Darren Kisgen

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.



  • 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).


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. 



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!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DKisgen

Website: https://www.bc.edu/bc-web/schools/carroll-school/faculty-research/faculty-directory/darren-kisgen.html