The answer to my interview request from Johannes Sich, the author of the new Mafia card game La Cosa Nostra, reached me at 0:40 a.m. This time stamp already shows how long the working days of a card player inventor can be when the world's most popular game fair, the International Game Days in Essen, is imminent. At Spiel'14, La Cosa Nostra will be made accessible to the general public and these four days will show whether the game concept is also well received by recreational players.
Fascination with paper money
In the following interview, Johannes Sich gives some insights into the development process of La Cosa Nostra, reports on how the idea for his Mafia card game came about and makes it clear that the serious background was a personal moral hurdle.
Johannes Sich: “The first conscious experience that comes to mind is that I heard about the“ game of knowledge ”and the“ game of life ”from a kindergarten friend. For a long time I didn't even play these games myself, but these names alone made a deep impression on me and have become a kind of mystery. At some point it probably actually played it, but I can't even remember it.Spielpunkt: Do you remember your very first board game experience?
The next impressive experience was Monopoly. The fascination for big chunks of paper money has remained. "
Johannes Sich: “It's a long story. I'm trying to make it short.Spielpunkt: When and how did you come up with the idea of inventing your own game?
There was a time when I was working on a project with my colleague Daniel. It went very well, and after work we often played games or watched the Mafia series “The Sopranos”. We were in a very creative mood and the idea came up to make a game that captures that particular mood of the Mafia genre. That gloomy, the feeling of power and the lurking danger ... Back then there were almost no games on this subject. I stayed at it, even if I had to gradually learn that it is not as easy as you think to turn a good idea into a good game. It took a couple of years. Meanwhile, other mafia games were churning out. "
Johannes Sich: “Except for an affinity for the genre, triggered above all by the series mentioned above, there is no personal reference. Of course I did a lot of research in the course of my thesis and also read a lot about the real mafia. In fact, during this research I have serious doubts as to whether it is morally justifiable to downplay the topic of "organized crime" even further by glorifying genre representation. Because the reality looks very different, and real mafiosi belong next to dictators, arms dealers and warning lawyers to the most despicable things in this world.Spielpunkt: How do you relate to the Mafia?
In the end, I calmed the remorse by arguing that the genre has already moved far enough away from reality.
For these reasons, it was also important to me to use similar stylistic devices in the creative implementation as the genre models from other forms of media do. For example, the genre glorification of the Tarantino films, exaggerated to the extreme
Johannes Sich: “The development of the game actually took place parallel to the development of crowdfunding. When I developed the first concepts for La Cosa Nostra, there were no crowdfunding platforms at all. Only later, when we were already seriously considering the release, did we first hear about Kickstarter, and then also from Startnext and other platforms. At that time there were already very successful board game projects in the USA, but in German-speaking countries interest still seemed very subdued. Therefore, this path did not seem particularly promising to me at first. Only when the card game “Steam Noir Revolution” broke the ice on Startnext and was extremely successful was I convinced of it.Spielpunkt: How did crowdfunding platforms influence the development of La Cosa Nostra?
At that time we were actually looking for a publisher that wanted to publish La Cosa Nostra. But suddenly we were so enthusiastic about the crowdfunding idea that we were almost relieved when the publisher's cancellation arrived. We stopped trying the very tedious search for a publisher, but started preparing for the campaign. "
Johannes Sich: “From a lot of difficulties. First of all, with the actual development of the game. It was my first game and accordingly I had no experience with it. Nevertheless, I was convinced that it would be very easy if you thought it through well enough and were creative enough. But far from it - it was only after years of dealing with the topic that I realized that there was much more to it, and that you always had to overcome your convictions and your own arrogance. There were repeated points where I had to realize that the game is still a long way from being as good as I had thought.Spielpunkt: What difficulties did you encounter during development?
The planning and organization of the crowdfunding campaign, the marketing and the production planning, all of this was also new territory for me.
When realizing such a huge project, there are difficulties lurking around every corner that one would never have expected. We are currently having a problem with the shipping packaging for the posters. The shipping company now wants to charge an insane surcharge for bulky goods of an insane 20 per item because the boxes are not cuboid. You suddenly have to deal with such nonsense.
There were also the many illustrations, which I had a lot of fun with, but which I had planned a little bit too much. The completion of the artwork took place over almost five years, parallel to the development of the rules. All in all, the greatest difficulty was keeping motivation going for so long. "
Johannes Sich: “Of course. In hall 2 at booth F-114. Come over!"Spielpunkt: The 2014 game in Essen is approaching. Will you be found there?
Johannes Sich: “Very difficult question. There are just so many games, and so many different ones, that you can't even speak of a single favorite game. In general, I like to play games that involve negotiation, alliance and betrayal. I'm actually not very good at negotiating, acting, etc.Spielpunkt: Are you an active board player yourself? Which is your favorite game?
All of these Eurogames optimization games, which are currently very popular in Germany, don't really appeal to me. Not that I think it is bad, I usually find it quite exciting while playing - but afterwards I rarely feel the urge to play it again. For me, the attraction of board game is the togetherness and confrontation with the table neighbors. If I look at the board more during the game and brood to myself than to communicate with the other players, then that's not my thing.
Oh, I definitely have to name an insider tip that I've enjoyed playing over and over again for years. It is "Escape from the aliens in outer space". The game is basically based on sinking ships and that "I think he thinks I think ...". And in fact, there is not a lot of talk. But it is incredibly exciting, atmospheric and beautifully designed. And extremely easy to learn. "
Johannes Sich: “Thank you all very much. Without you this game wouldn't exist. It was great fun and your feedback has always motivated us. Come by at the fair, we look forward to seeing you. "Spielpunkt: A greeting to the fans of La Cosa Nostra?