I had the opportunity to chat with Stephen Gibson, designer of Grimslingers. We had a chance to talk about what he has been up to lately and he gave me a sneak peek at his next project. Stephen may be one of the best artists in our industry and it was a pleasure to learn more about him.
How did you get started in gaming? What is one of your fist board game memories?
My start in boardgaming was honestly me trying to make my own pen and paper RPG with friends. I actually wanted to make a video game but that was way beyond us as kids, so we opted for the next best thing. I’ve never been a huge boardgamer, but i’ve always been making my own little RPGs. I find creating way more fun!
When did the idea of Grimslingers start to come about? What was first, the idea of the artwork and world building or the game play and mechanics?
Grimslingers went through a lot of iterations. Originally, it was a dinky mobile app that was never published (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jerCGUgUfMw). The app failed because my team members kept leaving (I don’t blame them, I had no idea what I was doing), so I decided I needed to be able to do everything myself. So…that lead to creating a card game!
I could do all the art, design, marketing and whatever else was needed. So, changing from an app to a card game meant changing a lot of how the game worked, while keeping a similar feel. It was always about dueling with the elements.
Originally, there was no theme beyond that. Then, I decided I wanted to characterize the game a bit more and added cowboys – simply because I’d never seen a game with magic cowboys, and I like to keep things weird and fresh.
I always approach theme and story with thinking about what looks cool, and what sounds awesome. So for me, it was Cowboys with magic. Then I tossed in shadow people (a favorite paranormal phenomenon of mine), demons, then robots (robots make everything better), then llamas and so on. After that, I went about trying to wrap it all in a cohesive story, which was very hard!
Eventually, Grimslingers came out. A weird mash-up of all my favorite things that just had an interesting premise and a unique visual.
Where did you draw inspiration for the world of Grimslingers?
As I mentioned earlier, Grimslingers was me trying to cram everything thing I love from my childhood, pop culture and whatever else I fancied, into a coherent story. If you play the game, you’ll find references and homages to The Dark Tower, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Gravity Falls, Dirty Dancing, Destiny, Disney Movies, Dinosaurs, Paranormal phenomenon…the list goes on. 😛
EVERYTHING! Everything is an inspiration for me.
After going through the process of developing a game what did you learn that you will do different next time?
I had no idea what I was doing when I first started. I’ve since become a veteran artist in the boardgame industry and have been involved in the process of creating, designing, manufacturing and shipping games for kickstarter and retail.
I know what I’m doing now, I know what works well and what sells, and I know what my fans like.
So, i’ll just leave my answer as “a lot.”
How has designing and publishing a game changed your viewpoint of the industry?
Well, I knew nothing of it beforehand, so it has entirely changed my viewpoint. I honestly wasn’t a boardgamer before I got started (yes, get your pitchforks).
I AM a boardgamer now, and have come to realize what is so precious about boardgames, and what they can do that other mediums simply can’t.
It’s an experience that simply cannot be replaced by another medium, and I’m confident boardgames will be a strong source of entertainment for a long, long time (maybe forever?).
You recently became the Art Director at Arcane Wonders. Can you spill the beans on any new projects you are working on there?
I’m not sure, haha.
My next project is a dueling game based on classic fairy tales, with some interesting mechanics.
I’ll be the one doing the art for it and plan on putting my own unique twist on the visuals – which will be done similar to my Grimslingers style.
It’ll be an interesting looking game, at the very least!
Other than that…I think the only one we haven’t announced yet (that I’ve been told about) is Air, Land & Sea. It’s a small 2 player war game that seems pretty fun from what I know about it.
Everything is finished for it, so it should be announced officially pretty soon.
What about your own personal projects? Any big announcements?
YES! Outlaws in a Strange Land!!!!!
Here’s my flavor pitch for it:
Assume the role of a demon outlawed from hell, now finding refuge and a life of adventure in the mortal realm of the American Wild West. Set out to unravel a web of ancient lies and conspiracies as you’re hunted down by the forces of darkness.
Battle a variety of supernatural foes, solve mysteries and encounter memorable characters as you explore a truly weird west in the American Frontier.
Narratively, it’s a prequel to Grimslingers. It’s a small card game (108 cards) with 3 dice (d6, d12, d20), and requires an app.
The app allows me to make a BIG rpg with a small footprint.
My goal was to make an easy to learn, easy to play, easy to setup, solo/coop story-driven RPG, with TONS of loot to collect, deep character progression and customization, and also be something I can easily expand on quickly.
It’s coming to Kickstarter sometime in 2019. I’ve been working on it for about 3 years now (though most of that has been scrapping stuff and going back to the drawing board 😛 ).
I’m programming everything myself as well, so it’s quite a feat to pull off and also why it is taking me so long.
The combat is bonkers cool. It’s a lot about combo’ing effects and playing off, and manipulating, the environment. For instance: There might be a cloud of toxic gas on the battlefield. If you get it wet (with like a rain spell), it creates an ignitable substance. You could then create a whirlwind, which then throws that substance on all your enemies. You could then create cast a fire spell, which plays off of the ignitable substance and creates an explosion, setting everyone on fire and creating a big hole in the ground, which you can then shove people into. Sounds cool, right? It is! All wrapped up in an easy-to-understand system that doesn’t take long to set up.
Who are your five favorite people in the industry?
Well, I guess just the people I am more friends with. Walter Barber (Champions of Hara), Robb De Nicola (Hunter’s Guild), Allen Chang (Rule & Make), Tony Gulloti (Arcane Wonders) and…my boss, Bryan Pope, because he pays me moneys to draw stuff (and he’s actually a very nice person…give me a raise).
If I was coming to a game night at your house, what games would we be playing?
Onitama. I fricken love that game! And anything else that is quick and easy. I’m not a huge fan of games that take over 30 minutes.
What is your spirit animal? Why?
My Computer. It just is.
What are some other hobbies you have besides the hobby industry?
Videooooo gaamesss. That’s my main hobby. I’m a big Destiny fan, soon to be a big Anthem fan. I’m sort of a monogamous gamer, I like to pick one game and just play that when I can. So loot grinder RPGs are ma thang.
Besides that, going to the movies. I try and go every Tuesday (cheap night, baby!). I like to post short and sweet reviews on my facebook.
If you invited me to any live concert who would we go see?
I would never do that. 😛
I’ve been to one concert in my life, Phoenix, and it was rad, but not my normal thing, haha.
Can we go to a play instead? Let’s see The Phantom of the Opera.
What are a few of your favorite things about board gaming?
I love the physicality of it. The touch, and that it’s inherently social in a way better way than coop video games are. The interaction is a lot more personal.
Unless you’re one of those solo gamers…but we don’t talk about them *shivers*.