Kick The Box
Interview With Wesley Lamont of RAEZ, Designer of Cogz
Kick The Box: Hey Wesley. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to allow me to pick your brain for a few minutes.
Wesley Lamont: No problem at all.
KTB: First, a little bit of background about yourself and your company, Raez. For people who are not familiar with Raez; What is it? And where is it located?
WL: RAEZ is a design company that I established in 2000 based in Western Australia. Initially it was primarily graphic and web design with the odd game design contract. The last few years RAEZ is now focused on Games, mainly tabletop games but there are digital games in the works as well.
KTB: Cogz is now on Kickstarter and this is your first Kickstarter campaign. All seems to be going swimmingly well! You have doubled your pledge goal in the first couple of days. Congratulations! How long has Cogz been in development?
WL: Thank you :) COGZ has been in development for almost three years now. The first year was pretty much empty but the last two years have had my entire focus on the game.
KTB: Where did the idea of Cogz come from?
WL: It was actually from a Global Game Jam event. Game Jams are events where game developers have 48 hours (varies for different jams) to try to create a game(s) based on a theme or concept given at the start of the jam.
The theme in 2012 was an image of the Oroboros (snake eating it’s tail) and I worked through concepts until settling upon the idea of a grid of tiles that are swapped out per player to complete snakes. Players also had a snake head tile to lock down tiles.
When I came back to work further on the game a year later I started serious testing. One of the first things I tried was removing the snake head tiles and really enjoyed the game. It evolved into COGZ about a year ago with recommendations to engage a theme and since then the game has been further refined and tweaked from a huge amount of play testing and modifications.
KTB: On the Cogz Kickstarter Campaign page, you claim that Cogz is Mensa approved. I’m not familiar with Mensa. Is that some Australian Secret High Society aligning themselves to take over the world? Or something not nearly as menacing? (Although, if it was some Secret Society poised to take over the world, then everyone would have to have the cool, suave Australian Accent, so not seeing the bad in this . . . ) ^_^
WL:HAHA it is not a secret society sadly, though I do like the irony in promoting a secret society if it was one.
Mensa is an international body with different core groups around the world. There is Mensa UK, Mensa Australia, Mensa US, Mensa Netherlands and Mensa International (the rest of the world).
Mensa is know as the high IQ society and generally support intellectual pursuits. I was recommended to talk to Mensa regarding COGZ and after some meetings with the Mensa Australia Chair and play tests with various international mensa members it was accepted and endorsed by Mensa.
The United States has their own system utilizing the Mensa Select awards and is held annually.
KTB: Interesting, I was not aware of Mensa. That is great that you have their backing! I am impressed you were able to accomplish free shipping to the rest of the world. This is an amazing feat considering the cost of shipping. How were you able to accomplish this and do you find it easier/cheaper to ship out from Australia than to ship into Australia?
WL: The games are being manufactured in China as much as I wanted to create the game in Australia it was simply not financially viable. The games will be warehoused and shipped from China which is where I am able to provide ‘free’ shipping. The shipping is being rolled into the price. I personally prefer seeing free shipping on products and I wanted to make that a goal of COGZ sales.
Shipping to/from Australia is always painful. We are a long distance from almost everywhere and labour costs here are amongst the highest in the world. Australians have usually lost out on kickstarters due to shipping so it is nice to be able to make it good for Aussies as well.
KTB: Yeah I’ve seen that complaint a lot from Australian backers, among other countries. The number of rounds per game scales with the number of players. If players are looking for longer or shorter games, can they adjust this to match their own needs? I mean, is there any game breaking mechanics that will occur that you know of from your own playtesting?
WL: That is a very good question. I’ve always aimed for 30 minutes game length as I usually find claimed game length times vary considerably with numbers of players, which can be very frustrating.
COGZ will usually run 20-30 minutes regardless of the number of players. To make the game shorter would only really be achieved by either cutting off rounds or forcing players to make moves in a set number of seconds. I would leave that up to the players to implement as I don’t feel the game could ever really be called long.
