Kick The Box
Kick The Box: Interview with Andrew Harman, Creator of Frankenstein’s Bodies
Do I ever have a treat for all my readers! I was blessed with the pleasure of picking apart the brain of a musician, author, game designer, and cook, Andrew Harman. See what he has to say about Monty Python, The Beatles, drinks, and, of course, his newest game on Kickstarter called Frankenstein’s Bodies.
KTB: Hey Andrew. Thanks for taking time from your busy schedule for the interview. Let’s start off with a little bit about you. When your not busy designing games, what other hobbies do you enjoy?
Andrew Harman: Right now, part way through my Kickstarter I feel like there’s barely time to sit down – let alone have hobbies. But in calmer times I play the drums for bands and gig live in pubs. It’s great fun. I took it up when I started writing my sci-fi comedies thinking it would be a good way to mentally relax but it’s surprisingly heavy on mental discipline too. But in a different way. I also relax over a hot stove by cooking. I’m particularly fond of spicy Thai and Chinese as well as all kinds of fish. Although the way I’m feeling now I could have a go at a bit of Ciabatta. Wrestling with a lump of dough for a while could be quite stress relieving!
KTB: You’ve been gaming for hours during a midsummer evening get together of friends. What kind of drink is sitting on your coaster?
AH: Good question. Foolish answer – one that’s not long left on this world. I got a thirst and I’m going to use it!!!
If it’s the start of the evening then a classic gin and tonic probably, or a chilled Manzanilla sherry. Sharp and almost nutty it’s very refreshing. We first had that in Spain a few years back, high up in Andalucia. Nice.
KTB: I have to ask. What is in a Manzanilla Sherry? Name alone sounds amazing and I want to try it!
AH: Manzanilla sherry is amazing. There are two types of dry sherry Fino and Manzanilla. Apparently they are both made using the same process but in slightly different pats of spain. Fino comes from Jerez and Manzanilla comes from Sanlucar de Barrameda – which are only about fifty miles apart. Both of them are light dry drinks but there’s something more tasty about the manzanilla. It’s great. But then so much of the food and drink in Spain is great. That makes me want to go on holiday!!!
KTB: What Tabletop games have you played recently?
AH: Actually quite a few. I have recently started up a gaming club at the University where I work and we are getting through a whole bunch of classics. We’re introducing games to a lot of people just starting out so lots of accessible stuff. Carcassonne, Transamerica, Ticket to Ride all go down really well as do some of my favourite new games. The excellent Camelot-The Build from Wotan Games and Snowdonia from Tony Boydell. (I’m particularly looking forward to getting my hands on Ivor the Engine!) My most recently purchased game is Splendor. Neat and ‘choicy’ and very fast. Great fun even though I seem to lose more than I win!.
KTB: I’ve been eyeing Splendor. Was actually thinking about picking it up. Too many games, too little time. Do you have a favorite tabletop game mechanic?
AH: Not really. I like to look at the game as a whole and how it plays. I’m happy set collecting, worker placing, tile laying, staking chairs. A good game is a good game.
KTB: ‘Frankenstein’s Bodies’ is available on Kickstarter as we speak. Which came first? The idea of cutting up bodies and putting them together? Or, the idea of creating a game influenced by the classic novel Frankenstein?
AH: Er, both. And neither! Let me explain, I’m not being deliberately awkward. Before ‘Frankenstein’s Bodies’ was ‘born’ an RPG appeared. ‘Dark Harvest: The Legacy of Frankenstein’ is an amazing gaming world written by Iain Lowson. It has won awards, spawned supplements and story anthologies (and will soon be rereleased by Chronicle City). I am doubly lucky to A) know Iain very well and B) be invited to use my writing skills to add flavour fiction throughout. So, that’s the game influenced by the classic novel ‘Frankenstein’.
Out of this came Iain’s suggestion that the product line is expanded to include games. He strong-armed me into taking this on and we fairly quickly hit on the idea of the body-building scenario as this seemed to have enough conflict points to get a good bit of player interaction happening. The rest, as they say, c’est histoire.
AH: Scarily – two and a half years! And boy, has it changed in that time. I can’t stress how important the play test process has been – as well as how much fun. Even now we’re still seeing people pull out unexpected strategies when they’re playing. The thing I’m really pleased about is that the game mechanics allow creative play. A lot of which can be unexpectedly mean! And fun. Always fun!
KTB: Minus the playtesters, how many people have helped you develop Frankenstein’s Bodies?
AH: It’s been pretty much my wife Jenny and me. But I’m not happy about not counting the playtesters. Their feedback, unexpected comments and continued enthusiasm have got this game to where it is now. We have had some stunning ‘testers’ as I have been lucky enough to find a really good group of British designers who have played and fed back – and listened to my comments on their games. The part I didn’t expect to have fall on my shoulders is doing the artwork. But that’s another story!!!
