Alexander Pfister has designed a lot of great games in a short amount of time. Chief among them is Broom Service that won the Kennerspiel des Jahres award in 2015. He has been kind enough to take some time away from designing great games to give us a short interview.
I’m 44 years, married and have one daughter (age 6). When I began to study, I moved to Vienna. I studied economics and work in the financial business.
What’s your favourite game?
This changes over time. Once it was games like Acquire or 1830. Last year I enjoyed The Voyages of Marco Polo and Orleans very much.
What game would you use to introduce new people to the hobby?
I think my own game Port Royal is great for this purpose. It is fairly easy – if you don’t explain all the characters at the beginning, but just when they appear. It has some luck involved which everybody understands and offers emotional choices. Furthermore it introduces the concept of turns, rounds, victory points and special powers from the different characters. It offers easy strategies like buying swords as well as more complex strategies. And it only takes about 45 minutes.
What’s your best game experience?
So many… For example as a kid, when we played a game called “Automobile für die Welt” form Ravensburger (which was never available in English) for hours over hours. We adapted the rules, so there was no luck involved. And as a 15-year-old kid we calculated how much to bid for contracts, which factories to build and so on. Sessions lasted the whole afternoon and if nobody got broke, we set the game aside for the next day.
What is the most important aspect of playing games for you?
Having fun. I don’t like it if a game takes too long, if it has to much downtime. I want to be involved all the time.
Why do you design games?
As a kid I changed game rules. I always saw how the game would work better for me. I played games and thought: I don’t like this aspect, how about doing it that way. But I also started to create my own games. I have always been interested in economics but there weren’t that much low-luck economic games around so I created my own games. Nowadays there are other motivations: We have a gaming club and it is very rewarding to see other people enjoying my games. Therefore I want to create games that I and my friends enjoy. This might be fun games, short games or lengthy games.
What are you most proud of?
All my games have their strengths and weaknesses. I’m proud of Port Royal because it has introduced many people to our wonderful hobby. It’s easy, fun and offers many different strategies.
What is the most import part of making a game for you?
The core mechanic(s). If the core mechanics aren’t good enough or only average, than the game will be at most average too. Even if it gets published, it just adds an average game to the market. But I think the game should be special in some way. It does not have to be the best game ever for all people, but at least some people should love it.
Do you usually like to start from the theme or mechanics?
The core mechanic must be interesting enough. But then I try to fit it to a theme.
Where do you find your inspiration for new game themes and mechanics?
Fortunately this is not the bottleneck in my design process. When a new idea comes into my mind, I add it to my “idea-file”. This file has already become quite big. But I have to stop myself from starting to many games. The real work is bringing an idea to life.