A shout out for North Star Games

Folks in the gaming industry -- particularly those that use Kickstarter to fund their games -- are typically familiar with the names of the heavy hitters: the kickstarter lessons of Jamey Stegmeier and Stonemaier Games; the successful pay-what-you-want micro-games created by Michael Mindes and Tasty Minstrel; Richard Bliss's incredibly informative podcast, Funding the Dream on Kickstarter; and the constant facebook forum presence (and kickstarter knowledge) of James Mathe of Minion Games.

But let me take a minute to talk to you about someone you may not know (and should): Dominic Crapuchettes of North Star Games.

"Now wait a minute," you may be saying. "This guy isn't really a Kickstarter guru." And that's technically true. In fact, North Star Games is a traditional publisher that's only just recently started using Kickstarter to fund its games. Like other more established publishers, this means Dominic had to pay for his products upfront (before the big Kickstarter craze) and, consequently, has had to do a lot of his business the hard way (with a lot of bumps along the way). The fact that he's createed a board game business from scratch, without the use of Kickstarter, suggests that he's got business acumen, balls, and tenacity. The fact that he has also seen the advantages of using Kickstarter in today's day and age suggests that he knows the board gaming industry and knows how to pivot to keep his company thriving.

"Okay," you may now be thinking to yourself. "That's all well and good. But North Star Games isn't really my cup of tea. They publish all those family/party games. I'm a strategy gamer. They don't have anything I want." Well, hold on a second and let me see if I can change your mind.

Dominic's interest in the gaming industry (and the goal of North Star Games) is the same as Broomstick Monkey Games. Specifically, both Dominic and myself (and our respective companies) are interested in designing, developing, and producing games that can be enjoyed by family/casual/non-gamers and hardcore/euro/strategy gamers. Just look at our by-lines:

Broomstick Monkey Games
"Take fun to a higher level." (BMG wesbite)
"Creating games for casual and hardcore gamers alike." (BMG website)

North Star Games:
"Never Stop Playing." (NSG website)
"North Star Games designs games that both gamers and non-gamers can enjoy together [...]" (Dominic's BGG page)

I didn't know this was Dominic's goal until today, actually (and Dominic doesn't know me from Adam). Like many of you, I assumed that Wits and Wagers was about as deep as North Star's strategy gaming would go...and I was okay with that (full disclosure: I've often said that Wits and Wagers is the only trivia game I will consent to play because it has enough bluffing/gambling elements in it that non-trivia gamers can still use their wits to win questions they don't innately know the answer to).

About a year ago, though, I came across North Star's first foray into the strategy gaming world: Clubs -- a game so strategy-light that it is listed in their party games section and is compared to Hearts and Spades. I'm a big fan of trick-taking, climbing games, though (I own and enjoy playing Tichu, Haggis, and The Great Dalmuti), so I was willing to buy this game as a gift for my mother who also enjoys card games (particularly games less complex than Tichu).

But it's been Dominic's plan for some time to produce more strategy games. Like us, he has long desired a way to unite non-gamers and gamers through games that everybody can enjoy playing together. At PAX East, I got exposed to what this truly meant when I played a demo prototype of North Star's first true foray into the strategy gaming world: Evolution.

Jarom and I enjoyed playing Evolution at PAX East. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that when Mark and I traveled down to BGG.con to demo Imperial Harvest, I answered North Star's request for attendees that might be willing to help demo their game during the convention. This seemed a very good deal to me since it meant I got to spend a few more hours learning the game, I was guaranteed to play it with others (some folks told me it was hard to find Evolution in the BGG library because other attendees had checked the game out), and I got to socialize a bit with Nick Bentley, one of North Star's fabulous employees.

As for the game itself, Evolution accomplishes what Dominic and I are both trying to do. I sat down with three different groups of people and had three very different games. Each game had at least one new player, and two of those games were won by the newbies. That proved the game was easy to teach to new players. More than that, each time I played the game I perceived new strategies (short and long-term) that might help me do better the next time we played. The game was just short enough that folks didn't get bored (5-10 minutes to teach and 40-60 minutes to play), and just long enough that I felt I had something to really sink my teeth into strategy-wise. You can read more about my thoughts on the game here, and a description of Evolution's theme can be found below.

In Evolution, players create and adapt their own species in a dynamic ecosystem with hungry predators and limited resources.  Traits like Hard Shell and Horns will protect you from Carnivores, while a Long Neck will help you get food that others cannot reach. With over 4000 different species to create, every game becomes a different adventure. So gather your friends around the table and see who will best adapt their species to eat, multiply and thrive!

In Evolution, players create and adapt their own species in a dynamic ecosystem with hungry predators and limited resources.  Traits like Hard Shell and Horns will protect you from Carnivores, while a Long Neck will help you get food that others cannot reach.

With over 4000 different species to create, every game becomes a different adventure. So gather your friends around the table and see who will best adapt their species to eat, multiply and thrive!

By now you may be wondering why I seem to be promoting Dominic, North Star, and Evolution so heavily. We're not business partners. We're not friends. We're not getting paid advertisements. The truth is, I have no ulterior motive in sharing my appreciation for North Star and my respect for Dominic other than that I admire them both for accomplishing the very thing we at Broomstick Monkey Games are trying to do. We both care about bringing people together through gaming (even those that aren't particularly fond of gaming), and we want to experience games that hobby gamers and strategy gamers can also enjoy. That's a difficult niche to fill -- partly because it has to cater to two very different audiences, but also because there have been some very great games that have filled this void to varying degrees and that raises the standard for future games in this category. In the spirit of commiseration and publishing comradeship, I wanted to make sure that our fans were also aware of North Star's more recent efforts in this arena. 

Cheers, and happy holidays from all of us at Broomstick Monkey Games.