A Retrospective Journal from Corey Konieczka
I started working at FFG on July 1, 2005. Before then, I had designed games as a fun hobby, so being able to do it as a career was (and still is) an unbelievable privilege. At the time, FFG had twenty or so people, and we had no idea that the company (and the hobby games industry) was about to grow in leaps and bounds.
It doesn't seem that long ago until I do math and realize that I’ve been doing this for fourteen years. While I still have much to learn, I have experienced much through my years at FFG, and I thought it might be fun to examine my career through the lens of the games I've worked on.
World of Warcraft: The Board Game – 2005
I started my career at FFG designing bosses and equipment for World of Warcraft: The Board Game. I remember spending an afternoon solo-testing boss fights that went roughly like this: roll a handful of D8s on my desk with a clatter. Record data. Scoop and repeat.
Warrior Knights – 2006
We had the rights to republish Derek Carver's Warrior Knights, and my boss wanted more than just a new coat of paint. Bruno Faiduitti and Pierre Cléquin took a stab at a redesign, and I was asked to take it even further.
When testing the game, I vividly remembered one piece of advice from Christian T. Petersen: "Your game is too short." This really caught me off guard. The game was already three hours long, and I'd been doing everything I could to shorten it. I didn't heed this advice, and when the game was released, the fan feedback was: "The game ends just when it's getting exciting." Luckily, I got to fix this in an expansion, but this greatly shaped how I evaluate feedback from others.
This was also the first time I worked with Andrew Navaro on a project. The gorgeous graphic design and cardbacks were made by the man who would one day become the head of FFG studio!
Twilight Imperium: Shattered Empire – 2006
I'm not going to talk about expansions in this article, but I have to make an exception for this one. The third edition of Twilight Imperium was the game that introduced me to Fantasy Flight Games.
Before working at FFG, my friend Gary and I created a small homebrew expansion for the game. Months later, when I applied to work at FFG, I included a copy of it with my resume. Luckily, they liked my additions, and I was hired. A year later I was given the opportunity to work on a Twilight Imperium expansion, and some of my fan content ended up in it!
While working on Shattered Empire, I vividly remember writing hilarious backstories for the new planets. I soon found out that Twilight Imperium is a serious universe, and I had to start over. In hindsight, this was pretty obvious.
Tide of Iron – 2007
My name probably shouldn't be on the box of this game. I designed a few scenarios and helped out, but I didn't design any of the core mechanics. Fun game though!
StarCraft: The Board Game – 2007
I was introduced to the StarCraft videogame at a LAN party in high school. I was hooked immediately, and I sank way too much time into that game and its awesome map editor.
Needless to say, I was over the moon when I was given the opportunity to design the board game. Christian proposed zooming out the scale of the game to show multiple planets, as well as the idea of using A Game of Thrones: The Board Game-style order tokens (but stacking them). With those mandates I dove into my first "from scratch" game design.
Looking back on it, I still like most of the individual mechanics, but holy cow, is it complicated. A 48-page rulebook? Was I crazy?
World of Warcraft: The Adventure Game – 2007
The goal was to create a simpler World of Warcraft game that could be enjoyed by both casual gamers and hobby gamers. In the end, I learned that trying to appeal to everyone meant that it appealed to no one. Except one guy. And he really liked it.
Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game – 2008
I spent the next six months working on game expansions, and then came the opportunity of a lifetime: we had secured the rights to do a Battlestar Galactica board game.
After my first playtest of the game, I knew that we had something special. Instead of needing to strong arm people into playtesting my game, I had people approaching me to ask when my next playtest was. To top things off, some of these people had never even seen the show!
I think what made the game successful was not in how it recreated the events of the show, but how it made people feel. The game exudes an intoxicating mix of deception and mistrust, which was rare among board games. When you secretly look at your loyalty card and see that you're a Cylon, your heart rate immediately picks up. As much as you want to smile, groan, or shout, you have to pretend that your card is blank. It's exhilarating.
Middle-earth Quest – 2009
I was tasked with creating an asymmetric game that had one player taking on the role of Sauron and the other players embodying heroes of Middle-earth. It was a unique design challenge in that I was really designing two different games: Sauron was playing a strategy game, while the heroes were playing an adventure game. I love a challenge.
My most vivid memory for this game was spending a week at Christian's house rewriting the rulebook in his home office. I learned more about rulebooks in that week that I had in my first four years at FFG.
Space Hulk: Death Angel – 2010
The moment that sticks with me about this game was when the late Harald Bilz (in charge of our partner Heidelberg at the time), played my game and said: "It is good, but not great." He then listed the issues with the main card mechanic and how it did a poor job of capturing the theme. He was right. The original mechanic was shelved and would later find its way into the Gears of War boardgame.
I really appreciated the frank feedback, and I think it was instrumental in making this game a great success.
Runewars – 2010
Back in 1998, FFG made a fantasy take on Twilight Imperium known as Battlemist. I was tasked with making a spiritual successor that lived in our Terrinoth universe (used both in Runebound and Descent: Journeys in the Dark).
While the premise of the game was the same, the mechanics were designed from scratch. This was definitely one of my heavier designs and included everything from huge strategic battles to heroes sent on personal quests. In hindsight, it was probably trying to do too much, but perhaps that was part of the charm?
