Alice and Nick, I’m really grateful you could spare some time to talk to us about Slam it! that I have been playing recently.
First of all could you tell me a little bit about yourselves and how you got into the gaming industry?
Alice: I’m a civil servant and Nick’s a medical physicist - we fell into making a game quite by accident. It all started when we played Irish Snap using a deck of Uno cards that were to hand.
Nick: As we played, we started to invent rules for each of the non-number cards. It was a bit disjointed but a lot of fun! We were surprised to find that a game like this didn’t already exist, so in our spare time we decided to start making a prototype.
We kept tweaking elements of the game and trying out different sets of rules with our friends.
Alice: Once we’d reached a design we were happy with, we had sheets of prototype cards printed and spent a few laborious evenings cutting them out by hand. We demoed the game at the UK Games Expo, and left copies with interested publishers. Soon after the show we were contacted to discuss licensing contracts. It all suddenly felt very real!
Could you tell us all about how it plays? Both my family and gaming group love fast paced, fun party games and Slam it! definitely scratches that itch.
Nick: Slam It! is based on the traditional game “Irish Snap” which is played with a standard deck of cards and sees players trying to get rid of their cards by taking it in turns to put the top card of their deck onto a central pile while counting up card values; “ace”, “two”, “three”, etc. If the card on the top of pile matches the number said then all the players must ‘slam’ the pile – the last player to do so has to pick up all the cards.
Alice: Well we saw that idea and ran with it. In Slam It! players place coloured number cards in the centre while counting between 0 and 9 and slamming when the card matches the count - but they also have to contend with cards which skip players or change the direction of play.
The twist is that extra rules gradually get added, such as slamming if the top two cards on the pile are the same colour, not being allowed to say the number 4, or having to slam with both hands!
Nick: If a player is the last to slam, makes a mistake, or hesitates too long then they have to pick up the pile and add it to their deck.
Alice: The game quickly becomes a hilarious minefield of rules through which you and your friends have to navigate.
I loved the fact that you can scale up the difficulty to teach new gamers and or support younger gamers. How did you go about designing the step up and how do you approach the whole design process?
Nick: It was our publishers who proposed the idea of writing the scalable difficulty into the design to appeal to the family market. But, as you mention, we had often broken the game down when teaching new players so we had a feeling of where the natural jumps in difficulty were. For a game which is designed to test your mental capacity, I’m glad we decided not to throw players in at the deep end.
Alice: The trickiest part of the design was curating a set of rules which were challenging, fun, and would occur at a good frequency. They also need to be memorable, which is why we gave each rule a punny name. We have a whole graveyard of rules which were too hard, triggered too often, players forgot, or that just weren’t much fun. What you’ll find in the box now is a tight set of great rules which range in difficulty from easy to tricky to fiendish!
Nick: My personal favourite rule that was cut had players add the count to the number of the card on top of the pile to calculate the next count.
Alice: I hated it and I’m glad it’s gone!
Nick: And I think that encapsulates our design approach; we continued to add elements and try new rules before playtesting and stripping away everything that wasn’t fun or vital.
Other than Slam it! do you have any other games currently in design or playtesting that you are allowed to speak about or drop hints on?
Alice: We’ve got a couple of ideas in the works currently…
Nick: I’ve have a new game that I’m trying to find the right publisher for. Very different from Slam It!, it’s a two-player abstract strategy game in which players move their pieces around a board attempting to remove their opponent’s…
Alice: It’s basically chess with dice.
Nick: Well yes, but actually no. Each player controls five colours of dice each of which has a different set of faces which affect how they move and attack resulting in some very interesting probabilistic strategy!
With Christmas coming, gaming is always something that has been part of our family holidays and has provided many memories; do you have any special gaming memories?
Nick: One Christmas gaming memory I have is of my Pictionary team blankly staring at an ever-growing, increasingly-violent scribble and the face of the artist, who had perhaps had one too many helpings of mulled wine, incredulous at the fact we were unable to correctly guess her word. It was ‘celebration’.
Alice: I’m a big fan of Articulate and Charades, so Nick and I often play a hybrid of the two we call Gesticulate – Charades using the Articulate cards. Our finest our moments have been successfully acting out ‘Nebuchadnezzar’ ‘Doctor Livingstone’ and ‘germination’.
Talking about the festive season, I am hoping to get a few more games. What games are currently on your wish list this Christmas?
Nick: I’ve asked for the Flamme Rouge expansions. And I’m getting my little plastic cyclists in training for a full tour come Boxing Day!
Alice: I’m hoping for the Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle expansion, ‘The Monster Box of Monsters’ so I can play as Luna Lovegood.
Thank you again for the fun that I have had playing Slam it! and for taking the time to speak to me.
Nick: It was a pleasure!
Alice: We love hearing that people have enjoyed playing the game. By introducing it to others, you’ve now become one of our official Slambassadors!