An Interview with Kane Click

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?

Nothing, currently.

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.

An Interview with Dastardly Design Company

Before we dive in, I want to highlight one of their current contest entries and give our readers the chance to support you in real time!

Dastardly is currently entered in the BoardGameGeek 2018 Mint Tin Design Contest and voting just opened (as of 12PM CST)! Check out the info here and then read on to hear more about Dastardly!

The voting page is now online! I've left it open through Saturday Feb 02 so that people have the weekend to vote.

Mint Tin Contest page on the GDCR

Full voting instructions are found here:
Voting in the GDCR

Important: You are giving each game that you would like to vote for a rating, similar to the BGG rating. This is done a scale of 1 - 10.
A rating of 1 would indicate that the game was a failure in its particular category.
A rating of 10 is for games that excelled in the category.

You are not required to rate each game.


The votes in each category are independent of each other. Please rate each game according to the category it is entered in. For example, you could rate a game a 6 on Best Use of Theme but rate it a 9 for Best Rulebook.

If you feel that multiple games have earned the same rating, that is totally fine. For example, you may give multiple games a rating of 10 (or any other number).

Now let’s get to it and meet this amazing local design and development company here in Lincoln, whose secret weapons are cats, grandkids and a wonderdog!

What is your story?

We met while working at an insurance software company. We started a weekly board game group and also started going to science fiction/gaming conventions together. After working together for many years we ended up leaving that company, but continued to be friends and game together.

Mike: Board games and cards were at the core of our family’s together time. We started playing the classics like Pitch, Bridge, Monopoly, Sorry and Stratego. Then, my brother and I spent most of grade school playing all of the Avalon Hill games like Squad Leader, Midway, Twixt, Feudal, Battle of the Bulge etc. We created our own WWII game based upon HO scale miniatures. Now I play with several gaming groups, my wife, kids and grandkids.

Chris: I started playing board games at a young age, in fact it was one of the rare moments when my brother and I could get along. We’d fight and fight, but I have fond memories of Sorry and Stratego with him and Othello with my Dad.

In 2017, while at Gen Con, our ideas for a game solidified into Out of Line: Food Trucks. We created Dastardly Designs in 2018 and started to formalize several games. We also became active online, playtesting and reviewing games.


What are you playing?

Mike: My current favorite games are Century Spice Road, Tiny Epic Zombies, Dominion and Carcassonne. And we are part of an ongoing D&D 5e campaign group. Chris is currently the DM.

Chris: After a brief dry spell of buying games, I’m wading through a newly bought backlog of Teotihuacan, Spirit Island, Clans of Caledonia, Lowland and A Feast for Odin.

What game is a hidden gem?

Mike: Spoils of War. We found this at a sidewalk sale. It has quickly become a family favorite.

Chris: One of the greatest finds we had was a last minute purchase at SDCC. We picked up a copy of Atlas Games Lost in R’lyeh and played it for hours that week-end. Still a personal favorite.

Mike: I agree with Chris. Playing that game at Comic Con was a blast. I just can’t pronounce it.


What are you backing?

We back 20-30 games a year on Kickstarter.

Mike: I back mainly light to medium weight games... especially small box games. Patiently waiting to get Penny Lane and Fences. The grandkids helped playtest Fences while we are on vacation last year. The artwork and theme of Penny Lane instantly grabbed me.

Chris: Super excited for my expansion of Campy Creatures to arrive!!

What are you excited about?

Mike: I like helping playtest and review games. My grandkids and wife love to help also. The grandkids learn a ton from the process and like playing even a small role in bringing the games to life. It is neat to watch them increase their understanding of strategy and game mechanics. Pretty cool to hear an eleven year old say, “Oh this looks like a push your luck dice rolling game.”

Chris: New adventures and new friends, the board game family has been incredible to us so far and only think the best is yet to come.


What is your next project?

Chris: Working to step into a larger format than we’re used to in our previous designs but bringing our first larger board game prototype to a testing phase. We hope to have it ready for Beta testing at GenCon this year.

Mike: We are shopping several of our games to publishers and hope to land something in 2019.

What are your hobbies outside of board gaming?

Mike: Golf, family and winter travel to warm climates! And I recently started fishing.


Chris: Oh gosh, that’s a question that could be an article in itself. I’m a tinkerer, so if there’s a gadget or device to play with, I’ve probably somehow rationalized a use for it in my life. Currently having fun with my 3D printer, printing Wizard of Oz parts for my nieces’ Awana car.

What do you need help with?

Mike: Introductions. As with anything in life, relationships are key. We value introductions that help move us along our path.

Chris: Feedback, feedback feedback. I LOVE talking about games and game designs. Every game and play session holds a lesson you can learn from.

What tip do you wish you knew when you started?

Don’t be afraid of good enough. The idea that you can even perfect a design or a prototype just delays the feedback loop that every game needs. - Chris

Chris: Don’t be afraid of good enough. The idea that you can even perfect a design or a prototype just delays the feedback loop that every game needs.

Mike: How helpful the board game community is. Initially, we tried doing everything ourselves. Now we are active in the community doing reviews, playtesting and helping spread the word on campaigns and new games. We get similar support back from the community.

What is one of your goals for 2019?

Mike: Have one of our games published.

Chris: While I agree with Mike, I’d put some of expectations on myself of finalizing our current in-flight prototypes and getting them ready for partners, while finishing 1 or 2 of the many new ideas we have.

What cons will I find you at?

San Diego Comic Con
Gen Con
Great Plains Game Fest
Geekway to the West
Midwest Gamefest
Kansas City Comic-Con
Wizard World Des Moines

Need to add list of other/local Cons

Where can I find you online?