Matt Leacock everybody! Just three weeks after chatting to The Boarding Kennel about his Kickstarter success with the new Thunderbirds board game, the prince of Pandemic was back in the news amid revelations about the latest incarnation of the virus-busting co-op smash. Never ones to miss out on a hot scoop, we got straight on the MattPhone and picked his brains about the forthcoming Pandemic Legacy.
First things first, what was it like working with [Risk Legacy creator] Rob Daviau? Can you talk us through how the process worked a little?
Rob and I had a lot of fun working together on this design. We’re on separate coasts, so we talked a few times a week on Sococo (a virtual office service that I helped design) bouncing ideas off of each other. He flew out once to California twice for more intensive design and test sessions.
I recall we came up with some of our best concepts over Pho soup. Many iterations and playtesting sessions followed, including a marathon session at Gen Con 2014. (Thank you Gen Con testers!) We also sent out kits to remote testers with instructions for them to video record their sessions. Then we watched well over a hundred hours of video, noting observations, issues, and design ideas.
The last few months we’ve been working closely with Z-man’s internal team on production design, editing, graphic design, and translation. Rob was able to leverage a lot of his prior experience on production design for this project.
Was it strange working so closely with someone else on the design of a game, considering the freedom you must have had running solo on your previous projects?
Not strange at all. I have extensive experience working with multidisciplinary teams (designing user experience for software) and have co-designed games in the past with Tom Lehmann. And I’m always working with the teams that the publisher brings in so this felt very natural to me.
How did the pair of you split the workload? Did Rob come in and suggest ways you could ‘Legacy’ Pandemic, or did one or both of you have strong ideas about how the game should play out?
We each brought many, many ideas to the table and the game naturally evolved as we things out. Rob maintained the rules file and I maintained the prototype. We tracked everything using Google Drive.
How will experienced Pandemic players adapt to the new game, and will it have a more difficult learning curve for first-timers?
Oh, you’ll be able to jump right in after learning a few new concepts. One of the strengths of the format is that you can gradually unveil new rules as you play. It’s similar to a well designed video game where you learn to master new concepts a bit at a time.
What are your favourite Pandemic characters? (It’s Dispatcher and Quarantine Specialist, right?)
I do have a soft spot for the Dispatcher.
Is there anything you wanted to include in terms of mechanics that doesn’t look like it will make it to the game? Could that turn up in an expansion?
We spotted some opportunities that looked promising but didn’t really leave anything major that we developed on the cutting room floor.
I spilt red wine in my Pandemic: On The Brink box – will there be a role or mechanic in the new game which stops this happening?
You’ll find that shrink wrap helps here, but you may find the game hard to play until you “unlock” it.
My gaming group has a fully rational hatred of Bogota after it screwed us a couple of games in a row. Do you have any bogey cities in the original game, or the new one?
Both Istanbul and Hong Kong freak me out a bit since they have so many connections. You’ll find that some of your old safe harbors (such as Santiago) can’t be discounted anymore since they connect to more cities in Pandemic Legacy.
Can you shed any more light on the ‘Season 1’ naming convention? Sounds like it suggests a new box to continue the game once the first box’s campaign is played out. Can you hint at what form this might take?
It does sorta sound like there could be another season, doesn’t it?
The new game seems significantly more expensive than the original – is this due to better components, lots more stuff in the box, or something else?
There’s lots more stuff in the box. And as you can imagine, given the nature of the game, the materials are more tricky and expensive to print, produce, and assemble as well.
Was it tricky juggling working on Thunderbirds with working on this, or are there enough similarities that it made things easier or helped spark ideas for each other?
Yes! Juggling the two games was enough to make me quit my day job last July. Part of the challenge was that they were on similar development schedules. Next time I’ll try to stagger things a bit.
There wasn’t much cross-over to speak of but I do learn from every project I take on.
Thanks Matt – speak to you again in another three weeks I guess.
First and last images are very much from Boardgamegeek FYI.