"You and your crew have completed a bank heist and are spending the next week together in a warehouse to avoid getting caught."
- Keith Wilcoxon (Brains and Brawn Gaming)
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.
Dino: The Social Deduction Network proudly welcomes Keith Wilcoxon of Brains and Brawn Gaming. “The Bank Job--Don’t be a Rat” is live on kickstarter right now. I must start by asking why you are so against rats. Do you feel the same way about pigeons, and has Ratatouille done nothing to make you sympathetic to their plight?
Keith: While I do love ratatouille (both the food and the cute movie), I must say that rats are fiendish creatures that only think of themselves. Plus they eat my food...and I like my food. As for pigeons, I have to stand by the little coo makers! I have a designer friend that would chastise me if I did not.
Dino: Hmm... Very interesting. How would you feel about the pigeon-rat Bart's twin created in a Tree House of Horror Simpsons episode? I suppose you might be neutral to it?
Keith: Oh, wow! I totally forgot about the pigeon-rat. I might say, "yes," though it would depend wholly on whether it squeaks or coos.
Dino: And this designer friend... designs clothing for pigeons? I suspect it would squoo...
Keith: He does not, but his design company's mascot is a pigeon.
Dino: Ah! Hopefully his company multiplies and plagues major cities. Well, now that we got that out of the way, I’ll ask you about your game, I guess. Your game is of my favorite genre: social deduction. When did you first get into social deduction, and what are some of your favorite social deduction games?
Keith: Oooh, I would say I fell into social deduction all the way back in high school (we don't need to discuss how long ago that may have been). We would play games of mafia at gatherings. Since then, I have loved deduction games because they combine critical thinking (a key component of our games) with party games (something I have always been a fan of). As far as specific games I enjoy, I am a fan of One Night Werewolf, Secret Hitler, and Coup in my top three.
Dino: Yes. For me, social deduction helped me cope with things I don't much care for: social gatherings and parties. Those are some great ones for sure! Are you familiar with “Snitch,” by Slight Games? It’s a very different game than yours, but it is also a social deduction and feels like a spiritual cousin to your game in terms of its theme and aesthetic.
Dino: That one with the green background is the "Driver."
Keith: Hmmm, I have not come across that one yet. It certainly looks like a close cousin indeed.
Dino: It's great! A kickstarted game from some time ago.
Keith: Nice! Why must we have such bland depictions for drivers? Ha!
Dino: Some people depict get-away drivers as babies, so they come in all forms.
So for your game, there are three different roles that players can take on: The Crew, The Rat, and The Snake, each with their own win condition. For those tuning in who are not familiar with your game, could you explain how the mechanics work?
Keith: Absolutely! So the game premise is that you and your crew have completed a bank heist and are spending the next week together in a warehouse to avoid getting caught. Each player will get a crew member card that shows what their job on the crew is. These cards serve two purposes: they set the action selection order for each morning, and they give players asynchronous powers. Players will then be given a role card (which you mentioned) that will determine their specific win conditions, which are checked in order at the end of the game:
The Rat - Wins if the diamond and tracker are in the same spot (with the same player or in the score).
The Snake - Wins if they collect the diamond but not the tracker.
The Crew - Player with the most loot wins, but their loot must be less than the score (or everyone knows they've been skimming too much) and they cannot have the diamond or the tracker.
Dino: Sounds tricky!
Keith: It certainly can be!
Dino: I like how each game only has one winner, even if several or all players have the same role. What role is your personal favorite to play?
Keith: I definitely love being the snake! It is a deceptive role that can seem very easy to win with until you get to the last couple of rounds and things start to make you sweat.
And, to add to the idea that there's a clear winner, it is also possible that no one could win if all of the crew became too greedy.
Dino: Nice! I could see it being fun to be the snake. Plus you get to talk to Harry Potter.
Indiana Jones feared snakes. His father feared rats. With which of these creatures would you rather be surrounded by while under ground seeking ancient relics?
