Thursday, March 5, 2015

Go Hunt: A children's game for playful adults

Take the childhood card game "Go Fish" and infuse it with a good amount of double-entendre silliness, and you have Go Hunt, a naughty little number that will have you giggling.

The game play is familiar - each player is dealt a hand of cards and must ask other players for cards of a certain type, in attempt to make pairs or four-sets (players decide ahead of time whether to play for sets of two or four.)  Memory will play an important role as the play passes around the circle and it's your turn to ask for cards.  Here's the kicker: instead of asking for "sevens" or "aces", you are asking for various types of animals, such as a deer with a magnificent set of antlers ("Claudia, would you show me your 'Nice Rack'?) or a rotund dachshund (Bob, do you have a 'Fat Weiner'?) I know it sounds ridiculously immature, but you have to experience this if you have a play group with adults with a relaxed or puckish sense of humor.  My friends who haven't played it yet will pick it up and start laughing just looking through the cards.

A couple of minor quibbles - as with any humor-based card game, once you've seen all the cards, the surprise aspect of the humor will be gone,  And some of the slang is a bit different from what I am familiar with, though it's easy to get the gist.  But with the right crowd, this game will shine.  It's ideal for any sort of singles or get-to-know you event with fun, easy-going folks.  As the images are of real animals (sometimes with cartoonish touches) and there's nothing R-rated in the imagery, it could, theoretically, be played by children, but it really shouldn't be.

The deck doubles as a standard deck of cards, so you can play any standard card game with it. You can learn more and purchase the game at

If I may make a request, I'd love to see some friends from the world of birds in the next printing - perhaps from the Sulidae family ("boobies") or the Paridae family ("tits").  Or perhaps some crustaceans ("Do you have Crabs?")  You get the picture.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Film Review: The Next Great American Game

The Next Great American Game is a new documentary film released last month by Douglas Morse (previously interviewed on this blog.)  The film tells the tale of Randall Hoyt, an aspiring game designer who has hit the game convention circuit with the dream of getting his game published.

The game, Turnpike, is a beautifully produced (Hoyt is a graphic designer by trade) effort that looks like a finished product, not a rough prototype.  But the mechanism is too random for gamer geeks and the theme is troublesome for some of the publishers he meets.  We all spend too much of our time in traffic already, they say - why would we want to spend our free time simulating that situation?

The film documents Hoyt's trial by fire as he plunges in without preparation - if he'd read the books about game design, he'd know it's a cardinal sin to present your game as the "Next" anything, or to say your friends and family all love it, etc.  These statements simply mark you as a newbie.  Yet Hoyt refers to his game as "The Next Great American Game" repeatedly, almost like a mantra.  Well-meaning - and sometimes blunt - game industry folks quickly set him straight.

The middle act of the film shows Hoyt first resisting, then taking some of the advice he's received.  He reveals his re-themed version of the game to Frank DiLorenzo, president of R&R games - the new version has a fantasy theme, where drivers are wizards wielding arcane magics to influence the cars on the road.  "Is THIS something your company would publish?" he asks. DiLorenzo is understandably noncommittal.  "We want to publish it if it's a 'Game You Want to Play'," he says, citing his company's tagline. In other words - the proof is in the playing.

Still, the change seems like one in the right direction, and shows Hoyt is on a development path.  Sticking to your original vision is fine, but as another industry expert Mike Gray notes, could mean you end up with a basement full of unsold games.

As one who's followed the industry for some time, and has worked on games as a hobby, I was fascinated by The Next Great American Game.  I found it to be more tightly plotted than Going Cardboard, the other documentary about the board game industry that came out a couple of years ago - here, the industry is more of a setting than a subject, and the film is tightly edited to focus on the one character.

I invite anyone who's interested in the process of designing and licensing board games to give this film a viewing.  It's the next great American boardgame documentary.  Learn more at

image provided by Douglas Morse
The intense Mr. Hoyt and his creation

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Qetchup: the healthy-eating Qard game for Qids

To be honest, I had no expectations about Qetchup, the card game from WebCracker Inc that involves playing cards in front of you (onto your "plate") to build a healthy meal.  I surely appreciated the message of the game, but wasn't sure how younger players (the target audience) would react.  I'm pleased to report that there was a healthy level of interest in the game.

I gathered one nine-year-old and two other grownups to try out the game, and read through the instructions before we started.  The game has a new edition coming out and I used the new rules along with the older cards (the new edition will feature refreshed artwork along with the new, clearer rules.)  Each game turn plays in three simple steps:

1. If  you wish, you may draw a card.  It's often smart to not draw a card unless there's a certain one you need - since you can't win until you've played or discarded all the cards in your hand.

2. In step two you can either play or discard a card.  You can play some healthy food in front of you, or some junk food in front of another player if you think they might be about to win.  In order to win, you must have one of each of the food groups represented on your "plate", have no junk food in front of you, and have no cards left in your hand.

