Madison-made board games find a market as more people spend time at home
Sales of board games and jigsaw puzzles to families stuck at home have soared.
Local retailers and designers of tabletop games were dealt good and bad cards over the past few months as players needed to stay physically distant from one another.
Sales of board games and jigsaw puzzles to families stuck at home have soared. “Interest in puzzles is at an all-time high,” says Bryan Winter, owner of I’m Board! Games & Family Fun in Middleton and Sun Prairie.
Winter says game sales increased since mid-April when Dane County officials allowed curbside pickup and I’m Board! launched its online shopping portal. And with the countywide mask-wearing order that took effect in July, he says more people became comfortable entering the retail business. Winter has not, however, lifted a suspension of all game playing at his stores.
“A lot of people are playing at home, so they’re interested in family games, two-player games, solitaire and cooperative games,” Winter says.
Scott Bogen of Verona, an avid tabletop game player, is digital communication manager for Thunderworks Games in Madison and website manager for Van Ryder Games in Nashville. He says if games don’t have digital versions, they can be played with others online while using a videoconferencing app.
“For someone who likes to play board games — where there is the tactile experience of sitting across the table from friends and holding cards, rolling dice — it’s not near as fun,” Bogen says.
The closed game room at I’m Board! eliminated an opportunity for local gamers to gather, play and also critique the games some of them have made.
“I have quite a few that were well tested before the quarantine that I continue to move forward with,” says Keith Matejka, a full-time Madison game designer and founder of Thunderworks. “I’m hoping for the day in which we can play-test in person again.”
New Games to Play
Super Badgers, a new board game conceived and designed by former University of Wisconsin–Madison students, sends players on missions to every corner of campus and downtown Madison.
Super Badgers is a board game offering players missions to complete on and near the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. The game was conceived and designed by Somi Hwang and Ben Hurley, who met as graduate students in Game Design II, a course in the game design certificate program at UW–Madison. Super Badgers is available at the University Bookstore.
Pandemic: Rapid Response, released last year before the real-world spread of the coronavirus, was developed by prolific local game-maker Kane Klenko. The game, which challenges players to deliver relief to cities ravaged by natural disasters, is the latest stand-alone entry in the 13-year-old Pandemic game series. n Klenko also produced Telestrations Upside Drawn, a Pictionary-like game in which one player holds the pen, a teammate holds the sketchboard and the rest of the team tries to guess what is drawn.
Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale — produced by full-time game designer Keith Matejka and published by his Madison-based company Thunderworks Games — was nominated for two Golden Geek awards and a German Kennerspiel award in 2019 and 2020. n Thunderworks Games also recently released Dual Powers: Revolution 1917, a game in which players try to direct the future of Russia. (Next year, look for Roll Player Adventures, another Matejka-produced board game, which secured more than $672,000 in crowdsourced funding by late August.)
As the presidential election looms, political junkies can play the locally made and Kickstarter-funded game The Primary by Madison’s Matt Quock. Check I’m Board! Games & Family Fun for availability.