A Broad Vision for the Hobby Game Industry
An Interview with Christian T. Petersen, CEO of Fantasy
I first discovered Fantasy Flight Games through Diskwars
in the summer of 1999. I wasn't aware of all their products at
the time, but it seemed each year they were putting out more
interesting games and branching out in new directions. I was very
surprised when I saw their version Through the Desert. A
German game from Fantasy Flight? I thought they only did
It must have been a successful venture, though, as their line
of $19.95 small-box games now showcases several works of Knizia
as well as other great designers like Tom Jolly and Bruno
Faidutti. With notable games in just about every category of
hobby gaming, Fantasy Flight games provide an excellent gateway
for the RPG and CCG crowd to discover the wonderful world of
eurogames. I've seen their games span the gap many times at the
high school game club or the local game shop. What better way to
get the Magic player to try a Knizia game than to tack
on some dragons or add a few goblins to Auf Heller und
Pfenning? How about Scarab Lords, which offers some
deck construction without the expenses of collectible cards? And
do I even have to mention what the Lord of the Rings
Boardgame has accomplished?
If it's not immediately obvious, I have a lot of respect for
Fantasy Flight Games' ability to bring us quality games from so
many genres. I was very pleased, then, when the man behind
Fantasy Fight Games, Christian T. Petersen, agreed to an
interview for Fair Play. Here's what he shared with us.
Mike Petty: What exactly is your role at FFG?
Christian Petersen: I founded the company way back in 1995,
and I remain CEO today. That means that I have both the best and
the worst job at FFG. I manage the workflow, staff issues,
overall strategy, and overall product concepts. I am also
involved in a more detailed way in several things. I still design
a few games--with the most recent: A Game of Thrones Board
Game coming up in August and I am also very involved in the
day to day management of our Game of Thrones CCG.
Overall, however, I get to make the difficult decisions and
take the credit for all the hard work my employees do ;-)
MP: I regularly stop by your website to read the employee
rants. Is working there as fun as it sounds?
CP: You bet! If anyone is interested, I 'rant' every other
Tuesday about the history of the company. A compilation of this
epic tragedy can be found here: http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/history.html
MP: Fantasy Flight produces everything from RPGs to CCGs
to european board and card games. Is there a unifying theme to it
CP: Well, I grew up playing games, everything from Avalon Hill/MB
board games, to role-playing and miniature games. Later, during
my college years, I was captured by Magic The Gathering,
and I learned to appreciate the meta-game experience of
collectible games. Since I played Settlers with Darwin
Bromley at Gen Con in 1996, I have also been fascinated by the
new breed of European board game designs as well. In general I
love the 'Hobby Game' store and all the riches and categories
that it provides. Fantasy Flight Games' vision is to provide good
games for the hobby game store. Thus we never felt, or feel,
contrained to any one particular genre.
MP: So, the wide range of games you publish reflects your
CP: Absolutely. As I mentioned, I have have a very wide
background in all genres. The games we publish very much follow
what I believe to be innovative, exciting, and in sync with our
overall vision--providing cool and good games to the hobby game
market. I have some really great people on staff, and I would be
lying if I said that they don't have a huge influence. Though my
'taste' or 'hunch' is the often the final call for investing time
and money in a project, the opinions and ideas of my staff are
integral in getting to that final decision.
MP: What's your favorite Fantasy Flight game?
CP: Good question, and this varies widely by time. Since I
have been so involved in many of our projects for so long, it is
hard to identify just a few. Right now, however, it is probably
Reiner Knizia's brilliant Lord of The Rings: The
Confrontation two-player game, and the Game of Thrones
collectible card game.
MP: This raises another question. Do you get much time for
gaming that isn't directly related to your work?
CP: I wish I had more. At this stage in my life both work and
home life is fairly demanding, but I try to play non-Fantasy
Flight games at least a few times every month.
MP: Your line of board and card games has really expanded
over the last two years. I'm assuming this is due to successful
sales. How are the board games and card games doing compared to
the other types of games you publish?
CP: Since we started our games publication with Twilight
Imperium back in 1997, our roots have really been in board
games. We have recently been succesful with our line of games
retailing for $19.95. We also call this line our 'Silver Line'.
Games such as Drakon, Citadels, and Kingdoms,
have been extremely well received. Board games are usually not
our most profitable line of products, but it performs well
overall, and sometimes we have a breakout winner--like Citadels.
MP: Speaking of Citadels, gamers were looking
forward to an English version of this game as soon as it was
released. From what I gathered, it was hard to get the rights
from the original publisher. How did it come about that Fantasy
Flight got the privilege?
