‘Yes ma’am,’ ‘no sir’ and good manners in general can be hard to come by in today’s world of fast-paced schedules and communication. On the other hand, good manners served with a side of “screw you,” as local 41-year-old programmer and board game enthusiast Marc Majcher put it, are apparently more readily accepted.
Just look at Majcher’s latest tabletop creation, “Fluffy Bunny Tea Party,” a game that promotes courtesy and graciousness laced with undertones of bitterness and sarcasm, for proof. It’s the first of his games that he plans to release to a wider audience next month. Via Kickstarter, an online fundraising site that connects investors with inventors, Majcher raised $5,388 — about $1,000 more than he was looking for — to pay for the printing, shipping and illustrating of 500 decks of customized game cards.
The game, which consists of a deck of 106 customized Fluffy Bunny Tea Party cards and intended for two to six players, revolves around players giving each other cards that represent desserts while using “ridiculous bunny voices.” Kindness between players is required at all times and rude people are penalized. On the surface, at least, “constant politeness” seems like an easy rule to follow — everyone loves dessert, right? However, considering the fact that the player with the least desserts at the end of the game wins, players sometimes find it difficult to be nice when a dessert is given to them.
“It’s a game where you play as fluffy bunnies at a tea party and you are very polite to each other and you try to wind up with the least amount of points,” Majcher said, who programs Facebook games for a living. “And screw everyone else over.”
The idea for the game came about after Majcher’s aunt complained to him that modern gaming is all “violence and killing things and taking stuff.” Recognizing a challenge, he decided to create a game that addressed his aunt’s concerns. He started planning, doodling ideas in a notebook during meetings and eventually decided on the core idea for the game — trying to have the lowest number of points while being polite in the process.
Majcher created a set of prototype cards and brought the game to BoardGameGeek.CON, a board game convention in Dallas, to gather feedback. He said the game was well-received, but before it would be ready to play, artwork that matched the game’s attention to etiquette was necessary. That’s when Halyn Erickson, who was also at the convention, entered the picture.
“I’m not an artist by any means,” Majcher said. “But I saw some of [Erickson’s] sketches and asked her to do it. She started working for free, which was right in my budget.”
Erickson’s illustrations, which Majcher compared to those in Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit series, mostly depict aristocratic bunnies offering desserts to other finely dressed hares, adorned with instructions such as ‘Trade Dessert with Another Player,’ ‘Refuse Dessert’ and other commands that dictate game events, like ‘Ants!,’ for example, which allows a player to discard all of the desserts they’ve accumulated.
It all comes together to make a card game that Andreas Fabis, who works in IT security, said allows people to say nice things while fantasizing about strangling the other players. “It’s beautiful,” Fabis said. “Beautiful.”
Fabis said that game play, which usually results in players speaking in British accents (“For some reason, being polite and especially formal translates to British accents”), has depth and involves a lot of strategy, despite the fluffy exterior. That appeal, and the fact that it’s cheaper to print a deck of Fluffy Bunny Tea Party (about $7) than it is to produce hundreds of copies of a board game and all its various pieces, is why Majcher decided to distribute the game on a wider scale.
Majcher, who has only created board games for friends to play until now, started making games when he was young after he and his friends invented rules to dictate battles with action figures. He said that he likes making tabletop games because writing rules and creating physical game pieces is easier and faster than programming a computer game. Also, he said that he likes the flexibility that board games offer.
“You can play a game and you’re like ‘Oh, I’m playing Monopoly this way but it would be fun to do it this way instead,’” Majcher said. “Like you could have an earthquake on one side of the board or something. I like just changing games and thinking of ways to make them more fun.”
For Majcher, making board games is an art form that isn’t necessarily commercially viable, but he said he’s OK with that.
“When I’m creating [board games] I’m definitely creating them with an eye towards what I’m trying to express in that game,” Majcher said. “‘What’s the theme I’m addressing?’ instead of ‘How can I monetize this and get people to pay me for expansions?’ or whatever. I always have an eye towards the art.”
Printed on Friday, October 14, 2011 as: Manners necessary in Austinite's game