Episode 349 – Up and Coming Games with Clarence Simpson

Clarence Simpson at Origins 2023
Clarence Simpson at Origins 2023

This week we’re talking to Clarence Simpson, designer of one of our family’s favorite games!

349 Fact

Pepsi Number Fever… also known as “the 349 Incident”. Story Time!

Sponor: First Move Financial

If you’d like some advice about your student loans, go to FirstMoveFinancial.com/FamilyGamers and set up a free call.

Games We’ve Been Playing

Diatoms (coming soon to Kickstarter)
Dice Hunters of Therion
Andrew’s prototype
Avant Carde (coming soon to Kickstarter!)
Shipwreck Arcana
Big Top
Beer & Bread

Dice Hunters of Therion

SNAP Review – Dice Hunters of Therion

Enter a world of fantasy animal heroes and villains. As a bounty hunter, you want to earn the most money, through warrants and rolling coins on your dice. This dice-rolling game is good for families, up to four players.

Read the transcript or watch the video of our review.

Chatting with Clarence Simpson

Clarence has designed one of our family’s favorite games (Merchants of Magick) and Andrew first met him at PAX Unplugged 2021.

Other published games that Clarence had a hand in designing:

The Wolves (Pandasaurus)
Chomp (Allplay)

Let’s talk about design and prototyping!

“Just get it to the table,” is good advice for new designers. But at some point, it’s better to work through decisions before making a prototype (or changing one).

It’s important to present players with interesting decisions. If there’s always an obvious right choice, the decisions might not be interesting.

How did you get into making games?

“Seeds planted as a kid” – crafting a solo D&D dungeon for/with his dad… and also ridiculous fantasy dungeon crawl games.

Clarence forgot about that aspect and focused more on video games for a long time. In fact, his “day job” is in video game development! But a work friend introduced him to Carcassonne and a local board game shop.

Around 2009 he became aware of The Game Crafter. His first game design was an abstract using chess pieces and timers; he just played with co-workers.

Found out that game designers are independent of publishers! Submitted his design to Z-man, who rejected it.

Clarence gave up on board game design for 10 years.

At a small 2019 convention – met up with a game design group (Game Designers of NC) This encouraged him to dive back in.

How did that lead to Merchants of Magick?

Clarence entered the 2019 Gen Can’t game design contest, calling it “Ye Old Magick Shoppe”. He liked the design and started pitching it to publishers.

During the pandemic, Heather O’Neill started running speed-pitch events. 5-7 minutes to pitch game to 10+ publishers – and none of them liked it.

However! Mike from Rock Manor Games looked through all the sell sheets afterwards. He liked the idea and it felt like it fit perfectly into the Set a Watch universe -especially since they were introducing a merchant character.

What about The Wolves?

This is a totally different game. “I like doing different stuff too much.”

Clarence got connected with Ashwin Kamath through a Tabletop Mentorship program.

They decided they wanted to design a game together, and settled on wolves as a theme because of sports mascots – the Minnesota Timberwolves and the NC State “wolfpack”.

There weren’t any other games where wolves were the protagonist.

Tell us about the Merchants of Magick expansion.

Merchants of Magick: Dangerous Business will be coming to Kickstarter late in 2023. It will contain several different modules that you can swap in as you like.

“bundled orders” – 1 enchantment and 2 items, which will be available in a central market (you have to “advertise” to lure them into your store).

“recipes” that will make the potion colors meaningful and give ways around some restrictions.

Eight new adventurers, each of which allows you to do a lot more “requested” items… each one helps your adventurer, because they’re going to fight monsters! This gives a goal for your assigned adventurer to work towards!

Enhanced solo mode with an AI player to feel more like a two-player game.

What’s next?

An expansion will be coming for The Wolves. (Sometime in 2024.)

A Message from the Stars – logic word game coming from Allplay. Scientists are communicating with an alien with single words. Alien is trying to guess the scientists’ secret word, and the scientists are trying to figure out the alien’s secret letter valuations.

Find Clarence online:

Twitter: @StoicHamster

Find Us Online:

Facebook: @familygamersaa and thefamilygamers.com/community
Twitter (X): @familygamersaa
Threads: @familygamersaa
Instagram: @familygamersaa
TikTok: @familygamersaa
Youtube: TheFamilyGamers

or join the Family Tabletop Community on Discord! thefamilygamers.com/discord

Or, for the most direct method, email us! andrew@thefamilygamers.com and anitra@thefamilygamers.com.

Check out our new Family Gamers and Play Games with Your Kids merchandise – T-shirts, hoodies, and mugs – at thefamilygamers.com/merch.

PLEASE don’t forget to subscribe to the show, tell your friends about the show, and leave us a review at Apple Podcast or whatever your podcast subscription source is. We’re also on Amazon Music, TuneIn, and Spotify.

The Family Gamers is sponsored by First Move Financial. Go to FirstMoveFinancial.com/familygamers to learn how the team at First Move Financial can help you pile up the victory points.

First Move Financial - Financial planning for all stages of life. What's your first move?