Estevan artist creates a unique card game

A local family has found a way to share their passion for games with the rest of the world.

Photographer Monique Willms developed the game named Dig from scratch, and now the new product is available for others to try out. The pandemic played a role in the process, forcing the family to stay home more and thus also stimulating them to be more creative.

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Willms
Card and board games are a big part of the family time for Kai, Hannah, Dean and Monique Willms. Photo submitted

"We are a family that loves to play games, and I homeschool my kids. We do use games a lot in our learning. And so it's something that we do a lot. And because we found ourselves home a lot more in the last year, we had been playing games and I was like, 'You know what, I think I'd like to try and create a game,'" recalled Willms.

While games were always a big part of family time, Willms didn't know much about creating one. It took her about eight months filled with research, sketching and thought-tossing to transform the idea into a printed product.

"I didn't really know anything about what that process looked like. So I just sat down with a notebook and I started making a list of all of the different types of mechanics that I like to see in games, like how games work, what types of strategies can be involved in card games versus board games, building versus different competitive things, co-operative things. So I just started listing all of that, and then started fleshing out a theme with the digging, and then took it from there," Willms said.

She went on to explain that their family is really into science and that's what gave the direction to the theme of the game. Besides, they spend a lot of time learning history, so she decided to put the best of the two together in a game. Some of the roles Willms included, such as geologist and archeologist, were known and obvious, but others she had to dig out first.

"I didn't know that astrogeologists existed, but I needed another role, type of an ologists and found out that there are astrogeologists. They're probably pretty rare. They are interested in studying different extraterrestrial things, something like asteroid bits or moon rocks," Willms said.

The game allows learning along the way in a fun and exciting way. Willms has a background in education, so she put a lot of thought into laying out rules, breaking things down and explanations.

The strategy came together fairly quickly. After researching some scientific details, Willms made a prototype to try it out.

"We made a prototype just out of cardstock and drew on it. And we played that a lot before I started digitally designing and illustrating the game just because I wanted to work out the kinks. So my kids had a big part in that … There's a lot of fun, critical thinking and testing it out before I went to illustrating," Willms explained.

Dig game
The Dig game offers players the chance to choose the role of one of the specialists that explore the Earth's depth and find treasures that can be dug out. Photo submitted

All illustrating was done by hand with an iPad and Apple pencil. It took a while and didn't go without a hiccup. But that wasn't it for learning. The most research came when Willms was trying to figure out how to actually manufacture the game, something she's never done before. The trial and error method brought her to a print-on-demand option, which allowed her to keep the game price at an affordable mark. She passed all learning curves and the entire experience not only proved that creating a game is possible but also inspired Willms' 11-year-old daughter Hannah to start producing her own game. 

Willms' work didn't go unnoticed. The game became available on May 18, and within the first week, she had so much support and interest in the new product that she even received recognition for her success.

"It's a tiny little accolade, but it has received the Redstone seller. So that's when you hit a certain threshold of sales, and the website says only 3.6 per cent of the games on the site have reached that threshold. So definitely, I had so much support from people who know me and from strangers who thought it looked interesting and were willing to give it a try. So it's exciting and a little bit nerve-wracking," Willms said.

The game is available for pick up in Estevan through Willms personal website at www.moniquewillms.com or through www.thegamecrafter.com for delivery worldwide.

There is also a 12-minute video run-through available at Willms' website that explains how to play the game, which Willms said makes it really easy to understand all the rules.

The experience was inspiring, and Willms already has two other games in the works. Also, they are also going to produce the game developed by Hannah called Race to the Ring, which is focused on who one may marry. It will become available in about a month.

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