Interview with Jack Reda

Jack Reda is self-publishing Black Forest, a horror-themed worker placement game.

To start off, tell us about yourself and your history in gaming.

I’m 45, and I’ve been gaming since I was about 10. The 4-year middle school I went to had a class in Dungeons & Dragons, which I took every year. Around that time I picked up Cosmic Encounter, which is my favorite game of all time. I have a website called The Warp that has chronicled the different editions of Cosmic Encounter, along with all the many custom variants and expansions fans and players have contributed, many by me. Because of my high octane enthusiasm for Cosmic Encounter, when Fantasy Flight Games republished it, I got to consult on the new edition. I’ve contributed to the base game and first three expansions. I’m also one of the designers who worked on the upcoming fifth expansion, Cosmic Dominion.

When I discovered BoardGameGeek.com (BGG), I found an terrific outlet for my ideas on custom expansions and variants for many of my other favorite games, like Pandemic and Galaxy Trucker. Most of those are available on BGG. I also started using The Game Crafter to make some of my original ideas available through their Print on Demand storefront.

Describe Black Forest for us in the form of an elevator pitch.

Black Forest is a board game where players seem to be working together to develop their village, but one player is secretly a werewolf, bent on the village’s destruction.

Were there any particular works of fiction which helped inspire Black Forest?

As a long time fan of horror literature and movies, the setting for Black Forest was an easy decision. There are many folktales centered around that part of Germany, and it’s rich with the fables from the Brothers Grimm. Just the name, “Black Forest,” conjures up images of dark and foreboding trees and atmosphere. The Schwartzwald (as it’s called in Germany) is really quite charming and beautiful, and having that idyllic locale juxtaposed with menacing werewolves is a very interesting concept to me. Of all the “classic” monsters, I’ve been drawn more to werewolves than any other. I have a terrific anthology of werewolf short stories called The Ultimate Werewolf, that includes tales by Harlan Ellison, Philip José Farmer, and Larry Niven that I read every couple of years. It has been very important for me that the art work for Black Forest help convey a spooky, Gothic atmosphere, and I’m thrilled with how well it’s turned out.

What aspects of Black Forest do you believe cause it to stand out from other worker placement games on the tabletop game market?

One of the things I’m most pleased about with Black Forest, is how the worker placement mechanic unfolds. Typically, players compete with each other when taking turns placing their workers on a board. In Black Forest, they are ostensibly working together for a greater good. However, with one player trying to covertly slow progress or disrupt it altogether, everyone has to pay close attention to the moves each player makes, and try to read intent into their actions. The level of suspicion in the game is high, and the non-werewolf players are looking for any clues as to the identity of the werewolf. And of course, as the game progresses, players begin losing their workers, making progress even more difficult.

If Black Forest proves to be successful, are there any expansions you would like to publish?

While developing and playtesting Black Forest, I had a lot of fun and interesting ideas that I had to start scaling back so that the published game was manageable from the point of cost, weight, etc. Thus, there are quite a few things that are ready for an expansion, and a few more that I’ve been working on in the last several months. The game can be expanded to more then 5 players, but it can also accommodate some new modes of play, including teams (as well as teams where the teammates don’t know each others’ identities). I’m also keen on introducing more aspects to the game that involve difficult decisions for players to make, and the “Village Elders” expansion will focus quite a bit on that.