Hey there, gamers!
It’s time for another epic interview session! I had the pleasure of speaking with Jay Cormier, who you might know as the designer of games like Belfort, Junk Art, Akrotiri, In the Hall of the Mountain King, and more. He has a lot of projects coming up this year, so I asked him about those, as well as a few other random things so you can get to know him a little better! So without further ado, let’s talk to Jay!
This is Jay!
Everyone say “HIIIII JAY!”
Great! Now that we’re all acquainted. Let’s continue.
1. Tell me a bit about your upcoming projects
Recently I had the first game I designed on my own released!” Jay said, very excited, of course! This game is called Draw Your Own Conclusions published by Social Sloth Games, and is a neat twist on the familiar drawing game. The game is cooperative and Jay said you don’t need to know how to draw – as someone who can not draw, that definitely caught my attention! Jay gave more information on the gameplay by explaining that, “Each player is given a random shape and they are only allowed to draw up to 5 of those shapes on their whiteboard. Then, everyone passes their whiteboard to the player on their left and everyone then adds up to 5 of their shape to the next drawing. Continue until all but one player has contributed to a drawing, and that player has to guess what the drawing is. The key hook of this game is working cooperatively with everyone else, but without being able to talk to them during the drawing. So if you have to draw squares, and you had to draw a car, you could draw the windows of the car, hoping that the player with circles draws the wheels.”
Also in retail now is a big Kickstarter game from last year, In the Hall of the Mountain King. “This one was designed by me and Graeme Jahns,” Jay said, and added, “This is maybe my favorite game I’ve designed.” This game has a cascading production system where you hire trolls and place them in a pyramid of other trolls, activating it and all the trolls underneath it. “It’s so satisfying collecting all those resources later in the game! Then you use those resources to build polyominal tunnels in a shared mountain board. You’re trying to unearth statues and then move those statues through your tunnels to get closer to the center of the mountain. It’s pretty unique!”
If you thought that was all, think again! The next product Jay told me more about was the Fail Faster Playtesting Journal which funded over 450% to its target last year. “The journal has been fulfilled and is available online at The Game Crafter and Meeple Source. Next for this brand I’ve been writing a Game Design Workbook that will teach people HOW to design board games, with tons of exercises and activities. I have read a lot of game design books but have found most of them to be very theoretical, so this one will be very practical and hands-on! It will leverage a lot of the material I have created when I teach game design at Vancouver Film School. I’ve been teaching there for over 6 years now and have evolved the class to become the students’ favorite multiple times! I hope to finish writing it by summer this year, and then Kickstarter early next year.”
Next, coming up March 3rd is Jay’s first Kickstarter as a board game publisher! It’s for a game that Sen-Foong Lim and he designed called, MIND MGMT: The Psychic Espionage “Game.” “It’s a satisfying hidden movement game that plays in less than an hour where you play as either the Recruiter for MIND MGMT, trying to secretly move around the board collecting recruits, or as one of the 4 rogue agents, trying to hunt down and catch the recruiter ” Jay explained.
Finally, coming out in the next couple of months is the re-print of Belfort, from Tasty Minstrel Games along with The Expansion Expansion and the new expansion, Her Majesty’s Civil Service. “This one did quite well on Kickstarter last year and I’m happy that there’s still love out there for the game. They came to us to let us know they were going to do a reprint on KS, and we asked if we could do a small mini expansion for it, to help create some buzz for it. They said sure and Sen and I went to work. We came up with a few ideas and as we tested them, they each were pretty interesting. As we pitched them to TMG, they liked them too and decided to make it its own boxed expansion! That was pretty cool!”
2. Which project are you most excited for, & why?
- “It’s the first game I’m publishing as a publisher! That alone is exciting, and scary. There’s so much to do behind the scenes, all of which I’ve been sharing on my weekly YouTube show: How to Start a Board Game Company.
- It’s a 1 vs. many, hidden movement game and Sen and I haven’t designed one of these yet. We wanted to do something different than all the other games in this genre, but still retail the fun ‘trying to find the ONE’ element. We are so happy that we got the gameplay down to less than an hour! It’s one of the main things that people have been telling us at conventions — that it plays like Letters to Whitechapel or Fury of Dracula, but in under an hour!
- We’re introducing a new idea called the SHIFT System! While this will be compared to Legacy-style games since it has sealed packages, the concept here is that it’s a self balancing mechanism. Whichever side loses the game, they get to open a package to help them in the next game. We had so many ideas that we wanted to fit into the game, but when we tried to introduce them all at once, people’s heads almost exploded. We came up with this idea as a way to continually ramp up the difficulty. One of the great things about the SHIFT System is that nothing is ever destroyed, so you can play it from any point once everything is opened. And if having 5 packages opened seems like it will explode your brain, no worries because the team that lost previously — they get to choose how many packages they want to play with, and their opponents get one fewer package. This increases the replayability a lot even once all 10 packages are opened!
