I recently moved to Vermont from the sunny beaches of South Florida. With that move, I’ve had to rediscover a gaming group and gaming events to attend. So, I was ECSTATIC to hear there was a first annual event coming up by the name of the Champlain Games Festival! Doug, over at Victory Condition Gaming, happens to be local to me and was gracious enough to hook me up with free tickets for me and my family! (so thankful!)
While I was there, I saw this VERY eye-catching game with a big stand up banner telling me it’s name: FIRE TOWER! So, of course, fire is quite intriguing to humans, so, I checked it out!
And of course, I started chatting with Sam and Gwen about their game, fell in love with what they had to say, and started an instant friendship! At the Games Festival, their game was VERY well received and was even given the Audience Choice Award! It turns out, they stacked up quite a few audience rewards along their adventure attending conventions and promoting their game!
I invited them to do a Live Instagram Takeover on April 25th that was a lot of fun! And, of course, I invited them to do an interview! So, without further ado, here is my chat with the duo behind Fire Tower!
For those who may not know about Runaway Parade, what was the inspiration for the company’s name and logo? It reminds me of Monty Python, which is a great thing!
Runaway Parade started out as an arts project that the two of us launched years ago and when we decided to start a board game company we kept the name. We love the name, and the image it conjures. A friend of ours illustrated our logo of a man riding a horse backwards (very reminiscent of Monty Python!) and the expression on the man’s face (and the horse’s) is priceless. It captures our company perfectly.
And what was the inspiration for a “fire” themed game where you burn up your opponent, rather than the traditional fireman saving people?
We wanted to create a game where players had to contend with not only their opponents but also the personality of the game. We wanted to harness that sense of “the board is out to get me” from co-ops and blend that with a highly interactive player vs player experience. The other idea that guided us was that players would have to deal with a situation that becomes more unmanageable over time and fires have that intensifying mechanic built into them. The mechanics and theme fused together while we were on a walk in the woods.
Yikes! Hope it wasn’t a fire in the woods! How long have you been working on the design of Fire Tower? And at what phase in the design did you start demoing at events?
We’ve been working on the game for 3 years and our first event was over a year and a half ago. Our first convention was TotalCon in Marlborough, MA and we had an amazing time demoing. At that point, we had our first polished prototype that we’d printed with The Game Crafter.
How many events did you do in total? You have a ton of awards and recognitions from events you’ve been to, including the Champlain Games Festival that I met you two at!
Probably around 20 different events, not counting the game night and playtesting meetups as well. We really enjoy them! Even if we didn’t have a successful Kickstarter, it meant a lot to us to be able to show Fire Tower to so many people. We love watching their reactions and enjoy playing it with them. Those experiences were the fuel that kept us moving forward. And we met so many incredible people (like you!) that have become great friends to us. Simply put, gamers are the best.
Will you be at any upcoming events in 2018?
Did playing the game at events cause you to change any rules? If so, what was the biggest change you recall making?
Absolutely. Players’ feedback has really been the catalyst for most of our changes over the last year and a half. Probably the biggest change was our fire gems. They used to be little plastic orange winks and at a convention people asked for a component that felt more like fire. Thus began the search for what is now our favorite component! Also, our rule for selecting the starting player came directly from a demo and was immediately incorporated into the game.
What inspired the iconic fire tokens? When I saw your table at CGF it was quite eye-catching to see that giant pile of bright orange tokens!
We wanted to find something that really captured the feeling of fire, which is a particularly elusive shape. The fire gems are perfect because their irregular shape captures the unpredictable movement of flames and the way they reflect light is also evocative of fire.
As it stands right now, you have over 1,000 backers. You only needed 200 to fund. Did you ever think you would take off, fund so quickly, and hit this number?
Of course we were hoping to do well and we knew that a lot of gamers really enjoyed Fire Tower, but we never imagined it taking off like this. It really is a dream come true. We’re excited to get everyone their copies and to send Fire Tower all over the world.
What do you think contributed to it?
That initial push was largely people we had met over the past few years of demoing Fire Tower at conventions and events. They were ready and waiting for the second we clicked the launch button. With that momentum, we funded quickly and it fueled the rest of the campaign.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to first-time board game designers launching on Kickstarter?
Get to know your audience in person and build your mailing list. Meeting people face to face was important to us. They told us what they wanted in our game, we had a blast playing with them, and when it came time for the Kickstarter we had a great group of people excited to back. It’s the most rewarding feeling, playing a game you designed with someone and then seeing them buy a copy because they can’t wait to play again.
Will Runaway Parade be releasing any new titles this year, or next? Anything in the pipeline for Fire Tower or something totally new?
A lot of ideas are swirling around but nothing is set in stone just yet! Once we’ve finished the fulfillment process for Fire Tower, we’ll be able to put more time into some early stage prototypes that have started piling up on our game shelf.
What were your gateway games, that got you into board gaming?
Gwen: As a kid I played a ton of card games – Cribbage, Casino, Rummy, Spades, Bridge. So I always loved games. The board game that influenced me the most was Carcassonne. It’s still one of my favorites.
Sam: I started out as a kid with all the same roll and move classics that have seemingly tainted many people’s views of tabletop games. From there I moved onto Stratego and Chess, which led into Axis and Allies and Settlers of Catan.
What are some of your recently played favorites hitting your table, besides Fire Tower?
Gwen: I recently learned Skull King and I can’t wait to play again!
Sam: I’ve been playing a lot of Five Tribes recently. It really has a satisfying interplay between mechanics and theme.
What is your all-time favorite mechanic in a game?
Gwen: Impossible to decide! I like them all, although lately I’ve really been enjoying games with some sort of bidding involved.
Sam: I have a soft spot for mechanics that are tied tightly to the theme of the game. Also, anything that allows players to alter their luck by changing the composition of the resources they’re dealing with, as in deck building games.
Have you worked on any other game designs? Even ones that may forever stay in prototype mode?
Too many to count. But we love them all in their own ways and look forward to bringing them to life in the future.
Do you host any game nights at your home or at a local store/eatery?
We aren’t the hosts, but we do often go to a game night at Berg’n, a bar in Brooklyn. It’s got huge tables that are perfect for gaming and a laid-back atmosphere that we really like.
What is your favorite beverage?
Gwen: Old Fashioned, especially if I’m gaming.
Sam: Beer is my preferred beverage. An IPA if we’re playing something relaxed, but something lighter for heavy games.
Nice, that’s why we put together a little game and beer pairing guide!
Where should people follow you and your work?