It’s no coincidence that some of the most popular television series’ in recent years have been Breaking Bad, Narcos, Sons of Anarchy, Weeds, and The Wire. We’re captivated by the darkness, we lurk in the shadows hoping to catch a glimpse of the criminal underworld and their illicit activities… As long as we can do it from the safety of our own homes. The only real problem with this approach, even the greatest shows have to come to an end. When that happens, how do you indulge your dark side without the risk of living dangerously.
DEAL: American Dream is your chance to become the leader of a criminal organization vying for control over the illicit drug trade, in an epic tabletop strategy game.
In order to win, you’ll need to earn respect through the production, sale, and trade of dope while expanding your operation by any means necessary. At it’s core, DEAL is about alliances and betrayal. Players have to negotiate, fix prices, establish distribution networks, trust each other and, of course, backstab one another in the name of the almighty dollar.
If you’re anything like me or the 405 backers that successfully funded the game on Kickstarter, you won’t want to miss this exclusive Q&A session with, Tristan, the creator of DEAL.
Q: According to the official site, DEAL began as a dream you had while in Indonesia. Could you share the details of the dream that led to the development of the game? At what point did you know you needed to make that idea a reality?
A: I had embarked on a long 8 month adventurous vacation with my wife, and it was during this time that the idea for the game was conceived. I had crossed the Asian continent in the transiberian, and travelled all the way south to Indonesia. This is the beauty of travelling, it allows you to detach yourself from the routine of work… the places that you visit inspire you in many different ways. Somewhere in my subconscious the idea for Deal was cooking, and it was in the middle of that random night that it came into existence in the form of a dream. Rather than going back to sleep, I got up and started playing with the idea of actually creating a game. Once I came back to Paris, I pitched the idea to a good friend of mine who is a dedicated gamer, and he instantly loved the concept. It was at that moment we decided to go for it and make it a reality.
Q: Have you ever taken a moment to think about the original inspiration behind your dream, any ideas where it came from? How much has pop culture and real life current events inspired the development of the game?
A: To a lesser extent my personal life influenced the idea… You know, things that I saw at a young age. But it was mainly the real events of the narco world that happened during our lifetime that definitely inspired us. The map of Deal portrays real historical and geographic situations that took place during the 1990s in the Americas. The sea routes, for example, are representation of actual drug smuggling routes used by the cartels. Event cards in the game, like the narco-sub, are also representative of that reality. Like the introduction of the Netflix Narcos rightfully labels it; it’s magical realism. It’s hard to believe that these occurrences actually take place, and when you read them in the news it’s hard not to be somewhat astounded by it.
Pop culture was a crucial inspiration for the game. Like many, I am a big fan of films and shows like The Godfather, Scarface, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Blow, Narcos, Breaking Bad, etc… There is an artistic dark beauty behind all these works that is hard not to appreciate.
In fact, the idea for the game sprung not too long after I had finished watching The Wire, which in my opinion is one of the greatest series ever produced. The Wire gets rid of the clichés of organized crimes, and describes the effects of illegal drugs on society. It paints a more complete and complex picture of how organized crime works… which in reality functions pretty similarly to the counter legal organizations. Anyways, I was enraptured by the show during the time when I came up with the idea for the game… so hell yeah, I think there is definitively some correlation between the two
The sleek dark style of the game is a reflection of this influence. With Deal, we attempted to bring the artistic quality and beauty of pop culture works like these into the board game universe. The artists were pretty damn successful at doing just that, if you ask me. They deserve major credit for beautifully incorporating a street/gang art style which makes Deal shine uniquely in the board game industry…
Q: How much influence do you feel pop culture has over society as a whole? Do you believe the popularity of drug related TV shows like Weeds, Breaking Bad, and Narcos has made it easier for DEAL to be accepted by a wider audience?
A: Yeah, the timing for Deal was pretty good because a few weeks after we finished our Kickstarter campaign, Netflix also released the Narcos series. A pretty awesome coincidence…. series well made, like Narcos and Breaking Bad, attract masses of viewers, and present a more accurate depiction of the underworld. Not to say that they don’t have their dosage of Hollywood moments. But yes, I think this kind of pop culture positively influences the audience. They tell a more complicated tale. One that doesn’t over simplify criminals as bad guys, and the reasoning is not, that’s just what bad guys do.
In this sense, series like these definitively help contextualize the theme of Deal and also make it more appealing.
Q: Was there ever any concern that the game may be too controversial for mass consumption? The gameplay mechanics behind DEAL could’ve easily supported different subject matter, why did you feel it was worth the risk?
A: Maybe there was a bit of concern at some point but it didn’t last long. We were pretty confident that the audience would understand our intention. Gamers in general are pretty logical people. If you think about it, board games are pretty much a fun way to exercise logic. So we knew people weren’t going to jump to irrational conclusions and say that Deal promotes drugs. We are in no way advocating for the usage or dealing of drugs, I think that’s pretty clear. Our intention is to recreate the dark and fascinating atmosphere of the underworld, just for the entertainment value. We are pretty confident that there will not be many people who will decide to pursuit a drug-dealing career after having played few rounds of Deal 😉
Q: Considering the locations that make up the setting of DEAL and the gangs that vie for their control, it’s clear the game is heavily based in current events. Was there ever any concern in grounding the game in real life events and hitting too close to home for some players?
