Fun Times on the Road: An Interview with Philip duBarry

That’s a nice looking prototype! (Taken from Board Game Geek.)

Philip duBarry, known to many gamers in the hobby market for his fantastic Revolution! and Kingdom of Solomon (and most recently for Courtier in AEG’s Tempest line), currently has a game on Kickstarter that seems like a departure from his normal designs: Family Vacation. We asked him a few questions about it, and he was gracious enough to answer them. (If you’d like to take a look at the Kickstarter page, click here.)

I’ve heard that a game designer should be able to describe his or her game in the time it takes a short elevator ride. What is your “elevator pitch” description of Family Vacation?

Family Vacation is a casual game for 2-6 players ages 10 and up. Your family wants to have the best vacation ever, so your goal is to travel around the USA visiting places that match your family’s interests to gain happiness. You can also take photos and see famous attractions like the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge. Once a family has visited at least one attraction, they can return home and start the end of game countdown. Whoever has had the most exciting vacation is the winner.

What does a game of Family Vacation entail? How long does it take to play?
Each of your four family members will get two randomly assigned interests at the beginning of the game, like Entertainment or Golf or Shopping. When a player moves his car to a matching interest on the board, the family member with that interest gets happiness points (tracked on a happiness meter). Usually, the other family members also get a smaller boost of happiness. Meanwhile, traveling on roads is boring and causes your family to lose happiness, so you have to plan your trip carefully. A full game takes about 45 minutes.

Who is the primary audience for Family Vacation, and how do you target that audience in the gameplay?
Family Vacation was designed as a game families can play together, as well as more experienced gamers who enjoy lighter, casual games. The theme comes out very well—usually players end up identifying with their family members, ascribing personalities to them. At the same time, there is some very interesting logistics and planning to do, so more mechanics-oriented players will also have plenty to enjoy. Finally, the game can be explained in about five minutes, and none of the concepts are terribly difficult to grasp.

Do you have any pointers for Family Vacation players?
Of course, you need to plan your route carefully. You need to decide which attractions to shoot for, as only one person can visit each. You also want to time the use of your one airplane ticket to maximize its value, perhaps traveling back close to your hometown and catching others off guard.

What niche do you see Family Vacation filling in a board game collection?
I’m always looking for games that play well with children and non-gamers but that don’t bore me to tears. I feel like Family Vacation hits this mark.

You’ve designed several seemingly more meatier games–Revolution!, Kingdom of Solomon, and Courtier come to mind. How are your other designs related to Family Vacation? Is there something here for fans of your other games?
Family Vacation is definitely the lightest game I’ve designed (that’s been published, anyway). The common thread in my other games is my love of controlled chaos. I think Family Vacation also features a bit of this feel. Players have to look carefully at the board and bring some kind of order to the chaos there. It’s more straightforward in Family Vacation, but it’s there.

Can you tell us about anything else you’re working on? Are any expansions in the works for your previous designs?
I have quite a few projects in the works, many of which I can’t mention. However, I will note that I’m working with Game Salute on a game called Skyway Robbery. It’s going to share a steampunk game universe with the Ruse card game and another card game I’ve developed. Skyway Robbery is about putting together an expert crew of thieves and criminals to steal various objects and score the highest reputation. Players secretly choose three actions each turn, then simultaneously reveal them and carry them out as best they can. It’s mostly card-based, but with a board and some dice thrown in. There are lots of interesting characters and items, as well as cool locations to explore. I’m very excited about it. Currently, we are in the beginning stages of art production—most of the rules have been locked down. I have no guess as to when it will hit Kickstarter.

Here is the Kickstarter page for Family Vacation. Is there anywhere else you’d like to direct readers?
I might also mention my blog: Thanks for the chance to talk about my games!

I'll try anything once, but my favorite games are generally middleweight Euros.

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