Interview with designer, Wesley Lamont, on his game, COGZ. For 2-6 players, “Cogineers are all swapping segments of the broken cogtraption to repair it. As long as the segment is different, cogineers gain cognition (game points) for doing so. When a mechanism is repaired fully it can no longer be modified by the other cogineers who all have their own agenda for repairs. There is bonus cognition and bonus turns to be awarded for clever repairs as well.”
Wesley, could you share a little with us about yourself and what got you into tabletop gaming?
Wesley: I generally call myself a designer more than anything. I love making things and always have and I’m fortunate to have both an analytical and artists side to my mind which makes things such as board games far easier. I used to play tabletop games with my family as a kid but it was never very much or very often. I made my first board games in year 6 and made several until I got my first console in high school. I didn’t really get back into board games until University days where I was introduced to Magic the Gathering and realized this was something I could do and start designing games again.
What are some games that are hitting your table lately?
Wesley: I don’t really get a huge amount of time to play games outside of running game testing days. Lately I’ve had fellow designers making Blokaganda and Monte Carlo going through play testing as well as Rogue Blitz, Glitz and Snakez: Battle Arena which are games I’m currently focused on playtesting. I did get to try Eclipse recently and really enjoyed it for a first play. Takenoko has had a few runs as has Goblin Inc and Gonzaga.
Your game, COGZ has been out for some time, but I really wanted to interview you about it, as it is a really enjoyable game (see our review). Could you tell us a little bit about what type of game it is and give us an overview on how it is played?
Wesley: Sure, it is a simple Steam Punk Mad-Science themed game about fixing the professor broken cogtraption. The game play revolves around the cogineers (players) swapping out sections of the machine to repair it through they all have their own ideas of how it should be repaired. There are ways of fixing mechanisms in the cogtraption and earning bonus cognition (points) from particular moves.
What is the story behind the game’s creation?
Wesley: The original idea for the game came from a Global Game Jam were you are given 48 hours to complete a game. The theme was the Oroboros and the original game had the tiles representing snakes and snack head tiles as the tiles which locked down things. That was called Gaeon and then was left for about a year. After the year I came back to the game removed the snake head tiles, really liked the game and started play testing anew. Then it went through a crazy number of iterations and became COGZ to build in some theme and story to the game.
The game has a very classic Knizia feel to it – I suppose it in how you score at the end of the game, like Ingenious. Did his designer inspire you?
Wesley: I do like Reiner’s designs and COGZ is certainly most similar to Ingenious in terms of mechanics. I wouldn’t say the game was inspired by his like of lower score system as much as that was the best mechanic to use. I got lots of comparisons originally and didn’t really want that association, but it ended up the best mechanic to implement and I didn’t want to sacrifice any game play.
Can we talk about the game gadget for a second. For readers that don’t know it is a little thing you piece together and you turn the dial to how many players there are in this current game. In doing so, not only does it tell you how many rounds there will be (and you count down with the gadget from there) but also the board layout for the player count. It is really cool. Where did the idea of this come from?
Wesley: I originally had a turn counter that was a generic ring with marker on it. It was the suggestion of Dann May to move the game away from the abstract to a themed game and that was were I went down the direction of steampunk which is classically shown with elaborate complicated gear systems so it made sense to bring that about. I actually planned for a far more complex planetary gear system but cardboard doesn’t really lend itself to going super complex. The player number and setup was always intended, but the board size was actually an idea from a playtester which I thought was brilliant.
COGZ not only comes with standard rules, but a whole separate booklet full of variant ideas, which is a very nice touch. Do you have a favorite variant rule?
Wesley: I’m not sure I have a favourite. I love cooperative games and I’ve even had a tournament for the Arch Nemesis variant. The mastery variants I really enjoy mixing those up as well. Passing around tiles adds another entire strategic layer to the game and watching players interact nicely (or otherwise) is always fun.
You heavily tested your game with color blind players (of various versions of color blindness) – why was this important to you do? Why go that extra step?
Wesley: I want to make all my games as accessible as possible. Even the original game I made in 30 hours or so had the textures for colourblindess. The main reason was the game was reliant on colour matching and I’ve never been a fan of having text or symbols to define colours unless they are intrinsic to the overall design of the game. I’m not sure why I’m keen on the idea as much as I am but I see no reason not too I guess. I even wanted to make a fully blind version with tactless textures for blind but realized it would come down to a massive memory task for any blind player and wouldn’t really be the enjoyable experience I would want.
When you were still prototyping COGZ, what was the best piece of feedback you received from a playtester?
Wesley: There were some great ideas over the time it was played. The board setup size on the back of the game gadget was certainly one, Recommendations to make a massive version and talk to Mensa were others (not direct feedback).
Was there something that you cut from COGZ during prototyping that was really hard to do at the time, but now you look back and know you made the right choice?
Wesley: By the time the game was known as COGZ it was pretty solid and the refinements were fairly minimal. I can’t recall much in the way of cuts. When it was Gaeon removing the snake heads was utterly the correct decision and allowed a more strategic game.
What was your favorite part of designing the game?
Wesley: The art creation side and the engineering creation side (the gear mechanism) both of those things I really enjoy.
What was the most challenging part of designing it?
Wesley: The time required by far was the biggest. I don’t find design to be particularly hard but the time to go through and develop, iterate, play test and refine a game to completion is by far the hardest part.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in designing COGZ?
Wesley: Probably the effort in finalizing a product, shipping and manufacturing. I was lucky enough to have background in pre-press production, graphic design and graphic artistry so certain aspects were easy although time consuming.
What is one thing we haven’t covered today that you think fans of COGZ would find interesting?
Wesley: Firstly: I would recommend trying some of the variants included and make up some as well. I’ve had a few fans send me their own ideas which has been fantastic.
Secondly: There is actually a larger story behind COGZ. It was suppose to be hinted on the box, but the manufacturer stuffed up an aspect and it was cut out. Suffice to say perhaps the Professor doesn’t want the Cogtraption repaired 🙂
Thirdly: The Power Move. This is actually shown in the rules (as an example) but many players are still surprised to find out about it. The rules state each side of the placed tile scores equal to the chain length. With that logic if you have a double tile (both segments the same colour) and you connect it to a loop you will actually score double for the shape. A peanut shape for example of the same colour missing the central tile had a double placed in the middle both sides would score 8 plus the bonus for completing the mechanism giving a score of 16+2 for that single placement.
When you step back and look at the finished product, what makes you the most proud that you designed COGZ?
Wesley: The depth of game play I’m most proud of. I enjoy watching new players ‘get’ it and see their faces go Ooooohhhhh at some point when they realize another thing they can do or try.
If you had to describe COGZ in 3 adjectives, what would you choose?
Wesley: Clever, Fun, Deep
Do you have anything else coming out soon, that we should be keeping a look out for?
Wesley: I have Glitz, Snakes: Battle Arena and Rogue Blitz on the horizon, but it is hard to find time to pin them down for development.
As we wrap this up, is there anything else you would like to add?
Wesley: Yes! 😉
Ha! Thanks Wesley for taking some time out to do this interview.