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“20 Questions” 2D6.org Interviews Rio Grande Games

12 August 2012 7 Comments

Hello and welcome Jay Tummelson to 2D6.org’s “20 questions” and answers from the readers segment. Rio Grande Games was formed in 1998 by Jay with the sole purpose of localizing classic popular German Board Games while keeping the same artwork and components. Since then Rio Grande Games has published hundreds of games including 11 notable Spiel des Jahres (games of the year) award winners. Among those award winners are Dominion, Carcassonne, Zooloretto, and El Grande. Also while not Spiel des Jahres winners, Rio Grande has brought us Puerto Rico, Power Grid, and possibly my favorite card game Race for the Galaxy. Those 3 games are rated over at Boardgamegeek.com in the Top 20 Games of all time! This is definitely something for a board game publisher to be proud of.

Of course with the announcements of the expansion Dominion: Dark Ages releasing in August and the anticipated release of Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts Rio Grande is definitely not showing signs of slowing down.

2D6.orgJay would you please introduce yourself, tell us how/why you got into the board game industry, and for those who may not know exactly what you do at Rio Grande Games?

JT: The mission of Rio Grande Games is to promote the playing of games, which offer the players choices. We do so by publishing adult and family strategy games, although children with appropriate parental supervision will enjoy playing many of these games. We first started thinking of starting Rio Grande Games because we believed that these kinds of family strategy games, which are based on offering players choices instead of asking them to rely on luck. We knew such games were successful in Germany and wanted to make them available to people in the US. After some investigation, we decided to begin publishing English versions of these choice games so that English-speaking players could enjoy them, so we launched the Rio Grande Games to do just that.

One advantage of these games is that they promote social activity both in the family and among friends. We are particularly interested in getting families to play these games together. Playing good games together is a great way for families to spend social time together. Because these games require that players make choices on each turn during the game, players cannot rely on luck. Thus, these games reward good choices. When children play these games in a family setting, they learn that the choices they make are important. We believe that the lessons children learn while playing our games will be carried into their lives and they will learn that making good choices in life leads to the same good results as they do in games.

Rio Grande Games began by working with German publishers to publish English versions of these great choice games. Since that time, the games have won numerous awards from magazines, newspapers, and others in the United States and throughout the world. We now also publish our own choice games. The two most successful are Dominion and Race for the Galaxy. Both of these have also won many awards. Dominion has won game of the year honors in several countries and has been translated into 17 languages. Dominion has several follow-on products, including Intrigue, Seaside, Alchemy, Prosperity, Cornucopia, and Hinterlands. Race for the Galaxy has three expansions: Gathering Storm, Rebel vs Imperium, and Brink of War, and we are working on a fourth expansion called Alien Artifacts, which will begin a new arc for the game.

2D6.orgI hear Rio Grande Games is a one man show, are there any other Rio Grande employees behind the scenes and if so, what roles do they play?

JT: We are a family company, so it is just Anna and I in the company.

2D6.orgRio Grande is known for localizing fantastic European games while keeping as close to the original game as possible. What made you choose this route and do you find it more difficult to follow this business model?

JT: In the beginning we saw a large number of good “choice” games available in Europe and decided we could localize them for the English-speaking market as a way to begin the company. Now, we see great potential in publishing our own games from designers in the US like Donald X Vaccarino, Tom Lehman, and Alan Moon, and have begun to focus our time and attention on this.

2D6.orgIt is hard to ignore the new business paradigm that has been created by Kickstarter.com. Kickstarter.com originally gained attention in the board game community as a way for someone to get their idea off the ground but it has also slowly evolved into almost a preorder system for some game companies. What are your feelings on kickstarter.com and do you foresee Rio Grande Games ever using kickstarter? Do you think companies using Kickstarter.com will lead to lower overall quality since a producer isn’t as financially tied to the success of a game?

JT: I feel that established game companies should not be using Kickstarter at all and we have no plans to do so. I think there are two potential problems with Kickstarter: we already have too many “good” games on the market and do not need more; and we expect to soon see – maybe already have – money raised and games not produced. I understand there are few, if any, avenues for those who send money to recoup it if the games are not produced.

2D6.orgWhat is the typical publication process for new games/intellectual property (not imports)?

JT: We look at prototypes at conventions. When we see one we like, we license it, arrange for the graphics to be created, select a printer, and send graphic files to the printer, who then produces the game.

2D6.orgWhat is your view of the relationship between the community and a game publisher and how important is it to a publisher to have independent game reviews?

JT: We serve the community and rely considerably on their feedback regarding the games we have published. I think there is no place for non-independent reviews and we rely exclusively on independent reviews and comments on our games.

