Show cover of The Who, What, Why? Game Design Podcast

The Who, What, Why? Game Design Podcast

On Who, What, Why? I discuss game design with those who make games and try to learn more about the game design process. Each episode I interview a designer, publisher, developer, artist, etc. of tabletop games such as card, board, or role playing. Some episodes discuss big ideas in design rather than individual games. I have both mainstream and independent developers as guests.


Who, What, Why S35.E09 :: Kelp with Carl Robinson
Kelp me! Kelp me! All joking aside... this is a serious podcast... Carl Robinson, the designer of the 2-player game Kelp, joined me to talk more about his games and expand upon frustrating games in general. We discussed his game in detail, but we also branched off into games that use frustration in good and bad ways. Check out Kelp, live on Kickstarter right now if this sounds like something you are interested in.
45:15 11/28/23
Who, What, Why S35.E08 :: A General Chat about Generative AI with Joe Slack
Joe Slack, a frequent guest of the show, joined me once again to help me dip our toes into the conversation about AI art in board games. We did our best to explain AI art from our knowledge base and to explore some of the uses of it so far and even what future uses should look like. I have an ongoing cough, so I did my best to remove those loud coughs. I asked ChatGPT to write me a script for a podcast about AI art. I will release that as an episode in December. Also, I asked ChatGPT to create an Arkham Horror trick-taking game. The game is enclosed in quotation marks. "Absolutely! Let's call it "Eldritch Echoes: Arkham Trickery." Here's a basic idea for how the game might work: Number of Players: 3-5 Objective: Players aim to gather Eldritch Echoes, fragments of cosmic knowledge, by winning tricks through strategic card play. Setup: Deck: A custom deck with suits representing different aspects of the Arkham Horror universe (e.g., Mysteries, Artifacts, Creatures, Spells). Eldritch Echoes Cards: Special cards with varying point values representing the cosmic knowledge players seek. Gameplay: Dealing: Deal a set number of cards to each player, creating their starting hand. Trick-Taking: Players take turns playing cards to form a trick, following suit if possible. The highest-value card of the leading suit or the highest trump card wins the trick. Eldritch Echoes: Certain cards hold Eldritch Echoes values; winning a trick earns those points for the player who won it. Special Cards: Include special cards that can alter gameplay (e.g., Ancient Tome that acts as a wild card, Shub-Niggurath as a powerful trump card). Strategic Elements: Introduce elements like sanity cards or mythos cards that add unpredictability or risk, affecting the outcome of tricks or forcing players to discard. Winning: The game can be played over several rounds or until a set score is reached. The player with the highest accumulated Eldritch Echoes at the end wins. Strategy: Players need to gauge when to play their powerful cards strategically to win high-value tricks. Balancing the use of trump cards or Eldritch Echoes cards with keeping useful cards for later rounds becomes crucial. Thematically: Incorporate elements of Arkham Horror lore, where players are investigators seeking cosmic knowledge, encountering mystical artifacts, eldritch creatures, and otherworldly spells. Remember, the fun in trick-taking games often lies in their simplicity and the layers of strategy that develop as players become more familiar with the deck and its nuances. Adjustments and balancing may be needed through playtesting, but this framework could provide a solid foundation for an Arkham Horror trick-taking game!"
38:13 11/27/23
Who, What, Why S35.E07 :: Expanding RPGs with Jason Peercy
Jason Peercy, co-designer of The Real Thing RPG, joined me to talk about the expansions he is crowdfunding titled Angel Dust and King For a Day. You might remember The Real Thing RPG as the Faith No More inspired RPG. Jason and his co-designer Jason took the themes and stories they heard in Faith No More's The Real Thing album and created an RPG system out of it. Well, they are back at it again expanding the world they created through 2 new books. We discussed the reaction to the game, working with a band as an IP holder, and more. If you are interested in the game, please check it out on BackerKit.
40:13 8/9/23
Who, What, Why? S35.E06 :: Lost Adventures with Jeff, Jonny, and Ben
I planned to have on Jeff Warrender to talk about his game Lost Adventures, out on Kickstarter now, but Jonny Pac and the always fun Ben Maddox happened to join the podcast. We had a blast on this one. We mostly stayed on topic focusing on some of the interesting design decisions in Lost Adventures. If you have any interest in this game, check it out on Kickstarter now.
