An interview on Stop the Germs, with designer Jeremy Peet. “Stop the Germs! is a fast paced strategy game in which two players take turns placing, flipping, and moving hex tiles adjacent to one another and playing special effect tiles. Each player begins the game with an identical set of ten germ tiles in addition to three special effect tiles that are randomly drawn. The germ tiles contain point values between one and six as well as two tiles that can copy the value of another germ tile in play. The special tiles have varying effects on gameplay that benefit the controlling player or work against their opponent. Gameplay ends immediately when a player places their last germ tile. The player with the largest number of points worth of germs at the end of the game wins.”
Editor Note: Back in 2014, when The Inquisitive Meeple was still on BGG, we covered via interview a print-and-play game called Stop The Germs. Well Stop the Germs has gone through a few changes and been streamlined more and in 2016 has been signed and asking for funding via Kickstarter. If you like to read The Inquisitive Meeple's review of the newest version of Stop the Germs - you can find it by clicking here.
Jeremy it has been a while. Back in 2014 we did an interview for Stop The Germs – which was at the time a print and play game. A lot has changed since then, and now it is on Kickstarter. First could you tell us how the game plays and what has changed since we last spoke?
Jeremy: It has been a while and a lot has changed since the last interview! Thankfully I have been able to stay fairly true to the basic concept and structure of the game when I first designed it as a print and play even though there have been some significant changes. The final version has been trimmed down and streamlined, most of this is due to changes in the abilities of the special tiles and how they function in the game. The game consists of 30 hex tiles, 20 germ tiles with values raging from 1-6 plus “copy” germs (10 tiles for each player), 9 special ability tiles, and 1 start tile.
Players randomly receive 3 of the 9 special ability tiles at the start of the game, the remaining 3 tiles are thrown out. Players take turns placing, moving, and flipping germ tiles in addition to playing their special ability tiles. Game play continues until a player places their last germ tile at which point the game ends immediately. Players score by the value of their face up germs in play as well as any bonuses from special ability tiles. The game plays with 2 players and moves along at a quick pace so it is easy to get a few games in fairly rapidly. The entire game fits into a pill bottle so it is very portable and perfect for travel.
A few things I find interesting in the journey of Stop The Germs. First is changing from circle pieces to hex pieces – what facilitated that change?
Jeremy: When I first designed the game I used round plastic 1 1/4″ discs that I purchased from my local game store. I chose to use the discs simply because they were available and that they fit the pill bottle that I was using quite nicely. Early on in play testing it came up that using the discs could potentially be confusing to players when moving and placing them in relation to the other discs in play. The mechanical limitation of the round discs in how they fit together forced me to include a rule that made players place or move discs adjacent to at least two discs in play. Over time it became apparent that using hex tiles for the game was going to drastically improve the interactions of the tiles and create less confusing gameplay. I officially went to hex tiles when I expanded the game to play with four players to meet the requirements of a potential publisher. Using hex tiles in the game made an immediate and quite significant improvement to how the game played.
Another thing is now everyone doesn’t have a huge set of special abilities, there is a common pool, and player blindly gets 3 at the start of the game. How does this improve the gameplay in your mind?
Jeremy: In the print and play version players received three double sided discs that gave six different special abilities to choose from. Each player had the same choice of six special abilities and could only use three of those abilities during game play. The final version has nine single sided special tiles, each with a different ability. Three of these special tiles are randomly dealt to each player and the remaining three are removed from the game. The players keep these three tiles face down and hidden until they are used. A nice element of tension is now present in the game because players do not know what special tiles their opponents have or when they will be used. There is also another layer of strategy that wasn’t there before that has to do with holding onto your special tiles and playing them at the right time so as to make your opponent nervous. Game play has also been improved because the special abilities have been significantly streamlined and there are only three of them to keep track of per player instead of six.
What makes Stop the Germs unique the other games out there like it?
Jeremy: First I would say that the use of the pill bottle for containing the game makes it stand out, at least I have not seen any other game that utilizes that kind of container. Another somewhat unique aspect of the game is the use of the double sided germ tiles that increase in value as they are turned over during game play. The use of memory as a mechanic combined with the fact that it is not a perfect information game where each player has an identical set of pieces also sets it apart from other hex tile games like Hive.
Simple Design Publishing is publishing the game, what has been your favorite part of working with them?
Jeremy: Where do I start here? The fact that Dan Isom generously offered to publish the game and allow me the creative freedom to streamline the design and create the art for the game has been fantastic. Dan has certainly been instrumental in helping me develop the final version of the game. I would have to say that my favorite part of working with Simple Design Publishing is in the developmental process of design. We have been co-designing games together over the past couple of years and have created a great rapport in the process of doing so. I have a lot of respect for Dan as a designer and publisher and I really believe in the concept of his company. I really look forward to future collaborations with Simple Design Publishing both as an artist and a designer.
When you were still prototyping Stop the Germs, what was the best piece of feedback you received from a playtester?
Jeremy: I have received so much feedback over the years that it is hard to pinpoint the single best piece of feedback. I would have to say that Dan Isom’s feedback relating to moving the game structure back to a 2 player only format was very important to the development of the final version. Not only did moving from 2-4 players back to the 2-player format align better with the original concept of the game but it made the game play so much better. I am thankful for being supported to make that change so that the design was optimized for game play and not the perceived marketability of the game.
What was your favorite part of designing the game?
Jeremy: To be honest my favorite part of designing this game has been about being engaged with the gaming community. Interacting with all of the folks who have shown interest in it over the years has really has made this project special for me. I feel very fortunate to have met so many great people while working on this game that I could not have met any other way.
What was the most challenging part of designing it?
Jeremy: The most challenging part of designing the game really has been in the area of prototyping. There have been many iterations of the art and components for personal, blind playtest, and promotional versions of the game. Each copy has been hand made from the graphics to the cutting and final assembly. The countless hours of producing prototypes has taught me a great deal about efficiency both in design and assembly.
You have gone on quite a journey with this game. What would you say the biggest lesson you learned in designing Stop the Germs?
Jeremy: This game has certainly been a very long and winding journey for me! It is hard to pinpoint the biggest lesson that I have learned by working on Stop the Germs as I have experienced many so small lessons along the way. However, the most prominent lesson has probably been one of patience and fortitude. Continuing to work on the game throughout all of the ups and downs has really taught me that in order to succeed you must stick with it regardless of what you face along the path.
What is one thing we haven’t covered today that you think fans of Stop the Germs would find interesting?
Jeremy: A mobile app of the game is being developed by Board Naut Studios (boardnaut.com). I will soon be doing some testing for the solo version of Stop the Germs so we can dial in the AI. Having this new opportunity to get the game out there in a different format has been quite exciting. I am very grateful to have Marian Gablovský working with us in creating the app, he has been so awesome to work with.
When you step back and look at the finished product, what makes you the most proud that you designed Stop the Germs?
Jeremy: I am very proud to have stayed with it from start to finish. It is a good feeling to have created something that has expanded beyond my own immediate surroundings and has perhaps created a little fun out there in the wide world.
If you had to describe the game in 3 adjectives, what would you choose?
Jeremy: Quick, Cleaver, and Portable
As we wrap this up, is there anything else you would like to add?
Jeremy: I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the game thus far and the future backers of the game as it goes through Kickstarter, all of the support is much appreciated! Also, thank you Ryan for allowing me to do another interview and for everything you have done for the gaming community. Peace out everyone…and happy gaming!
Thanks Jeremy for taking the time out to do this interview.