Board Game Designer Interview: Antoine Bauza

bauzaphotoIntroduction

Back in 2009, a friend introduced me to Settlers of Catan and that set me off into a board game craze. I began to read BoardGameGeek regularly and to buy into the hype as new games came out. It was often a disappointment, but I’ll never forget the day I found 7 Wonders in my local card shop earlier than expected and immediately taking it home. 7 Wonders quickly became a favorite game of mine, and designer Antoine Bauza has continued to crank out other titles just as good. Those include Spiel des Jahres winner Hanabi, the incredibly adorable, panda-themed Takenoko, and last year’s two-player version of 7 Wonders7 Wonders Duel. Antoine is now designing games full-time and he has a full slate of games this year as well. So let’s get to it and see what he has to say about those upcoming titles!

Oceanos, 7 Wonders

oceanosboxYour most recent release is Oceanos, from IELLO. After the huge success of 7 Wonders, how do you design a separate drafting game in the shadow of that mega-hit? What has to stand out for the game to be different enough to avoid comparison to 7 Wonders?
I didn’t design Oceanos as a drafting game, just like I didn’t design 7 Wonders as a drafting game. Drafting is a mechanism, so it’s just a tool I use to achieve a purpose: creating a playing experience. The two games are quite different, even if they both use drafting and card collection. (In my opinion, at least!) The theme is stronger in Oceanos, and it’s meant for an audience a bit more family-friendly.
What can you tell us about the upcoming 7 Wonders: Armada? How does it interact with the other 7 Wonders expansions?
Well, I started to work on 7 Wonders: Armada in 2011, so a long time ago. The prototype wasn’t good enough, so I let it rest for while. When I wanted to resume my work, it was time to work on 7 Wonders: Duel with Bruno Cathala, then on the expansion 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon… Now that this latest expansion is finished, I can finally resume my work on Armada!
So, it’s a bit too early to tell how it will interact with the other expansions (I only play without them in the early stages of development) but I’ve got a prototype that I like. So my next step is to show it to Repos Production to see if they enjoy it as much as I do! If they green-light this version, I will start to run massive play-test sessions…
Can we expect an eventual “end date” to 7 Wonders and/or a “7 Wonders Big Box”? Where do you see 7 Wonders in 5 or 10 years?
You should ask my publisher! I just take the projects one by one. I’m quite happy to return to big brother 7 Wonders after a “Duel” interruption, so I’ll try to make a great expansion. I don’t know what will happen after that. 🙂 And I like it this way to tell you the truth…
pantheonboxThere was recently a large statistical analysis done on almost 500 games of 7 Wonders: Duel. As a designer, how do you try to achieve balance in a game before it is available digitally—meaning that you don’t yet have such large sets of data?
We ran a lot of games (not 500 but over 200) so we were quite confident with our tuning. This statistical analysis comforted us in our development, so I send my sincere thanks to the author. It was very interesting data for us. In this case (two-player games) those kinds of analyses are precious, but in my other games I’m more interested in the informal feedback I can get. How players react to a game is what I’m really interested in. Mathematics is not the fun part of a game for me!
How does 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon play? What kind of value do you think it adds to the base game (which is itself very tightly designed)?
The expansion introduces deities, a powerful new type of card. During the first Age, players will select what deity they will put in the Pantheon. During Ages 2 and 3, they can give offerings to those deities to benefit from their powers. One important aspect is that calling for a deity is a new action and when you take this new action, you don’t take a card from play. So it’s a new way to play with tempo and it changes the game a lot.

Victorian Masterminds, Welcome Back to the Dungeon

Can you tell us about your upcoming game, Victorian Masterminds, with Eric Lang? What kind of game is it? Who is it designed for?
Three years of work on this one, my first collaboration with Eric Lang. Sherlock Holmes has just been declared dead and evil masterminds (the players) take the opportunity to rule Europe. To achieve that, they are sending their agents across the countries to collect resources and build a giant contraption! It’s a game of construction and destruction with a strong theme and a “worker-placement” mechanism with a twist. It’s medium-weight: two-to-four players for 45-60 minutes. It will be published by Space Cowboys in 2017. We’re currently tuning the last details…
wbttdYou also recently co-designed Welcome Back to the Dungeon with Masato Uesugi. What makes this version different than Welcome to the Dungeon? To what extent are they compatible?
Welcome Back to The Dungeon will be compatible with his old brother, yes. It consists of 4 new characters with brand new items. Those characters (Ninja, Princess, Necromancer, Minstrel) are a bit more technical to play, which is perfect for a spin-off. Some special monsters also make their appearance to add some spice to the mix! The game will be released in a few weeks (October 2016)
Both Welcome Back to the Dungeon and Victorian Masterminds are overseas collaborations. How does designing collaboratively from a distance compare to designing together locally with other French designers?
It takes some extra time, but it’s very interesting. You get to see how culture impacts the way you design games. I also always enjoy co-designing because it forces you to think outside the box, to change your way of design. You learn a lot by co-designing.

Attack on Titan, Miscellanea

Geeks Under Grace has many authors who are huge anime nerds, and they’re very excited about your co-design with Ludovic Maublanc, Attack on Titan from Cryptozoic. To what extent is this game designed for gamers, or rather for fans of the show?
Ludovic Maublanc is my design buddy when it comes to licenced games! We had the opportunity to design a game with this IP and we’re both japanimation fans, so it was a real pleasure to work on this project! We tried to reach the anime fans and the players by designing a game that strongly respects the license and offers an original gaming experience. The game features a vertical board (the titan) and asymmetrical game play: one player is the titan; the others are the human heroes fighting it. The first one uses cards, the others use dice. The game should be out in early 2017…
Geeks Under Grace is a faith-based site, and several of your games have had references to religion (e.g. ancient Greek religions in 7 Wonders, spirits in Samurai Spirit). What do you think the connection is, if any, between gaming and faith/religion (whether as a player or as a designer)?
Honestly, I don’t know. I’m an atheist, so when I refer to faith and/or religion in my game, it’s more for the myths, the wonders, the common culture that almost everybody knows.
What have you been reading/watching/playing/enjoying lately?
I had a blast reading the Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
I’m currently watching Ascension and Orange is the New Black‘s latest season.
I’m still playing too much Hearthstone also 😀
What’s next for you?
Besides Armada, I’m spending a lot of time on Oltréé! It’s my next cooperative game. And, as always, I’ve got a lot of new game ideas in the pipe.

Derek Thompson

I've been a board game reviewer since 2011. I love card-driven games and party games. I have a Ph.D. in Mathematics and teach the subject at Taylor University in Upland, IN. My wife and kids are my favorite gaming partners.

2 Comments

  1. Jay Magno on October 12, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    Samurai Spirits is underrated!

    • Derek Thompson on October 27, 2016 at 6:59 pm

      I have some friends that would agree with you for sure!

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