Interview with Aaron Andrew Wilson, on his newly announced Button Shy wallet game, Why I Otter. A trick-taking game for 2-players.
Note: Why I Otter is available now for pre-order. You can find its pre-order page by clicking here. The game should be shipping out in March 2019.
Aaron, thanks for agreeing to do this interview today. We are here to talk about your recently announced Button Shy wallet game, Why I Otter. Could you share with us some information on the gameplay?
Aaron: Sure. Basically, it’s a 2 player trick-taking game where each suit trumps one other in a circular round-robin /rock paper scissors style system. The numbers in this game are secondary in taking tricks and only hold meaning when playing a matching suit. (But numbers may matter for scoring.)
Taking tricks won’t guarantee you points however since the loser of each trick chooses which unique scoring condition becomes true for the game.
Scoring conditions are broken up into two parts: Each x scores 1pt and Most x scores 2pts. So you might score for most 4s and for each yellow card you have at end game.
Each round you’ll also see which 3 cards you’ll be choosing from before playing the trick. You’ll play 1 of the 3 cards from your hand in player order (which changes based on the winner of the trick.) The winner of the trick will take the 2 cards into his “holt” (face-up line of tricks won in front of them.) Then pick 1 of the 3 “next-up” cards to go into their hand. And the loser of the trick will choose from the remaining 2, where they’ll choose one card for their hand, and choose the other to become 1 of the 4 scoring conditions for the game.
You’ll almost always lose going first per trick. But you may find that you want to lose going second to set yourself up for choosing a beneficial scoring condition.
So you may be able to devise a much deeper strategy than one might expect for this type of quick little game.
What is the story behind the creation of Why I Otter?
Aaron: This is a funny story. John Prather (designer of Fire in the Library) and I were sharing a room at Origins Game Fair. He was describing a hockey team that he became a fan of because he likes the penguin (just the animal) and so in my snarkiness, I described something I was a fan of but without any connection to the thing, I justified my preference due to the love I have for otters. Then it became an in-joke for the remainder of the Con.
I’d also described there how I’d like to create a trick-taker where every card could be beaten by another like RPS. And then I joked I’d name it Why I Otter. The joke became reality when I got home and figured out a cool unique way to score the tricks at end game. I pretty much submitted my first version of the prototype to the Button Shy GenCan’t contest last year.
The version available for pre-order now though has been updated since after some extensive playtesting at Pax Unplugged.
Speaking of extensive playtesting. What was the best piece of feedback you received from a playtester?
Aaron: I think it was probably the suggestion that it needed something to allow for a just a bit more strategy. The 1st version of the game had winners drawing from the deck and the loser then drawing 2 and keeping 1. And the issue really was that it felt so much like luck. So the recommendation that “gamers” will want to know what’s coming up, made such a huge difference for gameplay. And that change got the game published! (Thanks, Ian Zang)
Was Why I Otter always an 18 card game?
Aaron: It was! The math just always felt really good. 3 suits with 6 of each. And then wanting each card to supply a unique scoring condition really meant that it had to be limited in scale. (For my own sanity)
Button Shy, who is the publisher that picked this up, has the game listed for ages 6+. Did you always want it to be able to be played by such young ages, or did it just happen to turn out this way?
Aaron: I was aware that the simplicity of gameplay could allow for a younger audience but it wasn’t a goal per se. I myself have a 4-year-old daughter and I’m excited for her to play as she nears the age where she can grasp it and play well. But my goal for a game at this size is almost always to create an elegant system that gamers and casuals can both get and enjoy quickly.
What 3 adjectives describe Why I Otter’s gameplay?
Aaron: Quick. Tricky. Otterly-Unique.
As we wrap up, you mentioned you entered Why I Otter to the GenCan’t contest last year. I have a two-part question. What draws you to design contests and do have any advice for those thinking of submitting their game contests out there?
Aaron: I love Contests. It can be a humbling and sometimes exhilarating experience. And they make for such fantastic motivators. You have a due date. Gotta get the rules clearly written. Make a video. It’s awesome for codifying your belief in your designs. You have to be behind each design you’re submitting 100% or else you’re just wasting your time.
But having said that, (and maybe on the contrary) I’d advise just going for it and getting your designs into as many contests as you can. Even if your game isn’t “done.” (No game is ever really done.) There’s this opportunity to get back such incredibly valuable feedback from so many super talented people in the industry. And that alone is worth its weight in cute fuzzy otters.
Thanks again Aaron for taking time out of your day to do this interview.
Why I Otter is going straight into production, no Kickstarter. It should be shipping out in March 2019. If you would like to pre-order a copy of Why I Otter from Button Shy, you can find the page to do so by clicking here. If you like to talk with Aaron Andrew Wilson, you can find him on Twitter @InternetsMagic.