St. Louis Game Company Gets Big Bump from Jeopardy Nod

'Turn for the Wurst' gets its star turn, and Wam Wam Games' founders have big plans

click to enlarge Wam Wam Games co-founders, and brothers, Phill Wamser (left) and Jake Wamser (right) are already using their Jeopardy star turn to hawk Turn for the Wurst. - COURTESY OF PHILL WAMSER
Wam Wam Games co-founders, and brothers, Phill Wamser (left) and Jake Wamser (right) are already using their Jeopardy star turn to hawk Turn for the Wurst.
When Phill Wamser's older brother Jake called him on Tuesday night, Phill let the call go to voicemail. The brothers and business partners had been going back and forth all day, preparing for the launch of their new game, Shiner. He needed a break.

But then Jake Wamser texted — and he had big news about their previous game, a rummy-style card game riffing on hot dog toppings.

"We were just on Jeopardy for Turn for the Wurst as a clue," Jake wrote. "I'm not kidding."

Phill still thought it was a joke — "no one outside of St. Louis has even heard of our game/company," he says.

But it wasn't a joke, and Jake had the video clip to prove it. There was Jeopardy host Mayim Bialik, and there was the clue: "A recipe completion card game in which you try to build the perfect hot dog is called 'turn for' this."

When none of the contestants got it, Bialik provided the answer: "It's kind of cute. Turn for ... the Wurst."

The brothers still don't know how Jeopardy discovered them. But they do know the brief moment has given them a big bump in sales. "From November to two nights ago, we had sold about 300 copies total — very few as online sales," Phill Wamser reports. "Our online sales have quadrupled!"

The brothers founded their company, Wam Wam Games, last year with dreams of becoming indie game designers and developers. The oldest and youngest brother in a trio of boys growing up in St. Louis' Bevo Mill neighborhood (Jake is 40 and Phill is 32), they loved playing games. "I was a closet nerd all through high school," says Phill.

It took attending Truman State University to really bring that nerdiness to the fore. "It's the Midwest Mecca for all things nerdy," Phill laughs.

click to enlarge Turn for the Wurst was recently a question on Jeopardy.
Turn for the Wurst was recently a question on Jeopardy.
Once freed to let his inner game geek shine, Phill went all in. And it was during a 2019 game convention in Indianapolis where he got to test out games being developed that he had an epiphany.

"They were all terrible," he says. "I thought, 'We could do that.'"

That led to the brothers forming Wam Wam Games, and from there, late last fall, they released Turn for the Wurst — which began as a joke before they quickly realized they might be on to something.

"A friend of mine typed 'turn for the wurst' in a text, and I thought it was hilarious," Phill recalls. During a car ride, they fleshed out a game idea that initially began as mockery, but laugh-out-loud funny illustrations by their friend Mike Shaw helped them see the possibilities.

Now not  only do the brothers sell Turn for the Wurst on Amazon, at conventions and a local game store shelf (it's now back for sale at Fortuna Games after initially selling out), but last night they launched their second release, Shiner, on Kickstarter. As they continue to boostrap their company, they hope the Jeopardy bump will give Wam Wam Games the publicity they need.

Phill, a father of four who works as a youth pastor in Eureka, says the brothers eventually hope to go all in. "Our goal is to get full-time for both of us," he says. But even if not, there are plenty of rewards in their side gig.

"It's so much fun to make games and watch people have fun with my games," he says. "My biggest dream is to be walking through a coffee shop and to see people playing one of my games and just having fun."

Editor's note: This story was updated after publication to add new information about Turn for the Wurst being back in stock at Fortuna Games.

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About The Author

Sarah Fenske

Sarah Fenske is the executive editor of Euclid Media Group, overseeing publications in eight cities. She is the former host of St. Louis on the Air and was previously editor-in-chief of the RFT and the LA Weekly. She lives in St. Louis.
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