- Finally, this game is based on my favorite comic book from the last 20 years! I don’t want to dissuade people who haven’t heard of the comic though because the game is awesome even if you’ve never heard of the comic before. That said, the game features all new art by Matt Kindt, the creator of MIND MGMT. It also will include 10 mini comics (one in each secret package) written and illustrated by Matt as well!”
3. How has your experience with board games on Kickstarter been? Will you continue to use it even after MIND MGMT?
Jay explained that this will be his first game that he has published, so he really had to use Kickstarter.
“Not only do I not have the money to get it made, but I don’t have the connections to get it into distribution as most won’t take one game from a publisher. There are too many ‘one and done’ publishers out there, that distributors have to be selective when deciding which games to carry. Will I use Kickstarter for my next game? We’ll have to see how well this one does, but I assume I will!”
4. What is the most rewarding thing about being a game designer? What is the biggest challenge?
“The most rewarding thing by far is reading about people playing your game and having fun with it. As I’m writing this, In the Hall of the Mountain King is just getting into backers hands and they’re writing up their mini reviews on BoardGameGeek and it’s amazing to read how much people are loving it! It’s very exciting! The other rewarding aspect is when reviewers start to notice how varied our game design has been since we began. Sen and I pride ourselves on always doing something different. We’ve made heavy Euros (i.e. Akrotiri), party games (i.e. But Wait, There’s More!), social deduction games (i.e. Orphan Black: The Card Game), dexterity games (i.e. Junk Art), and weird social games (i.e. D&D: Rock Paper Wizard)!”
On the other hand, Jay said that the biggest challenge in game design is playtesting. He continued, “To clarify, playtesting is ‘easy’, it’s how infrequent it occurs that’s a challenge. I am fortunate enough that I have a group that gets together every week to playtest. For me that’s still not enough as I am ready the next day or so with my changed prototype to test again! Playtesting is the bottleneck of game design.”
5. What was the hardest thing about designing Draw Your Own Conclusions, since it was your first solo design?
“This was a funny one because the time from me coming up with the idea and a publisher asking to sign the game was 6 days. I came up with the idea a day before GenCon and was able to test it that night with my game group. It worked and I didn’t have to tweak much at all. I decided to bring it with me to GenCon, even though it was ¼ of a prototype really. I had some whiteboards, markers stolen from my copy of Telestrations and about 20 cards of clues. I demoed it to a bunch of publishers and the day after GenCon, Social Sloth Games reached out and asked to sign it! Wow!”
Jay added that this case was obviously an exception, as that’s not what happens most of the time. “I’ve designed a few other games solo and none of them have been signed. This is because you don’t have another person to bounce ideas off of. You don’t have another set of playtesters playing the game and giving feedback (Sen and I live in different cities). Really, there are only 2 benefits to designing on your own: you never have to concede an idea you love and you get 100% of the royalties. Even point number 1 there isn’t that much of a benefit because if your partner has the same goal as you do, then there’s a reason why they don’t like an idea of yours. Usually if this happens with Sen and I, then we let the playtesters tell us what works and what doesn’t.”
6. If you could design a game with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
“Ooooh…interesting. I think it would be Matt Leacock.” So take note, if you’re reading this, Matt! “I’ve playtested some of his games and he’s playtested some of mine, and he’s always level headed and provides great feedback. I could see working with him being great because I feel like we’d work well together. Also, Matt seems to be great at building franchises with Pandemic, the Forbidden series, and now Era! It would be great to be part of a franchise too!”
7. What are some of your personal favorite games? (Ones you worked on, or otherwise)
“I always love games that do something different. So Dominion gets a lot of love from me since it was the first deck builder I played. Mysterium is such a great experience, as is I’m the Boss. For party games, nothing can beat Time’s Up: Title Recall. Always a favorite of mine!”
8. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Jay just wanted to add the signed games that everyone can look forward to soon!:
- Complexcity – a tile laying game that is one of our favourites, but it didn’t do well on Kickstarter. The publisher is now trying to see if another publisher would be interested in partnering up on it
- 2 adventure/escape room in a box games, each based on a different – but amazing license! Designed by Sen-Foong Lim and me.
- A party game about communicating with your partner before your opponent does, in a way that gets them to draw the drawing you made and guess what it is. Designed by Chase Disher and me.
- A card battling game featuring a big license, designed by Sen-Foong Lim and me.
- A game that uses the system from another one of our games, but set in a new license and featuring new mechanics. Designed by Sen-Foong Lim, Josh Cappel and me.A party game that uses an app and multiple different ways to create clues. Designed by Sen-Foong Lim, Stefan Alexander and me.
Thanks again to Jay for speaking with me!
You can join the Off the Page Games mailing list to stay in the know about MIND MGMT.
You can find more information about all of his games on BoardGameGeek, and BoardGameAtlas.
Photos provided by Jay Cormier.
*This is not a paid/compensated promotion*
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