Your Turn Guest: Christopher Badell – Greater Than Games

Posted by Jim {Power Gamer} | 8-May-14 | 14 comments

Your Turn Guest: Christopher Badell

This is your chance to let us know what YOU think about a variety of topics related to hobby gaming. Our guest author starts the conversation and then it’s “your turn” to chime in and add to the discussion. Each Your Turn discussion will have a new topic. In the meantime…

Your Turn Guest: Christopher Badell

Greetings! I’m Christopher Badell, Design Director and Co-Owner of Greater Than Games! I make the games that I have always wanted to play, and I’m thrilled that other people enjoy them as well! I can usually be found in my very orange office in the Greater Than Games Headquarters in St. Louis, or working in our booth at a gaming convention!

Our Part In The Game industry

As a game designer, people frequently ask me, “Christopher, what is your favorite game to play?” That’s a really tough question. I mean, I love all my games – they’re all things we made because we wanted to play those games and couldn’t find anything like them. And there are many other games that I enjoy as well. But, truthfully, my favorite game is running Greater Than Games with Paul and Adam. It’s the best. It’s a collaborative, team-based, worker placement, resource management mini-game within a cooperative mega-game. Let me explain by going seemingly off-topic.

People also like to ask me about who our “competitors” are. I don’t like that question. I firmly believe that the tabletop gaming industry does not compete with itself and I work hard to get other designers and publishers on board with that view as well. I should be less focused on making sure every potential customer buys MY game, and more focused on making sure as many people are buying games. Any games. Because if you buy and play a game and you love it, then (as you all know) you can’t help but buy and play more games! Then, the responsibility is on us to make great games – if we’re making great games, and you’re buying games, then, eventually, our paths will cross.

This is why I call the gaming industry a cooperative game. If I meet a potential new gamer and they have a particular interest in, say, Edward Gorey, I’m certainly going to introduce them to Keith Baker’s Gloom! That’s a great foot in the door! Then, if they play it and they love it – boom. That’s another gamer. Who wins? Everyone does. This is a cooperative game. Gamers win because there are now more gamers. FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Stores) win, because they’re selling more games. Publishers win because now they have a wider audience. Sure, I didn’t sell that new gamer MY game, but I just brought another player into the cooperative meta-game of the tabletop world, and that’s BETTER. Maybe, eventually, they might decide they want to try out a superhero game or take on a science-fantasy space battle setting… and when they do, I’ll be there for them. But by focusing on improving the industry, everyone benefits.

Last year, I was talking to Adam (the Art Director of Greater Than Games and my good friend) about this, and he pointed out that, yes, the tabletop gaming industry is a cooperative game, but it also has a traitor mechanic. And he’s absolutely right. What’s the worst thing that a publisher in the industry can do? Put out bad games. Now, no one intentionally makes bad games, but it happens. Maybe it wasn’t playtested enough. Maybe production costs had to be cut to make ends meet and the component quality is lacking. Maybe the publisher and the designer didn’t communicate well and the game suffered as a result. Whatever the reason, bad games get made. This can easily mess things up for everyone. If that new potential gamer’s first foray into tabletop gaming is one of those bad games, they assume that this is what games are like and that gaming just isn’t for them. At this point, they can be recovered, but it’s much harder. It is likely that we have lost them. And that’s sad for everyone. That’s how we all lose points in this cooperative game.

I love this industry. It’s full of some of the nicest people I’ve ever met and the vast majority of them are doing this for the love of games, gaming, and gamers. I am proud to be a part of the world of tabletop games, and I can’t wait to see how the next few rounds of this grand co-op game goes.

Question: So, what’s your role in the cooperative game? Do you have particular games that you use to get new people involved in the wonderful world of tabletop gaming?

Your turn…

Comments (14)

Gamer Avatar
5
AEG fan
Tasty Minstrel Games Fan

This attitude is precisely why this is one of the greatest hobbys there is. Very few gamers are unwilling to share both their knowledge and games with others. If you are interested in owning or working at an FLGS, then this attitude is a must! The more people we get into gaming, the more all of us win!

Gamer Avatar
7
I'm Completely Obsessed
Book Lover
Canada
Advanced Reviewer

When welcoming new people to our game group, I like to open with co-operative games (Eldritch Horror is a favorite, or games like Sentinels of the Multiverse, Touch of Evil, Fortune and Glory, etc.) This gives the new person at the table a chance to get comfortable with the group and with playing the games. I try to maintain a variety of different games on the shelf, too, so that we can almost always find something that appeals to everyone at the table.

