Ryan Laukat has for a long time been one of my favorite designers. He makes very interesting games that are both very thematic and beautiful to look at. One of the reasons the art of his games work so well is the fact that he makes it himself, so he’s not only a great designer but also a great artist.
I was lucky enough to steal some of his time for this interview:
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’m Ryan Laukat, board game designer, illustrator, and publisher. My publishing company is Red Raven Games, which I started four years ago.
What’s yours favorite game?
I’m going to cheat here and list two games: Race for the Galaxy, and Puerto Rico. These two games have had a lot of influence on me as a designer. In face, Puerto Rico was the game that got me interested in designing strategy games.
What game would you use to introduce new people to the hobby?
It seems like I have lots of success every time I teach Carcassonne. I also love Bohnanza and it’s been a hit with lots of new players.
What’s your best game experience?
Playing a game on a lazy Sunday summer afternoon with my family. When I play with my wife and my brother, it’s always a tight, exciting race to the finish.
What is the most important aspect of playing games for you?
I love that games force people to sit down and spend time with each other, without the need for a tv or computer to dole out the entertainment. I also love the competition of wits, and I especially enjoy games that reward good strategy and careful planning.
Why do you design games?
I love to create worlds, and games give me an amazing opportunity to do so. My favorite part of designing is coming up with the first idea- scratching down the basic concept and mechanisms for the game in an effort to immerse the players in a new world. I also love painting and illustrating. Painting the world I see in my head is something I start even in the early stages of the design, because the two are so closely connected for me.
What are you most proud of?
Right now I’m most proud of my newest game, Above and Below, because it incorporates three different skills that I’ve worked hard to improve over the years: game design, illustration, and writing. I’d say that writing has been one of the most difficult things for me to improve, and I’ve spent many hours practicing. I’ve got a whole box full of half-finished novels, and I hope to one day publish my own standalone novel.
What is the most important part of making a game for you?
Creating something that people enjoy and want to play again is my main goal. I want the game to immerse the players into a new world, but also give them an elegant machine with which to tinker – something that they’ll want to play again so they can try something different.
Do you usually like to start from the theme or mechanics?
I guess that I generally start with mechanics, but knowing how I want a player to feel while playing the game is also very important. Do I want the player to feel like they’re adventuring? Or building? Or exploring a new world? Or conquering the known world?I generally like to develop new mechanics and use them in various designs in some way or other- that’s why so many of my games are mechanically-related.
Where do you find your inspiration for new game themes and mechanics?
I’ve spent years writing my own novels and filling books with sketches- often times these ideas turn into themes for my board games. And of course I am influenced by the video games, comics, and movies that I grew up with. I played lots of video games as a kid. I love Super Nintendo games, old LucasArts adventure games, and computer RTS games. All of these influence my game creation.