What Board Game will feature one publisher each month to take a look at some of their best games and discuss with the team what it's like to work in the wonderful world of board game publishing.
With over 4.5 million copies of The Exit games alone, Kosmos are a serious player, and for me, one of the best when it comes to small box two player games.
Below, WBG reviews three of KOSMOS best games, but first, let's chat with Nicky Thomas-Davies, the UK Board Game Sales and Marketing Manager.
What got me into board games
My mum is German so we were raised playing cards as well as the usual trifecta of Monopoly, Trivial Pursuits and Scrabble! I lived down the road from Moseley Bog and Sarehole Mill in Birmingham, so I became a bit of a Tolkien/fantasy geek. I played D&D at school and that kind of got me in with people who played board games. Since then I've built up a collection of games that we play regularly and obviously I now have the Kosmos collection to play too! #ihavethebestjob
What is life at Kosmos like?
Kosmos Games is part of Thames and Kosmos. The UK office is situated in the sleepy town of Cranbrook in Kent. We have six staff members and sell a wide range of Science and STEM kits as well as games. I am the Board Game Sales and Marketing Manager and started at T+K in January of this year. I feel I have lucked out finding such a fabulously supportive, interesting company just five minutes from my house in the depths of the Kentish countryside. I am basically responsible for making sure that people know about our games, keeping in touch with our trade customers and dealing with Games PR. More recently I have been having input into games designed here in the UK and liaising with game designers and editors. Over lockdown I was busy setting up our new website which went live in June 2020. I was hoping to experience my first Games Expo but I am looking forward to attending lots of virtual cons over the next few months!
How does Kosmos find designers?
The main Kosmos office in Germany selects all the games but many UK authors have been successful. The Editing department have made UKGE a regular hunting ground for new material. Kosmos has a certain family friendly style of game, and there are some authors who we work particularly well with, as their style matches ours (Inka and Markus Brand, Reiner Knizia etc), but we also like to work with new authors, Thomas Sing being a good example! Sometimes a game will be in the editing department for three years before it gets published so patience, perseverance and drive definitely help.
What makes The Crew successful?
The Crew was one of the first new games to come out when I started at T+K so I have a particular attachment to it. I was so thrilled when it was nominated for KSdJ! What makes it popular is that Thomas Sing has taken an element that most people know, trick taking, and turned it on its head by making it co-operative. Marco Armbruster has managed to squeeze so many sci-fi in-jokes into the illustrations and the logbook is a fun idea. I think people like the fact that it is a series of quick tricks, so you end up playing 'just one more hand' - usually until 2am! You can also just dip into the missions where you like, you don't always have to start from scratch every time. I've just translated five bonus sets of missions that will be released in conjunction with Thames and Kosmos in the States so even if you have finished the 50 missions there will be some more to keep you entertained!
Well we have the SdJ nominated My City coming out in in the UK in July which we are obviously super excited about. Reiner Knizia writes some amazing games and I think this one will be a summer hit. It's easy enough to learn and has enough going on to keep it entertaining for the whole family. I love a legacy game so I can't wait for this one to hit our shores. Autumn will bring two more Exit games and another Adventure Game and we have Aqualin arriving in a couple of months. We also have some cracking new games due in the new year that will blow your socks off so keep watching our social media for updates as they arrive! I will be dipping my toes into the virtual games expo world and Kosmos UK will obviously be supporting Virtually Expo (UKGE) later in the year. I hope you will come and say Hello!
What Board Game Collective
Publisher of the Month
WBG's Top Three KOSMOS Games:
Targi is in WBG's opinion, the best small box two player game out there. It feels like you are playing such a "bigger" game. The choices and strategy within this tiny box are huge. The gameplay is smooth, satisfying and rewarding. You will feel absorbed throughout and the scoring mechanic is such that it is hard to guess who is going to be the winner until the final scoring, (unless someone races ahead with tribe cards, but that is very rare) and as such, at all times, both players are engrossed.
There is only one small issue some have with this game, that we here at WBG don't necessarily agree with, but can understand; and that is the slow play and analysis paralysis that can occur during the placement of the Targi. This however, is fixed with the expansion. The slow play can come from the fact that on your turn, you are placing one of three Targi meeples on a boarder card, looking to intersect with your other Targi placed that turn. This is important as you don’t only get the benefit of the card you place your characters on, but also from the points at which they intersect. The choices are agonising sometimes, but also somewhat limited so people can “think-on-it”! With the expansion you are given extra possibilities with the introduction of the Sand Dune cards. The extra options don’t only provide intriguing new choices, but free up the battleground around the main boarder cards; thus, removing the previous slow play that can occur.
This game is essentially a worker placement game with set collection. Normally in worker placement games, I like a lot of choice. But here the limited choice makes it tense and the tension makes the game fun. Some critics of the game say this tension creates a quiet game, which I understand. But for us, we are screaming (in a fun way) at each other when a certain position is taken from us, and the game creates a competitive laughter rather than silence. The game plays in around an hour, and I absolutely love it every minute of every game.
The Crew burst onto the trick-taking card game scene like the new hot band that just outshone the headliner at Glastonbury. There is something about the way the game plays that has made it a must-have game for so many people, including us here at WBG. It has now shot up to the second highest ranked trick-taking game on BGG behind only Tichu, which has been around since 1991. I am sure it will be number one soon and stay there for a long time.
Why? Well, trick-taking is fun. But making it a co-op experience, with a theme like this, and setting it over a campaign where you feel that as a group, you're not only progressing your skills of the game, but also the story set within it; makes this mechanic thrilling! This works, in fairness, best in a four-player game, but there is a great two player variation in the box we have tried, and love. A dummy player is added in the form of a AI style extra player. It works well and makes this stand out as a great two player game as well.
The campaign element is what makes this game stand out most and pulls you back game after game. You can’t just play one mission! It’s an addictive feeling winning or losing this game. Win, and you will want to try the next mission. Lose, and you will want to try again until you are successful. There are 50 missions in the box and loads more free ones to download from the Kosmos site. There is a lot of game here.
There are lots of Exit games, and I could have chosen many to talk about here, they are all great! I decided to go with The Abandoned Cabin as it was the first one of the series we played. I don’t want to say too much, so don’t worry, no spoilers here. But I do want to try and convey what it feels like to play this game.
In short, these are little escape rooms in a box. Unlike other escape-room games, these are marketed as one-time play experiences as you will have to mark, cut, tear and effect components within the box. This can put some off. All I would say is that these game’s costs half what you would expect to pay for a takeaway pizza, and people chuck those boxes away after one night without any care! Whereas these boxes, we have kept to remind us of the memories as they are so good! I am rarely nostalgic over a greasy cheese stained pizza box.
As you play, you are gripped by the story. There is a sense of tension and pressure created by the timer on the game. You can play for as long as you like, but your score will be largely determined by how much help you needed and the time it took.
If you haven’t already experienced an Exit game, I would highly encourage you to do so, and this is a good place to start. This is a medium level Exit game, so will be a good gauge for how you pick later Exit games. It can be frustrating if you get stuck for a while on a puzzle, but also highly satisfying when you solve the riddles in the box, this one has a happy balance. Most of the Exit games, this one included, have a few surprises within, that will delight and amaze you and your group as you play. I won’t say any more than that, but as one of the first escape room games I played, I was thrilled by the things this game through at me.
You can play these in a one to four plyer experience, I would suggest two is perfect. On your own you cannot share the satisfaction as you progress through the game. In a four, people can be somewhat left in the cold. This is a great two player experience though, and one I would highly recommend.