The intertubes never fail to surprise me. I got an email a while back from a chap in Cornwall, England concerning a bar review I did. Now the bar review happened to be published under Version 1.0 of this site about a year ago. It was for a British Pub in Kenmore Square known as Cornwall’s. The best thing about Cornwall’s is that they have hundreds of board games for people to play with at the pub.
Anyway, this gent who will know be referred to as Colin Leamon hence forth, sent me an email about the review and we started a little back and forth. Before long I was curious about what he did for a living, because he was a board game designer for his own company Shinermons Games. Since he lived in Cornwall, this was how he came across myself by Googling “Cornwall + board games.” Totally random.
Colin developed a love of classic boardgames, think Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, Othello, et cetera at a young age and has devoted his life to create other classic board games. His are all played on a board with pieces and they require no chance cards and no dice. They’re easy to grasp, require a bit of thought/strategy, and are tons of fun!
Above is Leamon’s game “Babylonia,” a classic in waiting.
All told, Colin has created eight board games, 2 dice games, four miscellaneous games, three card games, and Colin swears “the best drinking game ever created.” And though I’ve never personally played Shinero, aka the best drinking game, I’d certainly be willing to test it out against all the standard American drinking games out there.
I should say, my interest in this is strictly from being a board game slut. I grew up playing card and board games with my dad and progressed to the rigurs of Monopoly, Clue, Risk and lately I’ve been digging on a game called Blockus. To me board games are the ultimate social activity; equally capable of wasting hours, providing laughs and a little brain activity. Throw in some drinks and your mates and it’s, regardless of the game, going to be a great time.
Take the jump for my email Q&A with Colin Leamon, board game designer and founder of Shinermons Games. It’s worth noting that I didn’t change the spellings on some of his words because of that whole British thing.
I’d say the first thing I want to know is why board games? Looking at your site and the games you’ve created, it looks as if you are really trying to create unique games, that somehow feel classic in the tradition of backgammon, etc. You don’t really see that anymore.
Colin Leamon: Yes, my games are in the classical tradition of just board & pieces on a line board, with the ‘modern’ addition of colour. The classics don’t use colour whilst the modern games are heavy on contrivance. My games follow a logical progression through to the conclusion.
Another aspect is that my abstract games are multilayer – & of course dice & chance card free! Yes, i am creating modern classics; simple straight forward games that still remain a challenge to the serious player.
What was the first game you created?
C.L. The first game I created evolved into Shinero. It?s a drinking game (that I adapted to play with sweets instead) that’s perfect for parties! You move according to colour & when you can do you jump, tap the glasses & win a drink (sweet/ activity/ truth & dare/ coin …etc). Really simple, but with a bit of thought you can manipulate the other players – The Thinkers Drinking Game I called it. Unfortunately drinking is frowned upon so, like I said, I adapted it to sweets & now give it the tag line “The Prize Winning Part Game”.
Intriguing. Can you tell me a little bit more about Shinero. Most Americans play card based drinking games like ?Asshole? or um, ?Kings? I think is another one.
C.L. Shinero, i believe, is ‘probably the best drinking game in the world’ I have had to adapt it to a family friend game, but it is, in essence an adult game. But don’t get me wrong, the family games is a hell of a lot of fun. I’ll come back to this through this write up.
Basically the game is a board made up of 21 cards (beermats) of three different colours that are shuffled & delt into a specific pattern. This is NOT a card game. Wouldn’t this be a lovely advertising opportunity? If a beer company could use three of their beers/ logo etc. But I digress…
The game is for 2-4 players, with a variation for a 5th player, & the pieces are the players drinks! In the family version use glasses/ cups. Moves are made according to the colour of the card & when a player can do he jumps the opponents ‘piece’ taps it & returns to his ‘home’ square – then makes his move. With a little thought you can manipulate the other players, or at least reason out where they are going to go ? that?s why I used to call this game the Thinkers Drinking Game! However that version had to be stopped, but I make provision for it in the rules for how I sell it now. I sell it now under the tag line ‘The Prize Winning Party Game’ , the prizes being what you put in the glass – sweets, coins etc (ice-cream works really well). You could even put activities in there. For the adult version you could have Truths & Dares.
Another thing about this game is that it fits in your back pocket & is the perfect size when laid out to be played on those round tables you get in pubs (over here at least). It is the best party game!
Where do you find inspiration? And can you talk about the general process of creating a board game? How does that differ from a card or dice based game?
C.L. Inspiration? Now that is truly an ethereal question (is that the right word?) For me it comes ‘out of the blue’ when I’m thinking about game ideas. Which comes first, the idea or the inspiration? I don’t know. Or-Connek took two weeks from idea to completion while Pedrek (where you build the board as you play the game) took 18 months! Where do I get my inspiration? If I knew I’d bottle it & sell it! (way-hey, a whole paragraph without any spelling mistooks!).
