Here Be Dragons… and Alisha Volkman

Interview with Alisha Volkman, on her new game, Underlings of Underwings. A game for 1-6 players, that mixing color theory, worker placement, set collection and dragons together into one game.

Alisha, could you share a little with us about yourself and what got you into tabletop gaming?

Alisha: Me? Well, I am a dork, that sums me up in one word really. I am a nerd at heart and next to my hubby, art is the love of my live. My husband got me into playing tabletops, but art is what got me into designing game. Illustrating and designing games is my passion.

What are some games that are hitting your table lately?

Alisha: Aside from my own haha. As of late, Descent 2nd edition has hit my table a ton, I am running a full campaign with a few of the Trollfen expansions. 404 was a resent hit at my table as well, killing all the humans in turn 2 was probably the funniest and meanest thing I have ever done.

When adding to your collection, what do you look for in a game?

Alisha: Art style 100% is the thing that draws me to a box in the store. It may just be the way my brain works, aside from that, the number of players is huge to me, as my group is between 4-6, so it almost always has to be around that. A good back story and strong theme are also important to me. Of course, this doesn’t mean I don’t pull out classics from time to time.

Your game, Underlings of Underwing is on Kickstarter tomorrow. Could you tell us a little bit about what type of game it is and give us an overview on how it is played?

Alisha: Underwing is a worker placement game (or in this case a dragon handler placement game), with a bit of resource management and of course, a bit of learning!

Underwing is for 1-6 players and players over the course of 13-19 rounds depending on the number of players. Each round has 4 phases, in these phases, players collect random elements based on the number of dragon handlers they have. They then assign their handlers to either dragon eggs (to create awesome colored dragons) or to the field where they work to collect specific elements. Players then add their elements to the dragon eggs based on the colors the egg requires. To do this, you can even mix elements (red and blue for example) to get a new element (like purple). Once everyone has placed their elements, players get to collect finished eggs and hatch eggs they had from the previous turn. Hatching these eggs into dragons gives you cool bonuses. If a dragon hatches on the table and a player doesn’t own it, it becomes wild, with negative effects and taking up a permanent spot on the table. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins and is proclaimed Dragon Lord!

The game came about due to an educational game design contest – which we might add you won. What made you think about mixing color theory with dragons?

Alisha: There was a joke going around about making a breeding game and teaching genetics, but that was a bit out of the realm of things I knew. So I thought back to breeding colored chocobos and thought, if there is anything I could teach, it would be color theory, and dragons are awesome! It ended up working out really well, dragons seemed to make the game much more fun.

For readers that don’t know, you actually did the art for your original version of the game that was entered into the design contest. Do you have a favorite piece of art that you have done for Underwing?

Alisha: I did do the original art for the game, and made this rainbow colored dragon. It got nicknamed the RainDow dragon, because of a silly typo, it was my favorite dragon! Since I won the contest, The Pericles group re-skinned the game with over 50 new dragons! In the new dragon group, the Steam Wyrm is my fave!

How does the 2-player game differ in rules or overall feel compared to 6-player game?

Alisha: Even with two players, the game plays very similar to a 6-player game, it is similar in length and can be just as competitive. There are also no real rule differences. We did add in an entire new rule set for a Solo Play variant though!

When you were still prototyping Underwing, what was the best piece of feedback you received from a playtester?

Alisha: I got a ton of amazing feedback from several amazing people, it is hard to pick out what was the best. Allowing the hatching of wild dragons I think was a big one, as it allowed for those chaotic or strategy based players to be able to either screw over other players, or derail the game.

What was your favorite part of designing the game?

Alisha: My favorite part was playing around with the theme and dragons. Making them fit the mechanics.

What was the most challenging part of designing it?

Alisha: The time line for the contest for sure. I had a husk of a game, and only a few weeks left. The Protospiel just before was a life saver!

What was the biggest lesson you learned in designing Underwing?

Alisha: Plan ahead! I didn’t manage my time well, and I feel like that hurt me in the end. I learned I need to make more time for playtests.

When you step back and look at the finished product, what makes you the most proud that you designed Underlings of Underwing?

Alisha: When I hear someone say they love the game, or that they were pleasantly surprised by it, it makes me all fuzzy inside. I am most proud that I made a game people enjoy to play, at almost any age. That was important to me, and I am glad it seems to be true.

If you had to describe the game in 3 adjectives, what would you choose?

Alisha: Colorful – Casual – Fun

Before we go, I kid you not, Fairway (of The Indie Game Report) wanted to me to ask you: Which dragons eggs make the best scrambled eggs?

Alisha: The sky dragon eggs for sure, they taste just like chicken eggs, but watch out for those Brimstone dragon eggs, they smell like they have turned.

As we wrap this up, is there anything else you would like to add?

Alisha: The Kickstarter for Underwing launches on the 25th of August! We would love your support in funding and getting some awesome stretch goal!

Thanks Alisha for taking time out to do this interview.

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