Looking for a game that will enhance your feelings of creativity while playing for fun or while problem-solving? Want a game for your children or company team to help them be creative? You've found it in RoarStack, where you connect the many things you can see in inkblots to extend a group story while potentially scoring points. It is a game which draws on your visual creativity and storytelling in new ways. You will be surprised, amused and educated by how everyone sees something different and how quickly stories can change direction. It is a game where unexpected and sometimes insightful outcomes are to be expected.
You might be wondering how can a simple game improve creativity? First multiple studies show viewing art can improve brain function , e.g. for popular press articles see NYTimes, WJS or Business Insider, or check out the hard-core neuroscience studies on brain function and art. Other studies show storytelling improves creativity. In addition, the human brain often finds connections because of priming -- when one concept is active in your brain it increases the potential to connect other ideas to it. What you see depends on your experience as well as on the theme, on the conversation, on your mood, and on anything else in context. This priming feature turns out to be very helpful when using RoarStack for innovation. New work on creativity networks in the brain are showing the process is deep and widespread -- there is a need for some "downtime" while ideas are percolating at a subconscious level. Roarstack combines these scientifically backed elements in a fun game with many modes of play and novel mechanism to keep it interesting and fun. Playing improves random connections in your networks that spur creativity. So does it work? Our testing shows very significant gains in self-perception of creativity and the feeling one can learn to be creative:
In most other card games, the difference between victory and defeat is mostly in the cards and their probabilities; your creativity and the story are secondary. But in RoarStack you have to be creative in what you see and connecting it to the story. There aren't obvious items on the cards, only artwork that you need to interpret in context. It's up to the players to decide how to interpret their cards and build on the previous one, which means that every game tells unique stories based on the collective creativity of everyone involved.
Let's give you some examples so you can see how many different things are in the cards. Look at the images in the introductory video above and pause it on the first card. Now think about animals and look around in the card. What else can you see? Can you see part of a frog? (Hint, it's white). Now think about westerns while still taking about animals. Anything? Maybe you can see a chihuahua with pistols on the left, or maybe it's a (exploring?) cat ready for a fight. If you are looking for people, maybe you will see a surprised person with a big hairdo (bottom left) or two faces arguing loudly (brown regions in the middle of the right card). What people see depends on their viewpoint -- it is really hard to see the chihuahua and the giant at the same time, even when you've already seen both.
Below is an example of Quick or First Play, our recommended first game to understand and get used to Roarstack. Filmed in "First" person with two Google glasses as well as a 3rd overview camera. As you watch it maybe pause the video and think what you play, then unpause to see what the Roarstack inventors do. Many more videos below.
Here is another static example.. ponder it while thinking of animals. Then think about aliens. Imagine it is your play in the game and take a minute to look at them before reading on
When thinking of animals did you see a pair of blue fish kissing (bottom left) or a blue-headed owl (or maybe it's a bear) devouring a small blue bird (upper right). For aliens, the green giant on the left is obvious -- but did you see what might be a blue faced alien with no arms? Did you see a blue-winged angel (which was also the blue bird being eaten by the owl)? Or what about the white-winged alien with small arms and blue eyes (lower middle left)? If these sound crazy, note each of these has been an item seen in play testing, there are probably many more hiding in the inkblots that won't been seen until the context is right.
The Many Modes of Play
Roarstack has a Victory Deck of 52 cards with sayings and inkblots, and a Suit Deck with 54 regular playing cards with inkblots. Each deck also has rule cards for different modes of play. You can mix/match the cards for different games and combine multiple decks for large party play. While we provide multiple potential rule sets to get you going, Roarstack is about your creativity, so the rules are also flexible.
Themes are optional but can constrain the allowed stories in any mode. Constraints can be general e.g. stories about animals, or specific relations, e.g. your character must defeat the previous character, or your character must help the previous character toward some common goal. In the expansion theme decks we'll provide some fun themes to use.
Story Play: The Simplest RoarStack game, for casual group play or children, is Story Play wherein you relate your card to the previously played card, possibly within the optional theme of the round. In Story Play, the added sayings and card value/suits don't matter, just the inkblots and the story. This is a good mode for young children and people more interested in collaboration and storytelling than competition.
