Published 6 September 2019
Recapping Andrew Navaro’s AMA Livestream
Have you ever wanted the chance to ask your questions about Fantasy Flight Games directly? Last Friday, we hosted an AMA (Ask Me Anything) livestream with Andrew Navaro, FFG’s Head of Studio. We answered questions covering a huge range of game lines, and you can watch the full video on our YouTube channel here!
If you’re just looking for some of the highlights, rather than the full experience, we also picked out some of the most-asked questions and pulled them into this article, transcribing Andrew’s answers from the livestream. Click here to watch Andrew’s full AMA, and for the top-level highlights, read on!
Question: FFG has always developed game systems with the aim of supporting those systems with multiple releases or expansions. I am thinking here of the LCG® ranges, Descent Second Edition, and Star Wars™: Imperial Assault. More recently we have seen some titles released with a much shorter life span, such as Runebound Third Edition, others with a much slower release timetable, such as Arkham Horror Third Edition, and some others which seemingly were going to get further expansions but didn’t, such as Heroes of Terrinoth.
Please could you explain what the plans are for these particular games and what factors influence the decisions around expanding game content.
Are we starting to see a change in how FFG operates, with fewer new titles and a more focused approach to expansions, where not all titles will necessarily get expansion content?
Andrew Navaro: That’s a good question. I think to go back to the first portion of it—to say that all of our games are always built around expansions—that’s not necessarily true. I think that a lot of our high-profile games, and obviously even the games mentioned as examples, were definitely conceived of as having a lot of expansions, but we’ve done plenty of games that we’ve always intended as more standalone titles, especially if you go back through our history and our entire body of work.
But I think one thing that a lot of our games really allow for is expansions, by the way that they’re designed and the way that the content is designed. We’re not doing a tight, abstract Eurogame … oftentimes you can just put more narrative on our games and then you have expansions.
Definitely in the past, the mentality was “do as much as we can and ride the horse until it collapses.” I think a few years ago, that became untenable. We couldn’t really continue to support that and also do more products. And I think that, as we grew as a studio, a lot of that growth was driven by keeping existing games going. We keep this game going, and we’re doing another game, so we have to have other people to do that other game, etc., etc. and we get bigger and bigger.
But then, some of those games didn’t really slow down, other things started to. And now we’re in a spot where we have a lot more flexibility given our size to be very thoughtful about the things that we make. When we create game lines, we’ve started to conceive of them as game lines, as opposed to “Hey, we’re just gonna do this core game and then we’ll just do a bunch of expansions and wherever that takes us, we’ll do it.”
So definitely in the past few years, we’ve started to change that mentality. We’re looking at a game as a total: to see the beginning, and all these things in the middle, and then a planned conclusion. We’ll look at that planned conclusion when the time comes, and say, “Well, does it make sense to keep going from here, or should we just stick with what we’re planning and then move on to the next big cool thing.”
Q: So, a more considered approach, rather than just “We will pump out expansions until we no longer can?
AN: Yeah, exactly, and we were never asking our developers to conceive of our games as game lines until recently. I think that has helped give them great perspective on what they want to try and achieve in a game, by imagining it as having a finite existence. And I think that over the years to come, we’ll see an improved quality in those expansions and in the game lines when you look at them as a whole once they’re complete—a well-considered thing that can continue to live on the shelf in a store or in your home and provide you with hours and hours of entertainment.
But a couple examples that they mention, like Runebound, for example. We didn’t plan for that to be short. I think our initial concept was that would be something we would expand in a similar fashion to Runebound Second Edition. But it just didn’t really work out.
And then, Arkham Horror. We would have loved to have done an expansion earlier, but again, circumstances worked against that and we weren’t able to get the first expansion out quite as early as we hoped. I think that going forward, when we’re considering expansions, the exception is something like Arkham Horror, where it’s well established, we know it will do well, we have an established pattern of how we’ve done expansions in the past, and we’d like to continue to do something like that.
Other games, we’ll be taking a little more of a wait-and-see approach, where we’ll release the core game, and then if it does well, we’ll begin working on expansions. By doing that, it puts a lot of distance between the core game’s release and the first expansion.
Q: LCGs were a fantastic innovation, but it seems that several of them are running up against the limitations of the format; larger barriers to entry, slow (or non-existent, so far) card turnover to rotate out old design, a high number of SKUs for stores to stock, etc. They still seem like an ideal distribution format for the co-ops, but in need of rethinking for the competitive games. Any thoughts on how to iterate on the success of the LCG format to shore up some of its apparent shortcomings?
