One of the things my children love most about board games are the stories they tell and one of the games that they really love excels at this, Mice & Mystics. I am delighted that the designer of that game Jerry Hawthorne has agreed to answer some questions and to tell us about his new game, Stuffed Fables, which will be out in time for Christmas!
Hello Jerry, thanks for agreeing to answer some of my questions today. My first encounter with one of your games was sitting down to play Mice & Mystics with my family. From the moment we opened the box and saw those little mice characters my children, and me to be honest, were hooked! How did the game come about?
Thank you for the kind words! If I could be known for just one thing, it’s that I helped grow our hobby by inspiring a passion for board games in young and new players.
Mice and Mystics developed from my desire to help my daughter learn to read. She was young then, and really struggling with reading. I decided I would create a game using her favorite animal, a mouse. I wanted to create a story that would teach her how to connect her imagination to reading, so I added bits of story to the game play. The end result is Mice & Mystics. It’s like a bedtime story you can play.
That’s such a wonderful reason to create a game! Are there any plans to return to the world of Mice & Mystics again?
Yes I have plans. I hope I get to tell the rest of the story.
I am sure I am not alone in saying we hope so too! How did you get into game design?
Quite by accident. I was searching the Internet for games to buy my 3 nephews, when I stumbled across a preview of a Hasbro game called Heroscape. I joined a fan group that was tangentially connected to the designers of the game, and when I played it for the first time, I wrote a detailed account of our experiences. The lead designer of the game invited me to become an official Hasbro playtester, and I said yes to every opportunity I came upon after that.
What is the hardest part about designing a game for you?
The hardest part is crafting a story that must fit in the required restrictions put forth by the game. Not only am I limited by word count, I’m also forced to always write something that compels the game play. If that wasn’t hard enough, the overarching story, must fit the project and tell a complete tale.
If you could co-design a game with any current designers who would you choose and why?
I would choose Ryan Laukat. His games really strum all my strings. His art style is so captivating. His design style is fascinating to me.
I get the impression that the story a game tells is the most important thing for you. Would you agree with that?
Yes, for me it is an important part of the immersion. Games that lack in theme and story are about as memorable as a sudoku puzzle. An enjoyable, yet totally forgettable experience. I want my games to be like books or movies, and leave an indelible memory people can look back on.
Talking of memories what was the first game you remember playing as a child and did you have a favourite game growing up?
I think the first game I can remember was Toss Across, a dexterity tic-tac-toe game using beanbags. My favorite game growing up was Dark Tower. My mum got it for me for Christmas and I just loved that game.
It’s funny how those early game memories stay with you. I used to love playing The Sorcerer’s Cave with my brother building these huge cave systems across the floor! Can you remember what it was about Dark Tower that you loved so much?
Oh I too absolutely loved Sorcerer’s Cave. Dark Tower was so cool because it had this cool electronic tower, and an interesting fantasy theme supported by really great art and figures.
If you could only play one game for the rest of your life what would you choose?
I would pick HeroQuest by Milton Bradley. To this day, it is still one of my most prized possessions.
Could you tell us a little about why you chose this game?
HeroQuest is an attempt by Milton Bradley to create a boardgame for younger players that mimicked the experience of playing an rpg. I love it because the rules are easy to learn and remember so it is a true gateway game in that sense. The components are some of the best game components ever. I have many many memories of playing this with friends when I was in my early twenties.
I have to say that your new game Stuffed Fables is probably one of my most eagerly anticipated game ever. There is something wonderfully charming about the art and characters. What was the inspiration for this game and could you tell us a little about the story!
Thank you for the kind words. Stuffed Fables came out of my love for a very special movie called Inside Out by Pixar. In the movie, you have a young girl experiencing a traumatic change in her life. The viewer experiences the events through the girl’s emotions, each represented by a color coded individual character that has limited control over the girl’s behavior.
My desire to gamify this movie lead me to create a color coded dice system where each die would be linked to a character by color and theme. Because I wanted to tell an original story, I spent months playing with various story ideas.
Then one day I thought how interesting it is that stuffed animals, are really for parents in the sense that you give your child something to snuggle, so you can get a good night sleep. The idea then, that stuffed animals protect our sleep, grew into Stuffed Fables, and each of the girl’s stuffed animals represents a different aspect of the girl’s personality.
In Stuffed Fables, each player plays the part of a stuffed animal that comes to life at night to protect their girl from the monsters that come from under the bed. Their first night on the job is the girl’s first night in her new big girl bed. Without the magical crib for protection, it falls on the stuffies to make sure she gets a good night sleep.
But a series of mishaps on their first night causes them to accidentally get sucked into the portal under the bed. They find themselves in the world where the monsters come from. It’s a world ruled by the king of nightmares, and populated by countless lost and broken toys who need your help.
But as soon as the nightmare king finds out you’ve been meddling in his world, he comes after your girl, leading to a series of adventures as you straddle both worlds trying to find a solution to your situation.
Where did the idea for this game came from?
I covered some of this in the above question, but I also want to point out that the events in the story are based upon my own personal experiences as a parent. Each time you play Stuffed Fables, you are playing just one milestone night in a little girl’s life. These are nights where a parent might expect their child to have trouble sleeping, like the first night in her big kid bed, or the night before the first day of kindergarten.
Could you tell us a little about how the game plays?
Stuffed Fables, is a purely cooperative family game. Nobody plays the bad guys, they are controlled by the book. You literally play the game right inside a big 104 page book. The left hand page shows the environment your characters are traveling in, and the right hand page has the story, plus any additional rules that are needed for that location.
On your turn, you start by drawing 5 dice from a bag of 35 different colored Dice. The Dice you draw basically tells you what you can and can’t do on your turn. You can share Dice with fellow players and cooperate to use the Dice you draw in the most efficient way to accomplish the story goals at the moment.
What was your favourite part about designing this game?
My favorite part of designing Stuffed Fables was creating the different characters.
I think that really comes across as the characters look amazing! My children are particularly drawn to Lumpy but do you have a favourite character?
I do have a favorite. I like Piggle. She’s a cheerful optimist like myself, and she brings good luck to the group.
Could you tell us a little about some of the other characters in the game?
Sure! We have Theadora Stuffins, the teddy bear leader, she’s special because she is the one the girl chooses to snuggle at night.
We have Flops the bunny with long ears. She is the sassy wisecrack of the group.
There’s Stitch, who is an heirloomer, a hand-made rag doll that has been passed down through generations and functions as the group’s mentor.
We also have Lumpy the elephant, who is the one the girl turns to when she’s sad or troubled. He carries a heavy burden, and is sensitive because of it, but he’s the tank of the group.
And finally we have Lionel the stuffed lion who represents the girl’s fierceness and self confidence.
Well I didn’t think it was possible but I might now be even more excited about this game! Could you let us all know how we might get hold of a copy of this game!
Yes, Stuffed Fables will be available during early December, it retails for $59.95 US dollars. You can buy it online, preorder it from us, or ask your local retailer.
I hope you enjoyed reading some of Jerry’s answers today. If you have any comments I’d love to hear from you!