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Jay and Sen's But Wait, There's More!
Interview with Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim (designers of Belfort and Tortuga) on their newest games, But Wait, There's More!. Coming soon to Kickstarter, But Wait, There's More! will be published by Toy Vault.
The last time I spoke with Jay (the interview that game birth to The Inquisitive Meeple) we covered so much (part 1 and part 2) that it is hard to come up with an opening question. Over the last few months, what have the Bamboozle brothers been up to?
Jay: Since last we spoke, we attended Alan Moon's Gathering of Friends in Niagara Falls, NY. We pitched a ton of games to numerous publishers, so we're awaiting confirmation on a few projects - there are at least 6 or 7 games being assessed by publishers as we speak! Games like Zombie Slam (yes, a Zombie game!!), Herdables, What's That, Clunatics, Lost for Words, Chainables, Lions Share and even a game I designed solo called Ignotus.
Sen: So now we need to make more games! We've been working really hard on a few projects. The biggest one (no pun intended) is the Godzilla card combat game that we've been designing for Toy Vault. We've just started the beta testing, putting the game in front of players and we're seeing some amazing results!
Jay: Godzilla is the first game that we've agreed to do that has been directly commissioned by a publisher. We were working with Toy Vault on "But Wait, There's More!" with Ed Bryan and he had started the Godzilla game, but was stuck on how to proceed. He asked us if we'd like to take it from there and we jumped at the chance to work with such a fun property.
Sen: Since then we've been contacted by several other publishers looking for games, which is flattering, to say the least.
Jay: Yeah, we've been extending our reach using social media to push the Bamboozle Brothers brand and the number of publishers reaching out to us instead of the other way around so far has been really encouraging.
Speaking of Bamboozle Brothers – could you tell us how that name came about?
Jay: That's kind of a funny story! In my mis-spent youth, I did some busking and street magic. One of the acts I had was a one man show called the "Amazing Bamboozle Brothers"; a show where only one of the brothers shows up to perform and he has to ask the audience to help out in all the stunts. It didn't really pan out, but we loved the word "bamboozle" so much that we decided to use it for this venture. And if you look at both of us, it's obvious that we're brothers!
Sen: We have a game in the works about busking, so it's coming full circle, really!
What do you guys look for when buying a new game for your collection?
Sen: My criteria include, but are not limited to, 1) Can I play it with my wife, kids (aged 6 and 10), and or friends? 2) does it have an interesting mechanic that I can learn from? and 3) Does it fill a need on my game shelf, 4) does anyone I play with regularly own it already?
Jay: I have a ton of games already, so I really want a game that offers me a different experience. I don't want another cube pushing Euro game with little thematic links. I really like Amerigo and Hanabi. They both provide different experiences than I've had before!
The Bamboozle Brothers are always working on new games – tell us, how do you know when a game is ready to be pitched to a game publisher?
Sen: Playtest, playtest, playtest. Feedback from our playtesters and our colleagues in the Game Artisans of Canada (GAC) usually give us a good indication of how publisher-ready a game is. In the GAC, we have an iteration process to take a game from Alpha (idea) to Gamma (blind-playtestable) and then the Artisans help us get the game publisher-ready in terms of rules editing, graphic design suggestions, etc. We try to ensure all of our games go through this process so that we can present the best possible product to publishers.
Jay: Sometimes a game is publisher-ready and either we do get some interest, but it's followed up with rejection, or we get no interest. In those cases we re-examine a game and see if we can change it in any way to make it appeal more to publishers. This process is easier if the publishers gave us some specific feedback about why they weren't interested in it. We take a lot of this feedback to heart and really examine if we want to change the game to accommodate their suggestions.
Sen: This kind of feedback has really improved our games and this has already helped us get some of our games published - like our upcoming Akrotiri. We had a totally different endgame before, but one publisher felt that it was tacked on - and honestly, it kind of was! So we found a way to solve that issue and now the game is so much better!
What do you think is the biggest strength your co-designer brings to your designing partnership?
