Interview with Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games
I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to speak with game creator, publisher all round good guy Jamey Stegmaier about his publishing house Stonemaier Games.
We The Nerdy: Jamey, thanks for agreeing to chat with us.
Stonemaier Games are still a relatively new company, what is Stonemaier Games ethos all about and how would define yourself as a company
Jamey Stegmaier: There are lots of ways I could answer this, but I think “ethos” implies that I stay as focused as possible. I would say the main ethos of Stonemaier Games is to create a joyful, memorable, and fun tabletop experience for people that starts the minute they first learn about the game, continues through the crowdfunding/pre-order process, and then flourishes whether it’s hitting the table the first time or the twentieth time.
WTN: Stonemaier have in previous games been a tool for you to publish your own creations, but with Between Two Cities now available which was designed by others (Ben Rosset and Matthew O’Malley) how do you go about choosing games you want to publish that aren’t your creations, do you let the games find you, or do you actively seek them out?
JS: Reviewing game submission actually takes a lot of time and effort, so we’re very careful about how we do this. We only attend a few game conventions a year, so those are one of the best times for people to pitch their games to us—that’s how we discovered Between Two Cities.
We also hold an annual event called the Stonemaier Games Design Day—it’s kind of like Unpub or Protospiel, but with a few twists, one of them being that we get a good look at all of the games there. We also let people submit games to us by sending us a video of people playing the game. Last, I always keep an eye out for clever published games that don’t get the attention they deserve. Someday I’m sure we’ll publish one of those games. In fact, I’m actively pursuing one right now!
WTN: What made you want to branch out and start publishing other peoples games?
Between Two Cities is a light, streamlined game that plays in about 20 minutes. The shortest version of any of my games plays in 45 minutes. I’ve tried to design games like Between Two Cities, but it just isn’t in my wheelhouse. I’ll keep trying, but in the meantime I’ll continue to look for other designers who have the talents I’m lacking. That isn’t to say I didn’t have a hand in Between Two Cities, though, as I spent months helping Ben and Matthew develop the game. But without the strong foundation they created, it’s definitely not a game I could have designed.
WTN: You’re heavily involved in the Kickstarter community. Why did you choose to use this method to get your games in peoples hands?
JS: It’s really at the core of the company, because I designed Viticulture not because I wanted someone else to publish Viticulture, but I specifically wanted to publish Viticulture myself as the result of a Kickstarter campaign. That was the goal from the beginning, as I was fascinated by Kickstarter, particularly the community-building aspect of it and the direct relationship you can have with your customers on it
WTN: Some publishers have been criticized for using KS as their main tool for reaching customers, do these comments make sense to you?
JS: These don’t make sense at all to me.
I don’t understand why people would be upset about a company trying to reach customers in creative ways. Who is anyone to judge a company’s methods, as long as they’re not unethical or immoral? Sure, it’s fine to be frustrated if a company doesn’t treat their Kickstarter backers well, but that’s a separate discussion.
WTN: Your Kickstarter Lessons blog, has been a great read for me and I am sure others alike, do you get much feedback from that as a tool for other would be game designers/publishers, or just general Kickstarter users?
JS: I definitely learn a lot from the comments and polls on my KS Lessons blog, yes. People have a lot of interesting ideas and opinions, and I love to see them expressed on my blog.
As for board games specifically, I do have a section for game creators, though I try to write the lessons so they can apply to any type of creator.
WTN: And a quick game of would you rather……..good theme or a good mechanic?
JS: My true answer is neither.
I think the FUN of a game supersedes theme and mechanisms. But given those two options, I would have to say a good mechanism. Even if you have a fantastic theme, if the game sucks, I’m probably not going to play it again. But if you have solid, unique mechanism that flow well and give me lots of interesting choices, they can work even with a pasted-on theme.
WTN: What’s the most important bit of advice you would give anyone coming to pitch a game to you?
JS: The most important thing is to know our submission guidelines inside and out.
Designers shouldn’t just generically pitch to publishers—they should pick a few publishers they really like, then make sure their game fits that publisher’s guidelines (they’re different for every publisher). For example, I don’t want any game that only plays up to 4 players, so don’t pitch a 2-4 player game to me. Instant turnoff.
WTN: You were named best small publisher by Dice Tower, how important is industry recognition.
JS: How important is it? I think it’s nice more than anything else.
It felt good to be recognized. There are so many small publishers these days (so many great small publishers) that any little thing that helps us stand out a little bit can really help.
WTN: What next for Stonemaier Games.
JS: Up next in the immediate future is the release of Between Two Cities and our new treasure chests.
In the midst of that, we’ll launch our Kickstarter for Scythe on October 13. In December we’ll release the Viticulture Essential Edition.
2016 will bring a few surprises, with the only thing we’ve announced so far being the expansion to Euphoria.
WTN: Thank you for your time, and all the best