Interview Aug 22, 2013

Today we have an interview with Luca Vince Caltabiano, owner of where he regularly reviews board games. His game – CarmaRace – is presently on Kickstarter with just a few days left to go.

GDC: Give us an overview of your game and how it’s played.
Luca: Carma Race is about hitchhiking your way to victory. Every turn you will hop into a new vehicle, it can be a car, a train, a plane, or even just a simple bike. On your turn you play a vehicle car and then the players (including you) will play Karma cards on your vehicle making you go faster or slower.
GDC: What innovative mechanic or creative idea distinguishes your game from others?
Luca: My game doesn’t really have innovating mechanic, I don’t think this is what make games good. Take Via Appia for example, that rock sliding mechanic feels more like a gimmick and does not make the game better. I think people should focus on making the game fun and with a lot of player interaction. Gamers are not easily fooled by gimmick mechanics (actually some are) but the majority know that when they are choosing a game from their collection, they go for the one they remember having fun with. CarmaRace is all about fun, making alliances, backstabbing, and helping your opponents for personal gain. The one creative idea we have with our game is that you have a different car every turn as opposed to the same car like in other racing games.
GDC: Tell us about the spark or inspiration for this game.
Luca: I always loved racing games (except for Formula D, never liked the randomness of that game) so I wanted to make a racing game with some strategy and lots of player interaction. It was hard to come up with that but I finally got that spark from my fiance who said “It’s karma”. She said this after I hit a cat with my car and went back to save it… the next day I found a camera at a bus stop and she said “it’s karma for saving that cat you hit”. So I thought maybe karma is something that is very present on the road. Let someone pass and you’ll get home safe. From a simple card game it grew into an epic racing board game. As we play tested it we just kept adding to it till it was perfect.
 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.
Luca: The game first started as a card game for younger players. Then we play tested it and we though it would be nice if some cards had some special effects on other cards. This made the game a lot more interesting gave it more player interaction. At first we were playing for points, but then I wanted to SEE the race in action so I came up with a board design for it. We added rules to the board as well and it made the game into a nice polished racing game fun for the gamer and the family players.
GDC: What has been your biggest challenge in designing this game?
Luca: I would have to say the artwork and the board. The board was hard because I wanted to make the paths balanced and not giving any path more strategic advantage. The board is well balanced, but it’s the cards you have in your hand that should make you decide which path to take. Some vehicles are better where there are lots of train tracks and other vehicles are better in straightaways. So you have to strategically plan your moves… or just play anything and see where you end up, it’s all up to you how you play this game.
GDC: Let’s shift gears and talk about you. How did you get into game design?
Luca: I didn’t really think about it. I never told myself I was gonna make games, but as a reviewer, you sometimes tell yourself
“how did this game even get to the marketplace?”. I knew I wanted a good racing game in my collection, but was hard to get, so I decided to make one. Now that we played it and love it, we want to bring to others to enjoy. The expansions are gonna be great and the new maps are going to be a nice addition to this ever growing game. In formula D, you get new maps but don’t really feel a change. Our maps with blow you away with new mechanics and themes. We went the cartoon route to be able to exaggerate stuff and make the game fun.
GDC: What is your greatest moment as a game designer?
Luca: It’s not here yet. I think the moment I see others playing my game, reviewing my game, and store owners stocking my game will be the best moments. I can’t wait for people to post pictures of them playing on BBG. I can’t wait to see all the good reviews we’re going get. The best moments are still to come.
GDC: Tell us a little bit about your life outside of game design and gaming: family? work? other interests?
Luca: I have many jobs at the same time. I own a video production company called PushPlay Productions. I run a gaming store called CHEZ GEEKS in downtown Montreal with my brother.  We opened because we wanted to offer the students in the area a place to meet new people and play games. We wanted to grow the gaming community and we doing a good job so far. My other interests are traveling (which really help in my game design) and video games (mostly racing games and RPG’s)
GDC: Do you have any works-in-progress or game ideas you would like to share?
Luca: You want the scoop? Well… My brother is working on something, but that’s top secret.  But on my end, I am working on Maps and Expansion Packs for CarmaRace. I want this to become the next munchkin style racing game. A big goal, but very doable.  Another thing we are looking at is getting cool designers on board and real licence cars. We want to see if Chip Foose and other designers want to create expansion packs with us. Maybe get some stuff from American Choppers from OC, etc…
GDC: What games have you been playing lately? What have you liked, what have you disliked, and why?
Luca: Oh man, I’ve been playing many games, since I do Board to Death TV, I am always playing games and it seems to never end. The one thing I don’t like about reviewing games is that it’s hard to go back and play games we’ve enjoyed since we’re always getting new games in the mail and have to keep up with producing high quality videos. It’s hard for us to keep up with other reviewers because most of them simply do Opening the Box, or quick reviews without playing, and most of them don’t even have gameplay footage. I’ve see board game reviews out there where I can tell the reviewer did not play the game. I said this many times to other journalists and people in the industry: “Beware of reviews which contain NO gameplay footage or come out TOO soon”. To make a good review takes time and the game must be played many times over. If a review comes out too fast, it was not played enough. if there review video
has not gameplay footage, how can you trust it…. but back to question, we have been enjoying Mage Knight, CarmaRace , and Seasons. We disliked World War Z very much, keep an eye out for our video review on this game. And this might be  sound weird to some people but we disliked Formula D… all of us, our whole team. And I went into the game hoping it would be awesome. I loved the cover art, I loved the concept, but it just failed and the steamrolling and luck factor ruined the game for all of us.
GDC: Share your favorite game you haven’t designed and why?
Luca: I don’t have really a favourite game, I try to match the games we play with the group I am with. Depending on who is there we choose different games during game, but mostly we play game we have to review. Depends on out mood, sometimes we want co-op, sometimes we want easy, and sometimes we want long and complicated games. It’s hard to have a favourite. We sometimes just stand in front of my board game wall and make votes on what to play. The games in my wall are those that I like and the others I bring to my store to make our FREE gaming library bigger.
GDC: One word of advice to your fellow game designers?
Luca: Don’t get discouraged by internet trolls who will do anything to ruin your game. If you believe in your game and know that it’s a fun game, go for it all the way and never give up. This is my first game so I am not really the best person to ask this to, but the only advice I can give is that. And if something does not work well in you game, don’t be scared of removing it, no matter how hard you worked on it.
GDC: Anyone you’d like to give a shout out to? (playtesters, design mentors, your friendly local game store, etc.)
Luca: Wow I feel like I won an Oscar lol, um I would like to thank my Board to Death TV team for always being there, doing game nights, reviewing games, and playtesting CarmaRace. My local artist, Julie Labossiere (Squish Image) who did all the artwork for the entire game alone and for free.. she took a big risk doing this but she knew that it will be a success so she came on board. And all the supporters, backers on kickstarter, and people who have blogs who took the time to contact me and run an interview.  The gaming community is awesome online (except for the annoying trolls). I really got a lot of help from everyone online and It would not have been possible without them. And finally the Board to Death fans who have been with us from the start and helped make our videos bigger and better.
GDC: Tell us how (and where) we can find you (social networks, BGG username, website, cons you plan to attend).
Facebook me at: Luca Vince Caltabiano
GDC: Thanks so much for taking your time to talk with us! Readers: Be sure to check out CarmaRace on Kickstarter, as of this post it has about 3 days left. Also, if you are interested in contributing to CarmaRace you can help write flavor text for some of the cards!

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