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Acquaintances is a party game that you play with strangers.

It’s comprised of 89 cards (and one rule card) that each have a social task on them. The main rule is that you must complete each task with someone you’ve never spoken to before. Some example tasks are:

  • Ask someone how their mom is doing
  • Show someone a picture of a pickle
  • Have a staring contest with someone
  • Give someone a blank piece of paper

    My motivation for creating this game was to gamify breaking the ice with people in public spaces. The tasks on the cards may seem mundane, but interacting with strangers can be awkward and hilarious, where even something as simple as telling someone they smell nice can be daunting.

    I used Illustrator to design all the graphics. I took inspiration from Brosmind and Adventure Time for the aesthetic of the packaging.
  • Development

    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 list out simple social interactions that you could complete quickly:

  • Tell someone they smell nice
  • Ask someone to add you on Facebook
  • Tell someone a joke
  • Get someone to let you try on their glasses
  • 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.

    Rule Structure

    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:

    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 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, was clean and retro looking.

    Designing the Artwork & Printing

    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.”

    Some insights I gained from playtesting:
  • The time limit has got to go. No one respects the time limit, and it’s unnecessary. I removed it in the next iteration.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • This is an effective way of making acquaintances, even friends.
  • Different people come up with different strategies of accomplishing the same interaction. 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.