KTB: When I first saw the ‘paper cut away’ art style that you chose for Frankenstein’s Bodies, it immediately screamed Monty Python to me. You know the little animated bridge episodes with the odd paper cut art? Was Monty Python any kind of influence here? Or am I just some silly American who thinks everything has to tie either to Monty Python or Red Dwarf?
AH: Great question, Jason! I’m flattered that you saw my art and thought of Terry Gilliam’s genius. It wasn’t a deliberate reference, but then when you look at a large severed foot in a strange context then yes, I guess the Python-esque imagery is always going to be there a bit. And the ‘torso’ hmmm – stick a black knight helmet on it and you kind of hear it begging you to ‘Come back and I’ll bite your knees off.’
‘Was Monty Python any kind of influence?” Hah – can John Cleese walk a bit silly? I firmly believe that British comedy is world beating when it hits the spot and think that Python has actually influenced more people than perhaps- pause for a controversial moment – perhaps even the Beatles! Face it how often can you hear the word ‘Parrot’ and not grin, just a little bit? And let’s not stick to tv/film here – we Brits can write world class comedy. Two words- Douglas Adams! Now, he was a big influence on me. Anyone that can argue that all life in the Universe is a statistical mistake should have statues erected in every major city! And it’s Towel day on Sunday!
KTB: Oh no! You didn’t go there with The Beatles did you? Douglas Adams is amazing. I am also a big fan of Terry Pratchett and Piers Anthony, among other English authors. I see the only board game that you have backed on Kickstarter is ‘Bullfrogs’ which is a recent campaign. What is it that caught your attention of this game, among the slew of games on Kickstarter?
AH: Well now, who’s been doing his research? Well done. It is the only game I have backed under my own name. /smiles enigmatically.
‘Bullfrogs’ looks like a really neat game featuring FROGS! I have had a thing about frogs ever since I was writing my second comic fantasy ‘The Frogs of War’. I’ve got quite a little collection of them. Yes, see how I segued into my past life there? Before moving into games writing I penned 11 sci-fi comedy novels (now available on Kindle and other electronic things). It all started with ‘The Sorcerer’s Appendix’ back in the brightly coloured ears of the early 90’s. Check them out, bad puns, strange plots and quite a lot of fun.
KTB: I’m always looking for new stuff to read. I will be sure to check them out! Thanks! I didn’t see any stretch goals listed on the Kickstarter campaign page. Do you have anything planned? Or waiting for the game to be funded before you reveal them?
AH: There are a whole lot of heavy duty expansions waiting in the wings which add a whole raft of extra gaming goodness. They add extra side games and even bring in Ygor! But right now there is a first goal ‘The Shredded Peasant’. This is a set of extra body cards (and a few other bits and bobs) that work as extra parts. But you have to be very careful where you play them and when otherwise they can mess you up big time!
The reason for this is that, for us, we wanted to give everyone the best quality game from the start. We’re sourcing the card deck from Cartamundi UK. They print 40 million decks a year with Magic the Gathering and Top Trumps being just a part of that. When we fund we’ll get the quality there. The game itself is complex and deep enough, in a simple to learn way, that extra cards probably won’t be needed by people for a good while. Personally, I think there’s a lot of ‘not essential’ stretch goals included because there’s a pressure to have to include a stretch goal. Here’s a question – if the game of chess was being launched today, what stretch goals (other than component quality) should it have?
We know that ‘Frankenstein’s Bodies’ is a strong game as it stands and there will be expansions/ stretch goals if it needs it. Coo, that sounds professional. Er, next question please?
KTB: Fair Enough. I’ve read that the board game sales at local game stores have grown by as much as 20% per year for the last couple of years. I know in my experience in the US this feels accurate. Would you say that is the same in the UK with your experience?
AH: From what I hear, yes. Last year Larry Roznai spoke at UK Games Expo and said that growth in ‘analogue’ (my word) games in US and UK had been 20-25% year on year for the past five years. I’ve seen reports in the year since then to agree with that. I put that down to the fact that people want good value products that can be a central, social part of an evening or day’s entertainment and be replayable and transferrable to make new friends. The social value of gaming is huge and I believe that more people are realising this. Long may it continue is all I can say! Of course it is all fuelled by the fact that there are so many amazing games out there to be discovered, played and enjoyed. I hope that ‘Frankenstein’s Bodies’ is one of them.
Ha ha…see what I did there, got another shameless plug in there just before the recording stopped and… what? Say again? Off air ten minutes ago? What’s that supposed to——–
KTB: Don’t mind that tape hissing noise in your ear . . .
Thanks again Andrew for this amazing interview!! Hope to see you stateside sometime!
AH: Thank you, Jason! Cheers!
We will return Monday to our regularly scheduled program.