Today, we meet Kane Click, designer of Coal Country by Rio Grande Games. Kane is from here in Lincoln, Nebraska. Let’s dive in!
What’s your story?
I live in Lincoln, NE with my wife, Michelle, our son, Achim, and our dog, Zuul. I grew up in Chicagoland and moved here to finish graduate school. I fell in love, stayed, and stayed in love.
I have been designing games, in a way I would consider "seriously," for five-ish years now. I started designing games as an extension of my various responsibilities at the university. At the time, I was teaching courses on popular culture and realized that I had many students that were primarily interested in video games and, well, we just didn't have enough time in the curriculum to cover them to the extent the students wished. So, I started a gaming research group for the students and included board games as an area of study. The students turning up that were
interested in board games were, unlike the students interested in video games, primarily interested in designing their own games. I was fine with this, as design is a form of research. To accommodate the difference in interests we began alternating the focus of the meetings. One week we would do video game analysis and criticism. The next, board game research and design, with an encouragement to bring your own games to be played. The games I was bringing seemed to be well received, and I really enjoyed the work, so I started pursuing them more intently...and here we are.
What are you playing?
Lately we've been fooling around with Dragon Castle, Dinosaur Tea Party, The Estates, Gravitrax, Haspelkneckt, Menara, Piepmatz, Shadows in the Forest, Silk, Trekking the National Parks (2nd ed.), Voltage, amongst others.
What game is a hidden gem?
One of my all time hidden gems is Alchemist, the Rossi game. I'm a big fan of games with player-programmed elements...if you can't tell from Coal Country. In Alchemist, the value of resource sets is player determined, which thereby influences the flow of said resources throughout the game. It's extremely elegant. The in-theme, in-world game board in Coal Country is actually a homage to the in-theme, in-world game board of Alchemist (minus disembodied hand). Unsurprisingly, no one has made this connection.
I'd also like to mention Piepmatz, for a recent release. It could very well be my GoTY for 2018. It's definitely my favorite card game of the past year. The mechanisms for establishing card flow and for converting that flow into scoring sets are quite clever. The game makes fantastic use of its theme, which we love, to tie it all together nicely. Oh, and it's pretty, too.
For fun, here's ten more: Celtica, Darjeeling, Dragonheart, Dreams, El Gaucho, Krysis, Mord im Arosa, The Name of the Rose, On the Underground, Safranito. Too many to list, really.
What are you backing?
What are you excited about?
I'm looking forward to Planet, Men at Work, Farben. Maybe The Boldest. Maybe Underwater Cities. Maybe Lighthouse Run.
What is your next project?
Seemingly its continuing to tinker and cycle my current batch of prototypes between interested parties. It feels never ending, which, to be clear, isn't a complaint.
I'm also at work wrapping up a trio of dice-driven games aimed at younger players. After that, I have to get back to work on an expandable card game designed to be compatible with licensed properties. It started as a fun personal project a while back, but has since been requested by a publisher. I'm way behind on it.
What are your hobbies outside of board gaming?
It's a dwindling list, to be sure. We do still make time to read a lot of books in our house, and we collect 1st/1sts of our favorites.
Oh, and dinosaurs. We have a four year old, so the study of dinosaurs has become a whole house hobby.
What do you need help with?
The usual...testing, rules editing.
What tip do you wish you knew when you started?
I came from the world of academia, so I was already prepared for high rejection rates and unexplained delays. It helped me take all the weirdness of the board game industry in stride...except for the IP abuse. That's taken some getting used to.
One thing I wish I would have done is just focus more exclusively on "my designs", plain and simple. I've done a number of projects by request/direction that have never gone anywhere and have been a huge waste of time. I've signed contracts on things that never saw the light of day, and so on. Other than helping me hone the efficiency of my design process, I feel now that there was a lot of valuable time wasted that could have been better applied to the completion of designs I certainly cared more about personally.
If you focus on your designs, just for their own sake, at the end of the day you'll still have a game you love...even if it never leaves your own house. That's worth it, to me. Plus, if you're "lucky", when you later have to make publisher-suggested edits, you'll still have that core game you love for yourself, regardless of what it ends up becoming.
What is one of your goals for 2019?
I have the same goal every year, which is to find more time to work by in turn becoming more efficient at work. Improving efficiency, in all aspects of my life, is the game I play with myself.
What cons will I find you at?
Origins, Gen Con, Essen. This year was supposed be my first Nuremburg Toy Fair, but a confluence of life events made it impossible. I consider those "work" conventions, though. For "fun", I occasionally go to various local and regional cons when it fits my schedule. If there is a con you'd like me at, just ask and I'll try my best to make it.
Where can I find you online?
I'm on Facebook. I've mostly abandoned Twitter, but feel free to follow @KaneClick. Who knows, maybe I'll just randomly start caring about it again.