Capstone Games Launches "Simply Complex" Line with The Climbers

The Climbers

Some ideas just hit you like lightning. Once they’ve worked their way into the folds of your brain, they will not relent until they've achieved fruition. Such was the case with Clay Ross and The Climbers.

Ross is CEO of Capstone Games, a Union, Ohio game publisher who specializes in reprints of heavy euro games that are not easily found in the U.S. He stumbled upon The Climbers in 2016 at Buckeye Game Fest in Columbus.

“One of my buddies showed it to me and was like, ‘Dude, you gotta try to get this game.’” Ross recalls. “I was like ‘Whaaaa—?’ It looked so simple, but cool, because it's a bunch of blocks on the table and all that.”

The Climbers wasn’t Capstone’s typical fair. Since their inception last year, the startup has re-released such games as Arkwright, Three Kingdoms Redux, and Haspelknecht—historical European-styled titles with reputations for being rules-heavy—pretty much the opposite of the simple, abstract-themed play of The Climbers.

In The Climbers, up to five players’ pawns must scale a randomly-assembled tower of wooden blocks. Each of the six sides of the blocks is painted to match one of the players’ colors, and one side is neutral. On a player’s turn, he or she can only move onto a block that has that player’s color or the neutral color facing up. They can also only move onto a block that is shorter in height than their pawn. Players may move one unoccupied block during their turn, rotating it to display another face, or placing it somewhere lower where they can climb it. Players also have ladders they can use once per game to ascend the taller blocks.

“After playing it, I was just like, 'that was way more intense than I thought it was gonna be!' And so I knew there was something there for it,” Ross recalls.

It was obvious to Ross that The Climbers was a special game that would have wide market appeal. He set to obtain the licensing from Chili Spiele, the German company who originally produced the game in 2008.

“Chili Spiele had printed some copies, but it's very expensive to produce, and they just couldn't do it economically,” Ross explains. “I think it was just at the wrong time, and the cost was too high to manufacture the game. It just wasn't feasible.”

The original version of the game, which is known as Die Aufsteiger in Germany, was sold in a lower-quality, thin plastic box, which could easily fall apart. The colors on the blocks’ sides were muted, almost pastel in appearance. Ross wanted to make his version a little more pleasing to the eye.

“We got the license late last year, and we've been pretty hard at work on just creating the new edition and sprucing it up a little bit. The colors of this edition pop,” he tells Casual Game Revolution. “It just looks really cool.”

The real star of the show, however, is The Climbers' easy, intuitive, gameplay. Ross tells of the children who visited Capstone Games’ booth last month at Origins Game Fair, where he premiered the title.

“We had kids coming up to the booth,” Ross says. “They must've been 5- or 6-years-old, and they're like, 'I just wanna play it!' and they knew what the heck to do. And seeing that is just so cool. It's just a very friendly and approachable game. A 5-year-old up to Grandma and Grandpa could be playing this game.”

He adds, “It's just so simple of a design. It's an elegant design that's just natural. There's nothing fiddly about it.”

With the simple gameplay of The Climbers in contrast to his other titles, Ross didn’t feel he should release the new game under the Capstone Games banner. Instead he sought to create a new brand for the title.

“I didn't want to publish it under Capstone Games, because I don't want to dilute that brand. Capstone's known for heavy, big-box games with your traditional, euro-style gameplay. And The Climbers is nothing close to that,” Ross says.

However, though the gameplay can be explained in less than a minute, the decisions and strategy in The Climbers are real. That’s when Ross and a friend came up with the idea for a new line, Simply Complex.

The Climbers rendering

“It's still complex; it's still got that meat on it,” Ross says. “It's very, very simple to teach, but when you play it, you realize the complexity is much deeper than you originally thought. And that just fit what I was going for on this new line so perfectly.”

The Climbers will be the first of two titles on the Simply Complex line which have been licensed. The second, Neue Heimat, is tentatively planned for a Gen Con 2018 release. It was another Chili Spiele title using wooden pieces.

“Neue Heimat is the most cut-throat bidding game I've ever played. It's nasty. You can get really mean with it. And it's so, so good,” Ross tells us excitedly. “We're gonna change the name, redo the artwork. Make it look really good, just like we did with The Climbers.”

In the end, Ross says he just wanted The Climbers to finally get the attention and accessibility it deserves.

“I think we really achieved that. It's gonna be available throughout distribution retail. We're really gonna make it widely available, and I think it just needs to happen. We're just trying to do justice to the game,” Ross says.

Capstone Games will have a limited number of copies of The Climbers available for sale at Gen Con this year, with an official release a little later in 2017. The game will retail for $50.