Gaming

Building worlds, building a community

Fraser with Gentlemen Thieves at The Board Room Café.
Fraser with Gentlemen Thieves at The Board Room Café.   Jeff Toth

Sam Fraser gathers friends around a table.

Board games line the walls at The Board Room, Halifax’s only tabletop gaming café. Fraser leafs through his materials for the Halifax Board Game Designers Night.

Fraser says his favorite aspect of board games is that they “bring people together.”

And that is exactly what he does.

Fraser is the founder of the Halifax Board Game Designers. Twice a month, the group meets to workshop original games they have been crafting in their free time.

The group has developed a process that takes a game from an initial idea to a polished product, ready for distribution. They play-test prototypes. They give feedback. They offer support.

“It’s not possible to tackle a big project, like the design and publication of a board game in isolation … You need a community behind you,” says Fraser.

The success of Fraser’s own game, Rogues to Riches, is proof of their process. Fraser had been working on the game since 2002. Early versions the game had an unwieldy math-based component. During one play-testing session it was suggested that it could be replaced by a storytelling device.

That device would become the signature element of Rogues to Riches.

A limited run of the game  —  previously titled Gentlemen Thieves  —  was a local hit.

In August last year, Fraser launched a Kickstarter campaign for Rogues to Riches. Crowd-funding will allow the game to reach audiences across the country. In addition to wider distribution, it will increase the scale of the print run from 150 copies to 1,000 copies.

Fraser, far right, talking shop at the Board Game Designer’s Night.
Fraser, far right, talking shop at the Board Game Designer’s Night.   Jeff Toth

The original goal of the campaign was to raise $16,500. When it wrapped up a month later, Rogues to Riches had brought in $20,631 in donations.

“It was a humbling and validating experience,” says Fraser.

Beyond raising funds, the campaign caught the interest of potential players around the world. The designers group will be able to reach out to this developing audience for support on future projects.

A Kickstarter campaign just launched for the next game from the designers group, Centauri Saga.  Its creator, Konstantinos Manos, says Fraser has given him some invaluable feedback on his game.

“He’s the reason we are here,” says Manos. “He is one of the pillars of the group.”

Fraser says his hope is that someday the designers group will become a respected board game publishing house.

“Games are a really good way to communicate an experience… To get people to challenge themselves in new ways,” says Fraser.

Fraser and the rest of the Halifax Board Game Designers continue to take on new challenges. Students at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design will be designing a game as part of a class project and the designers group will provide feedback and guidance.

Thinking big, Fraser says, “Halifax could become a hub of table-top game design.”