38:49 7/9/23
Who, What, Why? S35.E05 :: Wreck This Deck with Becky Annison
Becky Annison, designer of Wreck This Deck and co-owner of Black Armada Games, joined me to talk about her latest design up on BackerKit right now. Wreck This Deck is a solo-journaling RPG where you trap demons in playing cards and wreck those cards in all sorts of artistic ways, whatever you fancy. You can burn cards, fold them, paint them, cut them, etc. Becky encourages players to go ham on that deck. She sees the game as an opportunity for players to let their creativity fly. We discussed the genesis of the game and how it developed and is still developing. We also talked briefly about Legacy games and how those influenced her design. Check out Wreck This Deck if you have an itch to get destructive to a deck of playing cards.
54:13 6/20/23
Who, What, Why S35.E04 :: Forges of Ravenshire with Sam and Ed... or is it Ed and Sam?
Sam and Ed Stockton... or Ed and Sam Stockton... joined me to talk about their newest game live on Kickstarter right now. Forges of Ravenshire is a unique dice worker placement game where you are crafting items and using dice, but the hitch is that the dice aren't owned by one particular player. We talked about a lot of topics here from the allure of dice to the intricacies of worker placement, a genre rife with games. Check out the Kickstarter if you are interested.
88:40 5/3/23
Who, What, Why S35.E03 :: The Return of the Super Show with Steve Resk
Wrestling fans and gaming fans! I have a guest to unite you both. Steve Resk, designer of The Super Show, joined me to talk about how to keep LCG/CCGs alive and well. We explored how the Super Show grew from just a couple of decks with a small fanbase to a community with its own regional federations and belts. We also talked about some of our favorite wrestling storylines from the past. Check out the Super Show here. And they have a convention coming up this weekend (March 17) in Cleveland.
91:21 3/15/23
Who, What, Why S35.E02 :: That Competitive Spirit with Jonny and Jeff
Jonny Pac and Jeff Warrender return for another episode about a topic in game design. In this episode we discuss competitiveness in games. We focus on games with a lot of direct interaction compared with games with indirect interactions (like Multiplayer Solitaire games). No, we do not come down on "which is better," but we muse on what makes each of these styles interesting. Remember: today is the last day to submit your game to the Cardboard Edison Award. Go do it!
86:05 1/31/23
Who, What, Why S35.E01 :: The Boys with Nick Accardi
Nick Accardi, co-designer and artistic director for The Boys: This Is Going to Hurt, joined me to talk about this game from Dynamite Entertainment. We discussed the intricacies of adapting a licensed property into a board game. Nick talked about how the game doesn't follow the comics exactly, but instead crafts its own plausible story, so players can get immersed in something new. We also discuss set building and prop work because Nick is interested in some of that, and set building was my previous profession. This game follows the comic and not the Amazon TV show. If you are interested in getting your unpublished game judged, check out Cardboard Edison. I am a judge and have been for a few years. I enjoy the process of judging through Cardboard Edison. They're a great pair of people. This is not a paid ad or anything, but they did ask me to mention the award and since I value them as designer friends, I emphatically said yes.
63:21 1/28/23
Who, What, Why S34.E10 :: Nawalli with Gonzalo and Will
Gonzalo and Will joined me to talk about their game called Nawalli. It's a head-to-head card battling game with some incredible artwork inspired by the Aztecs. It's an easy game to learn and play because of its relative language independence (once you know it all). I was drawn to this game because of its artwork and knew I had to find out more. What better way than have the designers on the show. Also, the Cardboard Edison Award is here again. All submissions must be in by Jan. 31. Check out for more information. They did not pay me to say this, but they should since I'm a prestigious podcaster (kidding).
53:26 1/17/23
Who, What, Why S34.E09 :: PaxU Recap with Mike
So, I recently went to PaxU (again) with my wife and baby daughter. I decided to try something new for when I go to cons. I put all of my thoughts together in this episode about the con and what I love about it.
62:42 12/15/22
Who, What, Why S34.E08 :: Thrown Under the Bus with James S Cole
James Cole, designer of the upcoming game Thrown Under the Bus, joined me to talk about his game about corporate intrigue and power positioning. The game is a lighthearted look at the kind of stuff that may happen in a corporate office between people who want to be in the best position they can be. We talked about a lot of different things about the game's design and even got into some stories from James' past working in a corporation. The game will be releasing on Kickstarter sometime in January. Check it out if you are interested.
67:41 12/14/22
Who, What, Why S34.E07 :: Unconscious Mind with Jonny Pac
Jonny Pac, co-designer of Unconscious Mind, joined me to talk about the design of this big game. We focused on the way this game keeps players involved thematically and helps keep these various mechanisms flowing intuitively between one another. If you are interested in this game, check it out on Kickstarter.
