Recently, I sat down with the co-founder of Flying Bison and game designer, Jonathan Eller, to talk about his new card game Spazz. You can watch the full video or read the transcript below.
Hi, this is Thaddaeus Brodrick from Going Nerdy. I am here with Jonathan Eller from Flying Bison games. He is the co-founder of the business. And we are here talking to him about his new game Spazz.
Jonathan, tell us about yourself.
I live in Spring, Texas. I have an 8-year-old, a cute wife. By day, I pay the bills by working in cyber security. I used to work for the government. I got into sales and consulting. Flying Bison is sort of an afterthought. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do, but never thought we could. In the last couple of years, it’s been a labor of love, and it’s turned into a really cool project. I’m really glad to be here to talk about Spazz.
What made you want to start a game company?
When you and I were kids, we always loved games. We always played video games. Card games. Board games. A couple of years ago, we were playing Spazz, my friend Jonathan and I, he’s the other co-founder, he couldn’t be here tonight.
We just got kind of tired of the viral videos going around about Cards Against Humanity and Exploding Kittens and all these games you can’t play with your kids. And we were like, “Man, we can do this. We can totally make a game.”
So we came up with some really good ideas and then on a napkin we decided to make Spazz into a real game instead of using UNO cards. And so, just on a napkin, we threw down some ideas and we started to put them into motion. It took us two years, but we finally got Spazz rocking and rolling
That’s awesome. So the name Flying Bison…Bison don’t fly?
Yes, they do, if you watch Avatar the Last Air Bender. It was just a little bit of an homage to our favorite cartoon ever. But we didn’t want to get in any trouble either so we tried to make it a little generic. But yeah, that’s where the name comes from.
Tell me about Spazz
Spazz, like I said before, it’s actually been around for, like, 30 or 40 years. UNO has been around for almost 50. And it’s a variant of, like lots of card games out there, you use other games to play other games—like Nertz or Quack-a-doodle Moo—or all kinds of games that you might use RIP cards or UNO cards to play.
But it was pretty basic. So we decided we’d add a bunch of special action cards. We’d twist it up. We’d add an extra color. We’d speed it up. We’d make it more replayable. That was a big one for us. It took us a long time to make it replayable and fun.
We also wanted to make it expandable. WE have some ideas about adding Zombie Spazz and Wild West Spazz.
The concept of Spazz is we want families to play at the table again. And we want kids and adults to play as a family. It’s also good for your drinking buddies. Your college friends. For everyone.
We like the idea of actually having to do things like you’re playing. You have to do these four actions and whoever does the action last gets the pile of cards.
So how does the game actually play?
The game plays like in UNO, I will pass out all the cards. I’ll flip a card, then you’ll flip a card. I actually have a few here. Here’s blue sky. We have green grass and yellow fever. So whenever you flip a card, if you flip blue sky, then I flip blue sky and there’s a match, then you have to do a corresponding action.
In this instance, you’d have to raise your hand to the sky. Whoever doesn’t do the right action has to take the cards. Then you when the game by getting rid of all your cards.
It’s really cool because everybody does the wrong action or the wrong combination of actions. And so, thus you look like an idiot a little bit, and that’s why we call the game Spazz.
There’re a couple of special action cards in there. We’ve got Spazz and Reverse Spazz, and a bomb card, just to keep it spicy. Just to change things up and keep it exciting and replayable.
You look like a…it’s hilarious. We had a friend come over the other day and we played with her. She hit herself so hard that she had a giant red mark. We think we might have to put a warning on the back of the box. We’ll see.
So it sounds like from that basic introduction that Spazz could be compared to Egyptian Rat Screw with Gestures? Is that accurate?
Yea, absolutely. Very similar kind of mechanic, just with some special flare that doesn’t really exist anywhere else.
Have you ever done this before? Have you ever created a game before?
Good question. So yes, actually. Back in 2001, I was at the University of Texas as a freshman. They had this campus-wide, the called it a talent show but it was really more like a “what can you do for the world” kind of thing. Some people submitted actual talents and I submitted a game that my suitemates and I invented called Eat it.
