Chits, Boards and Bits – an interview with Warparty designer Larry Bogucki

I am mildly terrified by war games. With hundreds of small tokens dotted around a board (and generally not enough small plastic blokes) they generally appear to me to be the most difficult things ever created in the name of entertainment. One that’s caught my eye, however, is a Kickstarter project called Warparty. I caught up with designer Larry Bogucki to talk about the game and get his opinion on gaming in a crowd-funded world…

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So, Larry: first question! Who are you and what’s your story?

My name is Larry Bogucki. I’m 42, married and a father of two girls. I work for a large insurance company in the NorthEast United States and I’ve been playing games all my life, starting with D&D at the age of 9, back in 1978…

That’s a pretty long gaming career, Larry! What are your favourite types of games to play?

I don’t play the RPGs much at all any more. What I mostly enjoy are strategy games and wargames. I’ve always been a huge fan of chess and speed chess too. Really though, I have been working for so long and with such focus on Warparty that I haven’t had much of a chance to play much of anything else for the last several years!

Warparty is, of course, your project that you’ve currently got going on Kickstarter. Could you tell me a bit about it?

Sure. Warparty is a two to four player fantasy based wargame where the forces of evil (the Undead and Goblins) face off against the Humans and Dwarves; it’s two-on-two action. Players control large armies, conquer territory, build cities and upgrade the infrastructure of their capital cities with the ultimate goal in mind being to destroy one of their enemies’ capitals. It’s economically driven in that the more territory you control the more income you have to spend on troops – they can then be placed in any of your cities. You can also use the income to build more cities and upgrades.

There are also dungeons in Warparty that can explored. Each army has a warrior, priest and wizard hero – these are the only people who can explore dungeons and they’ll fight monsters, gaining valuable treasure if they’re successful. Heroes are also powerful fighting units in their own right and can be used in the game effectively against enemy players without ever exploring dungeons.

Each army also has its own research or technology track to unlock more powerful units. For example, the Undead can summon the Bone Dragon into the game; this is their most powerful unit, but it takes a lot of upgrades, time and resources to bring it into the game. There are ten or more different unit types in each army and more than half are unique to that army within itself. Each army very much has its own feel and flavour. It’s a game that’s played with hundreds of counters and almost two hundred cards.

Wow – it sounds pretty in depth! What kind of level would you say this is pitched at? I mean, would you say you should be a pretty experienced gamer to tackle Warparty?

Well, we’ve done Warparty demos at many conventions including at the World Boardgaming Championships where we had over sixty people give it a try. We’ve had all kinds of people play Warparty and while some folks will pick up the nuances a lot quicker than others, it can be enjoyed by anyone who likes strategy games and the fantasy genre.

So you mentioned that you’ve been working on Warparty for some time… How did the design come about? What led you to take that leap and try to get it out there?

I was inspired by Axis and Allies but I’ve always been attracted to the fantasy genre, going back to my roots with D&D. We’ve played Warparty for over a decade as a house game but never really thought we could get it published. A few years ago a number of folks who played kept encouraging me to try to get it published so we took it to some conventions and got some really good feedback from complete strangers. The best feedback they gave me was when they came back to play it a second or third time. It was then that I knew I had to see it through.

Warparty in progress!

So did you shop it around to any publishers or did you go straight to Kickstarter?

Well, we actually have a publishing contract through Lock ‘n Load Publishing.  They have published a number of games already such as All Things Zombie and World at War they do all their games through P500 or pre-order; if enough people pre-order the game at a discount then that game will actually be published.  We had about $5,000 worth of orders for Warparty directly through Lock ‘n Load before going to Kickstarter to try and get the additional funding needed for Warparty to be published.
With almost 200 cards, twice as many counters and a mounted board, Warparty is an expensive game to make but we’re hopeful that we can make it happen.  We’re currently at 75% funding through Kickstarter with just 16 days left!  It’s getting down to the wire… Warparty lives or dies in just 16 days!
How’s your Kickstarter experience been so far then? It’s got to be said that 75% with a couple of weeks left isn’t too bad! Obviously you’re looking to push it to 100% – but what are you doing to try and get to that mark? And are you confident it’ll happen?
There are a couple of third party reviews that will be coming out soon and I will have a Designer Diary up on  BoardGameGeek.com as soon as it gets approved.  I’m hoping all of those will help move the needle during this last lap.  I’m hopeful that we will get there, but I will be all nerves until it happens. There’s also two videos of game play on the Warparty Kickstarter page in case anyone you know would like to take a look!
Seriously, I reckon folks should go check it out. I’m scared by most wargames but this looks pretty awesome! What are your thoughts on Kickstarter? I find it very divisive, with a lot of people in the industry seeing it as an amazing opportunity to get games out there while others believe it to be a way of getting substandard games to market…
I think there’s probably truth in both of those view points.  The creator of Scrabble was turned down by every company he went to for publishing, so eventually he did it himself.  I think that without Kickstarter a lot of great games might not ever make it but on the other hand, I think there may be some very suspect games out there as well.  Having said that, less then half the projects on Kickstarter ever make it, so I think a lot of the lower quality games might get weeded out that way. By that same token I’ve also seen some really interesting games struggle on the site. However, I think with a little due diligence most discerning gamers can get a feel for a game on Kickstarter and get a pretty good idea as to its quality.
So what do you think pushes certain games over the hump? As you say, some pretty poor games get funded easily while potentially good ones sometimes struggle to even get noticed… 
I think that’s really the exception to the rule.  Although that happens, I think generally speaking the good games get the funding.  I don’t claim to be any sort of expert on this matter but I recently attended a Kickstarter seminar at a gaming convention I was at.  Once a project reaches 30% funding it has a 90% chance of success.  That 30% seems to be the magic number according to Kickstarter.  How they get to that 30% funding is probably a combination of many factors such as making sure you have a following prior to going live on Kickstarter, promoting your game at conventions and on social media, that kind of thing.
So when (we’re being positive here!) Warparty gets funded, what’s the plan? How long do you reckon it’ll take to turn around? And after all’s done with Warparty, what are your plans for the future?
Lock ‘n Load Games posted on our Kickstarter page that the estimated delivery date is April 2012. After Warparty I have several more projects in the back of my mind and there’s a Warparty expansion, of course.  It’ll be something low cost, an add-on to Warparty with a few new units, upgrades, spells and quests. I also have prototypes for three other games that I’ve already playtested with some success; a mafia/bootlegging game with three factions of mafia and one player acting as the either a corrupt or virtuous police force. Of the three, this got the most positive feedback.
Another game I’m thinking about making is post apocalyptic with five factions of humans trying to survive and compete against each other, although struggling against the elements is difficult enough.  It’s a card game mostly that involves trade between players, alliances and war. The game that I’m most excited about but which still needs a lot of work is a Western game for four players who take on the role of either Outlaws, Indians, Ranchers or the Town.
I enjoy games where the sides are all very different rather then mirror images.  This type of approach requires a lot of playtesting because when you have sides that are very different you can run into a lot of balance issues. One thing about Warparty, good, bad or indifferent, the sides are very different from one another and they are balanced.  They should be – we’ve playtested it for years!
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If you’d like to check out Warparty, have a look at their Kickstarter page. It’s definitely an interesting looking take on wargaming and one that I’m certainly interested in having a proper look at. With only a couple of weeks left on the campaign, here’s hoping that it gets a final burst of support and makes it to the funding goal!
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