Scott Almes on Picnics with Ant Problems

Interview with designer, Scott Almes on his new set collecting, dice dexitery game, for 2-4 players, Problem Picnic. In Problem Picnic players  “… are competing ant colonies trying to steal the best plates of food from the picnic blankets.”

Scott, it has been a while since we last did an interview. Seems like you have all sorts of things hitting Kickstarter lately. Besides getting games in the hands of publishers, what else have you been up to?

Scott: I’m just coming out of a quiet period for Kickstarters. I had Tiny Epic Western, Ultra Tiny Epic Kingdoms and House of Borgia earlier this year. For the last few months I’ve been getting ready for this fall – which is going to be very busy – and working on some new designs. It was the calm before the storm for me, which let me focus on some cool new projects to pitch to publishers.

What are some games that are hitting your table lately?

Scott: I really enjoyed Gil Hova’s “The Networks.” It’s a very clever and thematic Euro. I backed it because I know and wanted to support Gil, but didn’t do too much research on the game. I was very, very pleasantly surprised. World’s Fair by Foxtrot Games was fantastic. Dr. Eureka is good, silly fun. And I’m very eager to try Prospectus by Mr. B Games. That game is gorgeous looking and I can’t wait to try it out.

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

Scott: The game is a mix of dexterity and set collection. Every game, a new different set of score cards are shown, giving the game a different way to score every game. Players they randomly distribute scoring tokens on these cards, so not only is “how” you score different, but also the value. Lot’s of variability there. In the game, you control a colony of ants that is stealing food from a picnic. Every round a set of food is displayed in the center of the table. You then try to capture them by rolling your ant dice onto the cards. The most number of ants will win you that item, which you bring back to your ant hill. A nice twist and balancing mechanic is that if your ants bring back food, they are not available the next round to be used. So if you have a very good round, you’ll be handicapped the next round. It’s a light little strategy game with a bunch of those stand-up moments you get from a dexterity game.

I know that Problem Picnic, actually started out as a Castle game, but the publisher changed the theme – what can you tell us about the story behind the game’s creation?

Game in action (preview copy).

Scott: This game what mechanics first. I had decided on the ebb-and-flow of the dice being used to capture cards, and then the winning dice aren’t used next round. This is a very fun mechanic, where you have to budget your dice very careful. The dexterity element made sense because, let’s be honest, rolling dice to target a card is just super fun. So, I knew I wanted players to be collecting cards in this manner, and then I had to decide what to do with them. I couldn’t really decided on a scoring mechanic I liked the most: should you score majority? Three in a row? Most of this type? Forming squares? So, I decided to use ALL of the score mechanics. This turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected, and was instantly the right solution. Each game you get to use a subset of the scoring mechanics, which keeps every game fresh and fun. And it prevents a dominant strategy. I love how it turned out.

For the theme, the original one was building a castle. Players were sending dice down to the quarry to get pieces for your castle. The theme was okay, and I had a hunch it would get rethemed. I love the ants and picnic theme that Team Cappel came up with. It fits it better than anything I came up with!

Kid’s Table is publishing the game, what has been your favorite part of working with them?

Scott: They’ve been great to work with. Truly great. I’ve worked with Josh before, as he illustrated my first two games with TMG. This is my first time working with Helenia, and they’ve made my life super easy as a designer. They took the game, did a couple of great development tweaked, created a great theme, and prettied it up with amazing art. I’ve been fully on board every step of the way. I definitely hope I’ll have the chance to work with them again.

Sample of some of the possible end game scoring cards with the scoring chips placed on them. (From preview copy).

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

Scott: The best change from playing actually game from Team Cappel. They added the scoring tokens, which keeps things fresh and makes it easier to keep track of scoring. It was a brilliant idea!

What was your favorite part of designing the game?

Scott: The most fun for this one is definitely playing it. It’s very satisfying getting that perfect card and knocking out other people’s dice to get it.

What was the most challenging part of designing it?

Scott: The scoring mechanic. I knew what I wanted players to do, I just didn’t know how to score it. I think this it he only time that throwing in the kitchen sink made a game better.

Building an antman in-between turns (preview copy).

When you step back and look at the finished product, what makes you the most proud that you designed Problem Picnic?

Scott: It’s just a great family game all around. I think this is one of those games that kids will love to pull of their shelf to play with their parents – and the parents will have fun too.

If you had to describe Problem Picnic in 3 adjectives, what would you choose?

Scott: Tricky, Fun, and Hilarious.

Do you have anything ELSE coming out in 2016, that we should be keeping a look out for?

Scott: Oh, there’s so much. It’s been a very busy year.

Tiny Epic Quest is launching on Kickstarter at the end of November. I have a bunch of games that will be coming to stores before the holidays: Tiny Epic Western, Starfall, The Great Dinosaur Rush, and House of Borgia. Then, for the very first thing in 2017, look out for Heroes of Land, Air and Sea. That will hopefully be my biggest release yet!

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

Scott: I appreciate the interview, Ryan! It’s been a lot of fun doing these.

Thanks Scott for taking time out to do this interview. 

If you are interested in Problem Picnic, you can click here to be taken to its Kickstarter


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