Interview with Road To Infamy Games about Bowties

Road To Infamy Games has launched a Kickstarter for their latest game. Bowties is a delightful drinking game you can integrate into any kind of social gathering. 

I was lucky enough to receive a playtest copy of Bowties, which I broke out in a bar in Nashville with my friends and some strangers (who are now friends). Everyone looked wonderfully silly with their bowtie cards clipped to their shirts, each with their own rule. Every time I asked a question, I had to drink. Every time my friend goaded someone into doing their rule, she had to drink. Every time we guessed our rule incorrectly, we drank.

The Kickstarter for Bowties launched September 5 and will run until October 11. For just a $20 pledge, you will receive a full copy of the game, including special clips and customizable cards.

I spoke with Road To Infamy’s Jeffrey Chin and Andrew Nerger to talk about Bowties and their business.

Tell me about Road to Infamy Games.

JEFF: I originally started designing games just to entertain my friends, including a Hunger Games forum-based RPG, a live action Mario Party, and numerous drinking games. Eventually, I decided to try to convert those fun hang out activities into reproducible gaming experiences, so Road To Infamy Games was born.

ANDREW: The short version is that Jeff and I worked together on an online RPG that used mechanics we built from scratch. It was simple, but also extremely fun and engaging for our friends. While we worked through all the nuisances of creating a compelling game in an online forum, we’d constantly say, “man this would be so easy to make as a board game.” Fast forward a year later and we had the game and were asking ourselves, “how many people do you think would want to play this?” We put it on Kickstarter to find out, and since then, we’ve been in the business of making board games.

What gave you the inspiration for Bowties?

ANDREW: One day we were throwing around the idea of making a fun game to play at our New Year’s party. It was difficult because the game had to be compelling for a very large group of non-gamers. I think the initial idea was, “what if you played a game about just being yourself?”

JEFF: I hosted a New Year’s party and had an idea to entertain my guests by writing drinking rules on post-it notes and sticking them to people’s foreheads. I expected it to get a few laughs and then be tossed aside, but everyone liked it enough to continue playing the whole night, so I knew I was onto something.

Is this the first game you’ve made?

JEFF: Bowties is our third game. Our first game and namesake for the company, Road To Infamy, is a gangster-themed bidding game. And our second game, Cosmocracy, is a sci-fi debate game that was picked up by a publisher and released this summer.

Why Kickstarter?

JEFF: Kickstarter is great for many reasons: It helps us figure out how many games to manufacture. Without folks pre-ordering on Kickstarter I wouldn’t know whether to order 1,000 or 10,000 units. Also, Kickstarter has an incredible, supportive gaming community and it’s undoubtedly the best way to get gamers to discover your game when they would have never otherwise heard about it.

ANDREW: As a small publisher, it is the easiest way to reach a large audience of board game enthusiasts. Kickstarter backers are a unique group of people that not only become excited about a product, but also the people and ideas behind those products. It is really an astounding and fulfilling experience for us because we get to connect with our audience and tag along through their experience with the game.

What kind of games do you like in general? Favorite tabletop, favorite drinking game? 

JEFF: My favorite game right now is Scythe. Heavier euro games usually aren’t my cup of tea, but this one has the perfect amount of complexity, player turn time, and strategic planning. As for drinking games, I love Cheers To The Governor because of the absurd rules people come up with.

ANDREW: It’s hard to pick a favorite. What I like to play depends on my mood. A while back, I remember being really captivated by Love Letter because it made a compelling game with just a deck of 12 cards. For a long time after that, I thought Small World was the perfect game. For me, it feels like a heavy euro that was elegantly streamlined into a light strategy game. Honestly, every game I’ve played has a spot in my heart, even the really bad ones!

What are you hoping for the future of Bowties? What are you hoping for your own future in gaming?

JEFF: This summer I started designing games full-time. As any designer will tell you it’s extremely difficult to make board game design into a viable career until you happen to get one big hit. My pipe dream is for Bowties to be that game that turns my passion into a career.

ANDREW: I hope that we can reach a group of people that enjoy the game as much as we do. It is extremely rewarding to meet a complete stranger, and hear them talk about all the memorable moments that they had with the game. I’d like to be known for making very memorable and approachable board games. Games that you can pick-off the shelf after a bit of time and still remember exactly how to play because it is so intuitive.

What would a perfect night of playing Bowties look/feel like to you?

