Meeple Mountain’s 6 Questions with Andy Shaw

Join Tom Franklin as he asks 6 Questions of Andy Shaw, designer of Tactigon.

Andy Shaw is the designer behind Tactigon, an abstract strategy game that was fully funded on Kickstarter in less than five hours.

Tom reviewed Tactigon and enjoyed the game enough to reach out to the designer to ask if he would join us for the first Meeple Mountain’s 6 Questions With… interview. Andy graciously agreed, providing us with thoughtful responses to our questions.

1. How long have you been developing Tactigon and what was that initial spark of an idea like?

Andy Shaw: I never expected or really intended to invent a board game. I’ve been a chess player since I was about 3 years old, and a casual board game player at best otherwise. About 12 years ago, I was attending the US Army flight school, and one day, two thoughts struck me quite randomly. Firstly, it would be cool if there was a game where the shape of the pieces had some direct connection to their abilities. Secondly, I thought it would be cool if slower pieces were actually stronger than faster pieces. From those two thoughts, I started working mainly in PowerPoint on an initial draft of the board and piece design.

2. What was the first version of Tactigon like, and how did it change during test plays?

Andy Shaw: The very first version was a simple print out and some 1/2 hard foam cut into the shapes. Very rudimentary. Initially, the board was larger, we started with 12 circle pieces, and there was only one win condition (taking the Pentagon). Predictably, the game was a slog with that configuration, so over quite a bit of early playtesting we evolved the initial setup and board shape to create a more action centric experience, and added in the yellow tiles after realizing there was no driving incentive for players to move their pieces into the center of the board to engage in combat.

My brother was my main playtester at the time and had several important contributions to the final version of Tactigon. After several months of refinement, the rules were effectively in place, and haven’t changed much in the intervening years. What has changed is the organization and wording of the rules to ensure maximum clarity, as well as the addition of the two advanced rules. These advanced rules were the result of very rigorous playtesting over the last year or so as we’ve prepared to launch the Kickstarter, and my lead playtester for this timeframe has been my son Calvin, who I play against in our playthrough video.

Tactigon: Set up and ready to play.
Tactigon: Set up and ready to play.

3. Tactigon was fully funded in 4 and a half hours. As an indie designer launching your first game, what was your pre-launch strategy and how did you spread the word about Tactigon?

Andy Shaw: Getting the word out is, in my opinion, by far the hardest aspect of game design/publishing. Fine tuning Tactigon to be straightforward but deeply strategic and satisfying was both fun and rewarding for me. I am a designer at heart. However, to market something, you really have to set aside your feelings about it and treat it as “the product.” That was tough and really put me outside my comfort zone. Thankfully, I had two partners join team Tactigon that are much more natural at this aspect of publishing. We did a ton of research and reached out to several people who have had success in this industry.

We were very pleasantly surprised how much people seem to root for each other’s success. I do not think that is true in many other fields.  In particular, the guys at Next Level Marketing (who also run the “Crowdfunding Nerds” podcast), and the folks at GameQuest both gave us much critical advice along the way.

Besides pushing Tactigon via word of mouth, we also engaged as much as possible on social media, created a YouTube channel, and reached out to multiple reviewers and content creators in order to get our name out there. We certainly had our share of missed chances and missteps, but we’ve tried to learn along the way.

4. I see you have two other people mentioned in the Kickstarter campaign. Who are they, and were there others who helped you to develop a finished game?

Andy Shaw: Nolan Southard and Brandon Farrell. Nolan is a good friend of mine whom I’ve known for years. We attended church together when I lived in Massachusetts and we’ve remained close friends. He joined the team after I brought an early 3D printed prototype on a visit to his area in Massachusetts, and he offered to join with me to take Tactigon from an interesting prototype to a viable product. After we’d been meeting for a couple of weeks, he introduced his brother-in-law Brandon to the game.  Brandon was also immediately hooked and was eager to join the team. The three of us have been the core of the Tactigon team, however we have a “silent partner” by the name of Glenn. Glenn does not really involve himself in the development and strategy of delivering Tactigon, but he is our graphics designer and the architect of our website, and may be the most responsible for the look and feel of Tactigon as a product.

5. In your playthrough video, you’re playing your son, who is clearly a strong player. What are his favorite strategies for playing the game?

Andy Shaw: As I mentioned earlier, Calvin has been my lead playtester for Tactigon, at least over the last 18 months when we’ve gotten serious about publishing it. In his words: “My favorite strategy for experienced players is controlling one side in the early game and when I get ahead in fast moving pieces (Triangles and Squares) I trade them until my opponent has no more fast moving pieces. Then I pin their pentagon (assuming I don’t mess up). My favorite strategy with new players is protecting my circles and taking the center tiles to win.

6. What’s a question you haven’t been asked in an interview that you wish you had been asked—and what’s the answer to that question?

Andy Shaw: This is a tough question. I’d say one thing that I do not often get asked is how Tactigon has impacted my family. It’s been a surprisingly steep hill to climb to go from idea to product, and while Nolan and Brandon have been absolutely instrumental in us getting here, I have to also give a huge amount of credit to my wife and my children.  They have supported me throughout this process, despite some long evenings after an already full day or work, or me being gone for a day or two at a convention, not to mention the expenses of development and marketing. Through all of this they’ve been my biggest cheerleaders and Tactigon certainly wouldn’t be where it is without them.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank all the backers that have supported Tactigon so far, and invite all the readers to check our game out, watch the videos, and order a copy of this wonderful game for themselves!

Our thanks to Andy Shaw for his time! As of the posting of this interview (April, 2023, the Kickstarter for Tactigon is still underway. As mentioned in our interview with Andy, Tactigon is already fully funded, so you’re assured that your pledge will result in receiving a copy of the game.

About the author

Tom Franklin

By day, I'm a mild-mannered IT Manager with a slight attitude. By night I play guitar & celtic bouzouki, board games, and watch British TV. I love abstracts, co-ops, worker placement and tile-laying games. Basically, any deep game with lots of interesting choices. 

You can find my middle grade book, The Pterrible Pteranodon, at your favorite online bookstore.

And despite being a DM, I have an inherent dislike of six-sided dice.

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