Interview with Silicon Saga publisher Rusted Gear Games
,At Boda Games, we love seeing ambitious projects that we have been involved with from the start slowly coming together. One of these projects that we have been involved with is Silicon Saga: Wreck of the Andromeda. Silicon Saga is published by Rusted Gear Games. Matthew Houston from Rusted Gear Games took a moment to discuss with us their new game, what it was like preparing for the Kickstarter and how he learned to navigate the board game industry.
Hi Matthew, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. We know how busy it can get right before your Kickstarter! First things first, could you introduce Rusted Gear Games and tell us a bit about Silicon Saga: Wreck of the Andromeda.
Rusted Gear Games is a new board game publisher located in the US. I founded Rusted Gear Games to help me spread the word about the new board game I designed called Silicon Saga: Wreck of the Andromeda. In early 2020, the world was beginning to shut down due to the COVID 19 pandemic. People couldn’t go about their lives the same way as they had in previous years. In the midst of all that, I found that I couldn’t get out of the house and do the activities that I usually enjoyed. I decided to use my new found free time to begin developing the idea for a board game that had been slowly forming in my mind for some time. That game eventually became Silicon Saga: Wreck of the Andromeda.
Silicon Saga: Wreck of the Andromeda
Silicon Saga is a sci-fi dungeon crawl board game where you join a crew of space marauders and loot the floating wreck of a deep space research station. Greedy mega-corporations control the supply of vital resources throughout the galaxy. You and your crew work to take from these corporations and sell the resources you’ve found to those who need them. In the game, you’ll be searching the station for those resources. It turns out the corporation was performing experiments on board. They were trying to revolutionize their cybernetic enhancement products by infusing silicon directly into the DNA of living creatures. The results of those experiments broke free and caused havoc on board.
In the game, you’ll encounter surviving members of the ship’s crew. You’ll also have to defend yourself against the corporation’s monstrous creations and corporate soldiers who have come to clean up the mess. You can choose whether to play Silicon Saga cooperatively, competitively or solo. Do you have what it takes to get in, grab the loot and escape back to your ship?
What made you want to make the move from a board game player to a board game designer?
The decision to design my own game came from my love of playing board games. There are several games that I play all the time and I really like specific mechanics from those games. I wanted to play a game that included all of the mechanics that I have really enjoyed playing in other games. The idea for Silicon Saga was built around a few key mechanics that I wanted to include.
First I have always loved dungeon crawl games, so I knew that was the kind of game I wanted to make. I wanted encounters in this dungeon to be handled differently from typical dungeon crawl games though. Usually you are comparing stats on your character to a monster’s stats or rolling dice to beat their dice roll or stats. With Silicon Saga, I wanted to apply pool building and a chit-pull system to encounter resolution. In the game players will add colored markers to a bag, then draw them to determine the results.
Another key mechanic I wanted to include was card drafting and deck building. Almost all player interactions in Silicon Saga are done by playing cards. This includes everything from movement, building your pool, drafting new cards, and interacting in encounters. Finally, I wanted the map of the dungeon to be randomized. So it would be different each time you play the game. The map is revealed slowly as you play and explore new areas of the station. That way, there is minimal set up time and it’s easy to bring Silicon Saga to the table. To achieve this, I used square tiles that are drawn from a pile. Each tile is separated into 4 spaces which allows the tiles to be different and add more variation into the game.
From civil engineer to board game designer
I come from a design background. For me, the jump from game player to game designer was an easy one. At the moment, my work with Rusted Gear Games is my second job and passion project. I am also a civil engineer with 10 years of experience designing bridges and roadways. I have a lot of experience working on and leading large scale projects where a team of people with diverse skill sets. Board game design seemed like something that would be accessible for me because you can design the mechanics and rulebook for a game without any specialized knowledge or tools. That said, once I started my journey designing Silicon Saga, I picked up and taught myself a lot of new skills along the way such as graphic design software, website design, promotion using social media and much more.
As a first time publisher, what were some of the most helpful resources that you learned from?
We’re lucky enough to live in an age where anyone can go online to easily find a huge amount of information and interact with people from all different industries and walks of life. My advice for others who are designing their first board game or who might be considering it would be to take the time to learn as much as you can about the board game industry at large before you begin promoting and marketing your game. As with anything in life, knowledge and information are your best tools for success.
I’ll list a few resources that I found to be most useful and would recommend to other designers who are looking to learn more about the industry. First is Jamey Stegmaier and Stonemaier Games’ Lessons blog. Jamey provides many many articles that are chock full of invaluable information about game design, distribution, and launching a game on Kickstarter. I knew that I would be launching Silicon Saga on Kickstarter, so information about marketing and distributing the game were particularly useful for me. Next, the website www.boardgamesmaker.com provided a comprehensive list of standard game components and listed prices for those components depending on the quantity ordered. I found this information to be particularly useful when working out what components should be included in Silicon Saga. It was easy to see what type of components would make the game more expensive and what quantities certain components should be limited to. Finally, the Facebook Group ‘Game Retailers who Back Kickstarters’ is full of great info for anyone looking to publish a game on Kickstarter and who is looking to get board game retailers to take an interest in their game.
You’re currently putting the final touches on the Kickstarter campaign that is set to launch February 16. How have you been preparing for it? Did you run into anything unexpected that you wish you knew beforehand?
