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The Passionate Endeavor of Burnt Island Games

by | published Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Passion is something that runs through the board game hobby. It is the passion of fans that has helped it grow steadily of the past two decades. It is the passion of designers that drives the creation of new and innovative games. It is the passion of small independent publishers that give new designers a chance and give new life to old classics.

It was that same sort of passion that drove Helaina and Josh Cappel to form Burnt Island Games and bring one of their all-time favourite titles back from an out of print state and start a successful Kickstarter for it, running now.

Now, the Cappels aren’t new to the gaming industry. Josh is a successful illustrator and designer, and Helaina already has her own company, Kids Table Board Games, focused on titles that can be equally enjoyed by kids and adults. Together they’ve designed Food Fighters and Haunt the House, which had a successful Kickstarter last year.

Despite having a number of other projects on the go, they always had a nagging desire to initiate a reprint of Endeavor. In the original, published in 2009 by Z-Man Games, players would take control of empires in a time when the world was still being discovered. They would spend actions to explore, ship, colonize, and wage war on competing empire all in an effort to earn glory!

Players had to develop their nations along four different tracks to allow them to thrive and grow. The Industry track allows you to construct new buildings with special abilities. Advancing the Culture track helps to grow your population. The Finance track keeps your coffers full, so you can pay your workforce. Finally, Influence allows you to draw from your far-flung colonies. At the start of the game, only Europe is available to explore, but as shipping routes are completed, new areas of the map open up, giving players a chance to colonize. Before long, the map is covered and the inevitable call to war is sounded.

It was a great title for sure, but they also had a personal connection to the game.

Endeavor has been my favourite game that’s been out of print for a really long time, and Josh did the art for the original,” explained Helaina. Despite being critically successful and having a large fan base, Endeavor was never elected for reprint.

“It was a really well received game in the first place,” said Josh, noting that it rocketed up to the top 50 on Board Game Geek when it was first released. “Over the years, it’s managed to hold a place in the top 200, which is still really strong.”

Aside from having a stake in the original production, they were fans of Endeavor.

“Being the guy who did the graphics for the first game, I would write the publishers and say you should really reprint this. There was just this floating demand for it,” said Josh, who would regularly see copies of the game on Ebay for hundreds of dollars.

As with many titles at a bigger publisher, it seemed like Endeavor was going to be stuck OOP forever.

“I think that with all the other games that come out each year, it just got lost in the shuffle,” said Helaina. But it remained a standard go to game for the couple whenever a game night rolled around.

“We personally love the game. We’ve played it hundreds of times,” said Josh. “It has never dropped out of the stack of games we bring to game night.”

They kept their eyes on it, hoping to get the chance to remake it should the opportunity ever arise.

“We always had a connection to the game, because of my work on it. So, when the opportunity came up, Helaina just said ‘I’m doing this,’ and she went out there and made it happen,” explained Josh.

Since they announced the upcoming Endeavor: Age of Sail Kickstarter in partnership with Grand Gamers Guild at last year’s Gen Con, it has been a whirlwind of enthusiasm and excitement from the gaming community. Leading up to the launch of the Kickstarter, they had been bombarded by fans interested in the project. The proof of that excitement was pretty evident in the first 24 hours of the campaign. They hit their funding goal in four hours, and by the end of the first day, they had over $100K in Canadian dollars pledged. Today, they’re sitting at over $200K Canadian with more than three weeks to go.

“To me, that’s a pretty good response for a game that’s been out of print for so long,” beams Helaina.

Fans of the original can be assured that the core gameplay hasn’t been altered at all. Because, the Cappels were so enamoured with it, they wanted to retain that same feeling for this version. Aside from brand new art and graphic design (done by Josh, of course) the major differences people will see are in the speed of the game and its narrative.

“Minor changes have been made with the goal of improving player success earlier in the game, explained Josh. “So, instead of getting your engine going in rounds four and five of the game, things really start to hum around round two or three.”

One of the only complaints about the first version of Endeavor, was its lack of a theme or story. That’s definitely been addressed in Age of Sail. The Cappels worked together with the designers of the game, Carl de Visser and Jarrat Gray on the updates. Gray and de Visser had the idea of adding story cards to the deck, but with some suggestions from Josh and Helaina, they became Exploits. These are based on historical events tied to two of the regions in the game. When both regions have been unlocked, the Exploit activates, providing new mechanisms and scoring opportunities.

It has certainly been an exciting last few months for Burnt Island games. They’re a family operation, that puts everything into each project they do. Even the name of the company is very personal to them. They had been struggling to come up with something that spoke to them as designers and publishers. They’d tossed back and forth a bunch of different names, but nothing felt quite right.

“This was a really big step for us in the industry, and we felt that we wanted the name to have a real connection to who we are,” explained Helaina.

It was on a family canoe trip to Canada’s Algonquin Park (one they take every year) where the idea for Burnt Island came to them. One of the islands they see each time on their trip is called Burnt Island, situated on one of the most beautiful lakes in the park.

“As soon as we said it we instantly knew that was the one,” remembered Helaina. “It just felt right.”

The next year for Burnt Island and Kids Table Board Games is fairly mapped out. They are focused on Endeavor: Age of Sail, and there are two Kids Table games that will come out in the next year.

They are still mulling over possibilities for the next project for Burnt Island. There are definitely potential candidates, but at this early stage, they only really want to publish a single game a year, so there’s not a huge time crunch.

The one thing that is certain, no matter what project they land on, they will be passionate about it. The beauty of keeping things on a small scale means that you can be selective about where you put your energy, and when you do commit to something you’re going to put your whole heart into it.

We’ll look forward to see what the future holds.

We normally don’t cover Kickstarter games, but having played the original Endeavor, we were happy to talk about the new edition in this article. You can learn more about Endeavor: Age of Sail here.


  • Sean J.

    Sean is the Founder and Photographer for the DWP. He has been gaming all his life. From Monopoly and Clue at the cottage to Euchre tournaments with the family, tabletop games have taken up a lot of his free time. In his gaming career he has worked for Snakes & Lattes Board Game Cafe, Asmodee, and CMON. He is a contributor to The Dice Tower Podcast and has written for Games Trade Magazine and Meeple Monthly. He lives and works in Toronto.

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