JEFF: I think I’ve already experienced the best possible game of Bowties. I brought the game to a friend’s house intending to have a chill night of drinking games with a small group. But it turned out their neighbors were throwing a huge luau party and my friends wanted to check it out. While I felt a bit uncomfortable crashing a stranger’s party we went next door. It was as awkward as I expected, not knowing anyone there. But then my friend said we should put on the Bowties cards. Within seconds people were asking us, “What’s with the cards?” and before we knew it 50+ strangers were playing the game including, and I’m not kidding, ex-Chicago Bear linebacker Lance Briggs. It was nuts, and it proved that Bowties worked perfectly as an icebreaker game.

ANDREW: The perfect night for me is hanging out with a mix of good friends and complete strangers. The game makes it easy to get to know one another. It is such a great conversation starter that it has always led to some very interesting conversations and stories.

Any funny personal Bowties someone would come up with for you?

JEFF: I had to add “Fidget” as a drinking rule for myself because I will unknowingly shred the label on every bottle within arms reach.

ANDREW: I think some of our best cards come from noticing our own subconscious quirks. Bowties cards that say drink when you “fidget” or “lean on something” get me every time.

I noticed none of the Bowties are mean spirited. How important was that to you in creating the game?

JEFF: In early stages, we had some cards that said to drink when you “Look bored” or “Look tired” but quickly found out those rules left people with negative feelings about the game or themselves. We sent out 50 demo copies to playtesters and recorded feedback to ensure that every card in the game is amping up the fun and laughter.

ANDREW: One of our core design principles is to examine how our mechanics make someone feel. A card that perfectly encapsulates the gaming experience we want players to have is “when I make someone laugh.” When that card is revealed to the player, you can see on their face the enormous amount of joy they have. At its best, Bowties showcases the kinds of interactions that make a great party.

What did you struggle with when creating Bowties?

JEFF: There are not nearly as many identifiable mannerisms and habits as I thought. Originally I guessed the game could have 300+ drinking rules, but once we boiled it down to only the very best ones we found ourselves with a 100 card game, which turned out to be a perfect amount for a night of drinking. You might think that with time you could memorize all of the rules; however, I still find it difficult to guess my rule even though I wrote all the cards!

ANDREW: A huge milestone for us was figuring out the custom clips. We wanted players to clip on and take off the Bowties cards with a single hand so that it didn’t interrupt the conversations and interactions going on. We thought about making all the Bowties removable stickers, like a name tag, or implementing a hair clip. All these ideas we knew were wrong in our gut, but we couldn’t figure out what to do until our friend Jordan came to us with the design we have now. Thanks Jordan!

What was the easiest part of creating Bowties?

JEFF: Compared to other games I’ve made it was WAY easier to find playtesters for Bowties. People have been very excited and willing to play the game, mostly because it has no time commitment. You can continue to hang out with your friends or play other games while playing Bowties.

ANDREW: It is definitely the easiest game to show to a group of strangers and get them to play. The concept can be explained in a single sentence, and it adds a level of fun to whatever the person is already doing. That has allowed us to polish the game very quickly because we got such a wide range of feedback.

How long have you been working on Bowties?

JEFF: We’ve been playtesting at parties since our original 2016 New Year’s game.

Any sneak peak of possible stretch goals?

JEFF: We’re still pricing things out with the manufacturer, but if we can somehow make it cost effective I think it’d be really cool to have a crazy bowtie shaped box or something like that.

ANDREW: We are really excited about adding some personalization to the Bowties clips with different color options.

Any sneak peak of possible future projects?

JEFF: I have a project currently titled “Ma No Umi.” It’s a strategic puzzle game where you are trapped on a raft in a stormy sea and have to use the currents to navigate around while collecting pieces of the star chart. The first person to complete their star chart escapes the sea and wins the game.

ANDREW: We have about eight or nine projects at some stage of development. One design that really feels different from everything else I’ve ever played is a semi-cooperative game that’s been developing really fast. It blends bartering, storytelling, and a bit of a traitor mechanic together with a really interesting use of custom dice and tarot cards.

Rewards for the Bowties Kickstarter range from a single copy of the game to your name on the box itself. Whether you are a hardcore gamer or simply a fan of laughter with friends, I cannot recommend this easy-to-play experience enough.

Author: K-K Bracken

K-K Bracken grew up overseas and in the Washington, DC area, went to the Ohio State University to get her BA in English, and has been in Columbus, Ohio ever since. She is working on her first novel and co-wrote the book for “Edit:Undo,” a musical featured at the Kennedy Center.



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