Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Story of Griddly Games

Griddly Games is a Canadian board game company run by two mom's, Reisa Schwartzman and Penny Osborn.

Their products include a line of sports games called "Griddly Gamez" which they bought from the bankrupt company Head Gamez, as well as a new catalog of games starting with the trivia game Wise Alec.

The Disaster That Was Head Gamez

I covered the news of the disaster that was Head Gamez as it happened throughout 2006. Head Gamez CEO Kerry Martens launched an ambitious project to start a 1,500 employee games production facility outside the small town of Parrsboro, Nova Scotia (pop: 900). He secured investments and acquired licenses for FIFA and NASCAR.

Good intentions were apprently not enough. Within a few months of the opening hoopla, Kerry abandoned ship and the company went bankrupt, with over $6 million in debt. The only surviving asset was the IP for the Griddly Gamez line, which Reisa acquired. Penny was director of operations at HG, and now fills the same role at GG.

Griddly Games is now trying to sell - more conservatively - what remains a viable product (according to them), as well as branching out into new territory.

They're taking the games to various events, getting the games to retailers, acquiring awards, and building up word of mouth.

Griddly Sports Games

The Griddly Games line of sports games is an elaborately produced series of games covering baseball, American football, hockey, and car racing (it was going to be NASCAR, but the license fee is too high).

They come in a 3D version, which contains a recessed dice pit for rolling dice combat, a family version with the same graphics but on a flat board, and a mini game which I don't know too much about. I received the family baseball game as a complimentary game to review.

The basic idea: You have 6 player pawns (two have special rules). Roll the dice, move around the track, and do what the cards say. You win if you get ten runs, lose if you lose twelve pieces of equipment, or lose if four of your players are ejected from the game.


There are a few twists to interest a mainstream (non-gamer) audience:

- The graphics are funny and elaborate.

- It's not often that you have a mainstream game where everyone can lose.

- You often have a choice of four players to move (like Sorry!), you can split the movement, some move backwards or forwards, and some do diferent things when they land on a square. While deciding what to do after the dice have been rolld extends the game a bit, it's nice to have options and decisions to make.

- There's a lot of player to player combat. When you land on certain squares, or pick certain cards, or land on another player, you roll a series of dice. Loser typically loses a piece of equipment, or the winner picks up a run.

- Another mechanic has you roll your die as fast as possible, and the first to get a 1 wins.

- Another mechanic has you knock something with a stick towards the center of the board, and the closest to the center wins.

- Some people will probably be attracted to the sports theme.


The games also have their drawbacks:

- These are not gamer's games, no sir. If you love rolling dice in head to head combat, you'll love this game. I hate dice (Settlers of Catan being the exception). Rolling to move is bad enough, but having to roll a few dozen times on every turn is unedurable for me. Similarly, the random card drawing effects didn't appeal to me.

- Some of the mechanics are fun, but they are not utilized as well as I would have liked. For instance, the ball batting was fun, but the person who chooses to enact the event is at a slight disadvantage, thereby making it less likely to happen. The game should encourage, rather than discourage, people to choose this option when it's available.

- The rules are pretty comprehensive, but are unclear on (at least) two points. First of all, they don't say how to play the game! They tell you all about specific squares, how the pieces work, and so on, but neglect to say something like "players take turns; on your turn roll the die, move your pieces, and do what the board says; then the turn passes to the player on the left." They forgot to include any sort of instructions for that, so we simply had to assume it.

In the case of the quick dice rolling mechanic, it was unclear if someone was suppose to shout out "Go!" before the players began rolling dice, or if the players were just suppose to reach for the dice as quickly as possible and begin rolling.

These are not games for me, or for my gamer readers unless they like souped up versions of roll and move games. But for those of you who still play games like Monopoly and Sorry!, and who also like sports, you will probably enjoy these games. They are fairly easy to learn.


Anonymous said...

As the manfacturer, these games are not only sports based games but family fun strategy games. You don't need any sports knowledge or even like the sport to enjoy these games. They are designed to be entertaining, fun and interactive. All ages can play together without any age discrimination!

Anonymous said...

Reisa, any tips on how to locate Mr. Martens. He's a bit like Carmen San Diego