The game room is always packed full of fans and families hanging out and enjoying some of the rented board and card games. Photo: Matt Brunk
Phil Kilcrease: 5th Street Games
Phil Kilcrease has been publishing games locally under the 5th Street moniker for a number of years, and he makes his passion for board games known through his gregarious attitude and extreme enthusiasm. “We publish quick-playing, easy-to-learn games for kids and adults alike,” he says, explaining that his goal has always been to create games that whole families can enjoy together. However, that isn’t to say that more serious gamers won’t enjoy them – he always tries to strike a balance between complexity and accessibility. His titles range from more specifically kid-targeted games like My Happy Farm to the roguelike-inspired Baldrick’s Tomb. The soon-to-be-released Smash Monster Rampage takes the cooperative game format and gives it a sense of endless customization.
To get a sense of the balance he strikes with each game, one need not look any further than his most recent Kickstarter project, Ghosts Love Candy. “You are ghosts, trying to eat candy by possessing trick-or-treaters and forcing them to eat the candy!” While the game seems pretty innocuous up-front, the mechanics are extremely solid, with an unexpected level of depth. The game funded, reaching almost double its starting goal, and should be available on store shelves sometime in February or March. “Having a good game that stands out is surprisingly difficult,” he says, referring to the sheer amount of variety that exists in the board gaming market, “As a creator, you really, really have to stand out – or, just have a name that people instantly recognize and go, ‘I’m backing that, I don’t care what it is.’”
However, for Kilcrease, the journey to becoming a publisher comes from a love for games. “I’ve always enjoyed playing board games, even when I was a kid. The earliest gaming experience I can remember is learning not to cheat in Candyland. It only took once, and that was it,” he says, “I started playing video games as a single-player board game, since I was an only child and didn’t really have anyone to play with.” He decided that he was interested in publishing games around age 12, when “game design really started appealing to me,” says Kilcrease. “I started kit-bashing games like Family Business and Monopoly with my friends.” Even though the games were unbalanced and the mechanics were often broken, he and his friends still enjoyed playing them and learning from their experiences.
According to Kilcrease, many of the small board game developers and publishers that were present at last year’s SLC Comic Con decided to pass on this year’s convention. “Nothing negative,” he said, pointing out that, “It’s just not really a board gaming convention. It is more a pop culture and artist convention. The other companies were able to break even and make a little money last year, but they decided it wasn’t worth their time to come back.” Still, the experience was positive overall, and Kilcrease will likely attend next year – without buying booth space.
Brooklynn Lundberg: Succubus Publishing
If you’ve ever met Brooklynn Lundberg, you probably walked away thinking he was one of the coolest guys you’ve ever met. What you might not know is that, despite being new to the world of publishing games, he’s got an impressive array of fully-realized game ideas under his belt. With board games that play like everything from Street Fighter to Final Fantasy and World of Darkness, Succubus Publishing is on its way to releasing a whole stable of stylish titles.
He started the company mostly without even realizing he was doing it. “[I]n high school, I had a great group of friends who would play the more successful of my creations. We would get together every Wednesday and work on them together,” he says, “Really, at this time I was already doing a lot of the things that are required to run a business and didn’t even know it. My business partner, our playtesters, our artists – everybody working for us actually comprises that same group of individuals from over a decade ago.”
At Comic Con, he was mainly pitching two of the board games he was closest to releasing on Kickstarter, Assemblage of Eternity and Middara. Assemblage has the feeling of something like BlazBlue with its colorful cast of characters, and its card-driven combat actually builds on the core mechanics of competitive fighting games. “Assemblage of Eternity was a way to bring my love of fighting games to life,” says Lundberg, “Its modern fantasy school setting was strongly influenced by my own experiences in high school. What kid doesn’t wish they could throw a fireball?” Although the game has already technically been released on Kickstarter before, he had to shut it down about halfway through. “I realized I had made a bunch of mistakes that could have easily been avoided with more research and some more balls,” he says. The new Kickstarter is slated to start in June 2015.
Middara is an entirely different story. Its mechanics are closer in kin to dungeon crawlers like Descent and the Dungeons and Dragons series of board games. However, the entire approach is influenced by a free-form approach to character building, rather than the rigid structure found in games already on the market. “The game takes place in an ultra-modern fantasy setting that exists alongside our very own earth,” says Lundgren, “As a kid I always loved the idea of being whisked away to a magical fantasy world. So I set out to create a fiction that could facilitate that fantasy.”
Lundgren’s attitude may be laid back, but he’s still hard at work on his growing stable of publishable board games. He’s learned some hard lessons along the way, but as soon as February, he’s going to launch the Kickstarter in support of Middara. He’s excited about the amount of people at Comic Con who signed up to be on Succubus Publishing’s mailing list, and looks forward to another year of SLC Comic Con.
Check out the rest of our Salt Lake City Comic Con 2014 coverage!
Matt Brunk’s Photo Gallery
Megan Kennedy’s Photo Gallery