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This Interview Ain’t Big Enough for Both Bamboozle Brothers (Part 2)

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This Interview Ain’t Big Enough for Both Bamboozle Brothers (Part 2)

This is part 2 with my interview with Jay Cormier- half of the designing duo, "Bamboozle Brothers" - who are the designers of Belfort, Tortuga and This Town Ain't Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us. The other half of the Bamboozle Brothers design team is Sen-Foong Lim.

For part 1 of this interview discussing This Town Ain't Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us, Akrotiri, game rejection and cupcake bake-offs see: This Interview Ain’t Big Enough for Both Bamboozle Brothers (Part 1)

Where did the name Bamboozle Brothers come from?
From gallery of Geekdo

Jay: Well - I'm also a performer and I was doing a lot of busking with my character and I started getting this idea for another show! This new show would start with me and I would say that the show is about to begin - but I'm just waiting for my brother...but he never shows up and so I have to use audience members to stand in for my brother! The name of that show was The Bamboozle Brothers! That show happened only once and never really took off as I kind of got out of the busking world. So when Sen and I started doing this we decided it felt like a great gamey name, so it stuck!

How did you and Sen meet and become a board game creating team?

Jay: Sen and I met at McMaster University through a mutual friend Errol - who now is part of a geek band called Debs and Errol - look them up! Sen was always into games and he got me into a little thing called Magic: The Gathering. Wow - I was hooked! We just continued to play together and then lived with each other - multiple times! Then one day we decided to make board games together - why not?! But weeks pass and the one game we come up with kind of sucks. So we abandoned it. Then I moved across the country and Sen came to visit and as a way to stay in contact with each other - we decide to start making games again and use a forum to stay in touch. This time it worked and we are still making tons of games together!!

Do you think there is an advantage designing all your games with a partner as opposed to by yourself?

Jay: 100% yes! I don't know if I would have had the persistence without Sen. Persistence is one of the three keys to board game design - the other two being Motivation and Versatility - and all three make up my MVP acronym. By having a partner that's on the exact same wavelength I'm on has made it exciting since we're both aligned with out goals which is to get as many games published as possible. We're trying to evolve and design games in other genres as well - like an upcoming kid's game called Pop Goes the Weasel!
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Do you think there is a disadvantage?

Jay: Well -you do have to split the money you make! :-) Once in awhile there's a disagreement, but that's not a big deal. We're friends first so we can muster through those challenges easy enough. Being on either side of the country makes it a lot harder though as we communicate mostly through our forum, Skype and Facetime! When we have the opportunity to be in the same room - then sparks are flying!

Is there a type of board game that you know you would never make like dexterity or word or whatever?

Jay: We made a dexterity game and it's being assessed at a publisher right now! We have 2 word games but we can't seem to find a publisher for them! I think Sen would really like to do a minis game - Ameritrash game - but that's not really my cuppa tea - so I don't think we'll do that - but you never know!!! :-)

Where does your disdain of AmeriaTrash come from?

Jay: Hmmm - good question. I used to play them a long time ago too - before I knew of these Euro games. I played Risk, Supremacy, Car Wars...but when I first played Euro games I just fell in love with having more control over my destiny. I just hated saying at the end of a game "I know what I'm going to do next time to win - I'm going to roll more 6's!" I even have grown to dislike Settlers of Catan because of the luck involved in the die rolls. I think that's why it's been so popular though - it's a perfect gateway game for those that have only ever played Risk!

What theme or category game that you have not tried yet would you like to do. Bamboozle Brothers deckbuilder, abstract strategy game, war game – something else?

Jay: We're toying around with some deck builder ideas, we do have an abstract strategy game that we're ready to pitch, and we have more party games in the works -including one that uses an app! As for war games...Sen would like to - but I'm just not as energized by it because I don't get as much excitement from playing those kinds of games. I would like to do a dungeon crawler though and Sen really wants to work on a game that has you thinking about the game before and after you play it - maybe because you have to construct parts of it beforehand.

What is your favorite part of designing a game?

