Sunday, July 10, 2011

Let's Get the Party (Kick)Started!

by Angie
I've recently been quite fascinated with Kickstarter. If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, you should pop over and give it a look. Kickstarter is a really cool crowd-funding platform for creative projects, and I think its great how many new game designs are getting published because of it. Kickstarter provides a valuable service to game designers, publishers, and gamers alike. Designers and publishers can get the funding they need to get their games to market; and gamers can be in on the ground floor of exciting new games, helping to decide which projects they want to see happen and often gaining cool rewards, recognition, swag, and other benefits for their support.
In addition to all of that, Kickstarter presents an interesting method for communication between the game’s creators and the players, allowing for comments and ideas to be integrated before a game prints. Some game creators offer supporters the ability to name things in the game, make choices about certain elements, and other fun interactions that really make you feel like you are part of the process. And of course as a supporter not only are you helping make a game come to life, you also are able to guarantee yourself a copy before anyone else. Many of the Kickstarer campaigns have exclusive bonuses or reduced rates on extra copies of the games for supporters, so it’s worth taking a look even If you are on a budget, every little bit helps.
I’m mentioning Kickstarter because I think it’s something every gamer should know about. I’m also bringing it up now because we had the opportunity to play a prototype copy of a game that is up on Kickstarter right now, with 13 days to go at the time of this post. The game is called White Elephant Card Game, and is designed by Brian Kelley. This card game manages to be both a fun light game that recreates the experience of a white elephant gift party AND makes a particularly cute gift FOR a white elephant gift party. Double Whammy!

The basic premise of the game is that you are a cheapskate who needs to pick up a few gifts for some friends and family for the holiday, but don’t want to spend any money… so you hatch up a plan to trade the junk in your attic for stuff the people on your list will like by attending several white elephant gift parties. Just in case you are wondering what it is all about, a white elephant gift party is a quirky gift exchange game in which everyone brings a wrapped gift (often a silly or weird item) and places it into a common pool. There are a lot of variations of the “rules”, but it usually involves people taking turns opening a gift, with each subsequent player having the ability to steal a previously opened gift or grab a new one from the pile.
This game replicates that core idea well in a card game format. You are trying to grab cards with a high score in specific colors, and you do so by bringing gifts (placing a card face down on the table), opening presents (turning a card face up), and stealing them from other players (taking a card they’ve revealed and putting it in front of you). The game flows well, and the fun retro style art and zany oddball gift photos and description really help drive home the theme.

After playing this game last night, we were discussing how funny it would be to stock up on a bunch of copies of this game and give it out at my family’s annual gift exchange party (which is similar to the white elephant exchange game described above, except we usually bring nice presents that people would like instead of junk from our attics!). Anyhow, we were discussing about how it would be interesting and amusing to give one each year and follow up with a few rounds of playing the game to extend the fun of the party. It seems like one of those perpetual gift items that could turn into quite a family tradition. Whoever ended up with the White Elephant Card Game would have a fun reminder of the event, and a neat little game to play as well… assuming they didn’t give it away at their next white elephant party. Even passing a single copy of the game around would make for a good holiday laugh.
If you just love white elephant gift parties and can’t get enough, or you really want to stock up on gifts for the next few holiday seasons, this is a dream come true! Otherwise, it’s still an interesting, light-weight, family-and-friends game that plays quickly and offers some strategic decision making that is worth checking out. Kickstarter projects are time-sensitive, so what are you waiting for?!? :)

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