Interview: Brendan Mills & Dino talk about "Hit the Silk!"

Hit the Silk!

"Hit the Silk! was originally the ending of an escape room idea we had. The idea was to introduce a moral dilemma at the end of a game."

- Brendan Mills (Escape Plan)

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: Brendan Mills, it is great to have you back at the Social Deduction Network! Yes, the creator of Stop the Train! has returned to kickstarter with a new title that comes in the form of an imperative sentence ending with an exclamation point, Hit the Silk! Looking at the titles of your games, do you get some kind of thrill, ordering people around in an aggressive manner?

Brendan: Yes. Conduct the Interview!

Dino: Oh! Ugh… Drops papers… You know, a little sugar makes a big difference...

Brendan: It's interesting that you use the word 'thrill'. I think that's what we're trying to convey with the title.

Dino: Feel like we are starting a therapy sentence. Yes, and how does that make you feel?

Brendan: Thrilled...I guess.

Dino: Okay, okay. We'll get to your parents in the next session. The premise of the game reminded me of the intro to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and the legendary success of D.B. Cooper. Were you inspired by something? How did you come up with the premise?

Brendan: Ha, but both of these games have that kind of action movie thriller plot. Oh, Hit the Silk! was originally the ending of an escape room idea we had. The idea was to introduce a moral dilemma at the end of a game.

Dino: Oh, where not everyone could leave the escape room? Sounds controversial. "Grandma, you've lived the longest so..."

Brendan: Yes, completely undoes all the cooperative work that precedes it. For this reason, we abandoned it as an escape room concept, but the idea stayed with me.

Dino: Social Deduction in an escape room would be interesting. "One of us is working against us...!"

Brendan: Interesting, but thus far I've not found the context or mechanic to make that work. Also, it could really ruin it for an unwilling player.

Dino: Maybe if everyone in the escape room was a stranger and the secret saboteur worked for the escape room company.

Brendan: That would be the game working against you... which you'd have to know up front.

Dino: Hit the Silk! has elements of a bluffing, co-op, and social deduction game. Could you tell us about the game’s mechanics?

Brendan: Ok, you're on board a plane losing altitude. To explain mechanics, you need to grasp the objectives:
Get yourself a parachute.
As a team, raise enough cash to settle a casino debt.
The game is semi-cooperative though... there's not enough parachutes to go around.

Dino: So, players try to gather the supplies they need, working together, but also partially working against one another because of the parachute problem.

Brendan: Exactly right... you've got one eye on your hand of 4 cards and the other on the game board where an altimeter needle is dropping every time you do something.

Dino: Ah, and you have to exit the plane before a certain altitude? So it's a race against time?

Brendan: Yup - and the way you jump is by an agreed majority vote, which happens every few thousand feet... until a mandatory bailout at 1000ft.

Dino: Ah, is it possible that more than one player is left without a parachute?

Brendan: Yes, not common, but possible. There are a number of ways the game can end for a player. In a 6 player count, there's only 4 parachutes

Dino: I was just going to ask about that: How would a four-player game differ from a six-player game?

Brendan: The deck of cards - supplies on the plane - is altered. And so is the target cash (the casino debt). At higher player counts, there are more weapons, parachutes, money etc... but still not enough!

Dino: Oooh! Weapons! I understand there are handcuffs that greatly affect things?

Brendan: Handcuffs are useful, disruptive and often amusing. Typically, you use it to tie the fates of two players together. They live or die together in the jump... depends if they have enough 'chutes between them.

Dino: So, if they both have parachutes, they are fine?

Brendan: Ok - here's how it works. If I handcuffed myself to you. Like this. CLICK. We're now tied together!

Dino: Oh great... I have to go to the bathroom...

Brendan: Oh, awkwardly, we are going together then.

Dino: Ha!

Brendan: There's a token that goes in front of you that ties you to my handcuff card, which I no longer hold. After I play the handcuff card, nothing can separate us. Except a key.

Dino: Interesting. If only one of us has a parachute after a vote to leave, we both stay on the plane, right?

Brendan: No, we're both jumping. It's a trust thing. That would be an unfortunate and grizzly end. But it's unlikely we will both vote to jump.

Dino: Could a player handcuff themselves to someone to increase their chances of getting a parachute? Like they will suddenly have an ally invested in getting them a parachute?

Brendan: They usually handcuff themselves as insurance to prevent a vote to jump without them. Yes, it's all about the alliance.

Dino: And if players die when jumping, their money does not count for the casino debt?

