Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Five or So Questions with Meg McGinley on Pack the Pack

I interviewed Meg McGinley of Games By Playdate about her award-winning game, Pack the Pack! The game is Kickstarting currently - Check it out!

Tell me a little bit about Pack the Pack. What has you excited about it?
Pack the Pack is a real-time tile laying game that is about what happens AFTER the adventurers slay the dragon. They are standing around the loot pile and have to figure out how to shove all of that beautiful booty into their packs and get back to town before the rest of the party to be crowed the true victor... the hero that the town tells stories about. It has me excited because it's exactly the type of game that I like to play- a quick game that you can play multiple times so you can build strategy over the course of an evening, not the course of a year, and has you laughing with and yelling at the people you are playing with. The mechanics are completely generic in that I could play this with my mom, but nerdy enough that it's the perfect game to play before (or after) a night of role playing. When I first started designing it, I thought it would be a super small, super niche game but the more and more I really worked on it, the more I saw that it really could have a broad appeal and that's pretty exciting.

I'm also excited that it was chosen out of 500 entries to be one of Cards Against Humanity's Tabletop Deathmatch finalists. That's crazy to be pulled out of a pool like that. This was the first game that I really put myself into and it's a really odd feeling to have that sort of public scrutiny but also that validation too. Games, almost by definition, are a hobby, and to have it be a "professional" thing is a really weird and exhilarating feeling. It's also probably the most vulnerable I've ever felt. Games are such a passion, such a part of ME that to get critiqued is much more personal than feedback at work. So that feeling, as weird feeling as it is, also has me feeling alive and that's pretty damn exciting.

What inspired Pack the Pack?
I was inspired to make a game in general. That nugget was floating around in my brain for a long time. I really just wanted to make a game that my group of friends could play because I think we're a pretty typical group of nerds, I mean gamers. We need a game that will get us ready for a night of game play- space wise, brain wise and just overall physically pumped and so I started to look for that game. At the same time, I've always just been one for the underdog. That idea of inventory tetris, which so many people roll their eyes at, I KNOW can be fun and I want to show people it CAN be fun, dammit!

What was it like to compete in Tabletop Deathmatch?
Stressful. And I don't really get stressed. I speak in front of people a lot. I do trainings as part of my day job. I just had a full film crew in my crappy, tiny house judging me as a parent for a video that is going to be put up for all to see and that was NOTHING compared to this. I really think it goes back to that idea that the judges were people who I really, actually cared what they think. So many times I don't let myself get stressed about a situation because I recite the whole idea of "sticks and stones" to myself... well, these judges know their shit inside and out and know it way better than I do, so that was almost intimidating to go up in front of them, raw and vulnerable and open myself up.

And then to have it put on youtube for all to watch? I'll take the film crew judging me as a mom any day.

Tell me more about your mechanics of Pack the Pack. How do they work?
Pack the Pack is a real time, tile laying inventory management game. What that means is that 3-6 players have tiles in a big pile in the middle of the table. They each draw five tiles, face down and when everyone is ready, someone yells, "PACK!" and everyone flips and starts packing their pack- the playmat in front of them. You pack by matching the gems (circles) on the tiles that you've flipped to make complete circles of a matching color. Everyone is drawing new tiles to fit as much loot (represented by the tiles) into their pack as efficiently as they can. If you draw something you don't like, you can declare that it's "Junk!" and toss it back, but it goes back in face up so everyone else can see it and get the advantage from it and now you have to take two tiles. When you think your pack is packed, yell, "To Town!" and you are done. Everyone else keeps on packing and stuffing. The game is over when it's down to two players and one of them yells, "To Town!".

In the basic version, you count how many complete circles of a single color you have made, extra points for three or four tiles (using quarter circle pieces). In the advanced version, you instead are scoring the loot items on the tile but they only count if the tile was part of a complete circle. This version, on the back side of the playmat, is much more strategic and for the more serious gamer. In both versions, you get extra points for going to town first because you got the best prices at the market and more time to schmooze with the townsfolk.

What do you hope to see happen with Pack the Pack in the future?
Well, of course I want to see the kickstarter super successful and the game take off and be on every game store shelf in America with expansions and a spin off Role-Playing game! But that's dreaming big. I'd settle for it just to have a wildly successful kickstarter ;)

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