Interview: Isaac Vega, Designer of Starship Samurai

Starship Samurai

I met Isaac while filming a video for Gorus Maximus at Origins and ended up playing an impromptu game with him and a couple industry folks. After the quick session, I was able to shoot some footage of Starship Samurai. Now I remember when it was announced right before Origins. I was a bit worried that this game would be another example of game that cares more about miniatures than actual good gameplay. I went from excited about the announcement to making a quick rush to judgment and moving on. After a five minute demo with Isaac, I quickly realized I was totally wrong and tisk tisk for being so judgmental. I’ve played the game several times now and it’s one of my favorite games of 2018 (blew my whole review). I decided to reach out to Isaac to learn more about his background and the future of Starship Samurai.

I like to find out every designer’s Spider-Man origin story. What lead you down the path of designing games? Was this always something you wanted to do growing up or were you bitten by a radioactive spider and suddenly gained the powers to design games?

Isaac: Ahh I wish I was bit by a radioactive spider! But really it was just my friends that got me into when I got back from college. I don’t think any of them where radioactive, but who knows. Once they should me what board games had to offer I was hooked. I started working on my own designs and was then able to meet Colby, the founder of Plaid Hat Games. When we met I showed him a game I had been working on. It wasn’t very good, but he encouraged me to keep going. Shortly after I pitched him another game that would later become City of Remnants, and from that point on there was really no looking back. I kept volunteering with the company and signing new games with Plaid Hat. I tried to make sure that I wasn’t only designing games, but helping the company succeed in all areas I could. Colby noticed my efforts and I came on full time as his first hire in 2013. We have been working together ever since. Continuing to build the team and trying to make it in this industry. It’s been a lot of work, but it has been a lot of fun too. Seeing the company grow as it has, fills my heart with such joy. I am happy to have been a part of it for these last 8 years and am glad to still be in love with it.

It doesn’t take a lot of research to find out you’re an anime junkie. When I was a little guy, I used to wake up super early to watch Tranzor Z, Robotech, and Ramna ½ before school (I know I’m old). What are some of your favorite anime series or movies? Does your love for anime trickle into your game designs?

Isaac: My favorite animes from when I was growing up where Trigun, Gurren Lagann, & Fullmetal Alchemist. Right now I am hooked on Attack on Titan, One Punch Man, and Made in Abyss (Can’t wait for season 2!). As far as movies go I have a ton, so I won’t go through all of them. However, the two movies that I always keep going back to are Jurassic Park & The Fifth Element. They aren’t the most perfect stories ever told or anything. But there is just a fun and beauty to them that keeps me going back to watch them over and over again. Of course my love of these forms of entertainment affects my work. I like to analyze what I enjoy, and what others enjoy, see what connects with them and then try to recreate it and put my own spin on it. I am inspired by pretty much anything that give people joy and happiness, and want to keep sharing that feeling my worlds and designs. I’m fishing for a connection to Starship Samurai. It’s a fantastic game and I get the feeling it’s has some anime inspiration.

Starship Samurai uses a combination of Area control/influence, action point allowance, and set collection. Did I forget to mention SAMURAI MECHS?

What was the inspiration behind Starship Samurai? Do you feel like this a big departure from you other designs?

Isaac: I was very much inspired by animes such as Gundam Wing & Gurren Lagann. I also took inspiration from stories about Feudal Japan. I do think it’s different from what I am most known for, Dead of Winter & Ashes, but I still think people can see me in it. I don’t really stick with a specific design pattern. I try to explore the themes that inspire me, and the design mechanics follow for what makes sense in that world.

I assume Starship Samurai is doing well, because an expansion was just announced. Shattered Alliances adds more miniatures and some new gameplay elements. Can you talk about what’s in store for people interested in the expansion?

Shattered Alliances gives players two additional Samurai that they can use to draft at the beginning of the game. It also adds a new action deck that you can use as a stand alone or mix it with your existing deck. Cards in that deck have some interesting ways to strategize depending on where lesser clans sit on the Alliance Track. It adds a fun dimension to the game that I think fans of the game will enjoy, so I am looking forward to players trying it out.

Some of the first pictures of the minis from Shattered Alliances

What does the future hold for Starship Samurai? Will I ever see solo play? I have my moments where I have to get a game to the table and I don’t want to wait on others to join me.

Isaac: Sorry no plans for solo play at this time. Starship Samurai is still a pretty new release so we are waiting to see more feedback before any major plans are set in motion. Hopefully things keep moving in a positive direction and I get more chances to dive into this world.

My no plans for solo instant reaction face. Positive vibes on tilt.

Last question. You have a big role over at Plaid Hat Games. What do you hope to achieve in the next couple years with Plaid Hat games in your current position?

Isaac: I hope to work on expanding our brand to a wider audience and work on creating interesting and compelling characters and stories through my work. Right now we are very focused on creating games that offer a deeper narrative and I am excited to be a part of that.

Once again, I’m very thankful for Isaac taking the time to write up these responses. Isaac also has another title heading to retail this fall named Neon Gods. If you want find out more about the Shattered Alliances expansion and Neon Gods, head over to Stay tuned to my review for Starship Samurai later this week. Thank you for your time.

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