Keith: That is the toughest question yet! I would have to go with snakes. Rats just give me the jeebies. They can eat through bone!
Dino: Yes, but I heard hoards of them were once defeated by a pickle, so how tough could they be? The art style of your game is interesting. I feel like the members of this bank robbing crew look like they would work well as the ensemble cast of characters in a Joss Whedon television show.
Dino: The Mastermind is the most mysterious of the bunch, only revealing herself to give orders. She looks and dresses like a real estate agent, but every once and awhile, her dark side comes out and everyone knows not to cross her. The Yegg is the always snarky, sarcastic one, and the Hacker is the quiet one who can’t get the courage to tell the Operator, a genius manipulator and expert in human psychology with an intentionally ditzy personality, just how he feels about her. The Driver is keeping his life of crime from his family, doing his part to get his sick four-year-old the medical care he needs. The Brute is just an idiot there strictly to get the gang out of sticky situations with his incredible strength and to amuse the audience through well-timed comic relief. …Who is the artist, and how did your collaboration begin?
Keith: I'm glad you enjoy them. I could definitely see a Joss Whedon show with them. hint, hint Joss if you're listening... As far as the artist goes, this game's art started from a discovery of stock art, actually, that I really enjoyed the style of. I reached out to the artist to get the ability to use source files, and then I make changes where I want to for it. If we ever make a second edition (much in the vein of the Mad King Ludwig), I hope to draw up art from scratch for it.
Dino: Ah, I see. You know what might make this cast of characters even more Whedonesque? Werewolves! Don’t forget Seth Green played one in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Why aren’t you giving us werewolves in this game?
Keith: Don't get too ahead of our plans! We do have ideas for growing this heist crew down the line…
Keith: One of our favorite mechanics in a game is asynchronous player powers. We put them in almost everything by Brains & Brawns Gaming. The main advantage to this is that it can make for some wild (and sometimes wacky) expansions or even complete overhaul editions. And anthropomorphic bank robbers just sound like fun.
Dino: Maybe you could include a lovable pigeon at some point. With some coo tricks up its metaphoric sleeve.
Keith:Well, I said I couldn't put them down, but let's not stretch it. Ha! You'll ruffle the pigeon's feathers.
Dino: Aw... can't you just wing it?
Dino: Anyway... I really like discovering games like yours on kickstarter. Why did you decide to use kickstarter, and how has the experience been for you?
Keith: Hmm, I would say that I decided to use Kickstarter because it is a great source for indie game publishing. There are other options for crowdfunding, and we might explore them down the line, but I have enjoyed Kickstarter thus far. It certainly has its advantages and disadvantages, including its struggles, for sure!
Dino: Yes, I've only looked into kickstarter. I really like it. What has been the biggest struggle?
Keith: Oh, without a doubt, building the crowd base. It is not only the most important part of any crowdfunding campaign but also, ironically enough, the one part that I am horrible at executing.
Dino: For sure, marketing is tricky. I hear a big part of it is about making connections and such.
Keith: Something like that.
Dino: I have seen many campaigns have success with cross promotions, where similar games launching at the same time promote one another in respective updates.
Keith: I have seen that used, as well. I personally have no problem with cross-promotion. On the contrary, I encourage it. I love seeing creators across any genre/platform/etc share each other's work to build up the community as a whole.
Dino: You are brand new. It takes time, but you'll get there, for sure. Keep at it, I say, for I selfishly get games on account of your struggle. If we could go back to the idea of expansions to which you alluded to earlier and disregard your suggestion about not getting ahead of ourselves... What about this idea: Add an undercover cop who wins if he correctly identifies the snake, the rat, or the fact that there are no snakes or rats in the game? That might be cool, right?
Keith: I've toyed with the idea similarly. I try to avoid player elimination, and a role like that is very "ousty" (? that's a word now) in that if they're wrong, they're pretty much done for the game. So I'm trying to come up with a way to play that into where you still don't reveal until the end.
