Monday, February 23, 2015

Interview with Jeremiah Culp

Doug Levandowski here with Jeremiah Culp, who is currently running a second Kickstarter for his project, Board Games for Troops Overseas, a project seeking to get games in the hands of active servicemen and servicewomen. Jeremiah, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today - but more importantly thanks for your service to the country.  Can you tell us a little about yourself? When did you join the Marines? What got you into board gaming?

Hi, Doug, thank you for the opportunity to share my project with you.  I am originally from Des Moines, Iowa, and have been in the Marine Corps for 14 years.  I first starting playing hobby board games around 2008 when my wife purchased the Carcassonne Big Box for me for Christmas. I had stumbled into a game shop at one of the malls, saw the game, and immediately told my wife I needed the game!  Since then, I have slowly grew my own library to nearly 80 games.

I had a similar experience with Catan. That’s the gateway game that hooked me, but I’ve kind of fallen out of love with it in the past few years. How about you? What are some of your favorite games now?

Personally, I most enjoy abstract strategy games, they are very reminiscent of the types of games I played with my dad as a kid.  However, I have 4 daughters that also really enjoy games, so I find myself playing a lot of games that are age appropriate for them.  Some of their favorites are King of Tokyo, Rampage (Terror in Meeple City), and Survive, Escape from Atlantis.

So they’re future destroyers of cities and islands? Cool! How old are they? And are there any games you wish you could get them to play but just can’t yet? 

Two of his daughters, probably getting ready to destroy something...

They are 11, 9, 6, and 3.  The oldest two have been playing games for about the past 2 years so they are surprisingly good at some more advanced games. We don’t usually pay attention to the suggested age on the box.  Instead, I have just just tried games and seen how they do.  The only one that we have tried that hasn’t worked with at least one of them was The Manhattan Project.  It was just a little too much for them.  Cthulhu Wars is on the table for today, so we’ll see. Also, I think we might need a couple more years for Axis and Allies, 1940 Global…..but we’ll get there!!  

Let’s get into the project. How did you come up with the idea for your project?

My wife might say I am a little addicted to games, however I call it a really strong interest.  So, when I first arrived on Okinawa, I began looking for gaming groups.  It was fairly easy to to find the Magic: The Gathering group, and the RPG group, but I struggled to find one that exclusively played board games.  So, I thought, why not create one.  That was the beginning.  I soon morphed that idea into supporting the junior troops here on the island.  I was stationed here once before in 2004 and at the time was a junior enlisted Marine.  Entertainment was hard to come by because my income was low, I wasn’t allowed to own a car, and cab fares are expensive.  I spent a lot of my time either in my barracks, or in the gym.  So I paired the idea of a gaming group with the limited resource of the junior troops and decided to try and create a gaming library that troops could enjoy with or without me.

Do you find that there are kinds of games that your fellow Marines are more into than others? Do they like heavy strategy games - or when they’re off-duty do they want something super light to just relax? Are they obsessed with Cthulhu and zombies like the rest of the gaming community?

Getting ready to enjoy a game...

Well, the initial struggle with any new venture is to generate interest.  The easily way to do this was to introduce games like Mage Wars to the Magic folks, or Axis and Allies to those that already had an interest in Risk.  I now find that as long as the game has some form of strategy, the the Marines will like it.   The game night that we currently host at the USO and base library has limited hours, however, so the most interest lies with shorter (~1hr) games so that they get to experience more variety.  Of course, Zombie and Cthulhu games typically have minis…..and who doesn’t like minis.

I’m actually not a huge minis guy. As my addiction to games was getting to be more and more, that’s one thing that my wife told me was important to her: no minis. She doesn’t want me to start custom painting since that’s such a time suck - and she knows me well enough to know I’d totally get into that. But, back to Kickstarter stuff, the first project wasn’t successful.  What did you learn from that one that you’re applying to the new one?

Yeah, unfortunately the first one did not go quite as expected, however, I was still really impressed by the response.  I think the most important lesson I learned on the first project was not to be overly ambitious.  I shot for the stars, and it was hard to convince people I wasn’t in it just for me.  I had a lot of questions from potential backers asking to clarify why goal to them, and I took a lot of those questions and implemented them into the new campaign.  That was really the second lesson, getting more information to backers.  I just kind of threw an idea on the wall and hoped it would stick.  This time around, I put quite a bit more information on the main page.

Both of those are great lessons. On Kickstarter, success seems to breed success. People want to back a winner...and information is key. What has been the most gratifying part of the Kickstarter process?

Generosity!!!!  I have been blown away at the support I have received on both of the projects.  People have messaged me explaining that they can’t help financially, but that they had some games they could cull from their collection and send to me.  There is also a group in the United States called Games for Troops, and the not only sent me some games, but also pledge to the Kickstarter.  Overall the response has been extremely positive, and I am excited about being able to extend the generosity to the troops here.

That’s awesome! If this campaign goes well, what’s the next step? Any plans to do another campaign for another base?

The next step is to get the games into the centers.  That requires a bit more coordination with the managers, and will almost certainly require me to come up with a storage solution for them.  We are also going to be hosting a kickoff event at the base library with the assistance of their staff (something like a pizza party) to help market the events and make more Marines aware of the games.  From there, who knows.  Once the libraries are set and the games are bought, we will reevaluate what is still needed and how we are going to get what is needed.  A future kickstarter is not out of the question though.  As far as future bases, there are two in particular that we have hopes of eventually reaching, but due to their location, we will first have to find additional volunteers in those location to help facilitate.

If any designers or companies would like to donate games to you, is there a best way to contact you?

Any and all support is welcome and appreciated.  Anyone can contact me at or they can also message me on the Kickstarter page.

Jeremiah, thank you so much for talking with me. I wish you the best of luck on the campaign and with everything else.

Board Games for Troops Overseas will be on Kickstarter until 8:00pm, March 8th, 2015. Have a look, and if you want to help get games in the hands of servicemen and servicewomen, give them some support!

Update: As of today, they’re fully funded! Congrats - but help them out with even more support!

Doug Levandowski is a game designer for Nine Kingdoms, which will be launching a Kickstarter for their party game, Keep Calm, soon. When Doug's not designing, interviewing, marketing, or sleeping, he's teaching English to a bunch of amazing high schoolers. They're working on Macbeth right now, which is his favorite play to teach. You can find him on Twitter (@levzilla or @ninekingdoms) and on the web (

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