Interview With Shelly Mazzanoble Of Avalon Hill/WOTC

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We tried to make a recorded interview work, but we could not match up schedules, so Shelly Mazzanoble brand manager of Avalon Hill graciously agreed to answer some of my questions via email.

Hope you enjoy! and thanks to Shelly for taking some time out to answer all these questions!

 

 

How did you end up working for WOTC, and Avalon Hill?

I started working at Wizards so long ago I found the job posting in the newspaper. Yes, a newspaper. As a theater major my dad had the good foresight to encourage me to get some…how do I say this…practical job experience, which lead me to an internship at a local radio station where I coordinated promotions and wrote ad copy. Many years later that served me well, as I was eventually hired on at Wizards as a Promotions Coordinator for a relatively new trading card game called Magic: The Gathering. From there I worked on marketing and brand teams for many Wizards’ games like Duel Masters, Neopets, Star Wars, MLB Showdown, Dungeons & Dragons, and now Avalon Hill.

 

As a brand manager for Avalon Hill, what are your regular job duties with Avalon Hill/WOTC?

I like to think of my job as similar to an executive producer on a movie (only with much less red carpet appearances and a significantly smaller budget.) I manage all of Avalon Hill’s current titles and find opportunities to create new games (i.e. Widow’s Walk– the first ever Betrayal at House on the Hill expansion and Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate with the D&D team.) Once we decide to create a new product, I do a rigorous song and dance to get the product greenlight (donuts help), secure internal and third party (if applicable) resources (donuts help here too), and work closely with our Project Manager to keep everything on schedule (donuts again.) On a daily basis, I’m responsible for creating and executing on annual marketing plans and the overall strategy for the Avalon Hill brand. I work with almost all of our internal teams daily like project management, sales, finance, trade, graphic design, logistics, game support, and legal.

 

Last year you released The Expansion Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widows Walk. What was the reaction from players like to that?

Thankfully very enthusiastic! I remember scouring Twitter and Facebook the day we announced it and not being able to keep up with all the positive responses! It was a great feeling to give fans something they were so excited to play and knew they were going to love.

 

 

Are there any plans for future expansions for the original Betrayal?

I really, really love Betrayal at House on the Hill so you should probably not be surprised if you hear about other Betrayal products in the future. Just saying…

 

 

You announced Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate during the SOA. Give us the elevator pitch for it.

It’s Betrayal at House on the Hill meets Wrath of Ashardalon! Or as I like to say, “Do you like Betrayal at House on the Hill? Do you like Dungeons & Dragons? If you answered yes to either question, meet your new favorite board game.”

 

How did the game come about?

Based on the reaction to Widow’s Walk, we knew fans wanted to more Betrayal. There is so much potential with this brand. One day while we were talking about future plans for the game, Mike Mearls, Senior Manager: Design & Development for D&D, saw a copy of Betrayal at House on the Hill next to a copy of the D&D Starter Set on a shelf and said, “Hey! How about a D&D and Betrayal mash-up?” How about yes! I sit right next to those kooky D&D kids so it was inevitable the chocolate was going to get in the peanut butter eventually, I guess. These two games actually go really well together. They both involve (semi) cooperation, exploration, finding “treasure”, combat, adventure, and story. It was kind of crazy how seamless this mash-up was (says the girl who wasn’t in charge of development.)

 

What was your involvement with the game design, if any?

Thankfully, we had a cohesive vision from the start so there wasn’t too much back and forth on the design. I helped playtest and worked closely with the developer (Chris Dupuis) on some of the key feedback issues. I only put my foot down once when it came to a design choice, and that was about the difficulty in getting out of the catacombs. I thought it should be harder, but Chris thought if it was too hard players would eventually stop going down there. We compromised by making the stairs up and down require an extra space of movement.

 

 

How different is the gameplay than the original Betrayal?

It’s actually very similar. If you already know how to play the original Betrayal, you’ll be able to open this box and start playing. There’s a handy checklist of the few modifications we made right on page 3 of the rulebook. Probably the biggest change is that you’re playing an adventurer and have a unique adventurer power instead of an eight-year-old explorer with a teddy bear or a flashlight.

 

What are you most proud of with the game?

That’s hard to answer because I am (literally) proud of the whole package and the team who worked on this. Much like a D&D party, everyone had a role and supported each other. It was a lot of work, but it was fun because we’re all fans of both games and were genuinely excited to make this.

 

You were there when you were doing demos of the game at Origins. What was the reaction you got?

Well I was terrified because 2 minutes before the first game I realized this was not a playtest. What if they didn’t like it? What if we were all delusional and only thought it was a great game? It was already at the printer by that point. Thankfully, the fans loved it. There was always a line to play it. People actually took selfies with it. Probably the best feedback I heard was how much it felt like D&D, and what a great introduction to Dungeons & Dragons it would be. Every time the Deck of Many Things was pulled from the omen stack, I swear I saw a tear of joy trickle down the player’s cheek. And then, of course, their adventurer died because hello! It’s the Deck of Many Things!

 

Any plans for any other D&D Based Games from Avalon Hill?

Never say never! I guess it depends on well this one does and if the fans want more. I’m always listening and watching (but not in a creepy, stalkerish sort of way.)

 

Board Game Geek interviewed you during Origins, and you announced Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition was getting a reprint. Care to share more about that?

Yes! The Anniversary Edition first came out in 2008 and quickly sold out. It’s probably the most highly revered version of the game ever due in part to having the biggest board in a single box, over 650 components, paper money (A&A players love paper money), and weighs more than the average newborn baby. There’s a lot to love about this game. For this version, we worked with Larry Harris (the inventor and designer behind Axis & Allies) to update the rulebook and include FAQ and errata so now fans will have all of that in one place.

 

Why did you decide to “reprint” the Axis & Allies?

For almost a decade, fans have been clamoring for a copy because they missed out first time, so we thought, “Why not just re-release it?” We’re all about giving the people what they want. Also, the president of our company is a huge A&A fan so that doesn’t hurt either.

 

What’s the reaction been from the fans about the Axis & Allies announcement?

Very positive! It’s such a great edition of Axis & Allies, and we’re all excited to see it back in print.

 

 

You’re on the official Dungeons & Dragons podcast “Dragon Talk” with Greg Tito. Tell us about that. How did your involvement in that come about?

The D&D podcast has gone through many incarnations and I had inserted myself into most of them. Before Greg started at Wizards, it was usually hosted by some combination of myself, Trevor Kidd and Bart Carroll. Then Greg joined the team and we said, “Here New Guy! This is yours now!” Really, Dragon Talk is 99% Greg. He was the mastermind behind the new segments, wrangling most of the guests, and promotion. I just show up when he tells me to.

 

Again, a huge thanks for Shelly, for taking time out and answering my questions! You can follow her on twitter @shellymoo

You can follow Avalon Hill Gaming on twitter @AvalonHill2

 

Avalon Hill Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate Board Game will release on Oct 6th and can be preordered at you FLGS. If you do this will also receive a set of promo cards!

Or via Amazon

 

Avalon Hill Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition Board Game will release October 20th

Can be preordered your local FLGS or via Amazon

 

 

 

*Note the above links are AMAZON AFFILIATE LINKS, DDO Players will get a small percent of the sale, this is another way you can help support the site*

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