Interview: Maikel Cheney, Hans Joachim Höh & Dino talk about "FEED THE KRAKEN"

Feed the Kraken is not just a game, it is an amazingly intense experience that will stay with you forever.

"The early vision was to create a full social deduction BOARD game that you could touch—and that would touch you back."

- Maikel Cheney (INSTABIL)

"We like to think of social deduction games as a full meal, not a snack for in between meals. Feed the Kraken both has a board and deep strategic elements."

- Dr. Hans Joachim Höh (INSTABIL / Funtails)

Interview led by WereDINO on The Social Deduction Network Discord

Note: This is not a word for word transcript of the interview, some grammatical mistakes and other things of that nature were altered. For the full unaltered transcript, go find this interview listed under the interviews tab in The Social Deduction Network discord.

Mikrofon, Diskussion, Sprechen, Datensatz, Radio

Dino: Welcome to Funtails GmbH, and thank you for being the stars of another Social Deduction Network interview!

I was surprised to learn your campaign for the Social Deduction game, Feed the Kraken, this week, and I anticipate we’ll have a lot of fun discussing it, but I wanted to give you a moment to address the controversy surrounding poachers who have been killing Kraken and selling their teeth for necklaces and their precious bile ducts to bile duct collectors.

The Kraken were once a proud, vibrant species, joyfully slaughtering those at sea for many generations. Sadly, poachers have made this a rarity.

Will you be donating any of your proceeds to save the Kraken, or are you heartless, greedy, and seeking to profit from this topical tragedy?

Hans: Hello WereDINO, and thank you for having us. Our lord the Kraken is not amused and we will do anything in our power to reverse this situation and punish these deeds!

Dino: Good, good. Truly it is a problem of mythical proportions. Well, now that we got that out of the way, let’s discuss your game! First off, how did all of you meet (there are three of you, right?), and how did your gaming company come to be?

Maikel: Hello Dino, thank you for your warm and welcoming words... I am happy to talk to you about the ancient Kraken ways! I came up with the vision of the game in early 2018 and was joined by Tobias Immich before we met Hans at a board-game convention in 2019. The early vision was to create a full social deduction BOARD game that you could touch—and that would touch you back.

Dino: Oh, so this is a fairly new collaboration. I was thinking you might be childhood friends. Such has been the case with others I have interviewed.

Hans: Yes, I joined "Spiel Instabil" (our team of authors) because I really liked Maikel's and Tobias' enthusiasm and their skills which complement mine very well. Later the three of us joined forces with the publisher Funtails, the good people who brought you Glen More II: Chronicles.

Dino: Yes, I can definitely see people bonding over a mutual love of games. Very nice. Feed the Kraken is a social deduction game, but it takes forty-five minutes to play? I’m confused. Aren’t social deduction games supposed to take ten minutes?

Maikel: Ten minutes?! Not at all! After 10 minutes we have only started to unroll the sails. Feed the Kraken takes you into a full journey that you will chew on for days after the game.

Dino: The Kraken by contrast chews for just a few seconds before it finishes its meal.

Hans: We don't think they should only take 10 minutes. We like to think of social deduction games as a full meal, not a snack for in between meals. Feed the Kraken both has a board and deep strategic elements. I had already published "Götterdämmerung" (with Amigo) when I met Maikel and Tobi and while doing so I had learned a lot about mechanisms that make these games exciting. But Götterdämmerung and Feed the Kraken are not very similar.

Dino: I noticed one of your roles is “The Instigator,” which immediately reminded me of “The Instigator” from “One Night Ultimate Vampire.” Were you at all inspired by other social deduction games when developing yours?

Hans: Götterdämmerung and Feed the Kraken are both easy to learn, but they give you lots of agency and a lot more ways to gather small amounts of information than most games on the market have right now. We obviously know many social deduction games, but I tend to design from scratch, fitting the mechanics closely to the story that I want to unfold. My ideal is that players should be able to guess my rules, when they ask themselves "what would make sense thematically".
I don't know what the Instigator does in One Night Ultimate Vampire and I am quite sure that it doesn't do the same thing that our Instigator does.
(Our Instigator allows a player to add guns to a mutiny after everybody’s decision was revealed.)

Dino: The Instigator forces one player to betray their team. I'm sure your Instigator is very different. I just wondered if it was a nod of some kind. Games like Bezier Games’ One Week Ultimate Werewolf and Brandon Mills soon-to-be-released Stop the Train are also Social Deduction board games with an actual board. Do you think the Social Deduction genre is entering new territory and that games like yours are proving its possibilities?

