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A small interview

With Pops & Bejou

Pops & Bejou Games is a small company in Fargo, ND started by three friends – Austin (Pops), Jenna (Bejou) and Jake – around the love of board games and the community that the hobby fosters around tables all over.

Jake, the nickname-less portion of  Pops & Bejou Games reached out recently promoting their soon to launch Kickstarter for their first game CULTivate. A quick look at the box art had me hooked enough to dive a bit deeper. I spent some time going over the rules and watching their How to Play video and found what seems a promising light puzzler with a pile of charm.

~From the Publisher~

Plot your agenda. Grow your following. Reap the rewards.

Play as a cult leader working to fill your compound with followers to help you carry out your agenda. But watch out! Rival cult leaders may try to sabotage you or convert the followers you can’t keep in line. You might also garner unwanted attention from pesky investigators who try to get in your way. Persuade the right followers, outwit your foes, and rise above the rest.

So, what grabbed me in immediately was the look of the game. The color, the clean look and the artwork really pop. This is a small game with a vibrant retro aesthetic that is definitely going to get some attention. The art has the feel of the early Pink Panther film credits but with a very modern pop of color.

The BGG page for CULTivate lists Danny Kvale as the artist. Can you talk a bit about how the artwork for the game developed?

Ever since the beginning of the game development process, we wanted the game to be more tongue-in-cheek than dark. We gave Danny the idea of a 1970’s children’s illustrated book for inspiration because we liked the juxtaposition of light-hearted children’s books and the dark nature of cults. We also chose the 1970s because it was a time in our history where cults seemed to be more prolific. This gradually developed into a more mid-mod aesthetic, with vibrant colors recalling back to the nature of children’s illustrations. One of our designers, Pops (Austin), really gravitated towards the mid-century modern aesthetic and Danny brought that to life with his illustrations. Pink Panther is exactly the type of graphics we were leaning towards!

I adore the Meeples for the game. I especially love that they are, with the exception of the Investigator, shaped like more traditional pawns or Halma pieces to fit the retro art style but are still shaped wood to be familiar as modern Meeple. The individual designs for each add a lot of personality too.

Was there a lot of development for what the cast of followers would be and how they would be represented or did things come together pretty organically with the theme?

We also love our meeples! You are exactly right; we were trying to keep the retro theme consistent with all of our game components, and they really worked well in tying back to the game’s logo. We had the ideas for each type of follower fairly early in our process, and the designs grew organically from there. Danny was able to take our follower types and create minimalist screen printed designs for the meeples. They are fantastic, and a big highlight of our game.

All images by Pops&Bejou

After spending some time with the rulebook, it seems CULTivate is a nice light puzzler with quite a bit of player interaction with the limited resources, aka Followers, and the nasty Investigators that get around clogging up the works and giving negative points. Would you tell us a little about the game and where the spark came from. Which came first, the puzzle or the theme?

CULTivate is a card-driven, pattern-building game where you play as a satirical cult leader trying to gain the most followers and accomplishing your wacky agenda. You gain followers by playing cards, stealing or swapping from other players, or exchanges. As you draw cards, Undercover Investigations can pop up and add investigators to your compound stopping you from recruiting followers. As you recruit followers you will activate powers making it easier for you to fill your compound. When a player fills their compound, the end of the game is triggered. Pops had the idea for a cult-themed game in a dream one night and brought the idea to Bejou (Jenna) who helped create the puzzle-like theming for the game. Jake then brought his personality into it by creating the characters and their backstories which have made the game what it is today.

CULTivate launches on Kickstarter Feb 22. Besides getting the game produced what are you most excited about? Are there some stretch goals you have planned that you are really pulling for?

We are most excited for how the board game community will embrace our game. We have already received some great feedback from the community and hope that this continues into our campaign. I think we are all really pulling for the stretch goal where, along with upgrading the box, Danny gets a tattoo of Ryan’s logo on his arm!

I am a big fan of the production side of things. Who have you partnered up with for manufacturing? Who are you working with for distribution?

We are working with Panda Game Manufacturing. They have manufactured a ton of our favorite games, and we have been very impressed with their support thus far. We are currently in the process of locking down a distributor.

Panda Games Manufacturing has definitely made a name for themselves. Personally, I think they have had a huge influence on the industry and the hobby. 

I think everybody would love to know more about Pops & Bejou. Did the company spring to life around CULTivate or was it already percolating and growing? The logo is fantastic by the way.

Thank you! Danny also designed our logo; it is cute and we also love it. We have always loved to play board games, and have had it on all our bucket lists to create one. Once the idea for CULTivate was developed into something truly special, we decided that we wanted to get this out into the larger gaming community and even casual gamers beyond that. Pops & Bejou was sprung to life out of our ideas for CULTivate, but deep down I think we always knew we wanted to create a board game company.

Also, as a follow-up, will Pops & Bejou work a bit like a law firm where eventually Jake will “make partner” earning a nickname and a piece of the title “Pops, Bejou & Jake-a-lope” or some such thing?

Lol. Jake has always said that he is the ampersand in Pops & Bejou. He introduced Pops and Bejou. He was also the one who created Bejou’s nickname and made sure that everyone called Austin Pops. His fingerprints are all over our company’s name and backstory.

We always want to know what games are getting played. Are there some favourites around the Pops & Bejou offices? Have you been absorbed with other puzzlers as CULTivate developed?

There are so many games we like to play! Currently, Wingspan, Splendor, Azul, Welcome to, Codenames, Ticket to Ride, Villainous, Kingdomino, and Expancity are some of our favorites.

As a last bit and purely for my own personal indulgence… We have talked on our podcast before about authorship and how game designers put a lot of effort in to gain the recognition for their designs early on ( The Coaster Proclamation of 1988 ). The promo material and rule book currently available for CULTivate make no mention of authorship. Could you talk about why you went this route with CULTivate?

We have always known from the beginning that this is a team effort. This game would not be here today without every single person on our team, and everyone who has been so gracious to help us on our journey. I think it was always an unsaid rule that we would all take credit for this game, and that the credit would be fairly obscured from the players. We want the focus to be on our players and the community, they are the driving force behind our business.

CULTivate will be launching on Kickstarter on February 22. Follow along with Pops & Bejou Games to find out just how this super stylish puzzler will fit in your collection.

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About The Author


Mitch is a graphic designer with what could be referred to as a compulsion to design and redesign things that may or may not need it. Truly a jack of all trades and master of none (well maybe the one) he will retrofit your kitchen table or redesign your player mats. He can’t help himself. Mitch sometimes jokes that he was "Raised according to Hoyle" His grandmother instilled a love of games in him early on that has continued to grow year over year.