We are proud to share a little about the game designer for Tater Freighter, Sam LaFleche. Sam lives in Massachusetts and was educated in CS and gaming at WPI. He tests designs with the Spielbany playtest group. He loves “objectively” great games of all kinds.
Game Design Methodology
When playing games, and when working on his own projects, Sam thinks about:
- What unique experience does this game offer players? Why play this game over another?
- How do the actions of other players affect shared game-state? Why are you invested in what other people are doing?
- How do the mechanics imply the game's theme?
- How does the theme come out in gameplay?
- Is this the cleanest implementation which explores the ideas the game wants to explore?
- How does the game reward and punish greed? What are the feedback loops and how do they interact?
If these are questions you like to ask of the games you play Sam would be grateful if you took a look at his work, or just chatted with him about design sometime.
His favorite games include: The Great Zimbabwe, 1889, Twilight Struggle, Ra, El Grande, Puzzle Strike, Riichi Mahjong, Dixit, Eclipse, Welcome to the Dungeon, and In the Year of the Dragon.
Origins of Tater Freighter
Let Sam tell the story of Tater Freighter's beginnings.
I had a bunch of rhyming food/vehicle names that a bunch of friends and I had come up with. I honestly forget why? I think someone organically said the phrase "Tater Freighter" when discussing how produce was likely shipped and we didn't let it go? Regardless I kept coming back to them as somehow charming. My brother expressed that he thought there might be some potential in using the concept for a route-building pickup and deliver game of some kind. I liked the idea of making a game in this space, but it seemed to me that the cute rhyming vehicles wanted a lighter-weight game than that.
At the time I was playing around with some simultaneous action selection mechanics for some other designs, which are a good fit for making something run quickly. I also latched on to speed and size as the most obvious traits of the vehicles which would imply something about how they operated. Small quick vehicles got first dibs on stuff and larger slow ones could hold more.
From that set of design constraints mechanics more or less wrote themselves. A quick check that there were no pure-strategy Nash equilibriums, and it was ready for testing. The card counts were calibrated to result in a quick playing game, which you could play a few rounds of in the time it took another group of players to score and put away a larger game. Some additional development work was done to increase the maximum player count without bumping up the number of cards too much, which resulted in the, "Tater Later," cards.
I then went to GenCon to pitch an unrelated 3 hour economic game about demons and music which a lot of folks thought looked really neat, but no one I spoke with was looking for a game of that weight from an unknown designer at that time. Well I had a 5 minute filler game in my pocket if folks were interested in lighter stuff.
That's pretty much the history of my design of the game. I think that it meets its design goals quite nicely. It plays in a quick, snappy way and I think incorporates the theme well. There's some neat game theory in there, and what I find to be a very satisfying amount of Yomi in a small package. You can hit some big satisfying moments when someone out-thinks the board and sweeps up a ton of cards, and the game is short enough to allow for big swings without them being frustrating. I hope you enjoy it!
Updates on Tater Freighter
Get the latest updates on Tater Freighter by visiting our project page.