Brendan: Oh good question, we've gone back and forth on that one a bit.

Dino: I mean, the money doesn’t die, right?

Brendan: No, but it may be too far away to recover.

Dino: Right. I am guessing you need to live to be counted amongst the winners?

Brendan: Yes, although it is possible to parachute with someone dead on the other end of your handcuffs and contribute their cash... if you have two parachutes. Your line of question is taking us down some unexpected, rare and macabre channels!

Dino: Oh! What a crazy turn of events that would be! Think I got it, now. The handcuffs sound awesome! I was pleasantly surprised that a game of Hit the Silk! ends with a mini game of sorts. Could you tell us about that?

Brendan: Originally, the game had 1 loser. Normally that's fine - whilst it's tense, it's also fun and lighthearted. There were a couple of times when I was left high and dry and I felt utter betrayal... so I wanted to make one last roll of the dice available. The chance to LAND THE PLANE! My daughter, 7, actually came up with the basics of the concept... and we developed the idea into a mini game end. We love a finale in the game... it just feels a great way to finish the story. Some games just end with counting up points and we wanted a bit more than that... so a moment of drama. Will she crash into the lake? Will he crash into the foot of the mountain?

Dino: So the player left behind has a small chance of turning the tide by landing the plane… I imagine that the mini game is suspenseful for all the players! Do you find that the player stuck on the plane is just as nervous about the outcome as the players who jumped off? Because a successful landing could rob the other players of a victory, right?

Brendan: Yes! The finale is much more luck-driven than the game, but there's just enough strategy that the payoff for success is really satisfying thematically. Yes, my friends screwed me over, but now I get the chance to rob their victory if I can just land this plane. Even better if I hold a pilot's licence.

Dino: But to win, they must have more money than the jumpers minus the casino debt, right?

Brendan: Yes, but they often do… If you don't have a parachute, there's more space for other stuff in your hand. And you get to raid the lockbox and the plane one more time before you enter the cockpit.

Dino: Contingency questions! If the “plane lander” does NOT have more money, does this player lose?

Brendan: It feels more like 2nd place than losing.

Dino: Okay. If the plane lands, but the jumpers do not have enough money to pay the debt, does that affect the pilot’s victory? Or does the pilot just win twice in that situation?

Brendan: So, if the parachutists can't settle the casino debt, they're as good as dead anyway. They will lose irrespective of the pilot's efforts. It's a sweeter victory for sure.

Dino: The pilot would presumably have the money to pay off the debt if someone came looking for him/her...

Brendan: The pilot is assumed dead! They are free to enjoy their spoils in an exotic destination

Dino: Ah, the comforts of a fake death… Now, I understand if the number you are about to give me is not very high considering the theme of the game, but exactly how many werewolves can we expect to see in Hit the Silk!?

Brendan: We haven't fully investigated the cargo hold.

Dino: So... at least what...? Six...?

Brendan: We can confirm there are none in the lockbox or cockpit.

Dino: Okay, someone’s being evasive… Starting to worry there are less than three...

Brendan: I will make you the same offer as Stop the Train! If we fund at £50k, then I will introduce an expansion for you. A custom Werewolf card!

Dino: Deal! I love the look of the game! The punch board pieces are great, and the art looks thematically appropriate. Who is the artist behind the game and how did your collaboration begin?

Brendan: Yeah, we really like that 1930s retro / travel poster style. We've worked with Gareth Griffiths, who also helped us on Stop the Train! We've been working together for about six years in the Escape Room world, before moving into board game arenas.

Dino: Cool! Always nice to have someone you have a long working relationship with. Backers can choose to add a mini plane to their game. What will this mini plane be like, and will passengers not have any leg room?

Brendan: It's wooden. Spray painted silver. We always go for eco-friendly options. Minimum or no plastic ideally.. It's broadly the look of a Lockheed 10-A.

Dino: Nice! I’m getting one...

Brendan: As for leg room, you know that's extra?

Dino: Dang it! Inflight movie?

Brendan: Highjackers need to think about other revenue streams too... especially if someone just stole £30k from their possession

Dino: Bag of salty peanuts?

Brendan: No, but complimentary flannel is available.

Dino: That’s something! Just include one or two barf bags, and I’m happy! Hit the Silk! is nearly funded at this point, and I see that you have some stretch goals waiting in the wings. Which stretch goals are you most excited about and hoping we are able to meet?

Brendan: I like the Incident Cards idea... just adds a little chaos for those players that like it. Turbulence, lightning etc.

