Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mayfair Games Charmed But Not Quite Sold on CAN'T STOP SHOPPING ... Valuable Feedback Stirs Creators to Major Revamp of How Game is Played

 Niece Lisa, right, and her son Noah, shopping near Times Square in New York.

They are one of the biggest board game makers in the world (holding world-wide English language edition rights to Settler's of Catan, a modern day phenom) , AND, unlike most board game makers, they WILL accept e-mail querries from inventors; if they are interested, you are asked to send along the rules and a prototype game board. Now, when you can atleast nab the attention of a pro at this game (do you like that pun?), you may receive invaluable advice, advice you would be stupid not to seriously consider.

Came a friendly reply from Mayfair's Minister of Product Acquisition, Alex Yeager (left).  Alex was generous enough to express liking how the game seems "engaging" and "amusing."  He also shared with us a sense of discomfort in  the game's "level of randomness."

Getting feedback like that, I was stirred into action, after looking up a thousand definitions of "randomness," and asking myself, how can we make the game more definite?  So I came up with a new set of shopping coupons for everybody to have equally at the outset, thought it was great, called Boyi up, asking him to come over and test my brilliance, holding off on telling him what I had done in order to get the coldest possible test game play from him.  I needed Boyi's honesty.  When once I told him of having just test played another game I was working on with some people whose feedback wasn't very good, Boyi said, "That's the best kind of feedback." 

Naturally, I could imagine Boyi reacting to my bright new idea with giddy glee. Yes, that's it, he'd exclaim!

He did not.  The new approach moved along sluggishly.  Boyi struggled to stay engaged.  We discussed what did not move him, and then, he uttered three words that did not much rouse me just then, but a day later did:  "shuffle the cards" -- the "cards" being what turned into ACT-ON Coupons.  Now, such a suggestion may strike you as obvious or simplistic, but if you knew what did not exist then and what followed, you would understand.  Thus came Version 3.

Boyi came by to try it last week. He was so enthused, we ended up playing Version 3 four times, without my ever suggesting we even play game 2.

Three game-changing words: "Shuffle the cards."

Game Two: Boyi claims victory at Must Buy!
Is this the answer?  Is the game less random?   It brings more mystery to Can't Stop Shopping.  Now, a turn is defined as either a roll of the dice or the play of an Act-On coupon.  Now, players have more tools (coupons) to work with at the outset, but they don't know what tools the other players have. And the results came be quite amusing and unexpectedly dramatic. Suspense fills every shopping cart!    

We know that the real action is on computer screens, not around family tables. We know they are coming out with mobile board games. We know our marketing options may be shrnking by the day.

My sister, Kathy, between her daughter and grandson. The game has been played now on three continents, in the U.S. China and South Africa!

Heck, we  might go on-line ourselves and put a few copies of the prototype up for bid on E-Bay.  Just to maybe cause a little buzz to rise.  Nothing, ventured, nothing gained?  And we might try Alex Yeager again.  Will he still sense too much randomness?  Or ... will he turn out to be our own George Parker, the man who, in 1935, after resisting one Charles Brace Darrow many times, finally agreed to put out what became the worlds' most famous board gamer. ever.  You know the name.

That game, by the way, was decades in development.  Darrow's version of Monopoly had been adapted (taken) from its direct and all-too-familiar predecessor, The Landlords, a game invented by one Elizabeth Magie Phillips

Ah ... Mr. Parker -- I mean Mr. Yeager, are you still there, knock knock!

 Amtrak passenger Jacob gives Can't Stop Shopping a test play.

Noah and his pilot dad, Brian, "Captain United," at home in Luray, VA

Boyi and I playing the very first game, on a Chinese train from Beijing to Guangzhou


Kathy said...

Shuffle the cards....and bring on the mystery and suspense! I'm dying to play Version 3!!!!


Alex Yeager said...

Sure, dude, no pressure THERE... Part of the fun of my job is getting to see all of these interesting ideas that people have for games, and, more important, how they implement those ideas. We receive over 400 submissions a year, and a preceious few make it to testing, let alone publication (and we're booking games for 2015 right now, reflecting the internal development that a game goes through). I am happy that my comments created something more exciting for you at the very least!

Showbiz David said...

Hi Alex,
We are honored by your dropping by to visit, and thank you for your potentially game-changing input. We may well, after testing our latest on others, once again come knocking on your friendly door. Maybe in your review process of all those ideas that people send you, there is a good TV reality show -- or a new board game?!