My earliest memories of gaming were at my Grandmother's farm house. Her games fell into one of two categories: those in the downstairs closet, out of reach, and complete, and those upstairs, within easy reach of the kids, and in complete disarray. I played many games of Aggravation and Rummikub (of the former category) as well as many "games" of Risk, Monopoly, Clue and Waterworks (of the latter category). When I was twelve, I got my first Monopoly set and played it with grown ups. At that point I discovered how different a game was when you played it by the rules.
I gamed a lot with my dad. For some reason, the wargames come to mind. Tactics II, Gettysburg, Battle of the Bulge, and Midway were all played. Acquire and Bazaar came later. If you asked my father about our gaming experiences together, he would no doubt take delight in telling you of the fit I threw after losing War of the Ring to him. We started the game before breakfast and didn't realize that we were still in our pajamas until we had finished, eight hours later.
I started designing games in my early teens. Typically, I'd get some lame mass market, tv-show-of-the-year game, get frustrated by its mediocrity, then try to do better on the reverse side of the board with a magic marker. Thus begat The Sensation of Boxation and Star Miners. Quest of the Nine Orbs was my attempt at merging War of the Ring and Battle of the Bulge, minus all of the tedious and inconclusive combat rolls that I disliked about that game.
I played a bunch of D&D in high school, then Warhammer Fantasy Role Play. This stirred an interest in all things Games Workshop. I managed to shake off this obsession after their commitment to board games faded. Talisman, Blood Royale, The Fury of Dracula, Rogue Trooper, Block Mania, and many games of Blood Bowl were played. During this time I co-authored a small book of optional rules for that game with the members of the newly formed Locust Games. Glen Proctor and Max Brace did illustration for beer and I cracked the whip -- a relationship that continues to this day (although it takes more than beer now to get an illustration done these days).
Lunatix Loop was started when I was in college (1991) and was subsequently picked up, revised and put down many times. I believe the current version is the ninth overhaul in as many years. Borderlands came later (1994) after all the fuss about that CCG that shall not be named here.
At Northern Illinois University, I helped revive interest in the school's game club. Axis and Allies, Adel Verplichtet and Liar's Dice were favorites. I moved to Chicago after school started a job in the city and roomed with a fellow gamer. He and I turned two-player Acquire into a science. Not far from Mayfair Games on Howard Street, we'd occasionally stop in for their monthly game night.
My first game of Settlers was at Gen Con with Jay Tummelson, in the year that Mayfair announced it. What a game. All I remember of that conference was that there were all of these wonderful board games and that they were coming from Europe. It was about that time that I discovered The Game Cabinet and a new world of gaming was opened up for me. I spent many hours glued to the screen and killed a lot of trees printing the articles.
A year later, I got a call from a former classmate of mine working at Claris Corporation in California. "Would I like to come out for an interview?" she asked. I did, and was put in front of an interview panel of twelve. One of the twelve turned out to be my soon-to-be wife, Donna. I got the job. It wasn't until the layoff in 1998, when half of Claris was sacked, that we started seeing each other, however. I did her résumé. Did I mention the fine typography? We were married on August 5th of 2000, and she has been gracious enough to postpone our honeymoon so that it coincides with Essen. If that weren't enough of a sign, as I write this (and wait for the last few bits of Loop to come off the printer) she is back at home folding game boards. Bless you, Donna.
Soon after moving to California I discovered one of Dave Kohr's fliers for Games Day. I attended and got to play Loop with Ken Tidwell of The Game Cabinet which was a real treat. The discovery of Gamescape in San Francisco started to round out my game collection and my tastes, only to be followed up by the discovery of Funagain, which prompted me to buy my first piece of furniture -- a game cabinet -- measured carefully to fit the largest standard size game box I could find.
I now spend most of my gaming time with the SVBers (Silicon Valley Boardgamers) group. After many Wednesdays with the group, several of us who dabbled in design started sharing notes. Soon after, Rick Heli and I formed our plan to share a booth at Essen 2000.
Two hundred copies of Lunatix Loop now litter the living room floor. A little assembling, folding and packing and I'll be on my way. Wish me luck and I'll see you at the show!
- Matt (Contact Me)
Note: You might also want to check out my game recommendations.