Interview with Cogito Ergo Meeple & Solar 175 Preview
If you’re just here for the Solar 175 preview, click here to go to page two.
Cogito Ergo Meeple are the brains behind the Philosophia titles Dare To Be Wise and Floating World, and the upcoming Sci-fi epic, Solar 175. I had the chance to grab some time with them to ask a few questions about the team, their games, and their taste in biscuits.
Let’s start at the beginning, would you like to introduce yourself, tell us what you do, and let us know a bit more about Cogito Ergo Meeple?
We’re Maddie and Joe, co-owners of tabletop game publishing company Cogito Ergo Meeple. We’ve published two games so far, both of which are big box board games that incorporate sandbox style play. When designing our games, player experience is the highest priority so we work very hard to ensure high quality gameplay through extensive playtesting. We have a new euro style legacy game called Solar 175 which is coming to Kickstarter on the 1st March!
You mentioned your first two games. Those two, the Philosophia titles Dare To Be Wise and Floating World, had classical, historical settings. What was the inspiration behind them?
We are both teachers and the first game started as a fun way to teach our students about ancient Greek Philosophy, hence the ancient Greek setting. For the second game we were inspired by the amazing ukiyo-e artwork of Japan. We have been living and working in Tokyo for the last 6 years and so this city and its rich history was a huge influence on the game.
Morality and ethics are clearly at the heart of what you do, challenging players to think and feel. Is it something you always had in mind for your games?
Yes, engaging with difficult and interesting ideas has always been a key part of what we want our games to be. We love the medium of tabletop games as a method to get people together to interact with complex and difficult ideas in a fun and engaging way. First and foremost our games are designed to be fun but if players also leave the table with a little more knowledge or an improved skill that can only be a good thing!
So looking forward now, to Solar 175. The first thing that strikes me is that it’s a dramatic change in setting. What made you go from designs set in the past, to something based in space?
We’ve always been interested in the concept of exploration within a game and we have been working on the worldbuilding of Solar 175 for many years so we felt this was the next game we had to make! There are actually quite a few similarities between our past games and Solar 175, even though they may sound very different at first glance. Solar 175 could really be seen as a spiritual successor to our last game, Philosophia: Floating World. Both are fast paced games with a deckbuilding/bagbuilding element and a high level of player interaction. Actually the biggest city in the Solar 175 universe is Yurushi which is located where Tokyo is today so many of the same themes come through in both games despite seeming so different at first glance.
It’s more about the theme of exploration then, rather than any particular setting? That’s really interesting. With Solar 175, how long has it taken you to go from initial concept to what’s about to be launched on Kickstarter? Were there any major changes to the game you can share with us?
Many years! We started off by developing the world and, as time has gone on, the Solar 175 universe has slowly become more vivid in our minds. It has been a long process but it has meant that the gameplay development has been great fun as we had this vast rich universe to create and playtest our game within. The legacy elements came in early in order to allow players to explore the universe we had created and to feel its huge scope and scale. Once the world had developed to a point where we were happy with it, we spent the last 2 years perfecting the gameplay to make sure the player experience was as fun and engaging as we had envisioned.
One major change to the game along the design process was the core mechanics. We settled on an interaction of bag building, area control and worker placement mechanics, all of which we feel match the theme really well and provide engaging and interesting gameplay experiences. However, early on we set our sights on the card drafting mechanic but it just didn’t hit the mark. It worked well for the first few games but it just didn’t have the level of replayability we were looking for.
Thanks for the insight, I find it fascinating to know what ends up on the Cutting Room floor. Solar 175 has the addition of a legacy-style campaign. It sounds like a legacy game with a difference to many though, as nothing is destroyed, only improved. Can you give us an example of how that might happen in the game?
Yes, great question! This is our key design philosophy behind using the legacy mechanic. We found that many players see their board games as permanent collectable items and that the destructive nature of legacy campaigns can end up making these games feel cheap and disposable. Our aim is to keep the excitement and permanence of the genre but remove the disposability. The solar system of Solar 175 will continue to expand and evolve endlessly. Throughout the campaign you will be unlocking material and building the story of the world and this will not stop. An example of this is shown in the miniatures we have used. Like all our previous games we have put a big focus on creating a high quality production so players feel that they are gaining new permanent items rather than feeling like they are replacing disposable ones.
I’m positive that feeling of the game not being disposable is one which will resonate with readers, me included! I saw you mention that both Orleans and El Grandé are inspirations for Solar 175. Are there other classics – new or old – which you’d like to draw inspiration from for future games?
We try to learn something from every game we play, tabletop is so full of new and innovative ideas right now that there is no shortage of places to go. Although the medium is literally ancient it seems like there has been a seismic shift of possibilities in the last 20 years and we are still only scratching the surface of that! In terms of specifics I’m not sure as we tend to look for the mechanics that fit best with the game rather than starting the other way around but there are many classic games which have influenced us!
Given those influences, what sort of person do you think will enjoy playing Solar 175?
Solar 175 is a big heavy game with a rich theme. Gameplay wise it is a bag builder so if you enjoy deck building games you will find the core feel of this familiar. If you enjoy the rich narrative of games like Gloomhaven you will also find a lot to like in Solar 175. It is for players who would enjoy the deep strategy of a complex euro game mixed in with a rich narrative and quality components. It is certainly aimed at people who are heavily into this hobby as it is not a light gateway game!
Finally, and maybe most importantly, what’s your favourite biscuit?
Chocolate digestives for sure, you just can’t beat them!
Thanks for your time folks, and a fine choice of biscuit.
Now head to Page Two to read the preview of Solar 175.