Today we are featuring Darren Kisgen the designer of Dragonwood. Darren was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. He has a PhD in Finance from the University of Washington, and degrees in Mathematics, Economics and Finance from Washington University in St. Louis. He was an investment banker on Wall Street for 7 years, and has been a Professor of Finance at Boston College for 13 years. He is married with two kids, ages 9 and 11. He designed the board game Dragonwood, which has sold over 100,000 copies and won awards including Mensa Select and Games Magazine Family Game of the Year.
THREE RANDOM FACTS ABOUT DARREN:
- Darren has travelled to all 50 states, 48 countries, and 6 out of 7 continents.
- He can sing the alphabet backwards in under 10 seconds.
- Darren won the Nebraska state stock market competition when he was 16.
Questions by Kimberly Revia (KR), and answers by Darren Kisgen (DK).
THREE BOARD GAME DESIGN RELATED QUESTIONS:
KR: What process did you use to get Dragonwood from concept to published game?
DK: I wouldn’t say I really had a process. I love the fantasy theme, but a lot of fantasy games that I had bought to play with my family were either too long or too mean or took forever to setup, so I decided maybe I would try to make one. I also thought a game where card combos led to how many dice you could role would be fun, and I then had the idea for the mechanic of “Strike, Stomp, Scream” which prompted me to write up a full rule book. After that, I built a spreadsheet and determined all the probabilities and the various numbers I wanted on all the cards (I still hadn’t made a prototype). I wrote up the full list of cards with all the names and numbers. Only then did I finally make a prototype, and started to play test it. As for getting it published, I submitted the game to Gamewright and they liked it. They were the only company I showed the game to.
KR: What part of a game is the starting point of inspiration for you?
DK: I’ve only designed 3 games so far, but in all 3 cases the theme and mechanics happened at about the same time. This is probably because I like to think of family themes that I think fit with a certain type of mechanic.
KR: How did you go about play testing your game?
DK: For playtesting, the first step for me was to play it myself, over and over again. I have probably played 200-300 games of Dragonwood by myself, playing 2, 3 and 4 player hands. I was paranoid that some card would be “overpowered”, so I tried my hardest to try every conceivable strategy that might be dominant. Then I played it countless times with my family, and another family we know that likes games. Finally I did blind playtests with some other groups.
THREE QUESTIONS JUST FOR FUN:
KR: What is your ideal snow day activity?
DK: Playing board games of course! But also watching movies, or sledding with my kids.
KR: What is your favorite mythical creature?
DK: Dragons. Really.
KR: What are a few of your favorite board games?
DK: Blood Rage, Mage Knight, Voyages of Marco Polo, Champions of Midgard, Clockwork Wars
You can find more about Darren by following the links below!