Carla Knopp is the head of Weird Giraffe Games, publishers of Stellar Leap, Super Hack Override, and, their upcoming game, Fire in the Library. I really admire how she’s taken her love of games and created a thriving publishing company of her own! Having met Carla at last year’s Gen Con and getting to spend more time with her via social media, I’ve discovered she’s smart yet shy, perhaps even a little unassuming, and has a real passion for the industry. We just finished reviewing her game Fire in the Library, which is live on Kickstarter now, but I wanted to get to know person behind the company a little bit better. Carla was cool enough to answer some questions and give us some insight into the woman behind the Giraffe!
Jess: What made you make the decision to get into designing/publishing games?
Carla: It wasn’t a decision that was made at a certain point, it kind of just happened. I had been playing tabletop games and making slight modifications to the rules to make play more suited to my group’s tastes, when I stumbled into a ‘How to Design a Board Game’ panel at Dragon Con. The main point I got from it was that it was really easy to design a game, just get some notecards, write things on them, and start playing.
On the trip home from Dragon Con, the people I drove with all brainstormed a game and then I put it to notecards when I got home. We played, it was a game and that was exciting, so I kept iterating and researching. It’s actually a lot harder to design a game than just getting notecards, but having been told it was easy made the jump into design easy. Publishing seemed to be the next step, as I had found Jamie Stegmaier’s blog online and started reading posts like crazy.
I think if I was told exactly how difficult and how many skills I needed to get to be a good designer and publisher, I might not have started, but I’m here now and I’m super enjoying it!
Carla: I’ve learned so many of them! If you’re planning on getting anywhere with designing or publishing, you have to have a system to remember all the things and to stay on top of everything. I use Todoist, which is great and simple and means I no longer have to give any focus to remembering things, I just have to check the list.
Another lesson that I’ve learned is to always treat people as if they were all a person. I know that sounds weird, but what I mean is that you don’t want to treat others as just customers or tools. On social media, make sure to interact and ask about others, don’t just push your own content. Do something that can help and make a difference in the community and you’ll be so much more successful than if you only talk about you. Get to know reviewers as more than just people that can help promote your brand; I’ve made so many reviewer friends that I talk to on a regular basis! The community is fantastic and you should try to be a part of it and help out others and in turn, they’ll see that and want to help you out, too.
Celebrate your wins, no matter how small. Publishing and designing is so hard and time consuming. It’s easy to get discouraged by the sheer amount of things that need to get done, so make sure you’ve acknowledged that you’re one step closer to your goal. You’ve put in the work on your creative endeavor and that’s more than a lot of people and it’s awesome! Keep yourself in good spirits so that you can make your dream a reality.
Finally, try to take one step a day towards your goal every day that you can. If you do something everyday, you’ll see progress and that has always helped me to be more motivated. Even if it’s something simple and easy, it’s something that’s done that will put you closer to where you want to be.
Carla: I wouldn’t say I’ve run into any major roadblocks. If I ever come to something that I don’t know about, I tend to ask on Twitter or in one of the Board Game groups on Facebook. I think an important thing to do as a human is acknowledge that you don’t know everything and that there’s tons of people that can help you along the way, if you only think to ask. I know that’s a hard thing for some people to do, but once you get used to asking for help, you’ll find out who the best people are to ask certain questions and you’ll find your answer so much faster. It’s a legitimate question to ask where to find help!
Being open and honest is definitely a part of me and Weird Giraffe Games and I think that’s helped out a lot.
Jess: I agree. The board game community online is very robust and there are so many people who are willing to help out. It’s a great resource. Speaking of great people, how was it working with Tony Miller & John Prather for Fire in the Library?
Carla: It’s really amazing! We’re on a slack channel together and I tend to talk to at least one of them everyday, either just about life or about games. I really enjoy the fact that I have two people as passionate about making Fire in the Library a great game as I am and I think it really shows in the final product.
Carla: I really like the intensity that it has towards the end. The game starts off with the books not being worth that much and the risks being low. During this time, I like to try to stock up on tools so that I can save as many books as possible when the books are worth more. There’s definitely been some intense games where I’ve held my breath waiting to see if the active player would burn the entire library down by pressing their luck too far. Those are my favorite moments in the game!
Jess: Oh yeah, I love how the tension builds! It mimics the feel of a growing fire well. Having made a few games, I’m sure you enjoy a lot of games too. What are some of your favorite games or styles?
Carla: I love worker placement and, while I haven’t played many, I also like games with rondels. I typically go to games that are 30 – 90 minutes, as I’d rather play several games on game night, instead of just one long game.
Right now, my favorite games to play are all the new ones I haven’t learned yet. I have way too many games on my unplayed pile and I’d like to get those down, but I also really just like seeing what’s out there. I feel like I haven’t played nearly as many games as others have and it really helps with game design to get a feel for how different games play.
Carla: One game I really love to play is Dragoon by Lay Waste Games. It’s a simple game about dragons doing dragon things. You get to do three actions on your turn and you can do things like move around, destroy or take over villages, and pillage gold. All very dragon-like actions! I love thematic games and this one hits the mark. It’s simple enough that I can still play it at the end of a long day. The artwork is great, as well!
Carla: I don’t get much free time outside of my day job and game publishing and design, but I do love to travel when I can. I’m going to leave the continent for the first time to visit Europe and I’m so excited about it! I recently went to Hawaii and I loved it there.
Carla: Our next scheduled game is Totemic Rites, a set collection rondel based movement game about building totem poles. Each totem has two different types, one on the left and one on the right. Each totem also has an ability for you to use and you can use totems once you’ve placed them on your workbench and if they’re on the top of your totem pole. Moving around the rondel gives other players resources unless you use the abilities of your totems, so choosing the right ones and the right time to build up and cover up your totem’s abilities is very important. Each totem built is worth a certain amount of points and as you add totems to your pole, you want to match the colors to gain extra points. The last round is triggered when any one player has added five totems to their totem pole.
We also have a few other games in the works.
Observance is a game of astronomy and star gazing! You’re a junior astronomer and your goal is to observe the stars, identify what they are, and publish your data. The more constellations you identify, the better you get at different aspects of being an astronomer. The night sky is vast, but you’ll learn to do your best with the time you have.
Drapple is an abstract gardening game with color theory and tile laying.
I also want to design a line of games to teach coding aspects, starting with Recursion. I think it’d be a great design challenge to create a game that’s fun and strategic, but can teach players some of the more difficult aspects of programming.
Thank you kindly to Carla for letting us behind the curtain a little on her ascension to designer and publisher and some of the things she’s passionate about. If you want to learn more about Weird Giraffe Games check out the website here, follow her on Twitter at @weirdgiraffes, and make sure to check out the Fire in the Library Kickstarter here!