In Weiler near Bingen it's "PLAY THAT!". There is the headquarters of the publishing house, which is the subject of this presentation of the publishing house. It took quite a long time from the first own board game to our own publishing house. More than 25 years have passed since the publishing house was founded in 2020. But then it went straight ahead with full force. We spoke to Robert Heller about the games, the publisher and upcoming projects.

This article is the seventh in our series of publisher reviews. In this we introduce publishers and show their history, their current games and can also give a small preview of future projects of the publisher.

The publishing house is not only geographically close to a border (Rhineland Palatinate and Hesse), but also playfully moves along one. In GAME THAT! Verlag there are family games/easy connoisseur games. In the first year of publishing, it was still exclusively limited to games by founder Robert, but the publishing house continued to develop diligently this year. There was both a game by a German author duo, in which Robert was also involved, and a localization of a game by iello. Other games by Robert are also expected in the future. In a conversation with Robert, we found out exactly how the publishing house came about and where the path will lead.

Make games while you sleep

Robert developed his first game at the age of 12 as part of a school project in German class on the subject of "Robinson Crusoe". This was a classic roll and move with trivia questions based on the lonely islander story. We didn't clarify in the conversation whether the popular teacher's saying "If I wake you up at three in the morning, you have to sit down" directly influenced him here, but many of his ideas come to him in his sleep. Since masterpieces such as The Beatles' Yesterday are said to have been created in their sleep, this point certainly speaks for Robert.

But first things first. Even before the school project, when he was a child in the GDR, he used a lot of imagination to come up with games (even in the non-board game sense) for the group of friends. In the 90s the first board games were added. Of course games were like Monopoly or game of life with you. But also titles that have meanwhile become classics such as Bohnanza or Risks (here especially the Lord of the Rings variant) came up in the circle of friends on the table.

The development of the game did not become more serious until almost 20 years after the Robinson Crusoe game that had been developed at school. At the end of 2011 there were the first auditions Master: Duel of magicians. As with all of Robert's titles on this list, the basic idea for this game came to him while he was half asleep. 
Thanks to the game's simple basic mechanisms, a prototype was quickly created and this 2-player game was well received in the various test rounds. Even after the initial idea, not much has changed for the time being.

Magistrar has a simple game idea with a lot of tactical depth. Image: PLAY THAT!

The next prototype was already created in 2014. This was part of the game New heroes. A game that Robert calls his favorite game. As a fan of superheroes and superhero parodies, the theme is particularly appropriate. He describes the film "Mystery Man" as a "blueprint" for the abilities of the heroes in the game without being a direct inspiration. 

The game plan with the paths was created quickly and worked so well in the first version that it was hardly changed. For a long time, the game only existed with described pictures and without "real" illustrations. However, since the game world was still tangible in the play groups through the imagination of children and adults and the game was very well received, it should be with this and magistrate go to the young author competition. Before that, the game got a few more illustrations. These come from Marco Armbruster, who has been developing the games from SPIEL DAS! illustrated.

In June 2018, the authors' competition finally took place. Unfortunately, the plan to find contacts to a publisher for their own games was not successful. So Robert took a short break until he finally decided in mid-2020 to PLAY THAT! to found. The name was immediately clear. magistrate came to Kickstarter. It would also have been published in the event of an unsuccessful crowdfunding campaign. Above all, this should increase the range of the game. 
Since Robert definitely wanted to have three games at the start of the publishing house to prove diversity, he also developed the card game in 2021 trumpeters, which should appear in November of that year.

The Trötofanten circus was set up in record-breaking time. Image: PLAY THAT!

The original plan to present your own games with the new publisher at trade fairs came to nothing because of the corona pandemic. As a result, it was also not easy to establish contacts and to make the publisher and the games better known through reviews. 

After this difficult start, SPIEL in Essen 2021 was the first trade fair for the new publisher. Both games sold very well and the publisher gained more attention. This is also where contact was made with Arve D. Feeler, who showed Robert a prototype called “Star Race”. 

In January, the two then sat down together and after a few test games, new ideas from Robert, further test rounds with Guido Eckhof and the establishment of a new theme, "Star Race" became an easy connoisseur's game called AEOLOS. The game was extremely popular at SPIEL, as well as at other trade fairs this year, and attracted many gamers to the publisher's tables.

After the first game by “foreign” authors, a foreign-language game was localized later this year. On the recommendation of a friend, Robert began contacting iello. From the French publisher ninja academy published in German.

Let's take a closer look at each game below.

Play this and that and that...

SPIEL DAS! five titles. Here we briefly introduce them all. Already has a double-digit age magistrate. It is a 2-player tactical game with a short playing time. Both want to cast the best spells and defeat the opponent. In each game there are five duels, each consisting of 6 encounters.

For each duel you draw six of your 30 energy tiles from the bag and place them in your own energy area. Then both place six pieces of strength weak, medium or strong one after the other. Once all figures have been placed, each encounter is scored separately. The stronger character gets the energy on their side. Whoever has won more encounters wins the duel. The last duel is a little different. Each encounter is dealt with individually. Whoever has won more duels at the end is the most powerful magician. 

The game for 2 people aged 8+ takes around 15 minutes to play and can be further adapted with three variants.

New Heroes is the board game equivalent of movies like Deadpool and Mystery Man. Image: PLAY THAT!

In New heroes the players want to become the most popular superhero. You complete missions and collect new skills and equipment. Different actions can be carried out in each turn. Which and how many there are is up to the players.

If you don't have that many fans yet, you get a hero point as pocket money. Since you only become a respected and popular hero by completing missions, you must always own at least one. A second is optional. These are accepted at the job center. In order to be able to fulfill missions better, you put on new equipment. Movement takes you to the "hotspots" where the missions can be completed. If you don't end up on a hotspot, you train. 