Point Play: If you want to keep score and compete with others, then you can add the dimension of point play where victory points are scored based on phrase+value on the story cards, when the conversation of the group matches the phrase. You play your victory cards at any time. Victory points can come from mundane things in the conversation from the weather, to social relations, to pop culture. Your inkblots and storytelling can help lead the conversation, but you don't score victory points from what you do/say, only from what your friends do/say. This mode encourages talking with and listening to your friends and is great for party play and team building.
Even when its not your turn to play a card, you need to pay attention and engage in dialog, maybe even trying to guide the conversation so you can score points. However, you also have to be active in the round to score so you have to keep that story going when its your turn. Victory scoring is generally simple -- you play the victory card in front of you so just count them at the end of the round. You can still have a lot of fun even with victory points even if you forget scoring -- winning is not as important as the fun of the creative story process and good conversation. Note some of the cards engage everyone, e.g. here is a minute clip of when some students first encountered "the pirate round" victory card:
Gestour/Best play: A mode good for larger groups or big/noisy parties is Gestour/Best mode where everyone competes to try to extend the same story. A gestour is a teller of legendary tales. In this mode the gestour starts a story and everyone picks a card from their had and tries to be the best extension of that story based on the inkblot on their card. After the cards to play are exposed, the gestour defines how they will define "best". There is an optional 30 second free-for-all period where everyone tries to convince others that theirs is the best extension. The gestour then begins calling on players who have 10 seconds to tell their card's story. The gestour picks the "best" answer and that person becomes the new gestour. Everyone else draws a replacement card. First person out of cards wins the hand.
Twisted Play: Another mode of play is Twisted play, which is good for people who play traditional card games. In Twisted play, you use just the playing card deck, and play your favorite classic card game, with a twist -- you can use the inkblots to connect cards or as wild cards. For example, in Roaring Rummy you might connect a random card into a part of a straight by telling the inkblots' secret stories and connecting misfit cards to those before and after it in sequence. In Roaring Go Fish, when you pull a card from the pool you can also match it if you can tell the story to connect it to your matching card. In Solitary Stories you can play any card anywhere, but only if you can tell its story. Here, the role of the stories is to directly help you score points in a classic game. These add RoarStack Story play to existing games, making almost any card wild by using your creativity. It adds a new twist and often a lot more laughter, to well-known games.
Ideation Play: Another mode of play is ideation -- the generation of ideas related to solving a problem. Here, the player(s) takes a problem to be solved and uses the cards to help explore the problem, the constraints, and potential solutions. RoarStack is not only a fun game; it can also be an innovation tool for improving creativity and problem-solving. Creativity in innovation and problem-solving is often about linking disparate ideas together. Given a topic people see different things in the cards, and seeing things in the cards makes connections to other ideas. In the words of the very innovative Steve Jobs: "Creativity is just connecting things."
Our team has tested RoarStack in our "innovation process" class, using it for ideation in complex problem-solving. We analyzed students' perception of their creativity before and after playing as well as its role in problem-solving. After 30 min of using Roarstack, more than 75% of the students felt they could learn to be more creative. There was also a statistically very significant (p=0.0001) improvement in students feeling of personal creativity. Moreover, when it comes to actual problem-solving, over 60 % of the students felt Roarstack could help them be more creative in problem-solving. From an instructors point of view, the teams came up with significantly more creative yet potentially viable solutions. It is probably also worth mentioning that on a scale of 1-5 on "fun to play" with 1 being the best, more than 60% of the class graded Roarstack as a 1 or 2 and 85% rated it 3 or better. We also tested it in corporate innovation training, which is discussed below.
So if you parent/grandparent looking fun but educational gift, or if you are an educator or a company leader looking to improve your teams' creative and problem-solving skills, Roarstack is a fun way to get them going on a new creative path toward innovation.
