Behind The Board Games: Adam Rehberg Of Adam’s Apple Games

February 7, 2019 by cassn

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Adam Rehberg founded Adam's Apple Games back in 2015 as a self-publishing route for his hit board game Brewin' USA. Since then, his company has published an eclectic and original collection of games, including Swordcrafters which Adam helped design.

Adam's Apple Games is an emerging company within the industry, but that doesn't mean they're little in publishing presence - with enticing new games like Thrive being released, Adam's Apple Games are leading the way in gaming. In this interview, Cass sits down with founder Adam Rehberg to talk game design, publishing, and what we can expect in 2019 from this tabletop trendsetter.

Cass: How did you first get into tabletop games?

Adam: I’ve always been a huge digital gamer, but tabletop games reentered my life in 2010. My parents were in town and raving about this “farming” game they had played with their friends. That game turned out to be Carcasonne. They even went to a toy store that weekend, asked the clerk about this “farming” game, and ended up purchasing something completely different. We eventually found it, and this game became a cutthroat staple in my family.

C: Adam’s Apple Games was founded back in 2015 alongside your own successfully self-published game. Was it difficult to break into the game publishing industry?

A: It was definitely difficult to break into the industry. I had a few very fortunate breaks along the way, and a lot of help from friends and family too. The first break was being selected as a finalist in the Cards Against Humanity Tabletop Deathmatch competition. Self-publishing allowed me to move faster than finding another publisher, but figuring out what to do after self-publishing was another huge challenge. My second break came when I met the great people over at PSI. Working with PSI has helped me gain access to more channels including hobby, specialty, and even some mass market opportunities. I was at Gen Con and had a large team of volunteers and we were having a blast at the show. Our games were unique, and selling well at the show which always helps catch attention.


C: What games are you currently playing?

A: I am currently playing Hearthstone, Rocket League, Wingspan, Ra, Lost Cities Rivals, Detective, and a lot of Azul. I try to strike a balance between digital and tabletop and pull inspiration from both.

C: Do you have anyone who you regard as a personal inspiration within the gaming industry?

A: Of course! The person that helped me navigate self-publishing was Jamey Stegmaier. He gave me the confidence to do it myself with his Kickstarter lessons and openness to share his work. For game design, my go-to inspirations are from podcasts. Goeff Engelstein brings a fantastic academic perspective to game design with Ludology, and for quirky and endless ideas I tune into Building the Game which is a documentary of game design between two designers Rob Couch and Jason Slingerland.

C: As a publisher, what qualities do you look for in the design of a game which makes you want to bring it to the tabletop?

A: This is an interesting question for me because I’m all over the map when it comes to choosing which games to bring to life. From craft beer, to food trucks, to crafting 3D swords, to an abstract strategy game about lotus. My view of which games to bring to life has been evolving over time. Currently, I look for table presence, and mechanical innovation paired together. I want a game that people can’t take their eyes off of, and also delivers with gameplay. If the game doesn’t have these two factors then it doesn’t deserve to be made in my opinion. There are just too many games coming out and the quality of game design continues to increase, so the game needs to be able to sell itself to survive in the market.


C: Your latest release, Thrive, will launch at the end of February (originally designed by Martin Girder under the name Eigenstate). When did you first become aware of the game and, as publisher, what were the design changes needed before you felt Thrive was ready for the marketplace?

A: I first played Eigenstate (Thrive) at a local Protospiel in Feb 2018. I knew Martin and he is very active in the twin cities digital game design scene, so I was happy to play his prototype. I knew I needed to sign the game because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Together, we agreed to strip out 1-2 rules to simplify the game and boost the fun factor. Specifically we used to have placement rules for pegs in game pieces. Now, we let you place pegs anywhere and it now lets a player make clever decisions versus constrained decisions.

Aside from the rules, the brand vision was the largest overhaul for Eigenstate. Looking at recent abstract game market successes like Onitama, The Duke, Tak, Santorini, and Hive, they all had something in common: a light theme and supporting artwork. We landed on Thrive and a lotus pond theme because the game pieces resemble a lotus seed pod.

The lotus is also an amazing and symbolic plant and flower so we could use our imagination when building this theme. Martin and I worked hand in hand to bring this to life and transform Eigenstate into Thrive, which now has the table presence to capture your eyes. It already had the innovative mechanics from the start.


C: You’re not only the founder of Adam’s Apple Games, you’re also a successful games designer, producing both Swordcrafters and Brewing USA. What do you feel are the biggest challenges when bringing a design from prototype to tabletop?

A: The largest challenge is knowing when the game is done! I feel confident that I can find the fun between one and three playtests. It’s so tempting to add new ideas or reinvent the game to keep your play-testing fresh for yourself and your testers. I have learned to stay true to my design vision and to kill the game if the vision waivers instead of trying to transform the vision into something that resonates.


C: What can we expect to see from Adam’s Apple Games in 2019?

A: 2019 could be a big year for Adam’s Apple Games, but I’m focusing on quality and not quantity. Thrive is excellent and marks my first two-player abstract game. I have a hunch that this will not be my last abstract game either. The other game I’m excited about is tracking for a Q4 crowdfunding, and it delivers something very new to the market. At 1-6 players, our upcoming title Planet Unknown brings to the tile game genre what 7 Wonders brought to the card game genre. In addition to that, we’ve teamed up with Double Exposure Envoy to provide play-to-win donations for the amazing convention scene found in the US.

C: Will you be attending any events this year?

A: In addition to small local conventions, our 2019 convention efforts will be at GAMA, Gen Con, and Essen Spiel.

C: If you could give one piece of advice to people looking to break into the games publishing industry, what would it be?

A: If you don’t love it, don’t make it. There’s too much competition and it’s way too much work for you to make something that you don’t love.

Have you played any Adam's Apple games before? Will you be backing Thrive? Tell us below!

"I want a game that people can’t take their eyes off!"

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