The Gallerist by Vital Lacerda was just recently added to Tabletopia and we’re excited to bring you an exclusive interview with Vital himself, who has kindly agreed to talk about his new games, the challenges of The Gallerist, the future of board gaming, and what he thinks about Tabletopia.
Hi Vital! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. So our first question is, When and why did you start designing your own games?
I made a couple of games when I was a kid, and I usually create house rules to the games. I even have a Monopoly set of rules that does not use any dice. I never thought someday I could do this. I not even knew that this could be some kind of profession. Many do not know yet 🙂
I don’t know why I design games, probably because just love do it, probably because of the challenge of creation and maybe I just love to see people playing them.
What was the first game you ever made?
The first real game I made was Vinhos and the reason was because I just wanted to place Portugal on the map of this industry. Wine is Portuguese biggest industry, so, at that time, it sounded the best way to do it.
What is the most fun part of designing a game for you? And the most stressful thing about this process is…?
There is a lot of fun when creating board games. Beginning by researching the theme, organize the story, creating the mechanics, resolving gameplay problems, and meet and work with all the people involved. But the best part is to play the game during playtesting.
The stressful thing? Hmm. Probably the lack of sleep trying to solve problems, and of course, the rulebook writing.
You are widely known as the author of complex and heavyweight games. Did you ever think of designing a light party game?
Yes, I’m designing a fairly light game right now. It is called Dragon Keepers and I’m designing it with my youngest daughter. But is it a bit strange for me to look at such a simple game and not feel that something is missing? It’s been a big challenge to do it. I confess.
It is on Tabletopia already, and soon I will open playtesting to all players who want to try it.
How do you manage to keep the balance in your games between being complex but elegant and becoming convoluted?
Elegance or convoluted mechanics? I don’t think in that direction when I’m designing. I just think that the mechanics need to be as close to the game essence as possible, it must show the theme and be as intuitive as possible.
Sometimes I can do it in an elegant way, other times the mechanism ends up being more convoluted. But usually, what defines the mechanisms balance is the theme.
Your games feature rather unique themes: wine making, art dealing, fighting pollution, producing cars. What inspires you to a theme? Are there themes you’re particularly fond of?
The theme must interest me a lot before I begin working on it. One of the most enjoyable parts of the creation of a board game is the research I always do before prototyping and playtesting. So it would be impossible to do it if the theme did not please me.
I usually enjoy using contemporary subjects. But right now I’m working on a game settled in the XVIII century and another one in a close future called Mars.
I also have a lot of folders on my computer with many, many interesting themes (at least to me), so, I think the choice has also to be with my mood at the time.
What can we expect from you next? Please tell us more about the games you’re working on now.
I’m working on a small game Dragon Keepers, and a game called Mars set in the future, but most of my time right now is dedicated to the big box game Lisboa, which I’m playtesting on Tabletopia for about a year already. It is expected on Kickstarter in November this year. Its release hopefully will be at Origins 2017 to the United States and in Essen 2017 to Europe.
This is a game I started designing in 2009 and let rest on the shelf for a few years. At the beginning of 2015, I decided that it was time to finish it.
Lisboa is a board game with a story that begins right after a huge earthquake that completely destroyed medieval Lisbon, to be reconstructed as a new enlightenment city, becoming one of the most beautiful and modern cities in the world. A man of state, known in history as the Marquis of Pombal, was the main brain to this rebuilding.
These were very exciting times, and the players in this game will be responsible for the rebuilding of the city, the development of commerce and exportation, the implementation of politics and the creation of the new working force to make the city run.
I’m very excited about this game, and for the first time, I’m using a hand management mechanics complemented with an action selection system.
The game has a few features that I really love, like the scoring system of the city, the interaction of dealing with boats during exportations, the ‘following’ action during other players’ turns or the variant value of the Noble actions decided by the players. I hope you guys will enjoy it, too.
Once again I’m working with Ian O’Toole as the game artist and graphics and Eagle Games will be the publisher. So players can expect beautiful art, clean and sharp graphics and a great production value, in a game produced by great professionals, including Paul Inca as the lead developer, Nils Urdhal and Julián Pombo as developers, Nathan Morse as the rules editor, and Ori Aviation as the main proofreader.
And of course a huge list of board games aficionados and gamers from all the globe who have been playtesting this game in an almost nonstop process and I cannot stop to thank. This global playtesting would only be possible thanks to Tabletopia.
Tell us a bit about your latest published game, The Gallerist. How did you come up with that idea?
I have a master’s in Art History, so it seemed a natural thing to me to create a game where you could run an art gallery.