Expansion Decks and Themes
We are working on our first expansion deck. The expansion decks will have theme cards that direct the theme for play. They will also have added victory cards that are theme related. The first expansion will a set of general themes, but further expansions might focused themes for different interest groups such as "Kids & cartoons", Sports, Racing, RolePlayingGames, Card/Board Games, or Video Games. We also plan on international version with expansion decks appropriate for different languages/cultures. If we hit our stretch goal and need to select new themes we'll post a poll on our website and let you know you can vote for what is next.
The Judge or the Crowd?
The Cards and Cases
A primary reason for going to Kickstarter is to allow us to order enough to go with a higher end USA-based printing service. Many of these have minimum production rules -- 500 decks for one of the US manufacturers we contacted, 2500 decks for another. And Setup fees, which can be almost $1000 for our custom double deck need to be amortized over many decks to bring down the price.
Not only will we be using a US manufacturer/printer we will, at a minimum, use 300+gsm black/grey-core quality playing card paper, not the 250-270 gsm "card stock" used in many custom board games and low-end promotional card decks. Playing card stock with a core and 305-320 gsm is what you find in higher quality professionally produced playing card decks -- cards that shuffle and deal properly. Note the card stock will likely be imported from Europe as that is where the best US manufacturers seem to get their paper.
While many cards come in printed tuck boxes, and this may be okay for single decks, many people find the tuck boxes don't work so well for double deck games. It is hard to get the cards back into double tucks and the tuck boxes tear too easily. We looked at lots of alternatives and while there are some okay hard plastic shelf boxes, we decided that we needed more rugged plastic as we wanted something that you can carry in a pocket or backpack without worrying about it breaking. Being the creative types, we see ideas all around us and after testing decided various solutions decided on our unique cases that make a great double deck solution. See the figure below to see what they look like.
For all decks we ship you'll get your choice of either our unique case or a standard plastic double deck case. Either way you get durable plastic protection that still fits in a back pocket or can be tossed in a backpack or a briefcase.
Artists, Creatives and Marketing rewards
Our team, friends and advisor spent a long time developing the artwork (or at least some of it). We know many people really like abstract artwork, and some love to produce it. Developing good abstract work takes time, so maybe you want to get in on the game.
If you love abstract art and are an artist we'd love to have you in the game. Hence one of our rewards allows you to supply your own work and we'll make you custom deck with your artwork, or even include your artwork in everyone's expansion decks. You'll need to be quick in getting your artwork to us (2 weeks), so you might start creating when you back.
There are also rewards that allow you to get creative in the phrases and hve your own personalized decks, e.g. Mom's might like decks that give out points every time your kids say "like" or "Ya Know" or "umm". Corporate Marketing types might want points for when their company is mentioned.
EU Friendly Shipping
UPDATED.. we'll arrange for ALL EU backers to receive rewards reshipped from a location within the EU, probably the Netherlands. Based on our research this should mean no customs/VAT on receiving the package.
We offer multiple rewards with various types of personalized Decks -- all of which are Kickstarter Limited Edition. The basic personalization is your name on the back of the deck like this:
Our second family of customized rewards will allow you to redefine the victory messages and/or the images on cards. There is versions where you can add anything you want to your own personalized decks. This is a good bit of work for us so they are commensurately more expensive.
We also have customizations that allow you to do art or messages (marketing) that goes into all decks. These are subject to approval as its a game for all ages and we will need copyright/trademark approval depending on your work.
The final type of customization is for the the corporate training kit or innovation events, where we can also add a logo with the text to the front of the card. We cannot name the top 20 company for whom we made cards, mentioned in the introduction, but we can make some for you. We can even lead the training, or train you how to lead it yourself. And with custom cards your team receives event SWAG that they can use with their team and/or their family. They were a big hit at our last training event, hopefully some of them are here to back us and get more ;-)
Innovation Training Events
Some of our rewards are related to corporate innovation kits or actual training events. If you are wondering who are we to offer it, you can relax and know that our RoarStack mentor, Dr. T. Boult, who is the founder of the Bachelor of Innovation family of degrees, would lead your training and the RoarStack staff would help facilitate. And it won't Dr. Boult's his first time in the innovation training with game. He recently used RoarStack in training for VPs and their senior staff at a Forbes top 20 company. As the above charts show, it was a roaring success improving the teams feeling they could be creative and learn to be creative. Other statistically very significant (p<.01) improvements were found in their feeling they know how to innovate, can learn how to innovate. They also felt they could improve innovation in their teams with the tools.
