Interview with designer, Zachary Eagle, on his game Go Nuts for Donuts! “In Go Nuts for Donuts, players deal out donuts from the deck equal to the amount of players. Each player has a number card for each player in the game. Players all pick a donut they want by placing one of their number cards face down on the table. Players simultaneously reveal their number. If two or more players have matching numbers, that donut is discarded and no one gets it. If you’re the only player that bid for the donut, than you take it and place it face up in front of you. Collect sets, unique and powerful donuts, and pairs of donuts to maximize points.”
Zachary, could you share a little with us about yourself and what got you into tabletop gaming?
Zachary: I live in Snohomish, Washington about 30 miles north of Seattle. I work at the University of Washington doing IT work for the Department of Radiology. I also got my Bachelors in Environmental Science and Resource Management – Sustainable Forest Management from UW. I got into board gaming about four years ago. I played Magic the Gathering a lot back then. One of the owners of a store I frequented recommended Agricola to me, which I loved, and I have been playing games ever since.
What are some games that have been hitting your table lately?
Zachary: I have been playing Dominion a lot recently. One of my friends has all the expansions, so we have a lot of different options. I have also been playing Avalon and Captain SONAR a bit.
Your game, Go Nuts for Donuts, is currently on Kickstarter. Could you tell us a little bit about what type of game it is and give us an overview on how it is played?
Zachary: In Go Nuts for Donuts there is a row of donut cards in between all the players. Each round players simultaneously and secretly select which donut they want to take. Then they take a numbered card corresponding to the donut’s position and place it face down in front of them. When everyone has decided which donut they want, they flip their cards over. If no one else picked the same donut as you, you get to take the donut. If two or more people picked the same donut, the donut gets discard and those players get nothing! The donut row is refilled and play continues until there are no more donuts. That’s it! It is an easy to learn, quick to play game that is great for gamers of all ages.
What is the story behind the game’s creation?
Zachary: About a year ago I saw a poster for a Kickstarter game at my local game store. The game was designed by a local magic player I knew. This was surprising to me. I never thought that just anyone could come up with a board game and get people to buy it. I thought all board games were created by game industry pros. Seeing this inspired me to try and create my own game. I happened to be reading a book about game theory at the time, so part of the inspiration of Go Nuts for Donuts came from learning about prisoner’s dilemma. I created a prototype and worked up the courage to show it to some friends. I started playing it between rounds at Magic tournaments and found that people really enjoyed playing this game.
Every donut type in the game scores differently; the base game without any stretch goals includes 20 different donut types. Was it challenging at all to come up with the different ways to score? Or was it even harder coming up with enough donut types to match your scoring ideas?
Zachary: Coming up with the different ways to score and all the actions wasn’t the hard part. To me the hard part was coming up with donuts to go with all the cards. A lot of donuts are just boring brown blobs, so coming up with some donuts that add some color to the game was a challenge.
There are 3 main donut types – ones that give you a special power the player uses right away, but either gives no victory points or negative points, donuts that gives you straight up points and finally ones that give you points if you fulfill certain requirements. On top of there are different number of donuts in the game depending on the type. For example, there are 2 bear claws, but 6 Boston creams. Was it at hard nailing the right ratio of everything and how did you go about doing that?
Zachary: I would like to say that there was some complicated math that went into perfecting the number of each donut in the game. But I am not that smart! A lot of it was just trial an error. I would guess what number of a donut would feel right, try it out and adjust as necessary. I have played Go Nuts for Donuts hundreds and hundreds of times. So I have a pretty good feel for how many of each donut the game needs.
Do you have a personal favorite donut type in the game?
Zachary: My favorite donut in the game would have to be the Boston Cream. I like the excitement of going for all six for the big payoff. I have played Go Nuts for Donuts hundreds of times and I have only seen someone get all six once or twice.
So let’s talk donuts – you have a favorite donut to eat?
Zachary: Tough question. My typical go to donut would have to be a maple bar. It’s a classic; light, fluffy, and sweet. Yum! I also really enjoy a red velvet donut, but you don’t see those too often. I also had these fresh Hawaiian donuts at the Bite of Seattle food festival. They are cream or jelly filled dough balls covered in powdered sugar. Super sweet and delicious.
