Semi Co-op: Art Outside Boardgaming #1

Semi Co-op: Art Outside Boardgaming #1

Time for a little something different. This week I’m joined today by Rachel Kremer and Heinze Havinga, creators of Semi Co-op, a weekly webcomic (mostly) about board games that’s also just passed it’s 150th comic.

Firstly, congratulations hitting that landmark number, that’s a serious achievement! How does it feel?
Rachel: Slightly unreal! Looking at some older comics it feels like I’ve made them only a few weeks ago, but it turns out it was over 6 months ago. Overall I’m really proud that Semi Co-op has made it so far and even more proud that we never skipped one week.
Heinze: I’ve just drawn one comic when Rachel was kidnapped for her bachelor party, but that took me almost two days. So I’m incredibly impressed Rachel is able to keep it up every week.

So for those not currently in the know, elevator pitch time, what is Semi Co-op?
Rachel: In short, Semi Co-op is a webcomic about board games! It’s about our own experiences with playing board games… only a tiny bit more exaggerated here and there.
Heinze: Also there are some couple jokes, but games are the most important thing.

Can you tell us a bit about yourselves outside of Semi Co-op?
Heinze: I teach subjects like big data and web technology at a university of applied science in the Netherlands, where I am also a researcher on the topic of smart cities. Next to that I’m writing my master thesis right now and will hopefully be done in June. When I’m not working I like redesigning chocolate bars, creating laser cut storage solutions for games and fooling around with synthesizers. 
Rachel: I’m a freelance illustrator and animator. I enjoy working in a variety of styles and have a broad skill set. I’ve added some of my work to show in this article to give you an idea of what I do besides Semi Co-op. I’ve drawn storyboards, graphics for digital games, animation, birth and wedding cards and made animations for several companies. Ironically, I’ve never done any art for board games (besides a version Love Letter I designed for our wedding). It’s something that I would love to explore though.

You’ve said that you had no experience in creating comics before this, so where did the idea start and how long was it before you made that first panel?
Rachel: I wanted to improve on drawing cartoon characters, something I had little experience with. I decided I needed a project to really motivate myself and I had been playing with the idea of a webcomic. At first I just started designing the characters that were going to be based on Heinze and me. I read ‘Understanding Comics’ and ‘Making Comics’ by Scott McCloud and just started drawing some. Three out of four were jokes about board games, so together with Heinze I decided to throw away the idea of a webcomic about geeky subjects in general and decided it would be better to focus on board games. We wrote down about two pages of ideas for comics and I drew six of them and showed to them to friends to see if they liked them and asked for feedback. I think I started working on the first comics in January and launched Semi Co-op on April 11th 2015.  

How do you usually come up with your ideas? Where does the inspiration come from? 
Rachel: Playing games! 
Heinze: Also board gaming content on the internet. We are always checking Twitter, Instagram and the board gaming Reddit. We also watch videos and podcasts, although we don’t have enough time to check all the amazing things people are producing on that front today.

What are your favorite panels of the comic so far? Why is that?
Rachel: I love the comics that really go into a game. Like the second panel in ‘Show & Tell’ and the third in ‘Can’t touch this’ (above) or comics that take on the art style of a game like ‘Small World Favorites’. I love that such comics are little more challenging to make and require me to study the art of games. But they are more time consuming to make so it’s not something I can do too often.
Heinze: Dialog-wise: I really like the last panel of our comic about iconography in games (below), art-wise I really like the sneaking Hobbit in front of the dragon.

Is there a board game you’d love to create a comic about but haven’t been able to yet?
Heinze: Biblios, it’s such a good game, but we haven’t found the right joke for it, you can send suggestions to:
Rachel: I agree with Biblios! And I just noticed we’ve never made a comic about Love Letter, that also seems like something we should definitely consider.

Do you have any goals in mind with the future of Semi Co-op? 
Rachel: Certainly! We’re momentarily working on a new website that will be launched this March. We’ve been looking into ways of (partly) monetizing Semi Co-op that we would like to present to the world this year. We’ve got some solid ideas that I’m really excited about but I can’t mention them just yet. 
Heinze: I would love to make more animations. The way we do the videos now can be done without Rachel having to draw anything, just doing the voice-over for her parts. But I would need to free up some time to be able to deliver on schedule, plus Rachel would need to expand on our current animation rigs which is a big one-time investment.

Do you have a favorite board game at the moment?
Rachel: Ohh, this is a terribly difficult question and I don’t know if I have only one favorite. I always look forward to playing Pandemic Legacy Season 2, Near and Far, Mysterium and Arkham Horror the Card Game. 
Heinze: I really enjoy those games as well, right now we’re really into the story heavy campaign games.

What are you currently watching, reading or listening to at the moment that you’d like to share?
Rachel: I recently started watching Critical Role, I really enjoy listening to it while drawing. We’re currently also watching Star Trek Discovery, Elementary and The Good Place together. I also have a weakness for series like Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge and Gilmore Girls (I just really enjoy the dialog!).
Heinze: I listen/watch a ton of what John and Hank Green content like Vlogbrothers and  Dear Hank and John, I like their shameless passion for things whether they are silly, like a small English football club, or important, like the decreasing the amount of world suck. They show that being playful and intelligent cannot only work but be entertaining as well. I’m also really impressed with the work of Nicky Case, who is trying to educate people about topic ranging from society to his own feelings using games, infographics, playable blogpost and all manner of super interesting hybrid media forms. I always wanted to see storytellers that choose/create the medium that fits their story best and I think he is doing remarkable things. Also his Newgrounds inspired flash art style is almost nostalgic to me.

Finally, what’s coming up for Semi Co-op this year that you are willing to share with us?
Heinze: We are going to UKGE, which is going to be great, because we’ll meet a ton of people we’ve been talking to online for years.
Rachel: Also look out for our three-year anniversary on April 11th, where we will have some exciting things that will help us reach more people and have more fun with the community!

To see more then go can check out the webcomic on the Semi Co-op website!

Steven Preston: Art in Board Games #30

Steven Preston: Art in Board Games #30