The reward is for a half-day training, but it could be expanded (with more $) to include a broader range of tools and/or spend more time applying them to your companies problems.
Print and Play
The print and play deck will be either 9up (3x3) grid for hand cutting or an 8-up designed for printing on micro-perforated such as those from from plaincards.com. You'll get both front and back, but the personalization will be on the front like this:
To give people get a chance to experience RoarStack before they back us, we've posted some free sample print-and-play pages (23 cards + instructions) on our website. If you made it this far in reading you deserve a reward -- download them, print them on card stock or photo paper, cut them out and play a few hands. Note the 18 cards in the $1 reward will be different than the free deck,so you can really get 36 P&P cards for $1. These free print-and-play will not have the quality of the final decks -- the free ones have more compression to keep the file size down to about 1MB -- the full resolution print-an-play deck is ~90M. You can also gain experience by playing in our online context discussed below. Note the 18 cards in the $1 reward will be different than the free deck,so you can really get 36 P&P cards for $1.
We are also having an online contest on our FaceBook page. The contest is basically a sequence of RoarStack plays. We will make the first play by putting up a card image and the theme then give people time to comment -- anyone can play and all backers (even $1 level) are eligible to win prizes. We'll take the answer we like the most and award those players points. You'll also get points if your friends like your posts. We will pick someone's answer as the official play then post the next card and continue playing. We'll have multiple games and be giving away prizes to the top scoring player(s).
For each $1000 raised, we'll be giving some not-for-profit school 1000 cards in a CLASSROOM KIT (A $150 reward). So your backing is not just helping the designers, its helping school children as well. If you want to back a school directly but don't teach there contact us (since we require proof of affiliation). Since RoarStack fosters creativity and storytelling, but can also be used for problem-solving, it can be used in classrooms from Kindergarden, where they might just tell stories or play Roaring Go Fish, to college where it can be used in teaching innovation.
While we have designed the campaign for the minimal needed to reach a basic production, we have stretch goals that will allow us to provide more value to backers as continued scaling reduces our costs.
STRETCH GOAL Case 1 ($2000): If we hit ($2000 raised), Backers at the $25 level $25 and $35 level get upgraded to a physical Roarstack rugged case. UNLOCKED... Every decks comes with a Case
STRETCH GOAL Expansion 1 ($5000): If we hit our first stretch goal ($5000 raised), we will release a second expansion deck by April 2015. Backers at the $25 level and above will get a code for a free print-and-play digital download of that deck. Backers at $75 or more will either get a deck (if we can turn it really fast) or get a code to purchase the printed expansion deck at cost. Since the expansion decks won't be done for 8-10 weeks, this approach allows us to give it to you at cost while also saving on reshipping costs (especially good for international buyers). Also, you pay only for the expansion set printing/shipping(g costs when/if you want it and choose to use the code.
STRETCH GOAL Case 2 ($7500) : If we hit our second stretch goal ($7500 raised), we'll upgrade the cases to be custom printed with full color graphics. (Min order is 1000 such units, which is why its a stretch).
STRETCH GOAL Expansion 3 ($10000) : If we hit our third stretch goal ($10000 raised), we'll release a third expansion deck and upgrade everyone at the $25 or higher level receive an code to buy all expansion sets from our print-on-demand publisher at cost + printing. Since the third expansion decks won't be done for 12-14 weeks, this approach allows us to give it to you at cost while also saving on reshipping costs (especially good for international buyers).
STRETCH GOAL 4 ($20000): At our fourth stretch goal, we will switch non-personalized production to the US Playing Card Company (USPCC) which is one of the premier playing card companies in the world, e.g. they are the makers of Bicycle brand playing cards. The minimum full custom order from USPCC is 2500 decks + setup fees. This stretch goal does not even cover that production -- but if we get this much traction we'll take a chance on selling the rest while upgrading card quality. This goal will upgrade all non-personalized decks to what many consider the highest "casino" quality cards.
