How far can you Dash? Interview with Doxie Dash co-designer Travis Wilkins

I’ve recently had the privilige to talk to Travis Wilkins (aka Soloboardgamer) about his first game being released, Doxie Dash! The kickstarter just launched on May 8th, and as soon as you see the awesome art, its so easy to get drawn in! So I wanted to see what all the hype was and get to know more about what went into this awesome project.

What drew you into the board gaming hobby? What was you first game?

My first board game as a child was the classic Monopoly. After childhood I moved away from board games and didn’t pick them up again until I was in my late 20’s. The desire to create tabletop games actually preceded my obsession with them. My team member Justin and I would spend hours roughing out card games for our kids, and writing narratives for larger game concepts. This process led me to explore more of the modern tabletop game world and I’ve been hooked ever since. I now have over 100 modern games in my personal collection, the firsts were Elder Sign (designed by Richard Launius and Kevin Wilson) and Mage Knight (designed by Vlaada Chvátil).

Is this your first game? What inspired you to make a board game?

 All of this began about six years ago when Justin (Doxie Dash’s co-creator) was playing a game he had made up with his son. The game consisted of a deck of cards that featured fantastically drawn creatures. The objective was simply to subjectively decide who would  win in battle. Would the tyrannosaurus card win in a battle against the Liopleurodon card (an aquatic reptile). This was a pivotal moment for us that would eventually send us down the road of game design.

Although Doxie Dash will be our first publication, we have been creating game concepts together for many years. We have a few game concepts in development, but we decided to move forward with Doxie Dash game first because we wanted our first publication to have limited logistic complexity.

Tell us about the design process. What have been some challenges going from gamer to  designer?

When beginning the design process, we start with the general theme and basic framework for a game. Often going through many variations of the loose concept before settling on one idea that we all feel is strong. From there, we layer in the core mechanical archetypes that support and tie in to the theme.

The next step is a paper prototype, here we jot down draft components and play test with the team. In the case of Doxie Dash, we choose card drafting with variable player powers to emulate the dachshunds character, personal priorities, and unpredictable nature. The mechanics offer each dachshund hero an individualized scoring potential, highlighting how unique each dog can be, promoting the feeling of a pack dynamic. The Doxie Dash player, like a dog in an actual pack is constantly vying for that top dog position, that is why the “Top Dog” style of game play works so well.

The main challenge I faced is trying to balance being a father of four young children and still making time to focus on these passion projects. It makes for a “second shift” of sorts, which typically doesn’t start until 8pm. Many late night coffees have been consumed as we try to hammer out concepts over the phone. My two partners live 1800 kilometers away, so we’ve been forced to get creative with our development process. A typical day consists of many hours on skype or on the phone scheming and planning. Then we each go our own way to execute the tasks we’ve prioritized for that day. Maximizing every idle moment of the day to connect and discuss the current project.

Those pixelated dachshunds look adorable, what made take that direction in your art design for the game?

Pixel art holds a special nostalgic place for all of us on the team. Born in ‘85 we all grew up immersed in early video game culture. But outside of that we were also attracted to how expressive pixel art can be despite its constraints. By limiting shape and contour you’re left with a very simplified form that (we feel) really allows the user to connect to the characters. The simplified shapes paired with the bright color pallet portrays the dachshunds exuberant nature, where everything moment is exaggerated and fantastic.

I see that Doxie Dash is a card drafting game. What are some of your favorite card drafting games to play? (Besides Doxie Dash of course!)

Drafting is such a fun and simple mechanic. I like it because it is easy to teach yet offers dynamic play. There is a sense of urgency when you play a pick and pass game, which mirrors the competitive nature of a pack of dogs.

Sushi Gohas been a big influence for us. Like Doxie Dash it is a low complexity game. The drafting of cards offers immediate rewards with scoring which is very satisfying. It wears out fast for me because it lacks variable play, but I really like the mechanics of it. Bunny Kingdom is another favourite because its adds layers of complexity to a game like Sushi Go by adding dynamic rule changes right on the card and a territory building element like Kingdomino. Lastly, I really enjoy playing Mechs vs. Minionsbecause the selection of the card is as important as what you do with it. A great card can be useless if not implemented with purpose.

What is your target audience? It seems like Doxie Dash can be something to play with your kids, yet be able to bring to your board game groups as well.

We have a few target audiences. Within the tabletop game community we are able to market Doxie Dash to families with children, social or party gamers, and game enthusiasts that want a card-based gateway game. Our partnership with Long Long Ranch also gives us an opportunity to reach dog and doxie lovers, which is an exciting opportunity.

What made you choose Kickstarter as your platform for launching the game?

Kickstarter has proven itself to be an excellent platform for tabletop game publishers get the support they need to publish independently. Kickstarter is also an excellent social platform for us. Tabletop game enthusiasts are often browsing for new content there. We want to be a part of that community. It also offers a straightforward process for new publishers like ourselves.

And lastly, what is your favorite drink when gaming?

Anything with caffeine.  

There you have it folks! Go check out Doxie Dash on Kickstarter live right now!

You can also find out more info in the following places:

Doxie Dash Website

Mackerel Sky Games Website Page

Facebook Page

Instagram Page

My name is Andrei. I collect games. I love to play a game (or 2 or 3 or 4…). Whether it’s with my lovely wife, my 3-year-old daughter, my gaming friends or teaching new people, I’m always down for it. Whether it’s a 5-minute kids game or a heavily strategic 3-hour game, I’m down to try it. I’m hoping to share my love of games here, and hope you’ll find games you enjoy as well.