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Ready player one 

Local board game designer Sam Fraser shares how he’s making his tabletop dreams a reality, and why Halifax is the best place to do it.

click to enlarge Sam Fraser’s storytelling game Gentlemen Thieves is sure to steal your heart. - LENNY MULLINS
  • Sam Fraser’s storytelling game Gentlemen Thieves is sure to steal your heart.
  • Lenny Mullins

Have you always been a big gamer?

Yep, I've always had games in my life in one way or another.

When did the jump from playing games to creating them come to you?

Pretty early on. I remember playing a simple world map adventure game as a kid and thinking how cool it would be if you could zoom in to a city and have adventures there too. I've always wondered, "Wouldn't it be cool if...?" At some point along the line, I picked up an index card and a marker and tried to make that cool thing real.

Can you tell me about Gentlemen Thieves? What's it like, what kind of players will enjoy it?

Anyone with an overactive imagination will love it. You're faced with a trap like the Room Full of Bees or the Drop-Away Floor, and you've got to come up with a way to get past it using tools like a battering ram, an escape kit and a bear costume. You can use the tools in any way you want to. Convince the other players that your caper will work and you'll get to the other side and steal the gold. 

How did the design process work?

Iteration after iteration after iteration, always incorporating new ideas and feedback from players while removing things that don't contribute to the game. The hardest part is maintaining a clear vision of what the game should be and what it should inspire in the players. 

What are some other games that inspired your own work?

There's a really popular game out there that players spend hundreds of dollars on to buy new cards to stay competitive. I wanted to play a game that provided the same sense of novelty but didn't cost so much. That game didn't exist so I had to make it.

Are you working on anything else?

Yes! I've got another storytelling game called Counterfate where the players are gods and are manipulating the lives of mortals by moving them around a shifting landscape in order to find certain objects and locations. And another one where the players are trying to escape a dungeon but they are all tied together so that any time someone swings a sword, they knock something out of the next players hand.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring game designers?

Come on down to the Halifax Board and Card Game Designers group. We meet weekly on Monday nights at the Board Room Game Cafe. You'll have a chance to talk about your game ideas and put your prototypes on the table. We're a welcoming group and are eager to help new designers develop their projects. Right now we're working on a project where all the players are cats competing for their owners attention. It's going to be great!

In what way did living in Halifax help or hinder the process of making games?

I've gotten so much love from the Halifax gaming community! It's wonderful. Hours and hours of play-testing, artwork and visual design, financial support, emotional support, support from local retailers, plus the opportunity to meet other gamers and play new games, I don't think I could have come as far as I have if I were in another city.

Gentlemen Thieves can be played at the Board Room Game Cafe, 1256 Barrington Street, 423-7545, purchased at Strange Adventures, Monster Comic Lounge, Games People Play, Quantum Frontier or online at ($43.50 for pick up or delivery within Halifax).


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