Super Stretch: We have discussed a range of much larger stretch goals, but are saving their announcement until we reach stretch goal 2.
The review was released after we had launched and reached the first goal. It has useful feedback for us --we updated with a new case option based on not all his friend's liking our unique case. Overall he said it had multiple unique features and he enjoyed the game. He enjoyed it enough that he has backed us and tweeted about it (thanks!).
In more formal testing at UCCS, in a class that had not self-selected to play, more than 60% of the class graded RoarStack as a 1 or 2, and more than 85% rated it a 3 or better on a scale of 1 (best) to 5. The corporate training folks liked it even more, with 83% rating it 1 or 2, and only 6% disagreeing it was fun. Like any game, its not for quite everyone, some people really don't want to play games some don't want to be creative, tell stories or don't like talking with others. Or maybe looking at inkblots brings back bad memories.
RoarStack has also been evaluated by innovation experts. Drew Boyd, Co-author of "Inside the Box: A Proven Method of Creativity for Breakthrough Results" (Simon & Schuster, 2013) had this to say in his review:
- "RoarStack is a game with huge potential. I love the multiple ways it can be played, but I am most interested in how the cards can be used as a corporate innovation tool. The RoarStack cards break the mold of traditional creativity tools. They can help people solve problems by making connections in unconventional ways,"
Background on the team and game idea
The developers/artists are part of a unique family of degrees, the Bachelor of Innovation at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. We have all taken/taught courses in innovation processes and regularly have classes that include ideation and creativity elements. The student team developed RoarStack as part of a Global Game Jam with the theme: "We don't see things as they are; we see them as we are." Since then the team has aggressively developed and test iterations. It's been play tested by students, faculty, family and friends.
Risks and challenges
A common barrier to entry in the card game industry is costs of production and distribution. Card deck production is highly non-linear in costs because most of the work for the printing is setting it up. Minimum production runs from some of the printers we approached is 1000 decks, others were 5000. Artwork setup fees went up to $800. The biggest risk is reaching sufficient volume to allow low-cost high-quality print runs. We set our campaign goals at just enough to ensure that can cover a reasonable quality initial small batch production run. Customized decks are higher because we must use a custom print job for each one. Stretch goals may allow us to increase in quality of base decks at the same price.
A second set of risk is balancing the game to make it a fun experience all around. We are well equipped to handle these problems because we are both Game Design and Development majors finishing up our last year here at UCCS. With months of play testing with > 100 people ranging in age from 6-65, we have worked out most issues. The new expansion deck, however, could take some design and then testing time, especially if we adding new art or new phrases from backers. If we hit the funding goal early we will be able to begin the expansion deck and testing quickly.
We've already done a test run with multiple custom/micro batch printers and got sample decks from others. We found a small, medium and large volume printers with good quality. With the experience of the small printers we know the process and quality, this reduces our risk. if we move to the medium or large printers there could be a bit of a unexpected delay if there are steps in the process that don't go as planned.
Schedule/Timing or production is an expected risk. We've already have production time from the larger scale printers and could have reward decks delivered in 2-8 weeks after we get them files, with the actual time depending on the printer and volume. We then added time for our shipping. We may have to use two different vendors to get price/quality for some with personalization, customization, timing with another. If we are going to have Artistic Collaborators adding inkblots or victory saying, and we hope to have many, then incorporating their designs into the decks could add to the delays. We are working to automate the process for both customization and deck production, so we hope to ship all decks within 6 weeks. After getting them back from printing we'll also have assembly and mailing, the timing of which depends on the scale of our success. EU deliverers will require an added week or so as we have to first import them to the EU, then have them redistributed. Our schedule presumes moderate success -- a few hundred games sold, If we reach 1000s the increased logistics issues could add delays.
Finally as this is our first production, we lack experience on what could cause unforeseen delays. Our faculty advisor has done multiple successful startups and will help us navigate any unforeseen issues.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)