Today, I am sharing an interview with designer Anthony Kirkham of Wild Robot Games about the launch of his first game, Patriot, on Kickstarter.
Patriot is a 3-6 player social deception/strategy game based in the fictional world of Karmonia, a country on the brink of civil war. The president of Karmonia has received seven threatening letters from an assassin, counting down the days to the intended assassination. Players take on the role of one of 14 different characters (including 3 president options), each with their own backstory and abilities. Players are also dealt secret allegiance cards (with the exception of the president), which outline a player’s allegiance to the president, including being the assassin. Throughout the game, players are trying to stay true to their allegiance, while also trying to gain influence through completing the objectives set out by each of the previously mentioned letters. The game takes about 30 minutes per player (90-180 mins).
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and the inspiration behind Patriot?
Hi, I’m Anthony and I’m launching Patriot on Kickstarter. Patriot is a game of social deduction and strategy for 3 to 6 players, where it is each player’s secret mission to either save, or assassinate the President of Karmonia.
Before I started on the journey of creating a board game three and a half years ago, I was in search of a creative outlet. My friends and I had been playing board games for a solid 5 years, so things kind of clicked in place for me after I realized that creating a board game would be the perfect mixture of design & artwork, strategy and most importantly – fun!
Initially I had a lot of bad ideas, but after some time the idea of Patriot dropped from brain to paper, and it really started to click. The idea is that you’re playing as a character in a parliamentary position – part of the President’s closest cabinet. The world outside, a country called Karmonia, is in chaos, and people are out for blood. Normally in a game like this, you are playing from the perspective of a disgruntled citizen, however in Patriot you are actually playing as the President, and part of the inner circle of people who are being rioted against. It’s a lot of fun!
Q: How does Patriot stand out from the crowd of social deduction games?
Patriot stands out from the crowd in a number of ways. It’s a game of social deduction and strategy. It’s not just a he-said-she-said game where you are guessing. It’s a game where you and your partner players have no choice but to work together, regardless of your personal objectives. You have to use your brain, persuade your colleagues and strategically think about the best way you can win the game. If you are the assassin, you have to keep up the guise of teamwork and collaboration, but secretly you are trying to sabotage the votes at the same time!
Q: Were there any challenges or unexpected problems that popped up during the design process?
Just like anything that requires involvement with people, a lot of work and a long time period, there were issues that we needed to overcome as a group. When I started Patriot, I made it clear to the two main artists, Jeff Brown and Ali Phelps, that we need to ensure our project is one that we put love and care into, not something that is defined by deadlines. The three of us, and a lot of other people involved, ended up becoming great friends because we bonded over the passion of making Patriot.
I have also had a few personal challenges through these years, and I recently had to take a step back from board game development to address these issues in my life. Because board gaming and the development of Patriot is something that I feel so passionate about, I refuse to make this feel like a job. Regardless of the stress of launching it on Kickstarter, I want to continue to feel just as passionate as day one of the project. My hope is that the board gaming community sees the effort that we have put into this game, and starts to feel as passionate about it as we do.
Q; Why did you choose to set Patriot in the fictional world of Karmonia versus a real life setting?
Great question. While there are a few throwbacks to modern day/real life events, I wanted to set Patriot in a world of its own.
The first reason for this is because it gives me the opportunity to create some great backstories. Each of the 14 characters in the game has a backstory on the back of their play card. If you are really in tune with the game, you will see that there are a lot of connections between each of the characters too.
Because of the lore we are trying to build, it gives us a good opportunity to extend on this theme and the lore in possible next iterations of Patriot. I have always liked the idea of exploring a character’s story in detail.
Lastly, I don’t want to get sued for defamation! (laughs)
Q: Do you think community involvement in the process of creating a game is important?
Community involvement and engagement is not just important, it’s necessary. Not only would Patriot flounder if the game was not on social media, but I would also miss all of the awesome constructive feedback that the community has provided.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring game designers?
Here are my top 5 tips for aspiring game designers:
Work backwards from manufacturing.
Just because you have an amazing game design, artwork, followers and people love your idea does not mean that your game is possible. After you have your idea and artistic direction, go to your chosen manufacturer, and check out what card/component sizes they offer. Download their templates and use the templates as a guide for sizing for your artists.
Just because you understand your game, doesn’t mean the world will.
I learnt this the hard way. I’m pre-launch, and I’m up to my twelvth version of my thirty page rulebook before release. I have had a number of people play test the game, and they have provided feedback that I would never have imagined to fix.
Do not think you’re alone. You are in a very welcoming community of people. Use them!
In many other industries, you are encouraged to hide your work, and your ‘competition’ becomes your enemy. You will learn very quickly that you are entering a world of encouragement. As a board game designer, I can only wish the best for my fellow board game designer comrades.
Research, research, research!
Find out what makes a board game great. Find out what the average selling price points are. Find out what materials you can and cannot use based on this pricing. You are not just a board game designer – you are a marketer, business person, sales manager and even a people manager at times. The best cheat sheet in the biz is Stonemeier Games Kickstarter Lesson Guide.
Don’t lose your passion. Everyone hits a creative block now and again.
Building a board game is one of the most fun, creative and awesome things you will do in your life. As long as you keep your passion, you will succeed, regardless of the roadblocks that are placed in front of you. Trust me, you will have obstacles. Life happens. Just keep on believing in yourself and you will get there!
Patriot is launching on Kickstarter on May 1st. You can see more about Patriot by visiting the Wild Robot Games website, as well as by following them on Instagram and Twitter or liking their Facebook page. Patriot also has a BGG entry.
EDIT: The Kickstarter for Patriot is now live! Check out the project here.
(Answers have been edited for length and clarity)
I’d love to thank Anthony for speaking with me, but also being so kind and re-answering these questions after some technical issues on my end caused me to lose the entire conversation we had.
Until next time, remember to play fair and have fun!
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