For the design, the iconic shape of the meeple is the hero of the deck. The meeple is basically a wooden game piece that is used in lots of European board games. Sometimes with slight variations – like wearing a hat or wearing a dress. It’s sort of the European version of a pawn.
Clean design is important for a great play experience. Hence, these playing cards were designed with that in mind - uncluttered, easy to read at a glance, fan well, stack well in solitaire games and recognizable across the table for games like Hold ‘Em poker. I personally like the back design. It is a symphony of Euro board gaming visuals: Meeples, wooden blocks, and the ubiquitous “score tracker”. Very useful! ;)
Can you tell us about Geek Dynasty and what is your design background?
Geek Dynasty is my consulting company. Until this year, I used it to do work with major toy companies - we helped them make stuff and communicate with the more geek-leaning customers. The one job that some readers may have heard of was that I was the game designer for a product called Bakugan (if you have kids aged 12-15 or so, they probably know all about it - it was the Toy of the Year two years in a row). Not only did I do the game design, but we also worked on all the customer-facing issues except TV advertising. I helped design the mall tour, trained the CS staff, worked on organized play, etc... Last year I used the company name to do a kids book on Kickstarter with my wife and hyper-talented niece. Now I'm using it for my Kickstarter projects instead of creating a new imprint. I love the logo...
Almost all my design experience is in game design and business-ee stuff (I write a mean business plan). I have no skills at creating art, but I have a great art-background. My first job as a game designer had me working out of Keith Parkinson's art studio for 2 years and he taught me a lot - particularly about how there IS good art and bad art - AND art you like and don't like, and they aren't necessarily connected the way you would think all the time. But the key lesson is that there IS good and bad. After that, I got to do a similarly eye opening two years working with my good friend and artist Brom. Both those guys were amazing to work with and were willing to defend their opinions on art with logical feedback (they were the art directors on the two games). It was particularly interesting to see who these two giants in fantasy art looked up to and why. At the end of all of that, I found myself being a very good art critic even though I can't draw stick people. I feel very comfortable working with artists of all stripes and have been fortunate enough to work with great ones over the last 20 years.
This is your first playing card project on Kickstarter. Why playing cards?
I've been a student of Kickstarter for awhile. I do panels at conventions and conferences about crowdsourcing pretty regularly. This has me looking at various categories of products outside of games quite a bit. I was just blown away by what was going on with playing cards on Kickstarter. Such beautiful work by so many talented people. But my favorite part about playing cards is that they mix beauty with function (card games are "a thing" in my family). As my background includes a lot of card based games, I thought I might have something to add to the body of work being made.
What is your inspiration behind Meeple Playing Cards? How did you come up with the idea? Because my background is in gaming, I thought I could mix my love of playing cards with my love of (European style) games. The Meeple is a piece that shows up in literally hundreds of games and is immediately recognizable by gamers as a sign of games. Since cards are used to play games, it seemed like a natural combo.
How much time did you spend working on the deck?
My super talented graphic designer friend Jordan Martin and I worked on the deck on and off for about 2 months and we are still tweaking little bits now - we want to let backers have some influence in the direction of a few elements. Sometimes people see a clean design like this and think it's fast and easy to do - nothing could be further from the truth. When you work on something like this, everything needs to be just right. If one element is off even a little, the whole thing goes south quickly. These projects also take time to simmer. You think you're done, then you learn a little more, think a little longer, and new ideas come up that improve it greatly. It's a very different process from a more painterly style of product. I need to do a shout out here to the larger card collector community, they were super helpful with feedback on the project - who knew Jacks had flatter crowns? (they all did!)
What are your thoughts about the exponential increase of playing card projects on kickstarter?
On the good side, the quality of the offerings are going up - and that's good for everyone. I am worried about the pure collectors. There is a reasonable chance that they are supporting the entire market right now, and I don't think they can support all of the various projects coming out. Before I started this, I had no idea so many folks were buying bricks of decks! I'm hoping the Meeple deck pulls in backers from outside the pure collecting audience - and hopefully grows the market for future deck creators.
You have previously launched 5 board game projects on Kickstarter (4 Successful and 1 cancelled). Are there any takeaway lessons from your previous projects you would like to share?
How much time do we have... In the past, I've used Kickstarter as a way to up my creative output, not as a way to make a living. As such, I've been able to be 100% transparent with all my projects, and often my choices are not something a person trying to make a living would/should do. That said, my main takeaway when I give talks about Kickstarter is that most of Kickstarter is about cashing in on existing equity, not a place to find new customers. All the playing cards campaigns are cashing in on the existing equity of Playing Cards - it's a thing we all know. Sometimes the equity is your personal network. You still need to bring the quality idea, but if you don't try to tap into some form of equity when you start, it's challenging. There are of course exceptions.
Oh yea, and shipping sucks.
You have backed 25 projects to-date, what are you favorite projects on Kickstarter? and Why?
You caught me at a good time. Right now, I'm wearing my Planet Money T-shirt. I love how they used the money they made to do a fantastic series of web shows on how a T-shirt is made. But my favorite today is the campaign I backed for small batch Siriacha Sauce It's ridiculously good, and it feels good knowing that now the chef has enough capital to open a stand at her local farmers market. Seriously, it is really really good. Hard not to throw a mention for Brom's art book as well. I own a lot of art books but that one is particularly beautiful, and the prints that came with it were only something that could be done on Kickstarter. Plus it was just good to see a long time creative get value out of his personal equity in a way that wasn't possible before crowd-sourcing while giving such a good deal to his fans.
Thank you for spending some time with us, Luke. All the best with your campaign.
The Meeple Playing Cards will be printed by the USPCC and is the first in a series of limited edition playing card decks. Each deck in the series will have it’s own unique look and concept.
[Update] Now only available in Blue, the limited edition Meeple decks will be printed on Bicycle playing card stock with an Air Cushion (linen) finish. Pledge starts from $12 and the first deck will be due out to backers on June 2014.