Donald X. Vaccarino has been thrust into the forefront of the tabletop gaming community as a designer and that stature is on the verge of getting even larger.
Vaccarino designed the hugely successful Dominion from Rio Grande Games, which won the 2009 Spiel des Jahres Award as game of the year. That award is to game designers what the Oscar is to people in the film business.
He hasn’t stood on his laurels to be sure. He has released three more games into the marketplace. There is Nefarious, where gamers became mad scientists creating weird invention. Nefarious has been released by Ascora Games and is now becoming more widely available in the United States. Then there is Infiltration, released just a week ago by Fantasy Flight Games.
Yet it is Kingdom Builder, released last year by Queen Games that has drawn another game of the year nomination and many industry insiders believe it is likely to win.
“I started working on Kingdom Builder after Dominion, but it has older elements in it,” Vaccarino. “The piece placement rule came from a game from 1999.”
Kingdom Builder has some of the feel of Dominion, thought its mechanics are completely different.
“Well, I made games for years before Dominion, and applied lessons from those games to both Dominion and Kingdom Builder,” said Vaccarino. “I am not sure Dominion itself really taught me so much for other games. It has taught me how to make Dominion better. I guess I have learned some stuff about playtesters.”
Kingdom Builder started as one thing and developed into something else.
“I wanted to make a deckbuilding board game,” said Vaccarino. “You would play cards to put pieces on a board, and put pieces on a board to gain cards. Gradually I convinced myself to take out the deckbuilding part. It wasn't needed, and I didn't want to do deckbuilding just to do deckbuilding. So I replaced the deckbuilding with, draw a terrain card, put three pieces on it. It was just a very simple way to determine what you could do.”