Interview Jul 16, 2013

Today is Designer Interview Tuesday! Every Tuesday we will interview a game designer – from amateurs working on their first game to published designers of multiple titles. Today’s designer is Jason Slingerland. Jason is the designer of Water Balloon Washout presently on Kickstarter and is the co-host of the Building the Game podcast. Today he talks about an upcoming design Sandbox Showdown.

Jason Slingerland - Sandbox Showdown

Sandbox Showdown

Sandbox Showdown

GDC: Give us an overview of your game and how it’s played.

Jason: Sandbox Showdown is a 2 player game where players attempt to take over as much of the board (A sandbox) as possible by placing tiles. Each tile is a different toy that has a unique ability to help you take control of the board. The toys are broken up into factions, 4 in the main game, Space Toys, Construction set, Farm toys and Fairy Tale toys.

GDC: What innovative mechanic or creative idea distinguishes your game from others?

Jason: I feel like while the game is very fun to play and very strategic with all of the variable powers of the toys, the real thing that makes the game shine is it’s unique theme.

GDC: Tell us about the spark of inspiration for this game.

Jason: The game started as a game about conserving and developing a national park. It was sparked by a trip I took out to Estes Park, Colorado. The game was fun but the theme was boring and limiting. Rob Couch (the co-host from the Building the Game Podcast) came up with the new theme.

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 first version with the old theme came together really fast. In a few days actually. From there I started doing a lot of playtesting. People really were digging the mechanics but everyone agreed the theme was boring. Then I set the game aside for about 4 months until Rob convinced me to pick it back up and re-theme it.

GDC: What has been your biggest challenge in designing this game?

Jason: Other then picking a theme, the single hardest part has been balancing the powers and costs of the toys. That has been really the most time consuming part of playtesting as well.

GDC: Let’s shift gears and talk about you. How did you get into game design?

Jason: I have been into the idea of designing games for probably close to a decade. I didn’t start to get serious about it until about a year and a half ago.

GDC: What is your greatest moment as a game designer?

Jason: I think there are several moments where I feel like I had a great breakthrough or realization regarding the process or making a theme and mechanic merge perfectly but I’d have to go with the greatest moment being when I sold my card game Gunslingin’ Ramblers to Hat Trick Games. It was the validation that I think we all seek as game designers.

GDC: You and co-host Rob Couch have a podcast about game design. Can you tell us a little about that?

Jason: Yes, we have the Building the Game Podcast. It’s a documentary podcast that follows Rob and I through our journey as we go from new designers to more experienced ones. We hope that in that process we demystify the idea of designing a game and getting it published for our listeners. We have received a lot of great response to the show.

GDC: Tell us a little bit about your life outside of game design and gaming: family? work? other interests?

Jason: I have a wife and 16 month old son. My other hobby outside game design is filmmaking.

GDC: Do you have any works-in-progress or game ideas you would like to share?

Water Balloon Washout

Water Balloon Washout

Jason: Because of the nature of our podcast and the need to constantly be pitching new games, I find myself working on a lot of designs. Other than Sandbox Showdown, I have a Kickstarter going until August 11th for a fun light strategy card game called Water Balloon Washout. In addition, I am prepping a few other games to pitch on the podcast.

GDC: What games have you been playing lately? What have you liked, what have you disliked, and why?

Jason: I’ve been playing a lot of prototypes lately but two published games that I have tried and liked a lot were King of Tokyo and Castellan. I think what strikes me about both those games is that they are very unique. Also, they are simple but have the potential for a lot of strategy.

GDC: Share your favorite game you haven’t designed and why?

Jason: I think, having played so many games over the years, my favorite is still Settlers of Catan. I know it’s a bit overdone to say that but it really is a fantastic game that works as a gateway game for non-gamers to really get into more “gamer” games.

GDC: One word of advice to your fellow game designers?

Jason: Journal – Keep a journal and write down every game idea you have… there are truly no bad ideas because what seems like a terrible idea for a game when you first think of it can sometimes months later lead you to a great idea when you go back and read it in the journal.

GDC: Anyone you’d like to give a shout out to? (playtesters, design mentors, your friendly local game store, etc.)

Jason: I have worked with several experienced designers now who have been stellar and very giving of their time to give advice and help a new guy out. My top people for that would have to be AJ Porfirio, Grant Rodiek and Jason Kotarski. Of course the person who has had the most effect on my designs over anyone else has been Rob Couch. We work very closely together and are constantly bouncing ideas back and forth. Working with him truly makes me a better designer.

GDC: Tell us how (and where) we can find you (social networks, BGG username, website, cons you plan to attend).

Jason: You can usually find me lurking on Twitter @JASlingerland and also listen to me ramble on

Rob and I will be at Gencon hosting 3 events:
* Building the Game Live!
* Podcasting 101
* First Time Game Designers Workshop
Come see us. We have free dice.

GDC: Thanks Jason! If you haven’t yet check out Jason’s Water Balloon Washout Kickstarter and listen to Building the Game, both are well worth your time.

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