(Written by Alan R. Moon)
I was born in my grandmother’s house at 105 Oak Tree Rd. in Southampton, England. My father was a librarian who dreamed of coming to America, but at the time this was difficult because of the immigration quotas. When I was 5, my father took a job as the director of the library in St. John’s, Newfoundland, hoping he could get into the United States from Canada. Two years later, he succeeded by becoming the editor of Library Journal magazine, and we moved to Brooklyn, New York. Less than a year later, we moved to New Jersey.
When I was a kid, every Sunday was family day. My father, mother, brother, and I would spend the day bowling, playing miniature golf, going to the movies, etc., and then ending the day at home playing games. We played all the American classics like MONOPOLY, CAREERS, and FACTS IN FIVE, as well as lots of traditional card games like HEARTS and OH HELL. My father taught me CHESS when I was a teenager and he beat me year after year before I finally won. My parents also taught me BRIDGE. But my most memorable game experiences as a child occurred when my Uncle Bryan would come to visit. My father, my uncle, my brother, and I would play RISK. This was some of the most intense gaming I’ve experienced, as there was no such thing as brotherly love during games of RISK in the Moon family.
I served in the United States Air Force from 1970 to 1974, first as a Radio Operator in Vietnam, then as an Administrative Clerk at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska, then as an Administrative Inspector at a recruiting detachment back in New Jersey.
I went to Kean College (now Kean University) in New Jersey from 1976-1979, majoring in English and Theatre.
During college, I got involved with and later ran a local game club called the Jersey Wargamers. I also began to write articles about games for The General, the house magazine of the Avalon Hill Game Company. After college in 1979, I was hired by AH and moved to Baltimore, MD. I became the assistant editor of The General with the expectation that I would take over as the editor after a short apprenticeship. However, when I started work at AH, I got involved developing games, and found out I like developing games a lot more than editing a magazine.
Not surprisingly, my first published game as a designer was BLACK SPY (Avalon Hill, 1981), inspired by the classic trick-taking card game HEARTS. BLACK SPY later became GESPENSTER from Hexagames in 1990.
In 1983 I took a job at Parker Brothers in Massachusetts as part of a team designing and developing video games. When I left Parker Brothers in 1984, I decided to try designing games for a living. The next 6 years were a struggle and generated very little success. My first game that seemed to get any attention was AIRLINES published by the German company Abacus in 1990.
In 1991, frustrated that I could not sell more of my games to established companies, I started my own company called White Wind, Inc. My plan was to produced limited editions of my games and then sell them to the big companies a year or two later. During this whole time from 1984-1996, I also worked part-time jobs, usually as a waiter.
In 1996, having not sold a single White Wind game to another company, I was broke and even more frustrated. I decided to stop publishing games for White Wind. In February 1997, out of necessity, I took a job as the Director Of Game Development at F.X. Schmid USA. At that point, I was for the first time starting to have doubts about my ability as a game designer.
Later in 1997, the German parent company F.X. Schmid was bought by Ravensburger, the best known game company in Germany. At about the same time, another Germany company, Amigo Spiele, approached me about reissuing ELFENROADS, one of my White Wind games. They wanted a simpler version though, so I spent quite a few months reworking the game. Without the aid of a computer, I made color photocopies of the ELFENROADS board and then spent weeks cutting and pasting pieces of the copies to make a new board for the simpler game. In 1998, Amigo published this new version of the game and called it ELFENLAND, and it won Spiel Des Jahres (Game Of The Year). SdJ is a very prestigious award in the German speaking countries, and for the first time I had a game that sold more than a few thousand copies.
In 1999, Amigo published UNION PACIFIC which was my revision of AIRLINES. UNION PACIFIC made it to the final three candidates for SdJ in 1999.
In 1999 I became the Vice President of Product Development and Licensing for what had become Ravensburger USA (the American branch of Ravensburger). I enjoyed my job, especially all the trips to Germany, but I was putting in a lot of hours each week, and it was very difficult to design games in my spare time.
In 1998, I started designing games with other designers including Richard Borg and Bruno Faidutti, as well as continuing to work on my own. I found I really enjoyed collaborating. In recent years, I have tried collaborating with other designers, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, but it has always been interesting.
In 2001, I had three games nominated for SdJ: DAS AMULETT (Goldsieber) which made it to the final three, CAPITOL (Schmidt), and SAN MARCO (Ravensburger). While none of the games won the award, this trio seemed to catapult me into the upper echelon of designers.
My favorite of my own designs are WER HAT MEHR?, the 10 DAYS Series, and TICKET TO RIDE. WER HAT MEHR? was my first game ever published in Europe by Piatnik (an Austrian company) in 1990. It was re-released in 2002 as WHERE’S BOB’S HAT by Rio Grande. It is a simple trick-taking card game based on another classic game called OH HELL. The 10 DAYS Series (10 DAYS IN AFRICA, 10 DAYS IN THE USA, 10 DAYS IN EUROPE, 10 DAYS IN THE AMERICAS, and 10 DAYS IN ASIA by Out Of The Box) is a very simple game system which is both fun and educational. More games are planned in the series.
TICKET TO RIDE was published by Days of Wonder and in 2004 it became my second Spiel Des Jahres winner. TICKET TO RIDE EUROPE was published in February 2005 and the TICKET TO RIDE Computer Game debuted in October 2005 and included the new SWITZERLAND map. Additional TICKET TO RIDE games and expansions have been published almost each year since. TICKET TO RIDE has won numerous awards and is the big hit I’d always dreamed about. Articles about the game have appeared in Reader’s Digest and newspapers across the country. As one example, an article about TICKET TO RIDE appeared in the Sunday New York Times on May 9th, 2004.
I live in Syracuse, NY. My interests include going on cruises, reading, NASCAR, model railroading, walking, weight lifting, singing, movies, and dining out. I had always dreamed of being a recording artist. In 1998, as a present to myself for winning Spiel Des Jahres, I lived out this fantasy and recorded a CD of country music, which I gave away as presents to family and friends.
In February 2004, I married the love of my life Janet. The wedding and the events surrounding it were a wonderful weekend full of family and friends that I will always cherish. Janet is a lawyer, currently working as a Criminal Defense Attorney in Syracuse. Janet has also recently become a wonderful gourmet cook.
When I’m not being a husband or a game designer, what I enjoy most is playing Poker at my local casino or simply playing any games with my friends, which I try to do as often as possible. My favorite games are DESCENT: JOURNEYS IN THE DARK (designed by Kevin Wilson), TICHU, KAKERLAKEN POKER (designed by Jacques Zeimet), 7 WONDERS (designed by Antoine Bauza), COSMIC EIDEX (a three-player trick taking game), MYSTERY RUMMY #1 (designed by Mike Fitzgerald), CARCASSONNE & HUNTERS & GATHERERS (designed by Klaus Juergen Wrede), ADEL VERPFLICHTET and DRUNTER & DRUBER (both designed by Klaus Teuber), WILDLIFE ADVENTURE (designed by Wolfgang Kramer), SPADES (a traditional trick-taking card game), LIARS DICE/BLUFF (designed by Richard Borg), BRIDGETTE (two-player BRIDGE designed by Joli Kansil), CROKINOLE (a traditional finger-flicking, action game played on a board like CARROM), and the party games TABOO and BALDERDASH.
Abridged List of Notable Games
Articles written for The GENERAL
Alan on BGG
Alan R. Moon