Articles Interviews Inside the Game Factory #1: Interview with Jim Bailey, Grindhouse Games
 

Inside the Game Factory #1: Interview with Jim Bailey, Grindhouse Games Inside the Game Factory #1: Interview with Jim Bailey, Grindhouse Games Hot

Incursion1

I really liked INCURSION, and I'm glad to see a start-up publisher come out with such a strong product. In my emails with Jim Bailey, the designer of the game and kommandant of Grindhouse Games, I got a sense that he was a pretty cool guy. So I asked him to do an interview. He agreed, and he gave me the probably ill-advised "ask me whatever you want" go-ahead. So I wanted to make this the first in what will hopefully be a series of articles, interviews, and editorials that are specifically about the business of games, what it takes to get games published, and some of the other hidden wheels that run this industry. So it's "Inside the Game Factory #1", and for those of you out there keeping score, there is an obscure music reference there.

It's a fun interview, and Jim proves that he is in fact a pretty cool guy. I hope they do well, it's always great to see people who are really up front, forthcoming, and honest about what they're doing in any business. These are the kinds of people that really deserve our patronage, our fandom, and our money.



Michael is a member of the Fortress: Ameritrash staff, and a regular columnist for Gameshark.

Click here for more board game articles by Michael Barnes.

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Comments (47)
  • avatarMr. White

    Great Interview, Barnes.

    I know Jim demos Incursion in Austin from time to time.
    I'll look to buy a copy directly from him so that he gets 100%.

  • avatarmetalface13

    That was really interesting to read Jim's story and opinions on creating games and getting them published and on the shelf. Certainly enlightening.

  • avatarJonJacob

    That is an excellent interview. One of your better articles and I look forward to more of these.

    I can't believe how seriously he seems to be taking this... it's infectious in a way. I am much more interested in games once I get a feel for who the people behind them are and I found myself contempalting a purcahse of incursion while reading. That's powerfull.

  • avatarStephen Avery
    Quote:
    I think it’s a matter of finding a connection. Sure, we can all connect with Frodo or Private Ryan, or a Rorschach

    Not me...I connect with the Comedian

    Steve"Once you realize what a joke everything is, being the Comedian is the only thing that makes sense.
    "Avery

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    I can't believe how seriously he seems to be taking this... it's infectious in a way.

    It's because there's a real sense of vision. And it's a lot more than the "games are just fun" idea, and it's definitely removed from the "crank out 10 games a year for the hobbyists" idea. He has an artistic, aesthetic agenda and I think that's really significant.

    When I started the interview, I didn't know he was an architect or into punk. I figured he was into movies, because the ILSA reference was unavoidable and well, they're called Grindhouse. But those things, I think, really inform what he's trying to do and I really appreciate that. Most designers wouldn't be able to elucidate how a Lou Reed record influences them or what really seperates the cinematic experience from the tabletop gaming one.

  • avatarSan Il Defanso

    The idea of hobby games taking cues from other forms of artistic expression is a really good one. I know you've beat this drum a lot, but I'm not sure I totally understood what you were saying until you asked Jim that question.

    Fantastic interview, I'd love to see some more like it. It's a great insight into the industry, and what people go through to get ANYthing to press, much less a well-designed game like Inception.

  • avatarLast Alchemist

    Can't wait to see my copy when it comes in. This is really a heart warming AT story.

    LA

  • avatarMr. White

    I appreciate the candidness of the interview. From putting out the China thing (and his straight response) to his honesty in regards to boardgames and where he's coming from.

    Sure he may not have come from the 'boardgame' community, but he's a gamer through and through. I'm sure he and his brother have done more to get folks in San Antonio involved in gaming than any single other source.

    Thanks again for requesting the interview and getting this out.

  • avatarShellhead

    Great interview. Interesting questions and blunt, informative answers. I found myself nodding in agreement at many of his remarks from a designer standpoint. And his idea of making the miniatures optional but available is a great way to keep the game affordable. I'm really excited about getting a copy once that second print run is available.

  • avatarkookoobah

    Hell, I had never heard of Fortress AT until you sent me an email asking for free stuff.

  • avatarkookoobah

    Awesome interview. I am getting Incursion because I read this. Keep up the articles man, you open my eyes to games I would never have given a 2nd look.

