Behind the Board: Jamey Stegmaier on Rolling Realms

Luke: Welcome back to Behind the Board! This week, we are joined by none other than Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games fame. After our glowing review of Rolling Realms yesterday, we figured we’d reach out and pick his brain about the process of making the game.

Thanks for joining us, Jamey.

Jamey: Of course, it’s my pleasure.

Luke: So when exactly did you start the process of designing Rolling Realms?

Jamey: It was in mid-March, a little after we received a stay-at-home order in St. Louis. I realized that a lot of people were under similar circumstances and were perhaps missing the connection that gaming provides, so I spent a weekend designing the first version of Rolling Realms (then called Nine Worlds).

Luke: Those 9 worlds, of course, based on the various properties of Stonemaier Games. Was it always your intention to feature your other games here?

Jamey: Yes, from the start I worked on minigames that reflected some core aspect of each of our 9 games. This was a helpful design constraint, and I thought that Stonemaier fans–the most likely audience for the game–would enjoy seeing the connections.

Luke: Absolutely, it’s definitely tickled me to see the theme and mechanics at play merged so naturally. Was there a particular design ethos you tapped into to make that happen?

Jamey: Other than reflecting games in our catalog, I wanted the game to infinitely scale so anyone could play along at home, as I planned to host live teach-and-play videos. I also really wanted the entire game to fit onto 1 sheet of paper, including the rules.

Luke: Yeah, that accessibility is certainly a huge boon for the game. Now, was there any one realm that you found difficult to design?

Jamey: Initially, Wingspan was actually the hardest to design, as I couldn’t find a way to reflect the idea of engine building in the game. But over the various live playtests since then, I would say that it’s been the hardest to get Euphoria right, both in terms of clarity and how the dice are used.

Luke: That makes sense, I’ve found that, for me, it’s one of the harder ones to explain.

On the flip side of that, is there any one realm that you take a lot of pride in or enjoy especially?

Jamey: Probably Tapestry, as I love polyomino games. What’s your favorite?

Luke: Hmmm… offhand, I’d say the Between Two Castles realm; it’s always a tense challenge to try and amp up your other 2 realms while balancing how many numbers you put into getting those big rewards.

Jamey: Ah, yeah, that one’s a ton of fun.

Luke: I think the highlighted optional realms designed by fans have been neat to see as well. Is there something you look for in those custom realms that make you feel like they deserve to be featured alongside the official game files?

Jamey: I love that fans have participated in the process in this way, especially since they can see how hard it is to design a game with rules that fit into such a small space. I’m the most intrigued by the realms that can be explained in 10 seconds but still offer a nice depth of decisions. I think Scythe has the most fan designs because people (including myself) aren’t entirely satisfied with that realm.

Luke: Well hey, that’s what the public playtesting is for! As of today, Rolling Realms has moved through 10 iterations through public playtesting. What has it been like seeing the game move through so many versions in a fairly short amount of time?

Jamey: Invigorating! I love getting that feedback in real-time and trying out different revisions. Because it’s not a complex game, it’s easy to iterate and make changes within a short timeframe–that wouldn’t be possible with our other games.

Luke: Yeah, it’s been neat to watch it develop. Is there any element of the game that has seen a more extreme transformation through this process?

Jamey: The way resources are used has changed over time, and I think that’s made a big difference. Now they’re a big part of the game, and you get partial points from them at the end of the round.

Luke: Last question for today, Jamey; do you eventually intend to do a boxed version of this game for those interested, or do you think it will remain a PnP affair strictly?

Jamey: I don’t have any plans to print an official version, though I’m not entirely opposed to it. It’s just one of those games that functions fine the way it is, so I’m not sure an officially printed version is necessary.

Luke: Thank you so much for your time today, Jamey, it was great talking with you.

Jamey: Same, I’m glad you like the game so much!

Luke: And thanks to those of you who tuned in today. Be sure to leave your thoughts down below and we’ll see you next week!

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