I began preparing to launch Silicon Saga on Kickstarter shortly after we began developing the game. Founded Rusted Gear Games and created social media accounts where I could begin building an audience for the game. I set a rough launch date and planned to release a slow drip of information about the game to social media on a weekly basis. Then I also created a website where anyone interested could go to find all the available information. And where they could sign up to receive the latest information about the game.
A couple months before launch, I got some prototypes of the game made, so they could be sent out to previewers and promoters. I reached out to lots of board game websites and publications about booking advertising for the game. Finally, about a month before our launch, I made our Kickstarter pre-launch page available. To begin getting the audience I had been building ready for our launch and to keep building it.
Going through this process for the first time, I’ve been finding things that I should have done, could have done better or that I should have prepared for earlier in the process. So, my advice here to game designers would be, when planning the budget for your game, don’t forget to include advertising. This could arguably be the most important expense for getting your game into people’s hands. You can reach out to advertisers at any time in the design process to see what the costs are and plan accordingly.
How did you go about finding a manufacturer to work with? What were the main things you paid attention to when making the final decision on who to work with?
When I began looking for a manufacturer to partner with on Silicon Saga, I was most interested in knowing how much it will cost to produce the game. And what kind of quality I could expect from the manufacturer. I reached out to many manufacturers located all over the world. Having established Rusted Gear Games on social media paid off here as several manufacturers reached out to me. For each manufacturer, I sent a complete list of component quantities for Silicon Saga. As well as planned stretch goals and add-ons for the Kickstarter campaign. I asked each manufacturer for cost estimates to produce the listed components. And I asked them to send me samples of the types of components that would be included in my game. With this, I could compare manufacturers based on my criteria: cost and quality.
I decided that I wanted to work with Boda Games for several reasons. Boda Games offered competitive pricing with lower minimum order quantities, which helped me to set a lower Kickstarter funding goal. They sent me an impressive sample package (at no cost to me). That did a great job of showcasing all of their capabilities as a manufacturer. They have a proven track record having manufactured many well known games. Finally, in all of my interactions with Boda Games, they have displayed a great deal of professionalism. They’ve been respectful, easy to approach, and responsive to all of my questions.
We all know Kickstarter fans love nothing more than stretch goals. Any planned stretch goals for this project you can reveal already? Stretch goals you are particularly excited about that you hope can be achieved?
Any Kickstarter campaign wouldn’t be complete without a list of fun stretch goals for backers to unlock. The campaign for Silicon Saga: Wreck of the Andromeda is no different. The stretch goals that I am most excited about are ones that will let us add content to the game. That will really add to the already extensive variability in the game. In Silicon Saga, players will choose a ‘Threat’ to play against at the beginning of the game. Threats are larger foes that will be encountered multiple times over the course of the game. Each ‘Threat’ adds a few unique rules to the game, so the strategy to win the game can be very different. Furthermore, the game can be easier or harder depending on which ‘Threat’ is chosen. The basic version of Silicon Saga will include 2 ‘Threats.’ But we have plans to add 2 additional ‘Threats’ if we are able to unlock certain stretch goals. Another thing that I’m personally excited about is not quite a stretch goal, but will function the same way. If we receive enough funding, we will be able to offer an optional add-on. It will let backers replace the cardboard standees for their crew members with plastic minis. I really enjoy plastic minis so I worked with an amazing 3D modelling artist, Renan Assuncao. We created the character models and I would love to see them brought to life.
Your game has got some amazing looking artwork (I’ll link to the Youtube video that’s on BGG here)! How was the process of turning your idea and vision into the finished product?
So, when i first set out designing Silicon Saga, I didn’t know what kind of game it would eventually be. I knew what mechanics I would include and I built the theme over that skeleton. Then I added some new mechanics that would help build on the theme. First I narrowed down a list of possible themes that I thought would work for the game. These included fantasy, sci-fi and steampunk. With these in mind, I began searching the internet for artists who were accepting commission for new work. I looked on Deviant Art, ArtStation and on social media. Development of the game art began by looking for a concept artist who could help me develop concepts for the playable characters. I reached out to artists who had portfolios that focused on the three themes I was considering. I asked them for cost quotes to create the character art and I asked them if they were available. And, of course, if they were interested in working on art for a board game. Eventually, I found Nikloay Asparuhov, a young concept artist from Bulgaria who had already completed some great sci-fi character concepts. With Nikolay on board, the theme of my game was decided. And the game officially became Silicon Saga: Wreck of the Andromeda. As development continued, I brought in a few other artists to help complete artwork for specific game components. Such as the map tiles, all of the cards, 3D character models and for promotional/concept art. In the end, the team of artists I assembled included Nikolay, Vincentius Matthews (Indonesia), Tom Edwards (United Kingdom), Renan Assuncao (Spain), and Mark Graham (United Kingdom).
Lastly, how can people stay up to date on Silicon Saga: Wreck of the Andromeda in anticipation of the launch of the Kickstarter project?
Anyone interested in learning more about Silicon Saga or staying up to date can visit our website: www.rustedgeargames.com. There they can read about gameplay highlights, find links to how-to-play videos and game previews that have been published. Then, there are also links to all of our social media and subscribe for reminder emails about our products. They can also visit our Silicon Saga on Kickstarter page and click to get notified directly from Kickstarter when we launch on February 16th.