  • avatarSuperflyTNT

    Really cool how you came up with the idea to do a series of interview "conversations" with "innovators" in the small-press industry in a series to get people to understand the nuts and bolts of how games are made, and the hurdles to getting a game made and published. It's almost like I've seen that somewhere before.... ;)

    Good stuff, Michael, you may change my mind yet. And...I will have this game!

    ;););)

  • avatarvolnon

    Jim Bailey is really all he appears to be - a serious, die-hard gamer guy. He backs up his work, too! My Flamer Marine did not come with a tiny metal hose to attach the gun to the fuel tank, and after one email he shipped me a hose pronto.
    I have exchanged a few emails with the guy, and he really, really is the real deal.

    Buy a game and some metal minis from Jim. Those minis are AWESOME, too. I hope to post my painted figures on "that other game site" soon.

    Oh, and Incursion, the game, is fantastic! With just the base game you can not only play all the scenarios in the box, but it is so intuitive and exciting you will be wanting to create your own missions and characters! It will make you feel like you bought a game designed to make you think, explore, be creative and have fun!

    And isn't that what real Ameritrash gaming is all about?!

  • avatarDeath and Taxis

    Great interview. One of the most informative I have read about gaming. Thanks Michael. Thanks Jim.

  • avatardaveroswell

    Holy Crap.

    Barnes and Bailey...you make me want to be a better game player. ;D

  • avatarNick Warcholak

    Great interview for sure. Thanks man.

  • avatarvandemonium

    Cool interview! I picked up Incursion a few weeks ago. I have gotten to play the first scenario so far and I agree with Michael's opinion that while you can see the Space Hulk influence, Incursion stands on its own. The graphic design is fantastic, I really love the feel of the game, and game play is pretty intuitive and very fun.

    I'd also like to give a BIG SHOUT-OUT to the Grindhouse folks, my copy had the chits that had some sort of laminate issue and I had a bunch of trouble punching them - pieces were ripped, there was weeping and gnashing of teeth but Grindhouse Games came to the rescue! They had a the new run of the sheets out to me the next week - super fast and no questions asked. So kudos on the awesome customer service and the fantastic game. I can't wait to get it to the table again!!

    ps - if you get the game with the first run of the sheets just use an Xacto knife and you'll probably be fine - I was not aware of the issue and was enthusiastically punching away when I realize there was an problem...

  • avatardan daly

    The main thing you need for a good interview is an interesting person to interview. That's what really came out here. Great article.

  • avatarJosh Look

    Great article, Michael, easily one of your recent best.

    I just purchased Vicotry Point Game's FORLORN: HOPE, another game in the Space Hulk vein, but after reading this, I think I'll pick up Incursion as well.

  • avatarmikoyan

    If I can find a copy of this game, I'll probably get it.

  • avatarLast Alchemist

    You know what they need to do with this IP? Make a full length animated movie based around it, ala Heavy Metal (Score, and all). How fucking rad would that be?

    LA

  • avatarjay718

    I think this might be the best thing I've read over here. This interview really took us through the whole process of getting a game published; from idea to the second print run, to looking for distro. I'll echo Jack and say that Mr. Baily's candor in this interview was amazing. He gave up all the dirt, even on the financial details and dealing with foreign production. Even pricing the product. 'The market can only bear what the market can bear.' You've just gotta love this kind of honesty coming from a designer/publisher.

    He really seems like a great guy and an old punk to boot! (but how anyone can say Boltthrowers no good is beyond me.) I love that this guy's throwing huge minis battles at his local bar. Just awesome. My customers would string me up if I pulled some shit like that. I hate to say it, but I think I need to leave this little burg for a gaming hotbed like Atlanta or San Antonio.

    I've wanted to check out Incursion for a long time after seeing it on BGG, and the review here had me almost ready to bite despite a standing order from the missus that I not purchase ANYTHING else before we move into a new house. This interview put me over the edge though. I'm ordering this today. You just really want to see a company like this do well.

    So if this interview is the first of a series, might I maka a suggestion? I'd love to see an interview with the Brettenstiens from over at Twilight Creations. Get some perspective on the whole minis thing from someone who's done metal and plastic. They've also worked with Knizia, and have release licensed products like Spycraft, Lovecraft, and Deadlandscraft. Plus everything they produce is in a horror vein. Their games get bashed a bit over here, but I think it could be pretty illuminating. Anyway, hell of an article.

  • avatarjay718

    Plus: 'Morally ambiguous card/roleplay deal set in the spaghetti west' Sign me up, that sounds sick.

