Gamer Entrepreneur – An Interview with Andrew Federspiel

Vaughn Reynolds


Today I sat down with Andrew Federspiel of Knapsack Games to discuss Apotheca: The Secret Potion Society. I had the awesome chance to play against him in this brand new, unpublished game via Periscope. It was a great experience and I immediately went to Kickstarter, backed his game at the Potion Master level and sent him an interview request. He gladly accepted! Here is how it went down… 

First off, what is Apotheca?

Apotheca is a 30-minute, potion-crafting strategy game for 1-4 players ages 14 and up.

Devise your plans by hiding ingredients in the marketplace. Reveal secrets to collect precious gems. Recruit powerful apothecaries to do your bidding. The first apprentice to make three potions becomes a member of the secret potion society!

There are a couple potion and alchemy games on Kickstarter. Most have been unsuccessful. What made you choose alchemy as a theme?

Something just felt right about it! Themes of puzzle games are often pretty mutable since the mechanics are abstract. Early on we knew we wanted the apothecary/alchemy theme, and once our “sneaky” mechanics developed more, we knew to move it into “black market” territory.

Where did your inspiration come from for the mechanics of the game?

Originally it was from “match-3” puzzle video games. Once we found the individual player powers and “secret potion” mechanics, it became more cerebral and strategic.

Where did your inspiration come from for the art and style of the game?

We knew the tone we wanted for the game and found an illustrator to match that. We worked with illustrator Eduardo Garcia on early sketches to determine the style of character design we wanted to go for, and then we let Eduardo’s imagine run and find some awesome characters / environments.

Apotheca is well-designed for future expansions with more Apothecaries. Do you have expansions in mind? Do you have new game elements in the works for them?

Yes, we have many in mind! Apothecaries are the toughest part, since the game design doesn’t provide much granularity for power balancing. Many power ideas we’ve had come in too powerful or not powerful enough, and sometimes can’t be balanced to an “on-par” level. As such, expansions will likely focus on injecting variable content or new game systems. Imagine potions with effects, passive player powers, and so on.

What methods did you use for printing your amazing prototypes?

We use They’re affordable and high quality.

How did you go about choosing reviewers for your prototype? Did you use any paid reviews?

For Apotheca, the prototypes were more expensive than our previous game’s one deck of cards (our party game Knee Jerk). As such, we prioritized the reviewers by exposure potential and went from there. Yep, some reviewers required payment.


Andrew, Matthew, Mark, Eduardo, Phillip and Brian

Andrew, Matthew, Mark, Eduardo, Phillip and Brian

Your whole team is pretty well-balanced; they would be great for a dungeon crawl. Were any of you childhood friends or did this A-Team fall from the Heavens? How did you meet?

Haha. It’s a combo. Many folks I met from conventions and local game design meet-ups. I met our illustrator online via DeviantArt. Brian Nichols, our master of lore, is an old childhood friend. My dad used to cut the crust off his peanut butter sandwiches.

What brought you all together to create board games?

Love of design! But note that we aren’t a full-time team. Knapsack Games is my company, and everyone else is contracted or just generous 🙂

Do you plan to crowdfund all of your projects?

For now. It’s great for exposure, funding and risk mitigation (we find out demand in advance).

What did Knee Jerk teach you about Kickstarter that you changed for Apotheca?

To me, Knee Jerk was successful in many regards, but I dropped the ball on providing meaningful stretch goals, a “punchy” video, and a price point that maximized revenue (while of course providing commensurate value for backers).

How do you feel about the explosion of tabletop game popularity in an age of digital overload?

Grateful. I love ’em. It’s great to be away from the screen, and instead sit around a table with your best buds crafting potions.

Are you using Periscope and Meerkat, or just Periscope? Why?

Just Periscope. Despite Meerkat being first-to-market, I don’t know anyone who uses it. I didn’t even hear of it until Periscope came out. From the little time I’ve been on Periscope, I have 2500 followers on there, and they check out my streams when I start recording. There’s no reason for me to switch.

Did you ever use a video medium to advertise a product or interact with fans prior to Periscope?

I don’t use video that heavily, but I do the following: Kickstarter project videos, how-to-play videos, and video blog entries. The first two are common in board games, but video blog entries not so much. People tend to enjoy them since they’re different.

Playing against you via Periscope was an honor and a truly awesome experience as a gamer and a marketer. How do you plan to use Periscope with your Apotheca promotions after the Kickstarter has ended?

It was great playing you too! Keep practicing and we’ll have a rematch 🙂 The best thing about using Periscope right now for Apotheca is the actionable item I can advertise on the air — “go back our project!” After it has ended, I won’t use it as much, but I imagine the experiences will be similar. We’ll still be trying to teach and expose the game, and get players to become more invested in it psychologically (and hopefully once the game is out, monetarily).

Do you set any viewer or heart goals for a broadcast? What methods do you use during the broadcast to reach these goals?

I don’t. I am more concerned about providing rich content for the viewers that, in turn, contributes to retention.

Thank you, Andrew for your awesome games and the opportunity to talk with you.

Thanks, Vaughn!


Their Kickstarter ends on July 9th. Make sure to go help them (and every backer) to publish the best possible version of the game!

Click the image below!