B-17 Leader

b17From time to time I talk about solitaire gaming here on the blog, as any frequent visitors know, and recently I mentioned I’ve been testing a game.

Yesterday evening that game went live on Kickstarter, and I sat down with both that game’s designer and the company’s owner, the award winning game designer Dan Verssen, to chat about both B-17 Leader and gaming in general. You can find my interview with Dean Brown over at Black Gate, and you can find the newly launched B-17 Kickstarter here.

WFBox02Dan, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. Have you always been a board gamer? 

I started playing wargames in high school. That was back in the early ’80s. At the time we were playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, many of the games from Avalon Hill, West End Games, Traveller, and all of Steve Jackson’s pocket games. I got together with friends multiple times a week to play the newest game. Needless to say, gaming has always been my passion and hobby. My wife Holly empowered and encouraged me to pursue my passion to create games by suggesting that we start our own game company.

Our idea was to make games based on all the knowledge we had accumulated. I’m thankful for years of experience around this industry doing design, development, art, and production work. This resulted in the game mechanics within our games not only being unique in their ability to be fun and challenging, but also inspiring friends and families to play together. They could then share more quality time, and compete against each other, or against the system. Our son Kevin is a great help at DVG, and it has been a valuable experience to share with him as we get to work together as a family to build our futures.

u-boat leaderHow did you get involved in game design?

Around the same time I started playing, I began designing my own games and sharing my ideas with friends. I’m still grateful to all of them for playtesting my games and providing helpful feedback so I could improve. Hours spent as an adolescent cutting out my own counters and recreating games became the foundation for the company my family and I are building. Brainstorming with my wife, actually assembling prototypes, finally sending out the completed games, and all the chaos in-between is what keeps me inspired as I find each day an opportunity for adventure and growth.

 How long have you been in business?

We started DVG in 2008, and since then we’ve published dozens of games. Recently we began turning to Kickstarter to help with funding. We’re still a small family business, and printers need to be paid up front. This leads to a major cash flow problem that’s difficult for most businesses to overcome. Fortunately, we’ve received amazing support from the people on Kickstarter, and we’ve been able to produce games which have much higher quality pieces than we ever would have thought possible. Our deepest thanks goes out to all the people who have supported our games!

nap leaderWhat interested you in tactical and solitaire games?

When I started the company, gaming was less popular, so I transitioned into building solitaire games. This allowed for me to combine a multiplayer system with solitaire rules and create games that could transition between themes and yet remain entertaining and fun.

This process has been the basis for our Warfighter, Air Leader, and Field Commander series of games. These games are either solitaire, or designed for 1 or more players. In all cases, the games do not require special rules when playing solo.

rommel leaderHave you always been interested in World War II?

Yes, every since I was young it was really fascinating for me to learn more about the dynamics of the time, as well as the weapons, tactics, and different restrictions that were apparent throughout the war.

WWII has so much depth that it allows for endless gaming possibilities: tactical games, operational games, and strategic games covering every front, campaign, and operation.

For example, in our Field Commander: Rommel game, you command divisions of troops in France and North Africa. In our Fleet Commander: Nimitz game, you command the US Navy in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. In our new Warfighter WWII series, you command individual soldiers.

B-17 Leader prototype board.

B-17 Leader prototype board.

There are other games about flying bombers in the war. How is yours different?

Dean Brown contacted us with his ideas for a solitaire WWII bomber game that would fit into our Air Leader series. He’s done an amazing job of creating a unique design that captures the feel of those desperate days of flying missions deep into enemy territory while battling German fighters.

Our game is unique in that it puts the player in the position of decision making on both the strategic and tactical levels. You don’t just get to allocate your bomber and fighter groups to the weekly targets, you then get to tactically resolve each mission. You play out each fighter attack on your bombers, and see how well your escorts and gunners drive them off.

B-17 Flying Fortress Leader also generates decisions for the German air defenses based on which Air Defense Commander they have in play. Each commander has his own style of allocating German fighter squadrons, resources for new technologies, and allocating fighters to the European, Mediterranean, and Russian theaters.

I think our game strikes a great balance between detail and abstraction. When playing, you get to make decisions that really matter, while at the same time not getting bogged down in a ton of procedures and complexity.

For more information about both solitaire and multiplayer games from DVG, visit their web site

For other talks on my site about gaming, click here.