January 24th, 2007
I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia, reading GAMES Magazine, when I first learned of a board game publication called The Game Report, which hailed from my hometown of Seattle and was written entirely by one man, Peter Sarrett. I looked Peter up upon my return to the states, joined his game group, and even started writing game reviews for TGR.
Not content to just play games, Peter eventually started to design them as well; his first, in fact, is my all-time favorite party game, Time’s Up. And a few years back he joined forces with veteran game designer Michael Adams (who created many of the game in the Cranium line) to form Sarrett-Adams Games. He also, incidentally, writes the weblog Static Zombie. — MB
When we develop new party games, we’ll often think of really cool high-tech gadgetry that would enable some terrific game experiences. But we face two problems. We have no electronics background, so we can’t MacGyver a doorbell and a hair dryer into a Jeopardy! lock-out buzzer. And even if we could, we’d face the problem of how to bring that technology to a Wal-Mart price point. So when we’re prototyping a new game, we have to resort to simpler, mechanical solutions.
For our latest party game, a clue-giving communication game similar to $25,000 Pyramid, we envisioned a train theme with a timer that was actually a mechanical train chugging along a railroad track. Each section of track remaining when players stopped the clock would earn them bonus points. We couldn’t find any suitable trains at local shops, but we did find other wind-up toys of appropriate size. So instead of a train, our early prototype featured a wind-up duck that waddled down the track. Playtesters were immediately drawn to the cute little duck, and asked to play the “duck game,” but ultimately we streamlined the game design and eliminated the mechanism altogether. When Hasbro bought the game they changed the theme completely so trains weren’t even involved.
The lesson to us is clear, and sometime soon we’ll design a game involving fowl play.
That party game, minus the train theme, became Tie One On and was published this fall by Hasbro. It is currently only available at Wal-Mart.
If you have young children (3-6 years old), you might like our other new game this year: The Crazy Mixed Up Zoo Game from Simply Fun. This is a game with beautiful components that scales in difficulty as children get older. And since it’s a memory game, kids will often win against adults.
Finally, coming in March from Rio Grande Games is our latest game, If Wishes Were Fishes. This one’s a family game where players can catch fish and sell them later at market, or throw them back and be granted a wish that may give them an edge over the opposition.