Today’s interview is with Jason Glover, designer of Neptune. Neptune is a unique sci-fi twist on a trick-taking game. It is currently on Kickstarter with just 5 days to go (as of the posting of this article) where you can a copy from between $18 and $30 (depending on what extras you select).
GDC: Give us an overview of your game and how it’s played.
Jason: Neptune is a space-themed trick-taking game that plays much differently than most other trick-takers as it uses a few unique mechanics. In addition to giving a fresh gaming experience, these mechanics balance out the deck. This means that there are essentially no bad cards in the deck, and every card can be used to a players advantage. Neptune can be played with 2-4 players with a fifth player expansion in the works. It really shines with 3-4 players and is fantastic when played with 2 teams of players each.
GDC: What innovative mechanic or creative idea distinguishes your game from others?
Jason: Neptune has three mechanics that separate it from most other trick takers.
1) There is no trump suit. There are only three suits and each suit has the ability to trump another suit using a rock-paper-scissors mechanic. This makes all three suit equal in power.
2) When you take a trick you place the card that you used to win the trick on top and then put the trick in front of you. Each card has a separate scoring value. At the end of the round you add up all of these values for your total score for the round. The score that a card garners a player is dependent on the power of the card during play. Winning a trick with a powerful card will gain the player few points, but if you can take the trick with a low powered card the player can gain a lot of points!
3) There are also special cards that players can play during the course of the game that can alter play a bit. The most common of these are asteroid cards. These are played while cutting a trick and they damage the trick. These nasty cards remove points from a players score at the end of the round.
GDC: Tell us about the spark or inspiration for this game.
Jason: Honestly, I am obsessed with game design and I have long commutes to work. I am always brainstorming while driving. It was while driving and sipping on coffee that I came up with this design. I grew up playing a lot of board games and a lot of card games. I was and am a big fan of Spades and I wanted to design something along those lines.
GDC: Let’s talk about the design process. Tell us a bit about the iterations the game has gone through and the refinements you’ve made along the way.
Jason: The mechanics for Neptune were created mentally while driving to work, but the majority of the work was done with pen and notebook and homemade prototypes. The main changes to the design have been the total number of cards and the scoring system. The core mechanics have never changed.Neptune is nice because it is easy to add to. You have your core 30 cards (3 suits of 10 cards each) and 6 special cards. Adding and removing different special cards allows for the game to be played differently each time and allows players to hone their own gaming experience.
GDC: What has been your biggest challenge in designing this game?
Jason: The design work has all gone really well with really no bumps along the way. The trick is getting people to look past the fact that it is a “trick-taking” game, and to get them to realize that it has a very unique feel. Being that Neptune is essentially a deck of cards, scoring tokens, and score trackers, it has been quite easy to put together.
GDC: Let’s shift gears and talk about you. How did you get into game design?
Jason: My first venture into game design occurred in Mrs. Sullivan’s fourth grade class. During the last couple of hours of school on certain Fridays she allowed us to “pick a pickle”. Basically, she had a large ball jar with a bunch of laminated paper pickles in it. On each pickle was a different activity. We would each draw a random pickle and do as it read. Each pickle had things written on them like “Draw a picture of the inside of your house.” or “Write a poem.” One day I picked a pickle that read “create a board game and write the rules for it.” I have been obsessed from this moment on.
GDC: What is your greatest moment as a game designer?
Jason: This is a tough call. I would have to say that my Kickstarter for Zogar’s Gaze was the most thrilling. I never could have predicted the level of support. It was an amazing ride. But I really do not have that one moment. Really it has been a bunch of small victories. The most rewarding aspect has been the friendships and bonds I have made along the way. I am now part of the indie game design community and I could not be happier.
GDC: Tell us a little bit about your life outside of game design and gaming: family? work? other interests?
Jason: I am a husband and a proud father of 3 kids/playtesters. By day I am a commercial plumber for UA local 130 Chicago. Plumbing is a great diversion as it allows me to problem solve as well as day dream from time to time. Of course, I would love to go into design and publishing full time, but I need to pay the bills first. Outside of gaming, I enjoy hiking and exploring nature with my family, reading, and watching movies.
GDC: Do you have any works-in-progress or game ideas you would like to share?
Jason: I always seem to have projects in the works. I have a two player card game in the works entitled Four Tribes. I need to make a few small tweaks and it will be done. I have also been fascinated with the micro game craze that has been spurred by the release of Love Letter. It is in this mindset that I have designed a small 32 card area control game that I should be releasing soon. There are a few others, but these two will likely be my next to publish.
GDC: What games have you been playing lately? What have you liked, what have you disliked, and why?
Jason: Well, I have been playing King of Tokyo, Dungeon Roll, and Trainmaker quite a bit lately. All three are dice games and this has got my wheels turning a bit. I also really enjoy Dominion, Castles of Burgundy, and Battle Line. I enjoy a game that balances luck and strategy well and that gives the player a few choices. I typically am not a fan of dexterity games and I am a bit worn out in regards to zombie-themed games.
GDC: Share your favorite game you haven’t designed and why?
Jason: This is a really hard question. If I had to pick one game, I would go with Dominion and a few of the expansions. I know that there have been some really great deck-builders of late, but there is something very charming about Dominion that still draws me in.
GDC: One word of advice to your fellow game designers?
Jason: I have spoken to a lot of new designers and those planning Kickstarters of their own. I always emphasize starting small. Start with something simple and manageable and build from there. Many people seem to want to run out the gates with their “masterpiece” work, but I think building a name for yourself is very important, especially when you are discussing a Kickstarter.
GDC: Anyone you’d like to give a shout out to? (playtesters, design mentors, your friendly local game store, etc.)
Jason: I am a huge fan of indie game design and I am an admin on The Game Crafter’s Chat. So I have to give a huge shout out to everyone at The Game Crafter! It is truly an outstanding service for indie game designers, but more important than their print of demand services is the community of designers that call TGC home. You can always find a nice spectrum of people in the chat room over there. From seasoned and published game designers to newbies and everything in between. Everyone is friendly and eager to help each other. I am very proud to be a part of that growing community.
GDC: Tell us how (and where) we can find you (social networks, BGG username, website, cons you plan to attend).
Jason: I can be found in many places. Right now I have Neptune on Kickstarter, so I spend a lot of time there. As mentioned above I can be found on The Game Crafter’s Chat Room almost every day. I can be contacted via facebook by searching Grey Gnome Games and on Twitter @GreyGnomeGames. Lastly, folks can look at other games I have designed at our website GreyGnome.com
Thanks a bunch for asking me to do this. It was a pleasure!
GDC: Thanks Jason! It was my pleasure to interview you. Neptune only has 5 days left on Kickstarter so be sure to check it out now and reserve your copy.