Comic Spotlight: Tiny Wooden Pieces
There’s an old Irish proverb: May your comics be funny and your games good. OK. Maybe that’s not old, Irish, or proverbic, but there is a couple in Ireland that marries comics and games better than I just did. They’re Colin O’Mahoney and Aileen Cudmore, the brains and hands behind the mostly board-game-based comic Tiny Wooden Pieces that debuts every Friday.
I stumbled upon Tiny Wooden Pieces after they followed me on twitter. I was immediately a fan. Their comics are usually based on board games, which I love, but they sometimes dabble into other areas of geeky culture, which I also love. They don’t review games per se, but after each comic, Colin and/or Aileen add a little blurb about the comic. It might be explaining their feelings on a game (we had to agree to disagree on Twilight Struggle) or commenting on the experience as a whole. Whatever the case may be, I find their approach to be both refreshing and entertaining.
They foolishly agreed to sit down with me last month to discuss their history, process, and love of both comics and games. Let’s get to know them a little better. Shall we?
Before we talk about anything else, I must know what gaming in Ireland is like.
Colin: Shops near us are part comics/part board games. Other games stores also do Magic the Gathering, but it’s not really board games. Dublin and Limerick have good stores. We go to weekly meetups. There’ a good community.
Aileen: Yeah, we also order stuff online. There’s an Irish board game website. We’ll do Amazon if there’s no other choice, but we really try to support local game stores and businesses.
So, how’d you get into board gaming?
Aileen: He always had that Catan game around for years but we never played it.
Colin: We started watching TableTop and Shut Up & Sit Down. They both made board games look like fun. I played Magic the Gathering and Warhammer 40K. I ended up getting a copy of Pandemic, and the rest is history.
What is your favorite board game?
Aileen: I really like co-op games. Pandemic is probably my favorite, but I really like House on Haunted Hill.
Colin: Eclipse. It’s a big ole board of exploration and combat. Oh, Pandemic as well.
Why a comic about board games?
Aileen: We’ve both been into comics long before we were into board games. We talked about doing a comic for about a year and finally decided to merge our two loves.
You two are in the comics, which I think adds to their charm. What made you decide to be in them?
Colin: They always say you should write what you know. As it turns out, it’s fun to write about your own experience.
How do you choose what games to include?
Aileen: It’s easier and more honest to choose games we actually play.
Colin: We are never caustic, and I never want to be that way. I want it to be something people will enjoy reading. Games are fun, so the comic should be fun too.
I think that attitude carries through to the commentary at the bottom of the comic as well. They’re not really a review, yet they offer insight into your world. Why do you purposely not “review” the game?
Colin: I read quite a bit of webcomics and find them much more enjoyable when I get to know about the author and what makes him tick. I hope that people get a similar feeling from reading what we write there at the bottom.
Aileen: He really likes to write as well.
Colin: There’s that too. I like to write and wanted to expand on the comics because there’s only so many words you can put in them. Like you said, it’s really more of a commentary than a review. It’s my way of taking what I love from webcomics and applying it to what we’re doing.
Aileen, I read that you chose to illustrate the comic somewhat reluctantly after not drawing for a very long time. How has it been for you since you started again?
Aileen: It’s kind of like going back and learning all sorts of things. I had to learn Photoshop and things like that. I’m constantly learning new things and looking for inspiration. I take reference photographs of images I want to include in the comic.
It’s actually kind of funny and sad, but you can look back at how I’ve progressed since we started a year ago. I try not to be too hard on myself, but sometimes I’ll look at a hand or my glasses, and I just cringe.
Colin: But you’re doing it, and you’re getting better. That’s important and good.
Speaking of improvements, what direction do you plan on taking the comic?
Colin: Over time, more with he website. I’d love to start written reviews. There’s already lots of guys in front of a camera, opening a box, reading a rulebook. I mean, it’s gotten a lot better but yeah. I’d like to maybe add more written reviews. A few more features on the side. I’ve been thinking about trying story arcs more over several comics. I’d like to develop it more.
You’d like to develop the comic more. Have you ever thought about designing games?
Aileen: Ohhhhhh noooo!
Colin: I’ve jotted down ideas. It’s a fun idea, but you need to sit down and work it all out. The math and all that, which doesn’t sound fun at all. What I would love to do is be involved in the development of a world a game is set in like Warhammer type stuff. I think that would be really cool.
OK. Time for some less traditional questions. What constitutes a perfect game day for you two?
Together: Good food.
Aileen: The right people.
Colin: The kind of people you’d want to hang around with all day whether or not you’re playing board games.
Colin: A good mix of games. A good feel for what’s to be played.
Aileen: Definitely! There also needs to be good background music. A good soundtrack can add so much the gaming experience.
Next. What is your greatest gaming accomplishment?
Aileen: It would probably have to be winning the Risk Legacy game. You don’t think some decisions will make a big difference, but they do. And, they make the game much harder.
Colin: That’s a good one, but I think it might be a Space Hulk game we played. I played a bad guy running the whole thing and eliminated everyone. It was amazingly epic.
What are some positive traits of the board gaming community?
Aileen: It’s friendly and welcoming. It’s really fun.
Colin: There’s something for everybody in the sheer diversity of the games.
Aileens: There’s diversity in terms of the actual community as well as far as age and gender goes.
Colin: One of the coolest things about the community, and we see it in Tiny Wooden Pieces, which still amazes me, is that it is truly an international community. People from all over enjoy playing games, and it’s great.
Do you think this carries over to the gaming industry? What, if anything, could be improved at that level?
Colin: There’s definitely a point on the gender balance. I don’t have any numbers at all, but I’m sure just as many women play games as men. So, it wouldn’t hurt to have more equal representation.
That’s a super hot topic right now, but I’m going to be selfish and ask you two for some advice. I recently started reading comics. I’ve read Saga and Y: The Last Man. As the comic aficionados you are, what would comics would you recommend to someone looking to expand their comic experience?
Colin: I don’t know about aficionados.
Aileen: Locke & Key by Joe Hill. It’s kind of horror. It’s a strong family drama with incredible artwork.
Colin: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl…
Aileen: Which might be the funniest comic Marvel has ever put out.
Colin: It’s cool because it’s told from a positive girl perspective, which is lacking in the comic world.
Aileen: Hm. Chew.
Colin: Yes, Chew! It’s by John Laymon & Rob Guillory. It’s kind of a detective book.
Aileen: The main guy eats food and gets vibes about things based on what he eats. It’s really interesting.
You know what’s food? Nutella is food. How do you feel about Nutella?
Aileen: I like it. Spread it on toast, and it’s quite good.
Colin: Do I have to I say like it?
First you tell me you don’t like Twilight Struggle, and now you’re going to tell me you don’t like Nutella?
Colin: Yes. It really isn’t my favorite.
Well, you’re lucky Aileen is so charming. Otherwise, I’d have to rethink this entire thing! I’m just kidding of course. Thank you so much for the chat. It was loads of fun.
To read their lovely little comic, check out their website: Tiny Wooden Pieces.
Follow them on twitter: @TWPComic.
Connect on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tinywoodenpieces.
To see other art and sketches, follow their tumblr: http://twpcomic.tumblr.com.
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