3. If you meet all those conditions, you win!

There's also one  RESET card that delivers a stunning blow - if it's played on you, you lose all the cards on your plate and all the card in your hand, and get a new starting hand.  Interestingly, you can play this card on yourself if you feel like the combination of cards you currently have is hopeless!  The Reset card got played on our 9-year-old player and I feared there would be tears or frustration, but she took it in stride (with a good-natured offer of reprisal!)

The most strategic cards in the game are the "Q" cards.  These can be used as wild cards to fill out your plate with food groups you may be missing (except for veggies - they're too important to be replaced!), or you can use them to get rid of junk food in front of you, OR you can use them to randomly steal a card from another player's hand.

Although the game is simple enough to be played by kids as young as five years, there's an interesting balance between helping yourself and slowing down others.  The decisions are kid-friendly, yet will keep adults involved as well.  My testing group liked it, and nine-yeear-old Sophie declared it "The BEST game EVER... and it makes me so HUNGRY!!!"

Learn more at

Does your party game group need an INTERVENTION?

INTERVENTION is now on Kickstarter!

Intervention is a re-implementation of the party game True Colors, first published back in 1989.  The idea is, a funny question is asked about the people playing, and you vote for the "player most likely to..." while simultaneously guessing what the others will say about you.  It's an interesting social exercise in anticipating how you are perceived, and has potential for humor - and for hurt feelings, if players are sensitive.  The original True Colors featured questionable questions like "Whose body would you most likely recognize in the dark?", but more recent versions (the game is still available to this day!) have succumbed to political correctness, and are more tame.   Collectors still seek out the old version rather than buy the latest one. When I last played the game, a somewhat similar game called Boxers or Briefs was all the rage, and its cards were enjoyed more than True Colors' by my players.

Sensing a desire to return to the True Colors of old - or perhaps just influenced by Cards Against Humanity (the question cards are even white on black!)- Weekend Warriors, LLC has produced an amped-up game you probably won't want to play with your family.  Not only are the questions juicier, but the voting cards make more sense - for predicting how many votes you will receive, gone are the 0. +, and +/- cards of True Colors, and instead are cards that simply say NONE, MOST and SOME - no need to resort to arcane symbols if everybody reads English.  Voting booklets replace the free-floating voting cards of the old game, and make setup a lot easier (no need to sort out the voting cards with all the various colors relating to the various players.  Also, no little colored clothes pins for your players to forget they have on and accidentally wear them home.).

Intervention is a big improvement on its predecessor and the people I played with liked it a lot, and said so repeatedly.  The game will shine with groups of thick-skinned friends who know each other well and have lots of stories to share. I really liked all the game variations that were included in the print and play version.  We opted for the "Quick and Dirty" version (no keeping score) with "Full Frontal Disclosure" (everyone reveals their votes at once, rather than voting by secret ballot.)  The questions are mostly very good, and an improvement on True Colors.  You can see examples of the questions in the Print and Play version available at the web link below.  The finished game is to have more than twice as many questions - the designers are still polishing the content.

Intervention is a game I recommend, and hope to play again soon.  It's the antidote to the boring party game. Check it out at and be sure to pledge in the Kickstarter:

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Monster Mansion

Monster Mansion, a quick-moving cooperative dungeon romp for two to eight players, is currently on Kickstarter.  The game got fully funded in just two days, but the stretch goals are worth a look, so be sure to check it out and back it if it appeals to your monster-battling side!

The game plays like a better, much streamlined version of Betrayal at House on the Hill; you control a character with unique abilities, strengths and weaknesses, and explore a creepy, fantastical house and its dungeon level, finding fancy gold coins along the way and using them to purchase wondrous items you'll use to help in your battles with legendary creatures.  Much attention was paid to the coins - the ones you use in the game have a nice heavy feel.  The game is quick to learn but requires some real thought on the players' part if they are to win - you'll want to always keep your character's unique traits in mind, and will definitely want to avail yourself of the fancy items you can buy anywhere along the way (you can buy or sell items at any time - even on other players' turns - to keep the game rolling briskly along.  The game rulebook explains that the shop works by magic.)  In our first game, a mystic hourglass granted us five extra minutes of game time, which was crucial and gave us just enough time to escape the Mansion.

Monster Mansion is good fun for most anyone.  I advise you to check it out - IF YOU DARE...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Interview with Douglas Morse, "The Next Great American Game"

Mr. Morse is currently wrapping production of what looks to be a truly excellent documentary film about the industry and one man's quest to publish a game. To order The Next Great American Game, you can visit  A review should be available on this blog once the film is released around December 2014.

Tell us something about yourself.