  • avatarSuperflyTNT

    I was considering exactly that for my fourth iteration of "Conversations with an Innovator" series, jay718, since I live exactly 15 miles from Twilight Creations here in Kentucky.

    I think Mike does a better job with it, though, to be honest, and quite honestly, phone interviews and transcribing assloads of text from a recorder is a pain. The boy did good with this interview, that's a fact. I was actually impressed, and it was one of the better interviews I've ever read.

  • avatarSquigherder

    Great interview!

    just bought mine from their online store. I hope you're getting a kickback of some kind.

  • avatarubarose

    I once wrote that I didn't like 'Hey, That's My Fish' because I didn't care about my stupid penguin. Someone commented that that sounded a little psychotic. I've thought about that a lot over the years, because I like games that make me care about my dudes.

    Jim Bailey has finally articulated and given shape to my desires. I want games that that speak to me in the same way that our underground pop culture speaks to me. I want games that elicit a visceral and emotional reaction. I want games that engage me, allow me to suspend my disbelief, project my fantasies, create a connections. I want games that make me care.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    [/i]I just purchased Vicotry Point Game's FORLORN: HOPE, another game in the Space Hulk vein, but after reading this, I think I'll pick up Incursion as well. [/i]

    That's a good one too if you're in it for a SPACE HULK style game. It actually has a couple of differentiators from INCURSION too. You can't beat corpse eating, mutating aliens. It's also portable since it comes in a ziplock and only requires about ten chits on the board at a time.

    I want games that that speak to me in the same way that our underground pop culture speaks to me.

    What I've been trying to articulate for like five years or so is that gaming _is_ underground pop culture. And as a cultural medium, it can grow, develop, change, and evolve artistically, creatively, and aesthetically.

    Or it can stay right where it is.

    Jim's comments about "hyper-reality" and drawing connections were tremendous. It really sort of brought together a couple of ideas I've had.

    I hope you're getting a kickback of some kind.

    I consider getting a free copy of a $50 game from a tiny publisher more than enough kickback!

  • avatarubarose
    Quote:
    What I've been trying to articulate for like five years or so is that gaming _is_ underground pop culture. And as a cultural medium, it can grow, develop, change, and evolve artistically, creatively, and aesthetically.

    I know you have been saying it for five years. There just doesn't seem to be very many people that want to have that conversation. Even the comments from this interview show that. People are more interested in page two of the interview than in page one.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Well, that's true...most people just want to turn off their brain and watch a romantic comedy or listen to mindless pop...but few want to really dig in and see what makes all of this stuff work or how it functions as- potentially- art or culture.

  • avatarMsample

    AWESOME piece Micheal. I would love to see this repeated with some other manufacturers, but I doubt you'd get this kind of candor. I have a copy on order through my FLGS and look forward to getting it on the table.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    I had another interview with a very high profile designer that was supposed to be ItGF #1. It would have been awesome. We were going to do it in 4 parts. It would have been like the David Frost interview of Nixon for hobby gaming. Four parts, the first part was like 15 pages after editing. It would have been huge. Unfortunately, some things that I can't really get into in public got in the way of it- including the fact that I wasn't going to let the subject control the interview or compromise my integrity. The conditions for the interview were such that it would, and it wasn't really the kind of thing that I wanted to to have my name on so we killed it.

    I've got some ideas for the next one...

  • avatarMr. White

    You've got several folks here saying this is the best interview they've read, if not the best piece they've read here.

    That's pretty good for ItGF#1.

    Don't worry about what could have been. This was outstanding.

  • avatarKen B.

    If it's any consolation Michael, I had an interview lined up with your same Frost/Nixon, and similar circumstances caused that one to wither on the vine. I am positive yours was more hard-hitting than mine, but even so, I had a few questions that were not 100% positive and I believe that's what killed it. Shame, really, I was pretty excited about it.

  • avatardaveroswell

    When I joined my first initial game group in 2002, I told a memebr about my belief that games are stories that should develop it's characters...he gave me a horrified look. I now now why. My first group was exclusively a Euro-group that thought I primarily played abstracts.

  • avatarjay718

    I've got some ideas for the next one...

    C'mon... Twilight Creations! You know it'll be good...


