The Neverland Rescue: An interview with designer Scott Almes and Letiman Game’s Dan Letzring

Andrei Szabo

I had the awesome opportunity to be able to chat with 2 amazing people in the gaming industry. If you’ve ever played any of the Tiny Epic series, you need no introduction to Scott Almes, who is already becoming one of the hottest designers around. And Letiman Games has already published 7 games, including the extremely well received Groves. Their art and production values are some of the best in the industry. So with their most recent game, The Neverland Rescue,  on Kickstarter at the moment, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dan Letzring of Letiman Games and Scott, the designer to find out more about it!

Dan, why don’t you tell us a little bit about Letiman Games?

Dan: Letiman Games is my small publishing company in Rochester NY. We started in around 2014 and have since published decent number of games (Groves, Dino Dude Ranch, Dino Dude Ranch:Hatchlings, Dirigible Disaster, Gadgeteers) with the plans of ramping up our publishing scheduling and growing more and more each year! We typically focus on light to mid-weight games with whimsical themes and vibrant artwork.

Did the idea of an asymetrical 2 player game come first, or did the Neverland theme come and then the mechanics follow?

Dan: I actually was talking to Scott about a Boston Tea Party themed game and he mentioned he already had a game that fit that theme well, so the game came first. we eventually rethemed to Neverland Rescue because it fit really well and had a broader appeal that we could apply some really bright and beautiful images to!

What made you guys choose the Neverland theme? Does it hold significance to you guys?

Dan: Growing up, I was a fan of all things Peter Pan. As an adult I love the idea of never growing up. Wanting to stay young at heart and just enjoying the now is pretty enticing and I hope to help people embrace their inner child when they play our games!

Scott: Peter Pan was certainly a favorite when I was a kid. I loved the movie Hook. After all, nobody wants to fully let go of the kid in them!

Scott has designed a lot of games (including the awesome Tiny Epic series). What qualities of his work made you approach him to design The Neverland Rescue?

Dan: I have always loved Scott’s designs but I really fell in love with his work when I played Harbour. I love worker placement games and I just loved how an interesting, deep, fun and engaging game fit in a small box for $20. This size and depth was perfect for the type of games I wanted to publish and I have wanted to work with him ever since.

Scott, you’ve designed a few 2 player only games (Bigfoot and Claim come to mind). What sets this one apart from your other works? Any particular mechanics?

Scott: I love designing two player games, and not to unveil too many secrets you should be seeing a few more in the near future. The Neverland Rescue is actually a new evolution of the central mechanic in Bigfoot: asymmetrical deduction. Bigfoot was a fairly streamlined deduction game, where one player was trying to deduce where bigfoot was and the other player was simply trying to run out the clock. This takes that core mechanic and builds a lot of layers on it. Now, both players have better asymmetric goals: the hook player is trying to find Pan, and the Pan player is trying to rescue his friends via set collection. Then, they also have a shared path to victory: the Belief in Fairies track. Either player can win if they swing the track in their favor. So, now both players have meatier (and multiple) victory paths, we added in a bunch of fun characters with special abilities such as Pan’s friends and Hook’s pirates, added some more cool actions, and really took the game up to the next level.

Letiman games has done 7 games so far. Your last one, Groves, was very well received. And the art for all your games has been stunning, with gorgeous production. How important is production for you guys when designing a game?

Dan: Very important! We want people to love our games after they receive them and for us that means the total package: A great game, beautiful art, well thought out and quality components, and usually some extra Easter eggs or fun features included within each game.

I love asymmetrical gameplay. Did you find it challenging to design an asymmetrical game? Is it almost like having to design 2 games and make them work together?

Scott: That’s exactly right, it is like designing two games in one. It’s very fun, but challenging. I design a lot of games that give players some asymmetry via player powers and the like, but each player having truly asymmetrical mechanics is a unique challenge. Deduction games do lend themselves well to this format. Having one player know a secret and manipulate some of the puzzle for the other player, that gives a good starting point. Asymmetrical games are something I’d like to explore even more, but they are a challenge for sure.

Tell us a little bit about the Tick Tock Crock expansion for The Neverland Rescue.
Dan: Although I will let Scott discuss a lot of the gameplay aspect of this, I will say it started from Hazard cards that Scott and I tried out earlier in development. When we had hazards I felt that we needed to include the Croc (what is a Peter Pan game without the Croc?). Although the Hazards did not work out, I asked Scott to run with a whole Croc expansion that included a Croc standee (because I thought it would be awesome to have a Croc standee included as well) and he ran with it and came up with something very cool!
Scott: The Tick Tick Crock adds another twist to each round. Mechanically, it’s very simple. There is a small “croc deck” and players draw one card each round. This may put a special limit on Hook, or allow Pan to place the crocodile at one of the locations, or possible just remind Hook that time is running out – because if the croc deck runs out then Hook loses! It gives both players extra opportunities to be clever, but Pan gets the bulk of the fun in this expansion. He can lay some fun traps for Hook!
What other games are you guys currently enjoying right now?
Dan: I have been involved in both a Charterstone and Descent group, and I just finished judging some Escape Room games from the latest Game Crafter design challenge. These have been taking up all of my time outside of the development I have been doing on both Neverland and some future projects!
Scott: Right now, I’ve been playing some expansions for Escape the Room, and some other classics like Hanabi and Schotten-Totten. I’m looking forward to getting Food Chain Magnate on the table for something meaty, and I’ve been itching to play Power Grid. Other than that, tons of prototypes in the works.
And lastly, tell us what your favourite drinks are when gaming!
Dan: Usually coffee, I do not get as much sleep as I would like so I need the caffeine if I am going to be on my game playing all night!
Scott: We normally have some craft beer around when we play. It’s summer time, so a nice Pale Ale or Wheat Beer goes well with the nice weather.
Thank you both for taking the time to let us know about this awesome 2 player game and some insights into the gaming industry and game design! Be sure click on the link below to check out The Neverland Rescue on Kickstarter until June 7th!

 

About
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.