Card game blends poker and rummy with dragons and goblins Boston College professor Darren Kisgen sits for a portrait in his office at Boston College, in Boston, with the game he created called "Dragonwood." Kisgen designed the game purely to entertain his kids, but suddenly the finance professor's creation is winning awards from Mensa and other groups, and gaining a global following. (AP Photo/Steven Senne/Thinkstock)
Card game blends poker and rummy with dragons and goblins
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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 winning a big prize.
 
"I'm surprised by all of this," said Kisgen, a former Wall Street investment banker who now lives outside Boston. "Frankly, it's been a lot of fun."
 
Called Dragonwood, the game borrows ideas from poker and rummy but 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, which helps them win the game. It's advertised for anyone 8 years old and up.
 
The idea struck Kisgen two years ago after he found that most fantasy games were too complicated or violent for his two children, who 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, built with ordinary playing cards and dice. But over time, Kisgen thought it would be more fun with colorful cards illustrating the dragons, trolls and ogres. So he sent a prototype to a game publisher, Gamewright, which provided art for the cards and began selling it as Dragonwood.
 
The game has sold more than 20,000 copies since summer, Gamewright said, making it one of the top-selling games from the Massachusetts publisher.
 
It also won a top gaming prize from Mensa, a society for people with high IQs. Once a year, members of Mensa meet for a weekend to test dozens of new board games and recognize those seen as original, challenging and well designed. This year, Kisgen's game was one of five winners out of more than 60 they tested.
 
Greg Webster, the event's chief judge, praised Dragonwood for its simplicity but said it also lets players employ a variety of strategies that can lead to victory.
 
"It makes it interesting to play when you've got different options and you're not locked in," he said.
 
In recent years, Webster added, it has become more common 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, and I think that's 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 that can teach kids about arithmetic, number patterns and probability.
 
Kisgen, who grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, said he remembers devising games for his brother and sister as a kid. But there's little overlap between gaming and his finance career.
 
"To design a game takes some logic, takes understanding strategy, and this game has a lot of numbers in it," he said. "But that's where it ends."
 
After hearing feedback from players around the world, Kisgen said he's already thinking of ways to expand the game - but not too much. He still wants to keep it simple.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What makes this game so popular?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (34)
  • lucib-bag
    1/12/2016 - 10:25 p.m.

    It's popular because it combines card games with fantasy, so it's got two different sides combined. And is fun for pretty much everyone.

  • treya-bag
    1/13/2016 - 08:21 p.m.

    It is so popular because it is a game for all ages and it is not to violent

  • ShawnaWeiser-Ste
    1/16/2016 - 08:15 p.m.

    I can barely play any card games as it is. The one card game that i most skilled at is Slap Jack and that is pretty much just a luck game. This just makes me upset that I cannot wrap my heads around card games.

  • lances-fel
    2/04/2016 - 02:12 p.m.

    It's popular because it combines card games with fantasy, so it's got two different sides combined. And is fun for pretty much everyone.

  • coled-fel
    2/04/2016 - 02:14 p.m.

    CTQ: What makes this game so popular is the learning advice you can get from it, the illustrations of the dragons and other creatures, and the amount of fun you can have with the tool.

  • calaabj-fel
    2/04/2016 - 02:15 p.m.

    The thing that makes this so poplar is the idea of poker and rummy mixed with a fantasy world of goblins and dragons.

  • courtneyh-1-fel
    2/04/2016 - 02:15 p.m.

    What makes this game so popular is because fun but also educational.

  • johnj-fel
    2/04/2016 - 02:15 p.m.

    The thing that makes this game so popular is that it combines card games and fantasy and lots of people like fantasy and card games so combining the two is a good idea.

  • jacih-fel
    2/04/2016 - 02:16 p.m.

    It is popular because, it combines card games with fantasy, so it's got two different sides combine into one big game.

  • lucasp-fel
    2/04/2016 - 02:16 p.m.

    It is so popular because it is a game for all ages and it is not to violent

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