Origins 2012 Coverage: Interview with Kevin Brusky of APE Games.
by Matt Faul on June 5, 2012

This past weekend, I had a chance to attend the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio, an annual gaming convention put on by the Game Manufacturer’s Association. While attending I was able to speak with various game companies and Felicia Day. This interview will be first in a series of interviews I conducted at the 2012 Origins Game Fair.

First up is Kevin Brusky of APE Games. We talk rubber ducks, The Order of the Stick‘s kickstarter and more when I stopped by the APE Games booth at Origins.

DHGF: I am here with Kevin Brusky of APE Games. Anyone that has been going to conventions for a while, even if you don’t know APE Games, has probably seen your booth with all the rubber ducks. It’s kinda hard to miss. So my first question is: Duck Duck Go, how did it originate?

Kevin Brusky: So a guy came to me with a racing game that I really likedbut it didn’t really have theme to it. So I struggled with how to theme this game. Then I was running one morning and thought rubber ducks how cool. So I knew a company that produced rubber ducks, I don’t produce them myself. So I contacted the company and what I wanted use was a specific set of ducks. I wanted to use the same set of ducks in all the games. So they said we really can’t do that the way you want to do it because we can’t sell you individual ducks in the quantities you want them. So I thought about it some more and said why can’t we just use random ducks? Have people put whatever ducks they want into the set and customize it themselves. They can make it their own set and that idea turned out to be a pretty good one I guess. It’s really taken off.

DHGF: Yeah, it seems to be pretty popular and it spun off Duck Duck Safari as well.

KB: Duck Duck Safari was a follow up and instead the random assortment of ducks, I went with a fixed set of jungle animal ducks. There is a lion, a tiger, a bunch of different jungle animals plus a Dr. Livingston Explorer that comes in the set. The game is completely separate from Duck Duck Go. And unlike Duck Duck Go it contains five separate games in one box, for different ages.

DHGF: At Origins this year, you have a new game debuting Rolling Freight that was launched on Kickstarter. So tell us about Rolling Freight and how the Kickstarter experience was for you.

KB: We started the Kickstarter in January of 2011, so it’s been a long time coming. I’ve been working with the printer diligently since last July to get the game into print and here now it finally is. It comes with custom color dice, we had to make sure we got those just right. And they are inked dice so we went through several revisions of that to get it right. It’s finally out and the biggest game by far I’ve ever produced. It’s a rail building and cargo delivery game using custom dice. Each player has six dice with different colors on each side and the colors indicate which actions you can take on a turn. There is things like building freight, buy contracts so you can rails and things like that.

DHGF: You also have the Order of the Stick Adventure game. The Order of the Stick recently made kickstarter history in the gaming realm, bringing in over one million dollars. What is it like have The Order of the Stick License for the board game and though Ookoodook.com distributing the digital comics? Also you can go into the distribution through Ookoodook.com the distribution of other smaller indy games and comics?

KB: So it used to be APE Games would sell not only the games but the books. So we decided a few years ago why don’t we start our own online store for small press. We feature APE games products as well as Order of the Stick products and we had the warehouse space anyway, so we brought in a lot of small press games and comics. And it’s gone really well. I’m here at Origins but we got a team of people fulfilling kickstarter orders as we speak. I’ve actually had to rent more warehouse space for all the orders. I have floor to ceiling two warehouses.

DHGF: When that kickstarter began, it was one book. Then it came two books, three books and then it became the entire library. It seemed to never stopped grow and it it was still going on more money would probably be pumped into it.

KB: Rich Burlew did a really good job of staying involved in the kickstarter and I believe his kickstart should be an example of how other people should be trying to do this. Not that everyone is going to make a million dollars when they do it but the idea of staying involved, offering more stretch goals and really being out there on a daily basis. He was out there every single day, for two months I guess, talking to the fans. So I really think that help significantly.

DHGF: The community engagement and putting himself out there really helped. Kickstarter seems to be the thing in game. We are going to just put our game on kickstarter. Do you see kickstarter as being test marketing for games you may be a little on the fence about?

