Designer Interview: Jesper Bennhult
The year is 3018 humankind has spread out through space. This has created new opportunities for trade and with that comes opportunities for more nefarious things. The Alcubierre Drive has allowed for faster than light travel and enabled the interplanetary trade. The space lanes were scouted and cleared out so that goods could travel between all the terraformed planets. Now you are the captain of one of the trader ships. Space Lane Trader is a pickup and deliver game designed by Jesper Bennhult and today we have had the pleasure of interviewing him.
My name is Jesper. I studied mechanical engineering, but have worked as a project manager almost my entire adult life. I have an engineering background with some math skills, that is very useful when designing a game, and I also have a lot of experience writing and negotiating contracts, which is related to writing rules and thus very helpful. I also have an artistic side. I played Warhammer 40k and Fantasy for many years, but I really enjoyed the painting and modelling part of that hobby the most. I live in a Stockholm suburb in Sweden, in a three-room flat not too far away from the national football stadium. I have a keen interest in gaming, not only board games, but I play a take inspiration from a lot of computer games and we have a role playing group going that have met once a month for almost 10 years now.
What brought you into game design? I have a cousin that made his own games when I was around 10 and he inspired me to make my own games – it was mainly new tracks for a racing game that we played, and a few years later, I got into role playing games and loved to make my own adventures. I could sit for hours drawing maps and figure out encounters. I had discovered Tolkien about then, so his books were a great inspiration for me. A few years ago I was having a slow period at work and had time to think about games, which is my passion really. I had a few different ideas, but I settled on a trading game set in space. The working title was Space Lanes, but that evolved into Space Lane Trader which is what the game is called today. Also, one of my parents died and I inherited some money that made it possible to finance it. What is currently your favorite game to play?
We play a lot of Spirit Island right now, but Gloomhaven is also a favorite of mine. I cant wait until Frosthaven comes out so we can turn our attention to that. I also enjoy the Pandemic Legacy games a lot. Where did you get the inspiration to create a game about shipping lanes in space?
I have taken inspiration from a lot of games, but the main inspiration is actually a game called “Sjöfartsspelet”. It’s from the eighties and was only available in Swedish as far as I know. In Sjöfartsspelet you transport different goods across the oceans trying to earn as much money as possible.
Elite and Eve Online were also great sources of inspiration. The inspiration for the market mechanics is actually taken from Powergrid – the economic model started out very similar to some of the mechanics in this game, but it evolved into something else entirely. The character development is inspired by a computer game called Battletech What did you find was the most difficult part of the design process?
The most difficult part was to make the second game board. I was probably incredibly lucky the first time, because the first game board came out almost perfect from the start, but when I tried to make another one I really had to go back to the drawing board to try to find out what made the first board so balanced. What was your favorite part about the design process? That’s an easy one – I really enjoy graphic design. I’m not good enough to make a design that is commercially viable, but I can sit in front of the computer an entire weekend trying out different concepts, changing colors and making small tweaks. I made the design for the first prototype and this was later perfected by people with more talent and knowledge than me. How did you develop the market used in the game?
I find it very elegant. It must have taken a lot of time to come up with all of that.I wish that I could say that a made a very thorough analysis, and after a lot of time, this is what I came up with, but that isn’t the case. I think that I just got the idea how to do it, and then we fine-tuned it a bit in increments. The demand model was there from the very start.
What is your favorite ship/pilot combo in the game to play?
This is a really tough one. The characters are all very balanced and also the ships so its hard to pick a favorite combo. I guess my choice mostly depends on what ships and characters my opponents use. If I really have to make a choice I guess I would pick the Preacher together with the Hyperion. The Preacher has some powerful and subtle abilities that are really useful – and also, he looks very cool.
What's next for you?
The main focus right now is to make sure that Space Lane Trader is successful. If we do succeed, there is a lot more material and ideas in the early prototypes that can be introduced as an expansion – more ships, more characters, more Event cards and Equipment cards. This is probably the most likely the next project for us. We have some ideas for introducing global events and more stand-alone scenarios – maybe we can combine them into a longer campaign.
We also have ideas for new games. One is a racing game and another is an economic game about the race to exploit an entire star system.
What is the airspeed of an unladen swallow?
Ohhhh – probably faster then I think, but let’s say 50 km/h.
Check out the Kickstarter here and follow the progress of the game on facebook