Kick The Box
Interview with Joey Vigour, Creator of Chaosmos
Kick The Box: What sets Chaosmos apart from other Sci-Fi games on the market?
Joey Vigour: It has exploration but it isn’t a 4X game. It uses miniatures but it isn’t a wargame. It has resources but it isn’t a Euro. You are steadily adapting decks, but it isn’t a deckbuilder. You don’t receive arbitrary VPs for achieving tasks. Your standing in the game is never fully clear. And the player you feel sorry for, the one who keeps talking about how he doesn’t know what’s going on, is probably lying through his teeth.
The whole universe is your playground and you have a massive amount of freedom to play. Chaosmos has fairly simple rules but an epic feel to it. The concept of hidden information being revealed at critical times strikes to the heart of what the concept of story is. Players have a sandbox to explore, and hide, and lay ambush, and find innovative ways to Macgyver their equipment together to find a way to get that Ovoid in time before everything ends. It’s a narrative that you weave without intending to. The Spore Immunity you discarded on Pendra as trash might turn out to be treasure for someone else. Cards move around envelopes organically, causing ripple effects that matter later in the game.
JV: I am sure that other games have used similar mechanisms, although probably not with envelopes or with the face-up cards. The initial inspiration was a book called Interstellar Pig, in which aliens play a board game featuring themselves as pawns, and the fictional game in the book uses envelopes for the locations. The idea of being able to activate certain cards by playing them face-up (like traps and vaults) was directly inspired by the excitement, when I was a kid, of ripping open a Magic: The Gathering booster pack and seeing either great cards or terrible cards. I wanted to replicate that thrill.
KTB: I did see in an earlier interview you did about the book Interstellar Pig being a major inspiration. I seemed to have missed that book growing up and reading. I’ll have to go back and check that out.The Aliens in the game look great and different from most alien races featured in games and in Sci Fi media in general. They aren’t as “sexy” and you weren’t afraid to make them “ugly”. Was this a conscious decision?
JV: My friend William Tombs designs most of the aliens and their worlds. He speaks about them with authority, so I have little doubt that they exist somewhere in the universe, or in the next one. They seem ugly because they seem real; they are lived-in. They have their own stories; their own motivations. For example, Neeksi is a scavenger and his story is that of a Mongolia Western, full of merdivorous parasites who ride around on enormous ungulates like cowboys hopping steam trains. Vroon is an adventurous celebrity from Guriwan who is elsewhere in the galaxy considered a pirate. Some of these aliens have existed for 15 years in other games that William and I collaborated on as kids.
KTB: Not sure if you’re an avid video gamer or not, but the video game Mass Effect looks like it might have a had some influence in the game. Did it for some of the design of the aliens? If not, what are some of the alien design derived from?
JV: I haven’t played Mass Effect. I can’t speak on William’s art inspirations, but I know he models the aliens out of clay
and photographs them. Then he adds detail in photoshop. He’s British so who knows what his inspiration is? It rains a lot there.
KTB:20+ days left and Chaosmos is already funded. I see a handful of stretch goals listed on the Kickstarter page. Do you have anything else planned beyond the 100,000 mark?
JV: Yes. The big major change is that we will be announcing a hex-based modular board. You’ll still be able to play the “classic board” using the hexes, or you can build your own galaxy! But don’t tell anyone about this, Shhhhhhh. ;)
KTB: As if I wasn’t sold already!That would be the bomb if we could get a modular board! Your secret is safe with me. :) The Kickstarter page claims 2-4 players. Is it possible to squeeze a 5th or 6th person in there? Or does that break the game in some fashion?
JV: We’ve playtested with up to 5 players, but it comes just short of capturing the true essence of the game’s strategic depth. More players makes it harder and harder to hide information and deceive opponents, which is the heart of Chaosmos.
That said, we realize many people want to play with more players, and we definitely won’t discourage it. We’re offering bonus cards in our Master of the New Universe tier which can be used to more easily play with 5. We still recommend 2–4 as the optimal number. Looking into the future, we’ve been testing new cards that would be part of a 5-6 player expansion that will maintain the essence of deception and secrecy we love. The players are certainly clamoring for it!
KTB: I know I would love to see 5-6 player support! Your sole purpose as an agent of your selected race in Chaosmos is to acquire the Ovoid by any means necessary before the universe destroys itself. Is it possible then, that the time could hit detention without anyone holding the Ovoid? Have you had this happened yet during your games and playtesting?
JV: When players all take the game seriously and play thematically, it’s extremely rare. Multiple players would have had to make a mistake. I’ve seen it happen twice. It’s possible to end the game early with the Temporal Displacer, but if you don’t possess the Ovoid, you’ll die. You don’t “tie” if everyone dies. If everyone dies, you all lose. But you’ll each have a hilarious story to tell about how it all went down.
KTB: I think it’s great that you and Gripmat have partnered together to some extent. I’ve seen this happening more and more with board games and board game accessories on Kickstarter. Who got in touch with who? And how did that all come about?
JV: We met Eric and Alex from Break From Reality Games at the GAMA Trade Show in March. They played Chaosmos and then I caught up with them again at Gen Con and I tried their great heart-attack inducing game Damage Report. We share trade knowledge and we’re friends. The Grip Mats are great, and allow Chaosmos to be more portable. The Chaos Clock sticks to the mat perfectly. If we unlock the modular board stretch goal, we’ll introduce more art for players who want the modular board with a mat.
KTB: Aw, very nice, I had one question about gameplay. If you and another opponent is on the same planet. Do you have to attack that player? Or can you just ignore them and pick through the planets cards?
JV: Once you control a planet locker, it’s yours until you leave the planet. If another player lands there, they can hang out or moonwalk on by. Or they can spend an Action to attack you. If they win in combat, after combat and spoils are resolved, they would win control of your locker for free. If they think you trapped it, they can instead put it back in the box and wait for some other alien to come by and trip it!
KTB: Thank you for clearing that up and Thank you for taking the time for the emails back and forth and good luck with the rest of the campaign!
JV: Thank you for the interest in the game.
KTB: If Chaosmos sounds like your cup of tea, then head over to their Kickstarter page here, and give a helping hand and start kicking down those stretch goals!