“Iremember very clearly. It was one night in 2013, I was in bed and it was the summer. Like many amateur designers, I usually have plenty of ideas in my mind,” François Gandon says when we ask where the spark of brilliance came from that led to Quadropolis. “The next morning when I woke up, it was a Saturday, and I said, ‘I’m going to design that prototype.’”
Given that MyM is making this call to France to chat with the game designerthat build went well. Gandon’s idea was abstract to begin with. His new game involved building a collection of different things, with a visual element that decides how you choose those parts.
“I thought it could be cool if people use some kind of instrument like a card, with the numbers one, two, three and four, and they would go and select things in rows and columns. So I started creating the cards on my PC but the game was still very abstract. So I decided to have players create a garden,” he remembers. “That worked very well but eventually I thought it can go even further, because the game was nice but there were not that many possibilities of combinations. I used to love Sim City and I like architecture and urbanism. I thought a city would be the perfect field, because it has a grid, so mechanically and thematically it worked really well.”
Given the order that is created in Quadropolis, assuming you’re playing the game to win, MyM can’t help wondering if François’ dayjob in finance has had any influence on his game designing. “I think I have both sides in my brain; a creative side and the more maths-based side relating to what I do in finance,” he says. “But I think it’s the combination of both that helps me design games.”
Quadropolis is published by Days Of Wonder and is available now.
MyM: Have you always been into board games?
François Gandon: “It comes from when I was a kid and I wanted to play board games every day. At that time you didn’t have much choice, it was Monopoly, Clue or a few games like that. I really wanted to play as much as I could but my parents were not too much into board games because they thought they were boring, which was probably a little bit true at the time.
“Even when I was 10 or 11 years old I started adding things or redesigning the things we were playing. Then when I was a teenager I started buying the first Eurogames that came on the market. There was an Italian company called International Team and that’s how I discovered there were games other than Monopoly. When I was 20 years old I was able to buy my own devices and video consoles and, like many people, I abandoned playing board games and went into video games. I did that for around 12 or 13 years. Then when my own daughter was seven years old I started buying board games again, when I discovered games through Days Of Wonder.
“Ticket To Ride was one of the first games I bought when I got back into it in 2004-2005. Since then I’ve started helping people discover games, bringing my friends and relatives to board gaming as well.
We saw a quote where you said you hoped soon gaming nights wouldn’t be seen as some kind of zany activity. Are we approaching that point?
“I think so. There’s definitely a revival happening. When I got back into board gaming, I discovered there were many good games. But 10 years ago there were not that many good publishers doing something different or offering new, good games. When I initially said to my friend, ‘You should get Ticket To Ride,’ he said to me, ‘Come on, I’m not going to play board games. That’s an old fashioned type of activity.’ Then I introduced many people to Ticket To Ride and they said, ‘This is a good game, it’s fun!’ They then went onto internet platforms where the game was playable online.
“I continue to believe there are many more people who are actually ready to play games, as we see now in gaming conventions. It’s families and not only geeks, and I think that’s a good sign. Still, there are those people who believe this is a strange activity and is for kids and not for grown-ups. So we’re in the middle now – it’s become acceptable and is not totally crazy, but still there are people who would say, ‘No, I would never do that.’ Probably because they had a bad experience of gaming when they were younger.”
What was the development process like?
“At the same time that I was rediscovering board games, I started redesigning my own product. I did that as a part time activity after work, over the weekend or in the evenings. I started developing it between September 2013 and the end of that year. So it didn’t take that long – from an initial conception to finalising it was less than six months. The game worked well very quickly, so it was easy because I knew I had something good. It was solid, which is not always the case when you design a prototype. Then there was a testing phase. Basically, in six months’ time I had a prototype that was up and running.”
Was that prototype version very similar to what we see in the finished game?
“Initially, it was a little bit over-complex. The management of resources was more complicated and there were different types of things that you could do. So I streamlined it a lot, thanks to the friends and the testers that worked with me. They’d say, ‘You can get rid of that,’ and I realised there was too much thinking involved in every play. I deliberately tried to create something that was simple enough to grasp but still had depth. It’s not a party game but the fun comes from the tension and competition. It’s fast-paced but still every move requires thought.”
Interview by Matt Chapman.
This article originally appeared in MyM Magazine #48. More information here.