Devblog #1 – Acquaintances – An Ice-Breaking Party Game

 

Devblog #1 – Acquaintances – An Ice-Breaking Party Game

I sought out to make a social card game with one of my friends who I regularly went out with. We typically went to bars and struck up conversations with anyone and everyone. People go out to socialize, yet it’s a challenge for some people to interact with random strangers due to fear of rejection, social ineptitude, awkwardness, anxiety, etc. Gamifying this interaction gives you a crutch and gives the interaction more intention – the fear of rejection is lessened when a card is telling you to go strike up a conversation with someone and when there’s competition involved. So we came up with the idea to make a game based on ice-breakers, social interactions, awkwardness, and humor. This is how Acquaintances came to be.

 

Make the Thing

The first thing I did was grab a notebook/beer and I started listing out simple social interactions that you could complete quickly:

Tell someone they smell nice
Get someone to let you try on their glasses
Ask someone to add you on Facebook
Tell someone a joke
Challenge someone to a rap battle
Ask someone if a tomato is a fruit or vegetable

I knew I wanted a standard deck sized game, so I came up with 52 interactions for a 52-card deck. A standard deck is small enough to keep in a purse or even a pocket to be able to bring it easily to bars, parks, parties, etc.

 

Structuring the Rules

As soon as I had the list compiled, I started thinking about the structure of the game. Taking inspiration from Cards Against Humanity and Apples to Apples, I wanted the win scenario to be that of a card count. I also wanted to be able to fit the rules on one card, which meant keeping it short. The first board game I ever made as a group project in one of my game design classes had two pages of rules. It was disgusting. The less rules the better for a casual, social game.

So I structured the rules around two main things:

  1. The people you complete the interaction with must be a stranger.
  2. To win, a player must complete X interactions, thus collecting X cards. If they don’t complete the interaction or refuse to, they don’t collect the card.

Version 1 of the rules looked like this:

Version 1 – 10/9/2016

ACQUAINTANCES

An ice-breaking bar game.

See all those people in the bar? Go talk to them. Do what your card says in the allotted time to collect the card. Don’t tell them you’re playing a game until after you’ve done the deed, and make sure you haven’t met them before.

The player to collect 5 cards first wins (and probably has some new acquaintances).

Initially I included a time limit on each card, but ultimately removed it – I’ll talk about this in the playtesting section.

 

Designing the Artwork & Printing

The personality of the game is that of comedy and awkwardness, so I wanted to portray it in a whimsical, cartoony way. Although I still am not 100% happy with having alcohol as the face of the packaging, I decided that it was acceptable due to the relatability, and because the demographic is ages 18 and above. My hesitation toward applying a graphic that includes alcohol is caused by the possibility of alienating non-drinkers from playing the game. This is also why the slogan “An ice-breaking bar game” was updated to “An ice-breaking party game.”

After scouring www.dafont.com for the perfect block font that looked good in all capital letters, I settled with Petangue, but not completely happy with the outcome due to aesthetic and legibility issues.  The art I came up with, pictured in Figure 1., was clean and retro looking. I’m unsure why I chose the green I chose, but it came together and I was pleased for a first draft.

 

Figure 1. The first two prints of Acquaintances.

The two packs cost me about 25 dollars.

Figure 2. The tuck box artwork.

The print shop I chose was The Game Crafter, with the following considerations:

  • price
  • product quality
  • community
  • simplicity
  • variety of products
  • opportunity to sell and manufacture the game on the site directly
  • low order quantity

Once you choose the packaging for the game (I chose a poker tuck box with 52 cards) they have templates available for Illustrator and Photoshop to format the graphics for print. Super simple. I uploaded the box art and each card, ordered two, and anxiously awaited for it to be shipped. When they arrived I was so pleased with the quality of the product. The print turned out great, the deck was wrapped in plastic, and the cards looked pro aside from me making a BLATANT spelling error that was on every card – “acquiant.” Seriously, Alexia?

 

Playtesting

Like usual I went to our regular bar with my friends, this time bringing the game in my bag. A little nervous and afraid that the game was going to totally suck, I took it out and had one of my friends read the rules. We commenced playing after they explained the rules to the rest of the group.

