Charlie Bink on the Making of Trekking Through History

Charlie Bink on the Making of Trekking Through History

Stacy Tornio Stacy Tornio

Trekking Through History, our newest game, launches on Amazon on September 8th! Our team here at Underdog is very proud of this game, so we wanted to introduce you to some of the great minds behind it. 

This article features the game's designer, Charlie Bink. Charlie is the co-founder of Underdog Games and also the creator of Trekking the National Parks. He's loved games since he was a kid and has been working in the tabletop game world as an independent artist and designer for more than a decade. 

Listen to Charlie talk about how this game is different than others in the Trekking line, then read his Q&A below. 

If you had to describe this game in a sentence, what would it be?

Charlie: It’s kind of like a competitive puzzle, where each player tries to navigate through time by visiting different historical figures and events in the most efficient way possible.

How is this Trekking game different from others in the Trekking line?

Charlie: The previous Trekking games have all been about managing resources that let you move across a map, or claim valuable destinations cards. The main resource in TTH is time. You only have 12 hours each round to visit different moments in history, and your ability to earn points will depend on how efficiently you use these hours. The History cards you collect will award different icons that you will use to try and fill up your travel itinerary before the day ends.

What were the challenges involved in designing a history game?

Charlie: I was initially worried that a History theme clashed with the travel themes of the previous Trekking games. It was clear that a map-based game made little sense for this, so I had to explore other options. I landed on a "time-track"style game, which thematically felt perfect for this subject. The game also strays from the previous Trekking games because it has a bit of a science-fiction twist, which is necessary to explain how players are able to leap through time. However, it was important to me that we put most of the focus on actual history itself rather than the time-travel theme. I always hope players can learn something from my games while they are playing and I don't want to distract from that too much.

What were the fun parts about designing a history game?

Charlie: For me, the most fun part about making this game was that it forced me to explore a completely different type of design. I feel like I discovered an interesting new style of set collection mechanic in the process, and playtesters have said they really enjoy it.

Do you have a favorite event from the game?

Charlie: There are tons of awesome History Cards I love in the game, but ironically, my favorite one isn’t actually a historical event at all...

When we were initially surveying our customers about which historical things they would like to see in the game, one person said that they would love to go back in history and visit one of their distant ancestors. This was such a cool idea to me, and it inspired the Ancestor Cards, which act kind of like a wild date…because no matter how far back you go, all of us have ancestors throughout all of history.

As the designer for this game, what do you hope people get out of it? 

Charlie: My design philosophy for all the Trekking games is this—Entertainment first, Education second. I believe most "educational games" fail because they feel like flash cards, or a dry school lecture. But when most people play a game, all they really care about is if it's fun or not. So my goal is to create an engaging experience that hooks people, and then sneak in educational content which they may find interesting, and hopefully inspires them to discuss the topics and learn more about them outside the game.

What else should we know about your design process?

Charlie: This game was unique in that it was my first “assignment” based design. We surveyed our kickstarter backers from Trekking the World about what theme they wanted the next Trekking game to be, and the surprising winner was history. I originally had no clue how I could make this work, but ironically, it has ended up becoming my favorite Trekking game. I guess inspiration pops up in the most unexpected places.

To learn more about Trekking Through History and to get updates, go here.

Need a free calendar that features the game's gorgeous artwork? Get it here.

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