An Ode to James Mathe

13 June 2019 | 12 Comments

James Mathe, one of the most generous people in the tabletop game industry, passed away this weekend.

I’m sad to say that I’ve never met James or spoken to him, but we’ve interacted quite a bit over the years over e-mail and on social media, where he founded the Tabletop Game Kickstarter Advice Facebook group. James didn’t just start the group–he was an active, daily participant as he counselled thousands of complete strangers over the years.

That’s the thing about James: He was incredibly generous with his time. Astoundingly so. I’ve seen people mention James and me in the same sentence when talking about Kickstarter advice, and it’s a flattering comparison for me, because my blog posts pale in comparison to James’ level of activity on that Facebook group and others. Not to mention the extensive, detailed articles he posted on his website.

From my perspective, the game industry was one of James’ greatest loves, and he wanted to make a positive impact on it every day. He was a consummate entrepreneur, yet he still gave so much of his time to make the game industry better as a whole. Check out his bio–there are only a handful of people in the world who are both as generous and as driven as James.

On top of all this, one of the interesting things about James is that he was very blunt. If you’re a creator, it’s quite possible you’ve had an interaction with James that made you bristle. But his goal wasn’t to hurt anyone; rather, as he didn’t want any creator to waste their time, energy, or resources.

I am crushed by this loss. I’m grateful for the legacy James leaves behind, but he was only 52–I wish that legacy could have continued to grow for another 30+ years. I wish that James was still with us.

I hope we all learn something from James, as he was the embodiment of the “help them first” philosophy. So much of what I’ve built at Stonemaier Games is based on what I learned from him–his articles, his Kickstarter campaigns, and his daily generosity.

Thank you, James. Rest in peace.


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12 Comments on “An Ode to James Mathe

  1. This makes me very sad to hear. Mortality is such an ominous thing. He’s about my age. I don’t know if this was out of the blue or not, but it was unexpected to me. I’ve always had a soft spot for James (partly because The Manhattan Project is one of my favorite games of all time) even when he took me to the cleaners for putting the funding goal of Wits & Wagers Epic Geek at $100k. RIP

  2. I had emailed him, asked him questions and left comments on his websites, he was generously donating of his time to help me whenever I needed it.

    Manhattan Project is the game which opened my eyes to the depth of game design. I’ve always been thankful for his honesty and willingness to share, as stricken as I am by his passing, I know his family must feel 1000x worse.

    Is there any word on where we could send a card to the family?

  3. I think James has two young daughters.

    If it was just James running the company I hope some publisher buys it to help out his family financially. Manhattan Project, especially Energy Empire, is a great IP.

  4. I interacted with James a few times on his FB page. The first time it was on the receiving end of a blunt statement to not post questions that have already been asked (very new at the time). Rubbed me as a bit harsh, but didn’t argue.
    The second time was when I had a question about a potential legal matter. He promptly replied in the public post, but then took time to discuss the matter with me on a private post.
    The third time was a discussion on manufacturing, to which he provided many resources and directions to go.
    From what I’ve seen, his positives were a tremendous boon to tabletop gaming, and his sometimes tough love is a necessary proponent to reducing redundancy and repetitiveness in a busy developers FB group.
    Keep gaming wherever you may be James!

  5. […] R.I.P. James MatheHighly regarded tabletop industry veteran James Mathe passed away last week. Jamey Steigmaier wrote on his blog about Mathe: “[T]he game industry was one of James’ greatest loves, and he wanted to make a positive impact on it every day. He was a consummate entrepreneur, yet he still gave so much of his time to make the game industry better as a whole.”Source: […]

  6. You and James were the two I came to for Kickstarter advice. And his blog has helped me so much even through the manufacturing and fulfillment process. I am extremely grateful to him for everything (although I do admit his bluntness threw me off guard in our first few conversations). May he rest in peace.

  7. My first foray into this industry was consuming anything and everything on-line I could find penned by him. He was, as you say, incredibly kind with his time. While I, too, never met him, we interacted a bit before my first published game and subsequently whe. I had generic questions.

    He left us far too young, and at 52 years old this year myself, it’s definitely a reminder of our most precious resource, time.

  8. As a consumer of board games I instantly recognised the name James Mathe as the guy who owned Minion games. I interacted a few times with James over the the years in bgg threads and via email when a minion game I purchased had a few missing parts ( Those pesky humans). I remember the interaction very well as it was unusual , James replied to me that he would send me the missing standee bases but that it will cost him much more to send them than they are worth and the are a small company. He finished with asking if I could use substitutes or source my own ones , if not get back to him and he will send them. Nowadays I would simply of replaced them myself, but back then I was greener and asked him to please send them. He did without any drama. A few years later James interacted with me over a game he took to Kickstarter called Hegemonic. After doing an unboxing video, James mentioned that he liked my voice!. No one has ever said that before :-)
    I never knew he was behind drive thru rpg, I have downloaded game pdfs off their several times and ordered card decks from them.
    52 is way too young to go, great tribute Jamey.

    RIP James and sincere condolences to your family and friends

  9. He lived about an hour from me and I knew him. I loved how forthright he was. I’m a great lover of unvarnished appraisal, getting to the point, and total transparency even and especially when it’s uncomfortable. He was great at that stuff.

  10. James Mathe helped me with our venture into the Kickstarter world. He provided resources and direct advice. We communicated just a few times but the help was fantastic. I will always be grateful. Thank James and RIP.

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