This is the second part of my interview with designer Andreas “ode.” Odendahl regarding the upcoming release of La Granja: No Siesta. See the first part of my interview where we discussed the upcoming Solarius Mission. I own La Granja released in 2014 and personally love the game and always try to get my group to play and have played nearly 20 games solo. I am excited about the upcoming release of La Granja: No Siesta and appreciate “ode.” sharing the details of the game with us.
Grant: La Granja is an amazing game. Tell us a little about the new game La Granja: No Siesta? Is it an expansion or a stand alone game?
ode.: It is a standalone game.
Grant: How many players is the game designed for? What is the play time?
ode.: Playing time is about 45 minutes and it is for 1-4 players.
Grant: What is the core mechanic of the game and how does it use the dice as compared to its predecessor?
ode.: It is way simpler than the board game. There are just two phases per playing round: A dice phase when everybody gets three dice. This is the core of the game and it is almost the same as in La Granja. A dice distribution or drafting phase. And after that there is a scoring phase when every player gets to score the dice results on a score sheet with a pen. It is designed as a “La Granja Dice Game” and, like I said, much lighter.
Grant: What are the major differences in this game? How have you added enough new to make it feel different yet remain familiar?
ode.: Actually that is hard to say since the game is completely different but still has the La Granja feeling to it. You have the same type of resources and you get them by using the dice. And after getting the resources you have to use them on your scoresheet. That is pretty much the whole game. But what you do on your scoresheet is: Hire helpers, build roofs, complete market barrows… and in the middle of the table there is a siesta track players are climbing up. So, most La Granja elements are there. And it gets you the La Granja feeling – just in a different game.
Grant: I saw on a BGG Forum the following statement: Isn’t it already the kitchen sink of games? They threw in absolutely every game mechanic they could, what more could they add? How do you respond to this?
ode.: I had certain games for inspiration. That is definitely true. The aim was to design a different game in La Granja: No Siesta. To make something of our own of these great mechanisms we adapted. If you want to see the downside you may just call us a copycat. But the upside is, that we were just inspired by the other games. We honor the other games and even tell people where we got our inspiration. To me this is comparable to a hip hop song. Hip Hop DJ’s take old songs, sample them, scratch them and form those old tunes into a new piece of hip hop art. With a new, unique character. I like to see what we did with La Granja like this. We took old mechanisms, formed them and build our own unique game around them. But still I leave it to the players to have an opinion to it. To me it is just important to make sure the old games and their designers are honored for their initial ideas.
“To me this is comparable to a hip hop song. Hip Hop DJ’s take old songs, sample them, scratch them and form those old tunes into a new piece of hip hop art. With a new, unique character. I like to see what we did with La Granja like this.”
Grant: How was the play testing process? How long have you been working on this game? How much has it changed and can you give concrete examples?
ode.: I designed the game shortly after La Granja was finished. It actually took me surprisingly not so long to make the first prototype. Initially it was more like the wish to have the La Granja dice mechanic in a way easier game. I was playing Qwixx very often at that time and I wanted it to be like a thematic Qwixx. I wanted to limit myself to a few dice and a scoring sheet for everyone. But the game had some issues and the longer I tried to fix them the more elements with more components were necessary. Now I have roof tiles, helper tiles, wooden discs to mark your revenues, two small boards for the middle of the table, etc. The good thing is: The game got better and better [from playtesting] and I had really phenomenal feedback from playtesters.
Grant: How are resources tracked on the player sheet? I’ve seen prototype pictures that appear to use a dry erase marker!
ode.: For the prototype I used laminated paper to playtest over and over again. So I wouldn’t have to print out so many scoring sheets. And I used non-permanent markers to cross off the dice results. In the final game there will be a pad with paper sheets and pencils.
Grant: What function does the barn perform? Do you have to build it?
ode.: Actually this element is almost the same as in the board game. You need to collect silver and cross it off on your sheet. And once you collected all the silver for one roof you may draw a roof from the stack in the middle of the table. And with the roof you will get victory points and a one time effect.
Grant: What type of helpers are there to hire and what are some of their specific abilities? Are they in the form of cards? Do you have any pictures of these helpers?
ode.: Helpers work a bit different than in La Granja. In the board game they were part of the cards and granted permanent effects for the player. The permanent effect is the same in La Granja: No Siesta. You can cross off some revenues and if you have all of them for one helper you can put one of your set of six tokens on your scoring sheet. And from now on you may use the effect of the helper.
