Card game blends poker and rummy with dragons and goblins
When Darren Kisgen decided to make a game, his only goal was to entertain his family. But over the past few months, the finance professor at Boston College has seen his game selling thousands of copies around the world. And it has won a big prize.
"I am surprised by all of this," said Kisgen. He is a former Wall Street investment banker. Now he lives outside Boston. "Frankly, it's been a lot of fun."
The game is called Dragonwood. It borrows ideas from poker and rummy. The game blends them into a fantasy world of dragons and goblins. By drawing a strong hand, players can boost their chances of "capturing" mythical creatures in a fictional forest. That helps players win the game. It is advertised for anyone 8 years old and up.
The idea struck Kisgen two years ago. He had found that most fantasy games were too complex or violent for his two children. They were 5 and 7.
"I felt like I was missing a game that I would want to play with them. So I decided to try to come up with that game myself," he said.
He called it Forest Quest. It was built with ordinary playing cards and dice. But over time, Kisgen thought it would be more fun with colorful cards. The cards illustrate the dragons, trolls and ogres. So he sent a prototype to a game publisher, Gamewright. The company provided art for the cards and began selling it as Dragonwood.
Gamewright said the game has sold more than 20,000 copies since summer. It is one of the top-selling games from the Massachusetts publisher.
It also won a top gaming prize from Mensa. It is a society for people with high IQs. Members of Mensa meet once a year for a weekend to test dozens of new board games. The Mensa members recognize those games seen as original, challenging and well designed. This year, Kisgen's game was one of five winners. More than 60 games were tested.
Greg Webster is the event's chief judge. He praised Dragonwood for its simplicity. He also said it lets players use a variety of strategies that can lead to victory.
"It makes it interesting to play when you've got different options and you are not locked in," he said.
Webster added that it has become more common in recent years to see popular games that started out as a casual idea in someone's living room.
"They say this is the golden age of board gaming. I think that is true," he said. "There are so many ways for someone who has an idea for a board game to pull it together."
The game is also winning nods as an educational tool. It can teach kids about arithmetic, number patterns and probability.
Kisgen grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. He said he remembers making games for his brother and sister as a kid. But there is little overlap between gaming and his finance career.
"To design a game takes some logic. It takes understanding strategy. And this game has a lot of numbers in it," he said. "But that's where it ends."
Kisgen said he is already thinking of ways to expand the game after hearing feedback from players around the world. But he still wants to keep it simple.
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What makes this game so popular?
Write your answers in the comments section below