Jay: My favourite part is the play testing. Seeing what works and what doesn't work - both are valuable and exciting. I love that feeling when you're watching a play test and you can see what you have to do to fix it. I just can't wait to get back to my computer and fix the prototype and try it again! You didn't ask - but my least favourite part is writing the rule book for a prototype. It is SO hard! I teach a class on board game design and one of the assignments is about writing rules - so I know how rules need to look, but it just takes a lot of time to wordsmith it so it's understandable with a blind play test (like a publisher!)

What do you think of the whole Cthulhu and Zombie fad in board games?

Jay: Well...they're mostly Ameritrash games so they usually fall outside my radar. If someone could make a cool Euro Zombie game - then I'd be interested...oooh - that sounds like a challenge...Sen! I have an idea...!

Is there an unique theme that you like would like to see in board game, that at this time are not represented at all or very rarely seen?

Jay: Time Travel! But it's so hard! I'm a fan of anything that is unique with its theme. I do love my fantasy themed games - but it's great to see a unique game with a totally different theme. We're working on a game right now about buskers - where you're trying to attract more of the crowd to watch your show than a competitor!

So, what comes first more often when creating a game – the idea for the theme or the idea of the game mechanic?

Jay: Both / either! I would say that I lean more towards theme first and Sen probably is halfway between the two. But there are other options as well - like a title or components! Train of Thought is a party game from us and it was a title before it was a game!!

Did Tortuga always start out as a pirate themed game?
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Jay: Yup! It was a poker pirate game! The exact same dice were the ones Sen came up with - I think we just changed one symbol - we had an anchor and we changed it to Crew. But yeah - it was always pirates! When we put it together we Googled some art to put on it and for some reason a bunch of anime pirate girls came up in our search - so the original game had these pretty sexy anime pirate ladies! Also the game used to be called Swashbucklers, but was changed to Tortuga by Queen because Swashbucklers is not translate-able!
From gallery of Photodump

If you were talking to a gamer and trying to pitch your Tortuga - Why should they spend there hard earned cash on it? What makes it so special or fun? What kind of gamer would like this game?

Jay: Tortuga is great for people who like rolling dice, but also don't like just watching people roll dice! :-) In Tortuga, everyone is rolling at the same time so it keeps the pace high! It has some attacking and stealing of treasure involved so players that like to screw around with other people's plans will enjoy this game. That said, there are enough balancers to ensure that luck isn't too devastating if you aren't rolling exactly what you want. This is definitely not a multiplayer solitaire game as you're always comparing and trying to have better values than your opponents. With playtime being around 30 minutes, it's more meaty than a filler game but not so involved that it will take the entire night. Unless of course, you decide to play Tortuga all night long - which you might want to do! :-)

Who is your favorite game designer (outside of Sen and yourself of course)?

My favourite game designer has to be Wolfgang Kramer. He's just made so many games that tickle my fancy - like Tikal,Torres, El Grande, Princes of Florence!

Is there are a prototype out there that really has impressed you, that you think people should really look out for as a published game - be it from you guys or another creator?

Jay: Yes absolutely! From us I am very confident that our game Rock, Paper, Wizards will be published some day - it's that good! From other designers - Walled City: Londonderry- was just signed by Mercury Games and I had the pleasure of play testing that a couple times and loved it; Sails to Steam by Matt Tolman was also awesome and last I heard he was getting some interest from a BIG publisher; Josh Cappel has a great game called Plunge which I immediately loved; Graeme Jahns has a game that is a deck building dungeon crawler - though I haven't played the newest incarnation. All of these designers belong to the Game Artisans of Canada - like me. We have chapters all across Canada and we meet up regularly to play test each other's games!!

You and Sen are known as the "guys that made Belfort" - did you ever think that Belfort would take off the way it did?

Jay: I don't think you ever expect anything and you also expect everything - at the same time! You hope that it will take the world by storm and win awards and sell all over the world. Belfort has done quite well - and is sold in Germany and Poland, in addition to the Americas - but it still has a long way to go before it's a huge hit. It's respected critically - so
From gallery of W Eric Martin
that's awesome - and maybe even more important for our first design. Now it gives us a foot in the door with publishers as well as makes Kickstarter campaigns a bit better when they can say it's from the makers of Belfort! We have more plans for more action in the world of Belfort - so hopefully we can keep it going for a long time!

I know that Belfort actually started as a 25 tile game. Would you ever think about trying to design a microgame version Belfort that once again uses only 25 tiles?