Making the game longer would lead to mechanical (pun intended) problems. The broken device as it is repaired becomes harder to work on as mechanisms are fixed and locked in place. If the game were to have more rounds there is a good chance moves would become almost impossible. Again, players could play the game this way if they chose, but would likely lead to frustration as moves became impossible.
KTB: Same with the size of the board. I’m assuming the recommended size for the tile laying has been play tested over and over again. Why did you settle on these specific board sizes with the different number of people. What did you run across during your playtests with smaller and bigger boards than the recommended sizes?
WL: The board sizes were calculated with the number of turns multiplied by the number of players. Taking into account bonus turns the aim was to make sure the board would not be locked before the game ended based on the number of players.
A smaller board would have a potential chance of being locked down fully before the game ended. Larger boards would not have that problem however. The game has enough tiles for up to 6 players so 2 players could certainly play on a 6 players board. I think players enjoy the process of completing mechanisms and making the game more challenging as it progresses. A larger board would remove some of those enjoyable aspects. I’m sure there are players who would still like that concept so perhaps I should consider that a variants for future :).
KTB: I really like the scoring mechanic in Cogz. You could have easily just made it a ‘point salad’ game and everything was total points. The fact that the player’s lowest scoring color IS their points adds a whole new layer of strategy. Was this something from the original design? Or, was that an evolution from playtesting?
WL: I can’t recall exactly when I decided on that system. It was within the first few hours of the Game Jam. The reason for the system was without it whoever was the last player to lock the longest chain on the board would either win or be very hard to beat. This made the game lose most if not all strategy and be simply a player order victory.
The lowest colour adds a large amount of strategic planning as well. How the board appears at the start of the game, what other people are aiming for etc.
The only downside of this system was being too similar to another chain style game (Ingenious). I tried a more advanced system but the simplicity of it was just too good. I’m a huge fan of Reiner Knizia (designer of Ingenious) anyhow so being compared to his mechanics I can handle :)
I focused the system into the COGZ theme as well with equivalent repairs to all colours being the goal of the game which is the same outcome as the lowest colour.
KTB: So, now that Cogz is fully funded, what is next for RAEZ? Any expansions in the works for Cogz or maybe you would like to let loose an exclusive announcement of another project RAEZ has in the works. ^_^
WL: HAHA ooohh very clever :)
There are two major expansions for COGZ but they will appear much further into the future. The next task will be working on developing the next RAEZ game. I’ve got two major game ideas but I’m still swapping back and forth on which one will become the focus for next.
Actually I could give you some exclusive hints as to the next expansions/versions for COGZ. Cognizants will be a player based game where the Cogineers in the laboratory become playable characters with abilities that will affect the game and be different per character. Cognition will add another functional layer (or more) to the cogtraption and allow more interesting mechanics and player interaction.
KTB: You heard it here first folks! More to look forward to in the future of COGZ! Can’t Wait! Now with your fan base growing outside of Australia with such a successful Kickstarter campaign, do you plan on attending any of the big conventions in the states or worldwide, GenCon, BGGCon, Essen, etc.?
WL: I certainly do. I was hoping to get to Essen this year but the delays with the campaign starting had to put that plan on hold till 2015.
When I have products to sell it makes the expense of travelling from Australia less painful so hopefully there will be an increasing number of games in the future to make international travel viable..
KTB: Last but not least, as we wind down, what social media can people find or follow and which social media do you prefer?
WL: Facebook is certainly the best place to get updates: www.facebook.com/RAEZnet
Twitter I barely use but need to utilize it more: www.twitter.com/RAEZnet
Other social media as well but I don’t get much time to keep them active. At the moment most of my energy is going into updating the Kickstarter Campaign
KTB: Twitter seems to be where it’s at for contacts and fans in the board game industry. A great social media resource for sure! Thank you again Wesley, it has been a pleasure swapping emails back and forth with you. Hopefully we can meet up some time and get some games in!
WL: That sounds great. Maybe I can challenge you to a game of COGZ in real life :). Thanks for the interview.
KTB: Challenge accepted! ^_^
Be sure to check out RAEZ’s Kickstarter campaign page live right here!