Behind The Board Games: Jamey Stegmaier

January 2, 2019 by cassn

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Jamey Stegmaier has become the ultimate Kickstarter success story. In 2012, alongside co-founder Alan Stone, he established Stonemaier Games and launched his first game onto the platform - Viticulture.

Behind the Board Games: Jamey Stegmaier

This vineyard themed worker placement game was a huge success, and it soon became obvious that Jamey Stegmaier was going to be an important figure in the board games industry.

viti

Since Viticulture, Stonemaier Games has designed and released many more games through crowdfunding, including the hit games EuphoriaCharterstone, and Scythe, and have earned over $3.2 million through Kickstarter. OnTabletop caught up with Jamey ahead of his latest release, Wingspan, to get to know the guy behind the games.

Cass: Were you always interested in game design? What was the first game you remember playing?

Jamey: Pretty much as early as I was playing games in my youth, I was interested in designing them too. I think the first game I played may have been chess (although it’s possible it was a simpler game, like Sorry, Checkers, or First to Reverse). I then moved on to Monopoly, Milles Bournes, Scotland Yard, Risk, and Magic.

C: What game are you currently playing?

J: The most recent games I played at my game night this week were Tussie Mussie, Architects of the West Kingdom, and Incan Gold. I also played The Mind, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, A Fake Artist Goes to New York, Deep Sea Adventure, and Captain Sonar with my parents, brother, sister, and their kids over the holidays.

C: You have had massive success through crowdfunding your games, earning over $3million and producing some amazing products. Is there any advice would you give to wannabe designers looking to use crowdfunding as a way to get into the field?

J: In addition to reading my blog, I would recommend backing at least five projects in the category you’re interested in as a creator and closely following them.

C: There is so much to appreciate in a Stonemaier game - mechanic, component quality, art design, and replayability (to name a few). However, what do you believe is most important when it comes to game development?

J: I’m going to cheat and say two things! One, I think it’s important to keep FUN in mind. A game can be functional, thematic, and unique, but if it’s not fun, it’s probably not going to get to the table all that often. Two, I’ve found that blind playtesting is incredibly important in the process of making the game as fun, functional, and balanced as possible, as well as clarifying every aspect of the game so people can learn and play it when I’m not there.

C: Stonemaier has produced some incredible games, many of which you designed yourself. Is there any one game in your career which stands out from the others and, if so, why?

J: Thank you! I’ve designed about half of our games, with the others coming from other designers. Strictly in terms of sales, Scythe stands out from the others. I prefer to measure a game’s success by how much joy it has brought to people, and Scythe has reached the most people (250k copies in circulation, plus the digital version), so I’ll stick with it as my answer!

scythe

C: So many games published by Stonemaier have been huge successes but, for me, Scythe is the jewel in the crown. Was there a specific experience you were trying to create or target audience you were working towards when designing Scythe?

J: I wish I had heard this question before answering the previous one! I designed Scythe based on a world that Jakub Rozalski was already building, so the entire time, I wanted the experience to be one of immersion into that world. I plastered my wall with Scythe art during the design process, and there were so many times when I was struggling with a mechanism and I’d just look at the art to figure it out.

C: It can be very easy to focus on the success of a company such a Stonemaier, but were there any prototypes you produced which never quite got off the ground?

J: Oh yes! For every 100 ideas I have, only about 10 of them get to the table as a prototype, and only 1 of them ends up being a game I pursue. There are dozens and dozens of prototypes that just weren’t worth pursuing. With so many games available, I want to stay hyper-focused in only publishing something if it’s truly special.

C: I couldn’t do this interview without talking about your cats, Walter and Biddy. They are a constant presence on your Instagram, and even have their likenesses featured in quite a few of your games! Could we maybe one day see a Walter/Biddy inspired game?

J: I’m always happy to talk about my cats! I have SO many photos of them that I refrain from putting on Instagram because it would just be too much! While we don’t have any cat-themed games in the works, I do plan to continue to include them as easter eggs when possible.

cat

C: Your latest game release is Wingspan - a card-driven engine-builder where bird enthusiasts attempt to attract the rarest birds to their aviary. Designer Elizabeth Hargrave is relatively unknown, despite winning the 2018 Gen Can’t design contest. What brought the two of you together?

J: Elizabeth brought the game to us at Gen Con 2016. While some of the core mechanisms needed work, I was really impressed with her ability to design hundreds of unique bird cards that closely tied theme with mechanisms. So I spent the next few years working with her to help the game reach its fullest potential, and the result is Wingspan. She’s an immensely talented designer, and I hope for the opportunity to work with her again (beyond just expansions for Wingspan).

C: Apart from Wingspan, what else can we expect from Stonemaier in 2019?

J: Things! The only two things I know for sure about 2019 are that we’ll release the long-awaited Euphoria expansion and the modular board for Scythe. Beyond that, there might be other expansions, and hopefully, there will be another game (most likely my civilization game). We’ll see!

For more information about the man behind the mechanics, you can follow Jamey on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Don't forget to pre-order your copy of Wingspan through the Stonemaier website today!

What is the best Stonemaier game you've ever played?

""I prefer to measure a game’s success by how much joy it has brought to people""

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