Lanterns and Expeditions: An Interview with Randy Hoyt of Foxtrot Games | Casual Game Revolution

Lanterns and Expeditions: An Interview with Randy Hoyt of Foxtrot Games

Lanterns and Foxtrot Games

Foxtrot Games is a recently-launched independent publisher who is delivering some great products for casual gamers. We first became aware of them when Relic Expedition was sent to us for evaluation, and we were highly impressed. Now they are seeking support for their next game, Lanterns, which surpassed its $10,000 funding goal on Kickstarter in six days. We were curious to know who is behind Foxtrot Games and how they got started, so we reached out to Foxtrot founder Randy Hoyt for an interview.

CGR: Hello, Randy! Thank you for joining us for an interview. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your background in gaming?

Randy HoytRandy: I’ve been playing games my entire life. As a kid, I played a lot of the classic board games like Yahtzee and Clue and card games like Spades and Rummy. We played games all year long, but every Christmas my mom made a big deal about getting us a new game that we would all play together as a family on Christmas Day. After college, some friends taught me to play Settlers of Catan. Like so many people I meet in this industry, that game introduced me to the rich world of modern games.

CGR: How long has Foxtrot Games been around, and what caused you to take the plunge into game publishing?

Tyler SegelRandy: Tyler Segel and I started Foxtrot Games about two years ago. I had designed Relic Expedition, and playtesters were really enjoying it. Tyler had helped me brainstorm ideas for the game originally; he loved the game and wanted to create the artwork for it. We felt that together (with his creative direction and with my project management and business background) we could bring this game to market. At the very least, publishing a board game could be a cool thing we did once. But if we were as successful as we thought we could be, we hoped to publish other games with a variety of themes from a wide range of game designers and artists.

Without the existence of Kickstarter, we most likely would not have taken the plunge to create Foxtrot Games. Starting a board game publishing company would have been too expensive and too risky for us to even attempt. But we had seen plenty of successful board game Kickstarter projects, and they gave us the hope and the inspiration that two regular guys with full-time day jobs and families could publish a board game.

CGR: What challenges have you faced as a new publisher and how have you overcome them?

Randy: I’d say the biggest challenge is getting noticed. There are over 200 board games on Kickstarter right now! At conventions, the bigger publishers get large booths in premium locations while small publishers get tucked away somewhere in a back corner. We have caught a few good breaks: a popular YouTube video series played through Relic Expedition in a few of their episodes, and a large online retailer mentioned our game in some of their email newsletters. Great artwork and great components have helped: plenty of people stopped by our table at Gen Con because they saw our beautiful Lanterns banner from across the event hall, and many people have commented that the animal meeples alone make Relic Expedition worth buying. I expect this will be an ongoing challenge, finding more effective ways to get people to notice our games.

Also, just like any industry, there is a lot about the business side of making board games that just isn’t obvious when you are starting out. For example, one of the biggest surprises to me was how the cost of shipping affects distribution. A retailer will typically carry only one or two copies of a game from a small publisher, and they’ll need to pay only half-price with shipping included. I can’t even cover my costs selling one or two games at a time that way! Working with distributors is really important for getting into stores: I can ship larger quantities more affordably to the distributors who can in turn ship my games with games from other publishers more affordably to the stores. I’ve made a lot of great contacts over the last year, and I think we are in a good position to get wider distribution with Lanterns.

Relic Expedition components

CGR: We first discovered your company when we evaluated Relic Expedition, which we love! Please tell us about your process of designing and polishing this game.

Randy: It's been great to hear from so many people who love Relic Expedition! When we started brainstorming ideas for a game, we came up with the expanding board mechanic and the jungle exploration theme right at first. I cut hexagons out of card stock and drew dense jungle on them with a green highlighter. I experimented a lot with the types of tiles and how exactly all the different pieces would get revealed: it needed to feel like a fun jungle adventure, not a death march.

It's so important as a designer to test a game as early and as often as you can. Things can sound good in your head and work well on paper, but you can't predict if the game will be fun or not until you get something to the table that can be played. After about twenty tests over six weeks with lots of major changes, the game started to coalesce around its core structure. My wife helped me make some much nicer prototypes, I kept running tests and refining things, and I started sending copies out to people to test without me there to get a wider range of feedback. After seven months and over one hundred plays, Tyler and I felt it was time to get it ready to publish. He started working in earnest on the artwork, and I kept testing and polishing it.

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