Eric Alvarado

Co-Owner, Lead Developer, Project Manager

Introduction

Eric Alvarado is a game developer and co-owner of Talon Strikes Studios. He is also the designer of Vinyl Anthology. Before joining Talon Strikes Studios, he worked with Cardboard Edison in publishing their first game, Cobras. Since joining Talon Strikes Studios, he has participated as a judge in several board game design contests hosted by: Cardboard Edison, Board Game Design Lab, and Board Game Design Workshop. He also has participated in several Designer-Publisher Pitch Events and is a mentor with the Tabletop Mentorship program. Outside of Talon Strikes Studios, he is an IT Executive and an Adjunct Faculty Member teaching Data Visualization.

Early Years

Eric has been playing games all his life. His mom introduced games to him at an early age. He was raised playing classic games (e.g., chess, backgammon, and checkers etc.), card games (e.g., rummy, hearts, spades, bridge, etc.), and mass-market games (e.g., Life, Monopoly, Payday, Stratego).

At an early age, Eric got bit by the design bug, coming up with another 12 games for the “Flipsider” series. He also attempted to get his ideas published by Hasbro and Mattel. However, he was always sent a letter stating they did not seek unsolicited ideas. In 7th grade, Eric’s game designs won him a prize for his holiday submission, “Crazy Christmas Shopping.”

With his chess interests, Eric designed a 4-player variant of chess that introduced new royal pieces to the battlefield. Also, he enjoyed playing Scrabble and created a version incorporating mechanisms from Uno. In his teenage years, Eric continued playing board games (e.g., Stop Thief, Dark Tower, Rummikub) but shifted his focus to other endeavors (e.g., building computers, programming, and RC cars).

College and Early Career

During college, Eric only played games with his mom and sister during the holidays. Occasionally, his dad would join the table playing dominoes, hearts, or the family goto, Mille Bourne. Unfortunately, college occupied much of his life. After college, Eric’s first full-time employment was at Purdue University as an Instructional Technologist. While working there, his friends introduced him to eurogames (e.g., Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, Puerto Rico). This exposure re-energized his passion for games, and he began exploring what games were.

Early Virginia Years

Unfortunately, Eric had to move back east and try to rebuild his gaming connection. Lucky for him, he started working initially for a game store in Woodbridge, VA, called the Game Parlor. There he met many gamers and even began to explore miniatures and CCGs. Eric got into Warmaster and Bloodbowl. He also played Decipher’s Star Trek CCG 2e and Lord of the Rings CCG. He played games more frequently and even found a gaming group closer to him in Fairfax — The Little Wars Gaming Group. Every Wednesday, he would meet with this group to play miniatures and board games. From this group, he expanded his passion for games into Historical Miniatures. He started to attend Historical Minature Gaming Society events. He even got into writing his Eagle Over the Rising Sun scenario book focused on the WWII Pacific Theater and collaborated with his friend, Dr. Roy Jones, to develop the Herero Wars scenario book. His board game collection continued to grow, and he loved to host gaming events at his house. In 2008, Eric began to try his hand at board game design. He started working on his first design, On the Crab. This design he submitted to a Rio Grande Contest at the Congress of Gamers in Maryland. He won first place and had the opportunity to pitch to Jay Tummelson at the Chicago Toy Fair. Unfortunately for him, he did not get his game signed. 

Later Virginia Years

Still, he continued to work on it, began participating with the Unpub organization, and attended the annual event in Dover, DE. There he met many early pioneers in the independent board game industry and started to explore publication more seriously. He could get another of his designs, Mill City, signed by Knightworks Games and saw a brief glimmer of his game launching on Kickstarter. However, the campaign was canceled, and Mill City was shelved. He pitched his game On the Crab with Nevermore Games and was close to signing an agreement with them. As time passed, he continued to work on different themes and mechanisms on his own and with a close friend, Brian Fischer. He and I worked on several concepts together, each winding up in the trash.

