How a Family Comic Book Became a Board Game: An Interview with Darryl T. Jones

Vaughn Reynolds

Poking around on Kickstarter and Facebook I came across Dobbers: Quest for the Key. And, two things stuck out to me: fun/talented artist and deck builder, so, I dug deeper. It turns out that the game designer is also the artist! ANNNND he had created the world of Dobbers back in 2001 in the form of a comic! His kids read the comic, and love it, so he took it a step further and made it into a board game for everyone to enjoy.

Pretty epic. So I reached out to do an interview, and it turns out this is his first interview ever! I hope you enjoy it! There’s a lot of cool info here.

What got you into comics and illustration? Which came first? When I was young I was introduced to comics by a friend with Silver Surfer #50. I still have the issue, it’s on the corner of my desk right now. It’s actually the first issue in the original Infinity Gauntlet storyline. It seems like kismet to me that I’d be back into illustration and comic books now!

Who have been your biggest inspirations for your work? As an Illustrator, I’d have to go with Todd McFarlane and Berney Wrightson. Both were in their prime when I was coming into illustration as a passion.

I heard in your video you made a Dobbers comic years ago. Tell us a little more! Not long after I completed college, my wife and I self-published it and distributed it locally and at the Chicago comic con. At that time, digital illustration was in its infancy, so all of the work was done traditionally. I drew all the pages on bristol board then inked them with a brush. I loved every minute of it, even the late nights when I was striving to finish before the convention. I always knew I’d work on the world of the Dobbers more and I’m glad I get to today!

When did you get into board games, and do you remember your “gateway game”? What made you want to take the jump from gamer to designer? It had been my dream to publish a game since my childhood friends and I would get together nightly to play.

In middle school, we gave D&D a try. My mind exploded with the creativity, imagination, and possibility of it. I immediately began to draw the characters and creatures from our games. We progressed to just about every type of game from there! Role-playing, board games, even LARPing. Once we’d played everything we could get our hands on, we started combining games and even making up our own games. Everything from Transformers playing Monopoly to troops of Dragons and Elves in Risk. The best thing about all our game creations is that they needed art! I was in 7th heaven, constantly drawing. Thus my love of art, games, and imagination began.

Once we got a taste of Magic the Gathering, card games took over. I loved the idea of unique art and characters woven throughout a story that acted as a foundation for a game. Throughout high school, all I did was game and draw. About that same time, I discovered comic books. It was then that I knew how I wanted to draw. I loved the bold line-work and contrasting colors. I added comic books to my list of passions.

How long have you been working on your new design, Dobbers: Quest for the Key? Of course, there are two answers here. The comic book was published in 2001. After many years, happily working as a designer and illustrator, I found myself wistfully looking back at my comic. I wanted to draw and create in that cute and clever world again. I wanted to tell the story of the Dobbers to more than just my friends and family. In 2017 I began working on the game. I used index cards a first. The idea grew and became something my kids and wife really liked playing. That’s when I knew I needed to make it a real game.

EXCLUSIVE, NEVER BEFORE SEEN CARDS FROM DOBBERS: QUEST FOR THE KEY!

I love that your game is a deck builder, as it’s my favorite genre. I’m curious what is your favorite deck builder besides Dobbers, of course, and what makes it your favorite? Star Realms was the first deck builder I played. Once I played, I was hooked. I moved on to Ascension, Dominion and now Clank! In Space! They are all quite different from the Dobbers, but Clank! has some similar qualities. There’s an adventure involved, not just the deck building engine. I like how deck building is evolving and am pleased to be adding to that evolution!

With all of the deck builders in the market, what new thing do you feel Dobbers brings to the table? Definitely the Challenge Stack! While there are several things that make Dobbers unique, the way you build challenges for your opponents is completely new. Location cards are placed on the board, full art is up with the text and challenge points face down. You can place creatures under the location and give those creatures equipment. You have to do this while building your deck, so it’s a balancing act between improving your hero’s cards and creating challenges for your opponents. Also, the details of the challenge stack are hidden. You can only reveal them if you attempt to travel to that location. There is a ton of tension that builds while these challenges are being built. Some your hero will face right away, some are being built further down the path. Once you play the game, you find yourself revisiting this part in your mind over and over. “If I’d only had the weapon Flame when I faced the Tree Golem!” or “That was epic when so-and-so played Lucky Swing to defeat the Goblin at the Thorned Vines!”. Examples like that happen every game! It’s sooooo much fun!

It’s also awesome that you wanted to make this game so your kids could take one of their favorite stories and immerse themselves quite literally into the adventure. Will we see any story-driven developments in this world for future games/comics? I certainly hope so. I am currently writing a D&D module based in the world of the Dobbers. Currently, I play with a group of friends on twitch.tv/explodingdice every Wednesday at 9 PM EST. So it’s already been tested and details established. I also plan to take the original comic book and expand it into a graphic novel. And, in addition to the Dobbers board game, I have sequel board games planned that will focus on different parts of the story. While playing each game in order won’t literally tell a story, my goal is to imply the arc of a story with each expansion.

Besides deck builders, what are your favorite mechanics and themes out there? I like all kinds of games. I think the idea of competition is really engaging to me. It’s challenging for me to focus on just one, though. Deck building stands out because of my history with MtG. It’s the natural progression without the continual investment of new cards. Recently I’ve gotten into resource generation, like in Scythe. And working placement like in Bunny Kingdom. Trying to predict and counter the play of your opponents is super fun.

I also love role-playing games. Which you probably guessed since I’m working on a D&D module…

What game designers out there inspire you with their work? What are your favorite titles from them? I’m probably not the best person to ask this. I tend to focus on the game, sometimes the publisher, but I rarely look at the designer specifically. I should do that.

Do you host any game nights at your home or at a local store/eatery? We were playing Sea Fall once a week until my Dobbers Kickstarter took over. My family and another would meet at our house. The kids would play on their own, we’d have some wine and try to kill each other on the high seas!

We also have a weekly game night at a local microbrewery in the same building that my office is in. A few of us bring games. We play something different each week, but usually, it’s pretty serious gaming. And yes, Dobbers has been played there several times. This Thursday (April 19th) we’re holding a Kickstarter party there!

What is your favorite beverage? I don’t drink a lot, but a good glass of wine or a craft beer (IPA or STOUT) always goes well with friends and games!

Where should people follow you and your work?

Check it out now on Kickstarter!