Mansions of Madness First Edition – 2011
My most vivid memory of this game was a discussion with Tim Uren that went something like this: "If we tell players to not, under any circumstance, go into the freezer, do you think they'll listen?" "Hard to say. Let's make players lose the game if they ignore the warning."
The answer is that when you tell players not to do something, it jumps to the top of their wish list. Many people died because of my curiosity, and I learned a lesson.
Rune Age – 2011
This one has a special place in my heart. It was my attempt to add direct player interaction to a deckbuilding game. While it wasn't a huge hit, it still has some dedicated fans and I'm proud of the game.
Gears of War – 2011
I had dipped my toe in the "co-op" design pool with Death Angel, but this was my first deep dive into a fully cooperative board game. I'm most proud of the AI system I designed to control the Locust enemies, and this design later became an inspiration for AI in apps like Road to Legend for Descent: Journeys in the Dark.
My favorite memory was visiting the Epic Games studio to play my prototype with the Gears of War dev team. It was great to show them my game and meet everyone, including the great Lee Perry, who would later help design a little game called Fortnite.
The planned amount of content in this game was staggering, with more hours of scripted playtime than I'd ever been a part of. Luckily, we had a big team (including myself, Adam Sadler, and Daniel Lovat Clark). The plan was to draw on Kevin Wilson's first edition, but to include a campaign from the start. I learned how to split up design tasks among big teams and gained a new appreciation for this style of game.
Eldritch Horror – 2013
I was tasked with building a world-spanning Lovecraftian adventure that borrowed heavily from Richard Launius and Kevin Wilson's amazing Arkham Horror Second Edition.
Nikki Valens came in halfway through the design process and asked some hard questions about this game. She was a key proponent in streamlining the mechanics to what it is today. Before that point, there were probably twice as many token types (including money tokens).
Star Wars™: Imperial Assault – 2014
A Star Wars version of Descent: Journeys in the Dark? Sign me up!
The biggest challenge with this game is that we wanted to have two distinct games in the same box: a traditional dungeon-crawling campaign and a two-player head-to-head skirmish mode. I spent most of my time working on the skirmish game, and I got to geek out and design abilities for this little-known character called Darth Vader.
Star Wars™: Rebellion – 2016
Christian was a fan of the old Rebellion video game, and he thought it would be the perfect inspiration for a board game. Although I had only played that game once growing up, I loved the idea of the game.
I focused my design on what I enjoy most about two-player games: bluffing and mindgames. It's a game about outthinking your opponent and living out Star Wars fantasies in a unique way. If you've ever wanted to blow up a planet, this game is for you.
Star Wars™: Destiny – 2016
In my youth, the Decipher Star Wars CCG was one of my favorite games, so to have an opportunity to work on a new Star Wars collectible card game was a dream come true.
Lukas Litzsinger was the lead designer on this, and it was a pleasure to work with him on this one. From the start, we knew that we wanted to use unique printed dice, and that presented a huge challenge. CCGs with dice have a notorious history, so our first goal was to find a way to integrate them in a fun and novel way. I am super proud of the end result, and I think we created a unique CCG that is engaging, fun, and accessible.
This project was weird in that I played the role of guide and overseer, while the actual development work was done by the talented Dane Beltrami. I helped identify the best parts of third edition that we wanted to keep, and I also provided ideas to try and improve an already great game system. My favorite contribution was the new trade system and how it provided even more opportunities to form and break alliances.
I could talk for hours about the development of Twilight Imperium Fourth Edition, and if you want a glimpse into this, be sure to check out the wonderful mini-documentary that Shut Up & Sit Down created.
Discover: Lands Unknown – 2018
I first pitched this game idea in 2014 as my homage to exploration and survival video games. It later was combined with Christian and Eric Lang's brilliant idea of creating a board game in which no two copies in the world are the same (the full history of which is cataloged here).
I feel like this game was a little lighter than many people expected, but I'm really proud of how it turned out, and I think it deserves a second look (especially if you haven't seen the fully cooperative rules).
Star Wars™: Outer Rim – 2019
This game is inspired by space exploration videogames from the mid ‘90s, like Wing Commander: Privateer.
My goal was to create a game that wasn't about delivering colored cubes from one space to another, and instead lean into the flavor of the universe. My fondest game memories always revolve around the people and the stories, and I think we've provided all the tools scoundrels need to tell emergent stories in the Star Wars universe.
Looking back on fourteen years makes me realize how malleable memory can be. Did we have the concept meeting for Battlestar Galactica on a plane ride to visit Blizzard? I think so, but I'm not sure. Human memory doesn't work like a computer, it flows and rewrites itself to make sense of the world. Memory is built from impressions, feelings, and snippets of conversation—our mind fills in the gaps, but I'm never quite sure which bridges are fabricated.
I do know one thing for certain though: this long list of games are not my accomplishments; they are the accomplishments of hundreds of people. They only exist because of other designers, producers, artists, graphic designers, editors, licensors, playtesters, and more.
I was born in the right place and in the right century, and I have had the pleasure of working with wonderful people to craft fascinating games. The future beckons, and my journey continues.