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Mar 07 2014

Interview with Board Game Designer Justin Waggle

Lineage ArtworkSome friends of mine from the before times when I lived in Los Angeles have been working on a board game for several years and are doing a Kickstarter to raise money for it.  They’ve already raised over $13,000 and have just over three weeks to raise the rest of what they need to do a big printing.  The nice thing is that, at the Purple Belt level, you’re essentially just buying the game ahead of time so they can produce it for you at a very reasonable cost.  The artwork alone is worth the purchase price, it’s gorgeous.

The game is called Lineage and it is interesting in a lot of ways, not least of all because you can learn about Eastern philosophy from it.  I’ve played many a board game with these fellows and they know what they’re about.  It’s gotten a couple of reviews, and they’ve been very positive.

I reached out to Justin Waggle to ask him some questions about designing games and this game in particular.  Enjoy.  I don’t miss LA, but I do miss the awesome people there.

1. Give me the briefest pitch of the game.

Lineage is an abstract strategy game for 2-6 players that plays in about 60 minutes. LINEAGE is deeply rooted in Chinese philosophy and carries with it the concepts of yin and yang, the four seasons, chi (energy), and the eight directions.

It’s most like these other games, ranked in order of similarity:

1) Settlers of Catan (resource exchange)
2) Tsuro (path finding)
3) Agricola (dealing with seasons and accumulation)
4) Pandemic (cooperation)
5) Arkham Horror (changing circumstances)

 

2. Who are you, what’s your background?

Rick Robinson and I started a board game company called Gray Wolf Games. We are both active members of the gaming, web series, and theatre communities while still managing to hold on to those dreaded day jobs (I am a Software Engineer and Rick is a Technical Writer).

 

3. Did you invent this game on your own?  What was the process of making it like?

I developed this game based on my ongoing training in Tai Chi and Kung Fu. It has taken three years to get it to this point. The game went through many permutations including combat dice, spinners, and directional markers (all of which were cut to simplify and streamline the game). Rick was instrumental in organizing play tests and discussing ideas. I took on the arduous task of documenting every change in thirty nine different versions of the rules. If not for my passionate interest in martial arts AND gaming, I don’t know if I would have persevered.

 

4. How’s the fundraising going?  It seems like a lot of money to make a game, is it?  Are there other things people can do to support you other than give money?  What happens if you don’t get all the money?

We are currently 33% funded. That’s just over 13K of 40K with 24 days left. In order to make the games affordable for everyone, we need to order 2000 copies. At that quantity, we are able to offer the game at $39 and if you contribute at the level, you will receive a copy of the game. If we don’t make it to 40K by the end of the month, we don’t get a penny. That’s the pressure cooker that is Kickstarter! If you’re not in a position to donate, sharing our Kickstarter link really helps us. We’re trying to reach those people that have an interest in board games or an interest in martial arts and hopefully those magic crossovers like me that love both.

Lineage Artwork

5. Give me the slightly longer pitch of the game. (How it works, how many players, how long it takes, all that jazz)

Our new tag line (I just invented it): “Think like a Martial Artist.”

In this tabletop adventure, masters secretly train students to become martial arts lineage holders, while an ambitious new Emperor tries to unify his people under one banner. Leap into the world of LINEAGE and sharpen your skills with new strategies and ever-changing circumstances.

Number of Players: 2-6 players
Age Range: 12 and up
Setup Time: Less than 10 minutes
Game Length: 20 minutes per player
Random Chance: Some
Skills Required: Strategic thought, tactics, cooperation

 

6. OK, so it seems really complicated to my untrained eyes, will someone who is impatient and not familiar with a lot of games be able to figure this out?

The actual game play is rather simple. Each player gets two pieces. Every turn, players move one of these pieces up to three spaces. The students are trying to collect five cards by visiting masters around the board and the masters are trying to hold onto their lineage. If they can accomplish these tasks and get to the center tile, they win. One player controls the Emperor and General and tries to place stones in the four corners of the board.

Throughout the game, the seasons changes, spaces become blocked or unblocked, and glass stones (chi) can be used to increase your movement. Every move you make creates a ripple effect through the game that effects all of the players. That’s where the conflict appears and strategic thinking comes into play.

