Interview met Mads Fløe, de bedenker van het dobbelspel Ka Pai!

Interview met Mads Fløe

Onlangs schreef ik mijn blog over het Ka Pai dobbelspel. Tijdens het spelen kwam ik echter op de vraag, die ik niet zo snel beantwoord vond. Ik besloot de bedenker van het spel, Mads Fløe, een berichtje te sturen. Hij reageerde supersnel en mijn vraag was beantwoord.

Toen bedacht ik me: “Hoe gaaf zou het zijn als ik hem kan interviewen?” Hier stond Mads voor open. Ik stelde hem 14 vragen over zijn leven, zijn passie en zijn allereerste spel: Ka Pai.

In dit blog lees je de antwoorden van Mads!

Mads komt uit Denemarken. Daarom heb ik ervoor gekozen het interview in het Engels af te nemen. Ik wil nu alleen geen afbreuk doen aan zijn antwoorden. Dus hieronder vind je het interview in het Engels.

Mocht je toch graag een Nederlandse vertaling willen zien, vraag het gerust in een reactie!

1 – Can you tell me something about yourself?

I am born and raised in Denmark. I was born on the island of Sealand, but moved to Jutland before I can remember. I grew up in Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark, where I now live in a small suburb with my son (4) and his mother. We have a cat and his name is Misser (a nickname sort of like “kittycat” in danish).

Aarhus in Denemarken
De woonplaats van Mads: Aarhus in Denemarken.

2 – When did you find out about your passion to play board games?

I always loved playing games. I remember very fondly playing a version of rummy, called 500, with my grandmother as a child. It’s a very widely known game in Denmark – or was at the time.

You play it with regular playing cards. It’s a simple trick taking with an element of push-your-luck and a little bit of memory. She had a strong personality and would not let me win on purpose 🙂.

3 – When did you find out about your passion to design board games?

I rediscovered board games about 10 years ago, when I read an article in the newspaper with reviews of different board games. Tea (mother of our son) and I went to a local board game shop to buy one of those games. It was sold out, and we ended up buying another game that we played but was not that fond about. So I went online and found a community where I traded that game for a copy of Arkham Horror. I found it on Board Game Geek (which was also new to me at the time), and it had some great reviews and was listed fairly high on the top 100 games back then.

Then we played it, and it felt so much like work to read the rules and understand the game. We spent many hours of trying to find the magic, but it was rules, rules, rules – not at all what we expected. I should note that the most complex game we’ve played before that, at that time, was probably Settlers of Catan (it’s now just called Catan). So it was a big jump – too high for us.

I (very naively) thought to myself, that if this was supposed to be one of the top 100 most liked games out there, then I could do better.

So I started to make notes – to the point where I would sleep with a block of paper and a pencil next to my bed.

4 – What do you think is the hardest part of designing board games?

That’s a different answer depending on how experienced you are.

Starting out, you will have to learn a lot of new things, accept that you will fail, accept strong criticism with a polite smile (while dying inside).

When you get more experienced, it’s hard to get to a point where you let a design go. It might work just fine, but maybe it’s not very fun in the end. You’ll have to adapt while growing.

I think that is the hardest part. But, if you are like me, you will keep going because you simply can’t stop. If you don’t have that drive, it will be even harder to get a game published, for sure.

Mads Fløe met Ka Pai

5 – What would be your advice for new board game designers?

I often refer to learning a musical instrument when I give new(er than me) designers advice. When you reach a certain age, it’s easy to forget what learning is actually like. It’s failure 99,99% of the time. But with each failure, you learn and you get better.

Now, consider having just bought a guitar because you want to be successful as a musician. Maybe you even dream of it as a career path. Maybe you even dream of becoming a star. What I often see (and what I did myself, because that’s hard not to do) is to think the first time you can play a tune, it will become a huge success. To you, it is! And that is super important to realise and take in.

However, there is a pretty long way to go from playing a four chord song, to actually making a hit. You will have to learn to let that first tune go. It has served its purpose, and you have to move on.

