Japhet Stevens

Today we are featuring Japhet Stevens, a long time supporter and friend of Granite Game Summit who will be joining us for the first time in Designer Alley to show off his game, Treasury. I have personally had the pleasure of playing Treasury in one of its earliest iterations and I have gotten to see it play-tested numerous times. Japhet may be early in his career of designing games, but his eagerness to listen and learn from every playtest shows in the ways Treasury has grown and changed. He is part of the team over at Boards & Brews, a board game cafe in Manchester. You can often find Japhet there for Tuesday game nights where he is quite possibly play-testing Treasury or playing Brass for the 50th time.


  • He's driven round-trip to FL and TX just because he doesn't like airports.

  • Loves flying though. Took pilot lessons and developed aircraft simulation software.

  • Easily gets motion sickness which is why he quit pilot lessons and now plays board games.

Questions by Kimberly Revia (KR), answers by Japhet Stevens (JS).


KR: What games have you gotten the most inspiration from?

JS: 4X civ builders are pure magic to me. I was on a Clash of Cultures streak for over a year. Lately I play a ton of Through the Ages online. I really appreciate a game that can get me engaged and feel invested. When you're carefully building something from small beginnings into a screaming locomotive of an engine, that's a good story. Navegador is another great example.

Economic games too. Navegador has an elegant price mechanic. Brass Birmingham is a masterpiece of supply+demand.

I love when a game can create really hard, interesting decisions AND be thematically immersive.

KR: What got you interested in trying your hand at game design?

JS: It started with an online MMO I made called Minethings.com. That was my job for... 5 years? I designed and programmed everything in that game, and it actually paid the rent, believe it or not. But when mobile took off, I wasn't motivated to do the programming to keep up. I wanted to design the game, not program a mobile app. So I quit that project about 4 years ago and lost my creative outlet.

Then lately I've been beta testing the upcoming expansion for Through the Ages and discussing game balance with everyone involved in that project. It's been a ton of fun and I found that I still have a lot of energy for that sort of thing. And a lot of ideas in my head. I also had some encouragement from a friend which got me to realize that there's really nothing stopping me.

KR: I know you've been play-testing a lot lately, what are you learning from the experience?

JS: The value of playtesters. Having someone else experience what you made and getting their (hopefully) honest reaction. I've found many, many flaws this way. Things that seem obvious in hindsight but that I was totally blind to.

I had some mechanics that were very punishing and were meant to create interesting tradeoffs. But I was getting a consistent emotional "aww" when someone felt the downside and I realized that just because it's a hard choice doesn't mean it's fun.

It's also eye-opening to see what rules are clear and which are not. Which cards need rewording. Getting a fresh pair of eyes and seeing where they're confused. I've used this to simplify things that were needlessly complicated, and update player aids for things that are not.


KR: Which conventions do you enjoy attending?

JS: The first Granite Game Summit was actually my first game con. Blew my mind to see that many people playing games. I've since attended PAX E and PAX U which were a blast. It's great to be able to talk with so many hobbyists and creators in one place. PAX U also got me hooked on Keyforge for which I'll never forgive it.

KR: If you could co-design a game with any one designer (living or dead) who would you want to work with?

JS: Vlaada Chvatil. He puts so much love and care into his games. He's beta-testing an expansion right now by looking at stats from thousands of online games and has a list of the best players so he can watch their games play-by-play. It's an awesome effort.

KR: What is your favorite food to eat during game nights?

JS: I used to make my guests stove-top popcorn from scratch back when I had a weekly game night at my home. But then I got involved with opening Boards and Brews (board game cafe in Manchester) and now I do most of my gaming there. I get a Cobb salad without dressing/onions/cheese. They call it the Japhet Salad.

You can find Japhet and read about how his game Treasury is developing by clicking the links below!

Facebook group for Treasury: https://www.facebook.com/groups/treasurythegame

GitHub Print and Play: https://github.com/jaafit/treasury