    [Well, that's true...most people just want to turn off their brain and watch a romantic comedy or listen to mindless pop...but few want to really dig in and see what makes all of this stuff work or how it functions as- potentially- art or culture. /i]

    I don't think it's fair to say that anyone here wants to 'turn their brain off'. Gaming's a thought provoking cerebral activity, and one we all care enough about to respond to here. It's always nice to hear the inspirations behind game design, but for me, a small business owner myself, reading about the nuts and bolts of getting a game from an idea in the back of your head to the shelves of a retail store was far more interesting this time around, because it's just not something that I knew about before. I learned a lot from this interview, and while Mr. Baily's inspirations and musical tastes are interesting, they just aren't what stuck out to me. I'd also say that the mechanics of getting something published certainly counts as 'what makes all this stuff work.'

    Games certainly function as culture for me, but art is a bit of a stretch. I'd love to be convinced though, so keep this kind of stuff coming.

  • avatarJim Bailey

    Wow. Howdy folks. I've been lurking around here for a few weeks soaking up all the goodness and watching with rapt fascination as you guys savage each other. I love it...

    Thanks for the positive feedback. That interview was pretty cathartic for me and Barnes has mysterious ways of making people talk.

    Anyway...I'm out here if y'all want to harrangue me further.

    Oh, interesting development today. Seems like Dust Games just sucker-punched AEG. Yikes! That's a mighty blow.

    Yeah Jay, we can do art if we put our minds and hearts into it baby. We sure can...

  • avatarjay718

    Was it Dust Games that sucker punched AEG? I sort of got the impression that AEG thought they were moving too fast and/or couldn't handle the workload. If it's Dust that yanked the carpet out from under them, that's really too bad. Anyway, I'd love to hear more about that card game that you've got in the pipeline...

  • avatarJur
    Quote:
    What I've been trying to articulate for like five years or so is that gaming _is_ underground pop culture. And as a cultural medium, it can grow, develop, change, and evolve artistically, creatively, and aesthetically.

    Barnes, do you mean to say that all gaming is underground pop culture, or that gaming is like pop culture and different types of gaming connect to different kinds of pop culture? I mean AT has a strong punk and garage connection, euro's are more symphonic rock and metal, abstracts more synth & Jarre. And there's more mainstream games in the Spears, Timberlake vein. And occassionally there's the crossover - Madonna and Lady Gaga so to say. Or am I reading you wrong here?

    I think that games can gain fro becoming more story driven, but it is much harder to pull of design wise than symmetric games.

  • avatarJim Bailey

    Jay I have no independent knowledge of the incident. Pure speculation based on the spin I've seen. It's fun to speculate :-)

    That card game you reference is high concept at the moment with some art and stuff but as Jur says above

    Quote:
    I think that games can gain fro becoming more story driven, but it is much harder to pull of design wise than symmetric games.


    That would be correct!

    Signing off to go have some drinks with the Grindhouse crew. I actually have some questions for all of YOU but maybe I'll start a new thread over in the forums or something...

    Nighty night

  • avatarbill abner

    Thanks for taking the time, Jim.

    When I was editing the interview there were a few eyebrow raising lines in there. I loved it.

    Mike deserves credit for doing it but there really is no interview unless the subject wants to talk. That's what makes it work, and I appreciate the candor, as do our readers.

  • avatardaveroswell

    I'd like to see Jim Bailey and Z Man Zev collaborate on a project together. I have'nt played Incurssion yet, but the box art alone suggests that pairing could make for an awesome game.

  • avatarJur

    Okay Jim, some questions for you, with the caveat that I've played and own Tannhauser, and only browsed through Incursion:

    When you say:

    Quote:
    "Not that goofy French vision of American pulp, but the real deal: bare-knuckled Ameritrash."

    what's that supposed to mean? Thematically It pits techy Allies against mutant/horror nazis (even if Tannhauser doesn't dare calling them nazis). In terms of dice rolling, direct conflict and chrome I'd say that Tannhauser is right up the AT scale.

    There's still quite a lot of minis gameworlds being created by miniature manufacturers to sell their product. Yours and Malifaux for example. GW has set the standard for the tie-in between game and miniatures. You say it depends on connection with the characters to get your product line to be a success. Do you think miniatures actually help making that connection, if only for the time invested in painting them and picking the team from the catalog?
    Then there's all the miniatures rule sets that are not a tie in and the miniature manufacturers that don't tie in with a particular rules set, most of them even tabletop rather than board games. And there's board games unconnected to miniatures. What made you decide to connect board game and miniatures, and was it the obvious choice or one decided later on?

    Do you think there is a future for the punk/underground ethic in board gaming? And isn;t there always the risk of the sellout? Is FFG the GreenDay/Editors/Kings of Leon of board gaming? [Barnes, is this the reason why you are so hard on them of late? Playing Stadium Tours?]

