Meet the Designer – Pandemic

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Matt Leacock

mattlea

The man behind Pandemic and all its many iterations. Like most successful designers he only became full-time after designing games for years in 2014. Before that he worked as a UX graphic design guy for companies like Yahoo and AOL. He tinkered with game design ever since he was a child when he would receive a game as a present and find it lacking, and decide to fix the rules himself. He first started working on Pandemic in 2004 during lunches and while taking evening strolls with his daughter in a stroller.

Have you read the earlier post about Alan Moon? In it I mentioned his annual ‘Gathering of Friends.’ Leacock was invited to this and it was during these events that he prototyped the game with hundreds of people and got vital feedback he would use to refine the game. Initial attempts to get a publisher to pick the game up were a struggle as many were put off by the theme and co-operative nature of the game. In the end it was ZMAN who took the plunge and the game was an instant hit. Figures for sales of board games are almost impossible to find, but along with its expansions, it would be shocking to think the game hadn’t sold in the millions now.

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An early prototype of Pandemic

His first game? It was called Lunatic’s Loop and was about driving East German Trabants, where-in the drivers slowly lose their minds and try to destroy their opponents! IN his words his experience of self producing the game and selling it at the SPIEL in Germany:

“I just ran them off my laser-printer. I think I did 200 copies and brought them to Spiel in Germany with a friend. We shared a booth and just tried to sell them by hand. I shipped the pieces to the big conference centre there, and they ask you ‘How much do you want to insure it for?’ And I was just terrified that something horrible would happen in shipments, I think I insured ’em for the whole retail price and ended up paying more import tax than I made selling the games…it gave me the knowledge that I never wanted to do it again. I really didn’t want to publish.”

Pandemic Legacy, made in partnership with Rob Daviou, is now rated the number 1 game ever on Boardgamegeek. A legacy style game, that you only play through once, it has been a wild success as players become wholly invested in the story and the characters as the narrative develops as you play through the game.

Leacock also donates 5% of all his Pandemic royalties to Doctor’s without Borders. He gave $50,000 to the charity to help with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.

Other Games you may want to check out:

Knitwit

knitwit

How to describe this? It’s Scattegories meets a Venn Diagram. You use a network of loops and spools with words in them to make categories, such a ‘yellow’ and ‘angry’. There will be 10 in total. You think of a thing that meets each criteria, write it down. If no-one else says the same thing you get a point.

Roll Through the Ages

rtta

A Yahtzee style civilization game. Use the dice to gain resources to expand cities, build monuments or obtain technologies. Avoid disasters as best you can while also feeding your cities. 20 minutes later most points win.

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