DIARY OF AN INVENTOR: Andrew Harman and Frankenstein's Bodies

Andrew Harman explains how he brought his new game, Frankenstein's Bodies, to life.
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You’ve seen those classic gothic horror movies where Frankenstein’s Castle is lit by flashes of blue lightning. Rain lashes at windows as giant shadowy coils catch the power. It surges down the snaking cables to the figure lying on the bench and with explosive crackles suddenly……It’s alive! Exciting. Powerful. Awesome.

But what happens if it’s clear night with just a gentle South Easterly? What’s a desperate Baron and his minion Igor to do but twiddle thumbs and have a quick game of something.

That’s kind of how I’m feeling right now. The calm before the storm. I’m waiting patiently, poised to swing into action just as soon as my game is delivered. When I say my game, I mean Frankenstein’s Bodies - and there’ll be 1,500 of them. Shrinkwrapped and ready to go.

I think it’s explanation time.

I’m Andrew Harman and I’ve just spent the last three years designing a game where you are playing surgeons in Frankenstein’s Laboratory complex trying to impress him with what you stitch together. It has ended up as card based game for two to six players which plays in about an hour - and a lot of people are having a lot of fun with it.

A lot of other complete strangers from all over the world have seen what we’ve been saying about it, checked out the rules and leapt in with faith and cash and backed us on Kickstarter. We scraped the rest of the printing costs together ourselves and got the fabulous Cartamundi UK to manufacture it. So now we have ourselves a game. Sounds easy when you boil it down to 120 words.

It’s been quite a journey and I have such a better understanding and admiration for anyone who takes an idea from the back of an envelope to a finished product.

I have been a card and board game fan since I was a kid, loving the way a few bits of cardboard and a few wooden pieces can engross and challenge you. I love the elegance of games like Carcassonne where the simple act of putting a piece of board next to some other can cause such agonizing choices.

When a writer friend of mine issued me the challenge of designing a card game to support his award winning role play game Dark Harvest: The Legacy of Frankenstein, well, how could I say no?

If I’d known it was going to take the best part of three years I might have hesitated. Equally if I’d know the journey I was going to head off on and the array of wonderful friendly people I’d meet along the way I would have been in like a shot.

I’ve got to be brief-ish here so I’ll gloss over the hours spent sticking bits of photocopied paper to blank cards to build the first decks. I’ll also skip quickly past the shameful original artwork that made up those early versions and get to the great and most rewarding bit: Play testing.

It terrifies a lot of designers and quite rightly too. It’s like putting your beloved first born child on show and asking for genuine honest opinions from complete strangers. The great thing about the gaming community is that they will tell you. No punches pulled. Tough love I think it’s called in some circles.

After 18 months of adjusting rules, tweaking artwork, redesigning iconography, simplifying play, speeding up turns we knew we had a game we could take to the world.

We did the Kickstarter (including a ‘rock band’ style tour of the UK playing at as many games weekends as possible) which I could tell you about some other time. Amazingly, it worked. Half the print costs paid by lovely people who are awaiting their game. (If you want to know who they are their names are on the box.)

And now we have a whole new chapter opening up before us.

We need to sell our game to get more people having fun with it. We’ve already got some lovely UK independent game retailers on board, pre-orders from the website and we’re off to ‘Spiel 2014’ in Essen.

Indications are that well over 160,000 people will be there and we’ll be selling and playing for four days solid – if we survive.

It’s exciting times for us. We’ve got the bug now. The second game is being tested and our company Yay Games is…well...alive!

Hang on…is that a delivery truck I hear? Yes. Games. Here they are. Sorry got to go. The storm is breaking! Yay.

If you are an inventor and you'd like to share your story, email us at Billy.Langsworthy@intentmedia.co.uk.

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