It’s Gen Con time! This year for Gen Con we’re doing something a little different: over the four days of Gen Con (the Best Four Days!) we’ll be highlighting five of our favorite family game companies to showcase their awesomeness! Yes 5…because I want to that’s why. On the final day of Gen Con we are bringing you our final Gen Con company spotlight, Calliope Games!
Calliope Games was founded in 2009 and has been putting out amazing games from the start. With a wide variety in themes and mechanics it seems like the only thing that connects Calliope’s games together is their top-notch quality and incredible fun.
While it is absolutely true that all of Calliope’s games are extremely fun, they’ve also created a story based around the Ancient Greek muse of the same name. What’s especially great about this story is that they’ve cleverly worked each of their games into the story to make for an interesting and fun ongoing tale.
We’ve been lucky enough to get to spend time with a lot of the Calliope staff thanks to Gen Con – we stop by a few times each day easily. Their staff and volunteers have been so friendly and our whole family loves playing their games it’s easy to spend quite a while there.
We also got to chat with Ray Wehrs, President of Calliope Games: MG = My Geeklings | RW = Ray Wehrs
MG – How did Calliope get started?
RW – In 2009, we (Myself, Dawne Weisman (my sister), Jordan Weisman) launched Compound Fun, LLC. With two brands… Wells Expeditions and Calliope Games. Wells is a line of games (still to be developed) focused on the core hobby gaming community “Gamers” and while Calliope focused on family games.
Our first title was done by Wells Expeditions – Arcane Legions; it was a great game, however we overestimated the markets potential and the game was unable to sustain itself.Afterwards we had to regroup, and we focused all our efforts on Calliope… pulling families together through a common experience that everyone could enjoy and participate in. Tsuro was our first title, followed shortly by Got’Em! and Ugh! And we haven’t looked back since!
MG – What was the first game you published?
RW – As Calliope Games, Tsuro
MG – You probably get a lot of games and game ideas pitched to you. Do you publish other people’s games or just develop your own?
RW – We do both. For us, it’s really about finding the best games that fit our mission: putting family and friends around the table where they can enjoy each other company without the assistance of technology — getting folks to put the cell phone down, step away from work, and get in some real face time with family and friends.
MG – Who decides what games to publish and how do you decide what game idea is going to be a good one?
RW – It’s a team effort, but I do have the final say. That said, we have some very specific criteria we are looking at; the games must:
- Be fun to play, but easy to learn
- Entertain 2-6 people minimum
- Are targeted at adults, but allow children as young as 8 to play and compete without the adult “throwing” the game
- Play in 60 minutes or less
- Retail for $30 or less.
In reality, it’s not about the game… it’s about the people playing the games. Calliope games are not the entertainment, they are the facilitator of the entertainment. It’s really the people that make playing the games fun. In choosing the games we publish, we always ask if people playing can enjoy the company while playing. If a game is too much of a “brain burner” or “it’s intimidating” or it doesn’t fit today’s busy life style and family budget… we just say “no”, even though the game may be a very good game by other standards.
MG – Do you specifically look for games that are great for kids and adults?
RW – This is really important question. We put a ton of thought behind this when we asked ourselves “What is a Calliope Game?”. Make no mistake about it, our game are intended for adults; however, a child as young as 8 can play and compete without the adult throwing the game. What we are really doing is asking the child to step up into the adults world instead of asking the adult to step down into the child’s world. I truly think this is one of the Calliope traits that separates us from many of the games on the market today.
MG – I know a lot of time and hard work goes into making games, what is the hardest game or game that took the longest to publish? and why?
RW – We are currently still working on a game that will be released in 2017 that by the time it’s on the shelf will have taken ~6 years to develop. There are really 2 reasons:
- Fun – making games fun to play is hard work
- Simplicity – Many games / ideas come to us that are sound in concept but are either not fun to play in the existing format or are simply too complicated for a Calliope Game. Paring games down so that they are easy to understand, but still fun to play is a very tough task… but we are always up for the challenge!
As you can see, Calliope has some pretty high standards for its games and it really shows. We’ve played their games in a ton of different settings and with different groups and they never disappoint! Here are a few of the Calliope’s games we’ve really enjoyed:
Double Double Dominoes takes the classic game of dominoes and adds new elements that make it even more fun. Take turns placing dominoes and earn points for putting them on certain spaces on the board. Double Dominoes are worth DOUBLE the points! Keep on eye on what everyone plays, if your point marker is on that number you get even MORE points! Choose the right dominoes and the right spots to play them to get the most points to become the Double Double Domino champion!
Ugh! is a hilarious card game by Calliope that my kids like to play with and without us. Your goal is to get the most points but the trick is you can only get points from “locked” sets of cards (basically 1 of each color). Beware the Ugh! card as that can cause you to lose cards!
Roll for It! is a dice management game so to speak. You have cards, get to roll dice and keep points…what more can you ask for in a game? Oh wait…there is more! It is inexpensive and portable and if you want to play with more than 4 people simply get the other color of the game! I love games that I can take with me and expand to allow for more people AND are tons of fun!
Check out Calliope Games at #GenCon50 at booth # 1901.