Designer Spotlight: Breeze Grigas and AEGIS Kickstarter news

Hey board gamers! We normally spotlight new designers from all around the South, like J.L Reid, the mind behind The Bentpin Games or Jason Dinger, designer of Captains of the Gulf and Crescent City Cargo.

But this time, we reach all the way up to the Northeast to visit with Breeze Grigas with Zephyr Workshop after hearing him chat with Dan Patriss and Chris Kirkman with The Geek All Stars Podcast recently. We chat with Breeze about early game memories, favorite foods, and of course, everything you need to know about the new edition of AEGS.

Hopefully someday we will visit in person with Breeze at Southern Board Game Fest’s GeauxPub section someday! 

Here is our interview (edited for space constraints, all photos courtesy of Zephyr Workshop):

Hey Breeze, thanks for visiting with us today! Give us the elevator pitch: Who is Breeze Grigas and what is Zephyr Workshop?

Hi! I’m a game designer. Breeze is my actual name, and Zephyr Workshop is the name of the board game design and publishing house I run with my friends. We make tabletop games and work on other publishers’ games too. We’ve worked on games from IDW, Hasbro, Thunderworks, and more, testing games and tightening rules. Our main self-published game is AEGIS Combining Robots, the Voltron-inspired tactics game. Its reprint and sequel-expansion is going to Kickstarter this month on Jan 17th.

How’d you get your start in tabletop?  What’s the earliest game memories you have? 

I have a gaming background mostly centered on tactical and turn-based role-playing video games, which are basically just digital board games. I went to school to be make video games originally, and many years ago now, one of our paper prototypes for a video game would become AEGIS.

I played plenty of board games with my grandmother growing up, however, along with many years of playing various TCGs.

Same here. My earliest memories are playing Battaille, our Louisiana version of the children’s card game, War, with my grandmother. So tell us about AEGIS!  

AEGIS Combining Robots is our  tactical skirmish game with a combining robot twist! Choose a Commander, take their team of five robots into hex-based, d6 combat, and combine them into more powerful forms to defeat your opponents. Choose from dozens of robots across five classes – Assault, Evasive, Guard, Intel, and Support – AEGIS! – and duke it out up to six players! Games take about 15 minutes per player.

What’s the story with the AEGIS2 or AEGIS 2nd Ignition Kickstarter?  

AEGIS2 is a full, stand-alone, cross-compatible sequel to AEGIS, which came out in 2019. Everything about it is new, but it’s built on top of the original game’s systems and can be totally mixed-and-matched with content from the first box. Like box 1, this one will also have 100 unique robots to play with, separated into prebuilt teams.

When we made the first game, we set out to make a faster, more affordable, more accessible wargame for people who wanted to get into things like Warhammer, but didn’t want to commit to a whole lifestyle of collecting and painting. A

EGIS2 doubles down on our original goals: it’s a more streamlined, cleaned up and easier-to-learn skirmish game experience, with higher production values to boot. We built it throughout the pandemic and are very proud of it.

Robot Rally is one of my favorite themes in gaming — chaotic robot programming and lots of player interaction. It probably goes back to my reading of Isaac Asimov short stories as a kid. But for you, I’ve got a simple question:

Why robots? 

The game’s core mechanic is that you can combine your robots together mid-battle to change up your strategy. This key part of the game, uniting two units together into a new one, wouldn’t make too much sense with a lot of other themes. Also, because I have decades of love for giant robot media. Everything you can think of. Make stuff close to the heart!

What’s got you excited about this new version and the Kickstarter? Why should people back now instead of waiting for later? 

I’ve been chiseling away at the game for quite a while now, basically since AEGIS1 came out, so it’s exciting to finally get it across “the first finish line”, eg selling it players. We’re also spiffing up and reprinting AEGIS1, since there are now 0 copies of that in the wild. People should back our Kickstarter because we’ll be giving some deep discounts on the game’s final MSRP, and most importantly, we need this campaign to do really well so we can print these games!! If you don’t back, they just won’t exist, now won’t that be sad? We’ll also be adding some goodies as we hit stretch goals that will further add value to your pledge.

How robust is the solo option and how important was it for you to include a solo version? 

It’s pretty good! Our approach to solo was to make it a boss battle mode, where you beat up a big enemy and armies of minion robots. AEGIS is already a very content-rich game, and the solo mode plays into that a lot. You can use basically all robots in either box (200 total!) as part of the solo mode, and there will also be many bosses released over time. Solo mode was one of the biggest player requests, and the market definitely has been demanding it overall, so I felt that it was really important to include here – and to do it right. 

Any advice for building a community to help develop a game like AEGIS? Any interesting stories or experiences in the playtesting? Are you more focused on a wide range of playtesting or a core group that you trust? 

Paradoxically, the best way to build a community is to release something, and engage with your players. Getting to that first release is the hard part though. Originally a lot of testing was done by our college friends, and now these days it is a tight-knit set of players in the AEGIS Discord. We also do tournaments and leagues to help test things out too, with some minor monetary incentives and promo cards as prizes. That’s been really good for balancing the game, but in terms of testing usability/learnability, nothing beats showing your game to random players at conventions and events.

Here’s your chance to tell us before the project starts — just who is this game perfect for? 

Want a faster, cheaper Warhammer/Battletech? AEGIS is great for you.

Want a cool robot game, with a LOT of colorful robots to look at and fiddle with? Get AEGIS.

Want a tabletop game that hearkens back to Advance Wars and Fire Emblem? AEGIS is great for these players too!

Perfect! That makes it easy to match group to game. You’ve listed some great experiences there, and we love solid gaming experiences. But something else we love is “lagniappe” in the Gumbo when it comes to Kickstarter campaigns. Are there any stretch goals or little freebies or bonus things awaiting backers in the project? 

We’ll see! The first goals are centered around unlocking more and more robots and solo bosses, and then after that, we may see some interesting, spicy content…

Spicy content makes us happy! All right, Breeze, it’s time now for non-Kickstarter lagniappe questions. What’s your favorite board game to play of all time? 

I’m a pretty big fan of deckbuilders. I enjoy Clank and its numerous variants a lot.

Clank! is one of our favorites! I’ve got an envie to play the new version (Catacombs) right now! What game do you have an envie (a Cajun French word for “burning desire”) to play right now?

Vagrantsong! Very cool game. I love it when board games go all-in on making original IPs with unique styles.

Who’s a better comic book fan, Dan Patriss or Chris Kirkman? 

Ultimately, taste and quality of fandom is defined by who backs AEGIS2 for more money…

Ha! Perfect response. I’m curious — how good are you at your own game? 

Absolutely not, I’m actually quite bad at positioning ahaha. I’m much better planning sequences of attacks and comboing abilities together, but someone who can actually spatially plan will run circles around me.

Favorite place in Louisiana to visit or want to visit? 

My buddy Brother Ming (who just successfully Kickstarted his game Re;Act!) always talks about his favorite hometown crawfish place called the Big EZ – so there!

Crawfish in Louisiana is an excellent choice. But what about your favorite food?

I love New England-style Chinese food. Truly world-class cuisine.

You’re a game designer, but what if you could design the perfect game night. The perfect setting, the perfect game, and the perfect game group. What would it be?

I just really enjoy the rare game night with my Zephyr teammates. Hopefully we can do more of those and play the Clank Catacombs we got for Christmas after this Kickstarter launches.

So, that’s our interview with Breeze Gregos of Zephyr! Take a look at the project page for AEGIS2, and sign up for the pre-launch notification. January 17th! Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

— BJ

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