Jay: I think it’s the fact that he’s Batman. Not in the crime fighting ways, or that he has a secret identity, or that he has a bat cave with lots of cool toys (wait - I think he kind of does have that!) - but it’s that he can survive on only 4 hours of sleep a day! Along with that, Sen is always coming up with new ideas - whether they are new mechanics or thematic ideas, he’s always working and thinking of something new. It really keeps me going forward because we have so many cool ideas to work on at any given time. Usually I have to focus on only a couple of games at a time, but Sen can be juggling 6 to 10 games around in his head!!
Sen: Jay is super-motivated to make things real. He's the one that usually makes the push to take things from the idea stage to the prototype stage. He's also not afraid to fail - something that I was admittedly less comfortable with at the beginning - and that allows him to act without the fear that this is our only kick at the can. It's not! It's merely one iteration of many and you need to start somewhere if you hope to get anywhere. I may have a lot of ideas; Jay's the one that kicks them out of the nest to see if they'll fly, even a little bit!
So very shortly you guys will be Kickstarting a game, entitled "But Wait, There's More!" Could you tell us a little bit about what type of game it is and give us an overview on how it is played?
Sen: But Wait, There's More! is a party game in which you take on the role of an infomercial salesperson, trying to pitch weird contraptions to the other players.
Jay: You'll create a wacky thingamajig by combining a Product card that everyone uses plus a Feature card from your hand. So, the whole table might be working with "Broom", but you make it into a "Broom that Conceals Those Unsightly Wrinkles." On your turn, you have 30 seconds to try to sell the other players on why your product is the best on the market. I mean, come on! A broom that conceals wrinkles? Who wouldn't want that?
Sen: But wait, there's more! At some point within your half-minute pitch, you say "But wait, there's more!" and flip over a totally random Feature card and try to continue selling your gadget that may now have something totally unrelated attached to it. So now your "Broom that Conceals Those Unsightly Wrinkles" also "Makes Bath time Fun!"
What is the story behind the creation of the game, and what made you want to design a new party game (Train of Thought being your first)?
Sen: We really take our "mantra" of MVP to heart. Motivation, Versatility, Persistence. Doing games of many varieties helps us to keep fresh and forces us to look at many different styles of play. We have a few more party games in our portfolio that are being evaluated by other publishers at the moment as well.
Jay: But we don't consciously decide to make a party game - sometimes games become party games and sometimes party games become other types of games! Sometimes the game comes from a name (like Train of Thought did!!) and sometimes it's just an idea of how a mechanic could work in a social type of game.
Sen: It's really an emergent process that gets refined through playtesting.
Do you remember what sparked the idea of But Wait, There's More!?
Jay: I actually don’t recall. Hmmm…I remember that Sen was visiting me when I lived in New Westminster when we came up with it…but I can’t remember how it came to be. Oh - and Sen correct me if I’m wrong - but I think we had this idea to make a wacky headline game where you combine two cards to create a wacky headline. Then I think we couldn’t figure out what you’d do with a wacky headline and it merged into telling a story about what that headline story was all about. Then it quickly moved into selling products instead of headlines. We had never played any game where you pitch a product like this so we thought it was pretty clever. Since then we’ve seen others on the market (and The Big Idea from James Ernst was available way before ours), but we’re still very confident that ours has an edge in that it uses many phrases you’ve seen and heard in numerous infomercials in the past. Once you combine these phrases with different products - the results are always hilarious!
Sen: Sounds about right, Jay. Originally, it was about telling a story like a news anchor about a situation created by combining two cards. The mechanic of combining two cards to make something funny out of it isn't novel, but the notion of pitching like an infomercial and everyone using the same item definitely differentiates But Wait, There's More! from similar games. Jay, Ed, and I did a lot of research to create what we think is an amazing set of products and descriptors for maximum fun-i-tude (tm).
Outside of Train of Thought and But Wait, There's More! – what are your favorite party games?
Sen: Quelf for sheer lunacy of the experience. Leg Los from Zoch is a recent favourite of mine.
