Matt Leacock is the author of Pandemic — one of the essential games in the cooperative field thanks to its attention to light, quick, well-polished gameplay. He’s also the author of Forbidden Island and the brand-new Forbidden Desert, which is to be released in several languages this quarter.
This interview was conducted in email over the course of April 2013.
Shannon Appelcline: What made you decide to design a cooperative game — and more specifically, what made you decide to design Pandemic?
Matt Leacock: I was introduced to the idea of a cooperative game being genuinely fun (as opposed to a “fun” educational experience) by Reiner Knizia’s Lord of the Rings. I found the mechanisms in that game fascinating — how so much tension could be created by pieces of cardboard — and wondered what it would be like to create my own. At the time, pandemics where all over the news and it seemed to me that diseases would make an excellent opponent: they’re unfeeling, scary, can grow out of control, and I figured they could be modeled with fairly simple rules. Those latter two properties were the most attractive. I’m drawn to designing games with emergent systems (where a simple set of rules can result in highly complex and variable results) and the thought of a system spiraling wildly out of control was irresistible to me.
Cryptozoic Entertainment continues to quietly offer up eurostyle games with strong themes and/or great licenses. Their releases in the last year have included no less than three different deckbuilders — all of which I hope to discuss here in turn. First up I have 3012 (2012), a combative deckbuilding game focused on a future world of antropomorphic tribes.
I’ve been lagging in my Mechanics & Meeples posts again, and it’s for the same reason as last time: I just finished up work on book #3 of Designers & Dragons, my four-book history of the roleplaying industry.
To commemorate that event, I’ve opted to share a second part of my fragmentary history of board game. This one falls a bit after my article on The Birth of the Modern Board Game.
Wargaming would eventually become an American-dominated industry. However, first the United States had to develop its own gaming national identity, and that would begin in late 19th century. Though the earliest major publishers aren’t remembered well today, they nonetheless form the start of a long stream of publication.
The first leader in the American board game industry was McLoughlin Brothers & Co. (1858-1920). By the 1880s they dominated they industry. Though their games are little known today among the general public, they remained the most desirable games for this period from collectors. With the emergence of chromolithography their beautiful designs truly began to shine.
Other early companies that were active by the time McLoughlin rose to ascendance include the aforementioned Milton Bradley (1860-1984) — then primarily an educational company despite their production of The Checkered Game of Life — and Selchow & Righter (1867-1987), best known in early days for Parcheesi (1870).
But these three companies were a prelude for what came next.