Meet the Underground – Mark

We live in interesting times.

Between the jarring clatter of the morning alarm and the constant buzz of modern communication, it might be difficult to locate and preserve moments of sanity and simple enjoyment. And time is a valuable, but fleeting commodity that seems to be increasingly more difficult to find, despite all the automation and internetization* developed ostensibly to make our daily chores faster and easier. However, in the face of this technological onslaught, the good old-fashioned tabletop board game is experiencing a resurgence. Don’t call it a comeback… they’ve been here for years… but this current wave of interest has buoyed the genre to new heights. One might even venture to say that, right now, we are living in the Golden Age of board gaming.

Yes, in this world of smart phone apps and first person shooters, the board game has found renewed life. Of course, one does not exclude the other… plenty gamers of all sorts cross lines to enjoy a different type of entertainment on occasion… yet this rapid growth has brought many non-gamers into the fold. This is where I come in. While it would be disingenuous to say I was not a gamer, my first love was the role playing game. Dungeons & Dragons led the way (as it did for all RPGs) in my youth, followed by many, many others through the years. The board game, though, was something I only played when my friends (especially my fellow Undergrounders, Art and Ben) suggested it. These tabletop sessions, while enjoyable, were not something I pursued. Until recently…

Upon moving back to New Orleans from the east coast, just four short years ago, I found myself awash in diverse games. Regularly, some new product would find its way into Ben’s repertoire, catching my fancy more and more with the complexity and creativity of these experiences. Gradually, I began discovering games without the prompting of others, and a new love was kindled. Being creative types ourselves, Art and Ben and I began to discuss crafting our own. This did not happen overnight, but suddenly Art and I were drinking whiskey in my apartment (following a well-fought bout of Twilight Struggle) talking about this idea he had for a football card game. Several months, and much play-testing, later, we had a pretty solid core that we eventually named “Breakaway Football”. The fire was lit then, and other ideas began to appear in our weekly gaming sessions. It was within these flames the Uplink Underground was forged.

So here we find ourselves, in the summer of 2016, with a number of projects in the works, barreling toward our first Kickstarter campaign. ‘Tis truly an exciting time to become a part of this movement. Hopefully we can do it justice and offer something a little different, a little better… and I believe we have the experience and ingenuity to do just that. Our sights are set high, friends, and we invite you along for the ride. Now… the Uplink Underground has gone public, and the revolution will be tabletop! Yeah, I just made that up…

Stay tuned!

*”internetization” is totally a word and should be added to your phones

Meet the Underground – Ben

Here we go! My name is Ben and my friends and I formed this little gaming company here for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we like working together and have been trying to find projects that would let us do that, and the other reason is that we love games and have for a very long time.

Hand-in-hand with that, we wanted to provide some insight into our process here at Uplink Underground and the idea of this blog was born. So, going forward, you’ll see entries here on what we look for in games, what we like and what we don’t like, and how we try to incorporate these lessons into the games we design.

My earliest memory of a playing a game that wasn’t “for kids” (i.e. Candyland) was when my older siblings let me play a Halfling thief in D&D. This was 1977 or 78, which would have made me around five years old. I am much, MUCH, younger than my siblings (who were teenagers at the time) and the only reason they let me play was that I pestered the ever loving hell out them to join. (Possibly I also closely resembled a Halfling.) I was five years old, mind you, and the game went about as well for me as you can expect. If I remember it correctly, I was eaten by a Carrion Crawler and ran crying to my bedroom at the unfairness of it all.

But I was hooked.

I played with my siblings until they outgrew it. During that time I discovered two new things. From my siblings I found the world of wargames, and at school I found out that there were kids my age who liked this whole gaming thing too.

So, yeah, I was nerd in the 80’s.

And the 90’s.

Who am I kidding?

One thing I discovered was that I wasn’t outgrowing games, and in an effort to understand this (mostly to provide an adequate answer to my wife as to why we must dedicate a whole closet to these things), I began to look at “why” I love them so much.