Jay: Hmmm - maybe! Never say never right? I think our next idea is to make a dice game set in the world of Belfort. We have an idea for something new with dice - but we haven't made it work yet. As for a micro game set in the world of Belfort - that's a pretty good idea too! Hmmm - brain's a' thinking'.

Is it true that Belfort is named after a real castle?

Jay: Yep! We had a couple names for it. At one point it was Castle Alnwick! Then for the longest time it was called the oh-so-original name Castletown! One day one of our playtesters said "why don't you call it _____?" I can't remember what was recommended but it was a weird name and when we asked why, the response was because it was a castle that had 5 sides to it - just like the board for our game. Ahhh! That's a good idea - to the Googles! So we Googled 5-sided castles and Belfort came up as an option. We really liked that name and so....Belfort was born!!

Would you like to see the Belfort brand expand into other type of games - deckbuilder, card game, etc -or would you rather leave it alone and move on?

Jay:Hey if you have something you can milk - then milk it right? Ha - no, not really. We fortunately like the world of Belfort - this red tape, bureaucratic world wrapped in a fantasy setting. As I said above - a dice game seems like a nice next step. How can we get the feeling of Belfort but played in a short, short time span!? A card game might be interesting as well...I like how you're thinking! After that - not sure...might be better to just brand it differently if you're making a deck building game, for example. Unless you're super successful, like Settlers, then you might not be actually gaining new players and you might only be attracting a smaller subset of those people that already like Belfort. Tough call.

Is there a publisher that you haven't worked with yet, but you really like to?

Jay:Oh tons! Would be great to work with the big boys like Rio Grande or KOSMOS! We're really trying to find a game to fit with ThinkFun and Amigo as well as we have good relationships with both companies from pitching to them in the past.

Have you and Sen thought about creating your own game company using Kickstarter and your Game Artisans of Canada resources?

Jay: Absolutely! It just takes a lot of time being your own publisher. We both have full time jobs so we're not ready to quit our day jobs yet - but that is one of our goals. We just love designing game so much and I'm not sure we'd have as much fun running our own company. We'd much rather someone start a publishing company and just publish all our games! That'd be awesome! :-)

If you and Sen could make a game with any Game Artisan of Canada member - who would you guys like to make a game with?

We are already! I'm currently working with Graeme Jahns on an interesting Dungeon Crawler (Ameritrash???) - but it has some nice Euro twists to it. Sen is working on Midnight Men with Yves(designer of Northwest Passage and Blueprints) and I think he's
Family: Organizations: The Game Artisans of Canada
working with some others on other designs too! Sen and I are partnered with Josh Cappel - who's also a GAC member - on Rock, Paper, Wizards - which just got some positive feedback from the publisher today actually! So that's looking good! Josh, me and Daryl Andrews have been tossing ideas around for a game (Daryl just got signed with Mercury Games with his Walled City: Londonderry game). So we're very open to it and excited to work with people that are as energetic and positive about the design process as we are - which is pretty much everyone at GAC!

What if your favorite part of being a member of GAC?

Jay:Playtesting games with other game designers. Playtesting your game with non-designers is important and also a great thing - but you get totally different feedback when you play test with other game designers. They often can see the mechanic that is broken or why it's not balanced, or possibly even see saddle points (aka dominant strategies) emerging before they actually do. If you're a game designer - then play test your game with other designers!!!

You've mentioned Rock, Paper, Wizards a few times. What can you tell us about it?

Jay: A group of wizards battle over a pool of coins. Each round there are some face up spell cards for all to see. Each one uses a different hand gesture and has a specific effect. All players pump their fist at the same time and shout "Rock, Paper, Wizards" and then cast a spell by making a hand gesture AND pointing it at one opponent. Then if you're the only player to cast a spell - it hits! If more than one person casts a spell, it fizzles and gets removed. If no one casts a spell, it gets a coin placed on it! It's simple and super fun!

What are you game designing goals for 2014?

Jay: Well - we have so many games we want to work on - and we have to support the ones coming out. I'd like to see a couple more games get signed - and I think we're close with a couple games already: Rock, Paper, Wizards and SimpliCITY. Sen and I do want to design another big-ish Euro game though as the next few games we do have coming out aren't that big. Tortuga is Euro-ish but only 30 minutes and Akrotiri is an awesome Euro game but it's only for 2 players.

