Wordsmith – Interview with Designer Alistair Wong


I recently got a chance to interview Alistair Wong, designer of Wordsmith, a fast-paced party card game that tests your speed and vocabulary. Let’s jump to the interview.

1) Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

Hi, my name is Alistair. I grew up playing board games with my family and video games with my brothers. During high school, I’d spend my weekends and afternoons making small prototypes and playtesting. I then took a game design class in college that introduced me to the origins of revolutionary games contributing to the gaming landscape we know today. It was by far one of my favorite courses. Now that I’m finally a bit older, I decided to get past prototyping and try completing a full game.

I currently manage a small team in the software industry in sunny San Diego California. I enjoy practicing martial arts, drinking expensive ( but not paying for ) craft beer. I’m a big fan of IPAs for their strong hoppy tastes. My most recent game I played is Munchkin. It’s silly fun, but does take a while to get to Level 9.

2) Can you describe WordSmith in a few sentences?

WordSmith is a fast-paced card game that’s great for parties. You race against your opponents to build words using cards with two letter combinations. Once the game starts, it’s pretty much a free-for-all that tests both your reaction speed and your vocabulary.

3) What is your favorite mechanic in the game?

It’s not explicitly stated, but you don’t have to draw a new card right after you make a word. This allows a player to “chain” their hand and play multiple words at once before drawing. That way you can potentially monopolize the field during the downtime when other players are drawing and studying their new cards.

4) Tell us how you came up with the concept for WordSmith.

For WordSmith, I wanted to make a word game that was multiplayer and fast paced. Word games don’t really need any pictures, which is great for me since I’m terrible at drawing. I had also played with the idea of calling the game WordSoup, using noodle-shaped letters and a tomato soup background.

5) What’s your favorite Card in WordSmith?

XY — It’s very XY. This card was recently added to complete the inclusion of the full alphabet in the WordSmith deck. It’s worth 5 points, colored purple, and can only be used in a handful of words. Claiming that card during gameplay gives your score a huge boost.

6) What are some other games that if other players liked that game, that they would like WordSmith?

Word building games like: Boggle, Scrabble, Banagrams
And party games like: UNO, Apples to Apples

7) WordSmith is your first Kickstarter board game project. What are some of the things you’ve learned from this experience that you think other Kickstarter creaters would benefit from?

I agree what a lot of people say, in that you should take your time and plan out your campaign carefully. If I could redo this, I’d make a more concrete marketing plan and promote the game BEFORE launching. It helps to have a cult following for that initial funding bump when you first launch your kickstarter campaign. I find myself playing catch-up and getting reviews and demos set up after the launch. Having to do all that with the Kickstarter deadline drawing nearer each day makes for a very stressful process. I feel like I’m treading water as opposed to riding the rollercoaster.

8) What were your design inspirations for creating WordSmith?

One guiding principle that led me to design WordSmith was someone’s analysis on Settlers of Catan. The writer emphasized the importance of engaging players throughout the entire game. In Catan players receive Resource Cards even when they aren’t rolling the dice. The takeaway point is to keep all players some form playing and not waiting.

I wanted to make a game that would appeal to as many people as possible. In order to do this, the game needed to be:

- quick and easy to set up ( deck of cards )
- good for groups ( party-type game )
- good for all ages ( word game )

Which eventually led to making WordSmith.

9) What type of gaming experience do you hope to create for the players of WordSmith?

I’m hoping to create a light and fun atmosphere, but with an edge of competition. Losing isn’t too bad since the games are short and rematches will be aplenty. Since it’s a party game, I imagine WordSmith being played by families and groups of friends. I believe one of leading reasons to the new-found popularity of board games is the lack of human interaction and to get away from digital screens. You can stop reading now.

10) Anything else you would like to mention?

A big thanks to my friends and family. These people are my anchors in the ocean. It’s them and their connections that really have given my campaign that extra push.

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Thanks for the interview Alistair! Make sure you check out Wordsmith on Kickstarter now.

One thought on “Wordsmith – Interview with Designer Alistair Wong

  1. Pingback: Interview with Yours Truly from Ruby Cow games | Almond Games LLC

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