Aug 272014

Kick The Box Special

Interview with Tao of Peg Creators Kelly Coston and Sifu Sean Kelly

Tao of Peg prototype


Tao of Peg is an abstract strategy game for 2-4 players available on Kickstarter right now. Players take turns playing a card from their hand and placing a peg in the same color quadrant as the card played. There are several victory conditions based on the placement of the pegs. The first person to create one of the winning combinations wins!

I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with Kelly and Sifu, the creators of Tao of Peg.

Kick The Box: First, a little bit about you guys. Have you always lived in Portland, Oregon?

Kelly: I was actually born in Montana. My folks and I moved to Boise when I was three, then to a small town in Eastern Oregon when I was ten. I moved to Portland in 2003 to attend college where I earned a bachelor degree in Video Game Art & Design. I fell madly in love with this city and stayed put.

Sifu: I was born in Point Pleasant New Jersey. I came to visit my brother here in Portland in 1977. He had married a girl from Beaverton and moved here to be close to her family. I LOVED it here and decided I had found my new home. I’ve only been back to Jersey for short visits ever since.

Tao of PegKTB: The city and it’s surrounding areas has a tendency to do that to people. What are some of your favorite games?

Kelly: I really love playing board, card, and video games. For video games, it’s all about the story. I think the first game I really got into (and still am) is Myst. But for board and card games, some old favorites of mine are: Rummy, Aggravation, Sorry, Chutes & Ladders, Candy Land, Stratego, Battleship, Othello, Backgammon, and Chess. Among a few others. My family was pretty big into board games.

Sifu: I think my favorite game may be Cribbage although I also enjoy chess and a variety of card games. That may be why I am so enthusiastic about Tao of Peg. It combines my love of card games with the strategy of chess and placing of pegs like in cribbage. Board games and cards were big in my family growing up as well, pre internet age and all. Risk, Monopoly, Checkers, Chess, Stratego, life and just about anything that involved strategy was welcome.

KTB: I love Cribbage! Probably the only ‘traditional’ game that gets played in my house still to this day. How long have you been playing board and card games?

Kelly: Since I could walk. Some of my earliest memories are of learning the games I just listed.

Sifu: Similarly to Kelly I can’t remember a time we didn’t play board games and card games in my home or now as a parent with my children.

tao of PegmanKTB: How many people have been a part of the development process?

Kelly: We have a team of six, and I honestly couldn’t ask for a better team. Sifu Sean has been my Kung Fu instructor since 2011. He’s been trying to produce Tao of Peg for about 20 years, but the timing was never right. We’re hoping now is the time and he chose me to be his partner-in-crime for production. He’ll be the one doing the majority of production for the games themselves. I own my own graphic design business and am creating the visual elements of the game. Tim is a friend of mine from college and is an amazingly talented videographer. He also owns his own business. Brandon is my husband and an amazing iOS developer, so he’ll be developing the technical portions of the project. Niene is a friend of Sifu Sean’s and is an accomplished actress. And we can’t forget Pegman. He’s just awesome.

KTB: Sounds like you have all your bases covered! Who did the art design for the game and wooden board?

Kelly: Sifu Sean created the gameplay, and I created all of the design elements for the game. It’s been through a few versions while we tinkered and made adjustments.

KTB: Who and How will the wooden game board and pegs  be produced?

Sifu:All of the games will be manufactured by hand by our staff. When I say by hand of course have saws, drills, sanders etc, all the
tools and equipment we need. Each game however is made individually, by us and inspected by our team prior to shipping. It’s not a cardboard game made in China. We provide a quality game for a competitive price while adding jobs to the local market. As the game grows in popularity we will add staff to manage the influx of orders as required. Our objective is to control as much of the manufacturing process as possible while still keeping the price low enough so consumers can afford to purchase it.

KTB: I obviously haven’t had a chance to play the game, but it seems like that the four corners in either, the game board or color quadrant would be an easy way to win. With all the playtesting, what is the average amount of times that the game has been won with those victory conditions?

Kelly: Well, I’ve noticed that when we begin a game, it can be a great way to win if you can be sneaky, but it can also be easily blocked if the other players notice you’re going for the corners. After that it’s much less common to win by using the corners. I would say players tend to win using the corners probably about 25% of the time. It’s much more common to win by Tao of Peg2lining pegs in a row.

Sifu: I agree though we don’t have a specific number, 25% is probably fairly close. Good question and one we should assess. Once you play the game a few times you can recognize strategies to a point. One of the easier ones to pick up on is the four corners. It’s similar to many games in that over time you learn how to defend and it becomes more complex and more strategic to outwit your opponents.

KTB: I see IOS app is part of the rewards if successful funding. Any plans for an Android port if successful?

Sifu: We haven’t discussed creating an android app yet. I suppose we will determine that based upon the success of the IOS app.

KTB: What type of wood will the board and pegs be made out of?

Sifu: We have been using pine and fir for the prototypes but if successfully funded we are expecting to upgrade to a harder wood. The pine or fir work great and will last for decades. They are absolutely the most cost effective. However, we are in discussions with material providers to move to a harder wood like cherry, maple or oak. We’d like to get to a point where we can provide a game that can be passed down through generations but keep the price affordable to the average family. A lofty goal but one we feel confident we can achieve.

KTB: If the stretch goal for an expansion pack is reached, what will it consist of?

Kelly: We’re really excited about these actually. Our goal with Tao of Peg is to be a family game, and the expansion packs will focus on adding more of an educational piece to that as well. Simply put, the expansion packs will be a deck of additional cards with trivia questions. Players would play their regular card but before playing a peg, would need to draw a card from the expansion deck, and answer a trivia question before being able to place their peg. We thought long and hard about that, as trivia usually tends to date a game. But we decided that if we can focus more on education, science, math, history, etc., and less on pop culture, it would be worth it. I learned to play chess when I was five years old, and chess actually has more rules than Tao of Peg. If I can learn chess at that age, we feel that Tao ofTao of peg3 Peg would be a great educational tool for children.

KTB: During the development of Tao of Peg, was the idea being able to play with five peeps tried? If so, how did it play? And, what were some of the challenges or obstacles that made a fifth player not possible?

Kelly: Tao of Peg was actually originally designed for 2-6 players. But as we tinkered with the gameplay and finalized on the current design, it became more common for games to end in a stalemate when played with more than four players. Players would all go defensive, block each other, the board would fill up, and no one would win. With the last round of playtesting, almost half of the games played with more than         four players ended in stalemate.

KTB: Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions.

Kelly: Thank you Jason!

Sifu: Thank you!

Tao of Peg can be found on Kickstarter for another couple of weeks. Check out their campaign page for more video, pictures, and information about the game.


About Jason Hancock

Ever since my early childhood I've had a love for card and board games.I am now married with two children that have moved out of the house and on to their own lives. This new phase of life has rekindled the old passion of tabletop gaming and lucky enough to have a wife who enjoys it also.

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