Steve Finn

Today we are featuring Steve Finn who is the owner of Dr. Finn's Games, which is an independent game publishing company that publishes their own games. The "Dr" in the title refers to his PhD in philosophy, which is related to Steve's primary job, i.e., being a professor of philosophy. He has written a few books on the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, but spends most of his work time running workshops on teaching, for new faculty. Steve lives in Chappaqua, NY with his wife and two sons, both of whom are play testers of his games (as well as co-designers of Cosmic Run: Regeneration).


  • Steve is a 5x national champion in ultimate frisbee

  • He plays the hammered dulcimer

  • Steve wore leather pants at his prom

Questions by Kimberly Revia (KR), answers by Steve Finn (SF).


KR: What first got you interested in designing games?

SF: In my late 20s, I rediscovered board games. Some friends and I decided to play Risk quite a bit and, at this time (around 1998), I discovered a board game store in Seattle that had many new kinds of games (well, new to me). I bought Michael Schacht's Web of Power, which we then played hundreds of times. One thing led to another and I soon became a board game geek. I decided to try to make my own game. As I was doing that, I had difficulty finding some company to make prototype cards for me. There was no business like that at that time. So, I was led down a different path of trying to make high quality prototype cards. This is a long story, but the short of it is that I bought a huge letter press machine (a Kluge) to be used as a die cutter and made a deal with a local print shop to use their high end digital printers. So, I started a small business making playing cards. With this knowledge and ability, I made about 200 copies of "Scripts and Scribes" and sent those to some BGG users and other random people. One BGG user loved it and raved about it, leading to people contacting me for a copy. Then, out of the blue, a French company said they wanted to license my game to be their first card game. This company is Iello and it's a little known fact that my Biblios, as they would call Scripts and Scribes, was their first published game. With my name on the map, I was slowly able to build up a little fan base that has sustained me for 15+ years of self-publishing.

KR: Do you have a standard starting point for your personal designing process? (ie mechanic, theme, etc.)

SF: I'm a mechanics-driven designer. While a theme might pop into my mind, it usually takes a backseat to the mechanics. Though, I now have a lot of games under my belt, so it's hard for me to say that there is a common practice other than a constant urge to streamline games. I try to avoid downtime, so I like simultaneous play. I do not like conflict in which only 1 player is harmed in a multiplayer game, to avoid king making. So, if there is an attack, it is usually against all other players (though I usually avoid direct attacks in most games). I am drawn toward set collection, area control, and dice manipulation.

KR: Do you find self publishing or signing your design with a publisher to be more stressful?

SF: Self-publishing is much more stressful, since I try very little to publish with others. When someone else publishes my games, it's because they've asked me to do it. The exception is when I try to license my games to international publishers.


KR: What does your ideal relaxing day look like?

SF: Sitting next to a pool in the summer and periodically interrupting it with a board game.

KR: What board games do you consider to be staples in your collection?

SF: Most of the Stefan Feld and Reiner Knizia games that I own. I'm in the cult of the new, so constantly playing new games with friends and my tastes change frequently. I can never settle on a "best board" game list because it all depends on my mood.

KR: What does your game design dream team look like? (publisher, co-designers, artist etc.)

SF: Beth Sobel's art is really outstanding and I've been lucky to work with her. The people that I've hired as artists and graphic designers have all been very good in their own way. It would be fun to collaborate with a highly regarded game designer, such as Stefan Feld, and to have a game published by a huge company, but since I self-publish, that's unlikely to happen. Also, I have limited resources, so, to be honest, I do not think about the "dream team" too much.

You can find Steve and what he is currently up to by clicking the links below!


Twitter: @DrFinnsGames

Facebook: Dr. Finn’s Games