Join Meeple Mountain as we welcome Michael Mindes, the owner and founder of Tasty Minstrel Games, to the interview table. Tasty Minstrel Games is the publisher behind games such as Eminent Domain, Gold West, Scoville, and the upcoming release of Yokohama.
Hey there Michael, what games are you playing these days?
I don’t play many board games that are published. Don’t get me wrong, I am very ok with this, it is just a tradeoff that I make to be able to be a game publisher. That is to say, I play many prototypes and I will play games that intrigue me, but I will not really get into playing a board game repeatedly (unless I am actively developing it). With that said, I had been playing Heroes of the Storm (former LoL player) and have been currently enjoying Clash Royale.
With that said, I am excited to potentially get back into Warmachine after about 7 years of not playing (again a sacrifice to be a game publisher).
How did Gen Con treat you this year? The TMG booth was a pretty happening place this year from what I hear.
GenCon went well. We sold many games and met with many customers. For me personally, it was nice to see that I am no longer needed at the booth for things to run well. Next year I will probably schedule more business development meetings and play in some Warmachine events.
What are your thoughts about diversity in board gaming?
I hear Admiral Ackbar in the back of my mind here. “It’s a trap!”
This is how I feel as a publisher and potentially employing people, not as a gamer… I don’t believe in the benefits of diversity for the sake of diversity. I believe that it is best to hire those that are passionate and competent for the position that they will hold. Because TMG really only hires gamers, the pool of candidates (as a percentage) is mostly male. In fact, TMG is currently employing (full-time and part-time included) 2 women out of 10 people. So, yeah we are a pretty male dominated company, but Google Analytics demographic data shows us that our audience is about 90% male. So we are more diverse than that?
So yeah, answering these kind of questions can really get somebody in trouble if you don’t hit it perfectly correct. Again, here is my take:
TMG hires those that are passionate and competent. Those that I feel will be the best for their position regardless of any diversity measurement.
I love the “EmDo universe” that TMG has created, and the fact that you’re constantly releasing new games into that space. Do you have plans for more EmDo Universe games, and can you share any tidbits with us?
Yes, we will make more. And they will be in space.
We don’t really have too many plans. Worldbuilding is something that we might start doing in the future, but it isn’t something that we are concentrating on currently. Our first goals are to be able to make more awesome games available to gamers and to make it easier for gamers to get those games.
Talk to us about your mission statement: “To heal the world by providing games that strengthen family unity, communication, and love.”. Why is this important to you and how does this impact the games TMG releases?
Our mission has actually been updated (internally but not full scale yet). In fact, we did this thinking but I cannot find it right now! YIKES. But the idea is more like this now:
“our mission really revolves around reducing costs associated with what customers are not paying for. So that we can make a wider variety of games in small quantities while remaining profitable and requiring lower sales thresholds for the financial success of a game.”
Which means that we want to be able to make games that we find compelling as gamers even if we think it will sell only 2,000-3,000 copies where our profits would be relatively low (but positive).
TMG is known for games which have a stunningly high quality level: killer art with fantastic components. Tell us why you choose to boost the quality instead of offering games for lower cost with lower quality components?
We want to make games that we want to play. We appreciate high quality stuff. I personally think that we offer great value when compared to the rest of the marketplace.
Speaking of killer components, you just completed an amazing Kickstarter for a Deluxe version of Yokohama complete with metal coins and custom wooden components. You were originally shooting for $40,000 but ended up gathering over 10 times that much. How does that make you feel?
Good. I feel really good about this, and there are a number of reasons:
- Gross profits are good because they allow us to keep operating.
- I first met Hisashi Hayashi in January of 2014 and I am very pleased to be working with him (and his wife) and to be able to bring sales success to his work.
- I am pleased with the turnaround time. I first knew that the game was coming in March of 2016 and I only first saw the game in May of 2016. To go from only seeing the game to Kickstarting the game with 5,784 Backers pledging $431,143 in 9 weeks is a wonderful example of the flexibility and speed available in execution at TMG.
TMG puts out regular emails where you offer pretty real transparency into the business side of your company. Why did you decide to make those insights public?
At the beginning in 2010, it was an outlet for me to think through things. Also back then Kickstarter wasn’t Kickstarter. I was learning everything through immense effort and sometimes painful errors. I personally wanted board game publishing to burst open and become available to others. I started publishing specifically because of the difficulty that my friend Seth Jaffee was having finding publishers for Homesteaders and Terra Prime, both of which I found to be very good games.
I asked Seth [Jaffee] this question, “Since you are not finding publishers, would you be opposed to me publishing these?”
Your last email, #6.7.2, said that TMG is hiring. Tell us more about the position, and the sort of person you’re wanting to hire. If someone gets hired because of this interview, do we get a referral bonus? 😀
Referral bonus first, nope. The positions needed vary over time, but I feel like TMG will benefit most by hiring new folks over the next 18 months. The problem is that I need to have the right people lined up BEFORE the position becomes available. So, I have started gathering information and communicating with folks. There would be positions in the following areas, TMG style HR, Marketing, Production Management, Technologist, and other areas I am not even thinking of currently…
We want to hire people that will work (this is often a sticky one), will try to learn, that are passionate about games. TMG is a peculiar place to work at because of me. I have been trained by my father to run my own business since I was young. I understand how things are typically done and why they are done that way. And in many cases I reject those typical things… For example, I don’t care about putting in hours and punching a clock… I care about results, improving methods, treating other TMGers with respect, and so forth.
In the end, I am pretty unreasonable and demanding, but only in the way that I see that you might be able to accomplish more. I don’t get upset at failure. If I hire somebody to do a job, then I expect them to be allowed to do that job. This goes back to my comment about being glad that I am not needed at the booth for GenCon, it is Daniel’s job to organize and run everything GenCon for TMG. Daniel has now sufficiently leveled up that I am not needed for that, and it makes me happy.
Now that the Con cycle is over, when is your next scheduled release, and what will it be? Can you talk to us about any top secret projects?
Our releases are constantly coming. It is hard to mention any specifically because we have so many. I will bring up the idea of potentially building out a calendar (or progress chart) for non-TMGers to access. This is a popular question that too often we do not have a complete answer for. With that said:
- Oracle of Delphi by Stefan Feld
- Ponzi Scheme by Jesse Li
- Orléans Invasion by Reiner Stockhasuen & Markus Brand & Inka Brand
- Guilds of London by Tony Boydell (AVAILABLE NOW)
- Ar Alchemia by Kuro