Jay: Times Up, particularly the Title Recall Edition, from R&R Games. It is always hilarious and is always a hit at parties! Cards Against Humanity is also fun with the right crowd - which is pretty much any of my friends!
Sen, say you were going to pitch a mailbox that is safe and fun for infants. How would you do it? Also imagine after saying “But wait, there’s more” you flip over the ”bulletproof” card – what would your pitch be?
Sen: Have you ever had your child get stuck in the mailbox as they reach in, searching for that toy he sent 700 cereal box tops for? Well worry no more! Now, with Sen-co's new Child Friendly Mailbox, you can rest assured that no child gets left behind! BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! In today's hostile urban climate, we've made an NRA-approved bulletproof version that will not only keep your child safe, but you as well. Stay calm and mail on, now, with Sen-Co's Child Friendly AND Bulletproof Mailbox!
Will But Wait, There's More! be a party game more geared for adults or can kids play it too? Will it be child-friendly in the words, etc used in the game?
Jay: All the words and phrases are 100% child friendly - but you can see even in our Kickstarter video, that with the right crowd, things can become more risqué! I think that makes the game very flexible. You can’t play Cards Against Humanity with your kids (at least I hope not!), but you could definitely play But Wait, There's More! with your whole family. But then once the kids go to bed, the adults can continue playing with the exact same cards - and if the crowd wants it - the game can get pretty borderline on what’s appropriate!
Sen: My son, Ethan, has been playing it for the past 2 or 3 years, and he's 10 now. So either it's child-friendly or I'm the worst dad ever. Or best. You decide.
There is a big player range on this game, from 3-10 players, right? Is there any rule changes for the 3-player and how does it feel different than say the 9 or 10 player game?
Jay: With higher numbers of players, you can play the partner version, in which teams of 2 share the stage and pitch products together. One player will start the process with the first Feature card and the second will wrap it up after they say "But wait, there's more!" and they flip over the Feature Card they had selected earlier. I really love the partner version of this game as it gives everyone a chance to shine!
Sen: It's really fun to watch a team that is gelling pitch some hilarious products!
Jay, you guys will be offering an add-on expansion called “That’s the Best Part”. Could you tell us how this expansion works and what does it add to the gameplay?
Jay: The game plays the same, except at the end of your pitch you ask the other players if there are any questions from the studio audience. One player reads out a question on the new expansion card - something like "what happens if it gives me a rash?” The player who's pitching must respond by saying "Oh that's the best part" and then go on to explain why getting a rash is the best part if the product. It is so hilarious! I laugh every time someone just says "that's the best part," because it's always something that should never be the best part of a product!
There are at least two other “pitching” style board games out there – Big Idea and Snake Oil. Did either of these games influence you in making But Wait, There's More!? Also, what makes your game stand out against these other ones?
Sen: Oddly enough, we called our game "The Big Idea" when we first created it, way back when. But then we discovered that we weren't the first to think of this concept.
Jay: Imagine that!
Sen: Yeah, so Toy Vault has been in contact with James Ernest, the designer behind "Big Idea" and he expressed no issue with any similarities on the surface.
Jay: When this happens, it's called "parallel design"; there's no intentional theft. But Wait, There's More! differs in many ways - the fact that everyone is pitching the same, but individually modified, item; the random element mid-pitch, and the scoring are just some of them.
Sen: And also the fact that ours really simulates an infomercial and so our Feature cards have phrases that you've all heard and seen on many infomercials before.
What has been your favorite part of working with your publisher, Toy Vault?
Jay: Toy Vault has been very collaborative. We’ve been involved in the entire process and it really felt like our opinion was listened to and respected. We’re learning that the relationship between a designer and a publisher varies a lot with each game we make and we’re happy to report that Toy Vault has been very straightforward and inclusive of our needs!
Sen: Ed Bryan, our contact with the company, has been excellent at keeping us in the loop, developing the game, and trying to get it out there. He's showed it at The Gathering of Friends and is taking several pre-release copies to GenCon this August to get people playing it.
