A Micro Chat interview with Danny Devine and Steven Aramini, on Sprawlopolis the spirtiual sucessor to Circle the Wagons. Sprawlolpolis which plays 1-4 players, is a city building cooperative game, that can fit in your pocket.
Hey guys, great to talk with you again. The last time, we did an interview the three of us together, it was for Circle the Wagons. Which has been a huge hit for Button Shy Games. Are you surprised at all, at how well it has been received or did you know beforehand it was gonna be a hit?
Steven: I think when we designed it we suspected we had a good game there, but we had no idea how it would be received by Button Shy or the gaming community. After it won the Wallet Game contest, though, we started to feel more confident that it was going to be a hit for Button Shy.
Danny: Yeah, I would say once it won the contest we were feeling pretty good about it. The game went through a lot of weird iterations, but I remember the playtest where it clicked and we felt like we were on to something.
The newest game, in the “Circle the Wagons family,” Sprawlopolis is currently on Kickstarter. Do you mind sharing a little bit about the game? How is is similar and dissimilar to Circle the Wagons?
Danny: Sprawlopolis is a 1-4 player co-op game where players are given specific tasks then try and build a city that meets those specifications. While it shares a couple mechanisms from Circle The Wagons (backs of cards are scoring conditions, card placement). The gameplay is totally different. Players are working on one city together, they need to keep an eye on the scoring goals while also making sure to zone like colors together and not let the number of roads get out of hand.
In the game one of the things players will have to keep in mind is how the roads connect and the road tax. Could you tell us about how this mechanic works and why you added to the game?
Danny: The Road Tax is simply that you lose 1 point per road at the end of the game. We added this to not only help balance the game but to give purpose to connecting roads in games where they aren’t involved in the 3 goals. It also makes the city look better when there aren’t 15 unconnected roads.
The Kickstarter is also offering a Construction Zones expansion for free. if you backSprawlopolis on Kickstarter (later it will be sold separately). What exactly does it add to the gameplay?
Danny: The construction expansion was actually thought up by Button Shy and their team. It adds 4 cards to the game, 1 will be flipped over and added to the goals and the others will be added to the deck. When construction zones are in your city it’s in your best interest to cover them up before the game ends (everyone hates construction!). It’s a way to make an already difficult game even harder ;P
The game originally started out as a pyramid exploring/building game, but clearly, it’s changed quite a bit. What made you change it to city building?
Steven: Another game came out by Iello called “Pyramids” that looked similar to what we were trying to do with card laying to build your pyramid and we didn’t want to go there after seeing that. The gameplay was quite different but aesthetically they had the same vibe. So we had a discussion with Jason Tagmire at Button Shy and he mentioned how he’d been wanting to do a modern city builder for some time and we all agreed that the mechanisms that we developed for the pyramid game would port over to a city builder perfectly. In the end, we liked the city building theme much better and, after a ton of testing/balancing, things fell into place.
Sprawlopolis, is the first co-op game that either of you designed, correct? How has it been different designing a co-op game over a competitive game?
Steven: I believe Danny’s game “Mob Town” had a co-op expansion, but otherwise yeah its new territory for us. I think the biggest challenge was giving players the freedom to build the city however they wanted – sprawling out, overlapping, expanding in whatever direction they want – yet still make it difficult to win. In that regard, the scoring conditions took a ton of time to devise unique ones that made for difficult decisions. I think for co-op, because of our shared objective of trying to beat the game, we all felt like we were on the same page strategically, which helped us hone in on creating scoring conditions that made the puzzle more fun and challenging.
Danny: Outside of the Mob Town variant Steven mentioned, this is my first co-op as well. Co-ops are honestly a lot harder to design for me. Your opponent IS the game which means that you have to find a way to make it challenging, but not impossible. Players also have very different play styles, so easy for one is difficult for another. When designing a competitive game, your opponents create that challenge for you. I feel like that makes no sense HA HA.
No, that makes sense. So, as we come to a close, on twitter you have shown off a prototype of the next in the line – a fantasy take on Circle the Wagons with dragons. How’s that coming along?
Danny: Like CTW and Sprawl, its been through a lot of changes so far, but I feel like we are close to something with it. It’s very loosely based on CTW at this point, it has map building and variable play conditions, but like Sprawl, we are looking to create a new experience for players no just re-skin the game they already love.
Final question. What would you say has been your greatest lesson you learned from designing Sprawlopolis?
Danny: How much a theme can really bring a game home. Like Steven mentioned earlier, the game was originally a pyramid building game. It was fun but felt very abstract and restrictive. When Button Shy suggested a modern day city, it opened the floodgates for ideas and really helped the game take off. If you are struggling to finish a game, take an afternoon and think about a new theme for it, whether you change themes or not, you will be surprised at what ideas come to you.
Thanks guys for taking time out to do this interview.
Danny can be found on Twitter @3ddevine
Steven can be found on Twitter @stevenaramini
Already on funded on Kickstarter, and ending this week (on Saturday, May 26, 2018) Sprawlopolis has really taken off, becoming Button Shy’s biggest funded game, yet.