79:58 11/20/22
Who, What, Why S34.E06 :: Pitching vs. Self-Publishing with Joe Slack
Joe Slack joins me yet again! It's a second threepeat! In this episode, Joe and I discuss when to pitch your game vs. when to self-publish. There are a lot of things to consider with both avenues. First, you've got to have a game worth publishing at all. Then you have to decide to either give your creation to someone else where you may lose some creative control, or to become a publisher replete with the benefits and drawbacks that that entails. It's scary to navigate. Thankfully, Joe (and I to a lesser degree) have some thoughts here. Joe has a Kickstarter running right now called 14 Frantic Minutes. You can check it out if you want.
37:49 11/1/22
Who, What, Why S34.E05 :: Real-Time Games with Fabricio Leotti
Fabricio Leotti, designer of Hyperwars (now on KS), joined me to talk about the genre of real-time games. We explore what the term means to us, what games embody it, and where it falls flat. We also weave in discussion of how Fabricio's latest game, Hyperwars, attempts to capture the feel of real-time action. If you'd like to learn more about Hyperwars, check out my interview with Fabricio from back in Aug of 2021! Oh, look. I released the last episode with Fabricio on a 31st as well. If you have interest in the game, please look at the Kickstarter running right now. Hyperwars Kickstarter
46:36 10/31/22
Who, What, Why S34.E04 :: Keeping Up the Energy for Your Designs with Joe Slack
Joe Slack joined me (again!) to talk about when he shelves a design and when he returns to one on that shelf. This was a good conversation where I get to wax lyrical about some of my own lost designs. Remember, designers, it's okay to put something away for a little while to give yourself some clarity on it. Check out Joe's Kickstarter for 14 Frantic Minutes: Click!
28:11 10/31/22
Who, What, Why S34.E03 :: When Your Game is Done with Joe Slack
Joe Slack, designer of Relics of Rajavihara and the forthcoming 14 Frantic Minutes, joined me for another threepeat of episodes. The first one explores the idea of a game being "done." How does one know when to call their design done and move on to the next phase of its life? Joe and I attempt to provide some insight into this quesiton. Joe also has a Kickstarter campaign for 14 Frantic Minutes. He speaks briefly about his own game and when he decided it was done. Check it out if you are interested.
25:48 10/22/22
Who, What, Why S34.E02 :: Academia and Games with Analog Games Studies
Aaron Trammel, Shelley Jones, Edmond Y. Chang, and Evan Tormer are four of the members of the editorial board at Analog Games Studies. This group of smart folk joined me to talk about the journal itself and about the importance of treating games from an academic lens. This episode involved a lot of smart discussion from these four about some deeper topics in games than a lot of other shows get into. Please consider reading the articles posted at Analog Games Studies. You can find some interesting stuff there such as Tanya Pobuda's two articles about representation on the box art and in the rulebooks. There's a lot more stuff there to check out.
97:41 10/15/22
Why Ska?! Ep. 05 :: Ska in Media
Another ska-cast is back from Who, What, Why! This time I invited on Crystal Mazur who's been on my show to talk about games, but now she helps me talk about ska. We look at some of the ways ska music shows up in all sorts of media from movies to commercials. Check out Crystal's work at The Geeky Panda
30:37 9/24/22
Who, What, Why S34.E01 :: A Case Study in Hanabi with Isaac Shalev
My friend and game designer, Isaac Shalev, joined me to talk in depth about Hanabi. When I thought about who to invite on for this game, I knew I had to talk to Isaac because I know of his love for it. I was more like a passenger on this episode because Isaac said a lot of really smart things about Hanabi's design and why it is such an incredibly good game. Check out Isaac at @kindfortress
57:29 9/24/22
Who, What, Why S33.E10 :: Votes for Women with Tory Brown
In the last couple of years, I've been looking to interview more designers of games that have something to say about history and through history about the world we currently live in. Tory Brown, designer of Votes for Women, joined me on the podcast to talk about the design of her new game from Fort Circle Games. I think there is a lot of learn from this conversation about designing games that tackle much deeper issues than your standard board game content. I've felt the same way about the forthcoming Stonewall Uprising, Bloc by Bloc, and Cross Bronx Expressway. Let's make more games about real world issues that can help us demystify these kinds of issues in our modern day or even provide more context for them. Tory Brown had a ton to say about the real life issue of women's rights and the way she incorporated that history into this game. I probably could have talked to her for another hour or two. Check out Fort Circle Games here: Link
89:03 9/16/22
Who, What, Why S33.E09 :: The Last Temptation of Slice
This episode is a departure from my normal gaming guests. I invited two guys I know from my backyard wrestling federation on to talk about a tv pilot they are self-funding called The Last Temptation of Slice. This episode is about the creative process, which has parallels no matter what you are creating. We discussed the inspiration for the show and the challenges Matt and AJ faced in getting to this point. Matt and AJ have a lot of interesting things to say about their journey so far. Below is the concept art for the two puppet characters that will be featured in this show. If you have any interest in supporting Matt and AJ, who are using Kickstarter the way it was intended in its outset, click on the link or Google "The Last Temptation of Slice."