But what is most likely to happen, is that you try to make that first tune into a hit. You tinker and work on it endlessly, but at some point you must realise that it was never that hit you felt it was to begin with. What you get from that experience is a lot of practice with the four simple chords, but you must move on to new designs to practise all of the other chords too.

So my advice is simply to never only work on one game at a time. Always take notes and let inspiration guide you to new places.

My second “go to” reference is making soup. You have all these super delicious ingredients that you want to pour into your soup, but instead of thinking about the final (and complex) taste of the soup, you focus on those delicious ingredients.

Soon you’ll end up with something not delicious, and you will have a hard time to find out why – all the ingredients were so delicious. But nobody wants to taste, let alone eat a fish soup with chocolate balls and red wine in it.

So my second advice is to be aware of when you have too many ingredients. This is a perfect opportunity to separate some mechanics out of your game to start a new one!

Everyone wants a nice soup with simple ingredients that has cooked a long time, vaporizing all the water out and leaving the taste strong and full. That is what you should aim for 🙂

6 – How did you get the idea for Ka Pai?

I made another game that I came up with on the car ride back from Essen in 2017. My initial thought was to make a game where important resources or points were laid out on the score track. The idea was, that whoever landed on those spaces first would get those things, and so you’d have to consider if you really wanted to score big points at once, or spending actions to score more times, but getting more bonuses.

I boiled that down to essentially just the score track – a race game I called Banana Jones. Players had to get from the entrance of a Temple to the end, while picking up gemstones of different colors. The trick was, that the gems needed to be collected in sets of three in order to score. And they had different rarity and scoring. So it was all about timing and placement, considering what other movements the other players did.

I worked on that game a lot. Many, many iterations – too many – and then one day, out of the blue, I thought “what would Banana Jones look like as a roll and write?”.

An hour later I had made and tested the game, and it just worked right from the first iteration. Only one major change was made after a playtest with a fellow designer friend of mine, who made a suggestion that was implemented soon after.

Ka Pai Dobbelspel - Spelregels, Speluitleg + Review
Mads Fløe eerste spel: Ka Pai

7 – How did you feel when you held the very first copy of Ka Pai in your hands?

It was a happy moment for sure! But I think I was even just as happy, maybe even more happy, when I saw the game with its final artwork in a pdf-file for the first time. The illustrator, Oliver Freudenreich, is super talented and has done work for other similar games (Qwixx, The Mind, Qwinto, No Thanks! etc.).

Having talent like that to create the appearance of your game is really special. I’m very thankfull for that.

8 – What is your maximum score with Ka Pai?

Oh, I actually don’t know! I’ve played it 100+ times, but I never really kept notice of my own best score 🙂 The solo version of the game has a ranking, and the highest ranking is Ka Pai – which means “well done!” in Maori. It’s set at 56+ points. I think I hit that a couple of times.

9 – Do you have a strategy for playing Ka Pai?

I’d say play it twice. Then play it again. There is more tactics than strategy in the game. You can set out to use a specific symbol from the beginning (strategy), but you never know if the dice will show that symbol enough times – or if they come up at the time you need them.

You will have to adapt as you play (tactics), bet a little on what type of symbols you think you will get the most of, and always have at least a plan B – and change that plan as needed as you go along.

10 – You told me some expansions are on the way. Can you tell us something about them?

I’m very excited about the next two expansions!! The first expansion, Ka Pai: Ranu, with two new variants, was released at the same time as the base game in Essen, but is not out in stores yet.

Ka Pai Uitbreiding: Ranu
Ka Pai’s eerste uitbreiding: Ranu

That first expansion has the challenge level of 1 star. I would say the base game is 1.5 stars, so these variants are actually a little easier than the base game in my opinion. But they are excellent to freshen up the game and even better as an introduction to new players (the basic rules are the same though).

The next two expansions are called Ka Pai: Toku Whakapapa (two stars) and Ka Pai: Orokohanga (three stars).

