Inside the Titan Series: An Interview with Ray Wehrs of Calliope Games | Casual Game Revolution

Inside the Titan Series: An Interview with Ray Wehrs of Calliope Games

Titan Series

What happens when you assemble a team of all-star game designers to create new casual games? You get the Titan Series, an upcoming line from our friends at Calliope Games. This series has really piqued our interest, as the prospects of such an undertaking go right along with our cause. The Titan Series is coming soon to Kickstarter — a preview of the campaign is available right now.

We recently reached out to Ray Wehrs, President of Calliope Games, to learn more about this unique company and this new line of games.

CGR: Hello Ray, thanks for taking a moment to speak with us. Please tell us a little about yourself, your family, and your background in gaming.

Ray: It’s my pleasure!

I have three girls; two daughters, Nicki and Ashley, and my wife Michele. The three of them make my world go round. I’m very blessed that way. They’re all smarter than I am, so keeping up with them is a challenge—one that I love. I could talk about my girls forever! If anyone is interested in meeting them, they’ll be helping out at the Calliope booth at Gen Con.

I grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, attended Schaumburg High School, and graduated from Southern Illinois University. After I graduated SIU, I never really got a nine to five. Instead, I worked for myself and as an entrepreneur.  My sister and brother-in-law, Dawne and Jordan Weisman, drafted me into the game industry in 1999 when we started WizKids. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor than Jordan. His incredible idea of the combat dial and Mage Knight made the venture a huge success, and I gleaned much of my experience and knowledge of the game industry from my time there. I’ve also worked with Smith & Tinker, Mayfair Games, and now run Calliope Games. It’s been a fun sixteen years and I plan on doing it for many more years to come!

Work aside, I’m a strong believer in the Trinity, and love spending time with my family.  I enjoy riding Harleys, drinking craft beer, hiking, listening to high fidelity music, and supporting various charities through fundraising.

CGR: Calliope Games is best known for publishing several hit casual games, most notably Tsuro. How did you first get involved in game publishing, and how did you come across Tsuro?

Ray: When we stared WizKids, Dawne and Jordan also owned a really nice game store in Redmond, WA. One afternoon, Tsuro designer Tom McMurchie brought the game in and was playing the game with some of the other patrons.  Jordan saw them playing and immediately fell in love with Tsuro’s elegance and accessibility. He asked Tom if he was interested in publishing the game. Tom was, and that’s where Tsuro began.

Unfortunately, Tsuro only had a few strong supporters at WizKids; the bean counters always questioned its existence in the WizKids offering. When WizKids was sold, Tsuro took a back seat to the collectible games—so much so that when NECCA bought WizKids from Topps, the game license reverted back to Tom. When I found out, I immediately contacted Tom and started our existing relationship, which has been very good for both of us!

CGR: There are many different kinds of games out there. As a publisher, what do you look for in a game?

Ray: That’s a really good question, and it’s one I’ve spent countless hours deliberating. The answer is what defines a Calliope Game. Calliope games must be:

  • able to entertain two-six players (sometimes as many as eight);
  • playable within 40-60 minutes;
  • affordable (the majority of our games retail for $30 or less);
  • fun!

Finally, Calliope games need to be accessible; while the games are designed, developed, and targeted at adults, kids as young as eight need to be able to read the rules and compete on an even playing field.

The word “fun” means different things to different people. For me, the fun in games comes from the experience created between the participants. Games should facilitate interaction, stimulate personalities, and casually challenge a person’s intellect.

CGR: Sounds like we're on the same page! How does this compare with your personal gaming interests?

Ray: It’s spot on! If I’m picking the game—and quite often I do because many of my friends simply don’t play board games enough to know a good game—I choose games that fit the Calliope criteria.

CGR: We have heard buzz about the upcoming Titan Series of "gateway" games. Could you tell us more about it?

Ray: The Titan Series, at its core, goes back to my previous comment. Despite the plethora of really good and readily available games in the marketplace right now, many of my friends simply don’t play board games. Some haven’t tried playing because they’re too intimidated by the rules. In some cases, past experiences have made them dislike games altogether. I think that’s unfortunate, and strongly feel folks who aren’t playing tabletop games are missing out on a wonderful opportunity!

So how do we introduce this vast audience to the experiences that today’s board games create? I think the answer lies within the gaming community itself. As gamers play more games and get more experience, lighter gateway games tend to be overshadowed by meatier titles. Unfortunately, those heavier games become barriers to entering the hobby for the majority of the population, both in price and rules set.

The Titan Series addresses that. It is a collection of gateway games by well-known designers who are respected by the gamer community. If we can get gamers to play gateway games by their favorite game designers with their family and friends, everybody wins. Gamers will get to play a light but engaging game crafted by a designer they know and love. Meanwhile, their family is introduced to tabletop gaming by a game that’s fun and accessible. Ultimately, the number of people engaged in gaming will increase as gamers utilize these games as recruitment tools for the hobby.

Titan Designers

CGR: Is this a whole new direction for Calliope Games?

Ray: It’s a step towards furthering our core objective. We set out with the intent to entertain as many people as possible, whether they’re hardcore gamers or just getting started.

CGR: For the Titan Series, you have brought together many of the "rock stars" of gaming to share their design expertise. Please tell us more about the design team you have assembled and how you were able to get them on board.

Ray: I’ve been in the game industry for a long time. Many of the Titans either are friends of mine or run in the same circles. More importantly, I’m asking them to do something different. I didn’t ask Richard to design a collectible card game, or request an alternative to the combat dial from Jordan…I asked them to design a Calliope game. Each of them is excited about the challenge and the ultimate goal of expanding the hobby.

As you’ve said, each of these gentlemen is a rock star within the gaming industry. They’re all extremely talented and think outside the norm. They also have distinctly different styles, and I’m excited to see their unique methods of design manifest in the Titan games. These games are games they each really want to do rather than something I’ve mandated to them. For that reason, the Kickstarter campaign for the Titan Series is as much about fulfilling a goal of theirs as it is mine.

CGR: What games will you be publishing first, and why? Any details you can share about them?

Ray: The games are in varying stages of development. Though we plan to release the first three games within twelve months of the Kickstarter funding, I can’t commit to a release schedule by designer just yet. What we are committing to is bringing a set of games by the world’s best game designers to fruition as a publisher with the talent pool to make that happen.

I can tell you that the games are being targeted at different genres. We’ll have a party game, a word game, a worker placement game, a light strategy game, a dice game (that uses dice in a way you aren’t expecting), a game of luck, etc. We’re doing our best to pique the interest of a very wide segment of the population within the series. That way, when the time comes, our backers should be able to fulfill the interest of their guests.

CGR: Thanks again for your time, Ray! We look forward to your new games and will keep our eyes peeled for the Kickstarter campaign. What is the best way to keep up with the latest news from Calliope Games?

Ray: You’re welcome, Chris! I appreciate you spreading the word about Calliope Games and the Titan Series. Your readers are welcome to follow us any number of ways:

You can also follow our blog or subscribe to our newsletter.

Thanks again for the support!