Luke Laurie recently sat down (digitally) to interview the prolific founder of Tasty Minstrel Games, Michael Mindes. The outcome: a wealth of gamemaking knowledge and wisdom from a publisher who is making big waves in the tabletop game world. Keeping up TMG’s new developments is easy when you sign up for their newsletter.

Michael Mindes TMG







Tasty Minstrel Games, TMG, is quickly becoming a household name in the world of tabletop games. For many of us, Seth Jaffee’s great game Eminent Domain was our first introduction. How has TMG evolved and grown over the last few years?

MM: This might be a boring answer… I am not sure how TMG has evolved really, because we continue to do the things that we always set out to do, notably, make the best games that we can. Eminent Domain is great, and it is one of our earlier titles, but Homesteaders and Belfort which came before it are also awesome, just like those that came after like VillageDungeon RollScovilleHarbourAquaSphere, and the games we currently have in our pipeline.


Which for us, means continuing to make great games and communicating with our customers.


How did you go about building your TMG team? How do you foresee your team growing in the future?

MM: TMG started with Seth Jaffee as part of the team. Sure, I might own 100% of TMG (well, my wife and I), but Seth’s influence has really shaped the company. He has shaped TMG through driving game selection, game development, and maintaining relationships with game designers and developers that TMG treasures. Growing that team of two is a relatively new thing for me, as the first employee other than me or Seth started January 1st, 2014.

Selecting Team Members:

  • A new team member needs to fit into our company culture.
  • A new team member needs to already have worked for TMG. We already need to know their capacity to get things done and that we like their work.
  • A new team member needs to be willing to continually learn, test, experiment and grow.

It is interesting to me that I did not mention here that a new team member needs to have a specific set of skills. We are a simple company, and much of the potentially technical work in this day and age can either be outsourced (like we currently do for artwork) OR can be packaged up in a software-as-a-service product.

For example, we don’t need an expert in delivering mass email, we have MailChimp. We don’t need an expert in utilizing online advertising platforms and measuring results from those ads, there are services for this (or we can learn it ourselves while spending a little money on testing – for example, we are currently learning more about Facebook and Twitter ads.)


How important is a strong presence at game conventions to building your brand? Are they worth it? What advice would you give to up-and-coming publishers about how they should focus their game convention efforts and finances?

MM: I used to simply say “no” to this. But this question is actually a little bit more complicated for any individual to answer for themselves, but simple for me to say.


Then you need to concentrate on an attention channel that is congruent with what your brand is or who your brand revolves around. It was decided a long time ago that TMG’s brand would revolve around me as Founder, CEO, and publisher. I love games, but I specifically choose not to design games to concentrate on other aspects that I am better at.

That means that for TMG, presence at conventions did not matter for the longest time. Relationships with individual Customers, designers, and influencers were/are important. Eventually this easily led into more of a convention scene, but we are still VERY light on our physical attendance of conventions especially when compared to our sale numbers, revenues, and “brand power.” That is a historical reflection of me, because of 2 important facts:

  • I am not comfortable with large groups of people, unless I have something specific to be doing… GenCon is great because I can just concentrate on interacting and selling for 40 hours over 4 days.
  • I am madly in love with my wife and our 4 children and do not want to be away all of the time… So, I need to attend conventions that I deem important enough or fun enough to be away from them.

Now, TMG has more financial resources and more people. Some of these people’s are more keen to attend conventions and be TMG’s face at these shows. So, last year Andy and Seth went to Origins for example and Daniel was at multiple distributor open houses.

So… No, not necessary.

For up and coming publishers or game designers attending conventions, I would say, the friends that you can make at conventions are important. Still, it is even better to already have friendship through a platform like Twitter and then bring everything together with meeting in person. Combining those 2 things has been wonderful for me, and I imagine many other folks.

Interestingly now, I spend more time at BGG.con hanging out with friends and chatting than I do playing games!


In a recent email newsletter to your subscribers, you listed several things you’ve learned over the last six years at the helm of TMG, and how these learnings will shape your future. One very interesting point you listed was the following: “As we embraced transparency, the board game community embraced us.” Can you explain more about the role of the community, and what kinds of transparency have been beneficial to TMG?

MM: To me, transparency involves embracing the truth at any cost. That is important, so I will repeat:


Great, but what the hell does that mean? I have a deep personal affection with the quest for truth in all things big and small, so it is easy for this to spill into TMG. I seek the truth, and when found, it must be shared.

It is also important to note that embracing the truth means that you are COMPELLED to take action to be in line with the truth. So, for example, when it was discovered that our first things manufactured (in 2009) had serious problems, Seth and I flew to Atlanta and sat in a warehouse for a full week working about 10 hours per day (we would have worked more if they would have let us) to fix as much as possible by hand. I realized with Dungeon Roll that I should have included the 1st booster in the game so that players had access to 16 characters when opening the box instead of only 8. Embracing that truth means that Harbour got all of its 14 balanced characters into the box instead of having an expansion.

Embracing the truth about Village, Harbour and AquaSphere meant that I needed to publish and print them even when my personal initial experience wasn’t great. Harbour had potential, and the amazing game that we released just needed to be uncovered with development work, and I have played Village and AquaSphere more and realized the depth of the quality design on those games.


Lastly, what top secret project are you working on now that hasn’t been revealed to the public?

MM: We are pretty transparent at TMG, and if we thought we had the capability to disclose everything while not adding to the noise in the world, then we would do it. So, as we have grown, more things get saved up until we get closer to release.

We do however have a Cthulhu themed game (Cthulhu Realms) with art from Rob Lundy that is a TMG developed version of an existing game that is extremely popular. I was very excited when I liked my changes to the initial game and the designer and publisher of the other game agreed that we could license and develop it for a Cthulhu theme.


For more great info about TMG from Michael Mindes and also Seth Jaffee check out this great interview by Tom Gurganus on BGG: “A Conversation with Michael Mindes and Seth Jaffee about Five Years of Tasty Minstrel Games” You can also ask Michael questions directly on Twitter, and he’ll respond with video.