One of the things about gaming that I enjoy most is helping to bring new people to the hobby, introducing them to games and teaching them the rules and strategies of others. However, I’ve yet to try doing this with little kids, but it sounds like that would be difficult. Luckily for all of us, the game designers over at Funto11 are working on doing just that with their latest Kickstarter endeavor, Fairy Mischief.
Fairy Mischief is a card game from Funto11, makers of Miskatonic School for Girls and Flame War. The game is aimed at trying to get kids, specifically young girls, to make the transition from simple games, like the card game War, up to tabletop games by introducing them to new gameplay types, simple strategies and mechanics.
In the game two players face off in a kind of duel using decks of cards with numbers (and wonderful fairy artwork). One deck is the “light” fairies and the other the “dark” fairies, but the two play exactly the same, to reduce complexity and give “less to teach”. As Luke Peterschmidt of Funto11 explained to us, “even if you balanced it out, kids would think one was better than the other.”
We featured Fairy Mischief in one of our Kickstarter Round-Ups, and after getting do a little playtesting, and chatting with Luke at PAX East, we discovered that there’s more to the game than just some nice artwork (but it is amazing) and kid friendly gameplay. So, I sat down with Luke, as well as, Susie and Jay Hernishin (the game designers), to talk about developing a game for kids, whether children appreciate randomness and why Kickstarter is a good, but maybe not great place for a game like this.
Castles and Cooks: Is there an element of gaming that you find is most challenging for young people to learn? Can you talk about how that influenced designing the game?
Jay – We simply based it off of watching our daughter playing games. We just devised a game that just went through her mindset of what a “turn” was. It was just a nice little sequence of events that we saw her adapt to very easily. We find the game length go from anywhere from 5 minutes up to 20. We find from the play testing that it was just enough time to have fun and be done.
The idea of quick gameplay was influenced by the target audience, as Susie explained.
Susie – To have a game where the parents didn’t always have to be around to explain the rules. She could go to a friends house, pull out the game and they could explain it themselves. They just want to go, play the game, their attention span might only be a half-hour and then they are done.
C&C: In designing the game, was there a particular game concept or mechanic that you found kids really struggle with learning?
Luke – [The] number of steps down the road. In a game like Settlers of Catan, there’s a whole strategy on where to build [and planning] that a kid will never get till they reach a certain age. [For kids] everything needs to be kind of an instant decision. So, everything we have in the game right now is instantaneous good or bad.
Luke would also go on to point out that they’ve made a lot of decisions about the game with young people – and young girls in mind, even things that you might not think of, like card size. As he explained, “people forget when you design games for kids, there’s literally a limit with how big their hands are.”
C&C: Is there anything you assumed about how young people play games that was challenged or changed as you’ve developed the game?
Jay – I could point to one that Luke and I talked about a lot. Is turn order important? We went back and forth on that. I was told by a 9 year old girl that “yes”, especially with who gets to draw that first gem. They didn’t care after turn one but that first turn was damn important.
Jay – The other interesting thing (between 2nd and 3rd grade). School districts are just hammering math facts into their heads. And one of these things we saw was girls doing their math facts in their heads at the table as they were playing. You watch their heads wrapping around the numbers.
The game is all about bringing kids along to more complex games and mechanics. But does that mean they sacrificed actually game strategies in service of creating “learn to play” gaming? Not so, says the team.
C&C: What layers of strategy do you see in the game? Did you see kids using strategy as they played?
Susie – Definitely, when we had the playtesting, it was a bunch of 9 yr olds, after the first – maybe second game, they were definitely getting the hang of the strategy. When the black gem and the dice rolling came into play they were getting excited about that aspect of the game.
Jay – Even the charm portal, when a duplicate came up, they got upset. But in the second game they realized that’s a lottery cash in, they realized “oh I can use that to my advantage”.
While strategy makes the game legitimate, there is a big element of randomness to the game, and is one of the reasons we saw play sessions vary from 5 to 15 minutes.
