Designer Diary 2: ‘Wallet: The Game’

If you missed Part 1: The Origins of Race to Adventure!, it’ll help to read that first.

‘Wallet: The Game’ components: gym membership card, ATM card, credit card, money clip, cash, driver’s license, family photo, player coins and the wallet itself.

When we each looked through our wallets, a few game “components” emerged easily: The ATM card, the credit card, the driver’s license, cash — along with a couple that varied from person to person but were best encapsulated by a gym membership (representing all membership cards) and the family photo (representing “the keepsake”).

Now that we had six items, what could you do with them? Well, when you spread them out on the table, they felt like “community” components one might select. So, in the interest of momentum we quickly decided on a “role-selection” game, sometimes referred to as a variable phase order game. (In short, each person selects an item that grants them — or everyone — a special power). From there it was easy to get an early sense of what “power” each item might bestow: The cash and credit card were either the currency of the game or how you spent it. The driver’s license would relate to travel or movement. The family photo would have something to do with “Home.”

But what was home? And what were you actually doing? … That’s where the business cards came in. Between us there was a smattering of biz cards on the table — the ones that get tucked into a dark corner of your wallet after meeting someone (or exiled to a back jeans pocket before trips through the wash). And by virtue of self-reminders, community networking and chance encounters, all those business cards appeared to be local destinations. By sprinkling in some creativity and removing redundancy, it seemed we could easily come up with a number of “places” our players might go.

The temporary business card “locations,” featuring some of our favorite designers.

Fast forward to a few meetings later, and E.K., Chris and I had our destinations: Feld’s Gym, VlaadaBank, Roubira Veterinary Care, Bauza Kung Fu School, Leacock Auto Repair, Launius Hardware, Lehmann’s Groceries, Kramer Dry Cleaning and Reiner’s Flowers … along with “Home.” We also had actual home-printed business cards for those locales along with a “To-do List” for each player.

Yup. Before it was adventurers racing around the globe, it was folks in the ’burbs running errands to and from the strip mall. Sometimes in those early days of development we just called it “Wallet: The Game.” Some of the earliest playtesters affectionately called it “Honeydo,” as in: “Honey, go do this errand for me, okay?” We all knew the theme was temporary and just serving the advancement of gameplay mechanics. But it will always be an essential part of the game’s evolution.

Even When You Choose a Theme, It Really Chooses You

That takes our story back to my favorite perch in the EndGame rafters. It was the monthly Big Fun Saturday, with open board gaming from store open to close. Most often, it’s when gamers trot out the heavies and longer games that won’t neatly fit into a Wednesday night (or melt your brain too much for a post-work play). During the course of that Saturday I saw many a parent-child pair come and go. Kids would roam wide-eyed like EndGame was Wonka’s factory. But when they tugged on their parents’ clothes and said, “Can I have this one?” it was always something with art and theme that exuded excitement: space, adventure, mystery! As co-owner of EndGame and someone who saw those reactions of delight every day, “adventure” was the theme Chris always had in mind. These moments of Saturday observation beautifully illustrated his reasons why.

And fortunately, Chris had more than just a theme in mind … he had a potential publisher. Chris and fellow Endgame co-owner Chris Hanrahan knew Fred Hicks and Rob Donoghue from carrying Evil Hat Productions’ amazing RPGs. And Evil Hat had five years worth of extraordinary pulp adventure properties — and a commitment to expand beyond the role-playing genre.

Check back every Tuesday for a new Designer Diary. Coming up soon: the incredibly fun process of naming the eventual game and a special video from a very special playtester.