Matt Jacobs

Today we are featuring Matt Jacobs - One of the designers of Kitten Klash, XO, Stollis and more. He lives in Corvallis, in the beautiful Mid-Willamette Valley of Oregon with his partner and two kids. In Matt’s effort to hide his secret identity as a game designer, he “Clark Kents” as the head technician of a fruit-themed computer store. Matt would love you to come visit his Designer Alley table at Stumptown Game Summit to play either XO or Stollis. If we are lucky, he may even have a new project with him that could use some play-testing!


  • Matt was suspended from christian school for using study hall to build Magic: The Gathering decks in 9th grade. Look out ladies, He’s the guy that your pastor warned you about.

  • He used to manage heavy metal bands.

  • Matt always wanted to be a hip-hop dancer, but never pursued it, for whatever reason.

Questions by Kimberly Revia (KR), answers by Matt Jacobs (MJ).


KR: Do you remember exactly what it was that made you interested in designing games?

MJ: I think it was Magic: The Gathering. I LOVED the deck building! Finding the right combination of cards to defeat my opponent. At some point when I started playing board games, I tried to do something while playing in which a friend of mine called me out because it was against the rules. I tried to argue that it was a stupid rule and that what I was trying to do was intuitive to how the game would work (not that I thought the rules shouldn't apply to me, I just didn’t know and it seemed like that was how that would work). My friend’s response was, “Then make your own damn game and do it whatever way you want.” That was my lightbulb moment.

KR: Is there any part of the design process that has surprised you? (ie: easier or more difficult)

MJ: I guess the most surprising part of the design process is where it starts at all. My first published game (Kitten Klash) actually started as a dueling version of solitaire that Alice Davis (my partner) and I made by total accident. Alice & I try to keep each other on our toes. So we’ll do little exercises like “How could you remake this game completely without out adding or subtracting components?” We were playing Pentago one day and she said, “How would you make this game using cards instead of a wood board?” This exercise is where my game XO came from. My ideas sometimes come from these exercises, and sometimes they just come out of nowhere.

KR: Where do you usually start off with game design? (ie: mechanic, theme etc)

MJ: In the past, I’ve started with mechanic first. That ended up yielding abstract games for me because I would find a mechanic (or series of mechanics) I liked and wouldn’t want to ruin them by adding other things into the mix. I’ve made two games that are abstracts, XO (a tactical two player) and Stollis (a spacial tile laying game for two-six players). The game I’m working on now started with a mechanic, but theme has really driven development of the game, so it makes me happy that I’m making a game with really integrated mechanics and theme.


KR: Is there a convention you dream of going to?

MJ: OH WOW! Well, I really enjoy Unpub & Origins. I look forward to them every year. One I would love to go to is UK Games Expo! I’ve never been to the UK and would LOVE to go!

KR: What games have you played and really enjoyed each play of, whether it be for the experience or the play itself?

MJ: This is a great question. I never seem to get tired of Horizons or Sailing Towards Osiris. Thieves Den is still constantly interesting to me (even though I developed it for a year or two, I still enjoy it). Stone Age and Fire in the Library get a lot of play as well. I have been digging on heavy euros a lot lately, but I find them difficult to get to the table considering I usually play with my partner, our 9 year-old and our 7 year-old. However, our 9 year-old, Dawson (also a game designer; Dinos Not Assembled is getting into these. He really enjoys Terraforming Mars. I’m hoping to get Round House and Kings Abbey to the table more in the near future.

KR: Is there any theme you would love to see more games designed around?

MJ: That is tough to say. I CAN say that I want to see more themes that ARE NOT about conquest and/or battle. These themes tend to encourage violence and/or exploitation of native peoples. I know that doesn’t really answer the question, but I tend to stray away from those kinds of games. I also tend be very designer focused. While at Unpub, I decided that I would choose to play games that were designed by women female presenting/non-binary and/or people of color as often as I could. The themes of the games were not what interested me, the designers were. I think doing this will automatically provide us new and interesting themes simply because of perspective. Games like Wingspan, Holi: The Color Festival and Rap Godz are great examples of this! Supporting people of varied backgrounds will allow them to provide their perspective. TL;DR: I’m not looking for specific themes, I’m looking for different viewpoints.

You can find Matt and what he is currently up to by following the links below!

Twitter: PNWBeard

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