Meet the Team, Part I: Justin Call, President

The man behind the strawberries.

The man behind the strawberries.

Here at Broomstick Monkey Games, we want you to feel like you know us. You're not buying a game from a company, you're buying a game from people who are passionate about making great games. For the first installment in this (admittedly) short series, I chatted with company President Justin Call about his history with board gaming and where he sees Broomstick Monkey in the future.

 

What is your role at BMG?

Justin C: I'm the President of Broomstick Monkey Games, which carries the awesome benefit of getting to involve myself in every aspect of the company. A quick summary of those duties includes talking with manufacturers in China and Germany, providing consulting services to third parties, hiring artists, testing and developing new game designs, calculating profit margins and formulating business plans, writing blog posts and responding to comments in Facebook forums, reading articles on Boardgamegeek, attending conventions, building prototypes, shooting videos for Kickstarter, and appearing on podcasts and game design panels.

There's more (lots more), but that's why I've surrounded myself with such a great team of flying monkeys. Jarom, Mark, and Ben all steward areas that I simply cannot do by myself, with a level of expertise that matches or surpasses my own. That frees up my bandwidth to focus on whatever deserves my attention the most and/or whatever I feel like doing...which is awesome.

 

How long have you been gaming/how did you get into gaming?

JC: I've been gaming since I was kid. I played Hero Quest (and got the game shortly thereafter) when I was about 10. I bought some expansion material and would run my own custom missions for friends. We played a lot of Risk, and a few years later I was introduced to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (I was about 13). That really got me into storytelling, writing, and game design, but I was missing a large part of my gamer education until a friend-of-a-friend mentioned BoardGameGeek to me at a game night he was hosting. That really opened up my world, and for the past 11 years I've been a regular patron of that site. I started collecting games, looking for something from every niche so that I always had the appropriate game on hand for any given situation. That familiarity eventually led to game design, which then led to game publishing.

 

What are your favorite types of games?

JC: I really like games with traitor mechanics, bluffing elements, deduction, negotiation, and minimal luck/randomness. I also really enjoy card games (since that is what I grew up playing with my family). That said, I value replayability more than almost anything, since I don't like playing games I have "solved," and I prefer games that either have a creative element (e.g., you can create new ways to play the game each time you sit down to play it), or games that have tactical elements that force you to adapt to each player choice.

 

What made you want to work for BMG?

JC: I think the real question is, what made me want to create Broomstick Monkey Games. I hadn't initially planned to create a board game company, actually. I was a game designer that had an idea for a game franchise (Royal Strawberries) and I wasn't sure how to get the game published. I knew how game designers pitched games to publishers, but I was skeptical about getting to continue the Royal Strawberries franchise after I sold the first game. I knew a bit about Kickstarter, but not enough so that I felt comfortable publishing my own game. I resolved to fix that, and over the course of the next few years I became a Kickstarter aficionado (one that had no actual games published but who understood the system fairly well).

Once I reached that point, I realized publishing my own game would actually be the best option for the relationship that I wanted to keep with my IP. I also liked all the other aspects of game manufacturing (not just game design), and I had a lot of ideas about how I could run a successful game company, other games we could produce, etc.. I became a regular attendant of what would eventually become the Boston Game Makers Guild, and eventually became their Curation Director. That affiliation soon acquainted me with the Boston Festival of Indie Games, and in the Fall of 2013, I brought an early version of Royal Strawberries to the Boston FIG. The submission process for entering the festival required that I submit a company name, and that was earliest incarnation of Broomstick Monkey Games (with me as a sole proprietor).

Jarom helped me do some early playtesting of Royal Strawberries and Mark gave me some business advice, and those positive relationships eventually led to me inviting them both to join Broomstick Monkey Games and form an LLC. I knew Ben from the Game Makers Guild and his blog (BoardGameBen), and when it became clear that BMG had a blind spot for coordinating social media, we asked him to fill that spot. Things have been gravy ever since.

 

What do you hope to see BMG do in the future?

JC: Outside of finishing the Royal Strawberry franchise and publishing other games, I have lots of big plans for the company. We will eventually open ourselves up to publishing games from other designers (the same way other publishers purchase and produce game designs from game designers), but that is to be expected. One of our biggest goals is to find a way to cut down on the time it takes to manufacture and ship games post-Kickstarter. For example, we would love for people who back a BMG project to get their backer rewards less than three months after the campaign ends. One to two months would be even better, but we are going to take things one step at a time for now.

I would Iike to try publishing some good micro-games (similar to what Tasty Minstrel Games has done). I'd also like to see us create apps and produce some games with miniatures. I'm a big fan of vertical integration, though, so whatever we end up doing will hopefully be linked to what we are currently doing, and that means planning very carefully and very thoughtfully for the future.

I suppose we might branch off into other areas at some point (for example, as a writer, I'm interested in exploring the intersection between narratives in books and games), but I can't say much more than that. First, we have to launch some successful Kickstarters, and then we can start discussing other directions to expand and evolve the company.