Scott Almes is one of the most prolific designers of tabletop gaming’s modern era. While most may be most familiar with Scott’s work on the Tiny Epic series, his repertoire of published game designs now spans over 50 unique titles!
One of Mr. Almes’ most recent games is Beer & Bread, which is headed to the North American market courtesy of Capstone Games and Deep Print Games. In advance of its release, Scott took a few moments out of his busy schedule to answer some of our most burning questions!
Q: Beer or Bread? If you could only take one with you for a weekend getaway, which do you choose?
Scott Almes (SA): I’d have to choose beer. Bonus points if it’s a good Belgian style beer!
Q: In all seriousness, Beer & Bread looks to be another great game in a unique niche: Relatively short time commitment, but packed with meaningful decisions throughout. How did this particular game concept, if you’ll pardon the pun, begin brewing?
SA: It was definitely a “theme first” game, but you might be surprised to find that the theme was a little different to start. Originally, it was Beer & Wine! The central concept mechanic was there from the beginning: two players trying to make two different goods, but only scoring the lowest. It felt the theme was right because the game fit the mold of a classic euro style game and it really fit that hook. In development, I would later exchange wine for bread, so the ingredients players collected could overlap between the two. As in, the ingredients could potentially be used for beer or bread, as long as you had the right recipe. It still worked great thematically, and that change brought out some nice gameplay decisions.
Q: On the surface, the game certainly suggests a traditional Euro-style experience, but what players will find is a much more interactive journey. Does your design process seek out interactivity intentionally, or is it something that organically emerges?
SA: As part of my design process, I have a big question mark next to the final player count. I love designing solo games, games for 2, group games, and games that support a mix of those categories. I always ask myself critically: why is this the player count? Why is it 2p, and not solo? For me it comes down to the interactions between the players. This game has a nice back and forth that shines at two players. The card drafts, the balance of resources, and even the focus on two different products just fits this player count best. So, even if I set out to make a two player game, I let the decision be organic as the game develops. For example, the core mechanics for Warp’s Edge, a solo game of mine, was once upon a time designed for a multiplayer game before I developed it into a solo game that fit the playstyle so much better.
Q: Did you experience any major design obstacles while steering Beer & Bread to its destination with the publisher?
SA: None that stand out. After I submitted Beer & Bread, we agreed to work on the game shortly after. The folks at Deep Print Games are the best in the business when it comes to game development. I was very confident in my design, but their suggestions and changes all make the game irrefutably better. It was great working with them, and I think they helped turn this into a true classic.
Q: We were pleasantly surprised to see that the friendly nature of Beer & Bread isn’t just in the flavor text. The concept of mandatory resource sharing when a player has more resources than storage capacity is quite unique. Was that element always a part of the design?
SA: That was actually added late in the design process. One of the biggest challenges of the game was to get the resource economy just right. Solving this challenge would quickly result in one of my favorite design twists. In the game, players draft cards and one of the uses for the cards is to collect resources. Each card can have resource symbols on them, and the more symbols you play the more resources you get. What could happen then is one player could really try to deplete all the resources ahead of the other player, and it felt a bit frustrating as a strategy for one player to be a big hoarder. Especially if they were hoarding them to deny instead of using them themselves. I wanted some light tension for collecting resources, but not a cage match! I implemented a rule where a player could only keep a limited amount of resources, which helped, but then I stumbled upon the real twist! If you have any excess resources, you must offer them to the other player. This kept the tension, upped the fun, added a new consideration for the resource economy, and - I think - was one of the last rule changes before the game was submitted.
Q: Anything else that players will be surprised to discover in the game?
SA: I think players will be surprised at the depth of strategy that will come from the card abilities. I suspect most people in their first game will focus mostly on the resources and creating Beer & Bread, and not pay too much attention to the abilities as they learn. Once they learn the game and the general flow, a whole new layer of strategy presents itself as they see more of the abilities and learn how they can be combined in fun ways. I hope players will be surprised that they are trying and discovering new things 20 games later!
SA: Guilty pleasure is a tricky one - I think all games have their place. But, I guess a guilty pleasure might be playing the old school classic Clue. I still love that game!
Thank you so much for your time, Scott!