Who will become the most powerful Enchanter? An interview with Jacek Gołębiowski and Rafał Cywicki

Vaughn Reynolds

For those of you that have been following my social media, I have been ranting and raving about Enchanters recently. It funded on Kickstarter very successfully last year, and I got it delivered a few months ago, but just never got it to the table. When I finally did, my wife and I couldn’t play it enough. We don’t have a ton of time to game between our work schedules and the kids, but we’ve managed to get this to the table almost 10 times in the last two weeks. In short, it feels like playing a reverse deck-builder, which, for the fancier tabletop players, would call it a tableau builder.

We have quite a few, extremely fun, but not very well known games that we play here, and I noticed a common thread: Polish designers / publishers. So, I want to start highlighting these lesser-known games from a country that really pumps out some amazing designs for the board game world. To kick things off, I spoke with Jacek Gołębiowski and Rafał Cywicki. Jacek is the founder of Gindi, and Rafal is the designer of Enchanters!

Also, this is a new format of interview I’m trying out, where I chatted with them in real time, to get more of a back and forth. Let me know what you think in the comments! Thank you!


For those who may not have heard about Gindi, tell us a little bit about the companies origin, and what we can look forward to from you!

Jacek: Gindi (formerly Gindie) is my company which I founded 4 years ago. At first, the main income source was producing mugs and t-shirts for Polish webcomic artists. This year we are going to launch a campaign for a “Stick in the mud” game named after the comic book and inspired by it. Due to my strong interest in boardgames and experience in Polish crowdfunding, Rafał asked me around 2 years ago if I was interested in publishing his game, then called “Battlecraft”. At the time we used to work in the same company, where we also asked Bartek Repetowski to join us in the project.

What came first when creating Enchanters: theme, mechanics, etc? And why did the name change from “Battlecraft”?

Rafał: A bit of both to be honest. I wanted to make a game that would work like a magic item generator from computer role-playing games like “Diablo”. And at the time I was working on a game with a mechanic inspired by “8-Minute Empire” (and “Smallworld” to some degree). These two ideas have melted together really nicely. As for the name, well, when preparing the game for the Polish market, we wanted the name to sound good. The English title is just a translation kept for consistency. I also think “Enchanters” is just a better name for the game. “Battlecraft” sounds too much like a “Warcraft” ripoff.

That makes sense. I thought the game had a video-game-inspired feel to it. Now that you mention “Diablo”, I get it! The base set of “Enchanters” has 6 Kingdom Decks, which add a great level of variety between games. Was this chosen to make the game highly-expandable or simply to add variety between games? Are there plans to release more factions in the future?

Rafał: Replayability and expandability are certainly the reasons to structure the game this way. The idea was to have the game “Kickstarter ready” in a sense, that we could easily scale the content and offer lots of fun stretch goals. But also what I’ve found as a designer is that the structure of each Kingdom Deck (so 3 kinds of items, 3 kinds of enchantments and 4 kinds of monsters) is perfect as a kind of storytelling device. By the mere fact that some cards are in the same deck, gives them some additional meaning and players can infer this from the cards. So having Ogres and Goblins in a deck together could mean that perhaps goblins are the subservient race for their Ogre masters, or maybe the smarter goblins are using Ogres as beasts of war. Also, did you wonder why items from that set looked kind of dwarven and Village Card that relates to the deck was Dwarfburg? There are subtle hints like that all over the world of “Enchanters”.

And of course, we are going to expand this universe! As we speak the campaign for “Enchanters: Overlords” is launching today with new kingdoms, monsters and stories!

 

 

Awesome! I knew “Overlords” was going to have a new kind of mechanic to handle monsters reaching the town. Excited to see what else is going to be introduced with it! And on the topic of stories, what is the true story that inspired Browntails Den?

Jacek: This one is simple – We used PayPal to collect money for shipping and then they’ve frozen our account. So we’ve decided to make an emergency campaign and offered promo card Browntails Den to help us go throughout the time without this money. Mechanic of this card (you lose money on every turn) and illustration of toxic severs reflected what we thought about PayPal aty that time. We’ve got the money back, but we won’t use their services ever again.

Rafał: Yeah, it was true PayPalocalypse at one point. Gladly our backers helped us with that.

Yes, PayPal has had some issues in the past handling crowdfunding transactions, but fortunately, they have recognized it and are taking steps to make it possible for companies to use their service without freezing funds. CrowdOx, the company I am Director of Marketing for, is on a new type of business platform through PayPal to address this for the campaigns we work with.

Can you tell our readers more about Overlords, and what it brings to the world of Enchanters?

Jacek: Our backers asked us a lot for rules that allow monsters and dragons to attack the village or even destroy it. They wanted the game to be more close to its main theme which is saving the village. Some other backers wanted to have some kind of coop rules. While we wanted to have some big major lead theme for the expansion, so it all have merged into the idea of the Overlords.

Rafał: To be honest we struggled a bit with a single set of rules that would govern what happens when monsters attack. Each one we came up with seemed too contrived if it was to be “the only one”. That’s why we decided to go wide and prepare different sets of rules. And when the idea of Overlords came up it just clicked. It fits thematically, it follows the spirit of the game and it give us the opportunity to tell the players more about the world of Enchanters.

