Today we are joined by Cartography creator Jon Adams. Cartography’s Kickstarter goes live October 14th.
I wanted to start with your background. What lead you up to Cartography?
I’m a programmer for a living. When I was younger I had roommates. Two of those roommates where programmers as well. I did websites, they did programming for video games. They got me in my nerdy days. The thing that was most influential was playing a lot of board games with them. We played Go, Settlers Of Catan and Carcasonne. All those standard games. I think that was the beginning. I had a vision for a game that had a terrain element to it. Initially, the origins of Cartography had triangular tiles with risers that would allow you to build 3D terrain. The game was more like Risk at that point. It was all about building a defensible terrain, so you needed to build a castle and a farm and all that kind of thing. The truth is, it wasn’t all that great. It had all the tediousness of Risk without the payoff. Eventually, I wound up changing the game and there was a moment I had in the car where the concept of using Go came to me.
What is it that you like about Go that you wanted to use it as a jumping off point?
Well, there’s Go and there’s Carcasonne and it’s kind of a mash-up of those two games. I think Carcasonne is successful because it’s casual while still somewhat strategic. It’s easy to play so even if you’re a horrible player you’re not going to have a miserable time. What lead me to develop Cartography is that while Carcasonne is a game that you get to build stuff, the design of it didn’t really matter all that much and you didn’t have very much control over what you built. You got to place your tile where you wanted, but it is randomized. Even a really good player can lose if they got a bad draw. And a really bad player might win if they got really lucky. When I play Carcasonne I often feel frustrated. I want to be able to effect who wins and I want to win because I’m a better player, because I built something that mattered. That is what Cartography is really all about. What you build really does matter. Where you place your tiles matters. What tiles you choose and where you place them can determine if you win or lose the game.
Why did you go with triangles when most modern board games seem to favor hexes?
I chose to use triangles initially because of the terrain aspect of the original game. I wanted to be able to have a map that flowed up and down with hillsides. Triangles are excellent for that because you can build a mesh with triangles in any orientation. You can raise or lower one of its corners without messing up the ability to add additional tiles. After removing the 3D terrain mechanic I tried different shapes.
The first reason I kept triangular tiles is because of the range of liberties they offer when using walls. (More on liberties here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Go_terms#Liberty) In Go it’s difficult enough to capture territories using a square board with four liberties per territory. Using triangular tiles with only three liberties it is a little too easy to capture, but walls can be used to create additional liberties. Walls separates tiles into multiple regions. They also create additional liberties. Adding walls can result in four and even five liberties.
The second reason is tile matching. I didn’t want Cartography to be luck based, but I also didn’t want you to have to choose from a massive range of tiles. You only need four tiles to cover all different variations of either open or a wall. I added an additional two variations that are either a gate tile or an end cap tile. Those were added to more easily start or end a wall. These five tiles make it easy to match.
What has it been like having input from potential backers before your Kickstarter is live?
It’s been really amazing! I’ve gotten great feedback. There are so many people that have taken their time to look through the preview page very carefully. People are making great suggestions and finding typos. Many people are very encouraging and excited for the Kickstarter. I’m really excited about the potential of all the interest.
What are your biggest hopes for Cartography?
My real hope is that the Kickstarter is successful and that I get the first edition off the ground. After that I hope Cartography is picked up by sombody else will take over. I’ve got a day job that I love so I’m probably not going to be a full time board game designer. I’ve been working on this for probably about 10 years. And so I doubt I’ll have another really great idea like this. I hope it has legs and that it goes somewhere. I’m just kind of excited to see if it succeeds on Kickstarter or not. If it does, I’ll feel pretty good. I’ll be happy that I made it. I like creating stuff.
What do you want people to know most about Cartography? What do you hope they get out of it?
The feedback I got at the convention was really great. There were people that would look at the game and say “Oh that looks really great”, but weren’t interested in abstracts. But the people who were interested in abstracts …there was one phrase that I said that they really responded to… “Cartography is a mash-up of Carcasonne and Go” I think that hit home for a lot of people. People who like abstracts want strategy to matter. People who like maps and who like building will really get the feel of the game pretty quickly. I think they’ll like it. I want people to see that what you build really matters; that the placement is not just aesthetic. It’s not just random placement but it really matters how you build and it effects the game.
Do you have any interest in expansions if Cartography is successful?
I have a couple expansion Ideas that I’ll either sell along with the game or if I’m still involved in the design I’d love to design them as well. But I’m not ready to let the cat out of the bag.
If you were a piece of furniture, what would you be?
Probably an old cabinet, Something with dark wood and a Spanish look.
You can follow Cartography on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/cartographygame
And check out the soon to be live Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jonopus/1695681860?token=2a0cb5f6&