C&C: What do kids think about randomness? I know that older gamers generally shy away from games that don’t mitigate it.
Luke – The reason older gamers don’t like randomness is because they don’t like to lose based on random events. The advanced ways to play, add enough decision making that you can make right and wrong decisions from turn to turn. I don’t think kids at all have a problem with randomness.
Susie – Because the game is quick, when a girl would lose, there would be a “oh let’s play again to see if I can win!
(Editor’s Note: Based on some of the play sessions I’ve seen involving grown men at a gaming club, those guys could learn a lot about play etiquette and dealing with randomness from these girls.)
Jay – Luke and I spent a lot of time beating apart the random abilities so that none of them were all that negative. In that sense the kids looked forward to the random goofiness because nothing is that bad.
While the game is designed to really work perfectly with any kid (and as our playtest confirmed, older gamers will have fun with it too), it is aimed at getting more young girls into tabletop gaming, a world still heavily populated by men.
Jay – When I think of gamers, I think about guys playing games. It’s nice to be able to hear about girls sitting around the game table. We wanna break that image. We wanna get girls at tables, playing games. It would be a nice breath of fresh air.
Luke – They are playing digital games, but I really want them [girls] to get the analog thing.
And one of the goals with getting girls to play more games is empowering them to be able to teach and share the games with each other. As Susie remarked about the experience of seeing her daughter introduce the game to her friends.
Susie – One of the things that was really nice [to see] was that our daughter does play a lot of games. So it was easy to teach it to her. Her friends were not, they were not from big game families. So seeing them pick it up quickly and be able to play with our daughter was nice, because it really enforced that this game could be taken to a friend’s house.
As part of making a game that would appeal to young girls, the Funto11 team reached out to artist Jasmine Becket-Griffith to make the game come to life. Renowned for her work with Fairy’s, Becket – Griffith frequently appears at big cons like Dragon*Con, and has had her work appear in various publications and on merchandise.
Her style fits in perfectly with Fairy Mischief, and reminds us of a more gothic version of Lisa Frank (Editor’s note: When are the folders and Trapper Keepers coming out? We need them). Needless to say, the team is ecstatic about the chance to work with Becket-Griffith.
C&C: You were able to get Jasmine Backet-Griffith to come and do the artwork. How has working with her been?
Jay – She has been nothing short of perfect to work with. She’s been really supportive of the game since day 1.
Luke – Jay’s worked with a lot of artists. We’ve worked with a lot of artists for going on 20 years now, and she’s really easy to work with. She does have gaming in her background. She’s been a D&D player. I think she was excited to see her art go onto a game like this.
With solid gameplay, an awesome art style and some great design sense behind them, Funto11 is looking to launch the game on Kickstarter. Given that they’ve had great success with their other projects, it seems like the perfect place for the game. Or is it?
With a game that is focused on parents with young kids, the tabletop section of KS might not be the best environment – Luke and the team admit as much – but even with that, they’re attracting plenty of first time backers. With that comes an emphasis on transparency and helping backers understand both the design process and the costs – especially when it comes to pricing.
Luke – All of our pricing is based on what it costs us to make [the game]. We don’t say, “what is this bag of stuff worth if I bought it by itself?” Because this product has a royalty payment to the artist – which is a big thing, and we know that we’re likely to sell a couple thousand copies, so our pricing goes up on there. Our margins are less on this product than our last two [projects]. We’re also hoping to put a whole free puzzle into each box actually. One of the things on KS you really get killed on is shipping. For us to ship the product to someone is around $13, around 1/3 of their backing is going to shipping.
As always, we end our interviews with the two most revealing questions about a person’s character and habit.
C&C: What’s your go to food or drink while gaming?
Susie – Wine and M&Ms
Jay –Beer (during war games) and coffee (for RPGs)
Luke – Trail Mix
C&C: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Susie – Teleportation
Jay – Shape shifting
Luke – Persuasion
Fairy Mischief is available for backing on Kickstarter. You can find more information, as well as some demo videos on gameplay.