Six Questions with Designer Kevin Tatroe

Kevin Tatroe is the webmaster of, guild master of the DDM Guild, and the initial designer for the upcoming D&D miniatures-based skirmish board game. I thought you might like to hear a little about Kevin and the initial design of the game in his own words, and Kevin was kind enough to agree to answer a few questions for us.

Tell us a little bit about your history with D&D and miniatures games.

I started playing D&D with a copy of the Red Box and the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide. I ran a game for my younger brother and his friends. I've been the DM ever since. I got lured into the D&D Miniatures game at the time of Harbinger. My brother and I got a few boosters and a couple Harbinger starters for our D&D game and decided "Heck, there's a game in here, might as well try it." We were instantly hooked.

So much so, in fact, that I immediately set upon creating a fan site, Hordelings, which I've run ever since, headed up a weekly game night at our FLGS, and judged numerous tournaments, including several of World Championships.

After the cancellation of the D&D Miniatures game, I worked with several other folks to create the DDM Guild as a non-profit, licensed entity to continue creating stat cards and maintain the rules as new miniatures were released.

How did that experience inform the initial design of the new game?

My time judging the game and being a sort of de facto community liaison helped me understand what parts of the original game were actual and perceived pain-points -- what folks loved and hated, and what they loved to hate. The biggest surprise to me was learning that the DDM audience enjoyed moments of failure as well as the obvious moments of success. As an example, morale checks in the original edition were far and away the most decried "swingy" rule of the original rules, but no player of the game doesn't have  a story they'll tell you over drinks that involves when morale checks went spectacularly wrong for them.

Creating stat cards -- both for Wizards of the Coast when the original miniatures were updated to the new edition and for the DDM Guild afterwards -- really showed me the importance of iterative design, having a strong development team, and being willing to toss ideas that don't work. As the Guild, I think we did a fantastic job not creating anything too broken, but I can definitely tell, looking back, which sets we had strong development on and which we didn't

What were some of your goals with the initial design of the game?

The biggest goal I had was to create a D&D game. That sounds a little strange; but what I mean is that I wasn't interested in creating a "D&D 4th Edition" game, or a "revised revised edition D&D Miniatures" game, but rather a game that was a Dungeons & Dragons miniatures game. Every fan of D&D, past, present, and future, should be able to enjoy the game as a D&D game.

The second goal I had was to create a game that would cause players to tell stories about their games. This led directly to the idea of thematic factions with unique abilities and signature moves, but also to more subtle mechanics choices, like giving specific names to the powers on the monster cards and the ebb and flow of creatures on the battlefield.

Finally, while I've always been a fan of board games, in the last four years, I've really delved into that world thanks to a weekly board game group, and I wanted to bring some of that to the D&D Miniatures game. I wanted to make a very tactical, fast-paced game that, while still clearly a miniatures game, played more like a board game.

What are your hopes for the game?

Expanding the D&D brand is kind of a heady thing for a life-long fan like me, and I made a lot of dear friends in the D&D Miniatures fan community over the past several years, so I hope the game does both of them justice. I hope it's enjoyed, played, expanded on, and surprise folks for as long as the original D&D Miniatures game.

What do you think this game offers for experienced D&D Miniatures players?

Experienced D&D Miniatures players will feel right at home. It's a very different game engine, but doesn't forget where it came from. It's a more tactical game, relying even more on skill than the previous game did, but not so much that there aren't surprises.

What do you think this game offers for people coming into the game fresh?

The game is fast-paced -- most of my play-tests last 25-30 minutes -- and has a slim ruleset that even a first-time player can hold in their head. There's a surprising amount of depth to the decisions you make while playing, but not so much that casual players will experience "analysis paralysis" and have a negative experience playing it.

Also, who doesn't love a pile of drow and spiders beating up on stalwart heroes? Or vice versa, if you're more into the "being good" thing.

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