The games I loved the most growing up had a few things in common. Rules that were easy to learn, but difficult to master was a big plus. Replayability was another. I think the one that sticks out as most important though was that it had to have multiple players.

I’ve played lots of great two player games (Avalon Hill’s Midway, Tactics II, more recently Twilight Struggle) and they were fun. But I think I would take a less well designed game that had multiple players than a better game that had only two every time, because gaming to me is about the connections you make more than the games you play.

Beyond the social benefits, games with multiple players add levels of complexities that can’t exist in a two player environment. Alliances and Betrayals (inevitable or otherwise) add to the replayability of a game. Co-operative games test how well you can work together and teach you the strengths and weaknesses of your fellow players. To me, it is my interactions with fellow players that make a game memorable.

So, at least for me, that is what I’m looking for in the games we’ll be putting together here at Uplink Underground. Games that you can play with your friends (over and over hopefully) and games that can help you make new friends. And if anything we put together here can give someone the experience I had waaaaay back in 1977 then I would consider my job well done.

Just… don’t go crying to your bedroom if things don’t go your way. It takes a while to live that down, trust me.

Meet the Underground – Arthur

My name is Arthur Franz IV, and I want to make high-quality board games that can provide decades of fun to like-minded hobby gamers.

My introduction to gaming was through the usual suspects – classic Parker Bros. and Milton Bradley games like Clue, Operation, Stratego, Life. As a young man I fancied myself a good chess player until I tried to play a computer (which stomped me) then joined my high school Chess Club (and never won a single match). I did enjoy UNO until a shockingly late age (late 20’s) because of its social aspect. My family still holds an annual Sorry! championship on New Year’s Eve using the old roll-and-move rules from the 80’s.

In high school and college I got into role-playing. We played most anything we could get our hands on – FASA’s Star Trek RPG, Earth Dawn, D&D 2nd Edition, Star Wars, Traveler, Rifts, LUG Star Trek, Decipher’s Star Trek game (seeing the pattern?)…. My emphasis at a young age was on telling good stories, which may explain my earning a Bachelor’s in English and an MFA in Creative Writing! I published several short stories in the late 90’s before settling down and starting a family. Lately, though, I am finding collaborating in real life much more compelling than creating fictional storylines in my own silo.

I greatly enjoy games that can be played with groups of people, and for that reason I am drawn to co-operative games like Forbidden Island, Pandemic, and Dead of Winter. The Castles of Burgundy is great fun, and I am partial to Splendor, though I have a hard time getting it to the table, so I play it on the app at least 5 times a week. Other games I love include Star Trek: Five Year Mission and Twilight Struggle. Simple mechanisms and strong replay-ability are big selling points for me, which I hope to replicate in future designs from Uplink Underground Games.

I currently work as the Learning & Development Manager at a chemical plant for a major oil company. I am responsible for managing the regulatory compliance training of over 400 people, and I lead a staff of 8 people. So naturally hobby board game design is my hobby (meta-hobby!). My experience in project management in my “day job” gives Uplink Underground Games a big advantage as an emerging company. I expect us to expertly manage deadlines, milestones, and incremental progress towards long-range goals, because I manage global projects and large budgets every day.

As a new game designer, I am inspired by the variety of game mechanisms being employed. We are in a golden age of board games right now! Whatever we produce at Uplink Underground, we will strive to add something fresh and new to the landscape.

The current plan is to unveil our first design sometime in August 2016. We are developing a very cool abstract board game (Code name: “Lightning Bowl”) around American football that lets the player become the Head Coach and call the plays. We have created an audible mechanism to let coaches change their plays at the line before the play is resolved, which to my knowledge has never been done before in a board game. We are entering our 3-month play-testing period, so if the game fulfills its potential we will launch in August right before football season starts. It is very exciting, so stay tuned!

Thanks for visiting our page. If you want to reach me, e-mail me at UplinkUndergroundGames@cox.net.

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