Wow. It’s wild to think about how far Bitewing Games has come in the past couple years.
In January 2020, we started out as two dentists with a passion for tabletop gaming and a drive to create and share board games with a bite. But what started out as a blog, hobby, and some creative dabbling has now become a full-blown publishing company, website, podcast, and Youtube channel. What started as the desire to share a couple homemade designs with the world has evolved into a collaboration with the some of the world’s best designers, artists, and creators in the board game industry for more than a dozen planned projects. How did we get here, and where are we even going?
As most of you know, our first major project became Reiner Knizia’s Criminal Capers Collection. Three simple card games with clever mechanisms that share a vibrant theme. We wanted to start with these smaller productions because they were lower risk and lower complexity. It was a way for us to test the waters of publishing and crowdfunding as well as establish a fanbase for Bitewing Games. We’re very proud of the end result and think this collection turned out gorgeous, engaging, interactive, and approachable. Even after many plays, the Criminal Capers Collection remains a go-to filler and enjoyably casual gaming experience at our table.
Of course, where we put out three of these 20-minute games that heavily target the casual gaming audience, many folks have understandably assumed that this is the type of publisher Bitewing Games would become. Something similar to Amigo who mainly publishes ultra-light card games that feature clever twists. And while we love those types of games and often get them to the table, we found ourselves hungry to take on even more ambitious projects.
For Kyle and I, the games that we most often get to the table are typically big box games that play in roughly an hour or less, are easy to teach to anyone, but present even more decisions and depth than most card games. This is one of our favorite ways to game, so naturally we are drawn to publishing such titles as well.
I suppose if we really wanted to be a well-oiled and maximally profitable company, we would have a more focused brand or consistent product. I’ve been impressed by publishers such as Facade Games with their Dark Cities line who have amassed a huge audience thanks to their consistent and disciplined social deduction games that come in gorgeous faux-book boxes—you know exactly what you’re getting from them.
But where Kyle and I already have full jobs as dentists, I suppose we’re more interested in chasing projects that really excite us personally, first and foremost. And variety keeps the publishing work fresh. The same is true for playing board games. If I get stuck playing efficiency Euros from one game night to the next, I start to become rather grumpy with the genre 😆. I’m much more in the mood to play a game like Concordia or Agricola if I get to enjoy other genres in-between those plays.
What I’m getting at is that our ambitious publishing plans are kind of all over the place. We started with three light, 20-minute card games of bluffing, bribing, auctions, and push-your-luck. Next we took on Trailblazers—and while that is likewise a fast and approachable card game at its core, it also a spatial puzzler that features two expansions, three solo modes, and a staggeringly high skill-ceiling. Trailblazers is a Ryan Courtney game after all, and thinky is his design style.
While we felt Trailblazers had massive potential, we couldn’t be sure of its success until the Kickstarter campaign arrived. Yet that uncertainty didn’t stop us from committing to additional thrilling projects such as Zoo Vadis for further down the road. And now that Trailblazers has performed even better than we were hoping, future plans and aspirations are really starting to come together.
Today I’m excited to formally reveal our publication plans for the future and shed some more light on these projects. Bitewing Games is in the process of launching several lines of games:
Reiner Knizia’s Criminal Capers Collection is here and complete!
These three 20-minute card games within the shared Criminal Capers universe are now available on our webstore. We have limited copies of the standard and deluxe edition games available to order. The standard editions will also be available through retailers starting in November. We consider this collection complete and have no plans to add more games to it later. We hope gamers and non-gamers alike will enjoy these casual small-box experiences. They make for a great appetizer to our meatier projects.
Ryan Courtney x Bitewing Games = Deep Clean Series
I’m excited to reveal our new Deep Clean Series which will be kicked off by Ryan Courtney’s Trailblazers. Where Ryan Courtney fans are accustomed to heavy games from his previous work, Trailblazers focuses on retaining deep and engaging gameplay but with clean and simple rules. The two included expansions—Animals and Adventurers—add even more depth for gamers to enjoy. We look forward to releasing even more Trailblazers expansions that Ryan is currently working on. And Trailblazers is only the beginning…
Bitewing Games is thrilled to announce our formal partnership with designer Ryan Courtney in publishing yearly releases in the Deep Clean Series! Our follow-up project to Trailblazers is already in the works, with the game design complete and the artwork now in early stages. While this game obviously holds true to the Deep Clean focus, it is otherwise a very different style of game from Trailblazers. For now this one is called Project Deep—a tense logic game from Ryan Courtney featuring interactive competition and non-fragile deduction. Like Trailblazers, the rules are approachable and the playtime is quick, yet the skill ceiling is high and the gameplay variety is huge.
Ryan Courtney won’t be the only talented designer contributing to the Deep Clean Series. We’re also collaborating with Reiner Knizia on a big box game! We’re honored to be publishing the next big tile-placement strategy game from Reiner Knizia which we’re calling Project Cascade. This one follows in the footsteps of Babylonia, Tigris & Euphrates, Blue Lagoon, etc. It terms of strategic depth, zero luck, layered nuances, and tactical interaction, this is Reiner’s heaviest game in years, yet it plays smooth as butter. We can’t wait to unveil this one as well!