2D6.orgGencon is quickly approaching, which will bring many fans and contact with the community. Does Rio Grande accept submissions and/or demonstrations of new games at conventions? If not how would a game designer get in contact with Rio Grande Games about a game design (currently the Rio Grande Games website doesn’t appear to contain information about game submissions).

JT: As mentioned above we look at prototypes at conventions – only at conventions and request that designers make appointments ahead of the convention. Note: we already have a full schedule of appointments for Gencon 2012.

2D6.orgAny surprises we can look forward too from Rio Grande Games during Gencon beyond the release of Dominion: Dark Ages? Will Gencon signal the official release of Dark Ages to main stream retailers and Amazon.com?

JT: No other surprises. And, yes, it signals the release to all retailers.

2D6.orgSpeaking of the new Dominion expansion, what new mechanics and rules can we look forward to? Will there be any new card types introduced, like durations from Seaside for example? Will the range of costs of cards remain even or can we look forward to more expensive/less expensive cards? Are there any Reactions or Village cards included in this set? Finally will the cards in Dark Ages speed up or slow down game play?

JT: Much of this information has already been released or will soon be released in advance of the Gencon release. 


From the Designer Donald X. Vaccarino

“There comes a time in every man’s life when he must preview Dark Ages cards. On second thought maybe that’s not as universal as I was thinking. Anyway, metaphorically, there comes a time etc. And that time for me is now. Actually it was a few minutes ago, when you were reading the cards. I figured I’d just let you keep reading though. Have your fun. I can wait. Okay then.

Dark Ages has several themes and mini-themes. It’s a big sprawling expansion. I am previewing three cards a day, that’s how big it is. It’s also the crazy combo expansion, and today’s cards demonstrate that without even trying.

Graverobber is the way to get things from the trash that you always knew I’d make eventually. What you didn’t know is that it would look like that. If you’re gonna take things from the trash, you have to make sure there are good things to get. Graverobber does this by rewarding you for trashing expensive actions – just the kind of thing you’ll want back later. And when you do take a card from the trash, it puts it on your deck, so you’ll draw it before the game is over. Of course if someone else has Graverobbers, maybe they’ll get that card first. It’s a competitive business in these troubled times.

Poor House says, build a deck with no money. Also a Village, no money and a Village. If you can’t trash your money, at least discard it somehow. And it costs $1. Why even have a card that costs $1 – aren’t you usually going to be paying at least $2 for it? Well sure, but you know. Not always. Anyway it’s cool to have a card that costs $1, I don’t know what to tell you.

There’s a tendency to want to show off the most exotic cards, but I don’t want people to think the set will just be non-stop confusion. So I’m also showing off a simpler card, Sage. Dig for a card costing $3 or more, that’s all there is to it. It will turn into something good for a while; then eventually it will start reminding you about those Provinces you bought. And of course sometimes a Sage just wants you to talk to another Sage.”

From the Designer Donald X. Vaccarino

“Here they are at last, the Shelters. In an all Dark Ages game, your starting deck is 7 Coppers, Necropolis, Overgrown Estate, Hovel. When mixing sets up, the rule for using Shelters is similar to the Platinum / Colony rule.

Shelters may not be worth the 1 VP of an Estate, but they are way better to have in your deck. Necropolis lets you go a little heavier on terminals from the get-go. Overgrown Estate gives you an extra little treat if you ever manage to trash it. And Hovel has a built-in way to get rid of it – you move out of that Hovel, and into a nice Duchy or something.

You can’t buy Shelters, but they cost $1. That’s just to shake up how various cards interact with them. A Remodel doesn’t take you as far as it used to. And with only one being a Victory card, that Crossroads doesn’t go to as many places. Baron doesn’t know what to do with these. And an Ambassador can’t even give them away, since they have no piles to return to. On the other hand, they are fine places to get animals for your Menagerie. And how much exactly can you build Fairgrounds up to now, in games without Black Market? Man. A lot.

Even though I previewed 15 cards, only 9 of them were kingdom cards. There are 26 kingdom cards left that you haven’t seen. That’s as many as a whole set! It’s like there weren’t any previews at all. And yet they’re over. Someone will no doubt post the card list after the set comes out at GenCon next week, and I will post a Secret History shortly afterwards.”

2D6.orgThe Dominion series of games has really grown, are there any plans to create another “Big Box Compilation” release? Are there any planned promotional, cross promotional, or Black Market style cards arriving in the near future?

JT: We are looking at potential storage solutions and considering other Big Box compilations. We will also offer a new promo set in the future.

2D6.orgWhat will the future hold for the Dominion line after the release of Dark Ages and Guilds?

JT: Donald and I have several ideas we are (actually, he mostly) exploring and expect to have something soon after Guilds.