Dino: Oh, that does sound cool!

Brendan: And also the scenario cards. We've got a scenario involving the need for a life jacket as the plane lands on open water… but you should probably ask me about the social deduction elements right?

Dino: Wow! That sounds awesome! Yes. Please tell me about those.

Brendan: It's got some. But the game isn't exclusively social deduction. The deduction is often around whether a player is bluffing. There's no requirement to bluff, but a clever bluff can win you a game. Just as a bad one can see all of your crew turn on you. It's also about trading - in which you can bluff too.

Dino: I can definitely see that. I sometimes think there is a weird gray area that separates bluffing games from social deduction games.

Brendan: The alliance aspect is strong and if you find yourself on the outside of a tight circle of deals, you've still got enough options to make amends. Handcuffs, Theft, Poison - there's nothing beneath you at that moment. You can also raid the plane for whatever is lying around.

Dino: It’s all about survival… Do you have aspirations to create an expansion for this game? Maybe adding new Equipment and Action Cards that greatly affect the game? Maybe one character holds the card that includes the directions the team needs to pay the casino debt and jumpers must have this person in their midst to win… Or failing that, they must perform a mini game to escape their debtors similar to the challenge of the plane landing challenge...?

Brendan: Yes, it's all about survival, whilst pretending it's fully cooperative.A for expansions... sort of. In honesty, we think Stop the Train! is better suited to expansions than Hit the Silk! Yes, we've got ideas, but we need to be careful that adding more ideas and complexity might detract from the very well oiled core of the game. That said, the Scenarios we could introduce will keep Hit the Silk! fresh... so we've got a lot of ideas there

Dino: Maybe one of the parachutes is a malfunctioning parachute, and the player who has it also needs the repair kit before jumping…?

Brendan: The dummy parachute? Brilliant!

Dino: Or… werewolves…?

Brendan: I think we'd need to land the team in a forest full of werewolves.

Dino: Yes! We are sharing a brain right now...

Brendan: The Werewolfs clone the players so everyone has a doppelganger.

Dino: Yes, yes. I’m with you...

Brendan: You must then protect the cash needed for the casino... the werewolves have other intentions. I don't actually know how Werewolves spend cash though, so the idea has fizzled out.

Dino: Players send the doppelgänger werewolves to see the debtors who get eaten. How much of your background with escape rooms went into your game design? Do you think this gives you an advantage when designing tabletop games? I am guessing it does...

Brendan: It causes us to think about player experience a lot... we get to see a lot of that first hand. It helps us identify what's boring... and worth avoiding. It helps us to think about the scenario and thematics of the game. I think other designers will have different advantages though - so, it's probably partly a horses for courses thing.

Dino: Right. That all makes sense. You brought up Stop the Train! Expansions, which I did meant to ask about. The last time you were here, we talked a little bit about how easy it would be to expand the game. Have you considered doing such a thing in the near future? Different track pieces? New roles?

Brendan: It's still on the wishlist. Right now, we need to get the base game out there more. It's made a great start, but social restrictions have left it on shelves awaiting the return of group gaming a bit. I'm sure it will start to snowball at that point and free up some capital to explore expansions

Dino: Yes, I think you are right.

Brendan: There's an idea about having two trains and being able to move between them, but you don't know where the bomb is.

Dino: Did I suggest that...? I thought I brought up a second train... maybe it’s just my desire to take credit for things talking, though.

Brendan: You suggested two routes! A city just beyond Paris... that's actually still part of our thinking. Opens the way for a second saboteur who wants to take down another city.

Dino: Oh, okay.

Brendan: Oh, maybe you did! Well, the idea is great either way.

Dino: Agreed.Can we expect or hope for more social deduction games from you in the future? Are Dock that Yacht! or Trim a Tree! in our future?

Brendan: Haha! Well, I can't say that I don't have more ideas in that realm... I think my history suggests that I might try something new. Whichever realm, the bias will be social. I've got three or four semi developed ideas in the pipeline... ranging from dinosaurs hunters with rucksacks - a kind of sabotage game, a POW escape game amongst others.

Dino: Those... those sound really good! Well, that’s great! Thank you to Brendon Mills of Escape Plan Games for being here. Hit the Silk! is on Kickstarter now. Back it today!

Brendan: Many thanks for your time and support! Also, do you have a key for these cuffs?

Dino: They are your cuffs… Why would I...? Sigh...

Brendan: Oh, we might be stuck for a while.

Dino: ...