Award Winning Designer: Antoine Bauza

Vaughn Reynolds

(image courtesy: 20minutes.fr)

Antoine Bauza, designer of all of these games, is a bit of a hero to me. He’s designed some of my favorite games (7 Wonders, Samurai Spirit) and has a knack for making co-ops that are fun, but nearly impossible to beat (Samurai Spirit, Ghost Stories).

I got a chance to sit down and chat with him about games, design, and the perspective of being a European designer making games for a global market.

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First off, I know it’s unlikely, but if there are readers who don’t know who you are, how would you describe yourself to them?

I’m a 37 years old, married, father of one, boardgame designer who enjoys a lot of things in life, including Japan, Coffee, Cats, Games (board, roleplaying, video), friends and stories of all kinds…

Let’s take things in a more relaxed, social route at first. What is your favorite drink during games or design sessions?

Black coffee (and sparkling water because you cannot only drink coffee!)

You mentioned your group has an odd number of players (7) which is what brought about things like 7 Wonders and Samurai Spirit. Are there games from other designers you have come across that work well for that group size?

There a lot of party games that work very well but not really any other type of game. Currently we are playing Codenames and Timeline Challenge when there are too many at the table for 2-6 players games…

How often does your game group meet now that you’re a rich and famous game designer? Do you all prefer to play at pubs, at home, or somewhere else?

I’m running playing sessions at home on Mondays (with a small group of friends). We usually playtest prototypes but sometimes play other games, like campaign games (we played Risk Legacy, right now we are playing Imperial Assault and we will be playing Pandemic Legacy after that). I also run a playing night on Fridays at my workplace (called “La Cafetière”). There is more room, more players, and more games there! I also try to play along with family when I have the opportunity. Overall I mostly play my prototypes… I used to go to too many conventions but now I try to keep my weekends for non-professional activities…

What is one game you absolutely love to play that makes your game group cringe?

None, the point is for everyone to have fun, so I play games with people who enjoying them as much as I am.

What do you think of the term “Ameritrash” in the game industry?

I enjoy playing ameritrash games more than in the past. In fact, I’m less into eurogames these days (I get bored) and more into strong themed fun games.

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When did you first realize you were an entrepreneur? Game design is one thing, but the ability to put yourself out there and see projects through to completion takes a high level of drive. When did that begin for you? Was it influenced by family or some external event?

I don’t see myself as an entrepreneur but at a game designer. I’m not really good at selling my work to publishers and, in fact, I don’t try to do it. I think that when you design a good game it will find a publisher, even if you suck at selling it…

Game designers have not had the public notoriety in the past that they enjoy today, at least in the U.S. and now more abroad. Is your fame apparent to you? You can be honest, we’re all friends here.

Fame in the board gaming industry is very relative. People sometimes recognize me when I walk into a game shop or a convention but I’m pretty quiet in others places, which is OK for me… I’m not chasing fame at all.

Which game designers or publishers are on your dream sheet to work with that you haven’t yet?

I don’t dream about designers (some are hot, don’t get me wrong) or about publishers (do people do that, yerk?!), I dream about games… And there are still a few of games I want to bring to the real word…

What other goals do you have for the “Antoine Bauza” brand? What one thing do you want your name to be remembered for in the gaming industry?

I don’t care about being remember, I’m not a performer, I don’t sell my own person. I’m making games. If one of my games is remembered, it’s very nice, because I guess it means that it’s good enough be remembered. I don’t have goals or plans, I enjoy designing games—so I do. When the time comes, maybe I won’t enjoy it anymore, then I will do something else…

How has game design changed from a business standpoint since you started? For instance, if Kickstarter had been a viable option when you started in 2007 would you have gone the self-publishing route?

Absolutely not. Kickstarter (self-publishing) is a dangerous tool for game designers. First, if you get rid of a publisher, you get rid of a bunch of good insight about your game and designing a good game needs good insight, a lot of it actually. Game design is the main part of a game so you need a lot of other features to make it a good game. It’s the publisher’s mission to get you those features… Anyway, I like working with people, so I keep my publishers…

On the subject of crowdfunding, what do you think of large game companies (CMON, etc) using it to finish their games?

I think Kickstarter is good for publishing big ambitious projects that cannot be published otherwise (because of the financial risk), or for a small company to publish their first games…

Do you feel crowdfunding has muddied the waters or is a blessing to the industry?

It’s a tool, so it’s not good or bad. Some people with use it right… and some won’t! So overall, I think it’s a good thing, because having new tools is good, no?

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Will you be coming to Origins or GenCon? Do you have plans to be in the United States for any conventions or public appearances?

I should attend GenCon Indy again this year (2016), because I should have two games released there: Oceanos, published by Iello and Attack on Titan: the Last Stand, published bu Don’t Panic Games / Cryptozoic.

What are your top two tips for a fledgling game designer getting into the industry?

Play a lot, read a lot, travel, have the richest life you can because every tiny life experience you get will make you a better designer. Also, design games, with an “s”! Don’t get stuck with one project, you need to make games over and over to learn the trade… At last, be open to your players: listen and watch them play, there is a lot to learn when you keep your mouth closed and observe the world around you…

What’s the best method to follow your design progress and game releases?

My Twitter: @toinito (I tweet mainly in English)
I also have a website but the updates are pretty rare these days… www.antoinebauza.fr

Keep an eye out for these awesome titles from Antoine Bauza!

2016
(coming soon) – Tokaido Collector’s Edition (Funforge)
(coming soon) – La Grande Evasion (XII Singes)
(coming soon) – Welcome Back To The Dungeon (Iello)
(coming soon) – Oceanos (Iello)
(coming soon) – Gaijin Dash (auto-édition)
(coming soon) – Attack on Titan : the Last Stand (Don’t Panic Games / Cryptozoïc)