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Interview with Jeffrey D. Allers

2009/06/06
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JE – When has started your passion for board games?

JA – I have lived in Berlin since 1994, but it wasn’t until we were visiting German friends of ours one evening in 2002, I think, when they introduced us to Carcassonne. After that, we began attending game nights at a local game store, then I found another gaming group attended by Berlin game designers, and the rest is history.

JE – Who is Jeffrey D. Allers? How is your day to day?

JA –
I studied Architecture and Journalism at the university, then moved to Berlin right after college. After designing museum exhibitions and buildings in the former East Berlin, I changed careers to youth work in Berlin with a German-American church partnership. I’ve recently changed jobs again to work at a Christian community center in Berlin, where I am program co-director and work with youth and families. What’s nice, is that one of the “programs” I can offer is a bi-weekly game night!

JE – Do you still remember when the idea arose for the creation of Alea Iacta Est?


JA –
It started with a design competition for two-player dice games. I challenged my friend Bernd Eisenstein to compete with me, and we tested our ideas together. Later, I decided to make my game the basis of a board game, first called “Feudal Dice.” I shopped it around to several publishers, and showed it to Stefan Brueck of alea in Nuremberg. He wanted to publish it, but wanted me to make some major changes and test it with him. Since I was in the United States for several months at that time, I decided to ask Bernd if he would help with the development as co-designer, since he had already tested and contributed to the game since its beginning. He was able to meet with Stefan and bring in a fresh perspective, and his own creativity. We have worked together on projects before which have not yet been published, so I knew we would work well together, and it’s exciting to finally have something published together!

JE – Are you a frequent or occasional player?

JA – I play as much as I can, with my busy family and work schedule. I’m happily married to an occasional game-player, with twin sons who are not yet old enough to understand board game rules, so my time is mostly limited to play-testing sessions with my designing friends, and bi-weekly board game nights I host at work.

JE – Five games already published. How many more are going to be?

JA – I hope there are many more to come. I certainly never have a shortage of ideas, and several of my prototypes are under consideration by publishers, but no new contracts yet.

One of the five listed on Boardgamegeek, “Pala”, has not actually been published yet.

JE – Of their games which is your favourite and why?

JA – I really do not have a favorite game (whether it be mine or someone else’s). I like different things about different games. Of mine, I like that “Sahne” is very accessible to most everyone I know. And I am proud to have produced a game themed around my home, Iowa (Eine Frage der Aehre). I’m excited to have finally published a co-design with friend Bernd Eisenstein (Alea Iacta Est) after having fun designer several games together. And I am happy that I was able to streamline “Circus Maximus” into a successful card game, after struggling to prototype it as a board game for many years.

JE – Eine Frage der Ähre has some similarity with Agricola beyond the theme? What has inspired you to create it?

JA – It was really inspired by my home, Iowa, and how the landscape looks like a game board from an airplane, as it’s relatively flat and divided into perfect square mile sections planted with different crops. I signed the contract for it years ago before Agricola came out, and there’s absolutely no similarity in the games beyond the theme, although both games originated from their themes (mine was abstracted quite a bit more, however).

JE – Is there any designer that specially inspire you?

JA – I’m inspired by many designers and many games. If you want to be a game designer, you need to play lots of games. After a while, you begin to have a sense for a specific designer’s style. I like variety, but I also have come to enjoy Alan Moon’s style of game design in particular.

JE – What are the games you like best to play?

JA – As I wrote, I like variety, and I play with a variety of different people, so there really are no favorites. I miss having more time for longer games, but would usually rather play several different games in an evening than one long game.

JE – What are your projects for the near future?

JA – I’m always working on several at the same time, but my favorites at the moment are a “gamer’s game” about the founding of Nieuw Amsterdam (later New York) and a dexterity/dice game that tries to incorporate more tactics, rather than being dependent completely on luck or “flicking” skill. I’m also hoping the two games that placed in the top 6 of the Hippodice Competition will find a publisher.

JE – Will you be in Essen? Planning to present anything new? Can you reveal us some detail?

JA – I will unfortunately miss Essen, as I have work and family commitments that time of year. And I don’t have any new releases planned.

JE– Do you use to test prototypes of other creators? From those tested so far, please tell us which surprised you more?

JA – I meet regularly with other Berlin game designers, such as Peer Sylvester (King of Siam), Bernd Eisenstein (Zack und Pack), and Guenter Cornett (Hey, That’s My Fish!/Down Under) and I am always amazed by the game ideas they bring each week.

The next 3 question were made by 3 BGG user’s.

pepperhead – If you were to have a English version, AND you were to try to keep the name as close as you could to the original language or meaning what would it be.

JA – Most of my game prototypes start out with an English title. For example, “…aber bitte mit Sahne” was originally about pies and named after the classic song “American Pie.” Winning Moves changed it to German cakes, and renamed it after a well-known German classic song, which is completely appropriate for this market.

Great_Mazinga – Many popular modern board games attempt to provide multiple strategies to victory. However, often one primary strategy usually emerges among experienced players. Have you designed Eine Frage der Ähre to address this common issue? If so, how did you design the multiple strategies to victory while maintaining balance?

JA – I always try to encourage choice and multiple strategies in my games, because I enjoy playing those kinds of games. If they do not offer that, then I don’t enjoy them enough to keep working on them.

CM Randall – So is Eine Frage der Ähre kinda like Monopoly?

JA – It’s EXACTLY like Monopoly, which is why Hasbro is currently suing me for copyright infringement!

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