We got a deck of cards, we put on the freshman 15 and spent four or five months working on this really cool card game, and eat it was produced out of that. We actually won the whole thing, campus-wide. And so my first soiree came from that.
But this is the second. Spazz is the second. And we have two really cool ideas down the pipe that we are happy to talk about if you want to.
Let’s talk about that later. You said it took you about two years to develop this game, what beta testing did you do. Did you test this out with friends, did you give this to random strangers….
Yes, yes to both of those. Yeah, we met some new friends that we never met, gamers and people who own game companies, and asked if they would review it and give us their feedback. We also printed out some play-tester copies and played with all of our friends
And then we actually send some formal play-tester copies to Board Game Geek to Blah Blah Games to this Dallas-Fort Worth nerd game night. I think we played probably 100 to 150 rounds of formal, official playtesting. So, the game actually changed a ton from where we started to where we got to.
It was a big learning curve for us. I mean, whether it’s software or whatever it is, the Q and A process can change and make the product better and that was definitely the case here with Spazz.
So, you launched a KickStarter to help fund this project, and from the moment I wrote that question to the moment today, can you talk about the process and maybe give us an update as to what has happened?
Yeah. Yes. We actually just funded a couple of hours ago. Super exciting being at a 100 percent.
Thank you. It was a labor of love, man. I have tons of advice for folks who want to do a Kickstarter. Especially if they want to do a game. We have learned a lot, for sure, about printing, and social media, and getting a following. What to write. What not to write. How to do research and stuff. Little tidbits here and there that can really make a difference.
So we went with Kickstarter and not any of the other platforms because Kickstarter gaming is one of the top things that Kickstarter does. In fact, it’s number one backed project in history is card game called Exploding Kittens.
I’ve played it.
Yeah, we played it too. We make fun of it, but that is because we are jealous of it. It got 8 million dollars in 30 days. And so we wanted to do the same thing. And yeah, it’s been a journey. WE finally funded. And we have 10 days to go. We are hoping to clean up and maybe even double how far we have gone before we finish.
For those who are still interested, how can people donate to you? Can you talk about that a little bit?
Yeah, the easiest way is to go to Flyingbison.com and there’s a big, giant button that says Get Spazz. And if you click on it, the link will take you to our Kickstarter page or you can go to our Facebook page. It will take you there too.
And now that you’ve funded, what are your goals for this. When will you start producing? When will Spazz go into production?
We actually had a call tonight with the Cardamuni people, they are the people who print UNO and Phase10, and Skip-Bo. We have quotes from them and I think they are our leading choice for printing. We are just waiting to hear a couple more final quotes and we hope to start printing at the end of October and shipping in November so people can get it for Christmas.
On our Kickstarter, we show that It’s going to be February but we didn’t want to overpromise and underdeliver. We’d much rather tell people it’s scheduled for February but surprise them for Christmas. We’re hoping people can have Spazz in their hands for Christmas.
After Spazz, what’s next?
Yeah, that’s a good question. We are hoping to get in front of Walmart and Target, CVS, and Walgreens. That would be a game changer for us. We actually met with the folks there and they are eagerly waiting for our next meeting.
Another thing is we have several friends who have approached us, we have one friend. He is a pretty famous author, wrote a book, it got turned into a screenplay, which got turned into a global movie, and he has asked us to make a board game for it. And we said, “Yeah, absolutely. We’d love to.”
We have a couple of our own ideas. Like I mentioned before, we want to do a Zombie Spazz, and a Wild West Spazz. And all of those will be stand alone games, kind of like killer bunnies or Smash it Up., but you can also add them to a huge, large, crazy game and make it a 20 person game if you want to.
We just want to make family friendly games that everyone can play all the time. We want to replace your old UNO and old Phase 10 that you got tired of. We want to replace those with a bunch of new games.
For more information about Spazz, you can contact Flying Bison games at:
Email: email@example.comLet us know what you thought of our interview and who or what we should interview next in the comments below.