Hans: I think social deduction fans and fans of "more regular" board games are somewhat separate groups sometimes, but we don't think they need to be. In Feed the Kraken the board really helps to bind you to the unfolding story, because it becomes possible to see which team has an advantage and who is doing better, which tends to be more invisible in other social deduction games. The movement and the current position of the ship and the played navigation cards in front of the players really shows a lot about the game state and give you a better angle to discuss circumstantial evidence.

Maikel: During a game of Feed the Kraken, the deduction slowly unfolds. All sailors start as one team—well that's what they think. The first navigation steps are mastered in great teamwork and everybody enjoys the warm tropical wind in the sails.
But then things slowly start to change… The smell of dead fish gets stronger and the rumors about pirates and the Kraken arise.
Fed by whispers of mermaids and rum-induced visions, the situation on board the INSTABIL gets worse and worse… It doesn't take long until the first mutiny happens.
In big fights for the command over the ship, the sailors lose their temper—and then their true desire slowly comes to daylight.

Dino: Oh! That's crazy! Your game has three factions: pirates, sailors, and cultists. Which faction do you personally enjoy being the most?

Maikel: The sailors of course! And of course I am always a loyal sailor (even though some people tend to tell other stories). The cool thing with the sailors—aka the good team—is that it's not boring at all. Sometimes you even get to throw in a little bluff yourself. Just to confuse the pirates—or maybe even the cult leader!

Dino: I never thought to confuse a cult leader... Give them a taste of their own medicine, eh? And you, Hans?

Hans: I like playing all of them, but the cult is my favorite by far. You start the game completely on your own as the cult leader and you need to both balance the forces between the sailors and the pirates, while letting them fight each other, until you can manage to turn other players into cultists during the journey, slowly increasing your team and your chances to win.

Dino: Nice. Cultists, Sailors, and Pirates... Very cool, but... Any reason at all why you decided to shun werewolves? And as a follow up question, why do you want to hurt my feelings?

Hans: Don't worry, at the end of the interview (or at least after you had a chance to play our game) you will happily change your nickname from WereDINO to CultDINO.

Dino: Really? I am capable of such a betrayal? Well... I am into social deduction, I guess… We'll see if this prophecy comes to pass! For people who are discovering your game through this interview, would you mind explaining the game and the mechanics a bit? How does it work?

Hans: As I said, we were starting thematically and adjusted the mechanics to fit the theme, whenever possible. So this game could NOT easily be ported into a werewolf theme. In Feed the Kraken players aren't killed (until the very last two turns of the journey), when we start feeding players to the Kraken.

Maikel: Well all players are hired on the ship the INSTABIL on Crab Island. On the map you can see the start field is located in the south…

Hans: At the start of your journey, you will receive a secret affiliation marker. You will either be a loyal sailor, a sneaky pirate, or a fanatic cult leader.
Only the outnumbered pirates know each other, everybody else will have to try to find their teammates (or convert them to their cult) as they sail along. Rum-induced visions, cabin searches, inquisitions, and mermaids will help you find out more about the true loyalties of the other “sailors”.

The goal of the game is to navigate the ship towards your final destination, which would be easy if only players weren’t divided into three different factions. Each secret faction wants to reach a different area of the board.

Extract from the Kickstarter page:

"Every turn the ship will sail in one of the three possible directions—but which one will it be?

The current captain and their chosen lieutenant will study ancient sea maps and pass their often conflicting orders onto the chosen navigator, who has to make the final decision. Meanwhile the rest of the crew is busy drinking rum, gambling and telling each other tales of ancient sea monsters.
After each navigation, the lieutenant and navigator go off duty, and the captain has to find somebody sober enough to take their spot instead. Everyone can discuss, how well that last navigation went, who is to blame for the current course, and who should be in charge in the future instead.

Convince your enemies that it is in their best interest to make you the next lieutenant, or navigator! You can even draw your guns and become the new captain in open mutiny!
But for how long will you be able to keep the trust of your crew?

The next mutiny might already be waiting for you if your decisions don’t please your fellow sailors."

Dino: Nice! Those are hexagonal tiles right? Do they get placed randomly, making each game unique?

