Game designer Florian Sirieix on how Stomp the Plank came together in one afternoon

Florian Sirieix, Stomp the Plank

Florian, it’s great to connect. Before we dive into Stomp the Plank, how did you find your way into game design?
It wasn’t really planned because I didn’t know it was possible to be a game designer – but as soon as I found out you could create games, I wanted to! A friend of mine – Raphael Donzel – created his own boardgame, Sporz. That was what really started things for me. I’ve been designing games for 10 years and it’s a full-time job now.

What was your first published game?
It was called Deal: Gentlemen Collectionneurs. It was a negotiation collection game for two players – which isn’t ideal! You each have secret collection objectives and on each turn three cards are placed on the table – two face up, one face down. We then have to decide how to divide them up and who takes what cards.

From then to now, do you find yourself drawn to designing certain types of games?
It’s completely eclectic. I’m sometimes compared to Bruno Cathala, because I worked with him on Imaginarium, but Bruna Cathala has a touch… With every game he makes, there’s hard choices and subtle ‘take that’ elements. That’s baked into the fabric of his games… You recognise a Bruno game, regardless of the theme.

With my games, there’s nothing that binds them together. I love lots of different types of games and I want to do lots of different games. My two latest games, Stomp the Plank and After Us are very different. So yes, it’s very eclectic, which means there can only be one person out there that loves every game that I’ve made – and it’s me!

Florian Sirieix, Stomp the Plank

Let’s talk about Stomp the Plank – where did the idea for this come from?
I was working with the game’s co-designer, Benoit Turpin, and he showed me a game of his that had just come out called Le Grand Mechant Monstre. For scoring, he had a mechanism using a magnet, where a magnet would rise to reveal a big, mad, monster. He felt it wasn’t quite working as he wanted, but I thought it could be a cool thing to bring to a ‘walk the plank’ idea on a boat. He thought that was a nice idea and we designed 90% of the game in one afternoon.

Wow! Why did the plank idea jump out for that?
Well, the idea centred around a ‘push your luck’ mechanism and so the ‘you fall or they fall’ element of walking the plank felt very intuitive. We actually thought that it’s so obvious, it must already exist. It hadn’t been done, so we felt lucky and enthusiastic!

Did you know at that point that it would have the table presence that it has?
The first prototype had that, but the artist – Camille Chaussy – and the publisher – David Perez’s The Flying Games – did an excellent job on creating the universe of the game. David had the wonderful idea for the animals to be elephants, which was a fantastic idea to bring “weight” in the game.

You mentioned one of your other recent games, After Us. I know it went down well at UK Games Expo earlier this year; what can you tell us about it?
It’s 2083 and humanity is extinct. You have to help your clan of monkeys rise to collective intelligence. The first player to 80 victory points wins. It’s based on a deck-building mechanic, but it’s also a bit of a puzzle game because you draw cards, put them on the table and organise them side-to-side so that frames on the cards match up. When they match, it means you can collect resources, recruit monkeys and improve your deck.

Florian Sirieix, Stomp the Plank

Did the theme come first or that puzzle element?
The puzzle element came six years ago, the deck-building element came two years ago and the theme came last year! For four years, we had a puzzle game that we didn’t know what to do with; we tried lots of variations.

Florian this has been great. Before we wrap up, two final questions! What helps you have ideas?
I read an article about the brain and how it works that said creativity comes when you’re not thinking. That’s why if you run or go for a shower, you have ideas. I’ll give you a recent example. When I flew to UK Games Expo, I had a word in my head and I wanted to create a game around it.

What was the word?
Autodafé. It means ‘book-burning’, like what the Nazis did. I wanted to create a game centred around saving books. I was tired on the plane, I put my sleeping mask on ready to sleep ­– and then the ideas came! I designed 80% of that game on the plane journey. I’m now working on that with Jules Messaud – designer of Akropolis – who was in the plane with me.

There we go! Keep us in the loop with that idea should it get published! I have one last question – what’s your most underrated game?
Well, my pick isn’t so much underrated as under-viewed! It’s Cowboy Bebop: Space Serenade, a game I co-designed with Johan Benvenuto based on the anime.

Florian Sirieix, Stomp the Plank

We worked a lot on that game and are so proud of it. I think it’s a perfect game! Everyone that plays it thinks it’s really good, but not many people have played it. It’s sad because I think it should be a huge success. An expansion is coming, next year hopefully.

Well, fingers crossed this will send some more people its way! Florian, a huge thanks again for this. And congrats again on Stomp the Plank and After Us.

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