What is the weirdest donut you ever eaten?
Zachary: A local donut franchise has these Aztec chocolate donuts, which is a chocolate cake donut with chocolate shavings and cinnamon-cayenne chocolate on top. So it’s a little spicy, strange but tasty!
I have had some strange donuts at Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland too. But it might not be appropriate to talk about those donuts here…
Has there ever been a donut flavor you refused to eat because it sounded insanely gross?
Zachary: Sort of. Recently, at a food festival there was burger that had donuts instead of buns. I didn’t have one, but my friends did and they regretted it soon after.
Getting back to the actual game again. Daily Magic Games is publishing the game, what has been your favorite part of working with them?
Zachary: Working with Daily Magic Games has been great. They also run this board game playtesting group called Playtest Northwest which is how I met David and Isaias, owners of Daily Magic Games, and got them interested in Go Nuts for Donuts. Having access to this type of playtesting groups was invaluable. I have playtested Go Nuts for Donuts hundreds of time through them and have written feedback from most of those playtesters!
How does the lower player count, 2 or 3-players games differ in feel over say the 6-player game?
Zachary: With higher player counts it can get a little chaotic, but in a fun way. You need to keep track of what five other players are trying to do. But even when you do there is always someone choosing erratically. Three players is a fun challenge too. With fewer players you can’t count on other players to play defense as much so you need to focus on blocking other players a bit more.
When you were still prototyping Go Nuts for Donuts, what was the best piece of feedback you received from a playtester?
Zachary: That’s tough, there has been a lot of really good feedback. The best change to the game to come from playtesting feedback would probably be adding an extra donut to the donut row. So that there are donuts equal to the number of players plus one. But there was really a ton of other great feedback too.
Was there a scoring option that you really like that didn’t make it into the game?
Zachary: I don’t think there is a scoring option I created and liked that didn’t make it into the game. The Boston Cream wasn’t in the game for a little bit, but thankfully its back! And for a short while there was no Maple Bar (the donut, not the ability) in the game. This was very upsetting to me because the Maple Bar is my favorite donut, and I think it is a classic. Luckily, I was able to get it back into the game!
What donut had the biggest change in how it scores after playtesting it?
Zachary: The Jelly Filled donuts used to be two donuts, a Raspberry and a Lemon filled jelly donut. Each needed the other in order to score. It was changed to the current version for a couple of reasons. But a big reason why we changed it was that people had a hard time understanding the card. I would write it one way and some players would interpret it differently, I would fix the wording to account for that wrong interpretation and people would find yet another way to misinterpret it! Its trickier than it sounds.
What was your favorite part of designing the game?
Zachary: This will probably sound really corny but it’s true! I really enjoy seeing people having a good time playing something that I created. To me that has been the best part.
What was the most challenging part of designing it?
Zachary: This is the first game I have designed. The most challenging part for me was just getting it out there. When I first created it, it took me a while to build up the courage to ask some people to play a prototype game with me. Looking back on it, that was kind of silly. What’s the worst that could happen?
What was the biggest lesson you learned in designing Go Nuts for Donuts?
Zachary: You just need to get out and play your prototype games. I have been in a bit of a designing rut, but I do need to finish off a prototype and get out and test it soon.
When you step back and look at the finished product, what makes you the most proud that you designed Go Nuts for Donuts?
Zachary: Seeing my name on the box of a game I designed is really cool. Two years ago I didn’t even know that was possible. I can’t wait for the game to be release for people to enjoy.
If you had to describe Go Nuts for Donuts in 3 adjectives, what would you choose?
Zachary: Fast, Fun, Friendly
As we wrap this up, is there anything else you would like to add?
Zachary: I would like to thank all of the hundreds (maybe thousands at this point) of people who have played Go Nuts for Donuts so far. I appreciate all the excellent feedback they have provided. I would also like to thank all the people at Playtest Northwest for providing such a great platform for testing games.
Thanks Zachary for taking time out to do this interview.