In addition to being a tabletop game designer whose star is on the rise, Luke Laurie is also my cousin! I used my insider access to score an interview before he appears on the panel “Tabletop Game Design: From Idea to Reality” at San Diego Comic-Con Friday. Nepotism!

What follows is a quick overview of Luke’s history with gaming, what you can look forward to at his panel and good news about the growing world of tabletop games. 

Leona Laurie: Luke Laurie, game designer. Thank you so much for agreeing to talk with Geek Girl Authority before you head to San Diego Comic-Con.
Luke Laurie: Thanks for talking to me. This is a pretty exciting time in my life.

Leona: Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself as a game designer?
Luke: Well, game design for me is kind of a moonlighting career. By day, I’m a junior high science and pre-engineering teacher, and I’ve been a game designer of board games for about seven years. It’s an interesting thing, because in terms of what I have succeeded in bringing to the market, there’s really only two products that people could go out and buy right now with my name on them. And that’s the first game I published, Stones of Fate, about five years ago. It’s just this little memory game. And The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, which came out in 2016.

The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire was a pretty big hit. That one I co-designed with a veteran game designer, my friend, Tom Jolly, who has a lot of credits to his name. He’s done some classics. Having published that game, and all of the writing that I’ve done with the League of Gamemakers‘ website, has kind of elevated my profile.

RELATED: Read our review of The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire

The current game that I have on Kickstarter right now is called “Dwellings of Eldervale,” and it’s this big, sprawling game that has miniatures and worker placement and all kinds of interesting mechanics– it’s what you call in board game circles “a big box game.” It’s not really my next game, because I’ve designed several other games that are still in the process of development with various publishers. It’s more like my fifth or sixth game, even though it’ll probably be my third to reach the market.

It might look like I had a super productive single year, but really it’s about five years of work that is all going to be revealed at some time within the next 18 months or so.

Leona: How did you get into board games and game design?
Luke: In fifth grade I attended a sleepover at a friend’s house, and it was this big party, and the parents pretty much let us stay up all night playing games and doing stuff like that. It was that night that I learned to play Dungeons & Dragons. I sat in on an adventure, and it was really poorly done– I don’t know that we finished the game or finished the adventure or anything– but I was totally and completely hooked.

Through fifth grade and sixth grade, on my way home from school, I would stop at a little bookstore called Volumes of Pleasure. I would walk a couple of blocks from school, and I would stop at the bookstore, and I’d sit there reading D&D books. Eventually I got my own books, I started to buy the miniatures and I pretty much played D&D for almost 30 years in all of its various forms.

Along the way I played other games. I played computer games; I played Magic: The Gathering when it came out. Then, a little over a decade ago, I started getting really into board games. That’s where most of my gaming is these days, and that’s where most of my creative outlet is.

Leona: And now you’re a successful game designer and Comic-Con panelist. That’s awesome. Tell me about the panel. How did it come about? Who’s it for?
Luke: I was approached by the coordinators of the panel, who were connected to me through other work I’ve done, helping with conventions that I work on in the San Francisco Bay Area. A couple of times a year I go to the big game conventions, and I help run their events called Protospiels, where you get a whole bunch of designers and publishers together and you all play test and try out one another’s games. I run, every Labor Day weekend, the Pacificon Protospiel in Santa Clara, and I also run one at KublaCon, which is Memorial Day weekend.

The panel coordinator, Kevin Hamano, I know just through electronic communication. The three people on the panel are myself, Sarah Graybill, whom I know really well. She helps me coordinate Protospiels up in the Bay Area. The other is Sen-Foong Lim. He’s a super well known game designer, and I’ve met him and corresponded with him quite a bit. I’m really happy to be on a panel with them.

The panel is being targeted specifically at people who are new to all this– people who might have a passing interest in board games and tabletop games but they don’t have a sense, necessarily, of what it would take to create a design and see it through to become a finished product. People who are experienced, published designers probably aren’t going to learn much in the way of new material here. They might get a little angle on how we, the individuals on the panel, see things, and we might see things differently. But for the most part it’s intended to be an introduction for new folks.

Leona: And are there a lot of new folks getting into tabletop games?
Luke: Well, it’s really amazing how in spite of the fact that our world’s continued to become more electronic, more dependent on being wired and being online, the board game industry, the non-digital games, are absolutely and completely thriving. The growth in the market and the number of products and the quality of the products that are coming out… it just continues to grow constantly.

Like the way that Comic-Con has become just this huge cultural icon now, similar things are happening with board game conventions. There are more and more conventions focused on board games and role playing games, and the attendance at all of those events is on the rise as well. So if any of your readers would like to meet me and see what this is all about, they can come to conventions like Strategicon in Los Angeles, or they can come up to the Bay Area and come to Pacificon or KublaCon, or if they’re in the Midwest they can go to one of the big conventions like Origins in Ohio or Gen Con in Indianapolis. These conventions are amazing and everything there is focused around gaming. You know, you have your other satellite kinds of things that exist within it, too, but it’s really focused on gaming. Lots of great stuff goes on.

The Kickstarter for Luke’s game “Dwellings of Eldervale” ends in a few days, and is well beyond it’s original goal of $80,000. Find The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire online or in your local game store now, and look for copies of the out-of-print Stones of Fate on eBay or Amazon.

Tabletop Game Design: From Idea to Reality

Luke Laurie (designer of Dwellings of Eldervale), Sarah Graybill (project manager, Panda Game Manufacturing), Sen-Foong Lim (The Meeple Syrup Show), and Kevin Hamano (Ignite Wonder Games) take attendees on a journey where tabletop game ideas are cultivated and turned into playable games. Panelists will explore various steps of tabletop game development, including playtesting, publishing and getting one’s game self-published. The panel will end with audience Q&A.

Friday, July 19, 2019 3:30pm – 4:30pm Santa Rosa Room, Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina

RELATED: Read all Geek Girl Authority’s San Diego Comic-Con coverage here!



Leona Laurie