Hans: No, a lot of thought went into the exact configuration of the hexes on the two maps that come with the game. We want some actions to happen at specific points in the game. Those actions are basically sitting on the board and if you want to use any of them, you will have to steer towards that hex.
Actions which we wanted to allow to happen at any time during the game are sitting on the navigation cards, which will be drawn at random.

Dino: Ah, okay.

Maikel: Here in this image you can spot the different victory fields in the north and the monstrous Kraken miniatures. Also the tokens "knife / off with the tongue" and "flogging".

Hans: Each journey becomes unique by many other factors though: One-shot Character card powers, navigation card actions, the outcome of cult rituals, etc.

Dino: I see, I see... I do like the look of that board. And it sounds like a lot of factors come into play. The role cards in the game are very detailed and have kind of an epic vibe to them like each one has an incredible story to tell. Who is the artist behind the game, and how did that collaboration happen?

Maikel: Oh yes! It was important that every character has its own story to tell—combined with a very unique ability behind it. We were very happy to have Hendrik Noack in our team—who shares this vision of creating excellent artworks and bringing the characters to life. You can visit Hendrik here if you like.

Dino: Sure. I'll have to check him out.

Hans: Hendrik already did the artwork for Glen More II, and its expansion Glen More II: Highland Games. He is very versatile and has done a great job both times, despite the big difference between Feed the Kraken and Glen More II.

Dino: Backers of your game can choose to go for the basic or deluxe editions. What is the difference between these two?

Maikel: The deluxe version was the way I wanted to have the game back then in early 2018.
These deluxe components enhance your unique playing experience and push the journey to a whole new level by providing large nautic objects, which transform your dinner table into a captain's cabin. But, as we know, these components are not cheap and easy to produce. To give everyone a chance to play and own the game we decided to provide a basic version as well.

Dino: The basic edition also looks very nice. But the Deluxe... wow!

Maikel: But the important thing is: The basic version features all game-play elements. The things you will miss are the better visual and haptic experience and the very personal touch of the designers.

Dino: I see. I am also seeing that you are slowly releasing add-ons to the mix. A plush kraken has already been revealed, which sounds cute until someone gets eaten, but are you planning on having any add-ons that enhance the game?

Maikel: Well I don't want to promise things too early—but I think I can drop that we are planning to add an XXL playmat (with a double sided print). This should make the toughest pirate beards curl in excitement!

Dino: Oooooh! Now I'm wondering if I have a big enough dining room table… Idea for an add-on: A larger dining room table.

Hans: Yes, we will add dining tables to our add-on buys! We are also adding more character cards, whenever the community completes one of our social goals. Every single character has a unique effect on the game, which seems minor when you read it for the first time, but will blow your mind if its use is timed well. These cards are very well balanced and multiply the replayability further. Every game feels differently, just depending on your combination of character card and faction. And that is ignoring all the other factors that change each game.

Dino: Yes, and some have already been unlocked I have noticed. Seems like more can be unlocked by sharing via social media.

Maikel: This reminds me: For people reading this—please jump into our #nevertrustapirate hash-tag campaign on social media! We are trying to find out whom to feed the Kraken... and it's so much fun to interact with our followers!

Dino: Hmm... Visit now for a chance to be eaten by the great beast at sea! What an opportunity!

Maikel: Fun fact: Since the end of 2018 I have stopped shaving—solely for this project.
My motto was: If you want to make a game about pirates—you will first have to be a pirate!
I am not sure how Hans prepared himself, when he introduced the Kraken Cult as a mechanic into the game...

Dino: Some things are best left unrevealed, Maikel… I must know... When are you going to make the Werewolf expansion? Please note my intense vulnerability before posting your response.

You know what... never mind... I'll just keep clinging on to hope. We humbly thank Funtails GmbH for the interview, and I hope we can do it again, soon. Hans you are always welcome on our Channel and Maikel, we are thrilled with your involvement with the channel thus far. Feed the Kraken is on kickstarter now, and everyone should check it out!

Maikel: The next time we get together we will reveal how Hans prepared himself for the Kraken—and maybe we will have an idea of how to incorporate a secret Werewolf among the pirates! 

Dino, thanks for having us—it was so much fun talking to another loyal sailor!

Hans: Thank you for hosting us! The Kraken is pleased and will spare your life today.
Make sure to acquire one of our stylish cultist robes before you leave—and see you after dark for our cult ritual!

Dino: I'll get the robe, but I am sorry to say, I have not learned the chants, yet... I want to practice before I go.