    And where exactly is this connection between pop/underground culture and games. Is it just business models, themes and artwork? Or also mechanics, production values and rules writing? Is a tied in miniatures game still "independent" and isn't Print&Play the real underground and you are just using the underground street cred while being a normal publisher? I mean, do you still play Exploited regularly or is it just a sentimental journey?

  • avatarJim Bailey
    Quote:
    I'd like to see Jim Bailey and Z Man Zev collaborate on a project together

    Would love to. From everything I've seen, Integrity is his middle name.

    @Jur

    RE Tannhauser: If after fully immersing yourself in Incursion, you don't come to agree with that statement, then we haven't done our job very well and need to get back to the drawing boards, don't we!

    Quote:
    Yours and Malifaux for example.

    There was a chunk of the interview that got cut where I saluted Nathan Caroland for innovation in Wyrd. He's a heck of a guy. Michael might want to interview him at some point. He's a little more reserved in his expression of passion than I though :-)

    Quote:
    What made you decide to connect board game and miniatures

    It was a pretty natural leap though in at least one of the 8 zillion re-writes of the rules, we were looking at doing it more freeform... mainly to avoid having to produce that big fat box full of stuff. It wasn't until late in the process that we began to think of it as a board game. Rather, it was a game that just happened to be played on a board...does that make any sense?

    Quote:
    Do you think there is a future for the punk/underground ethic in board gaming?

    I don't know. As I thought said in the interview, I think there is a future for Grindhouse in developing relevant stuff that matters to us. I think it will matter to other people as well. I think this question (perhaps unintentionally) attempts to pretty narrowly define the larger set of issues Michael and I were discussing.

    Quote:
    And isn;t there always the risk of the sellout?

    I already sold out Jur. If I hadn't I'd still be out tagging instead of building apartments and shopping centers...and making boardgames. Right? That's a joke. Well, not really. What's your definition of selling out? That's a rhetorical question by the way.

    Did you just call me a poser? Hahahaha! That's a term I haven't used since about 1985.

    This isn't about creds Jur. This is me you're seeing, raw and unfiltered and 39 years old. Define me as you will. If this thing dries up and blows away, I'll walk away with my dignity. If it gets big and successful and is forced to mainstream a bit more in order to keep employees fed, well, that's okay too because John and I will still be who we are. Nothing can change that.

    Here's what I'm listening to this week. Buy their music. They are doing good work. Start with Rebels Rogues and Sworn Bothers:
    http://www.luceromusic.com/

  • avatarJur

    I'll give Incursion a shot after the holidays. And then get beack to you (and see if your answer was just a cheap cop out or I have no idea at all)

    I didn't call you a poser, I gave you the opportunity to show you aren't. My point is that inherent in the punk/underground/independent music is that once you catch on, you get blamed for selling out. Think of the shit Metallica has had to deal with from first hour fans. Since you and Mike drew the parallel with underground/pop scene I explored that line to see if you think it works on all levels.
    I think every successful band/gaming company has to deal with that at some point. Some bands deliberately ruin their mainstream appeal in order to retain artistic integrity (Dandy Warhols, Nada Surf, Radiohead). I was just wondering wether you had come accross that point and what your response was/is likely to be.

    That's why I also took Barnes to task on his late stance regarding FFG. I mean, he gives arguments for his dislike of the latest developments at FFG, but I sense a bit of "they sold out" anger in there as well, since his arguments are not always applied consistently. In the end, is it really possible to get big and retain integrity or is it just the choice between big and small? Shouldn't we just be happy that FFG made it big and accept that that does come at a price (even for us, supporters of the first hour?).

    I know I'm being hard on Barnes here, especially after accusing him of selling out himself. But he's a big boy, and he can deal with it.

  • avatarJur

    Btw Thanks for answering these questions, it's really cool you take the time for it and with an open mind. Looking forward to the morally duplicit western thing.

  • avatarNotahandle

    Excellent interview, very informative. Thanks Michael and Jim. Looking forward to more.

    I didn't like Incursion's style of character artwork, but I'm definitely getting more interested in buying. So, Michael, where's that "Top Ten Reasons Not to Buy a Game" article? I need help resisting.

  • avatarMr. White

    Jim,

    I'm sure you're aware, but Lucero will be in Texas again in November with Social D and Frank Turner.

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