Local gamer brings his own creation, ‘Dragon Brew,’ to table

Every Thursday evening, The Lobby in downtown Lebanon hosts a game night with 50-cent tacos. Sometimes it’s a small group that shows up, and on other nights there may be as many as 20 people.

One dedicated regular is Tom Lathos of Corvallis, a self-proclaimed gaming addict. He keeps a bundle of games in his car, including some that he designed himself.

Lathos co-created his first published game, Dragon Brew, and is currently developing two more games, Treasure Mountain and a pirate game not yet named.

Dragon Brew utilizes fantasy races – dwarves, goblins, hobbits, vampires, etc. – who gather resources necessary for creating beers that will later be judged for ribbons.

Lathos worked with a friend and  published gamer, Daniel George of Santa Maria, Calif., to establish Dragon Brew.

“We’ve been playing games forever,” Lathos said. “What Dan taught me about designing games is [to] design the game that you enjoy.”

After they were satisfied with Dragon Brew, the designers were able to quickly raise funding through Kickstarter and released it to the public in October, he said.

To create a game, designers come up with a concept and start playing, Lathos said. As they play, they continue to work out kinks.

“I can’t stress enough what we call in the industry ‘play testing,’” he said. “You have a vision, you have a concept, you put it together, you start to play it, and then all of a sudden you go ‘wah wah, that doesn’t work.’”

Besides working out the general idea of how a game will play, designers also have to figure out things like how to keep the experience interesting and how to allow a player who’s fallen too far behind to be able to catch up. This involves using statistics and probability with dice rolls and card distribution.

“It’s really important to be tight on the math of when those cards will pop up so people can get back,” Lathos said.

The next game he expects to release is Treasure Mountain, which will be posted on Kickstarter in February. He describes it as a casual game wherein players build a cavern and mine gems.

His third game will have a pirate theme.

“I designed a pirate game that I always wanted to play,” he said. “I love pirates, but I’ve played a lot of pirate games [and] I could never get the game that I wanted.”

The gamer said he wants to play a true pirate who can raid ships and invite others to venture the sea with him, and then perhaps not honor his agreement to share the booty.

Lathos, who worked in agriculture in the Santa Maria area and later owned a game store in Lodi, Calif., the demise of which he blamed on the 2008 economic downturn. Of the 1,300-square-foot store, 1,000 was dedicated to game playing, he said.

He and his wife moved to Corvallis 1½ years ago to be near their son and daughter.

Lathos believes board gaming is experiencing a resurgence in popularity.

“There’s been this real big upswing for sitting around the table. Why is that? Who knows. Video gaming is not going to go away, but there is a joy in sitting around a table, laughing and playing with fiddly bits,” he said.

When the general community thinks of board games, they think of mainstream games found at a nearby retailer, Lathos said, but there’s a subculture of people across the globe who design and play lesser known games.

Lathos still likes to play mainstream games, as well as “craft” ones, so to speak, but it’s not the game itself that is most important to him.

“I first and foremost like the interaction with people at the table,” he said. “To me, it doesn’t matter what we’re playing; the interaction is what I play games for.”

Dragon Brew can be purchased for $55 at The Lobby in Lebanon, Matt’s Cavalcade of Comics in Corvallis, or online at www.AugustGames.com.