Today we are featuring Chris Michaud, better known as “Your Moderator Chris” from the Flip the Table podcast. Chris was the producer and moderator of Flip the Table from 2012-2017, reviewing over 111 cheesy, weird, and obscure board games for a die hard audience. The podcast received over one million total downloads. Currently Chris is working a a banker (appropriate for a Monopoly fan) and remains active media voice within the hobby via guest appearances and as a presence on social media. He operates out of the Flip the Table Tower in Bangor, Maine, where he lives with his wife and fiercest board game rival Melanie as well as their daughter and part-time superhero Roslin. Chris has joined us in the past for many Granite Game Summits, this however, is the first time he has joined us at a designer in Designer Alley.
THREE RANDOM FACTS ABOUT CHRIS:
Chris is the 2018 Portsmouth, NH “Weird Al” Jeopardy champion, which he won in a pre-show competition on Al’s most recent tour. He and his wife were in the same row of seats at their first “Weird Al” concert years before they met, and she would go on to walk down the aisle to his classic break-up song “One More Minute.”
In high school, Chris and his friends made up a holiday called “February 27th Day” as an excuse to watch bad movies over the weekend. It is still celebrated in various forms 20 years later.
Chris learned his audio skills at the New England School of Communications, where he hit the airwaves on Sunday nights as “Dr. Joe Roxbury”.
Questions by Kimberly Revia (KR), and answers by Chris Michaud (CM).
THREE BOARD GAME RELATED QUESTIONS:
KR: What inspired you to start designing games?
CM: I dabbled in game design 10 years ago, when I was first starting to explore the world of board games. I had a habit of falling in love with my first draft, convincing friends and family to play my games a few times, then either getting bored with it or giving up when I decided it was too much work to fix anything that wasn’t clicking.
Flash forward ten years, when so much brilliant technology is now at our fingertips, and the gaming community is more connected than ever. I was feeling a creative itch again after about a year and a half away from Flip the Table, and I found myself inspired by a website called PNP Arcade, where people are making really brilliant designs and distributing them electronically. I think that was the moment I realized that it’s easier than ever to get a game into people’s hands. Instead of worrying whether or not a game will sell, I can focus on the fun of the creative process knowing that one way or another I can get my work out there.
So, after 5 years of reviewing games, I decided I wanted to put all the learning and discipline from my work on Flip the Table to use, and try something totally new. For now, my designs are just “art for art’s sake”; I’m concerning myself more with learning to craft games than to sell them. It’s early for me, and I have some muscles I need to build, but it’s already been an amazing and rewarding personal experience.
KR: Do you ever play a game and house rule it to improve the game-play?
CM: All the time! The most house ruled game I have is one we reviewed on Flip the Table; “TV Scrabble.” This is NOT Scrabble as you understand it...it’s based on a 1980’s game show that was itself based on the board game. It’s a word-guessing game that features these amazing crossword style clues, and incentivizes you at random times to guess earlier than you normally would to score big points. I love the clues, but the scoring system tends to decide the game well before it’s over...so on one Saturday when my wife was home recovering from surgery, we must have played 10 games in a row where we iterated the scoring and even reworked the final round entirely so that players could still have that “whammy” moment of guessing super early and getting big points, while still allowing opportunity for other players to earn their way back into contention in later rounds.
I’m actually a big fan of house rules, the same way that some people are big fans of ROM hacks of classic video games, where the levels and such have been reworked to deliver a new experience. House rules are risky; they can break a game experience badly if implemented poorly (like putting money on Free Parking...don’t get me started). But, just like building a wholly original design, you can get better at it with practice, and refine your work through testing. I think if you fully define your intent, study your game closely to see how it might impact the game’s ecosystem, and accept the possibility of failure, building house rules can be a really fun exercise in game design.
KR: Is there a published game out there that you would love to *update*? (Change the theme, streamline, etc.)
CM: I’ve been lucky enough to do a couple thought experiments with Flip Florey on his podcast where you take an existing game and apply a wacky theme. I still think turning “Bob Ross: The Art of Chill” into a game about the old American Gladiators TV show has some legs.
THREE QUESTIONS JUST FOR FUN:
KR: If you could design a game around any existing IP, what would it be?
CM: I feel like the movie UHF is in dire need of a game. Could you imagine a version of the “Rivals” DC Deck Builder system where one player is George and the other is RJ Fletcher? Like a Twinkie Wiener Sandwich, that would be a match made in heaven.
KR: What is your ideal game night snack?
CM: I like having bottled soda on hand for game night, because I have a habit of knocking over drinks when reaching for components. A screw on cap has saved my out-of-print BSG on numerous occasions. At a convention, I’m basically fueled by coffee the whole time, so a plastic spill proof lid is a must.
KR: Do you think you have played more well designed games or more table flipping worthy ones?
CM: There was a stretch of time in the latter half of the show’s run where, because most of us have families, FTT was pretty much our only gaming time. We’d go months on end where the only games we played were for the show. In some ways, that helped us to further appreciate what was positive about cheesy mass market games from the past, because we’d be pretty miserable otherwise.
These days, I find myself returning to a lot of old “legit” favorites which feel new all over again. But once in a while, I get the urge to play something really cheesy. Once it gets into you, it never leaves.
You can find Chris and what he is currently up to by clicking the links below!
Flip the Table Podcast: tableflipsyou.com