62:23 8/23/22
Who, What, Why S33.E08 :: Wicked Ones with Ben Nielsen
Ben Nielson (@BanditCampGames), designer of Wicked Ones RPG and head of Bandit Camp publishing, joined me to discuss his game with its latest Kickstarter for both a full print run and an expansion called Undead Awakening. This game puts you in control of the monsters of the dungeon rather than the heroes. We discussed a number of topics such as how Ben, who lives in Japan, has funded his RPG work so far, how a designer builds on other RPG systems such as Powered By the Apocalypse and Forged in the Dark, and how story games put the players in the driver's seat (and why that's important). ***I don't remember why the audio for this one came down... so now it's back.
91:28 8/15/22
Who, What, Why S33.E07 :: The Game Builders with Ode
A recurring guest comes back to the show to talk about his new game studio and publisher, The Game Builders. Ode (@AndreasOdendahl) joins me to talk about making the leap into publishing and how his deep connection to famed designer Uwe Rosenberg will help jumpstart this company. We also discuss emo music, punk music and how Ode's DIY roots helped him tackle this new phase in his life. If you can't tell, I really like having Ode on the show.
79:28 8/5/22
Who, What, Why S33.E06 :: Rebels of the Outlaw Waste with Michael Addison
Michael Addison, designer of Rebels of the Outlaw Waste, joined the show to talk about his role-playing game due out later in the Fall. We covered a lot of topics ranging from the inspirations that Michael drew upon for this game to the way this game brings new life to a genre that might feel a bit tired at this time.
73:24 7/30/22
Who, What, Why S33.E05 :: Life as a Game Designer with Matthew Dunstan
Matthew Dunstan (@wisegoldfish), full-time designer of many games such as the Kosmos Adventure game series and the Ravensburger Echoes series, joined me to talk about some of the nitty gritty of what it was like to be a game designer. We discussed contracts, payments, and more. Anyone who likes what they hear from Matthew can support him by going to Postmark Games to check out his and Rory Muldoon's print at home games.
82:16 7/14/22
Who, What Why S33.E04 :: Stonewall Uprising with Taylor Shuss
This episode is 2 weeks late because my side of the audio needed to be rebuilt, but it is finally here! Taylor Shuss, designer of Stonewall Uprising, joined me to talk about this game. It was an interesting discussion exploring the ways in which the game's theme really shines through some incredibly smart design decisions by Taylor.  The game is currently on Kickstarter.
68:56 7/8/22
Who, What, Why S33.E03 :: Being an RPG Writer with Crystal Mazur
Crystal Mazur, freelance RPG writer and more, joined me on the show to delve more deeply into what it is like to be a freelance writer for RPGs. We discussed a lot here. Crystal knows an incredible amount about the process of writing and preparing RPGs for publishing. We discussed compensation, duties of a writer, and red flags to watch out for. If you'd like to know more about Crystal, check out her work at The Geeky Panda
82:00 6/17/22
Who, What, Why S33.E02 :: A Case Study in Agricola
Re-Released! I've re-released this episode with a file that takes up less of my monthly allotment. Enjoy (again). Welcome to another case study episode. This time me, Jonny, and Jeff tackle the game often called misery farm... Agricola. We discuss a where the game hits and misses for us. I find myself at odds with my guests since I like Agricola. To each their own. If you'd like to suggest a game for a cast study episode, feel free to drop me a line at whowhatwhycast(at) Jonny can be found @jpaccantin and Jeff at @belltowergames
79:42 6/14/22
Who, What, Why S33.E01 :: Representing History in Games with Dan Thurot
Dan Thurot, game critic extraordinaire, joined me to delve into a difficult topic: representing history through games. We focused on ways that history is represented poorly and ways that it is represented successfully and thoughtfully in games. This is a big topic, and one I will likely explore in future episodes. For now, enjoy my time with Dan Thurot. He's very thoughtful, too.
61:48 6/8/22

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