What was the best piece of feedback you received from a play tester when you were still prototyping the game?
Jay: The absolute best was the idea to add the random "but wait, there's more" Feature halfway through pitching. Originally it was just matching one Feature card with the Product - but as soon as we added the second random Feature card the game became hilarious! It really is the funniest game we've ever made.
In all of your playtesting of But Wait, There's More! - what has been the funniest or favorite pitch you’ve heard?
Jay: Well it actually might just be the most recent pitch I’ve heard - which was when we filmed the Kickstarter video. We didn’t stage the video at all! So the people in the video didn’t pre-plan anything they were going to say - they were literally playing the game for real! So the one pitch where Josh had to sell Pants that had a built-in Urinal - that was hilarious! And then when he said “But Wait, There’s More” and flipped over a random Feature card it said “The secret is in the suction action.” As you can see in the video - everyone erupted in laughter!
Sen: There was another really great one where Evan, who played it at the Gathering, had Pajamas that Reclined, which he pitched as being able to help you get to bed faster by making you lie down automatically! So sometimes it's in how the player creatively sells you on it that makes the quirky combo somehow work, despite all odds.
Will you enjoy this game, even if you are not a particular out going person?
Jay: One thing I really like about But Wait, There's More! is that the game is hilarious for extroverts and introverts! We were concerned at first that only extroverts would like this game, but was found that everyone laughs at everyone else’s pitch - and then when it’s the introvert’s time to pitch, some just read out the cards and barely add anything extra - and the cards help them get the laughs! It’s a rare that a party game that involves pitching or selling something doesn’t exclude introverts!
What was the biggest change to the gameplay, from the first few prototypes to what you are offering now?
Sen: It's remained very similar throughout, besides the change Jay mentioned above, but we took out making one player sit out each round to Judge; we've worked really hard on making a voting system that is fast and fun for this weight and style of game but prevents kingmaking and other issues that are common with these types of games.
Jay: We did go through many different ways to do the scoring. People seem to have different trains of thought on scoring in a party game. Some people don't care at all about scoring since it's a party game, while others are concerned that the scoring can be 'gamed' and players can willingly manipulate the scoring. We figured out that if we can satisfy the latter, then the former will be happy as well - so might as well do your best to reduce as much gaminess from party game scoring!
What was your favorite part of designing the game?
Jay: Coming up with all the Features and testing them to see if they were funny or not! Lots of laughs just from designing the game!
Sen: Just sitting in on playtest sessions was a hoot! The level of hilarity that ensues from this game is HUGE!
What would you say is the most interesting part, from the point of view as the designers, that happened when designing this game?
Sen: For me, though the work was long and arduous, it was working with Jay and Ed Bryan from Toy Vault on going through EACH OF THE WORD CHOICES over Skype calls between Kentucky, where Toy Vault is located, British Columbia where Jay resides and Ontario where I live. It was interesting to use technology like Skype and Google Docs to share files and co-edit while collaborating across multiple time zones to get the job done right. It was taxing and exhausting, but the final product is just that much better because of the effort we put into tweaking everything just right.
What was the most challenging part of designing it?
Sen: The most challenging part was designing a voting system that is not arbitrary and can not be gamed in a way the promotes kingmaking. I think we accomplished that in an elegant manner.
When you step back and look at the finished product, what makes you the most proud that you designed this game?
Sen: When I see the genuine smiles on peoples' faces and hear the laughter coming from the game table and know that it's a game that I worked on that is creating that level of positivity, I get a bit verklempt.
Jay: It's one of the highest "let's play that again" games that we ever designed - and that's really satisfying!
Finish this sentence in 12 words or less. But Wait, There's More! is ________.
Sen: a ridiculously fun game about pitching wacky gadgets to friends and family.
Jay: the funniest game Jay and Sen ever designed! Back it on Kickstarter! :-)
When can we expect But Wait, There's More! to hit Kickstarter?