How many games do you guys think you will have out by the end of 2014?

Board Game: Belfort

Board Game: Train of Thought

Board Game: Belfort: The Expansion Expansion

Out now: Belfort, Train of Thought, Belfort: The Expansion Expansion

Contracted to come out this year: Tortuga, Akrotiri, But Wait! There's More!, This Town Ain't Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us

In contract negotiations: Pop Goes the Weasel

In consideration: Rock, Paper, Wizards; Junkyard and SimpliCITY - so more likely 2015 for these two

Ready to pitch: Lost for Words, Chainables, Clunatics, untitled Abstract game, Aladdin: Cave of Wonders, Eat at Joe's, E-I-E-I-O!, Jam Slam, and Lion's Share.
Board Game: Tortuga

Board Game: Akrotiri

Board Game: But Wait, There's More!

Board Game: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us

I know that with But Wait, There's More! – you guys get to work with the Monty Python license, how did that come about.

Jay: We pitched the game to Toy Vault and they loved it. Fast forward some time and they think that they can attach the game to Monty Python. They already have the license to make Monty Python related games! But it wasn't that easy. They had to send the game to the Monty Python person in the US to approve it, who then had to send it to another person in the US to approve it who then had to send it to a person in England to approve it!! And they did! So that delayed it a whole bunch - but now we're getting close to the launch of this game on Kickstarter and I couldn't be more excited to say that I have contributed to the Monty Python universe! How many people can say that!?

Is there any other license you would really like to work with – Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, Sesame Street etc…

Jay: Are you kidding me? Indiana Jones!?! I would possibly explode with excitement if I could design an Indiana Jones game. That would be the ultimate combination of my passions! I'm a huge Indy nut and have sooo much Indy stuff in my home! I have one wall in my man cave that is devoted to original art of Indiana Jones by artists I meet at conventions. My favourite is one by Matt Kindt! Soo cooool!

What makes But Wait, There's More! different from say Snake Oil by Out of the Box or Big Idea from FunForge?

A couple things. Instead of just using adjectives to combine with nouns to make crazy products, we use common advertising sayings combined with products. So we would have cards like "With the taste kids love" or "Now with room for 7". Also - halfway through your pitch you have to say "But Wait There's More" and you have to draw a random Feature card from the deck and add that feature to your product. Some combinations are absolutely ridiculous! Like trying to sell glue - where the secret ingredient is real cheese - but wait there's also has a non-stick coating!

We're expecting But Wait, There's More! to launch in time for GenCon this year!

Speaking of GenCon. Essens or GenCon – if you could choose one, which would you rather attend?

Jay: Essen. I'm not sure about GenCon just because I haven't gone. I have been to Essen and met with a lot of publishers and that's how we got Tortuga published! I attend conventions mostly for business purposes. If I have time left over then I will play games! That to me is awesome though. I know it kind of sounds boring or lame - but it's such an important step in getting a game published - one that many designers aren't comfortable with. Fortunately for me I have a performer's background and my 'real' job involves creating training for sales people - so I'm comfortable talking to strangers about my games!!

So if you and Sen went away on some kind of remote trip (say for a year)- you only have room for 1 game in your backpacking equipment - what would you take?

If there were 4 of us then Sen and I would both take Tichu. If there was only 2 of us...hmmm it would have to be something super replayable...maybe Dominion...with all the expansions! :-)

And perhaps the most important question MacGyver or A-team?

... I was a fan of both of them when I was a kid. They both probably shaped my game designer mind since both shows are about making something cool out of odd things! I think I would say that I probably watched more A-Team though.

As we wrap this up, anything you like to add or say to the few people who actually read this far?

Jay: It's been a fun journey and we still feel rather fresh at this whole game designing thing - but we're happy to share our experiences such that you might benefit from it if you're looking to get your game published. You can check out the steps on how to get your own game published on our site:

Thanks Jay!

Picture of Jay Cormier by Geekdo

Microbadges related to this interview available at the time of posting:

Microbadge: Belfort fan – Belfort fan

Microbadge: Tortuga fan - Tortuga fan
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