I also like to carry a small card game in my backpack when I am out and about at the university, or wherever–games like Love Letter, Gloom, and Once Upon a Time are good quick pick up games during a break, and easy to introduce new people to since the rules are relatively simple.

Gamer Avatar
7
Comic Book Fan
Book Lover
Pet Lover

My go-to gateway games (games to intro to novice players and get them interested in playing more games) are:
Settlers of Catan – simple mechanics, friendly interaction, good for family play. A simple economics, supply and demand game. With Meeples!
Carcassonne – even simpler mechanic than Catan, and faster set up. Tile placement. With Meeples!
Ticket to Ride – simplest for rules and teaching but more set up than Carcassonne – Simple strategy placement. With Trains!
I think a gateway game needs to be easy to learn, easy to teach, and not appear overwhelming at set up. But no matter how easy it is to start, still provide challenge and personal interaction.

Gamer Avatar
7
Canada
Advanced Reviewer
Rosetta Stone

As of yet I don’t own a copy of this game (this will change in the near future). I do however want to commend you on the excellent podcast on Dice Tower’s Board Game University that your company was interviewed on. I was very impressed with your stance as a new publisher and your creation efforts in this game. You obviously have a great product that has been widely received in a very competitve market place.

Will Greater than Games be publishing a Mega Box that includes the base game with all expansions to date?

Gamer Avatar
7
Veteran Grader
Paladin
Strategist
Junior

Christopher, your attitude about the gaming industry is fantastic and I sincerely hope others in the industry adopt it. I imagine that if I were in your shoes, I would still have an inner voice that yells, “Well that was a good game, but mine are better! Pick Mine!” For that same reason, I have dabbled with game concepts and design. In the meantime, I am more than happy to “spread the good word” about all of the phenomenal games already out there.

I have the good fortune to be part of a group that brings a game library to local conventions, including a gaming convention that we organize. In both instances, I encounter people new to gaming and do my best to provide helpful recommendations. I’m a sucker for a good theme myself, so I tend to ask newcomers about themes/hobbies/interests that might point me to a good gateway game for that individual/group.

My go-to gateway games include: Betrayal at House on the Hill (this theme appeals to many people), Sentinels of the Multiverse (our four copies rarely stay on the shelves for long), RoboRally (despite its length, people love the theme and simultaneous play aspect), any flavor of Fluxx, Flashpoint, Ticket to Ride, Smash Up, and Desert Island.

Gamer Avatar
6
Comic Book Fan
Plaid Hat Games fan

I converted to the cult of board gaming about two years ago and was very much led there when a friend said “have you seen Wil Wheatons Tabletop?”. From then on I was hooked. The best thing for me is the social side of boardgaming, the clubs, the events, being part of a hobby which so many other creative, open minded people are in to and trying to evangelise to those that aren’t. It feels like more and more people are getting into it and that the hobby is growing, I’d love to see some commercial evidence of that.
There are those elements which remind you of why it can be a hard sell though. Too many events and gaming stores are male dominated, sci-fi zones with the aroma of a teenage boys bedroom.
I hope for a bit more accessible themes in games (and by way I’m a sci fi / fantasy fan), theres nothing worse for me that when someones first experience of modern games is Munchkin! I find myself pleading “no wait, come back, theres so much more…”

Gamer Avatar
4
The Gold Heart

I’m fairly new to board gaming. Some of my friends had HUGE (like, over 700 games) collections, and friends and boyfriends worked at my local FLGS at the time. They’ve been around me a lot, but I’ve hardly played. Milton Bradley, which was a bulk of my experience, didn’t create anything I liked, so it took awhile to get into. Monopoly was the only one I liked till I was 17. Munchkin Was then introduced into my life, and everything was great.

But I just didn’t know much. I didn’t even know how to begin asking questions or finding anything that appealed to me. There are so many board games- all at a hefty price tag. Even Gloom (never played it but highly recommended) is $20. Without much experience or being able to know the look/feel of components, I think I was passively scared to explore. Magic the Gathering has taken thousands from people who are serious about it, and it is complex to know what sets are tournament allowable, or cards like ‘Primeval Titan’ which I believe was taken out as well (didn’t play Magic either, but have been around a lot of talk).

Fast forward 5 years to a Christmas party last year, playing Zombie Dice and King of Tokyo, and I fell in love and wanted to experience more.

I’m backing things pretty exclusively on Kickstarter because it benefits me to not only get the game at a cheaper cost, but I can usually have access to free/reduced cost expansions. I like helping people just starting out or have indie companies. I like getting a sense of what people see as fresh or new. What people are excited for. I’ve learned a lot backing projects this way. It has shown me resources like the BGdot and BGG. It’s given me an idea of how complex I’d like my mechanics. It opens doors to user friendly versions of something brand new (Province is a great example- being a worker placement game in a digestible form). Once I am licensed in what I went to school for (Massage Therapy), then I’ll be more apt to buy retail (or may have games to trade in at that point) and expand further.