Let me give you an example: There is one helper who lets you draw two roof tiles everytime you complete a section of your roof and lets you keep one of them. So you have a better choice for your roof tiles. So when focusing on building your roof this helper can be worthy if recruited early. I did send you an image of another helper. When you have this tile you will get one silver everytime you complete a set of three different harvest goods or two different animals in the storage or stable. In the standard game every player has a fixed set of six helpers. But if you like, you can later add more and different helpers to the pool and have a greater variety to choose from.
Grant: Why is the game called La Granja: No Siesta? What part does a siesta play? Sets turn order as before?
ode.: I wanted to call the game just “Siesta” at first because the siesta track in this game is a very important element. But a friend of mine said after one playtest: “Well, the first time you really have a siesta in this game is when it is over!” And it was meant in a good way. So I decided to go for his proposal and Uli Blennemann from ADC Blackfire, the editor who worked on the game, agreed with this change. The siesta track has a different meaning in this game. All players want to climb up the track during the course of the game. And the first player to complete the track ends the game.
Grant: What are the dice like? Do they have icons of goods on them? How many dice are there and how many can each player use/keep per round?
ode.: You see, when I designed La Granja I always had dice with icons on them. There were no action spaces on the board. Just the dice with icons. The thing is, that designing dice for a game like La Granja is difficult. All six sides of the dice need to be in balance. And so they changed during the course of the development quite often. And every time I had to personal craft them. That is a lot of fun….but gets old and tedious when you are doing this for the 25th time! So at a point I decided to make cards with dice results on them. So in a case of a change I only need to change one card instead of nine dice sides. And once I had more space for icons, because the dice sides are quite small and cards are bigger, I realized that balancing the results would be way easier! And the publisher was pleased, too! Because custom dice are very expensive to produce. So with my little laziness in handicrafting dice I sadly enough got unintentionally rid of the custom dice. Harald Lieske designed a board for the game in the process of developing the game and so the “card action spaces” became part of the board. But one of my initial wishes when designing La Granja was to have a game with custom dice. With nice icons on them.
So La Granja: No Siesta is my second try to achieve this. And now I will get my custom dice! Like in La Granja, there are nine dice in the game and all of them are the same. You will need five of them for a two player game and seven for a three player game. And like in La Granja the dice are distributed in one round. So everybody gets two dice of their own and then there is one die left for everybody!
Grant: How are the infamous donkeys used in this game? I love the donkeys!
ode.: Donkeys are used as a revenue in this game just like the other dice sides. But they have a thematic job. You will need them to drag the market barrows.
Grant: What was your biggest challenge in designing this game? How did you overcome it?
ode.: The challenge was to design an easy game with simple rules and not too many components. And I did not succeed. I added more and more elements to get a better game. So now, instead of just dice, pens and scoring sheets; there are wooden markers, cardboard tokens, mini boards, dice, and two kinds of note pads in it. The game will be part of the “Pocket Line” of Stronghold Games and they have a very small but also very nice box size. And I have to say that the box will be full. Another challenge was to finally balance the game. But I had a lot of very wonderful playtesters who helped me with that.
“The challenge was to design an easy game with simple rules and not too many components. And I did not succeed. I added more and more elements to get a better game.”
Grant: I love the art and the colors used for La Granja and now La Granja: No Siesta. I love yellow as it tends to brighten my mood and make me happy. In fact, the door to our house is yellow! How did you choose the color palet and the look of the images?
ode.: Actually that was not my choice at all. Harald Lieske is the illustrator for the game. He is working on all Spielworxx games. And since Uli Blennemann of Spielworxx is also the editor for ADC Blackfire, who is the German publisher for La Granja: No Siesta, Harald also works on their games. They are a really good team!
Grant: Methinks that either Harald or Uli like yellow as they use it often in the design of their boxes! What is the timetable for the release of the game? Who will release it?
ode.: The game will be published by ADC Blackfire in Germany. Release date is September or October. The game will be presented for the first time at the Essen Game Fair for sure. Stronghold Games will publish the English edition with worldwide distribution. I just saw on their recently published release schedule that they announced the game for an early November release.
Thank you for your time ode.! We will be posting the final part of our interview next week where we take a look at Cooper’s Island, a game currently in the playtest phase, that was named by ode.’s wife after one of their beloved pets!