I’m a filmmaker. At this point, it’s a compulsion really. I don’t have to do it, but I’m driven to do it. The creative process really is a joy most of the time. But sometimes the process can be so grueling, so draining, that it doesn’t seem worth the stress and hassle. On my last film, an adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s Renaissance era drama The Jew of Malta, I turned to my costume designer in a particularly difficult moment and confided “I don’t think I can do this again.” And she replied, “You all say that.”

What inspired you to make a film about the designer game industry in general, and at what moment did you narrow your focus to tell the specific story the film ultimately tells?  Looking at your Kickstarter updates, it seems initial shooting looked at the process of game design, then you began to follow one hopeful designer in specific.

I’ve always been a tabletop gamer. It began in earnest with Dungeons and Dragons when I was a teenager and continued off and on with tabletop and role-playing games. And then Settlers of Catan -- back in ’95 when it was only available as an import -- blew my mind. I spent the next five years or so fully immersed in the burgeoning Euro-game hobby. So the idea for making a documentary about the tabletop game industry has been brewing for quite a while. But I didn’t have a subject. When I saw "Caine’s Arcade," I knew I wanted to make a film about the designers. The people who played with bits of cardboard would be inspiring. After The Jew of Malta, I didn’t have a plan. But coming off a large scale period piece managing 50 or so cast and crew, the idea of a one-man-band documentary was appealing.

So for nearly six months, off and on, I started to interview designers, known and unknown, attending PAX East, the New York Toy Fair, Origins, and Alan Moon’s Gathering of Friends. In terms of the main story, I had several false starts as I searched for a subject and a way to tell the story. I interviewed well known designers like Alan Moon and Richard Launius, as well as publishers and developers from Hans im Gluck and Abacus Spiel. I attended the announcement of the Spiel des Jahres. During that time, I reconnected with someone I knew in passing growing up in New Hampshire: Randall Hoyt. He is a professor of graphic design at Keene State University and he's back in New Hampshire after having taught at the University of Connecticut for many years.

He had a prototype of a game, Turnpike, that he'd been working on for five years. I invited him to Origins with me. He couldn’t make it, but he did come to Gen Con with me. I filmed him as he tried to figure out how to pitch to publishers. I continued to interview designers, publishers, and others in the industry. After Gen Con I went to hang out with Richard Launius for a couple of days. He was a lovely host and I learned so much about game design. However, when I got back to the editing room to see how the story might take shape, I kept coming back to the footage of Randall. His intensity, naiveté, and raw talent were intriguing. He is loquacious to a fault and I loved his pontifications on creativity, process, and the gaming culture in general. I started to see that as the film took shape, he could be our Virgil, our guide through the industry.

Is this your first film project?  And are you a game designer as well as a filmmaker?

This is my seventh feature film. Although I did catch the design bug from making the movie, I quickly realized that like any craft, it takes years and years of dedication and failure to achieve success. That said, I am noodling around with some ideas. My focus, though, will remain filmmaking. It’s all I know how to do, really.

You got interviews with quite a few superstars in the game design world.  Was that difficult to pull off?  What surprised you most in making the film - either something that happened over the course of making it, or something that was revealed in talking to these fine folks?

The industry is remarkably open. People are so supportive. They are a very, very smart group. So approaching the superstars was relatively easy. You also have to remember that super-stardom in the game design world means someone is big fish in a very small pond. Games, especially the hobby games market, are dwarfed by movies and video games. So demand on a superstar’s time in this world is smaller than any sort of film star. Ultimately, people enjoy telling their stories. I like to think I’m a good interviewer. I was able to chat with Rick Loomis about the history of Flying Buffalo, play by mail games and computer punch tape. I will make as many of these interviews available as extras on both digital media and digital download.

It helped that I'd known Alan before he shot to fame based on Ticket to Ride. And it turned out Knizia and Teuber were just as easy to approach. They understand how this works: they want to sell their games. At the same time, we all share the same passion for games. I was thrilled when Antoine Bauza, Steve Jackson, and Alan backed the Kickstarter along with Scott Alden and Tom Vasel. That was all unexpected.

What are some of your favorite moments making the film?

One of the highlights was visiting Mike Gray, former head of acquisitions for Hasbro. He also worked at TSR for a time, and he knows and is respected by everyone in the industry. Randall and I visited him in his "lair," somewhere in Massachusetts. It was truly like meeting Yoda with his wall of thousands of games. Our main still comes from the scene we shot at his house. His advice to Randall (and to all budding game designers) is invaluable; I don't want to give that away, as it anchors a key scene in the film.

Your Kickstarter for the film was a great success, collecting over 400% of your relatively modest initial goal.  Will that extra funding have any effect on the finished product?