Some insights I gained from playtesting:

  1. The time limit has got to go. No one respects the time limit, and it’s unnecessary. I removed it in the next iteration.
  2. This is a very unstructured, casual game. I toyed with implementing a voting system for deciding whether the person ultimately passed or failed the interaction, but decided to leave it less structured due to the environment the game is played in.
  3. The interactions need to be even simpler, and less risky. Some interactions I had included such as “Tell someone they smell nice” is much harder and more awkward to do than you would expect. My most outgoing friend drew this card, and hesitated after thinking about her strategy. She walked to the other side of the bar and interrupted two guys, told one of them that they smelled nice, and came back to our side. It’s one thing to casually mention this to someone, but having to go out of your way with intention makes doing so much more nerve-wracking. And so I added more, less risky cards.
  4. This is an effective way of making acquaintances, even friends.
  5. Different people come up with different strategies of accomplishing the same interaction.
  6. Sometimes you get pulled into a conversation with the person you just interacted with, and that’s okay. That’s what the overarching point of the game is – to meet new people.

Overall I got very positive reviews from my playtesters, and from strangers after they knew we were playing a game. I even got some people to play with us in the next round. I played a few more times before working on the next iteration.

 

Iterating

It was almost a year before I picked up the game again and updated it as necessary. I had moved across the country for a job in the beginning of the year, so I knew it would be hard to playtest again until I had a substantial friend group in my new location, considering that this isn’t the type of game you can just play at a tabletop shop or protospiel. Ten months later, here I am, about to playtest again.

Items that needed updating:

  1. Artwork. I wasn’t completely happy with what I had created on the first draft, including color palette and font.
  2. Ruleset. Removing the time limit, adding more clarity, more structure on who goes first and in what order.
  3. Card content. I wanted a bigger deck, so I added 37 interactions to the deck that were less cringe-worthy and easier for people to complete. Like high-fiving. Anyone can high-five. This made the deck 89 interaction cards and 1 rule card.

Artwork – I took inspiration from Brosmind and Adventure Time when creating the artwork shown in Figure 3. Once again I scoured Dafont and MyFonts for another block font, this time finding a few I was interested in:

I chose Messages as the font because it’s blocky, looks good in all caps, legible, retro, and whimsical (and it just spoke to me). There’s nothing like finding a font you know is perfect for a project. The color palette is whimsical and bright – I have a penchant for pink and blue together. I’m extremely happy with how the style came together, the format of the information, and pleased with the arms wrapping around the packaging. Overall I think it looks more professionally done than before.

Figure 3. Second iteration tuck box art. Larger box for 90 cards.

Figure 4. Back of the card.

Ruleset – I had updated the rules very shortly following the playtesting, but looking at it a year later I wasn’t happy with the verbiage. I removed the time limit and added more clarity, sending Version 3 ruleset to print, as shown in Figure 5.:

Version 2 – 4/16/2017

ACQUAINTANCES

An ice-breaking bar game.

The shyest person goes first. Every task on a card must be performed with someone you haven’t met before.

Draw a card. See all those people you don’t know? Go talk to them. Successfully do what your card says to win the card. But you can’t tell them you’re playing a game until after you’ve done the deed!

How to win:

Collect five cards -or- Get three strangers to join your game after performing a task card with them.

 

Version 3 – 11/7/2017

ACQUAINTANCES

An ice-breaking party game.

See all those people you don’t know? Let’s go talk to them.

Decide who is the shyest person in your group, and make them go first. Alright shy guy, draw a card. Complete that task with a person in the area – BUT that person MUST be someone you’ve never spoken to before. If you successfully complete the task without telling the stranger that you’re playing a game, you collect that card. If you can’t complete the task, you fail that card and it goes on the bottom of the deck. Once your turn is up, you pick the next person to go. Continue until all players have taken a turn and the round is complete.

The player to collect 5 cards first wins (and probably has some new acquaintances).

Figure 5. The finalized ruleset for this iteration.

Card content – Like I mentioned earlier, I added cards, bringing the deck to a total of 90 cards including the rule card. This includes socially simpler interactions.

 

Next Steps

Right now I’m waiting on my decks to come in the mail. As I wait I’m thinking about my publishing method. I have three options I’m considering:

  1. Pitch a publisher.
  2. Self-publish via Kickstarter.
  3. Self-publish by selling in local game shops and distributors.

From attending PAX talks about publishing card games last year, I know that I either need to self-publish or pitch a publisher, not do both. Apparently publishers don’t like publishing games that have been funded by a Kickstarter. I would need to identify which companies to target based on the types of games they publish, targeting social game publishers primarily. I haven’t yet done much research in this area.

I’m looking forward to receiving my hard copies, and I’m already getting requests for copies from friends. Hopefully this takes off! But even if it doesn’t, I still made a product I’m proud of and learned a lot in the process.

Special thanks to my friend Scott Wallace for giving me a name for my game, Megan Charbonneau for brainstorming with me, and all my friends for helping me playtest and drink beers.

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