Birth of Vinyl

Then during one call in January 2016, Brian and I started to kick around a game about vinyl records. I worked on at least three core mechanisms until I stumbled on one that seemed to gel. I continued to polish this version and merged the early graphics that Brian compiled into a playable game. We demoed this game to Chris Kirkman at Unpub, hoping to get it signed by Dice Hate Me Games. We did not get signed, but I continued polishing the mechanisms and wanted to pitch the game to other publishers at Gen Con later that year. Unfortunately, Brian and I had a different opinions on where to take the game leading to his desire to step away from it for good. I continued to work on and foster the fun and demoed it at several conventions. However, during the BGG.con Publisher Designer Speed Dating event, I was signed by a small publishing company, Talon Strikes Studios. There is where I met Jason Washburn and Jason Hancock. I could see Jason was very passionate about making games even though he only had one game published. However, I wanted to get my game signed and decided to take a chance.

Cobras

While searching for a publisher for Vinyl, I moved back to New York and began meeting with the Cardboard Edison team. I frequently drove to their home in New Jersey and played games. One evening after playing their designs, I asked if they had ever considered getting into publishing. Maybe we drank too much that evening, but we decided to partner and publish their first game, Cobras. I was swamped after the successful launch of Cobras and working in parallel on Vinyl. We delivered Cobras on time to the backers and sold out of the small run within three months. I also worked with Jason to develop his next game King’s Champion. He successfully launched that game and began directing his attention to Vinyl as it started its production run.

First Launch

With our attention entirely on Vinyl, we began to develop the game components to get it out to reviewers. I worked with a colleague of mine, Gary Young, to gather as much information about owning and operating a record store as possible and also learn about music genres. I also met and partnered with another colleague of mine, Max Hergenrother, an excellent 3d modeler, and developed guitar miniatures for the game. I continued to playtest the game each week with students from my university and local industry people (all credited in the game rules). The game finally launched on March 19, 2018. Unfortunately, the Kickstarter space was crowded with many other games launching simultaneously (e.g., Batman Miniatures Game, Sweet Mess, Fireball Island). During the campaign, Jason and I began adding some additional content that I was working on to help fund the game. Masters of Metal, Totally Awesome 80’s, and British Invasion were moved up. Towards the end of the campaign, we considered canceling but saw a late surge in backers who managed to fund the game. Finally, one of my games was going to be published.

Partnership

With our attention entirely on Vinyl, we began to develop the game components to get it out to reviewers. I worked with a colleague of mine, Gary Young, to gather as much information about owning and operating a record store as possible and also learn about music genres. I also met and partnered with another colleague of mine, Max Hergenrother, an excellent 3d modeler, and developed guitar miniatures for the game. I continued to playtest the game each week with students from my university and local industry people (all credited in the game rules). The game finally launched on March 19, 2018. Unfortunately, the Kickstarter space was crowded with many other games launching simultaneously (e.g., Batman Miniatures Game, Sweet Mess, Fireball Island). During the campaign, Jason and I began adding some additional content that I was working on to help fund the game. Masters of Metal, Totally Awesome 80’s, and British Invasion were moved up. Towards the end of the campaign, we considered canceling but saw a late surge in backers who managed to fund the game. Finally, one of my games was going to be published.

Future

Jason and I work extremely hard to develop and publish games, contribute to the gaming community, and mentor future designers and publishers. We are continually maturing our business from a small independent publishing company to a medium publishing company. 2020 was supposed to be the year where we would see the company blossom. However, due to the pandemic, we focused inward on improving company operations and outward work with others in the community. Now that we are in 2021, we hope to see the next evolution in Talon Strikes. With our next set of Kickstarter games (Night Market, Top Pop, Java Express) direct to retail games (Mix Tape and Haunted), and the release of 2020 games (Public Market, Vinyl Anthology, and Shadow Network) in 2021, we are hoping for a big year! 

 

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