Triathlon and board games? Those two words do not seem to have any connection at all… that is until I spoke to Nikita. She told me about her journey to create her first game and how she used her passion of triathlons and her interest of creating games as fuel to accomplish her goal.
Nikita was happy to share with me the process from the genesis of the idea, to the successful Kickstarter campaign, and even to her plans for the near future. I think it is an inspiring story of determination and passion, and hopefully it will give you board game designers and board gamers a boost of motivation.
Welcome athletes to race day! At this very special triathlon you will build your skills as well as contribute towards creating the three courses that make up the race. Tri To Win is a card game where players build their own board game. Everyone can see the race course, you’re building it as a team. But only you know what skills your athlete has, this means each player is trying to build the course that their own athlete is more likely to win, and leave the others in the dust.
The race course is different every game, your athlete’s skills will be different every game, and so your tactics will need to be as well. Can you build the ultimate athlete? Good luck!
In Tri To Win, players contribute building the dungeon as well as participating in it. Where did this theme and idea come from?
This being my first game I think how I came to it was quite unusual. Two years ago me, my husband and a friend of ours, had an interesting weekend; on the Saturday we cheered on as my husband competed in the Blenheim Palace Triathlon and I had convinced these two unsuspecting men (in advance of this weekend) that since we would be halfway to Birmingham anyway, we should just keep travelling on to UKGE the next day.
We were walking around UKGE with a triathlon still firmly in my head and really the gameplay and theme went together instantly for me. I described it to my husband and friend who thought it was a wonderful idea. They were very biased and supportive of my idea, but it took a long time for me to feel like it was a good enough idea to make into a reality and I’m so glad I did.
Obviously, there have been some changes, I took on feedback from play testing, but essentially the game was 75% formed during that weekend in 2018. I can’t really say exactly where the mechanic of contributing to the race and building a skill deck to help you race came from, it just struck me as an exciting mechanic that I’ve not seen in a game before. Creating something together as a group but still being able to be competitive in a game really intrigued me as a concept and it plays very well that way.
What are the challenges you faced during the development of the game?
I think I have had two big challenges, obviously it being my first game was one, there was an awful lot to learn but I threw myself in to research about manufacturing and Kickstarter. I arranged many many play tests with new (to me) board gaming groups in my area as well.
The second major challenge is that a lot of gamers don’t like the sport theme at all, and I’m ok with that, no game can make everyone happy. I’ve met some people who absolutely love the theme and haven’t had another game that has combined their love of sport with their love of games. I’m still pleased with my theme choice and wouldn’t change a thing. My target audience has always been more relaxed players who wants something fun to play with their friends. During play testing the target audience was largely described as ‘Those who enjoy light card games like Fluxx and Love Letter’.
Do the game mechanics convey the theme?
The triathlon theme is present throughout the game and all of the mechanics have been created with a triathlon in mind. You play as an athlete who starts with skills but is better at either swimming, cycling or running; you train your athlete by playing Skill cards facedown next to your athlete; and you build the courses by playing Course cards alongside the corresponding course. This way, although you all know what course you’ll be racing on at the end, only you know what skills your athlete is most proficient in. This has certainly led to players playing mind games with each other!
There are also Action cards that have the theme ingrained in them as well; you can steal skills from other players, which are all about you having done something better in preparation for the race, either getting enough sleep the night before, keeping hydrated or warming up before the race. The steal a card actions are all about the other athlete having done something wrong and you take advantage, they either leave their bag open, trip up or get distracted by a shiny medal. There are Action cards that remove pieces of the course, these are all done by either bribing, confusing or charming the race marshal into doing it for you. There are also stop that cards that work on any other Action card and they’re all about you having cat like reactions, keen eyesight or lightning reflexes to stop the other players actions.
For each of the three courses there are also obstacles and special skills that will help one lucky player go over the obstacle faster than the others, for swimming there are wave obstacles and a shiny new wetsuit skill, for cycling there are hill obstacles and a bike upgrade skill and for running there are hurdle obstacles and a spring in your step skill to help you over them. Players also stop at each transition until their next turn, although any triathlete will tell you they don’t stop at transitions it is true that they slow down considerably and don’t continue to swim or cycle when transitioning.
A couple of added things that I did for the game was to have two athletes per discipline, male and female for each and they each have puns in their names like Susie Splash and Thomas Tread. Every Course card has slightly different graphics, obviously it would be easier to have made one of each and print multiples, but I like this added touch, I really care about this game and it was worth the added effort.
What was your personal inspiration for starting your first game?
I have always loved games, video and board. When I did my degree in Computer Science I was certain that I wanted to code video games in the future, but I found another coding job that I loved right out of university so that thought fell away although I still had plans around games/apps I would make. No matter how many ideas I had for video games it was still hard to decide to come home and code after a long day of coding.
Something about designing tabletop games has sparked an enthusiasm and passion in myself that I’ve not seen before. I’ll tell you how this came to be; after my triathlon card game (as yet unnamed at that time) had been in my head for quite a while I thought “I’ll make this into a reality for my husbands Christmas present” so I sneakily set about play testing it with him on bits of paper to check that he’d like it and it would make an ok game (him none the wiser it would be for him) and after the very first play through he loved it! And set about his own plan to make me change career goals. At this point I had already been working as a freelance graphic designer and it wasn’t a massive step to decide to design for myself rather than clients.
I feel that I’ve always wanted to design and create games, I just didn’t know until recently that it would be board games instead of video games. Now that I’ve started along this path, I have a notebook full of ideas, and I can’t see myself stopping any time soon!
What’s next for Atikin Games?
Since Tri To Win funded in February it has been available to pre-order on gamefound.com and will continue to be available there until it officially goes to retail by the end of June. I’m working on Atikin Games’ website which hasn’t been a priority until now as I’ve had the domain redirect to Kickstarter and the pre order page — which it still does — as that makes more sense whilst Tri To Win has been my focus. Now that I’ve started work on my second game though there’s more to show and talk about for Atikin Games and I’m working on a regular newsletter. I can’t wait to tell you more about my next game, which will be a board game of a completely different theme and graphics style, stay tuned!
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