Did you have any challenges while integrating the theme of The Gallerist? What was the hardest part while designing this game?
As in any creation process, there are also a lot of challenges, but in this game, I would choose ‘balance’. The balance between different strategies, and the core of a lot of mechanics.
The number of visitors players may naturally move inside their gallery during the game was a challenge. Had some playtesting sessions where no visitors ended up in the galleries at the end of the game and others where players had 20 or more. Crazy stuff.
The number of tickets you need to take was another challenge, especially when the number of players changes.
Another balance that was very difficult to achieve was the different ways to finish the game since it does not have a determined number of rounds to end.
Were there things you had to cut from the final design of The Gallerist and why?
My main goal in this game was to reduce the number of actions to a minimum. I had playtests where the game had more than 16 actions. I end up reducing them to 8. And to do it I cut a lot of game there.
Comparing your first game, Vinhos, and latest, The Gallerist, what is common and what is different between these games? How has your approach to designing games changed over these years?
I think what they have in common is that the player is present in the figure of pawn and moves around the board to choose thier actions. I also try to design the game mechanics as close to the theme as it possible. And all the actions are interconnected with each other.
But all the game mechanics approaches to the storyline and the way to think to reach your goals are very different. Vinhos is a very punishing game, The Gallerist is a very positive one where you get more and more over time you do something. I think that is probably the most different thing between the two.
The Gallerist is also more intuitive, easy to explain and I think it earns something from my experience during this latest years designing games.
Digital Board Games and Tabletopia
The world around us is changing rapidly. Digital board gaming platforms like Tabletopia appear, as well as numerous digital applications for smartphones and tablets. In your opinion, what is the future of board gaming?
Every year now, original and innovative board games are released on the market. I think the future tends to have digital devices connected with the physical boardgames, in many different ways. Not only in gameplay but to create different interactions, sometimes to help with rules and scoring, video supporting the rulebooks and websites where you can learn the game or even play it. Digital implementation in board gaming seems a great way to bring more complex and innovative systems into the hobby.
So, I think board gaming will keep evolving side by side with technology, new ideas will always exist. I think the industry is still very young (strange thing to say for a hobby with thousands of years) and have a lot of room to grow. The future seems very bright to me.
Do you ever play any digital board games yourself?
Yes, I play everything I can put my hands on. I like pure console games and love board games. Some of my board games are also avaialble on digital platforms. Tabletopia players can play The Gallerist, and Vinhos Deluxe Edition. And you can also join me in playtesting my next designs on Tabletopia.
From a game author’s perspective, what do you think about Tabletopia as a place where you can playtest and design your games?
From the author’s perspective, Tabletopia is far the best online platform on the market to playtest. I tried a few others before Tabletopia and none of them work as this one.
It is intuitive, easy to control and very easy to learn, and the greatest feature is that it works really fast and smooth without taking all the resources from my computer. I cannot say the same of the other platforms in the market.
Tabletopia will not replace physical prototypes and the face to face playtesting, but makes it much easier to add changes and try them out immediately, it gives access to players from around the world, making playtesting completely global, and its really easy to setup and prototype.
Of course, it’s not perfect yet, and there are a few things that I really like to see implemented like to be able to play on mobile devices, integrated voice chat, a saved log, or even the possibility of doing some programming. But even with the lack of those features it really changed the way I’m working in board game design.
What are three things you like best about Tabletopia?
The easy way you can setup a game, the possibility of playtesting with players from around the world, the quick way you learn the system and the really quick and smooth play. Those are 4.
What other games of yours can Tabletopia players expect to play soon?
All of them. I hope to see Kanban and CO2 on Tabletopia, too.
Dragon Keepers is almost done. You just recently released The Gallerist to the public and I hope to keep improving Lisboa until its release and then release it to the public too.
Flash: 5 Quick Questions
What are three qualities of an ideal board game for you?
Challenging, strategic and low luck drove.
What is the last game by another author you played?
The Voyages of Marco Polo a few days ago.
Choose one: a well-cut design or a fantastic production quality?
Can I choose both? 🙂
What is your favorite game mechanic and piece in all of your games?
Sandra’s from Kanban as a game mechanics, and The Gallerist pawn as a wooden piece.
If you were a board game, what kind of game would you be?
A complex one.
We are extremely grateful to Vital Lacerda for taking the time out of his tight schedule to answer all of our questions in such great detail. Check out Vital’s The Gallerist and Vinhos Deluxe now on Tabletopia and stay tuned for more great games to appear!
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All photos are courtesy of Vital Lacerda