I have had the pleasure of knowing Tracy Thillmann for quite a number of years now. She’s my sister-in-law! Tracy is an Ottawa native who has worked in construction, food service and as a massage therapist! Her skills are varied. Her most recent endeavour, launched on January 1st 2016 is The Gaming Maven .
I was curious to find out what sparked her interest in this new project so, thanks to the wonders of technology we “sat down together” and I asked her some questions! I hope you enjoy our interview and if you are into board games I recommend you give The Gaming Maven a follow or a like on social media!
What inspired you to start The Gaming Maven?
I rediscovered board games just a few years ago, and developed an instantaneous passion for playing them, and teaching them. I saw how much the board gaming community, and the hobby itself has grown in the past few years, and since I was retiring from a career I loved, I thought I would like the challenge of creating The Gaming Maven, my alter ego, as a business. Playing, reviewing, and testing games for a living? Oh yes.
How did you first get involved in Ottawa’s board game scene?
My husband and I were on a daytrip to Montreal, QC. We had no idea what to do on a Sunday night in Montreal, so we did some searching, and came across the website of Rudolph’s, a game lounge. That was the start of it all. We quickly discovered the sheer volume of games that had been produced since Settlers of Catan first came out.
When we got back to Ottawa, we discovered there was already a couple of gaming cafes/lounges. We volunteered at Games For All, a recently opened gaming spot in Ottawa. From there I was honoured to be asked to be involved in helping with the formation of a local game events company and online store, Cardboard Kingdom. Once that was up, and running I decided I wanted to focus on blogging, and working with gamers, game designers, and game companies in that capacity.
What do you like most about the board games scene? What do you find most challenging?
The thing I like most is the variety of people in the community. Every event I have attended, from pub nights to conventions, there are always people who will invite a newcomer to a game they are starting up. I find the community is very inclusive to new people.
The most challenging aspect is getting people new to modern gaming to try the games. Most people know the games from their childhood, and newer games are, in general, very different from the games of old. Often newbies are intimidated by the sheer number of options, and uniqueness of the games. My goal with The Gaming Maven, like my motto says, is “Reading the rules, so you don’t have to.” I offer the option to help you learn games without being overwhelmed by the newness of it all.
What are your top 5 favourite games?
This is always the hardest question to answer. Our board game collection sits at about 450 games and expansions, and that is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg of games out there, so narrowing it down to five is a tricky task, but I am up for the challenge.
#5 – Carcassonne (in its many forms, and expansions) by Klaus-Jürge Wrede
#4 – Trajan by Stefan Feld
#3 – Village, and its two expansions, by Inka and Markus Brand
#2 – Viticulture, and Tuscany expansion by Jamey Stegmaier & Alan Stone
#1 – Castles of Mad King Ludwig by Ted Alspach
What has been your best source of knowledge for this new project?
BoardGameGeek is the best source of knowledge for all things game related for me. I also watch a lot of videos on YouTube, The Dice Tower channel is my favourite, as well as Radho’s channel, Radho Runs Through.
Describe your style in one sentence.
Quirky game blogger, with a large dollop of humour.
What inspires you in your day-to-day?
My large wall of art, featuring my own, and fellow geeky artists’ work.
What is your favourite part of the Gaming Maven, and what are you most looking forward to?
Being able to play games as my job. Who could ask for more? I am looking forward to what the game industry will be bringing to our tables this year. 2015 was amazing, with the sheer number of new games published, and 2016 looks to beat it. I am looking forward to getting out to more game conventions, and see what will be up and coming.
What projects or goals are you currently working on? Where do you see The Gaming Maven in 5 years’ time?
My biggest project is to include video blogging along with my written blog. The videos will be a combination of unboxing/component lists, walk-throughs, and reviews. In five years my goal is to be a ‘household’ name amongst the gaming communities across North America. Basically be able to attend conventions, and have the odd person or two recognize me. One goal of mine is to have a permanent location, a lounge/café for people to come, and play games. I also have another idea up my sleeve, but I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag just yet. It is going to be great though, so I would recommend people check things out in about a year from now, to see.
What is one thing you’d like your fans to know about you?
That I am very approachable. I love to learn what brought people to the hobby, and I am willing to try pretty much any game once, and am always willing to sit down with you to play a game.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
Seeing the light in people’s eyes when that have that ‘aha’ moment when they either play a new game or play a modern board game for the first time. In addition to playing board games, I am passionate about teaching board games, and am sometimes even happier when I can teach a game than when I play one.
I look forward to finding out what Pantone will name colour of the year, every year. I don’t always love what’s selected but I do enjoy seeing more and more of that colour appear in our day to day lives and enjoy watching home decor and fashion trends incorporate it as the year moves forward. Sometimes it can be fun to track trends.
I expect we will see lots of this combination come the Spring and Summer. When I first saw it, I instantly imagined a flow-y gauzy summer dress blowing softly in a warm summer breeze. If only I knew how to design clothing!
I have to say that I love this combination and plan to challenge myself to use these colours in some upcoming jewellery designs. This combination makes me feel calm, what does it inspire in you? We’d love to hear from you in comments!
Well the rush of the holidays are over for another year and I find myself sitting by my wood stove on this very cold Winnipeg day pondering what’s next? What does 2016 have in store for me, Trish and Robyn, both in our personal lives and for our business?
On the personal front, I know Robyn and Trish are enjoying the challenges of raising their kids, juggling those demands with day jobs and Drakestail commitments. I am definitely feeling career focused this year, both as a public servant and as a jewellery designer. I am also prepping for my upcoming wedding later this year, which is very exciting!
What comes foremost to my mind is a desire to be surrounded by positive people and energies. There is a lot of negative happening in the world and if you are strong in empathy, like I am, that can put a weight on you that is hard to get out from under.
I don’t really do new year resolutions per say, and I don’t limit introspection to early January, it is something I do year round. But as I sit here by my toasty warm fire, watching my cat nap and my dog play, I find myself acutely aware of all the small simple things that bring me joy and I have decided to make a conscious effort to focus on them every day going forward.
What are your plans for 2016? What’s something you’d like to focus on or do differently in your day to day this coming year?
In case you love a warm hearth like I do, here’s a picture of my lovely fire to make you smile. Stay warm! 🙂