Hi Molly, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to us.
So can you tell me a little about Flying Leap Games? Who are you and what’s a day in the life of Flying Leap Games like?
Sure! We are a little indie game publisher that makes creative party games. We like to bring out the weirdness in everyone. The company was co-founded by two childhood friends, myself and Jon Cannon. We’ve been friends for about 24 years, since we did extracurricular maths and poetry together in elementary school. In fact, one of earliest memories of Jon is when he wrote a poem about me in fourth grade. It went “Molly is lying there dead on the floor, when she tried to walk in, she ran into the door.” Lovely, ay? In all honesty, Jon really is one of the quirkiest and most creative people I know. So it made sense when I dreamed up our first game. Wing It, in 2010, he was the first friend I called to say, Jon, want to create a board game with me?
And of course, even though neither of us had any experience designing games, he immediately said yes. He ALSO immediately offered a suggested that dramatically improved Wing It. We designed our game over many years. We play tested it and turned it into a company. All as a hobby while other things went on in our lives. Jon got a PhD in maths during that time, got engaged, got married, began and ended a teaching career. He now has an adorable baby. I went from one job to my MBA program, to another job I resigned. To a job where I was laid off in six weeks, moved to different cities.
And it was the lay off that led me, in 2017, to take a big leap and make something out of a terrible situation. It was the day I got laid off that I sat in a park. Realised I was in a new city where I paid almost twice as much in rent, with no job anymore. I decided to go full time on our game company.
Today a day in the life, is, well, hectic and crazy! I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are slower times. But I could literally be doing anything from visiting four or five stores on one of my interstate board game store tours (I’ve visited at least 145 stores on two continents since May 22nd!) to well, a more typical day: making follow up calls to stores to do sales, reaching out to our designer to follow up with her, trying to figure out something with our manufacturer, you name it. The most major task that takes up most hours when I can stomach it is definitely sales calls to a lot of stores.
I love my stores, but with new ones, or ones that may not be carrying your product anymore, you have to be ready with a thick skin, and just well, the patience needed if a store has had your game for months and just hasn’t made a decision yet.
In my sales both these things are true: I’ve had a toy store order 32 combined of Wing It and Wing It Beyond in front of me within minutes of meeting me (which feels AWESOME!) and I’ve had stores that are still making a decision about whether to carry your game over a year after I visited them out in Seattle. And everything in between. Persistence, patience, and kindness are key!
In the interest of transparency, I have played your latest Kickstarter project; Million Dollar Doodle and absolutely love it. For those who haven’t seen it yet, can you let us know a little about how the game works and how it feels to play it?
Absolutely! It feels exciting! Because you never know what you’re going to get or what the group will come up with. Everyone is creating weird, often funny companies/products together and then pitching them to each other. The way it works is, each players gets to Logo Component cards, meaning two images, and they combine them on a dry erase notepad into a logo. For example, you might pick “A brain” and “A magic wand.” After you draw a logo, you pass your notepad, and the net person writes a company name that goes with the logo.
Then you pass notepads again and the next person writes a slogan for the company inspired by the logo and the company name. Then the fourth person adds a review, like a Yelp style review of one to three sentences that can be negative or positive.
You all pass the notepads one more time and each person comes up with a pitch for the company that somehow includes the logo, name, slogan, and review. Then everyone pitches to each other as if the other players are investors, and all the players vote on which company they’ll invest a million dollars in!
The creative possibilities are infinite and people may get really into their pitches.
Bringing a game to market must be such a big undertaking. How do you approach the challenges and what have you done in preparation for this and your other releases?
I visit tons and tons of retailers! I find ways to connect with them in person. Whether by going on board game store tours or going to the GAMA Trade Show. (GAMA is the Game Manufacturers’ Association). GAMA really made our company sustainable. It really helps retailers to be able to see your product in person and try a round of it, in the case of a party game.
I also send out demo copies to stores I cold call. But mostly, I plan these tours of at least 25 stores. In the UK, before, during, and after UK Games Expo, I visited about 25 game stores. Right after that I visited over 30 stores after Origins Game Fair. These were all over cities in Ohio, a couple in Northern Kentucky, and a bunch in the Detroit area. More recently I toured nearly 70 stores in October in the western and northern midwest of the U.S. Now that we get into over 50% of the stores I visit, these tours are totally worth the cost.
(shall I share a funny story about one night at a bar? Where there where retailers and cheese involved and we grew from about 10 to 60 stores n four weeks?)
Having played The Million Dollar Doodle with a number of groups I know it is a game that makes so many fun memories and creates brilliant in-jokes for your gaming groups. What are some of your best memories from games of The Million Dollar Doodle? And any other games that you enjoy and bring back memories?
Jon: I remember the first game of Million Dollar Doodle in its earliest form something like eight years ago. My wife Sara and I were at a pizza place with another couple that we really liked but we had run out of things to talk about. So out of nowhere, she just said, “Everyone draw a logo for a company on your napkin.” We did the logo, then name, then slogan. We might have added the testimonial later, and the cards and pitch only came in once Flying Leap got down to work on it much later. But the core of the game was born in one moment of inspiration. (Not EXACTLY what you asked…)
Molly: I play tested a new additional deck of cards recently at a meetup for New York City game designers. The company I needed to pitch one round was for works of literature being read aloud to famous people after they were dead. The whole idea was so funny I couldn’t even talk during my pitch because I was laughing so hard. That was amazing.
Jon and I have a LOT of great memories of playing Taboo and Balderdash, two of the games we grew up with. Those were two of my favourites. One New Year’s Eve we got together with our group of friends and stayed up all night watching extended versions of Lord of the Rings and playing board games.
As it is getting close to the festive season and people consider family get together. There are a number of lists doing the rounds. Could you let us know your top 5 games to play with family? and which of those is your absolute favourite… and why?
Oooo that’s tough.
- My absolute favourite game for how brilliantly it’s designed is Magic Maze. Because the theme and mechanism (way you play) match so well. Players are all cooperatively and silently trying to steal what they all need for a quest. Then escape a magic mall before mall security catches them. Get this: it has a “board” that changes every time, there are no assigned turns, no assigned characters, and you can’t talk! It’s amazing and stressful in just the right way.
- Another favourite light strategy game that I highly recommend is Fire Tower. Everyone is trying to burn down each other’s tower before they burn down yours first, with all these gems that are like 3D flames!
- Chameleon is also a great one for big groups. It’s a simple, light-hearted, really fun social deduction game in which one player is the chameleon and has to try to blend in with everyone else...by describing a certain word on a chart even though they have no idea what the word is!
- Pitchstorm is one of my recent favourite party games. It came out from Skybound, the same publisher that made Superfight. All the players get a card for a movie plot or character and then have 45 seconds to pitch a movie to a movie studio exec. It gets hilarious.
- And lastly of course, Wing It and Wing It Beyond are favourites. I may be a little biased.. but even after 5+ years of playing Wing It with groups, I still love seeing the crazy stories people come up with to solve ridiculous problems, and I love it when folks get laughs out of our games!
Thank you again for your time and we wish you all the best with Million Dollar Doodle. Which is currently live on Kickstarter.
Thanks so much! We hope folks will take a look at it, especially to watch the video on the Kickstarter page that shows game play. The end of the video has a fun pitch. And we hope if folks want to bring a copy home, they’ll consider backing our ridiculous game!