Interview with Bob Kelly and Aerjen Tamminga of Heresy Research Labs

Bob Kelly is CEO of Heresy Research Labs. Along with Aerjen Tamminga, their first game will be Los Cthuluchadores: Elder Things in the Wrestling Ring.

To start off, tell us about yourselves and your history in gaming.

Bob: In high school, I used to work at War Games West in Albuquerque and tried my hands at everything I could find. I always enjoyed the freakier games that daunted others. To date, I’m the only GM I know who ran a Kult game outside of a con. From there, I’ve had more than a few attempts at being 100% in game development – both board and computer. I’ve never met an RPG which I didn’t provide my own twist or a board game that I didn’t want a house rule. Once I moved to Boston, things really started shaping up for me (with the GameMakersGuild.com) and other opportunities.

Aerjen: I’ve loved playing games and being part of the gaming community for as long as I can remember. I first started out designing games when I went to college and around that time I founded a board gaming club in Amsterdam. When I moved to the US about two years ago, I became a member of the Game Makers Guild and really enjoyed playtesting the games of other designers and getting feedback on my own designs. When I became a co-producer for the Boston Festival of Indie Games and organizer for the Game Makers Guild, I realized that this hobby of mine is more than just a thing on the side. Since last year I’ve started collaborating with other great designers (like Bob) and have been working on getting my games published. Los Cthuluchadores: Elder Things in the Wrestling Ring is the first of many projects.

What sort of mad inspiration struck you to combine luchadores with the Cthulhu Mythos?

Bob: A fun game and a bad pun. I was playing Guacamelee and thought, “There’s not a lot of avocados in this game.” I started playing around with puns and ran into Los Cthuluchadores… and after a few attempts at summarizing the game, Aerjen and I discovered the tag, “Elder Things in the Wrestling Ring” and from there, the ideas were pretty well-defined.

Aerjen: I have to give all the credit to Bob for this one. When he asked me to become a co-designer for his game, he had already come up with the theme. I thought (and still do) that it was hilarious and since I have come to know Bob as a great guy, I was happy to come on board.

The Kickstarter page indicates that the game plays for up to four. Are four-player games going to be tag team or free for all?

Bob: We have rules for both! There’s 3 and 4-player free-for-all, but my favorite is the 4-player tag team.

Aerjen: Like Bob says, we have rules for both variants. Only my favorite is the 4-player free-for-all. The insanity that ensues when taunting with 4 players, must be like what it feels like when Cthulhu kisses your soul.

The Elder Sign design in the game differs from both the star and tree versions people normally associate with the term. Where did it come from?

Bob: The eye-in-star elder sign is famously copyrighted – and justifiably so – so I didn’t want to go down that route. And I love the tree version, but it just doesn’t have enough pizazz for a Cthulhu meets Spandex game. And… I love Blue Oyster Cult. Buck Dharma and the band has a hook-and-cross symbol which follows them around. I made our own version combined with the formal tree version. Aerjen asked me to “roughen” the design so that it looked like a…

Aerjen: Let me finish that sentence… bit more like something that a caveman could have scribbled on a piece of rock.

The origami playing pieces are quite a unique concept. How did that come to be?

Bob: I have the best designer on my team – Lisa Corkum; we were playing around with flat counters and she just folded one up and dropped it on the table – from there crushing your opponents became REAL. She also designed the board from Aztec/Mayan combined symbology – and since some of the Cthulhu Mythos stories had a tie in to Latin America, it was a great fit.

Aerjen: Quick tip for the readers: you can really give your Cthuluchadores some extra spunk by playing around with the tentacles. I try and give each one I fold it’s own character.

The possibility of expansions is hinted at. Are there any details you’re willing to reveal at this time?

Bob: Absolutely! we have 2 expansions which we’d like to add to the Kickstarter. First is “El Lodo sobre Aztlan” – the Ooze over Aztlan – which supercharges ooze (better attacks and defense) and add surprises like the Folding Chair of Doom! The second is Cultos Innombrables (Unspeakable Cults) which improves that gameplay of the Spectator Arena with your cultists.