple set collection game. You collect birds and group them into flocks, but in order to pick up birds you need to put different birds down, which helps create sets for other players too.

What kind of game is it?
It's a card game, great for families or as a filler on game nights.

In what does your game differ from similar (same type) games?
The main unique element is the "flocking together" mechanic, where you lay down birds on a row, and if there are other birds of that type on the row, the similar birds move together, and all the birds in between fly into your hand. It's a simple way to lay down cards you don't want, and pick up cards that you do want, but in a way that might also help other players a lot, so there can be some interesting decisions there.

It was published by which publisher?
Catch Up Games is the original publisher, although they have licensed it to many other publishers around the world.

Is it still for sale? What's the price?
Yes, it's still for sale, the price is generally around 20 euros.

Do you think that's a good price? Is it worth this?
I think so, yes! It has great artwork, and the box is really nice as well.

When did you come up with it and what exactly triggered that first ideas?
I was watching my daughter's dance recital (this was over 10 years ago), and while I was waiting for her part in the performance, another group was dressed up as birds. They formed a line, but then would constantly fall out of line and try to rearrange themselves, like actual birds on a wire (except funnier). I thought this would make an interesting game, and thought of the core mechanic then, where if you put birds on a line, the similar birds would try to move together and you'd capture all the birds in between, taking them back into your hand. So I had the core mechanic and the theme from the beginning, but it took a lot longer to make it into a working game.

Can you tell us about the development process. How does something like this work for you?
I try to make a prototype as fast as possible, and see if it works the way it does it my head. Which of course it doesn't. So I identify what's wrong, think about changes that might fix it, implement those, and then try them again.
For the core mechanics, and it takes many version to find the things that make it work, like like needing to play all the birds of one type, or putting down an extra card if there is only one type of bird in a row. There's also the card distributions - number of birds, number of each type, values, etc. All of those change a lot in between each version, so I use a lot of spreadsheets. Back then, I would lay out all the cards individually, which would take a couple of hours, but now I use the data merge function, so I can go from spreadsheet to completed cards in about 2 minutes, which saves a lot of time. I still need lots of iterations to make a game work, but at least my iterations are faster now.

Did you get help from others, are there people you play the prototypes with?
At the beginning I'm just playing against myself, but once it's working a little bit, I'll play with other game designers and play testers. Later in the process, I'll bring in more of the target audience itself, in this case I had a lot of
families try it.

When you went searching for a publisher. Was this a hard road??
I ended up using an agency, Forgenext, who has been fantastic to work with, and also helped with the development of the game. So it wasn't hard for me (other than the waiting), although they did a lot of hard work to find the right publisher.

Then the publisher is going to produce it... do you still have contact or influence in that process on how it will look?
Yes, Catch Up Games involved me a lot during that production process, even though they didn't have to. They were wonderful. They had great suggestions about the game, and the artwork, and they asked me about all of it.

Finally the game is ready and the boxes are in the shops. What is your role then?
Promoting, doing interviews, like this.

In which countries (and languages) has your game been released?
I am going to guess at the number of countries and languages, because I don't have a central source for that information (I would have to look through several years of statements). But I think it's something like 20 countries and at least 10 different languages, although it might be even more now!

Are you currently working on expansions, or busy with another game? Tell!
I'm working on several different games right now, some that are similar to Cubirds in game length and complexity. I really like designing quick and simple card games.

If you could start all over making your first game, what mistake would you not make again?
I don't know if I made any mistake

Are there other game makers who you admire and why?
I'm a big fan of games with simple rules, and high player interaction. So Wolfgang Kramer, Reiner Knizia, and Stefan Dorra are all the ones I admire in particular.

cubirds 2

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Andere websites

De redactie van Bordspelwereld besteedt ook tijd en aandacht aan:

De Slag om Carcassonne
3D-Prints voor Bordspellen
Bring & Buy

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Bordspelwereld geeft informatie over het verzamelen en spelen van bordspellen. De blogs worden ook geplaatst op de Facebookpagina Bordspelwereld. Je vind hier ook blogs die eerder zijn geplaatst in andere groepen.

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