 

7. Will I learn martial arts from the game?

Will you be able to master the legendary five animals of Kung Fu from playing this board game? No. You will, however, be introduced to a number of concepts that have a direct influence on real life combat situations. There’s a push and pull aspect to the game taken directly from Tai Chi’s “Push Hands”. The circle, triangle, and square are the basic building blocks of every move in martial arts. In Kung Fu class we often talk about dealing multiple assailants. This game gives you a bird’s eye view of those situations. The concept of chi (energy) is really just another way of talking about proper structure and application of force. Knowing when to fight and when to cooperate is a big lesson built into the game. LINEAGE might inspire you to take another look at martial arts (I hope it does).

 

8. Will I learn eastern philosophy from the game?  Could I justify making my undergrad philosophy class play it when we talk about Taoism?

I would love it if this game was used to teach undergrads. Just send me a picture so I can I can laugh my ass off. That would be a dream class for me. There’s a famous quote from Taoism that states, “The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.” Taoism is all about going along with the natural order of things. It’s not about belief. It’s about experience. The game shows the changing seasons, changing terrain, changing chi (energy). It gives you the Yin aspect in the student and the Yang aspect in the Master. It’s a constant balancing act. You have a goal but if you go about it in a way that doesn’t respect the current circumstances of the board the you will most likely fail to accomplish it. It’s a re-training or reintegration of certain thought patterns. Hell yeah teach it to college kids. Remind them of the real world outside the fish bowl of college.

Lineage Artwork

9. WTF is sacred geometry?  Are you trying to convert me to Buddhism or something?  It’s an atheist site, we’re very suspicious.

I went to all boys Catholic school growing up so I know all about the pressure to believe and to conform. So did Rick. Sacred geometry is really just an indication that we are all intrinsically connected. From the smallest cell to the Milky Way Galaxy, the mathematics of life give us a road map to better understanding ourselves. One concept that my teacher Sijo Carl Totton likes to remind me of is that because we are all connected (through the air we breathe, through direct and indirect contact, through our intentions), we are ultimately responsible for everything that comes into our life. With our thoughts we make the world. Now who said that? Ha ha ha! I consider myself a Taoist but I’m really a dabbler and I’m always willing to question my beliefs. Google sacred geometry and trip out!

 

10. Let’s say I’m really not interested in board games where I have to learn things, can I enjoy this game just on a strictly it’s fun to game level?

I guarantee you will be able to understand this game in a few turns. I hate “educational” games because they are typically unoriginal and hit you over the head with some “lesson”. LINEAGE comes from deep philosophy but just like life, it’s up to you how deep you want to go! I personally love getting together with folks and using my devious mind to come up with dastardly moves. It’s fun! The great thing about LINEAGE is that you get to come up with clever ways to block other players and run away with victory. If you like to compete, this is great. If you like to socialize, this is great. It’s the type of game that changes according to the players.

 

11. Dude, the artwork.  I realize this isn’t a question, but damn it’s beautiful.

Thank you very much! I worked with an artist from China named Yan Li to develop the paintings. She also created the animals and chi types in the style of traditional Chinese family seals. The prototypes are very expensive to make. That’s why I only have 6 currently and why we’re trying to get the bulk discount.

 

12. Finally, will I get an actual purple belt for buying the game through Kickstarter?

After playing it, you may very well be inspired to take Kenpo or Kung Fu and earn your purple belt/sash. I’ll talk to my teacher and see we can work out some kind of outreach program for beltless people. In the meantime, keep holding onto your pants!

Lineage Artwork

3 comments

  1. 1
    Crimson Clupeidae

    Interesting. It seems it’s developed a bit of a following at boardgamegeek, although this is the first I’ve heard of it. As an avid boardgamer and somewhat interested in martial arts, I’m going to go take a look at the kickstarter page. Thanks.

  2. 2
    tso

    I’ve somehow missed this on BGG. The pieces look great and I probably will contribute.

    Decently big goal for a board game kickstarter, but having launched a small card game run (~300 copies) that number really helps to bring costs down. Big reason why digital games are so big to kickstart. Glad to see them well on their way. No doubt in my mind they’ll be successful.

  3. 3
    chrisho-stuart

    Looks interesting… I have signed up to the kickstarter. I hope they get there — they have a fair way still to go however! Thanks for the pointer.

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