An Interview With Thames and Kosmos

Dee Chapleau Publisher Spotlight

This month Mox is shining the spotlight on Thames and Kosmos, who brought us favorites such as Targi and Imhotep. We interviewed their Marketing Coordinator Tom Wetzel to find out more about what sets Thames and Kosmos apart from other publishers.

(Mox) Tell us about the history of Thames and Kosmos and your mission. How does that influence your board game catalog?

(Tom Wetzel) Thames & Kosmos was founded in 2001 by a science museum director and her son, who saw the great need and demand for better education materials — resources for parents and their children that are more engaging, more effective, more relevant, and more fun. Since then, Thames & Kosmos has published more than 250 unique science kits.

In 2015, Thames & Kosmos expanded upon its goal to inspire comprehensive, hands-on learning experiences and encourage wholesome family time by introducing a curated selection of German-style board games from world-renowned authors and designers. Thames & Kosmos is now a distributor of leading board game titles, which includes the bestselling EXIT: The Game, The Crew, Lost Cities, and many others.

(Mox) What sets Thames and Kosmos apart from other publishers?

(Tom) We work with world-renowned game designers and outstanding editors to ensure every release is something our fans will enjoy. We have assembled an impressive catalog of fantastic games, like EXIT: The Game, Lost Cities, The Crew, Ubongo, and My City.

On top of that, we use high-quality materials for beautiful board games, pieces, cards, etc., that make us stand out from our competition. Furthermore, all of our board games have a strong play value that can be used over multiple sessions, resulting in hours of enjoyable gameplay.

(Mox) You have an extensive line of two-player games. Why have you chosen to emphasize two-player games in your lineup?

(Tom) The two-player line has been an essential part of our catalog ever since we started to publish board games because two-player games have always been popular for us. Because we are well known for our two-player games like Lost Cities and Targi, designers seek us out to produce their two-player games, which means we continue to have great new two-player games like Imhotep: The Duel and Aqualin.

(Mox) What is the process of translating an escape room into a board game and what are some of the challenges?

(Tom) There are a couple of key elements to making EXIT: The Game a fun at-home experience for everyone. We want everyone to be able to participate, no phones or apps necessary (screen-free), and the game needs to be fun. To allow everyone to participate equally, we created a two-step process for finding solutions; it’s quite clever and it means no one knows the solution until a riddle is answered correctly. To enhance everyone’s experience, we don’t want people on their phones, so we developed a clue system that uses a series of cards instead of an app. Perhaps the most important aspect of making a good at-home escape room is to make fun and unique riddles, and that boils down to great designers and an enthusiastic team.

(Mox) Do you develop your games in house or do you have trusted designers that you work with?

(Tom) We are lucky to have great relationships with the best independent board game designers in the industry. Sometimes we work directly with these designers to create a specific game for our catalog like Andor: The Family Fantasy Game, and sometimes designers approach us with ideas like The Crew. All our board games go through a rigorous playtesting phase where we utilize our great in-house team of board game editors to make sure the games are consistently top quality.

(Mox) Imhotep and Lost Cities are some of our favorites at Mox, can you walk us through the process of developing a game before adding it to your catalog?

(Tom) Imhotep and Lost Cities are both award-winning games that were designed by two of the best board game designers in the industry, Phil Walker-Harding and Reiner Knizia.

In Imhotep, players take on the role of ancient Egyptian architects and help build beautiful monuments like the pyramids, obelisks, and burial chambers. Imhotep really shines because of the great player interaction.

In Lost Cities, players explore the far reaches of the planet, by collecting cards that represent destinations. Lost Cities creates great tension between players because you don’t know what the other player is collecting and they may be holding onto the card you’re waiting for.

Both these games were pitched to us and we jumped at the opportunity to work with these great designers.

(Mox) How do the themes of science and education influence your board game design?

(Tom) Thames & Kosmos’s mission is to inspire comprehensive, hands-on learning experiences. We think science is fun, and we would love to publish a science-themed game, but board games are a great teaching tool, even if they are not deliberately about learning. It’s easy to see how playing board games can teach math, language, logic, and strategy, but playing board games is also a great way to encourage positive social behaviors like learning how to work together or how to be a good winner and loser at a game.

(Mox) How important is theme in your games vs. gameplay?

(Tom) Both theme and gameplay are important to us, and ideally, the theme and gameplay enhance each other. A great example of strong themes is our EXIT: The Game line. Each game has a unique setting, like a Haunted Roller Coaster, a Mysterious Museum, or an Enchanted Forest, and these settings are brought to life with creative riddles and fun storylines. But some games like Ubongo and Dimension benefit from a thinner theme so the fun hands-on puzzles can shine.

(Mox) What is your favorite food to eat while gaming?

(Tom) Pretzels are my favorite even though they make me thirsty. More important than food is the company, so I’m happy with anything that brings friends and families together.

Thames and Kosmos at Mox Boarding House

Throughout the month of March, we are offering 10% off Thames and Kosmos games. Stop in to your local Mox and our staff will match you with the perfect title for your game group or family. Our Portland and Bellevue restaurants are now open for limited in-house dining, so you can enjoy one of the many Thames and Kosmos titles in our library while you dine. Or if you are in Seattle, take advantage of our Personal Shopper Pilot which offers virtual one-on-one online consultation and curbside pickup.

-See you at Mox!