GTM #216 - The Climbers: "Climbing the Ladder to Success"
by Holger Lanz

In the mid-1990’s, I had a dull job working for a hobby craft store. It was so dull that I needed to find an outlet to let my creative energy flow when I had some spare time. This was at a time when The Settlers of Catan was new and fresh and I thought to myself – why not try inventing games as a hobby?

One day, at my younger brother’s wedding reception, I was watching over my nephew and noticed him stacking his wooden playing blocks. I thought to myself that there must be a possibility to make a game with those blocks. Some manner of a building or climbing game with meeples…

Shortly thereafter, it hit me: the blocks needed colors! Six colors — four for the players, another color for all players, and one more that none of the players could use. In that moment, The Climbers was born. I cobbled together a prototype and fully developed the rules for the game. During the annual game designer’s meeting in Göttingen, I had a table with the game and a huge advantage: my colorful 3D creation attracted a high volume of attendees who were curious to learn more about my game. Klaus Zoch from Zoch Verlag fell in love with The Climbers and committed to producing the game… as long as he could manufacture it for a modest price.

As time went by, Klaus was having difficulty finding a manufacturer for the game due to the high production costs of the wooden components. Then, he found a factory in China that could make the game for a reasonable price. However, the manufacturing costs of the game were still too high for mass market production. Klaus, with some friends, founded a small game company, Chili Spiele, to produce and sell these types of games. Chili Spiele made some small changes to the rules and called the game Die Aufsteiger. Being a very small company, Chili Spiele only attended conventions and sold product through their website. I was so happy that finally one of my games found its way to the public! Chili didn’t make gobs of money on the game, however, there was a lot of positive feedback regarding it. To me, that was perfectly fine and worth the effort.

About five years later, Klaus informed me that he closed Chili Spiele and the rights to The Climbers had reverted back to me. He later introduced me to Capstone Games, a publisher in the United States that was interested in bringing The Climbers to the mass market. I got in touch with Clay from Capstone and saw the plans to produce it. I thought to myself that this could work… and it did! I met with Clay at his booth during Spiel 2017 and to see the amount of people clamoring to play The Climbers was one of the best moments for me!

The Climbers is the first title in the Simply Complex line from Capstone Games. This new line features highly accessible board games with a beautiful 3D table presence, low rules overhead, and deep gameplay, accomplished in under one hour of play. On the surface, these games appear straightforward and simple. Yet, the strategies and tactics developed throughout the course of these games are more complex than originally thought. Deceptively complex gameplay is the essence of the Simply Complex line.

The second printing of The Climbers from Capstone Games will be available in February 2018!