Bringing Together the Titans - An Interview with Ray Wehrs

In every field of interest there are those who stand as giants among men, Peyton Manning, Lebron James, Steve Jobs. And even in the gaming world there are luminaries, such as Richard Garfield, Paul Peterson, Mike Elliott, and Eric Lang just to name a few…

Well one man has dared to harness the power of these titans into one giant campaign to end all campaigns: The Titan Series. That man is Ray Wehrs, and lucky for us he’s joining us today!

Ray, thanks for joining us! To get things started, tell us a little about Ray Wehrs, and also Calliope Games.

Thanks for having me! I’m Ray Wehrs, the President of Calliope Games. I’m from the Chicagoland area originally but now live in Sammamish, WA. It’s beautiful here but no one makes good pizza. ":^{D> When I’m not working, I’m out drinking craft beer, riding one of my Harleys through the mountains, or spending time with my beautiful wife and daughters.

Calliope Games is the second game company I’ve started with Jordan Weisman, my brother-in-law. We focus on affordable, family-friendly gateway games that play in less than an hour and are carefully designed to allow kids and adults to compete on an even playing field. We believe that people are the true source of entertainment; our games are simply the instigator of the entertainment experience.  

How did you get started with modern board games?

I was drafted! When Dawne and Jordan Weisman (my sister and brother-in-law) started WizKids in 1999, they asked me to be a part of it. I had no idea what I was getting into, but sixteen years later I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Jordan was an incredible mentor, and his idea for the combat dial and Mage Knight made the venture a huge success.

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?

Jordan ran across Tom McMurchie and Tsuro in a friendly local game store about ten years ago. He immediately fell in love with Tsuro’s elegance and accessibility. Luckily, Tom was interested in publishing the game, and so Tsuro got its start with WizKids.

Unfortunately, Tsuro had few strong supporters at WizKids. Thanks in large part to the bean counters, collectible games always took precedence. When NECCA bought WizKids from Topps, the game license reverted back to Tom. When I found out, I contacted him right away and started our existing relationship, which has been very good for both of us!

This year is actually Tsuro’s tenth anniversary! We’re celebrating both with an app coming out later this year from Thunderbox Entertainment, and with a gorgeous anniversary edition of the board game. If I have my way, it will feature dragon and phoenix miniatures, a raw silk board, and carved wooden box.

You’ve brought some heavy hitters to the table with the Titan Series. How did you manage to round up such a deep stable of designers?

I asked nicely! ":^{D>

Kidding aside, it was fairly easy to get all the designers on board with the idea of the Titan Series. We are all looking for ways to grow the industry and find new ways to entertain people. When I presented the “big picture,” they instantly fell in love with the project. It didn’t hurt that some of them already had concepts for gateway games in mind but hadn’t found the right publisher to work with. Others were simply excited by the challenge of creating a gateway game. In some ways, I think designing a gateway game is more difficult than designing a heavier game. A gateway game needs to have fewer rules and fiddly bits and still captivate a player’s interest.

For me, the hardest part about getting the team together was selecting the designers!

The Titan Series is a series of 9 gateway games… why gateway games?

Gateway games strike a careful balance between accessibility and engagement, and offer something for every level of gamer. If you’ve never played a board game before, you can join in with a gateway game without being overwhelmed by a thick rulebook or two-hour experience.

Experienced players benefit from gateway games as well. Waiting for your entire gaming group to show up? Just finished a long fight with an Elder God? Get taken out in a player elimination game? You can use gateway games to warm up, refresh, and wind down.

In short, gateway games are the palate cleansers, appetizers, and dessert of the gaming world. We recommend three servings a week.

You’ve lumped NINE games into one singular Kickstarter campaign. I think the question most folks are asking is: ARE YOU MAD!?!?!

That’s what they tell me! ":^{D>

We know the project breaks all the rules of a traditional tabletop Kickstarter but we’re getting back to what Kickstarter was originally intended to be: a funding platform for creative projects rather than a preorder system.

It’s true that some folks won’t back the project because they’re worried about the unknowns. That’s okay; they can support their friendly local game stores when the games hit retail shelves. Our backers, on the other hand, are excited about being able to work alongside Calliope and the Titans to create a line of truly great experiences—not to mention the exclusive box art only available to Kickstarter backers.

Any Kickstarter is a risk proposition, but with Calliope’s track record and the Titans’ skills, we believe the Titan Series is a good one.

What are some of your favorite games (outside of those in the The Titan Series, of course)?

Among the Calliope titles, my favorite is Double Double Dominoes by Seth Johnson. Outside Calliope’s catalog, I really like Jaipur by Sébastien Pauchonand and Martian Dice by Scott Almes.

What’s the most important thing in life?

My faith in Christ and my family.

I cherish God’s love and forgiveness every day. His blessings have provided me with three girls; two daughters, Nicki and Ashley, and my wife Michele. The three of them make my world go round. I’m very lucky that way. They’re all smarter than I am, so keeping up with them is a challenge—one that I love.

Like any good Kickstarter campaign you’ve got some stretch goals… your stretch goals add more games by more designers…. ARE YOU MAD?!?

There so many excellent designers out there. Narrowing down the Titans to our original list was the hardest part about the project. After it was announced, however, we were approached by several additional designers we just couldn’t say no to. Among them is Peggy Brown, who has designed more hit games than I have fingers and toes, and a famous designer from across the pond that will be revealed as we hit our stretch goals.

While this does add to the scope of the project, we’re not squeezing it into the same timeline. We intend to lovingly craft each of these games into a great experience; therefore, stretch goal games will extend the timeline of the project. I think that makes us a little less crazy.

Which game in the series are you looking forward to most?

Since some of the games are further along than others, it’s difficult for me to say; however, I’m very excited about Zach and Jordan Weisman’s game. I will admit I’m partial to my nephew but the playtests have all been very successful, and with a few more tweaks it should be ready to go. While it’s currently themed as a food game, the mechanics are flexible and could be skinned in many different ways.

Lightning round: Five quick questions, and five quick answers!

The first word that came to mind when you saw Han and Chewie in the new Star Wars trailer?

I had no words.

Why is the sky blue?

Because God made it that way.

Mary Poppins or Wizard of Oz?

Wizard of Oz.

Sunrise or Sunset?


Favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?


We'd like to thank Ray for spending a little time with us to share about the Titan Series. If you want to check it out you can find it on Kickstarter RIGHT HERE!