A: Yes, in a way Deal is a historical game because it was heavily influenced by the reality of drug trade in the 1990s. As for affecting players too close to home, we also don’t think that’s the case. In places like Colombia, the top most watched tv series in the past few years have all revolved around the narco theme. El Patron del Mal and El Cartel de los Sapos, are examples of this. As a matter of fact, the Netflix series is a bit of a rip off of the original Patron Del Mal. The fascination for this kind of theme is as strongly felt as in North America, and we know that our gamer audience over there will also appreciate the entertainment value of Deal.
Q: While play testing the game with the public, what kinds of feedback did you receive and was it incorporated into the final version of DEAL? Is there anything from the earliest versions of the game that you’re glad didn’t make it to retail?
A: The reaction of the testers was pretty amazing; a game like Deal definitely attracts the attention of people. And yeah, since people wanted to see the game be successfully funded, we received a lot of feedback from all the testers. Feedback which included anything from tweaks on the names of the territories, to the number of movements dope pieces can have in 1 turn, to changing the positioning of clans in order to have a more balanced and even playing field. It has been a constant evolution, and we have been very open to suggestions to improve our game to its current finished stage. If you were to put all the beta testers and people who helped us by giving us tips and valuable advice, the Borderline team would actually be comprised of more than 50 people!
Q: How has the gaming community that has been hands on with the game reacted to the concept and gameplay mechanics? What has been the best and worst reaction that you’ve received?
A: The gaming community has really loved the concept. The idea of the game is elegant and simple; there are producer territories in the south, and consumers territories in the north, and product needs to circulate between these. Yet there is also an insane amount of strategy and complexity due to the mechanics of the game; clans have special abilities, there are unpredictable event cards drawn, there are 3 different kinds of troops with different values, there are profile cards with missions, and all of this with room for negotiation…
However, it is not a game for everyone, and players who do not like strategic games might find not find Deal that appealing. We certainly met people who tested the game and who did not like the game simply because strategy games are not their thing. However, if it is your thing, you’re really going appreciate the amount of strategy Deal offers.
Q: When you sit down to play the game, how do you typically approach the strategy of the game? As the game unfolds, do you find its easy to stick with your initial strategy/ approach or does the game require a lot of flexibility in order to be successful?
A: I think you definitely need to have a rough sketch of your strategy and goals from the beginning of the game. Mostly, because you are dealt a profile card at the beginning of the game which cites missions that give you points. These missions can sometimes dictate the shape your drug empire takes as it expands. However, Deal can sometimes throw you unpredictable events that might ruin your plans (like a sudden betrayal of partnerships, or event cards that close routes). So you have to also have flexibility and consider other options for scoring respect points… like conquering key territories, or eliminating your clan target. So when I play, I know the general framework of my conquest, but I also know how to take advantage of unexpected surprises.
Q: If the below pop culture icons were to decide to settle their differences over a game of DEAL, who would prove to be the best drug Kingpin and why?
•Tony Montana (AL Pacino, Scarface)
•Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes, New Jack City)
•Russell “Stringer” Bell (Idris Elba, The Wire)
•Walter White (Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad)
•Drexel Spivey (Gary Oldman, True Romance)
•Frank White (Christopher Walken, King of New York)
A: Ouhh that’s a difficult one. Stringer Bell definitely understands the economics of the product, but doesn’t understand the ruthless nature of the business. Same with Walter White, he could definitely create a wealthy empire, but I am not sure how efficient he would be at taking over competition. Im going to have to go with Frank White. He’s the king of New York; respected, feared and very unpredictable. He’s impossible to read, and hiding your schemes is an essential part of the game ;)
Q: Do you consider yourself to be a gamer? If so, what style of games do you prefer? What are your current favorites?
A: Yeah, I do consider myself a gamer; and as badly as it might sound in the tabletop community, I am a huge fan of Risk 😛 Yeah, it’s player elimination, and yeah it might take days to finish, but I absolutely loved it during my youth. The influence of territory conquest in Deal is pretty clear. I don’t know how many nuit blanches I spent playing this game, but there were many. And although not technically a board game, I also enjoy playing chess. Its inspiration also doesn’t go unnoticed; in American Dream if your kingpin dies, it’s checkmate for you 😉
As for current favorites, I have been playing Game of Thrones, Twilight Struggle and Diplomacy.
Q: DEAL was a great way for the Borderline team to leave a lasting impression on the gaming community, are you able to share what’s next for the team? Is there a dream game that the team would love to take on?
A: Well we are pretty dedicated with the concept of Deal because we truly think we have something special in our hands. There are definitely talks in the team of an expansion for the game; one that will take place in a different continent. We are also considering the idea of making an online game
But for now, we are mostly concerned with Deal American Dream. We are only in the beginning phase of our conquest 😛
After being successfully funded through Kickstarter last year, DEAL: American Dream is available now, worldwide direct from Borderline and additionally through Amazon in the US.
Want DEAL to be available locally in a shop near you? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll get the Borderline team the information to try and make it happen.