We’re happy and honored to be able to talk with one of our favorite designers working in the industry today. That man is John Clowdus from Small Box Games. John is a prolific designer, packing incredibly fun titles into small packages – as his company name implies. In 2018, Kolossal Games will work with John to begin re-issuing some of his titles via Kickstarter, with the ultimate goal being to get John’s games in front of a wider audience – where they deserve to be! We were able to sit down and chat with John about his designs and what he has going on.
Let’s start with an easy question, John. What brought you into the board gaming hobby and community?
I saw an ad for Fallen Empires in a magazine when I was in 7th grade. That got me into Magic: The Gathering and Magic led to other tabletop games, as well as two guys I’m still friends with today, some 20 years later.
What are your current favorite games (or types of games)?
I really love the light-medium weight, card driven games. Jambo and Asante are two of my all time favorite games. Jaipur, Citadels, Ascension, Arcana, Blue Moon City, and Targi are games I enjoy quite a bit. I still follow Magic: The Gathering a good bit. I love EDH and cube drafting, but I gave up trying to follow Standard a few years ago.
So, what led you to become a designer?
After making custom stuff for other games, it was pretty easy to make the transition into doing my own stuff. I had ideas and themes and mechanics that I wanted to bring to life, so I gave it a shot. I learned everything I could about self-publishing and took the plunge in 2007. People liked what I made, so I kept making more.
Are you currently working on anything you can talk about?
Oh. Lots of different things. A DoaM [dudes on a map] game set in ancient Meso-America. Stuff for Omen. Other various card games.
Let’s make it a little tougher on you. Which of your designs is your favorite (and why)?
Oh. That’s a tough one! For mechanics, probably Neolithic, because of what it accomplishes with so few components. For overall fun, probably Omen. I still enjoy playing and designing stuff for that game.
We adore Omen and Neolithic as well (and look forward to the Kickstarters for each in 2018). Outside of gaming, what kinds of activities do you enjoy?
Exploring Georgia with my wife. Designing games. Hiking. Playing Tennis. Home improvement stuff.
If folks want to follow you online, where can they find you?
A Small Selection of John’s Game Designs
Omen is a series of games that began in 2011 with Omen: A Reign of War. This two-player card game using card drafting and area control to create a tense battle for supremacy. Players deploy their units to the cities in the middle of the table, trying to have the most power in each war-torn city in order to claim rewards. These rewards can either be kept for points at the end of the game, or used against an opponent (becoming less valuable for end-game scoring). The game does a fantastic job of creating the feel of Magic: The Gathering but removes the collectibility aspect by being a completely self-contained game.
Neolithic is a two-player card game set at the start of the Neolithic era of man. The game is a civilization building game made entirely of cards. There are elements of hand management, deckbuilding, set collection and even worker placement. The game does an impressive job of capturing the feel of a civ-builder using only a deck of cards.
In Soulfall, players lead their nomads across a barren landscape, saved from the brink of destruction by a collective of powerful Lords. Along the way, players can devote themselves to these Lords, build outposts, and gather shards, all while trying to prevent the other players from doing the same. Soulfall is a medium-light game that combines simple mechanisms, medium strategy, stunning artwork, clever card play, and a unique scoring system.
GearSeed is a peculiar world of shifting seasons and odd landscapes. In this tile-laying card game of the same name, players build and expand the world of GearSeed. Players build (play) cards next to existing cards to activate abilities, create combos, trigger bonuses, and score points. Each card is a territory belonging to one of the three Castes of GearSeed (Coalkin, Thorned, and Gremlin) or is a powerful Shrine. Each game of GearSeed takes place over the course of three randomly chosen seasons (rounds). Each season offers its own additional scoring and abilities based on what players choose to build.
In Seii Daimyo, each player is an aspiring Daimyo with goals to unify the shattered Japanese islands under a new, great Shogunate. Each player has an identical set of role cards: 1 Samurai and 1 Ashigaru. Each round, players play one of these cards secretly and gain actions based on what they played, as well as what the other players chose to play. Seii Daimyo is played over a series of five rounds. Each round, several locations are revealed from the deck, and each player plays one of their role cards face down to try to strengthen their forces and increase their control over the three islands.