As for what they bring to the table, definitely the new level of planning ahead as players do not want to be exposed to Overlord invasions. New ways to victory, as each Overlord brings different ways of scoring points. And also a ton of replayability now that you not only choose the Kingdom decks and Village card but also an Overlord to deal with.

Enchanters had nearly 3k backers on Kickstarter, which is a huge accomplishment for a first time creator. For other first time creators, what advice can you give on getting the attention of the board game market, and how much did LudiBooster help you in this process?

Jacek: We’ve analyzed a ton of different projects, and we figured how to price the game and to structure the project mostly by reviewing a campaign of the other successful game called “Savage Planet”. Also looking through the best Kickstarter campaigns and their structures (mostly miniatures ones, they are the best in the value town) helped a lot. Their creators know that a game has to look amazing and to have a good value for money. We’ve been using Facebook Ads a lot, with a lot of testing and optimisation. For example, our audience engages most when they just see a game box on a white background with all components presented. LudiBooster gave us a lot of advice, sent emails about the game to their customers and backed us. This last thing (backing our Kickstarter campaign) looks minor, but LudiBooster’s Kickstarter account is is followed by a lot of people, so that was effective as a promotion tool. On top of that, we got major help from Marcin Świerkot and Michał Oracz from Awaken Realms. These titans of crowdfunding gave us many tips and also access to their free pledge manager called Gamefound. It has some rough edges, but it’s a good alternative for Backerkit.

The tip about looking at successful campaigns is a great one. Love the point about testing and learning exactly which kind of image worked best for your audience. That is a major key to effective marketing. As for a big name backing something on Kickstarter, I was surprised at how powerful this was when one of my marketing clients games was backed by a big game designer and Kickstarter publisher. That day was one of their highest backer days outside of the first and last 3 days. It was very eye opening.

What is the most important tip you would give to new Kickstarter boardgame publishers?

Jacek: Stop thinking that you know something. Look at the best project similar to yours and mimic what it’s creators did. If that project is running, make a pledge and follow how creators adjust the campaign or reveal new stretch goals. And don’t rush things. It will bite you every time. Really.

Have you ever thought about releasing Enchanters as a mobile game app? They are becoming more popular for the board game world, and your game feels like it would fit in that format very well.

Jacek: Yes. We’re considering it, but creating an app is pricey as hell, so we could do that only if we get enough money to make it through. If we ever do that, it will be cross-platform rather than solo on mobile.

Rafał: Since we both used to work in the video game development company, we have quite a good idea how hard it is to make and market a successful mobile game. It comes with a lot of risks, even more risk than Kickstarter campaigns. The market for mobile games is very competitive and crowded. I have the feeling that it would be hard to compete with the card games that were made especially for mobile by big studios.

Jacek: Yes, it is a whole different world. Of course, if someone with a portfolio will come with some kind of offer of a joint venture, it may happen sooner than later.

Do you have any sneak peeks or surprises for our readers? Something about Enchanters or another upcoming project?

Jacek: I’m a big fan of RPGs, so in the future you will see some projects with more or less of this aspect. I want to shake this genre a little, so projects as “Stick in the mud”, “Believe me” or “Survived” will proof that can you merge board games and real storytelling, now more accessible than anything you know. Furthermore, even now we are already talking about ideas to implement in the next “Enchanters” expansion. The game is very modular in its core, so we will use that in the future.

Does Gindie have any plans to be at conventions in 2018/2019?

Jacek: We don’t, but it may change.

Rafał: Our last year trip to the Essen Spiel convention proved to be extremely tiresome and while it brought us some new customers and connections, it was not what we hoped it will be. We might show here and there but probably will skip on exhibition stands.

Do you host any game nights at your home or at a local store/eatery?

Jacek: Yes, mostly when some friends come with visits. Right now I am working only for my company, so we test games in our office during working hours.

Rafał: Me and my wife often have people over to play games. At one point we used to visit these board game pubs that are crazy popular in Cracow, but lately, we prefer to play with friends.

Tell us a little more about the board game pubs in Cracow! I love a lot of the games that come out of Poland, but I have yet to visit there myself. What is your favorite pub? Is there a website for gamers who visit Poland to find good pubs to game at?

Jacek: There is the Hex Pub on Dwernickiego 5 in Cracow. People coming there are hardly ever casual and it’s rather unlikely to enter the door by accident. But you should make a reservation before you come with a visit on their Facebook, as it is almost always crowded.

What is your favorite beverage (alcoholic or not — we are I’m A Social Gamer after all)?

Jacek: Semi-sweet wine and craft beers.

Rafał: Wheat beer and black coffee.

Where should people follow you and your work?

Rafał: They should start by visiting our KS campaign and clicking Follow the Creator button. There is a Facebook page but it is not kept up to date. I’m sorry to say but we do not have a strong Social Media presence, as it takes a lot of time and effort and also a certain kind of personality.