Designer Spotlight: Scott Caputo

Scott Caputo has designed a handful of great tile-laying games over the years, and he has been kind enough to answer our 10 questions. So if you’re curious about him and the games he designed, then read on.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

I am originally from Salem, Oregon, but I have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 23 years. During that time, I met my wife and we have two boys. I love to design games. My day job is to make mobile slot games for the MyVegas app for PlayStudios. I get to create the game features and the math behind the games. Of course, I also love to design board games and now have six published games with hopefully more to come. I also write poetry and have two published books of poems, one just published this fall. I try to stay creative in multiple areas.

What’s your favourite game?

Over the years, my #1 game has stayed consistent and it is Dominion. We have a literal suitcase of Dominion cards from eight expansions. Every game is so unique and interesting. It plays great at 2 players and I game a lot with my wife. She also loves Dominion. I think Donald X Vaccarino, the designer of Dominion, has done a great job with the expansions: Intrigue, Seaside, Prosperity, Adventures, Empires–they are all so good and worthy of playing.

What game would you use to introduce new people to the hobby?

My first answer would be Pandemic. It’s cooperative, easy to learn, but so different from the mass market games most people grew up playing. The theme is captivating and the mechanics interesting. There is usually a way to solve every predicament and it often takes a group to figure it out. Outside of Pandemic, I think dexterity games can really grab new players. I brought Loopin’ Louie to a work gathering recently and everyone was like “what is this game?” They loved it. It’s so simple, strange and fun.

What’s your best game experience?

Attending Meeplefest is my best game experience by far. It’s a local convention and the people are so friendly. We’ve seen each other for the last 10 years and now we’re like family in many ways. Everyone brings games from their own libraries and so there is usually all of the hottest games and older gems. It’s just four straight days of playing the best games with the best people, including my wife. My wife and I usually find people to take our kids so that we can enjoy some of the convention as a couple which is great.

What is the most important aspect of playing games for you?

I love discovery in games. It’s always amazing to play some new game that makes me say “Wow, that can be a game too?” Like Mord im Arosa. It’s a game about trying to listen to how far cubes fall in a tower, and it works beautifully. It’s a joy to discover new strategies in a game–the right cards to buy in a particular set of 10 Dominion cards, or finding a move in Pandemic that turns a sure defeat into unexpected victory. Maybe that’s why I love tile-laying games. You are literally discovering the game board and it’s different every time.

Whistle Mountain

Why do you design games?

For me, the games as always in me my whole life. Just how composers hear new songs, I suddenly see new games in my head and I want to play them. I desperately want to play them. It’s a great joy to finally play the game I have been dreaming of in my head. It’s even more amazing when that dream becomes a real published game. I like to share these games with people and I’m glad when they enjoy them too. I want to share my joy with others.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud to be who I am today. I am proud to be married to my wife. We met later in life, but I am very grateful we found each other. I am proud to be father to two creative boys who also say they want to be game designers. I am proud to be a published game designer and a published poet. I am proud to be good at designing mobile slot games. Life isn’t always perfect, but I am proud to be where I am today.

What is the most import part of making a game for you?

I think these days it’s making sure the initial concept for a new game is so strong, that it could literally be the best game I’ve ever designed. I really want to aim high with every design and be unreasonably excited to play the first prototype.

Do you usually like to start from the theme or mechanics?

I have done both. Recently, I have made games from thought experiments. What would happen if I combined tile-laying and deck building? Thus, came Sorcerer City. What would happen if I combined tile-laying and worker placement? Thus, came Whistle Mountain. But really I think theme and mechanics should help inform each other. The theme can influence the mechanics and the mechanics the theme.

The One Hundred Torii

Where do you find your inspiration for new game themes and mechanics

Travel can be a big inspiration. There would be no The One Hundred Torii without my trip to Japan. There would be no Kachina without a trip to the American Southwest. I get inspired by new locations and cultures. Playing new games can also be a big inspiration. Often, when a new idea comes out, I can see that it was influenced by all of the games I played over the past year. Almost like how dreams rearrange images from a day, my mind rearranges all of the mechanics from past plays into new ways.

Follow Peter H. Møller:

Tabletop Together and dachshund owner, sci-fi geek, trekkie and whovian. Lover of medium length, thematic, silly (in the good way), worker placement style games. A sucker for beautiful art. Generally just a big lovable teddy bear.

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