Jay: Very soon.
Sen: Very, very soon.
Jay: Possibly by the time you're reading this!
Are there any more party games you guys are working on currently?
Jay: We've got Clunatics being evaluated by Pandasaurus Games and What's That being looked at by Mercury Games.
Sen: What's That is cool because it's an "App Assisted game" that requires both the game components and a smart phone or tablet to play. Pretty neat stuff!
Jay: We're cutting edge designers! :-)
Before I let you go, you have an interesting sounding game called Herdables you have been working on. Could you give us more info on that game – and any luck getting a publisher to pick it up?
Jay: Cool that you find that one interesting. It's a Match 3 game where you're trying to get three animals in a row to score them. The difference is that I always can see the animals that my opponent will play on their turn - before I play my animals. Also - how you place your animals is neat. You place two animals on the board - but they must be next to an animal on the board that matches a third animal token that I've drawn.
Sen: It's currently being evaluated by Huch & Friends, a German publisher. We hope it finds a home there!
You guys also mentioned that you are making a Godzilla game. Could you share a little bit about the gameplay, and what it is like working with such a recognizable and BIG (pun intend) license?
Jay: It’s such an amazing experience for me! Sen is a big Godzilla fan and I’m fairly new to the license - which is neat because it means one of us will ensure that the license is fully respected and the other will ensure that the love of the license doesn’t impair our game design process. That’s over simplifying it because I don’t think I’d disrespect the license and Sen wouldn’t impair our game design process - but it’s nice to have one of us on each side!
As for the game, it’s a card combat game where people would buy a complete deck on one Kaiju (like Godzilla or Mothra or Rodan) and the two would fight each other. We’ve got an interesting system for bringing out cards that’s new and fun and we have a very interesting way that our combat works. It really feels like you are both two giant monsters fighting each other in downtown Tokyo!
Sen: The game started out as Ed Bryan's brainchild, actually. So Jay and I are more like adoptive parents for this one. It's very cool to be trusted with giving an intellectual property its due respect in a game format. Usually, licensed games get a fairly negative reaction from seasoned gamers. I'm hopeful that this one will change people's minds with regards to that. We're going for a quick-playing, slug-a-thon between two - and eventually more - kaiju. Imagine controlling Godzilla as he goes toe-to-toe and claw-to-claw against Gigan or Hedorah! Each of the decks will be an individual kaiju with both generic cards that players can interchange between decks to suit their style of play and monster-specific cards that are keyed to either distinct features (like wings and tails) or to individual creatures for unique powers and abilities.
For me, Godzilla brings back memories of childhood and sitting in the school gym in late June watching movie reels with the whole school, so I was really excited to be attached to this project! We're going to pay homage to the Toho classics and reflect a lot of the content through the mechanics and game play. Jay, Ed and I will be looking for a lot of beta testers in the near future, so if you're a Godzilla fan who also happens to like head-to-head card play, get in touch!
As we wrap this up, is there anything else that you guys would like to add?
Sen: You can get a print-and-play version of But Wait, There's More! at: (unsure right now - but probably on BGG)
Try before you buy!
Jay: If you're an aspiring designer, read our blog about how you, too, can get your games published - we outline all the steps we take on www.bamboozlebrothers.com
Sen: And follow us on Twitter at @SenFoongLim and @bamboozlebros to get the latest on our comings and goings. We're both really easy going guys, so please DM us if you have any questions at all or find us onwww.boardgamegeek.com and geekmail us - our usernames are senfoonglim and jcormier
The Inquisitive Meeple would like to thank, both Jay and Sen, for taking time out to do this interview.For those interested in But Wait, There's More!, we will post the Kickstarter link in the comment section of this interview, once it goes live.
What's that you say? Inquiring meeples want to know more?You may want to check out these links:
• Bamboozle Brothers' blog
• Try before you Buy! Print & Play trial version
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Welcome to The Inquisitive Meeple - A blog that is dedicated to interviewing board game designers. Est. 2014
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