In March/April 2018, Devir Games will launch Gretchinz!, a programming race game under license from Games Workshop. The game was designed by Roberto Fraga and Yohan Lemmonier, who recently worked together on the hit Captain Sonar. Yohan was kind enough to grant an interview about the Gretchinz! design process and the game industry in general.
What were some of the first things you did when you sat down to work on Gretchinz!?
We wanted, above anything else, to respect the theme and the universe (Warhammer 40,000). It’s been a constant highlight during the whole process. So to respect the "spirit" of the orkish creatures, it had to be chaotic, fun, and gritty. Very soon, in the first brainstorming sessions, I think, we came up with two ideas: 1) the track would be made of event cards, and 2) we would use multipurpose cards.
When you started the project, what kinds of parameters did the Devir Publishing team give you?
It was kind of free, actually. Roberto [Fraga, co-designer] contacted me to give him a hand on this project. Devir had asked him for a race game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. We started to work on a bunch of ideas, tested a very early prototype, and when the mechanics appeared to fit together, we contacted Devir to give them an update. They quickly green lit us to keep on working in that direction. We had a brief and very pleasant meeting in Cannes to validate the core mechanisms and the components, and, in the spirit of real collaboration, we continued with developing the game.
Is the Gretchinz! design something that was completely original, or did you have the shell of an idea already and applied the game to the property?
Everything was made from scratch, even though, in game design, we have a tendency, even not willingly, to recycle some ideas.
Do you work on several games at once or stay focused on a single project?
I personally always work on multiple projects, and if possible, with a co-author (two brains work better than one in my experience). It allows me to always be on the move. If one game is frozen, I can still work on another, which may give me the inspiration to unlock the situation with a third, hopefully!
Were you Warhammer fans prior to this project? If not, what kind of research did you do?
Nope, not a fan, but I've been playing roleplaying games since the age of 13 (I'm 44 now) and I did play Warhammer back in the day. So, I'm familiar with the universe. Devir provided us with sourcebooks, and for the rest, well, the internet is your friend!
If you were a real Gretchin and had to enter a race like this, what strategy would you employ?
I would probably sabotage the other team’s vehicles prior to the race, niark, niark!
What ideas came along during the design process that you had to discard?
We have changed many times the natures of the dice sides. Movements to the right and left, or forward, combat actions, and repair actions. We had to abandon some actions to focus on the thrill of the race. The nature of the cards in your hand and on the terrain have changed, as well. For example, we had a "jump" card that allowed a vehicle to jump above one card... it was fun, but it created impossible situations and exceptions to the rules. So we trashed it.
What were your favorite games growing up?
Roleplaying games always came first, but I remember having great times with Space Hulk and Thunder Road with my cousin during a whole summer. When I first discovered modern games, I had a thrill playing Claustrophobia and Jamaica… both are still on my “Top 10” list.
What is the last game you played (that you enjoyed)?
I would say Flamme Rouge, even though I really don't watch cycling on TV, and The 7th Continent. To me, it's the missing link between RPG and board games.
What motivated you to get into game design?
The intellectual thrill of creating something new from existing parts (I don't believe in "real" creation ex nihilo), and the sharing with others. I like the sensation of building something, brick by brick, undoing when it doesn't work, trying again... The whole process is fun (well, maybe with the exception of the testing, and retesting, and retesting sessions)
What do you think of the current state of the gaming industry?
We are probably in the midst of a Golden Age. I hope that’s an activity that will democratize, I don't want it to become too mainstream, because there's a risk on uniformization and that would be the death of creativity for the publishers and the authors.
How would you compare the gaming industry in the U.S. to that of Europe?
I have little knowledge of the game industry in the US. I've been told that the market was segmented in two: the party games and the core games, with few or no games in-between. It's a chance we have in Europe, to have all the hues of fun, and that families are given opportunities to enjoy an intelligent game together.