2D6.orgRace for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts seems to be an expansion and a reboot for the base game. Originally it was rumored it would be a stand alone game, what prompted the decision to make it an expansion? Will this expansion be the first in a new series of expansions or is it the last expansion? Is there a more concrete release date yet and can we look forward to the rules being posted online soon? Can you give us some details about the new mechanics being introduced?

JT: AA was never a stand-alone and was always seen as a new expansion that was not compatible with the first three. Thus, it began a new arc of expansions.

2D6.orgAs a father of 2 young board gamers (ages 4 and 6) who absolutely love The Kids of Carcassonne I would like to know if there are any other kids games being planned? Have you ever considered a “Kids of Dominion” or similar title?

JT: We are always on the lookout for games, which the entire family can play together, rather than games just for children. We have recently reprinted Chicken Cha Cha Cha and plan to reprint Gulo Gulo later this year. As for a “young” Dominion, it is something Donald and I have discussed and may offer in the future.

2D6.orgSpeaking of kids games will there be a reprint of Gulo Gulo? If not can you elaborate on what is preventing the reprint?

JT: See above. As for the difficulties in getting it reprinted, you can trace this to the  short-sighted response by our government to the spate of “dangerous” games published by some larger game companies, who chose to produce them cheaply in China without proper oversight of the safety of their games. Because of the newly required and expensive testing, these costs can add $5-10 to the retail cost of games from smaller publishers whose print runs are in the few thousands rather than the 10’s or 100’s of thousands like the larger companies.

2D6.orgWhile we are on the topic of reprints any word on Vikings or El Caballero?

JT: We are working on El Caballero, but have no plans to reprint El Grande.

2D6.orgAny word on Arctic Scavengers, Gladiators, or the possible re-themeing of Balloon Cup?

JT: AS will be produced as soon as the partners finish their files –hopefully this month. BC is in the works at the artists and will be ready this year. Gladiators is in the pipe-line, with no schedule right now.

2D6.orgThe computer age seems to be merging with the board game hobby especially with the widespread availability of Tablet PCs. Do you have any plans to release Android or iOS versions of popular games such as Dominion, Race for the Galaxy, or any of the other numerous fantastic Rio Grande Games any time soon?

JT: Both Dominion and RFTG have been licensed and Dominion will be released this month.

2D6.orgAre there any plans to increase Rio Grande presence through Social Media outlets?

JT: We are always looking at new ways to inform our customers and potential customers of our games.

2D6.orgFinally, what does the change with Hans im Glück mean for the future of Rio Grande Games? Will you allocate resources to other ventures like new IP’s? Will you expand your product line or try to mainly focus on Dominion and Race for the Galaxy?

JT: This allows us to continue our focus on our own games, rather than relying on other publishers.

We at 2D6.org would like to thank Jay for taking the time out of his very busy schedule during the convention season for this interview. We look forward to future releases and cant wait to see what the future will bring from Rio Grande Games!

Michael V K
View all posts by Michael V K
Michaels website
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7 Comments »

  • Matt Riddle said:

    great article. nice work guys.

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  • JohnnyDollar said:

    Is this a typo in transcribing the interview?:

    “2D6.org: While we are on the topic of reprints any word on Vikings or El Caballero?

    JT: We are working on El Caballero, but have no plans to reprint El Grande.”

    JT is asked about Vikings but the response says El Grande, which, would be the first news anywhere that EG is OOP at the publisher (and still seems to be in stock everywhere), whereas Vikings is well-known to be OOP.

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  • Michael V K (author) said:

    @JohnnyDollar
    “Is this a typo in transcribing the interview?:

    “2D6.org: While we are on the topic of reprints any word on Vikings or El Caballero?

    JT: We are working on El Caballero, but have no plans to reprint El Grande.”

    JT is asked about Vikings but the response says El Grande, which, would be the first news anywhere that EG is OOP at the publisher (and still seems to be in stock everywhere), whereas Vikings is well-known to be OOP.”

    Good question I went back and checked the original interview and Jay definitely said El Grande. I will contact him for clarification but until then I would assume he indeed meant Vikings.

    Thanks for reading!

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  • Ray Smith said:

    “JT: We are working on El Caballero”

    I’ve been hearing that from Jay for five years. I’ll believe it when I see it. But, at least it’s still in the pipeline somewhere!

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  • Brian said:

    Dang it. – he totally dodged the question of a release date for Alient Artifacts.

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  • Del said:

    Particularly useful look frontward to visiting again.

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  • Sam said:

    Only one question about Race for the Galaxy AA and you let him give you a quick one-sentence answer!? Why didn’t you demand an explanation for its 2+ year delay?!!

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