Interview with Marek Oczkowski
The owner of the Polish Board Games company (Polskie Gry Planszowe), the maker of over a dozen board game titles, advisor, the main coordinator in the process of board game making.
Recently the board game market has grown a lot, there’s plenty of offers, new titles and various themes. The number of propositions is enormous, few hundred titles per year.
Since 2009 I’ve been involved with the company, whose task is to introduce new games into the market. The games which we deal with convey some message, they have educational value, they have virtue. To create and produce a board game it takes a lot of elements. I have to be a creative, as well as a practical person. It’s a lot, but it’s a must, to act in this industry.
How many games have been created? How many titles?
Over a dozen years we’ve published about 90 game board titles. So, about 7-9 titles per year. The first years were very intense. In one year there was much more than usual. Our customers and players were giving us feedback and we gained more and more experience. The people wanted simple mechanics, but with an interesting theme. We also made about a dozen large format board games, which were an expansion of my previous work experience. The large format games have turned out to be an interesting proposition, expanding our activities.
Which one of your games is the most interesting and why?
The first thing which comes to mind is the Battle of Grunwald (Bitwa pod Grunwaldem), which we’ve published as one of the first three games. It turned out to have had many editions. It has simple mechanics, cool historical background, which is well described and visualised. Very simple rules, which let start the game and play it in a family setting. These are the most important points of this game, joining atractiveness with ease of play. The whole process of making of this game was very interesting. We’ve introduced a lot of innovation, for instance the pawns in shape of characters (nice graphics).
Is board game making only a creative work? Is the idea itself the longest part of creation?
An idea is a very imporant stage in the process of game making and the decision what kind of game it will be. But the success of the game is measured by the willingness of the players to play it repeatedly. Or they will play only once, out of curiosity, and then put it away on the shelf. The game is a success if one plays it often and it doesn’t get boring. To make such a game one has to have inspiration, experience and it’s a creative process. But if we want to get the results, about which I spoke earlier, then it requires activities, tests, verification to reach the satisfactory level.
What is the most interesting in board game creation?
The fascinating part is to see how people react, ‘open their eyes’ to how something can be done differently, how everyday life can be shown, and activities based on a board game. One can see another perspective, during the game testing, when it is being honed, then one can feel like a player and have good fun. It’s a good idea to present the customers with a few suggestions on how to improve their game, to make it even better.
How long does it take to make a board game? Is it a matter of hours, days or weeks?
It depends on the level of complexity fo the game. To whom it is directed. What is its purpose. Is the general idea ready. The middle-advanced game: the board, the pawns, the special spaces, the questions, the tasks, the graphics – the process alone is about 3-6 months, sometimes a few months longer, if there’s specialized knowledge involved in the content.
How many people and who is engaged in the process from A to Z?
It is several people. Usually the creator/originator of the game, the designer, the testers, the editors, the project and production coordinator, to see that the game elements are of good quality. I like to take part in all of this, to help the project be even better.
What is the most interesting in board games? Why are they noteworthy?
It is one space connecting and integrating the players, teaching adaptation to changing circumstances during the gameplay. Spending time together is the most important value in board games.
Can one learn making board games? How to start such an adventure?
One has to try first. If you come up with an idea and present it to players and get a positive reaction, then you can verify and act further. It pays to enhance and verify your own ideas. It’s not easy to mobilize to playing. But these are unforgettable moments. While not knowing each other, thanks to the game we can develop new relationships and get to know each other.
Encourage us to play board games. 🙂
Ok, let’s have a seat. Today we’re gonna play a new cool game. Come and see for yourselves. People have to be encouraged to play, it has to come from us. People like to laugh, meet new people, learn new things, for example history, to win, to show off their skills, or to discover them, to develop imagination or to simply relax.
Don’t think too much on what to do, simply get a board game.