You ask about the process; this is kind of like the inspiration – or do you mean the ‘mechanics?’ If so then it?s simple a matter of a big pad of paper, a handful of pens & a patient wife! No, I don’t have another job so I do most of my scribbling whilst she?s out, but I’ll come back to this.
When designing a game do you have a general audience in mind, or are you creating them solely as personal things?
C.L. As for who, it differs from a card or dice game. I don’t know, I don’t do card or dice games. The only dice games I have are Gammot (4 player backgammon, much better that qudrogammon, or that other one) & Harlyn, my 1 player board game where the dice simply determine the ‘opponents’ turn.
When I create my games I make sure that I can teach them to anyone in a matter of minutes. All the rules, with diagrams & idiot guides are on a single sheet of paper. I design them with classical board games in mind on a flat board with just pieces – like I said, simple, but still a challenge to someone who really like to give it some thought. One game of mine,
Is there a board game you wished you could have created? In that, is there a game you look at as being the perfect embodiment of board gaming. And what game are you most proud of creating?
C.L. I wish I’d created Monopoly/ Scrabble from a truly financial point of view but from my heart I wish I?d created ‘Go’: Though I don’t ‘get it’ I do love the premise & basic concept. This brings me to your other question about which game I’m most proud of; it has to be my player game ‘
Backgammon in my opinion is pretty much perfect in being strategy & luck. This could be though of as a cop out answer as everyone says it, but it strikes a perfect balance. No, it doesn’t, but it?s the closest!
Can you talk about
As with all my games the rules are very simple, with all the rules fitting on a single piece of paper.
The basic premise is points scoring through pre-capture (either FACING capture, or WAITING capture) then capture proper. Both pre-capture patterns are ‘3in a row’. This is NOT an alignment game!!! Facing capture is 2 of your pieces with an opponents piece on the end, with an unoccupied square behind it to allow capture proper, while Waiting capture is 2 of your pieces either side of an opponents – again with an occupied square behind to allow capture: Capture proper is to lay the 4th piece.
You start off in the corners & spread across the entire board.with everyone taking on everyone else in all directions! ‘Turns’ are putting your piece on a square then totalling any score/ scores you made for that turn.
Writing up my games is not my forte! I’ll close with this: Captured pieces are returned to that player so in the end game players may actually avoid capturing an opponent who has run out of pieces to play – as capturing him would give him pieces to play!
I hope that?s OK Jim. As I’ve said before I really think
Is the culture of English board gaming different than what you’d find in
C.L. As for the culture I can’t say; mention board games these days & they think ‘Big Brother: the board Game’ (do you have that programme?). OK, ‘The Simpson’s: the board game’…et al (ad nauseum!) Otherwise they think ‘Role playing’ games & geeks with no life dressing up! But go on the Internet & you’ll find thousands playing the classics! The market is out there; the potential is huge!
As for Pub friendly my Shinero would be perfect as the ‘pieces’ are the players drinks! You don’t see games played in pubs these days unfortunately. It?s a shame.
How do you find the business aspects of having a board game company? Do you have another job? Is there money in this? How do you market your games? Find an audience for them?
C.L. I market my games in shops at craft markets. I need some backing to improve the packaging & without better packaging…well, you get the picture. I’ve been designing for 12 years & selling now for 3 years, & I wish I spent more money on the packaging instead of playing the ‘minimal packaging/ good for the enviourment card. Despite what people say they don’t really care about the enviourment if it means they don’t get a nice flashy box – though they’d never admit it! My only game that is boxed (Pedrek) is my best seller! There is a lot of money to be made in this market & I certainly have at least a couple games that could give any game a run for its money! I despair of the junk out there!
Where would you like your company to be over the next few years?
C.L. If I don’t get that break soon there won?t be a Shinermons Games in a couple years!
That sucks. How about a little nostalgia? What was the first board game you remember playing and/or falling in love with?
C.L. The first game I ever remember was a game called, I think, ‘Oil rigs’. We didn?t have a full set (or we didn?t understand the rules, I can?t remember) so we made our own version up! I also remember Monopoly – but we play ‘buy one property/ build on it’, so much better! I was making local versions of it when I was a kid!
Which games are the toughest to make? Family games, kids games, adult oriented games, etc.?
C.L. As for who is the toughest to make for I think its ‘horses for courses’, None is harder than the other if you want to make it good; An ‘easy’ game for kids is not always easy to design because you are so limited to what the rules can be. I design most of my games to be able to be played by a 9 year old.
If you weren’t creating board games, what would you being doing? Do you have any hobbies? Any formal training, like art school?
C.L. Oh, what else would I be doing? I don’t honestly know. I would like to do some voulentary work. I have trained as a chef but would never go back! Apart from that, I don’t know!