Interview with Liz Spain, Part 3

Welcome back for the conclusion of our chat with Liz Spain, talking about her newest game, Incredible Expeditions: Quest for Atlantis.

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here.


Airship Ambassador: After all these teasing questions, what is the actual game play?

Liz Spain: Each player takes the role of an expedition leader, each with different skills to approach the journey. After acquiring crew and various resources for their ship in Port City, the expedition sails out into unknown locations. To face down encounters with anything from engine failure to unspeakable horrors, the player must decide which crew are exhausted and which resources are spent on their ship. The expedition party that makes it to Atlantis and discovers its secrets wins the game. In depth details on gameplay and the rulebook can be found on the game’s website:


AA: For the aspiring game creator, what lessons did you and your team learn along the way?

LS: Beware hubris. Never be afraid to ask someone’s opinion, test your game as much as is feasible and seek the advice of those who have tread this path before.


AA: If you weren’t creating steampunk games, what else would you be doing now?

LS: I’d still be running my own small steampunk clothing company and working freelance as a costume designer and stylist. Just before I began the Incredible Expeditions project, I did costuming for a film project for the first time (previously, I’d only done work for stage and photography). It was a lot of fun and I’d eventually like to do more of that.


AA: What do you do to keep a balance between game creation, other work projects, and the rest of your life?

LS: I don’t. Game design and publication takes up most of my waking hours, though I make sure I dedicate some time to other things each week, like volunteering and outdoor activities. My garden has been woefully neglected for a while now.

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AA: Do you get to talk much with other creators to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?

LS: Absolutely. The best thing about living in Seattle is being constantly surrounded by creative people of every stripe, and especially other game designers.


AA: How is the Pacific Northwest for this kind of work? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc

LS: The Pacific Northwest, and Seattle in particular, is a goldmine of geekery. A number of the largest companies in hobby gaming are located here. There’s a lot of other game designers to work with, an endless supply of people interested in play testing, and a lot of local game stores who are eager to support local game designers.


AA: Looking beyond steampunk and gaming, what other interests fill your time?

LS: The Seattle Humane Society has an amazing behavior program that I volunteer for, helping to teach dogs new behaviors so they can become better pets. I also train my own dog to do nose work, and we do demonstrations at educational events for kids.


In the winter I love to snowboard and in the spring and fall I hunt for culinary mushrooms like morels and chanterelles. My backyard is home to a small flock of chickens and a garden for herbs, fruits and vegetables. There’s something immensely satisfying about growing your own food, and I enjoy exploring new ways to cook, bake and preserve those ingredients.


AA: What other fandoms are you part of in some way? (as a fan or other participation)

LS: I got into costuming professionally starting as a cosplayer over a decade ago. I still keep tabs on the new anime and manga that come out. Though I haven’t competed in years, I also still like to yo-yo every once in a while.


AA: How do those interests influence your work?

LS: As a creative person, the value of exploring the myths of other cultures cannot be underestimated. When stories are your medium, a broad palette comes from a wealth of influence. Also, I put a lot of value into aesthetic experience and challenge. Humans are tool-users and problem-solvers. A game that is pleasant to touch and makes you think is one that you’ll come back to again.


AA: Three quick fire, random questions – what is your favorite piece of jewelry, appetizer, and landmark?

LS: My automatic winding skeleton watch, bruschetta on garlic herb bread made with garden tomatoes, and The House on the Rock is a plethora of wonderful, random weirdness.


AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers

LS: The game officially launches at Gen Con in Indianapolis on August 14th. We’re planning to show North America’s largest tabletop gaming convention how fantastic steampunk can be. Our booth is designed to be the interior of the Chinese sky pirate’s ship from the game. You can follow the game launch and the bodgery of the airship elements of the booth on our facebook page:


Thanks, Liz! It was really great to have this time to catch up and hear about your game.

Thanks to all of the readers who followed along – keep up to date with the game and its progression, Incredible Expeditions: Quest for Atlantis.

Published in: on August 1, 2014 at 8:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Steampunk Game Designer, Liz Spain

This week we are talking with Liz Spain, creator of steampunk game, Incredible Expeditions: Quest for Atlantis, where players lead a steampunk expedition to explore fantastic places and face otherworldly horrors in a deck building strategy game for 1-5 players.


Airship Ambassador: Hi Liz, it’s great to catch up with you and talk about your projects.

Liz Spain: Hi! I’m really excited that we’re so close to revealing the final product of the project I’ve been working on for the past two years.


AA: Before we talk about your current game, which is definitely not your first, what can you share about your background as a games designer?

LS: I started in game design creating Lovecraft-inspired live-action mystery games. My husband and I ran these modules in our hometown and at Gen Con (the largest tabletop gaming convention in North America). Eventually, we added steampunk elements to our games which enriched the worlds of our games and gave everyone an excuse to costume to the nines.

I worked a lot on Marshal Hunter’s steampunk live-action roleplaying game Rise of Aester. In addition to writing world material and helping to develop the rules, I also wrote the original modules for the game. Several of the characters I wrote for those modules became very popular and their stories became part of the world’s canon.

I’ve also playtested, costumed, modeled and demoed for a number of Flying Frog Productions board games. The Something Wicked expansion for A Touch of Evil is the first game I worked on there, but you can find my name in the credits for a number of Flying Frog games. I’ve also did consulting on the steampunk aesthetic and costumed over 100 people for Harebrained Scheme’s Crimson Steam Pirates on the ipad.


AA: Wow, all of those games sound interesting, and it’s great to hear about the various roles you’ve played in creating and bringing those games to life. For your current game, what is the premise of Incredible Expeditions?

