2020 brought us a global pandemic and, along with it, social distancing, masks, financial uncertainty and postponed delivery dates. For our end-of-the-year special we decided to turn to some of our favourite solo and soloable game designers and ask them to share their own experiences, feelings, plans and hopes both for the year we leave behind and the year to come. Every day until December 31 we will publish one of these short interviews (we have no patience for long ones). Our guest today is Tom Russell. Designer of Agricola, Master of Britain, Charlemagne, Master of Europe and Aurelian, Restorer of the World, among others. She was kind enough to answer our 3+1 questions.
1. Nobody likes being forced to stay at home, but did the quarantine actually help you concentrate on your design work? Or did it instead feel restraining and cause designer's block? Did you miss any face-to-face meetings or conventions?
I'm in a unique position in that I've been a full-time game designer, working out of the home, since early 2017. So the quarantine did not really disrupt the normal rhythms of my day-to-day. However, my design work and my playtesting did move a lot slower this year, and especially over the summer I hardly did anything at all. I think that had more to do with my egg cracking than anything external.
I'm a shy girl who doesn't necessarily do well in a convention setting, so not going to conventions this year wasn't a huge deal. I did, however, miss seeing some of my friends, though I did get to play some games with them online.
2. Marie Kondo shows up in your dream in the form of a yokai. She is throwing away your entire board game collection and only lets you keep one game: the one that 'sparks the most joy'. Which one is it?
This is a hard choice, not because "there's so many I want to keep, how can I pick just one" but because I don't have a strong attachment to physical things. Oh, I like having board games, just as I like having books and DVDs, but I don't really care about things very much.
3. We are a news website, so we will obviously ask you to share your plans for 2021. Anything us solo gamers can look forward to?
We've got about eighteen games scheduled for next year. This includes new entries and expansions in some of our series - The Grass Crown is a new Shields & Swords ancients game, covering battles of the Roman Republic; a couple expansions to Table Battles, including one about the Grand Alliance; the fourth volume in our Horse & Musket series, this one covering the American and French Revolutions (among others); new maps for our new choo-choo game Dual Gauge. We'll also be publishing a new choo-choo game from another designer, closer to the end of the year, and I'm working on a game about the first council of Nicaea.
Of interest to solo gamers will be That Others May Live, a game about Vietnam search and rescue missions from designer Brad Smith (NATO Air Commander). My big solo project is Endurance, a game about the famous Shackleton expedition.
Bonus question: What is your favourite dinosaur?
Ah, you've done your research. I think all dinosaurs are good dinosaurs, so it's hard to pick a favorite. I do like stegosauruses, because of how dumb they are; I identify with that.
Thank you very much for participating, Tom! All the best wishes for 2021. Where can our readers follow you online?
For information on our games, you can visit hollandspiele.com. For socials, there's the official company account, @hollandspiele, which is mostly run by Mary, and our personal account, @tomandmary, which is mostly me tweeting gibberish.