Welcome to an interview for the series Game Credits Who’s Who (#GameCreditsWW). Ever read the credits page of a game you enjoy and wonder about the various positions listed? Would you like to work in the game industry someday but are not sure how some of the positions work? This Monday series will take a personal look into those positions and introduce you to real people doing those very jobs in the game industry. This week, let me introduce you to Lance Hill, a tabletop game designer.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do as a tabletop game designer.
My name is Lance Hill and I am a part-time game designer, with my first game release being, “Kings of Israel.” A normal game design day has me playtesting a new revision of a game, coordinating artwork that is being commissioned, printing out and cutting materials for future playtesting purposes, and promoting or following news related to my company, “Funhill Games.” I like working on games that are Biblically thematic, so another portion of my time is spent researching Biblical events and locating specific towns and landmarks on maps, and using that information to create events and layouts to be used in potential game designs.
How did you become a tabletop game designer?
I started designing my own games because of the slow mental decay of being a stay-at-home father for small children. I needed an outlet to channel my mental energies that were being stolen by Dora the Explorer, so I started dabbling in game design. Some early game concepts I worked on included a computer hacking card game and a farming card game, both 2-player games so I could easily test them out with my wife. Those games never reached the production stage, they just never played out like I envisioned them.
This changed while I was leading a teen Bible study and I decided I wanted to teach the locations within Israel. I got it into my head that I should incorporate gaming into my lesson, since there was bound to be a Biblical board game out there that could be used for this purpose. Well, I never found that game, or at least a good one, so I decided to design my own. This eventually led to the first game that I published, Kings of Israel.
Share with us some of your recent projects.
I would say I have four projects that I have been working on recently.
- Late last year we released the PC/Mac version of Kings of Israel on Steam. This project had been in the works ever since the end of the Kickstarter campaign that funded Kings of Israel. I was contacted by a developer that wanted to do a computer game version of Kings of Israel, we e-mailed back-and-forth and came to an agreement, and that game was worked on for almost two years. On my side, this involved a bit of artwork coordination, rule clarifications, and playtesting of each version. On the developers’ side it was all programming and GUI design. It was very exciting to see its release, the game turned out great.
- At about the same time the Kings of Israel board game was getting finalized and ready for Kickstarter, I had another game idea that I started heavily working on called, “Home Builders“. This is a tile laying game involving each player building a home. I got the game to a playable stage and had the artwork commissioned, only to get towards the end with the feeling that I wanted to just focus on Biblical games for my company. So “Home Builders” has become the black sheep of my life, it still needs polish to get it where I want it to be, but the final product will not fit into what I want to focus on. So the game keeps getting tweaked and then put back on the shelf until I have another creativity burst and start tweaking things.
- Recently, I heard that the board game “Kingdom of Solomon” no longer had a publisher. Kingdom of Solomon was one of the original games that pushed me towards creating Kings of Israel, since it was a Biblical game with modern gameplay design that was successfully funded through Kickstarter. The game itself was marred by bad production values and artwork that hurt its sales, and I thought it could use some updating on its game play. I reached out to the game designer, and we have been playtesting and working on the game for a few months now. Kingdom of Solomon will officially be the next board game released by Funhill Games. The gameplay updates have really added tension to the game and each version either gets streamlined more, or has gameplay improvements. In the meantime I have artwork being worked on that will take care of the production value issues the earlier versions had. Depending on how quickly the artwork gets completed, we might get Kingdom of Solomon on Kickstarter this year yet.
- And my most recent design that I am getting excited about is a Biblical game that focuses on Saul’s hunt for David when Saul was still the king of Israel. I would say it is most similar to a Card-Driven Game a la Here I Stand, Washington’s War, or Sword of Rome, although with a much simpler ruleset than most of those designs. I am devoting my time at the moment to work on the game map and events, and the game is still at a very early stage. Publishing “Kingdom of Solomon” is going to give me the extra time I want to work on the design for this game, which is one of the things that excited me so much about getting the opportunity to release Kingdom of Solomon.
What is your greatest frustration or pet peeve as a tabletop game designer?
I would say “the wall” is my greatest frustration. The build up to that first game playtest takes so much time, creativity, and effort, and all of that effort can just die on the first playtest of the game. Things that seemed to work on paper can just fall apart when that paper has small components on it being moved around. Or maybe the game is playable but has no excitement to it, and you don’t see the fix. This frustration is the opposite of the greatest moment of game designing which is when a player playtesting your game goes from playtesting mode and goes into, “I want to win this game” mode. That is a very exciting mode for a game designer.
How can readers learn more about you or contact you?