AN: These are great questions, and they’re not the easiest questions, so I appreciate it. And yeah, I think there’s a lot of validity to that statement and that observation. Obviously, we’re not unaware of the challenges that the format presents. When the format was originally conceived, it wasn’t about “Hey, this is a thing that we’re going to keep rolling forever.” It was, “How can we save the A Game of Thrones CCG from destruction?” So we turn it into this other thing, and try to appeal to a different audience, and it worked.
But yeah, the competitive LCGs in particular have run into difficulty. We talk about trying to do rotation to get product out, and we have heard feedback from retailers and others that having that many products to stock is really difficult. It presents a big barrier to entry, especially in a competitive game, when you see, “Ah geez, there’s all these packs if I want to play this, I gotta invest a ton of time and money just figuring out what I need to do.”
We’ve had a lot of discussions on what we could do to the format to try and mix things up and we’ve done some experimentation. With Legend of the Five Rings, going with six packs in six weeks, when it launched the reaction was, “Oh my gosh, this is crazy, this is cool, injects some new life into it.” And it went really well, so when the second cycle came along, we did it again, and everyone said “What are you doing, why are you doing that?” And no one liked it. Having a game category that literally no one else is doing, we can’t really learn from anyone but ourselves.
I think the cooperative stuff, like the serialized format for Arkham Horror: The Card Game is working great. That’s a really great way to experience those stories: to have a monthly group that gets together to play the scenario, leave for the rest of the month, and then come back do it again—that’s pretty awesome. But when I talked about the Marvel Champions release model, we’re doing that differently, we’re trying out something new. So yeah, I think the important thing that we’ve learned is that the model of “one thing per month” doesn’t necessarily work for every game line. Each game, I think, needs to be considered as its own thing, and we’re always looking for ways to improve the format, and we have some ideas down the road that will do just that, for some of the existing lines as well.
Q: Can I ask why you’ve stopped producing content for Imperial Assault?
AN: Yeah, I don’t know if I can really get into it too much, but there’s business reasons. I don’t know if I can really say more than that.
I think that at the end of the day, it makes a lot of sense, given how much content exists for that game. There’s a little bit more than 60 products—so much content, a lot of really great stuff. Considering how we’re approaching product lines now, I think we’d consider that a complete product line. There’s enough there to really satisfy people for years and years and years. I hope that people are happy with the line as it exists and happy with the stories that the game told, but even when it comes to supporting Star Wars, we only have so much bandwidth, and we really want to focus on the things that are exciting us at the moment.
Q: Will FFG ever produce the missing twelve heroes from Descent First Edition for Descent Second Edition?
Q: Will there be any further development for Descent Second Edition, not counting the app, but physical content?
Q: Will there be a Descent Third Edition?
AN: *laughs* Not necessarily. But we are working on something Descent related that I’m incredibly excited about. I think it’s easily one of the coolest, most ambitious things we’ve ever done.
Q: And you said specifically Descent related, not Terrinoth related?
Well, Descent / Terrinoth, same thing, but Descent specifically, yes.
Q: Can we expect Marvel board games from FFG in the future?
AN: I guess it depends on how you define a board game. I think you can definitely expect more Marvel games from us, we’re super excited to be working with this IP. Everyone has a lot of really awesome ideas, and the stuff we have coming up I think is pretty great.
Q: What’s happening with the release date of Covert Missions for Star Wars: Destiny?
AN: Covert Missions has been delayed to the first quarter of 2020. I don’t think I can properly express my disappointment on this stream.
Q: When is Android Second Edition happening?
AN: I feel like I get asked about Android Second Edition a lot, and I have a lot of personal attachment to the first edition of the game. I would love to do a new edition. We’ve always talked about the possibility of doing a new edition, because I feel like there’s so much there to explore and so much opportunity in a new edition of that game. But we haven’t pushed anything forward through to development yet.
We do have a very, very interesting pitch for Android Second Edition that I think everyone really likes. But I’m saying we have a pitch. It’s very early on—I can’t say when it’s coming, or if it’s going to come at all. But know that our hearts are with that game and with that setting, and we’d love to make it happen if we can.
The answers written above are just a small fraction of the topics that we covered in Andrew’s AMA, and if we didn’t mention your favorite game here, there’s a good chance that Andrew talked about it in the full video! Head over to YouTube to watch the AMA livestream for yourself, and look forward to more AMA livestreams like this one popping up semi-annually in the future!