Dino: I see. Good point. I think people dismiss games too easily with player-elimination, though. There are plenty of excellent games that have it.
Keith: Oh, I agree! As I mentioned, I do love mafia, which is built with player elimination as a key aspect. One thing that is nice about any expansions we make to The Bank Job: the game is minimalistic in nature, and expansions would remain such. This means that the MSRP would be pretty low.
Dino: Yes, I could see that. Pitch number 2: You add a werewolf thief! Hear me out! This thief plans on killing everyone at the end. He wins if he stays alive by taking possession of both silver bullets so that neither can be used against him. At least one player must be holding on to a silver bullet for the werewolf to be killed, but they are worthless in value. Thoughts?
Keith: You are trying to saturate the social deduction genre with werewolf imagery, I see!
Dino: I come to these interviews with an obvious agenda, yes.
Keith: I've noticed that reading them. I will give you the answer I give playtesters occasionally...I'll take that under review!
Dino: Excellent, excellent. I'll take that as a guarantee because of my blind optimism.
Keith: I feel like I need a disclaimer in the interview… Ha!
Dino: But I agree with you: this game definitely has a lot of potential for expansions without compromising its minimalist integrity. Such a disclaimer would hurt my likelihood of luring people in. I've checked with the lawyers. Such a disclaimer is not required.
"What the heck are you talking about?" they told me.
Keith: Should you have a *Disclaimer not required disclaimer on your disclaimer?
Dino: I'll have to check on that...
Keith: Besides, lawyers don't reeeally know, do they?
Dino: My lawyers assure me they do.
Keith: I'd check their disclaimers.
Dino: They insisted I need not check such things. Do you think you might make more social deduction games in the future?
Keith: I certainly hope so!
Dino: That's what we like to hear! More werewolves!
Keith: It is a genre I enjoy greatly. It just depends on what inspiration hits me at the time.
Dino: Well, then I hope you become a regular around here. I'll do what I can to steer your inspiration our way! But you have aspirations for other types of games?
Keith: I will certainly need to try to catch a game with you lot sometime. I have plenty in the works, yes. Everything from family games to skirmish games.
Dino: Care to plug one or two?
Keith: I'll never turn down the opportunity! We have a matching memory game that's a quick and easy play. Our kids really enjoy it as a fun game for the family. It's called Match 'Em Up! And our current project in final development is a sci-fi game called Star Travelers. It's a heavier-weight game about space exploration and, of course, killing alien baddies based on a young readers' book series by the same name. Both have more details on our website.
Dino: Oooh! Sounds like some variety there!
Keith: Well, you can't sell eggs if they're all in one basket...Or something like that.
Dino: I mean... I think it makes sense to sell them that way. I don't want to carry them in my arms...
Keith: Yeah, when worded that way, that saying really doesn't make much sense.
Dino: Don't suppose there are fetal pigeons in those eggs, do you?
Keith: Feed them to the snakes!
Dino: Just trying to make a call back, but I suspect it made as much sense as your egg/basket analogy…
Keith: Indeed, fetal pigeons is an odd entry for someone just joining.
Dino: Oh! So your stance on pigeons has changed! What will your friend with the diseased mascot think...?
Keith: Now, now, I will not incriminate myself.
Dino: Okay, we'll go easy on you this time...
Keith: On the note of upcoming games, I am excited for an upcoming game jam with Break My Game. The last one is what sparked The Bank Job, actually.
Dino: Break My Game? This is one of yours? A kickstarter game? I suspect I misunderstood you…
Keith: Oh, no, it is a playtesting and design community. A Discord server I try to be involved with regularly.
Dino: Oh! Well, that's cool.
Keith: I am an event host there, so I plug where I can!
Dino: Well done! We are so glad you made time to talk to us today! Thank you to Joss Whedon and the rest of you who tuned in. “The Bank Job--Don’t Be a Rat” is on Kickstarter now! Back it before the cops get here...
Keith: Thank you! It was a pleasure being here.