CP: Persistence. I really cannot go into details here, but
this was certainly a tough nut to crack. In the end, we placed a
good sum of money down, betting that this would be the hit that
it would turn out to be. Citadels is one of those
'perfect storms' where gameplay, graphics, and theme all click
with the gamers.
MP: Do you find the RPG crowd crossing over and buying the
board and card games or are you finding you're reaching a whole
different type of gamer?
CP: Over the short term, we feel that these two genres only
have about a 10% cross-over. Over the long term, however, this
number increases dramatically perhaps to 75%. One of the
wonderful things about the adventire gaming hobby is the ebb and
flow of the gamer life and tastes. Many gamers flow in and out of
one obsession to another. Board and card games--the non CCG sort--tend
to be the soft landing in the middle. This has changed a little
with the advent of the German craze in board games. This has
created a gamer sub-type, typically male and over 25, which could
be called the 'Germanophile' or something like that. It really is
very exciting, since we are seeing a wonderful development of
gaming on the more mature end of the spectrum, just as games like
Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh have widened the audience
in the younger side of the spectrum.
MP: You've published several titles from Knizia. How did
your relationship with him begin?
CP: Reiner and I met back at GAMA in 1999 and had a wonderful
time. Reiner is a very generous, intelligent, and freindly guy.
Since this time, I have gotten to know him much better and I
consider him a good friend. Reiner, one of the archetypical
'German' game designers, is actually very facinated with the
generous layer of theme and story that the Hobby Game industry
offers. A Fantasy Flight Games vision is to grow with German
excellence in mechanics, but retain the flavor of story in the
Hobby Games industry. I think that both Reiner and I very much
subscribe to this vision.
MP: I run a high school game club where I teach and I can
see how Fantasy Flight provides a nice middle road between themes
teens are interested in and sophisticated gameplay that I
personally look for in games.
This vision you mention explains why several of Reiner's
games that you've published have been re-themed. Does he work
closely with you on the changes?
CP: Fantasy Flight usually develops them, and we discuss them
in detail with Reiner.
MP: What projects will we see from Fantasy Flight Games by
the end of this year?
CP: At this time, Fantasy Flight basically has three seperate
departments. Board/Card, RPG, and CCG. Each department works very
hard to provide great games to their respective audiences. The
CCG department will continue to support and provide cool content
for the A Game of Thrones CCG. The RPG department will
continue supporting Dragonstar, Midnight, and
our Legends & Lairs line -- but will also release
the Dawnforge d20 RPG campaign setting in the fall. This
setting was the Fantasy Flight Games staff entry in the WOTC RPG
setting search and made it to the final 11 out of 10,000+
In terms of board games, we have quite a few exciting releases
on the horizon. In August, premiering at GEN CON, we will release
the A Game of Thrones Board Game by yours truly. In the
fall we will release four new games in our $19.95 'Silver Line'--a
deduction game, a pirate game, a chariot racing game, and a 'car
warriors' game. We will also release the huge Warcraft
board game, in October, that is being developed right now.
MP: Before Terry and I devoted most of our free time to
running Fair Play, we played a lot of Warcraft together. I was
very interested when I saw the board game coming out based on the
same setting and storyline. Are there any details you could give
about how the computer game will translate to a board game?
CP: We are really excited about this game. The design lead is
Kevin Wilson--a very smart and skilled craftsman. In Warcraft
I believe that we will finally merge the German elegance design
philosophy with the U.S theme and skull-smashing pathos. I cannot
say too much, except that we are looking at a geo-morphic board
and designing a very open system that lends itself to both a core
game and a wealth of scenarios that will be created by both
Fantasy Flight Games and the fans of the game.
MP: Are there any expansions in the works for previous
games, like Drakon, Scarab Lords or even the Lord
of the Rings game?
CP: Yes. (Smiling knowingly and secretly.)
MP: I'm assuming your plate is pretty full, but do you
still accept submissions from freelance designers?
CP: Absolutely. Just go to our website and look at our
submissions requirements. If you have a game that fits in the
Silver Line, you have a better chance, since we plan to release 5-6
of these a year.
MP: Well, You've given us a few things to look forward to!
It's been great to have this chance to do this interview with you.
It's wonderful to have a company so prominent in the hobby game
industry bringing the eurogames to a larger audience. I hope you
have much success in the years ahead. Thanks for your time.
CP: Thanks for the kind words! Maybe we can do it again some