Edward Bolme, Producer, AEG

In MACE 2012, Alderac Entertainment Group will be attended, demoing a ton of games as well as running some tournaments.  We asked Ed Bolme of AEG a few questions about himself and AEG and he was kind enough to take the time to answer them.

Hello, Ed.  Thanks for taking the time out to answer a few questions.

EB: It’s my pleasure.

First, tell us a little about yourself and what you do for Alderac Entertainment Group.

EB: I am a veteran, nay, dare I say a grognard of the gaming industry. I started out in the 80s writing for Paranoia, Cyberpunk, and other role-playing games, then branched out into TCGs when I joined Five Rings Publishing Group in 1997.

Since then I have also worked at Wizards of the Coast (Dune, Rage, Star Trek Dice, Doomtown, L5R), Interactive Imagination (Magi-Nation), TimeStream (Battle TAGS), BioWare (Dragon Age), and Press Pass (Fullmetal Alchemist, 24 TCG).

Now I am at AEG as a producer, which basically means I take a game from a designed prototype (often using clip art and printed on a laser printer) and turn it into something that you buy at your FLGS. This involves art direction, testing and breaking, and a variety of other less definable skills. In addition, I work with Jeff Quick to ensure that all the AEG rulebooks and printed materials are up to our standards. And Jeff and I have pretty high standards.

How long have you been with AEG? How did you get involved with AEG?

EB: I have been with AEG just over two years now, although my involvement with them started back in 1997 when I was at FRPG. CEO John Zinser knew me pretty well from working with me over the course of three and a half years on L5R and Doomtown. Two years ago, he had a position that needed filling, I needed a job, and everybody won.

AEG has weathered many industry storms including the d20 craze and intense competition in the CCG/TCG. It seems that AEG has survived and evolved with each ebb and flow of the industry and stayed successful.  What do you attribute that success to?

EB: Passion and the willingness to make hard choices.

The passion part shows through in all our games, most especially L5R, which has kept AEG alive and growing in even the worst of markets. But all the folks at AEG truly love our games, and gaming in general.

The hard choices part has, unfortunately, meant letting entire sections of the company go when their lines were failing due to a softening of the market or underperformance of a line. It’s a hard choice, but it keeps the company alive. I think you’ll find the people with the longest history at AEG (John Zinser, Mark Wootton, Todd Rowland, Dave Lepore) all have the passion and the willingness to engage thorny issues head-on.

AEG seems to have shifted its focus to a lot more board and card games recently.  Has that seen a lot of success for AEG?

EB: At AEG, we could happily just focus on L5R for the rest of our days. It’s a great game with a great community. But there are so many other things we also love, so we want to grow and get involved with our other passions.

In the current environment, growth is to be found in expanding our offerings and broadening our base. Given our initial success in card games with Thunderstone, as well as board games with Tomb and Infinite City, we wanted to push further into that market.

How successful will we be? We’re finding out.

Nightfall has done well for us. It’s a consistent seller and has been ported very nicely onto iOS.

Certainly the reception for Smash Up has been remarkable. It was one of the hot games at Gen Con, we have foreign language licenses already signed, and we have people demanding the first expansion… and it hasn’t even officially released yet!

What is coming up for AEG in the near future that you can tell us about?

EB: What I can tell you about is Tempest. Tempest is a series of games all connected in a shared world, a Renaissance-era city-state that sits astride some lucrative trade routes.  We are previewing the first four titles at Essen this year. The artwork and graphic design is lavish, the game designs are unique, the setting is truly engaging, and the games range from Love Letter—a light, fun, 20-minute family game—to Dominare, a 2-3 hour epic slugfest.

What I can’t tell you about is •••••••••, designed by •••••••••••••, which will debut at Essen this year. But it’s fun and very euro, and the •••••••• setting fits nicely with the feel of the game.

What is your favorite AEG game?

EB: Wow, that’s hard.

I still love L5R, even though I don’t work on it anymore. Once L5R gets into your blood, it never leaves. It is my favorite TCG, bar none. Even considering all the other ones I have worked on.

Aside from that, wow, I am fortunate to be able to say that my favorite AEG games are the ones I got to spearhead. I love Ninja for its tension and puzzle aspect, I love Dominare for its depth (every game I have played is very different), and I love Love Letter for its sheer elegance.

It’s games like these that are the reason I am so glad to be working at AEG. And there’s not a single game on our front list that I wouldn’t be happy to play at the drop of a hat.

Thanks for your time.  Look forward to seeing you at MACE.

EB: I look forward to MACE myself. And hopefully I will have a surprise or two up my sleeve to show off there.