Breaking Games is an independent game publisher that has just announced the release of several new tabletop games in the genres of family, political, strategy, and adult. During COVID-19, the company has grown and even opened a new warehouse in New Jersey. Among the new releases are:
· “Infinite Jonathans” — This family friendly $20 game is intended for 3–6 players who are aged 13 and up. The premise of the game is that every person named Jonathan has been accidentally teleported to a single dimension. To correct this error, each player must become a Jonathan and prove that you are the most Jonathan-y Jonathan that ever Jonathaned in this dimension. More info here.
· “Political Animals” — This $35 strategy game intended for 2–5 players ages 8 and older was designed for fiscal conservatives, social liberals, financial liberals, and social conservatives alike. Players representing various political animals compete to pass policies that befit their agendas and make efforts to vote strategically and anticipate how other players will vote. The player whose agenda prevails at the end of the game is the winner.
· “Pluck Off!” — This $20 party card game for 3–6 players aged 17 and older is a parody of city life in a world run by pigeons. Due to high rent, each pigeon must find a nestmate that compliments their individual character and personality. Finding the right roommate while avoiding Urban Vermin like Panhandler Possums and Pizza Rats is the goal of this zany and fun game.
· “Something Wicked” — This $25 family game for 2–3 players ages 12 and older has a witch theme. Each player dances around a caldron and throws wands into witch’s brew stew which will subsequently turn out better wands. The first witch to collect 13 snazzy new wands wins!
· Shari Spiro, Founder and CEO of Breaking Games, recently discussed these games via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): When did you accept these games for publication and what appealed to you about each one?
Shari Spiro (SS): I love a game that has interesting gameplay yet is easy to understand and has some humor behind it. That’s exactly what “Pluck Off” is — it’s fun, accessible, and cheeky at the same time. The goal is to find a pigeon a nestmate because the rent is too plucking high — we can all relate to that! It took about a year for the game to become a reality, as we heard the pitch last August.
“Something Wicked” took almost four years in the making. First glance, it seems to be a fun quick game but the more you play it, you realize it takes quite a bit of strategy, which makes it a deep game that appeals to both kids and adults. Especially during the pandemic, people have been playing tabletop games more than ever, and with Halloween around the corner, this is a great game to play at Halloween parties.
MM: What was it like to launch them during a pandemic?
SS: While it’s unchartered territory for all of us, Breaking Games has amazing fans who love our games and are eager to play our latest ones but it’s been challenging. In the tabletop industry, we depend on trade shows and conferences to showcase new games, work with retailers, meet new designers, get consumer feedback, and much more. However, this year, all in-person shows have been canceled and it’s moved to digital, so we’re seeing how things play out.
Other than that, holding regular meetings via Zoom, making sure countless deadlines are met, working with international countries to manufacture our games, and that each part of a bigger whole continues to move forward has tested our team in numerous ways. But each and every time, we have risen to the challenge and more than exceeded expectations. We firmly believe that both games will add more levity, fun, lightness, and laughter during a time where we all need it.
MM: How do you find game designers to work with and how did these games come to you?
SS: Our business model at Breaking Games is to work with the best indie designers to help their dreams become a reality. We are constantly pitched ideas, then we decide which games we want to produce, market, and bring to retail. Game designers find us through word-of-mouth, client referrals, and social media. For both “Pluck Off” and “Something Wicked,” my team and I were pitched the concepts by their designers at trade shows. We had fun just listening to their ideas, we knew we had to share it with the public!
MM: What was the toughest part about designing each of these? How different do they look now compared to the prototypes?
SS: Most tabletop games have multiple components, including the board itself, dice, paper money, the box that holds the game, miniature figure, tiles, meeples, rule book, scoreboard pad, and a lot more. And most times, different companies produce different components. To say producing games is a balancing act is an understatement! For “Something Wicked” we went through multiple iterations of the wand and cauldron to make sure they were functional and worked with the other components of the game. With “Pluck Off,” it was designing the game box to appeal to the mass market and big-box retailers. The process can be frustrating but when you see the end product, it is always worth it.
MM: How important is it to you to produce games in a range of genres?
SS: We are always looking for the next big idea — a game that is appealing, challenging, fun, has replayability. Sometimes these concepts are for the mass market, sometimes it’s more niche. Regardless, great gameplay is a must. Whether for kids or people who only play strategy, family games or for adults only, the bottom line is you have to have a ball while playing it, so much that you want to tell your friends about it and play it again and again and again.
MM: How did the pandemic impact Breaking Games?
SS: Talk about timing. When the pandemic hit earlier this year, we were in the process of moving from a 16,000 sq foot warehouse to a 103,000 square foot warehouse. Of course, this came to a screeching halt with Shelter in Place. The silver lining is we were able to help many of our clients, as some of their warehouses had to close due to state mandates. We had to quickly mobilize, organize, and scale up due to both client and retail demands. Our New Jersey warehouse is now geared to handle Kickstarters, subscription boxes, business-to-consumer orders, and of course, our retail orders that send our games to Target, Walmart, Barnes and Nobel, Bed Bath & Beyond, international distributors, and more.
The pandemic has enabled many people to work hybrid schedules from home — which I have also been doing for quite some time. Of course, there are drawbacks but it’s also been constructive, as it has made our employees work more efficiently and in different ways. I try to concentrate on the positives that have come about recently as a result of having to find “freedom within limitations,” like Sartre the philosopher believed.
MM: You recently opened a new warehouse in New Jersey so how will that help you spread the availability of these games?
SS: Since we expanded to a much larger warehouse, we have a wealth of games we house and distribute. We are able to serve more clients into the mass market and larger amounts of games into those channels. We can also fulfill Kickstarters from our warehouse, so we are definitely a full-service game producer — from the very beginnings of a concept to realizing that onto store shelves.
MM: Are there any upcoming events — or impending game releases — that you would like to mention?
SS: We have a new game called “Infinite Jonathans” and it’s one of those games that will be an immediate hit during boardgame night. It’s a fun, fast-paced game that requires strategy, cooperation with other players, and the ability to think very quickly on your feet. The other part that makes “Infinite Jonathans” REALLY cool, is that it is also being released at the same time as the mobile app! A relevant and timely game is “Political Animals.” It helps people understand how the political process works and the push-pull that happens when trying to legalize a policy. It was an eye-opener for me and I found it fascinating. Instead of flashing a light on political differences, it actually promotes an understanding of what both sides experience in the setting of a strategy game. We are also looking at “Rise of Tribes: Beasts and Bronze” for a Fall launch, the next iteration of our popular “Rise of Tribes,” which was sold exclusively at Walmart. “Dwellings of Eldervale” has been highly anticipated within the gaming community, and that launches in Fall as well. “KROMA” is launching its Kickstarter in Q4 of this year. I’m especially excited about this game — which was developed by an all-female team. KROMA is a light-up strategy game that uses beautiful colored tiles. Seems simple at first but it requires deep strategy to fully appreciate the game.
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