Interview with British game designer, Neil Barrie, on his game, Go Dotty. In Go Dotty, an abstract tile-laying game, players want to make more three-in-a-rows then their opponent. 

Thanks for taking time out to do this interview with The Inquisitive Meeple, Neil. First could you tell us a little bit about yourself and maybe how you got into gaming?

Neil: Hi I’m Neil and I’ve been playing board games since I was a child. As a young teen I loved board games, roleplaying, and tabletop wargaming, but like most people (of my age) I sadly got out of it in my late teens. The passion for gaming was always there (sometimes making online or mobile games for corporate clients) and I got back into playing board games about 7+ years ago – having a child helps.

On a day-to-day basis, I’m a creative of some description in advertising. And at the same time a father to an amazing 11-year-old human.

As mentioned, we are here today to talk about your game, that is currently on Kickstarter, Go Dotty. Could you share with us about what kind of game Go Dotty is and tell us some about its gameplay?

Neil: Go Dotty is a new abstract family board game, which is easy to learn but takes strategy and tactics to master it.

The premise of Go Dotty is to connect the dots and create the most lines-of-three to win. Think dominoes mashed-up with naughts and crosses (Tic-Tac-Toe), but with a good helping of strategy. We plan to launch it as a two-player game, but only due to cost and the cost of perception, but if we can hit some good numbers we’ll stretch goal it to a four-player game with an extended size board.

I like to say that every game has its own creation story. What is the story about how Go Dotty came to be?

Neil: I came up with the idea on a night out with friends when the thought popped into my head, what would Dominoes and Connect 4 be like merged.

After scribbling the note into my phone I quickly forgot about it until the next morning. I started scribbling the idea out on scraps of paper (backs of receipts) whilst on the tube to work and within a week of the original thought, I had a made working prototype. Within a week it evolved into something closer to what it is today. But I didn’t stop there, I kept testing and refining and then testing some more. And now a year later, I’m about to launch on Kickstarter, 30th January 2019.

Often when we see abstract tile games, we see one-word titles – like Scrabble, Qwirkle and Ingenious. How did the name come about?

Neil: The name had a whole number of dreadful ones to start with, which were quite cold and devoid of emotion. I was chatting with a good friend about it and explaining the gameplay and that as the more tiles get laid down, it starts driving people nuts (in a fun way). My friend suggested the name Go Dotty. Dotty being a British slang term, meaning slightly crazy or eccentric, so it worked perfectly getting across the emotional feeling whilst highlighting the visual side of the game.

Go Dotty Prototype

You mentioned above that you make web-based games before. Why did you decide to make Go Dotty, a board game over say, a game you can play on your smartphone?

Neil: I’ve only made web-based games as viral gags, very silly, but still proud of the amount of people that loved them. Or made mobile game apps for corporate clients, where the idea seemed better expressed by making it as a digital game.

I’ve always enjoyed board games and I think it’s good for people to play them and switch off from screens for a short while. We’re still going to make an app of Go Dotty, based off the back of the online demo. But I feel the core board game is still more fun to play against family and friends.

What was the biggest challenge you face in the game design of Go Dotty and how did you overcome it?

Neil: The game was relatively easy to design and make, the main challenge was working out the correct number of tiles and sequence of dots on each tile.

I wrote some algebra (I think the only time since leaving school) to work out the sequences of dots on the tiles, as there is the possibility of duplicating tiles unnecessarily and making the game too easy to play (not to mention upping the cost of manufacturing).

I think the biggest challenge outside the game design was the background organisation of everything else like getting a manufacturer, shipping, etc. Whilst there is a lot of info out there and many groups and forums, if you’ve never done it before it or anything like it, it’s a serious learning curve. Even things like learning how to do calculative spreadsheets, which has made a lot of my project manager friends laugh.

What was the best piece of feedback you received from a playtester about the game?

Neil: Without wanting to sound obnoxious I’ve had nothing but great feedback from all the people who have played Go Dotty.

I’ve had some feedback which, really has been questions, which helped me resolve issues that I’ve had with the game. It’s odd having them ask the question out loud has somehow helped me fix the problem that’s been in my head.

Such as?

Neil: An early edition of Go Dotty had the Block-build tiles void of any graphics other than the colour signifier, I playtested it with someone who pointed out the issue that was dancing around in my head (which was it didn’t stand out on the board and could be confused as a tile to score a line with). I think the answer was in my head too but needed a question posed to me to help it out. The answer was a simple “X”. Which to anyone who picks up Go Dotty will think big deal, but sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees.

As we wrap this up, is there anything cool or interesting you would like to share about Go Dotty?

Neil: I guess the cool things about Go Dotty, other than it’s a simple game to learn but not simple to win, will be if we can reach our stretch goals, we plan to make it into a four-player game, with an extra large board, but it doesn’t stop there, we also plan to make a companion app that will use the camera on your phone to do the scoring for you.

We have plenty of other cool things up our sleeves but we can’t tell you everything right now, otherwise, we won’t have things to talk about in the future.

Thank you again, Neil, for taking time out to do this interview. 

Go Dotty Prototype