Designing Women: Núria Casellas

Did you know that you can find more than 400 dragons in the city of Barcelona?

Nuria Casellas has brought a fresh take to travel games with Zoom in Barcelona, where players race as photographers trying to get the best pictures of the city. Her publishing company, Cucafera Games, specializes in games about history, site-seeing, and culture.

What got you started playing board games? 

I started playing board games when I was little. I am the youngest of three, and after Sunday lunch, I would always go to my room, gather my pile of board games, stack them up, and walk into the living-room asking all my family to play with me. I especially remember Misterio (a version of Clue, but with monsters), Hotel, Pictionary, Inkognito and Orient Express. When I was 12 or 13 I discovered role-playing games and started DMing. The Lord of the Rings, Ragnarok, Paranoia, Akelarre, Oraculo… were some of the first ones I played. I’ve never stopped since.Much later, when due to work I was living abroad, I came across videogames as a way of gaming with my friends in other parts of the world.So, I love games, in any format, board games, role-playing games and videogames.

What are you working on right now? 

In November last year I launched Cucafera Games, a game publishing company, that specialises in games about travel, culture, traditions, myths and legends. The first game we launched is the Dragon Trail Passport, a booklet with stickers to discover “real” dragons in the city of Barcelona. Barcelona has more than 400 dragons carved into door-frames, statues, etc. and we have collected 14 of the most significant ones in this book, so people can enjoy visiting the city in a more magical way.

Right now, we are finishing the design and development of the board game Zoom In BarcelonaA game where the players are visiting landmarks and skyline locations taking pictures to win a contest. It’s a family game for 2 to 6 players, and it plays in around 40 minutes. I have designed this game together with Eloi Pujadas (Shikoku, Wanted 7, Big Bang 13.7, Veracruz)  and Joaquim Vilalta (Big Bang 13.7, Veracruz), and it will be published later this year.

How do you feel about the design journey?

I really enjoy game design. From the moment that you get the first spark of the idea and its first translation into a prototype, to the last iterations of the game design. Playtesting is an integral part of game design, not only does it help you to validate your game idea, but also to come up with new ideas or ways of bringing that idea to life. Perhaps the most difficult part of playtesting is dissecting the feedback from the playtest sessions into workable changes – understanding which changes are necessary for the improvement of the mechanics or game experience and which are suggestions based on the playtester’s preferences. Although it’s necessary to iterate many times and I enjoy seeing the prototype grow into a better game, it’s sometimes very time consuming to manually prepare the different prototypes and implement all the changes 🙂 

Are you finding the community supportive? 

Yes, I have found it very welcoming, with lots of opportunities to meet other designers and also publishers. Events like the Playtest Zone by Playtest UK, and the Publisher-Designer track at UKGE are very useful for first-time creators and provide an excellent way of meeting other designers and getting to know publishers.

In Spain, I am a member of the LUDO association (Spanish Association of Board Game Designers) and they organise regular playtesting events in different cities and an annual playtest convention that gathers nearly 300 designers and editors. There’s also a game design group (Pati Llimona) in Barcelona that meets every week!Also, it is very easy to engage in conversations with fellow designers over social media, get their feedback and share experiences. 

Any challenges in the industry?

I haven’t found any challenges in this area that I have not found in the other areas I have worked in. In most work-environments women suffer unintentional sexism, when people assume your male colleague is the boss or when they ask him the questions even when you are the expert,… Unfortunately, game design is no different. However, the board game community in general seems to be very aware of this and many are trying to make this hobby a welcome place for all.

What inspired you to dive into game design?

I’ve always loved playing games, and at some point I had an idea for a game. I think that this has happened to many of us. In my case, it was a video game. I started trying to put it together and then I realized that it would be much easier for a solo designer to try to put that game together in paper. More and more ideas came up and I ended with a card game that I playtested at UKGE on 2017. The next year it was published by Wizkids and it was an amazing experience.

What’s the board game scene like in Spain (events, shops, availability, etc)?

The boardgame scene in Spain is quite on fire right now 🙂 There have always been boardgame clubs and shops, but it seems that the hobby is getting more well-known. There are many podcasts, blogs and vlogs about it. Also, we enjoy several game conventions, such as the Festival Dau Barcelona in late November with 26.000 attendees last year. In Madrid you can enjoy the Ludo Ergo Sum and in Córdova, the Festival Internacional de Juegos.

For gamers, there are many boardgame shops, meetups and boardgame clubs, although we don’t have many boardgame cafes. Spain has a growing number of large, medium and small boardgame companies such as Devir, SD Ediciones, 2Tomatoes Games, Mercurio, Tranjis Games, GdM, DMZ, Mont Tàber, Do It Games, Más Que Oca, etc.Game designers have meetups in most cities and there’s also the Spanish association for game designers, LUDO, which organizes a yearly game design convention (Protos y Tipos), with around 300 attendees.

When’s Zoom In Barcelona release?  
Zoom In Barcelona will be released in October, in Essen Spiel. It’s already available for pick-up preoder. The game will also be available for pick up at BGG Con thanks to the Cardboard Caravan organized by Funagain Games.

What advice would you give new designers?

First, don’t take suggestions and comments of your prototype personally. It’s hard to separate it as we’ve put a lot of love and hard work into it… but in the end, all comments can help us make the game better. Also, do not be afraid of setting some prototypes aside or “put them in the fridge” as we say in our design group. Sometimes, we need to put the game aside for a while to then get back to it with fresh ideas. 

Finally, find groups and playtest, playtest and playtest, with as many different people as possible. This will give your design more perspective.

Follow Nuria and Cucafera Game on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (Seriously, check out that gorgeous Instagram, you’ll want to hop on a plane!)