But till then, I’m learning and am happy.

Gamer Avatar
8
Rosetta Stone
Football Fan
Explorer - Level 5
Junior

Yes Christopher, like you and many others here, I’m also a game evangelist, to use coltsfan76’s term. I enjoy teaching games and even running abbreviated demos of games to people. Not only do I have the chance to introduce people, I get to bring a little happiness in their lives and that’s a powerful force for good.

I’ve been reminded lately just how much games are a part of my life, as our local game group of friends has been struggling to meet even once a month because of family and other obligations. My wife was telling me I have been moody and sullen for a while, and thinks it started shortly after we started gaming less often. 🙂

I’ve already sought out a local gaming club to join, but maybe I should switch careers and start working in the industry that we both love so much! I need to see where games are being made and move there…

As for the industry itself, and the existence of the traitor mechanic, it seems to me like it’s less about producing bad games and more about focusing on profits. Let’s face it, bad games don’t sell, and become a self-correcting mechanism. But there are many successful companies who concentrate too much on generating more revenue at the expense of games and gamers. Their games will cost more than anyone else’s, and you’ll probably need to buy expansions to get “the really good stuff.”

Gamer Avatar
7
Intermediate Reviewer
Champion
Mask of Agamemnon
Novice Advisor

@Christopher: Class act, man. Many industries thrive on companies that produce the same type of product or service trying to bury each other, and I think it’s amazing that you advocate cooperation within the gaming industry.

As my Kickstarter bill shows on a monthly basis, I think there’s room for EVERY game on a gamer’s shelf. Even thematically-similar games usually have their own unique twist that makes each worth playing on separate occasions.

My go-to games to seduce people into the gaming hobby really depend on the type of person. Ingenious works remarkably well for those that want to dip their toes in, but don’t want to play anything “with wizards and dragons” or otherwise thematic. For the folks that loved Risk or strategy games back in high school, I pull out Small World. And Pandemic seems to appeal to just about everyone I’ve ever explained it to, and the idea of a cooperative game can really blow the mind of a person that’s completely new to gaming.

Unrelated: Totally stoked for Tactics (and loved all of your videos for the project). Can’t wait to get my hands on it and play for hours and hours on end!

Gamer Avatar
9
I play blue
Football Fan
USA
Advanced Reviewer

@Christoper

I did not back Compounded when it was on KS. However, I think a few copies are in our game group and are just now starting to make the rounds. I’ll check it out.

Gamer Avatar

Thanks, thegordonshow!

That’s awesome, coltsfan76 – all those games you named are solid choices. Have you played Compounded? I think it could potentially be a natural addition for your group.

Granny! You’re a great facilitator, not just of gamers but of gaming itself! Solid work! It’s very cool to hear that a school is encouraging game design, and that you’re helping!

Gamer Avatar
9
USA
Platinum Supporter
Petroglyph
BoardGaming.com Beta 1.0 Tester

Just today, I participated on a panel for The Academy of Arts and Academics, a local alternative high school. We saw about 10 groups of 4 students who were designing games that utilized several mechanisms including choice and chance, along with incorporating science curriculum from this semester. Our job was to provide initial constructive criticism on their first prototype, and I will be going back over the next 4 weeks until the game is fully developed and play-tested. The final games will be presented to the public as their finals.

I was very excited to provide feedback, and the kids really seemed to appreciate the energy and ideas I brought to the table. My hope is that some kids might check out a few of the game suggestions and possibly become gamers themselves. Whatever the case, it is a great project for a school to take on, and I felt privileged to participate.

I also participate in several game groups, bringing boxes of games to share with my friends and future friends. I really can’t think of a better hobby with a better group of people.

Gamer Avatar
9
I play blue
Football Fan
USA
Advanced Reviewer

My role is a game evangelist as well. I am always trying to get friends to try new games. And when they have been tapped out, I started on the college-age class at my church. There are a few go to games for them: like Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, Resistance Avalon, Tsuro, and several others. In fact, one of them I taught was Sentinels of the Multiverse and they rushed out and bought their own copy, giving me a full report of all the Villains they tried to defeat by the next Sunday.

Gamer Avatar
8
El Dorado
I'm a Gamin' Fiend!
Rated 100 Games
Paladin

What a fantastic attitude and approach to your business and career!
I hope there are a lot more like you.

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