To complete a mission, you compare your IQ and Power scores to the mission's requirements. If your values ​​are lower, you roll a blue and a pink die and add the values ​​to IQ and strength. If it's still not enough, you can buy more IQ and power points for the mission for every 2 hero points. If you succeed, you win fans and hero points.

At the end of the turn you can still buy cards for hero points and the other players move one step. If at any time two heroes land on the same space, a small scuffle will ensue.

The game ends as soon as a person has 50.000 fans and no longer has any open missions. The game can also be played in team mode.

You can become a hero from the age of 8. In New heroes 2-8 people compete for this title. The 50.000 fans can be reached in 60-90 minutes.

Become head of the Trötofans

The trio of novelties from the first year of publication was completed by the Trötofanten. The Trotofanten Circus is a fast card game for 2-8 players, ages 6+, that takes 10 minutes to play. Here everyone wants to be the new director of the eponymous circus. At the beginning of the game, three elephants train in the ring. This is formed by the remaining cards that form a ring around the three face-up cards. 

At the beginning of each round, everyone draws a card from the face-down ring. They then play these cards in turn. Here you have the choice between horns, pairs, training or walking.

When trumpeting, a trumpet player pulls a stack from a fellow player into their own play area. It must be exactly one higher in value than the top card in the deck. When pairing, your own card attracts one of the three open cards from the middle of the arena if the two have the same value. If there are not three animals in the arena, you must play your hand card into the arena for training.

If all this is not possible, the elephant or Trötofant goes for a walk. It is placed outside the arena. If there is already a card of the same value there, these two form a pair and are placed face down in your own play area. After the walk, the mousetrap is used. You can use it to steal any stack. If you have drawn a mouse at the beginning of a round, you can also steal a stack.

The game ends when the ring around the arena is empty. Now every open card counts one point and every hidden card and the mousetrap cost one point. The stack can be expanded with the tamer and the lasso.

Already viewed by some as a contender for Game of the Year - and soon to be reviewed extensively by us. Image: PLAY THAT!

AEOLOS  was the SPIEL novelty 2022 at SPIEL DAS. We will present and review them in detail in January. Here the players sail through the island kingdom of Aeolos and strive to gain as much recognition as possible in order to be accepted as a minion into the league of the gods. 

In each turn you play a sail card and determine the sail value. You can use this to move a ship. If you haven't moved a ship onto a river space, you can carry out the harbor action that corresponds to the sailing value. For this you have to be present in the corresponding port with a ship or a settlement. At the end of your turn you discard any excess wind tiles and draw a card. 

The game is suitable for two to four people aged ten and over and takes about 60 minutes to play. There is even more variety with the Poseidon expansion, variable player boards and new harbor tiles.

Skill Game: Ninja Academy

The skill of the players is in the ninja academy put to the test. In each game, the ninja students have to prove themselves against their classmates in different challenges. There are group and duel challenges. Everyone takes part in a group challenge and two ninjas compete against each other in a duel.

Whoever wins gets three coins in a group challenge or two coins in a duel. The other ninjas are then spectators and can bet on the winner and receive a coin for a correct guess.

The challenges are skill tasks that the players have to fulfill on time. For example, in a group challenge, everyone must balance a ninja figure on the back of their hand. At a signal, they try to push the other players in such a way that their figure falls down. 

An example of a duel would be building a tower out of five wooden beams, on top of which a ninja figure has to be placed.

When all duels specified on the setup card have been resolved, the game ends. Whoever has collected the most coins is the best ninja in the class.

The turbulent game of skill is suitable for 3-5 ninja apprentices from the age of 8 who have 20 minutes for their exam.

Even more to play

Due to his full-time work in the publishing house, Robert doesn't have the time to work extensively on his own game ideas. From flashes of inspiration at night, around 40 ideas have accumulated in various drawers.

One of them is scheduled to appear at SPIEL in 2023. She answers the name haunted mansion. This is a family card game with a hassle factor and an imaginative world. There are still a few final steps to be taken in balancing the maps before release. It is not easy to find the time for this in addition to the other publishing work. Nevertheless, Robert is very optimistic that the game will be finished on time. 

Another game by an external author will be available in the second quarter of 2023 at “Spiel Doch” in Dortmund. With the sixth game in the publishing house there is also a sixth different central mechanism. The first novelty of next year will be a roll-and-write, which will have a playing time of about 20 minutes. Due to the mechanism, the topic here will not be quite as imaginative as it is otherwise standard in the publishing house. Robert presented the author (and the game) at the young authors' meeting of SPIEL DAS! met.
This will be repeated every six months.

Due to the limited time that Robert himself has for the further development of his own games, there will also be further localizations. Nothing is final here yet. But there are various options, including another title by iello. 

Maybe there will be another localization of an iello title after Ninja Academy in 2023. Image: PLAY THAT!

Another novelty is currently being worked on with another experienced German author. We are talking about Martin Schlegel, from whose pen, among other things Aqua Romana originates. Here a card game develops.

In general, in addition to the "stock-filling" localizations, the publisher should primarily become a contact point for German (up-and-coming) authors. The meetings of young authors in particular are an important aspect here in order to find new ideas. 

All games at SPIEL DAS! move in the gray area between family and connoisseur game. Games from the publisher should be suitable for families with children as well as for game groups that only consist of adults. All games mentioned here meet these “Conditions”. This is also where Robert feels most comfortable in development. 

If you are looking for such games, you should check out the games from SPIEL DAS! definitely watch. We put our heart and soul into creating great games for family and multiplayer that combine imaginative worlds with fun in and on the game.

Last updated on 26.05.2023/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API