KB: That’s a really good question. So the Rolling Freight game, I did use it to not only raise money. It was a test market. I set the level to see if I could get 300 backers. If I can’t get at least 300 backers I’m not going to print it. It turned out I did so it was very successful. So I think it is for as much as getting the word out there and test marketing as it is raising the money itself.

I actually have a kickstarter starting tonight(June 2nd).It’s called Kill the Overlord. It’s a really light party game for 4-8 players, sort of a hot potato passing game. One character is the overlord. They pass an execution order to another character and they pass it to another player until one character can’t then they are executed. Until the overlord himself is executed, in which case the players rank up to a new level and collect new income. If ever at the beginning of the turn you are the overlord and have 40 gold you are the winner. The art is really nicely illustrated, tarot sized with male and female art on each side. So look for that tonight.

DHGF: If the kickstarter for this gets fully funded, what release date are you shooting for?

KB: I’d like to have it for GenCon, which means that all the kickstarter backers will have it before GenCon. That means it’s probably going to be printed domestically.

DHGF: I was actually talking with another game company and how they’ve moved to printing domestically as well. It sounds like it happening with more game companies because you don’t have to worry about it being stuck on a boat for months. So it seems like the cost of production is coming down where it makes more sense to start printing domestically.

KB: I would really like to stick to printing domestically whenever possible, with the Rolling Freight game that was simply impossible. I bid out to almost twenty different printers, domestically and internationally, and it just didn’t make sense for Rolling Freight. It couldn’t happen. It wouldn’t have been printed at all. A lot of domestic companies are learning how to print card games, punch board and things like that and learning how to do it inexpensively like you said. So I’m more than happy to stay in the US when I can.

DHGF: Technology is really having an impact on the gaming industry with digital downloads of books and now it’s beginning to have an impact of the physical products as well, reducing the time it takes to send a game to the printers and ship a physical product. Are there any other future releases you can hint at today?

KB: Not today. I’ve got a meeting set up for a couple weeks from now that I’m really really excited about with a really large company about licensing a property they have. If that comes out you guys will certainly hear about it.

DHGF: You have some other games as well besides Duck Duck Go and Rolling Freight, like 1955. Tell us about some of your other offering.

KB: Sure, 1955 is a game I co-published with another company called Living World Games. We are actually a part of the same playtest group in Houston, Texas and Nick Vitek (game designer at Living World Games), he’s been gaming with me years and years. He wanted to do this so it is a co-venture. 1955 is set in the cold war era. It’s a card game that’s sort of a tug of war to influence nations towards your propaganda, your side by using different cards. So it’s a fun little card game.

DHGF: Since you deal with small independent publishers, if someone were to have a great board game idea is that something they can approach APE game with and possibly get distribution and assistance with production?

KB: Yes, I do take game submission for publishing myself. For every 10 submission I get I probably have to say no 9.5 times. My next two games Kill the Overlord and the next game after that were blind submissions that I really ended up liking. I do take submissions and there is information on my website, apegames.com. I’d also be happy to provide information to anyone that e-mails me. I probably get one or two e-mails a month saying “How yould you do a kickstarter?” or “How do I start publishing myself?” There is a lot of “How do I find a printer?” or ” How do I get distribution?” There are a lot of things I’d be happy to help people with.

DHGF: That’s also something I’ve noticed with the gaming community, a lot of companies seem to be interested in growing gaming as a whole instead of just their own little fiefdom. They give aid to others with that don’t directly benefit other than helping the gaming community.

KB: The bigger the industry is the better it’s going to be for everybody. If there is a great small press game that’s going to bring people to the hobby, the more the better. Those people are going to find other peoples games and everyone is going to benefit.


For more information on APE Games you can visit them at www.apegames.com.
Here is the link if you are interested in backing the Kill the Overlord kickstarter http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/13415575/kill-the-overlord-party-card-game
And if you you’d like to purchase any of the games mentioned in the interview or other small press games you can find them at http://www.ookoodook.com




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