They each have bigger twists to the base game and will be much more appealing to gamers (like myself). I would definitely and highly recommend gamers who buy the game to pick these two up as well – they will be able to play the base game with non-gamers too, but they will enjoy the more challenging expansions.

Ka Pai: Toku Whakapapa (two stars), is about reciting your ancestry. There are new spaces on the sheets where players who first makes sets over them, will tell the placement to the other players, who must then cross out that space in their sheets completely, even if they have already drawn something in that space. This adds a lot of tension and interaction to the game.

Ka Pai: Orokohanga (three stars), is a story about the creation myth in Maori mythology. You’ll have spaces with which activate other spaces on your sheet, so there is whole new layer of depth in the decisions you have to make – “if I write something here, I will have to mark off that space there, but then I can’t make that set over there that I was planning, so maybe I should put it there…” and so on.

Another reason that I’m very excited about these two expansions, is that they are designed directly from the theme, whereas the theme as adapted to the base game. In these expansions, the stories are much more integrated with the mechanics because of that.

11 – What are your favorite board games?

“The next new game I haven’t played”. I’ll play just about anything to learn from them. Especially games that have been on the market consistently for some years, even if they look like something I would not enjoy.

I used to be a little snobby/picky about games. I thought they should be complex or reflect that I was an intellectual or some other mental bias I had goin on.

Now I’ll play anything. You’d be surprised how many “bad looking supermarket games” actually have a lot to offer as a lesson to a new designer.

12 – Who is your favorite board game designer?

Asger Granerud, Mads Fløe en Kasper Lapp
Van links naar rechts: Asger Granerud, Mads Fløe en Kasper Lapp

I don’t just have one. I could make a long list 🙂 Some super hero designers I have the fortune to know in person are Kasper Lapp (Magic Maze etc.), Asger Granerud and Daniel Pedersen (Deep Blue etc.) who now makes a living designing board games.

There is a multitude of other danish designers making it onto the scene in these years, and the community in Denmark is really, really booming. So keep and eye out 😉

To mention some other designers that I only know through their games, I’d have to have Rüdiger Dorn (Istanbul etc.) on the list. Wolfgang Kramer (El Grande etc.) must be too, and another Wolfgang, Wolfgang Warsch (The Mind etc.). Oh, and Vlaada Chvátil (Codenames etc.) of course…

I think the pattern here is designers who are successful in making games for different audiences. Small games, big games, card games, party games.

13 – How many times a week do you play board games?

At least twice a week on average I think. I don’t keep track (I do log games on BGG when I remember to do it. If it was a late night, I probably just went straight to bed – it’s not that important to me).

14 – Do you have many games? Or even better, do you have a picture of your closet with board games?

According to BGG I own 116 games right now. And I have another 285 previously owned. I have “a wall of games” in my home office above my desk that looks like this:

De bordspellen van Mads Fløe
Mads Fløe’s ‘Wall of Games’

15 – Next to the Ka Pai expansions, are there any new games you’re working on?

I’m always working on a number of different games. The next game that will be released is also from White Goblin Games, set to debut at Essen in 2020. I’ve promised not to share too much about it, but I can tell you that it will be something very cool and you should definitely keep an eye out for it on the preview list leading up to Essen 2020.

Other than that, I have pitched five other games this year in Essen, and I have made one new design since coming back. They are mostly family- to mid-weight complexity games, with one design, a straight up mid-height euro dice placement game, being the most complex.

That last one is also a co-design. The co-designer is Allan Kirkeby, designer of Itchy Monkey, which was released last year in Essen. I have high hopes for that game, as we know already that it has an audience.

Nu ben jij aan de beurt!

Vanzelfsprekend waardeer ik de tijd en moeite die Mads Fløe heeft genomen om mijn vragen te beantwoorden. Daarom wil ik hem hartelijk bedanken!

Heb jij nog vragen voor Mads? Stel ze gerust in een reactie. Ik kan ze altijd aan hem voorleggen en wie weet wordt je vraag dan beantwoord.

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