Today we have an interview from the designer Wonmin Lee who designed Welcome to Sysifus Corp. This is a cutthroat board game of office politics players will navigate through the office to talk to all three bosses then report for their final review. The whole time your trying to get through the other players are changing the paths you can take and many other environmental aspects that will surely give you a difficult time. I have taken some time to ask Wonmin about his design process and what he did to get this game to the tabletop.
My name is Wonmin—it's pronounced like one minute. I live in NYC and have been working on board games since May 2018. Before that, I did my own tech startup which I sold, and before that I was working at a large corporation as a corporate slave ;) Before that I was a student at Brown University in Rhode Island. I started making board games because I saw a Reddit post about someone who quit their job to pursue their dreams and it inspired me to do the same. That's why the theme of my game is corporate, so I can tell my own personal story, make a fun game, and hopefully inspire more people to follow their passions.
What is your favorite game to play? Right now it's Hades by Supergiant Games. Before that it was Genshin Impact by miHoYo. Before that was probably Animal Crossing. If you mean board games specifically, I like Dominion, Secret Hitler, Hanabi, Splendor, and of course my game, Welcome to Sysifus Corp ;) What made you turn an office into a board game?
Out of college I worked for a large corporation as a consultant (or corporate slave) and while the compensation was really good, I felt as if I was losing a part of my soul every day. I never wanted to work for a large company like that and didn't quite understand how I ended up in that position. So I quit one day to pursue my own things. Then one day I decided to make a board game after seeing a Reddit post. At first the game wasn't about corporations and backstabbing coworkers, but rather a modern day version of the Game of Life. Kind of like Game of Life but for millenials. Game of Life minus the things we can't realistically do nowadays like buying homes and cars. Instead, it would have stuff like student debt, crippling depression, or social media addiction. But that theme seemed too vague so I eventually somehow settled on an office theme. What is your favorite game mechanic in Welcome to Sysifus Corp?
My favorite mechanic is how you can chain together several Office Politics cards to create crazy sick combos that not only put yourself ahead but also harm others in the process. It's almost like a puzzle game where you are trying to figure out the most efficient move you can make each turn and when you do, the "ah-ha!" moment feels really good. How long did you play test Welcome to Sysifus Corp and how much did you have to change your original concept?
I've playtested the game over a 100 times with 300 different unique people over the span of about 2-3 years starting in 2018. I mentioned above what the original theme was going to be and it has changed drastically since then. The major mechanics like tile placement and movement though, have been pretty much the same since day 1. The only things that really changed are the Office Politics cards (ability/spell cards) and the tiles themselves.
What did you find was the most difficult part of the design process?
The design process was pretty fun actually, it's definitely the part I enjoyed the most. Getting to create something tangible and share it with friends and strangers at a random board game meetup is always fun. I'm not sure if marketing counts as part of the design process but that would definitely be the part I dislike the most. Playtesting, game design, tweaking, balancing, all that is super fun. Marketing and getting people to know about my game is super hard and very emotional at times. What was the most fulfilling part about the design process? The most fulfilling part is definitely when I am playtesting my game with strangers and they tell me how fun it is. Or ask me where they can purchase the game. After working so hard to create a product, it definitely feels great to hear that it was fun / beautiful / well designed / etc. Were there any issues with manufacturing or publishing your game that others might learn from? Always double triple quadruple check every step of the way. I had an issue with my manufacturer where they misprinted a deck of cards and I had to personally go through every game and replace the bad cards with the reprinted ones. That was not fun. Make sure you communicate clearly at every step so that there aren't any issues down the line. Do you have any advice for up and coming designers?
Yes, make a BGG account, make a website, make social media accounts, and start posting content right now. Even if you don't have a completed game, write SOMETHING and get it out there. Marketing definitely should NOT be saved for last, but something you do every day. I'd say marketing and selling your game is at least 60% (if not more) of this whole process. Also join all of the board game developer groups on Facebook, Discord, Twitter, wherever. Attend local meetups, especially designer specific ones like Metatopia, Double Exposure, Protospiel, etc. What is the airspeed of an unladen swallow?
I didn't get the reference of this question so I googled it, turns out it's a monty python quote, haha. So uh my answer would be "What do you mean? An African or European swallow?"