A “nerve-racking” pitch to Alderac Entertainment Group ended with a dream come true for Peter McPherson, a Capital Region native whose lifelong love of board games has taken him from playing them to creating them with the publishing of his first game — Tiny Towns.
“I’ve had a lot of game ideas since I was younger,” said McPherson, a 2010 graduate of Schuylerville High School who now lives in Clifton Park. “In college [Oneonta], I had a few ideas but none that really stuck until Tiny Towns, which is the first idea that I really felt good about and really played a lot.”
The game will be available on amazon.com, target.com and other national retailers starting on May 10. However, select stores received the game on April 26.
The process of watching Tiny Towns develop from his brainchild into a polished board game soon to be sold at stores countrywide has made for a surreal experience for the local designer.
“It’s really cool,” McPherson, 26, said. “It’s cool to see my name on the box. It’s cool that this is a real thing that exists that people are going to play at their game nights.
He continued: “I started playing board games with my family way back when. I don’t know how successful it’s going to be, but just the idea that someone is going to say, ‘Hey, let’s try this new game Tiny Towns,’ and sit down and hopefully have a fun time with their friends and family is just the coolest thing to me.”
The premise of the game is that each player is in charge of his or her own “town,” a 4-by-4 grid on which buildings are constructed out of resources for points.
The players take turns choosing which resource they want, but the catch is that everyone then has to put that resource on his or her board, whether they want to or not.
“It keeps the game moving quickly because it’s sort of always your turn,” McPherson said. “You’re either the one choosing the resource or you’re choosing where to put a resource.”
McPherson described the concept of all players making different towns out of the same resources as being the core of his game, and said he had a little help with the inspiration.
“The idea came mostly from this word game that I play with my dad when we’re waiting at restaurants,” McPherson said. “You have a little 5-by-5 grid that you sketch on your napkin and you take turns saying letters, and both players put the letters in their grids and make words out of them. I wanted to make a game that had that same feeling of you take turns making a decision that affects all players and everyone deals with the same circumstances.”
McPherson’s experience with board games led him to create one that he hopes will be rewarding for all players, regardless of points at the end of the game.
“I’ve just liked games where you get to build your own thing and whether you do poorly or whether you do well, at the end of the game you get to say, ‘This is my Tiny Town that I made,’ even if it’s not a winning Tiny Town,” McPherson said.
AEG liked the idea, and picked it up shortly after McPherson pitched it to them at a fall 2017 game convention. Since then, he’s been welcomed into the industry with open arms.
“I’ve been to a handful of conventions since the first one in 2017 and I feel like I’ve been brought into this group of friends,” McPherson said.
This has included opportunities to meet and talk with his favorite designers.
“I got to chat with Matt Leacock who made the Pandemic games, and I got to meet Elizabeth Hargrave who designed Wingspan,” McPherson said. “Everybody is so kind.”
Outside of the support he’s received from those at AEG and within the game industry, McPherson has enjoyed the company of like-minded designers from Spielbany, a group of local designers.
“We meet up from time to time for play-testing — to play each other’s prototypes and support each other,” McPherson said. “It’s a lot of fun because you get to watch other people’s games evolve over the course of months to a year.”
His own game has evolved since he signed with AEG. McPherson described the premise of the game as being fundamentally unchanged, but the scope of it being tweaked. AEG saw his original idea for Tiny Towns as being not enough of a good thing.
“We really took the core experience and blew it up into a bigger game,” McPherson said. “We doubled the amount of content, doubled the amount of buildings.”
McPherson would like to see others following his example, and breaking through into the board game business.
“I would encourage anyone who has a game idea they’ve always wanted to make a reality to go for it. There are a lot of supportive people in this industry who will totally help you every step of the way,” McPherson said.
McPherson — who is engaged to Daily Gazette reporter Indiana Nash — hopes that his first published board game will not be his last.
“I hope that I can someday come up with a game that I like just as much as this,” McPherson said. “It’s a dream thing, and if it turns into a career that would be fantastic.”
“Tiny Towns” is available now at Zombie Planet Comics and Games in Colonie and other local game stores. On May 10 at 6 p.m., McPherson will be at Zombie Planet Comics and Games and customers may try the game with the designer.
Hanna Smith is an intern at The Daily Gazette. Smith is a student at Hudson Valley Community College.