NARAMATA: Interview with designer Chris Dias

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NARAMATA: Interview with designer Chris Dias 1

Naramata: A Game of Wine & Tourism is a game that just finished its Kickstarter successfully. I had a chance to sit down with Chris Dias to discuss the game, his inspiration, and the creative process. While the Kickstarter is over, you will still be able to get in with late pledges…

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Naramata is a medium complexity board game for 1-4 players who assume the roles of tour guides taking guests through wine country and attempting to satisfy them by visiting the various businesses along a route. It has been described as “Tokaido plus-plus” with additional mechanics and strategy as players upgrade their vehicle in their efforts to score points over three days of business.

What are the mechanics? Were there things you tried that didn’t make the cut?

It employs variable player powers, point-to-point movement, and set collection. Originally, the game would encompass the whole of Okanagan Wine Country, but eventually, we settled on just the Naramata Bench. We also considered additional daily objectives, but we felt the game was getting too busy. We also had to dump one set collection concept in favor of the cheese cards given a legal obstacle that popped up.

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What makes Naramata unique?

Most people think of Viticulture when they think of a wine-themed board game (or worse, Wineopoly). In truth there are about a dozen, like Vinhos and El Vino, but most of them involve running a winery. Vinhos has you operate several; El Vino has you picking grapes. There’s some economic aspect. With Naramata, you are visiting wineries to satisfy tourists. The game is about the tourists, not the wineries.

Why should someone back it?

There are a lot of wine drinkers in the world, and a bunch love visiting wineries. But for those that can’t because of location, money, time, or in 2020, COVID; you can simulate it with Naramata. It’s not as weighty as Viticulture or Vinhos, so you can drink and play and not feel like you are fated to lose. For those in Canada, a game set within our borders which is also exceedingly rare.

How long have you worked on it?

The concept hit me in 2019 but was only a passing fixation until a business friend pushed it to the foreground. Most of 2020 was spent on its development. Once we realized what the game would be called, progress greatly accelerated.

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What obstacles did you overcome to get the game done?

The biggest, honestly, was getting support from the wineries. We couldn’t call this game Naramata without having real wineries on the board. 26 of the 28 wineries in the game are real locations. But getting them all to sign the dotted line took a lot longer than previously planned. And then COVID hit. I also got married in 2020. Yeah, it was a full year. 🙂

What is player count, and sweet spot?

The game supports 1-4 players and can be played between 2 and 4 days in-game. A four-player, four-day game should only be attempted by experienced gamers.

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How long does it take to setup and play?

Setup is easy. One die, five decks of cards. Play time has been anywhere from 90 minutes to 2.5 hours depending on players and number of days. We have done a 3-player, 4-day game in 2 hours. A three-day game is standard.

Age range?

We suggest 12+, ignoring the theme; remember, drink responsibly. 😊

How “heavy” is this game?

As mentioned, it’s medium weight. Robert Geistlinger said it best when he said it felt like “Tokaido plus-plus”. Tokaido is a gateway game. Naramata is more complex than Tokaido, but not as weighty as Viticulture.

Is there room for expansions etc.?

Absolutely.  We already have plans for other wine regions, including Osoyoos, Napa, and Niagara. Plus we want to offer more tourists and more player vehicles.

What games should this sit next to on a shelf?

From the retailers backing this game, it looks like it will share space with cookbooks and wine bottles, but with games stores, I would certainly place it next to Nations or Near & Far… I mean… alphabetical and all. 😊

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Was this always the theme or were there iterations?

Always. We started with the theme and worked in the mechanics. With my background with tabletop role-playing, I always start with the theme.  

What inspired this theme choice?

I wanted something that connected with my own life. I owned 300 board games and 200 bottles of wine. I wanted a board game to reflected my passion. My wife and I take wine tours every year. It was staring me in the face, and I almost missed it.

What is something you wish you had known when you started to develop it?

Any time you think the game is finished, it’s not. When you think it’s perfect, it’s actually broken. There is always room to make the game better. 

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Thanks for taking the time to talk with me about Naramata, Chris, and congratulations on the successful Kickstarter!

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John Doe
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