LS: A slightly-unhinged scientist, Professor Pendergast, was kicked out of the Royal Academy of Sciences for his wild theories on the fate of the lost city of Atlantis. After discovering that the sunken city drifted and became trapped in the ice shelves off the coast of Antarctica, he announced to the world that he was forming an expedition. Other notable explorers the world over jump in on the challenge and the race is on to be the first to uncover the ancient city.


AA: What was the motivation for creating Incredible Expeditions? How did it all come about?

LS: Incredible Expeditions is my attempt to put the world of my Lovecraftian steampunk mystery games in a box. I really wanted to see the creative imagination of steampunk in a board game and decided the only way that was going to happen was if I did it myself.

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AA: Completely understandable, and sometimes the only way to get something done, or to get just the item we want, is to do it ourselves. Why a card game?

LS: I wanted a game that would be easy for anyone to learn to play and would be dripping with a steampunk aesthetic and world.


AA: Why use steampunk as the game’s aesthetic?

LS: Incredible Expeditions is more than just a board game. I designed it to showcase the imagination and creative maker skills of the steampunk community at large. By starting with a steampunk aesthetic, I’ve been able to bring in friends to contribute to the project who are illustrators, prop makers, costumers, musicians and even a dancer and a calligrapher.


AA: That’s an interesting range of skills to bring into creating a game. Who are the other people who are part of the team to create this game?

LS: The biggest contributor to the project has been my husband, Austin. Throughout this project, he’s been there as a strong voice of criticism and helped immensely with organizing the Kickstarter campaign and playtesting. Incredible Expeditions owes the depth and balance of its strategy to his constructive skepticism at every step in development.

Jade Cheung (of Arctic Phoenix Studios) is a friend and artist who helped me develop the distinctive art nouveau style for the graphic design. The card frames are her design and she also made costumes and modeled for different characters in the game.

Beyond that, there are simply too many wonderful people to name. Over a dozen artists worked on the illustration and graphic design and there were dozens of models, most of whom made their own costumes and props. There’s hardly a steampunk in the Seattle area who hasn’t contributed to the project in some way.


We’ll take a break here in our chat with Liz Spain, talking about her newest game, Incredible Expeditions: Quest for Atlantis/

Check back for part 2 where Liz talks about research, artwork and the kickstarter experience.


Published in: on July 28, 2014 at 5:56 pm  Comments (3)  
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Interview with author Lev AC Rosen

This week we are talking with Lev AC Rosen, author of All Men of Genius.


Airship Ambassador: Hi Lev, thanks for joining us to chat.

Lev AC Rosen: Thanks for having me!


AA: Even before Steampunk Scholar Mike Perschon’s review of your book, I was excited to read it. Would you share with readers what is it about?

LR: Sure! All Men of Genius is inspired by both The Importance of Being Earnest and 12th Night – it’s about Violet Adams, a young scientist in Victorian England, who wants to go to the men-only Illyria Academy – essentially Hogwarts for Mad Scientists. So she disguises herself as her twin brother and gets in. Hijynx, romance, talking rabbits and killer robots ensue.


AA: What was the motivation for creating All Men of Genius? How did the initial idea develop?

LR: I’ve always loved the aesthetics of steampunk – for me that comes from videogames – I grew up playing all the old SNES final fantasy games, and I loved those. I always wanted to write something steampunk, but I knew that I wasn’t great at big plots – so I stole some. The words are almost entirely my own, and I think I threw in enough twists its pretty interesting, but in many ways the book is an homage to a lot things: Wilde, Shakespeare, classic science fiction – but hopefully with a fairly modern perspective on a lot of things like gender and sexuality.


AA: The storyline seems straightforward but there are so many great structures which create some fun and enjoyable tension in it – relationships, questioning gender and roles, and general rousing activity – what were your influences in creating the story structure and tone?

LR: I always try to have a visual image for the structure of the book I’m writing. In this case, it was a Rube Goldberg Machine. I love the idea of one wacky moment leading to another to another – and while what all those moments accomplished in the end wasn’t particularly new, watching them accomplish it was still a lot of fun.


AA: Why set this story in a steampunk world?

LR: Well, I started out wanting to write something steampunk, so that was really the starting idea. I’m not sure what it would look like without steampunk. I suppose it could have been a more magical Victorian London, or anywhere else, really, but steampunk is where I started.


AA: What kind of research, and then balance, went into creating the All Men of Genius world?

LR: I had studied Victorian history and lit in college, and even before that really – my mother studied victorian literature, too. So, I knew a lot of the background I wanted to focus on, but I did need to research how the education system worked, and some of the technical fashion terms – my editor insisted on more fashion description. I also read up on what they thought the future of science would bring. That was really important to me – that the science feel like what Victorians thought the science of the future would bring – not modern science, but in brass.


AA: What elements did you include so readers could feel the world’s history?

LR: I think the description of London itself, very polluted, was part of it, but I also threw in plenty of historical figures – Ada Byron, Matthias Forney, the Queen – and had discussions of plenty more. This is an odd question, because I feel as though every word has to make the book feel historical, so on some level, the answer is “everything.” But more specifically, it was the historical figures, and some of the dates – the faire, or the conference in America Violet and Ashton’s dad is heading off for at the beginning of the book.


This is the end of part one in our chat with Lev AC Rosen.

Join us next time when Lev talks about the characters, reviews and backstory.

Get your copy of All Men of Genius today


Published in: on July 6, 2014 at 4:42 pm  Comments (10)  
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