2023 will be a huge year for the Deep Clean Series with Trailblazers releasing and both Project Deep and Project Cascade launching via crowdfunding.
With the launch of Zoo Vadis comes the birth of the Crown Jewel Selection
As a hobbyist gamer, it’s always thrilling to discover new hits—promising projects and refreshing ideas are endlessly flooding the market. Yet I’ve found just as much joy in uncovering classic games from past decades including revered legends, hidden gems, and overlooked firecrackers. Many excellent designs have simply fallen victim to poor production decisions, limited marketing, or insatiable cult-of-the-new appetites. That’s why Bitewing Games has taken it upon ourselves to do justice to some of these classic gems beginning with Zoo Vadis.
I firmly believe that Reiner Knizia’s Quo Vadis (now Zoo Vadis) is one of the greatest negotiation games ever designed. Adopting and evolving this design into the Crown Jewel Selection is our way of helping it reach its full potential. We look forward to the crowdfunding launch of Zoo Vadis in January and hope you do as well! In the meantime, be sure to follow our Zoo Vadis weekly reveals on Board Game Geek which recently began with the unveiling of the new game board and Peacock figures.
With the amount of attention that Zoo Vadis has already received since it was first announced, I’m confident that Bitewing Games will soon have more thrilling projects to launch in the Crown Jewel Selection for 2024 and beyond.
Coming full circle with Bitewing Games Originals.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Bitewing Games started with two dentists eager to share a couple of their own game designs. While we ended up taking a fantastic detour through Reiner Knizia and Ryan Courtney projects, we’re finally getting back around to our own first publication in Gussy Gorillas. Those who have been following us for a long time will recall that this game was originally meant to launch alongside the Criminal Capers Collection. The design itself didn’t encounter any setbacks, rather we realized that the smart marketing decision was to launch it alongside Zoo Vadis instead, as they are both negotiation games.
Gussy Gorillas will come in the same magnetic square box as our Criminal Capers games; it is very similar in style in that it is a simple, clever 20-minute card game. Where we already have strong working relationships with Reiner Knizia and Ryan Courtney (who continually provide us with an endless stream of designs to consider), any of our own designs that we publish come with a significant opportunity cost. I’m pleasantly surprised to see that Gussy Gorillas (and a future party game) remain a publishing priority thanks to the uniquely charming experience it provides.
You can look forward to seeing more of Gussy Gorillas in the January crowdfunding campaign!
2024 brings a 2-player line starting with Project Dyo.
If the Criminal Capers Collection, Deep Clean Series, Crown Jewel Selection, and Bitewing Games Originals aren’t enough for you, then you can start counting down the days to our 2-player line launching in 2024 😆. The genesis of this line came from a Reiner Knizia interview from several years ago… Reiner mentioned that he is sitting on some excellent 2-player designs that publishers apparently don’t want because they believe 2-player games don’t sell well. Perhaps that’s true as a general principle because exclusively 2-player games are inherently targeting a smaller audience. But this is the designer of Lost Cities, Battle Line, Royal Visit, and Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation we’re talking about! If anyone can provide an exceptional 2-player game with huge potential, it’s Reiner Knizia.
As a massive fan of Knizia games myself, I consider it an injustice for his excellent 2-player designs to go unpublished (or for Reiner to shy away from designing more 2-player masterpieces in general), so Bitewing Games is now working to launch a 2-player line that will make a big splash in the industry and keep the door open for Knizia and other designers to create more focused 2-player experiences.
This line will kick off with a crowdfunding launch in early 2024 featuring two Knizia 2-player games called Project Dyo. To give folks a sense of these games, I would say that they’re both strategically heavier than Lost Cities yet comparable in box size and rules complexity. It’s an agonizingly long wait, even for those of us who are already enjoying the designs, but I’m confident that the wait will be worth it.
The Future is Bright
Of course, the only reason we are able to maintain such an aggressive publishing schedule is thanks to the support we’ve already received for the Criminal Capers Collection and Trailblazers from backers. And while we plan to release multiple titles per year, we also plan to continue supporting earlier titles and giving them the long-term love they deserve.
As for our online content, we’re still planning to keep that up! Kyle has been doing more reviews, previews, and How to Play videos while I’ll be keeping the blog and podcast going on a regular basis. Our goals for this content remain the same: grow the hobby, share and spotlight great games, encourage industry improvement, and keep our publishing minds sharp.
A huge thanks goes to everyone who has supported and believed in Bitewing Games. We’re excited about the future and hope you are too. 🙌
Article written by Nick Murray. Outside of practicing dentistry part-time, Nick has devoted his remaining work-time to collaborating with the world’s best designers, illustrators, and creators in producing classy board games that bite, including the upcoming Zoo Vadis by Reiner Knizia. He hopes you’ll join Bitewing Games in their quest to create and share experiences that, much like a bitewing x-ray, provide a unique perspective and refreshing interaction.