Interview - Peter McPherson

The designer behind the hit 2019 release Tiny Towns talks about the inspiration behind the game, it's expansions, and what's coming next in his career as a game designer...

For those of our readers unfamiliar with you, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a freelance writer and board game designer living in Upstate New York with my wife and two cats. Aside from board gaming, I enjoy video games, disc golf, and biking.

Photo Credit: Todd Patriquin (Imagine All The Meeple)

You've become pretty well known in the game design world for designing the hit puzzle game Tiny Towns, but what a lot of people may not know is the story behind the game. Talk to us a bit about the inspiration for Tiny Towns.

Thank you—I'm very flattered! I came up with the initial idea while working a dull desk job. My goal was to create something halfway between Minecraft and 2048. City building games have always been a favorite of mine, so I stuck with this theme for its simplicity and approachability.

As time went on, when did you first start to really think you might have something worth publishing? How did the publishing process go?

After many playtests with friends and family, I started bringing Tiny Towns to my friendly local game store to get the opinions of strangers. It was fairly well received there, giving me the confidence to reach out to publishers. I was very fortunate in the publishing process of Tiny Towns. I contacted several publishers (probably about 20) before Pax Unplugged 2017, and AEG was one of the companies interested in a pitch. Shortly after the convention, they contacted me and told me they were interested.

Designing games and publishing games are two very different behemoths to overcome, and you opted to go with a more established publisher rather than attempt self-publishing. What did that decision stem from? What was working with Tiny Towns' publisher, AEG, like?

I love the creative process of designing a game, and I even enjoy thinking about games as products and experiences—but I have hardly any interest in the business side of things. I prefer to let someone else worry about those details while I have fun thinking up new ideas and sharing them with others. AEG has been wonderful to work with. I was involved throughout development and publication, and they kept me in the loop with every major decision. They're a great group of people that love games as much (if not more) than the rest of us.

Tell us a little bit about the development process of the expansions for Tiny Towns. What was your goal from a design standpoint with each of the two expansions?

I had rough ideas for expansions before pitching Tiny Towns, but before designing Fortune, I realized I had to have the developer of Tiny Towns, Josh Wood, as my co-designer. I was used to working with Josh in a developer-designer relationship, so it was a fun experience to design two expansions side-by-side with him. We want each expansion to offer a fresh take on the core of Tiny Towns, with Fortune offering players a bit of flexibility and some risk-reward elements while Villagers allows for all sorts of new strategies and combos. We hope that both expansions give experienced players something new, while also being friendly for newer players.

What are you excited about in your game design both in the short-term and long-term? Can we expect to see any more designs from you or any more expansions for Tiny Towns?

I'm excited about creating games that do something novel with their mechanisms, and I have a handful of designs in progress with similar puzzly styles to Tiny Towns. I have some upcoming games that I can't talk about quite yet, and while there are no concrete plans, Josh and I are always thinking about future Tiny Towns expansions.

One fun question I like to ask all of our designers at the end of our interviews: What are your favorite games that you're playing right now?

New York Zoo and The Castles of Tuscany are two recent favorites. Uwe Rosenberg is a huge inspiration of mine, and I think New York Zoo is one of his sharpest designs. And The Castles of Tuscany simply takes everything I love about The Castles of Burgundy and boils it down into a shorter, richer experience.

Board Game Giveaway!

Want to win your very own copy of Tiny Towns PLUS the new Tiny Trees Mini Expansion? All you have to do is make sure your subscribed to The Board Game Bulletin. 3 lucky winners will be selected on February 20th!

My biggest thanks to ALderac Entertainment Group for sponsoring this giveaway.

This contest is sponsored by Alderac Entertainment Group. You must be 18 years or older and live within the continental U.S. to enter. Giveaway closes on February 20th at 11:59 PM EST.

My biggest thanks to Peter McPherson for agreeing to take part in this interview.

If you want to learn more about Tiny Towns, click here.