Root and Pax Pamir designer Cole Wehrle recently announced a Kickstarter campaign on March 30th for a second edition of John Company, his board game that charts the rise and fall and rise and fall of the British East India Company on the tabletop.
Wehrle posted the details in the BoardGameGeek forums, often his preferred method of explicating thoughts and design notes, explaining why he felt now was a good time to return to the 2017 board game that helped establish Wehrle as a household name in the hobby.
“John Company is the game I never stop working on,” he said in the post. “When Drew [Wehrle, Cole’s brother] and I started Wehrlegig Games, Pax Pamir: Second Edition was always the title we were going to start with. But in my heart I knew that I really wanted to tackle John Company.”
Players in John Company attempt to steer their families through the tumultuous waters, both real and metaphorical, of the East India Trading Company on a path to fame and fortune. Everything is a commodity, from spices and ships to rumours and aggressively-seized outposts.
Collectively, each of the three to six house leaders needs to work towards the general success of the Company, fending off governors looking to slap regulations on their free trade and suppressing insurrections in the colonies at the same time as negotiating advantageous exchange rates among other players. Failure is hardly ever final, and enterprising scions might be able to chart a course to wealth beyond the reach of any overseeing body.
Players can choose to tackle specific scenarios or experience the 137-year history of the East India Trading Company in a broader campaign. Wehrle said designer Ricky Royal (Pax Pamir 2E, Renegade) has created a solo mode for John Company that will be included in the new iteration.
The second edition will reportedly be “immensely more accessible”, tightening the core design to allow new and returning players to faster learn and better appreciate both the dramatic and mechanical expressions on the board. Wehrle said he and the studio are also dedicating time to finishing design elements that he called “half-cooked”, along with adding historical details and honing John Company’s critique on this period of British imperialism.
“Like Pamir, John Company is built on a bedrock of postcolonial thought and draws from many scholars. If you've ever wanted to see the work of Edward Said in board game form, boy do I have a game for you.”
Wehrle mentioned tuning the first few turns to act as a tutorial for all of the game’s systems. He wants groups to spend their first minutes with the title at a “leisurely pace”, learning as they play. Expect less luck in the second edition of John Company, although it will still exemplify the most melodramatic tendencies of Victorian novels, whether players act out daring plots or the most base betrayals.
Those interested in “political games less about fantasy/scifi empires and more about wearing nice looking hats”, according to Wehrle, can look forward to learning more about John Company Second Edition when its Kickstarter campaign begins on March 30th.