Absolutely. I was able to hire a second cameraman for several days of shooting, including the one at Mike’s house, NY Toy Fair, and ChiTAG, as well as a couple of other events. I have recently hired a sound editor and I am looking to hire a composer. Money also went towards travel (mine and eventually some of Randall’s) and equipment. My initial Kickstarter goal was to get me through a few more months of shooting. However, my actual goal was 300% of the stated goal to finish the film and as you point out I exceeded 400%. I haven’t crunched all of the numbers, but I am likely still in the black. That said, manufacturing the physical media and shipping the rewards will take thousands of dollars. It would be nice to have a little bit left over to cover expenses promoting and screening the film. If the film starts to generate a profit, that would be fantastic.

On the one hand, as artists, we shouldn’t feel bad about actually making money from our work. On the other hand, The Jew of Malta certainly put my company deep into the red and that film will never make its money back. You can never predict the success of a creative endeavor, artistically, professionally, financially. My tiny documentary about hikers on the Appalachian trail has enabled me to continue work as an independent filmmaker funding projects that break even, eventually squeak out a profit, or others that lose money. If The Next Great American Game finds an appreciative audience, it will help fund works that may not be as lucrative. (See below.) (smile)

What's next for you?  Do you intend to make another film, and if so, on what topic? 

I am preparing my fourth adaptation of a classic drama. The first was The Summoning of Everyman (the medieval morality play), the next was filming a stage production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, and then more recently The Jew of Malta. Next up is The Second Shepherd’s Play. It’s another medieval tale (yes, gamers tend to love the medieval and Renaissance milieu) about a group of shepherds trying to recover a stolen lamb. It’s a comedy that was performed as part of the nativity cycles popular in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The play is often taught in drama survey courses, but students rarely have the opportunity to see it in performance. As an educator (I teach Screenwriting and Script Analysis at The New School in New York City) I want drama and English students to experience performance rather than just reading the text.

Many thanks to Douglas for taking the time to chat with us!  The Next Great American Game, with hours of extra interviews and digital content, is available at The filmmaker’s main website is

Monday, September 29, 2014

A$$et Management

Back in 2001 - long before Cards Against Humanity came along and twisted Apples to Apples, turning the party game world on its head in the process - Forrestt Williams and Jason Main started work on an unapologetically "adult" game using old-school game mechanisms.

A$$et Management is a game that answers the question, what would the child's game of Life be like if it were set in a grimy urban underbelly of crime and prostitution?  Well, all right, perhaps that is not a question you were asking, but the game is amusing with the right audience.  Let's take a look.

An interesting aspect of the game is despite its adult theme, it plays much like the games you played when you were a kid - remember "roll the dice, move your mice"?  Here, it's roll the dice, indulge your vice as you build your crime empire and hire ladies of the evening.  To do that, you'll need plenty of street cred, which you'll get as you collect bling along the way.  The object of the game is to have the highest net worth at the end - you increase your wealth in several ways:

  • Landing on a SCORE square, which gives you a SCORE card (score cards are worth money and have other benefits - weapons to help you in a fight, bling to impress the ladies)
  • Rolling doubles on the dice, which also gives you a SCORE card
  • Landing on an action square that gives you money (however, some will have negative effects)
  • If an opponent lands on a square controlled by one of your ladies

The "landing on someone's square" mechanism works similar to Monopoly in that the controller of the square intends to collect payment, but unlike Monopoly, if you choose to you can "fight" the owner of the square and steal away the call girl named on that spot if you win.  Fighting isn't always the right move, and you have to pick your battles carefully.

The tactical part of the game is choosing when to fight and how many of your limited resources to put towards a fight.  You get weapons on some of your SCORE cards, and can use them in a fight, but once used, they are gone.

The rest of the gameplay is pretty random, but results in funny effects.  With one die roll I narrowly avoided another player's space occupied by her attractive Asian employee, Qum Li (presumably prounounced "comely").  "Whew," I said, "I didn't want to land on Qum Li."  Without missing a beat, my friend said "You got somethin' to say about Qum Li?!?"  You had to be there to see how ironic and incongruous it was to see my friend role-playing a pimp - she's very unpimplike outside of the game.

Finding the right audience for A$$et Management might be tricky.  The creators of the game say they have found it's been a hit with casual gamers, the sort who enjoy Cards Against Humanity but also like Ticket to Ride.  Since it's pretty quick to play and funny with the right perspective, I would think it could be fun with different groups of adult players (only), even outside of environments like bachelor parties or frat houses.  The women I played with found it amusing, though they wondered about replay value after you've landed on all the spots and seen all the girls.

Thinking about it after the game was over, I wondered if it wouldn't be good for the creators to include some attractive males on the cards as well. You know - something for the ladies.  Also, it would create an interesting tension for some male players to have to "land on" a male provider. Perhaps this can be part of an expansion.

The world's oldest profession is an unusual choice for an old school board game, but somehow it works.  Check out A$$et Management on their web site,  A crowdfunding campaign is coming soon.