Whistle Mountain Designer Interview

by Ted Alspach April 16, 2020

Whistle Mountain Designer Interview

Whistle Mountain Designer Interview
by: Ted Alspach

Below is an email interview between Whistle Mountain’s designers, Scott Caputo & Luke Laurie, and Bezier Games. Scott Caputo's responses indicated by SC, Luke Laurie's responses indicated by LL. 


Q: Tell us a little about Whistle Mountain, what genre is it? 

SC: Luke and I wanted to smash together our two "superpowers" and see what emerged. I do tile-laying games and Luke does worker placement games, so we have created a new genre, a tile-laying worker placement game. It really does feel like the best of both mechanics.

LL: Mechanically, I’d describe Whistle Mountain as a medium-weight Eurogame that uses worker placement, tile laying, and resource-management mechanics. Players are building a vertical scaffold on the board and then superimposing larger building tiles each with unique functions. This construction continuously changes the options for worker placement, making some resources plentiful and others scarce as the game evolves. There is an external threat imposed by rising water that results from the rapid building, and players are working against time pressure to get their workers into safe positions before the end of the game. One really fun aspect of the game is the way that players can leverage their abilities, card powers, and the construction of the board to create huge combo turns where they can pull off a bunch of exciting and effective actions on a single turn. 

*Images contain prototype components*


Q: How long ago did this project begin? 

SC: This project began in August 2016, so it will be about 4 years from when the game started to when it is released.

LL: Scott and I started working on this game together in 2016. We talked about bringing together our strengths as designers: Scott would bring his expertise in tile-laying games, and I would bring my skill with worker placement. It would be like a chocolate and peanut butter combination. And it is! I think this game is one that we each couldn’t have built alone. Only through our collaboration could we build such a game.

Scott started with the idea of worker placement where workers placed next to the tetris-like tiles, and buildings would be built on top of those tiles, but he didn’t have a workable theme. We collaborated on line and kicked around a bunch of ideas, and met to work on the game for the first time in San Jose in June of 2016. We settled on the idea that the structures being built were scaffolding, that they would be built vertically, that rising water would create a sense of urgency and pressure, and that you need to save your people. Over the next few months we tinkered with various starting powers, turn sequence rules, a deck of interesting cards, hand management, and rewards for your successes. With the framework in place, we had a game. We gave ourselves 2 years to refine it and get it ready for a publisher.

Scott and I attended various events periodically throughout that year where we could bring out the latest version and see how the work was progressing. We called the game “Airships and Gadgeteers”.


Our first in-person work on the game in June of 2016 in a hotel lobby. 



Here is the game at Pacificon in 2016.



By February of 2017, the game was shaping up nicely, though we still had some work to do on card play and building effects.


Q: What was the inspiration behind Whistle Mountain?

SC: Originally, we were inspired by the movie, Metropolis, an old black and white movie about workers who operate machines below the city streets in increasingly dangerous conditions. It was one of the original steampunk movies. The theme has obviously changed a lot. Whistle Mountain is more of a cheery steampunk now, but we still have zeppelins and airships. There is still a danger to the players' workers. As the players build up the main board, snow melts on the mountain and the waters rise, potentially drowning workers.

LL: It began with Scott and I having mutual admiration for each other’s work, and with Scott’s ideas for combining tile laying and worker placement.


Metropolis film stills from IMDB.com


Q: The cover and artwork has a similar feeling as Whistle Stop, are the two games related?

SC: I am a designer on both games and there are tile-laying mechanisms in both games, but players will enjoy an entirely new experience. Hopefully, Whistle Mountain will appeal to people who enjoyed Whistle Stop and may attract even more board game enthusiasts.  

LL: Whistle Mountain takes place in the same “universe” as Whistle Stop. It shares some of Scott Caputo's design sensibilities in the way that the game board grows and changes as the game progresses. It also has the aspect where every player is playing together on a shared space that is constructed collectively. Players are competing to use that shared space the most effectively. 


Q: Who do you think will enjoy Whistle Mountain? Who is this game for? 

SC: This is a game for board game enthusiasts. It offers a meaty and engrossing gaming experience that lasts 90-120 minutes. In the lingo of the industry, I would say it is a Eurogame, but it is a Eurogame with a ton of player interaction and tension--can you save your workers from the rising waters? It is a Eurogame with a lot of puzzly decision making--where to place your airships and where to place your tiles is so important. It is a Eurogame with engine-building and combo-creation as you can gain upgrades which can let you pull off some truly remarkable moves.  

 LL: We think that Whistle Mountain will appeal to a very wide audience. Fans of Whistle Stop and Energy Empire will really enjoy it, it has similar depth and game length. Players who like tile laying, engine building, and players who really enjoy a good worker placement game. Players who like games with a spacial aspect like Feast for Odin will enjoy the Whistle Mountain, but Whistle Mountain has a much more accessible game length. The flow of the game is continuous and smooth - players are either placing one of their airships on the board, or they’re pulling them all back and forging new structures. Whistle Mountain has ongoing tension that adds a level of excitement that’s uncommon in Eurogames. There is not a set number of rounds or turns, there’s just that rising water that threatens everyone! 

*Images contain prototype components*


Q: How is Whistle Mountain different from your other titles? 

SC: I would say this is my most involved, richest gaming experience I have ever created. I really love the increasing tension of the rising water. This is a specialty of Luke Laurie's designs. He really believes that there should be an external threat that all players need to manage. In this game, it is the flood waters which can drown your workers and submerge machines you were hoping to visit. You really have to make a plan to save your workers while simultaneously trying to score the most points from doing the other elements in the game.

LL: The combination of an ever-changing geometric board with worker placement is really unique. It’s different from our other games, but it’s also different from other games on the market.


 *Image contain prototype components*


Q: What about Whistle Mountain makes you want to play it again and again? 

SC: There is a ton of replayability in the game which dramatically affects the game experience. Players start the game with a Starting Ability which gives a special ability for the whole game. So, there is a lot to explore in the game from choosing different Starting Abilities. Then, there are a lot of Upgrades you can earn in the game which have special abilities too. Then, there are different large machine tiles, each of which has game-changing effects. Each board will grow and change in different ways--it's really a remarkable transformation to experience.

LL: Every game is completely different. It’s different not just because of the wide variability in buildings, cards, and upgrades, but also because of how the gameplay evolves because of player choices. There are many ways to approach playing, and each player’s style will change how the game unfolds. 


*Images contain prototype components*

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Ted Alspach
Ted Alspach