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Interview with game designer Chris Leder of Calliope Games

Founded in September of 2009, Calliope Games is a family-run company that is dedicated to publishing fun, affordable, quality tabletop games. Established by toy/game industry veterans Jordan Weisman, Dawne Weisman, and Ray Wehrs with the support of Kristine Steinke and longtime family friend Jay Barnett, the company is most interested in games that can be played with both adults and children.

Calliope Games Collection Chris Leder is a game designer who is famous for his creation titled “Roll For It”. Chris also holds the title of “Director of Fun” for Calliope Games where he develops new games, provides customer service and attends game conventions. Recently, he spoke about his experiences as a game designer and the Calliope Games company.

Meagan Meehan (MM) of Entertainment Vine: When was Calliope Games started and why was that specific name chosen?

Chris Leder (CL): Calliope Games was started in 2009 with a very specific goal in mind: to provide a reason for families and friends to sit down and spend a little bit of time together, creating memories. The company was named after the Greek muse Calliope, who inspired creativity. It seemed only fitting that our company, which was looking to create fun, would take its name from Calliope herself.

MM: Right now, how many games does Calliope Games offer? What are your age ranges?

CL: Currently, we have thirteen games in our library, including expansions and deluxe editions. In 2017, we will be introducing at least five new amazing titles. Our age range is very wide – anyone 8 and older can play. What’s important to us is that we create games for adults, ones that they will want to play on game nights or around the dinner table, but that can be played by children as well. The trick is, we don’t want parents to have to step down to their kids’ level to play our games; rather, we want the kids to step up the their parents’ level and have a great time.

MM: How do you think up ideas for your products? For example, do you ever work with inventors?

CL: We accept game designs from everywhere, because you never know where the next great game is waiting! Most of our games are from different designers, and the only things they share are that they are a lot of fun, and that they can be learned and played quickly with a wide range of ages. I can speak from personal experience on this, because I was just a dad who had created a dice-and-card game, and I managed to pitch it to Calliope Games at Gen Con (the country’s largest game convention) in 2012 Five years later, my game (Roll For It!) has been reprinted time and again, it’s on the shelves of Target stores, and I’m working for Calliope as the Director of Fun. Sometimes dreams come true!

MM: What are some of your most unusual games?

Tsuro CL: Some of our games are classically beautiful, with elegant gameplay, like “Tsuro” and “Double Double Dominoes”. But others get a bit crazy. For instance, we have a card game called “Ugh!” In which players must build sets of cavemen, their prehistoric pets, and their stone age homes. We also just released a really madcap game called “Running with the Bulls” where you have to roll dice and move through a Spanish town, all the while being chased by bulls. No matter whether the games are unusual or feel like classics, though, the fun comes through very quickly.

MM: To date, what has been the most rewarding part of working with Calliope Games?

CL: One of the things we seek to do with Calliope Games is bring new people into our hobby. Most folks know and have played “Monopoly” or “Clue”, but they may not know that this incredible world of board games exists today. There are games for every type of person, from light and fun games to deep, strategic fare. Calliope Games wants to serve as a gateway for the non-gaming crowd, ushering them past the basic games everyone knows, to show them what else is out there. We are one step up from what they know, and we can start them on a path that might be extremely fulfilling. Every time I get a message from someone saying that our game brought their family together for an evening, and now they want to see what else is out there, I know we’ve done our job.

MM: Where do you hope the company will be in ten years?

GamesCL: In ten years, I hope that Calliope Games is still here doing the exact same thing we’re doing today: introducing new players to our hobby, and bringing people together for a fun and memorable time. Our catalog will be much bigger, but the mission will always stay the same.

MM: What advice would you give to someone who is striving to enter the toy/games industry?

CL: There’s no roadmap to a job in the game industry. Most publishers are very small – less than ten people. The best thing you can do is attend game conventions, play with lots of people, and build relationships. Most of what happens in the game world takes place after hours, around a table, and often with a group of strangers brought together to play some new game. If you’re a game designer and you want to pitch a game, reach out to publishers beforehand and set up appointments. Those shows are hectic and crazy, and having meetings scheduled in advance is crucial.

MM: Are there any upcoming events that you would like to mention?

Calliope GamesCL: Calliope Games will be attending the New York Toy Fair in February, which is a huge industry-only show. We will be talking about some our upcoming 2017 titles at that time. Beyond that, we will definitely be at Origins Game Fair and Gen Con this summer, so please stop by our booth and play some games with us!

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To learn more about Calliope Games visit their official website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Meagan Meehan

Meagan J. Meehan is a published author, poet, cartoonist and produced playwright. She pens columns for the Great South Bay Magazine, Examiner and AXS. She is also a stop motion animator and an award-winning abstract artist. Meagan holds a Bachelors in English Literature and a Masters of Communication. She is an animal advocate and a fledging toy and game designer.
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