Mark Gerrits on creating SteamRollers

Submitted by ehanuise on Fri, 08/09/2017 - 19:01

Mark Gerrits, who are you?

I'm a civil servant software engineer who sometimes designs games in his free time.

What kind of gamer are you?

In board game geek parlance, I'm mostly a Eurogamer and a cultist of the new. I tend to abstract theme away to a high degree while playing, which makes it hard to really get into the theme of a game. I love exploring the mechanisms and workings of games and prefer the thrill of new discoveries to the satisfaction of really mastering a system. I like most weights of games, from light fillers to games that take all evening (but not so much games that take all day). In my regular gaming group I'm considered a train gamer, but that's of course very relative. I mean I've only played two 18XX games, so I hardly think I qualify :)

How long have you been designing games?

About six years.

What led you to game design?

I wasn't one of those kids who invented their own games out of the scraps of old games. But when I started working in Brussels, I joined a gaming group which had some successful and fledgling game designers as members or on its periphery. That demystified a lot of the design process and showed that great games start as humble prototypes. So I figured I could give it a try myself too. Of course my first few prototypes failed horribly but if at first you don't succeed, dust yourself off and try again.

What was the genesis of SteamRollers like?

After a game of Age of Steam, the loser (which was probably me, but I don't remember), joked that it was nothing but a lucky dice game. (For those that haven't played AoS, resources enter the game through dice rolls — it's a minor and easy to anticipate mechanism) That got me thinking about what a real dice version of a pick-up-and-deliver train game like AoS would look like.

The first version didn't have any cubes but a delivery matrix. This made perfect sense to me but not so much to anybody else. Once that was replaced, the game very quickly came to resemble the version you see now. The last thing to be added were the action tiles. Of all the games I've tried to design so far, SteamRollers went by far the smoothest. Everything just kept clicking into place.


The infamous delivery matrix


SteamRollers early prototype

SteamRollers has a first, very limited edition in 2015. How was it received?

It's hard to get a lot of feedback with only 200 copies out in the world but my impression was that it was well received by most people. Certainly demos have always gone well. We were also lucky to have some vocal, enthusiastic supporters from very early on. Their support has meant a lot to the game but also to me personally. You know who you are.

How has the new edition benefited from the feedback on the limited 2015 release? Did you learn unexpected things from the gamer’s feedback?

Honestly, nothing much changed with the base game mechanisms, though the publisher has optimized some of the game components. Some of the feedback did lead to the mini expansions in the stretch goals (Coal, Orders and Starting Powers). For instance, noticing during development that some people tended to hold on to the delivered cubes provided the impetus for the Orders expansion.


The 2015 limited edition

Since the first prototypes, you played a huge amount of SteamRollers games. Do you still like to play it?

It's become the gaming equivalent of comfort food for me. Some of the thrill may be gone but I have yet to tire of it.

Do you have other games published or to be published?

I had another game come out from Moaideas Game Design at Gen Con this year. It'll also be available at Spiel. It's another light train game but very different from SteamRollers: it focuses on stock manipulation and is a bit on the mean side.


Mini Rails