Louie Sloven and Avi Baron here, and we're making a board game based on Bikkurim at Herzl! It's called "Bikkurim in a Box," and it features real photos from camp as card art and real staff members from Herzl as playable characters. Our hope is that our game can bring the magic of Herzl and of Bikkurim to Herzl campers, staff, alumni, and families everywhere!
Besides a limited number of copies that will be available in Chanut, this Kickstarter campaign is your only chance to buy a copy of the game! If you pledge $36, we'll send you a copy of the base game, with everything you need to play with 2-4 players. If you pledge $54, we'll send you a copy of the base game and the "Ballad of Bad Horse" expansion, with 30 extra Staff Member cards and everything you need to add a 5th and 6th player to your games, along with any Kickstarter-exclusive "stretch goals" that will be added to this pledge level if we exceed our minimum funding goal and can add more content to the expansion. There are other pledge/reward levels available, and they're all detailed in the sidebar to the right. We're depending on the support of the Herzl community to make this project a reality, so take a moment to make a pledge and tell your friends and family about our game!
We've passed our minimum funding goal, but that doesn't mean we're done! For the rest of the campaign, we'll be posting Stretch Goals - for each one we reach, we'll add more content to the game at no extra cost to our backers! So tell everyone you know about the game and help us get the pledges we need to be able to include these bonus cards and make a bigger impact on Herzl - we only have a limited time to finish the Stretch Goal Marathon!
Here're the basics of the base game. Up to four players will compete as the Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green teams, and try to score the most points throughout the day's events. Each team gets a roster of twelve staff members and a hand of five Shtick cards at the start of the game. Each staff member card is a real staff member from Herzl camp, with a certain Ruach value and with unique skills and abilities that give him or her a Ruach bonus in specific situations. Players take turns assigning their staff members to events and playing Shtick cards to boost their team's Ruach; when the dust settles at each event, the team with the highest total Ruach value at that event wins, and scores the most points! Teams will face off in a free-for-all at meals and at Tug-of-War, battle one-on-one at a variety of rotations, and play three co-dependent mini-events in the Marathon -- and at Minucha and Personal Nikayon, each team gets all their staff members back and ready to assign again after a little "Ruach Recharge." At the end of the day, after three climactic Final Ruach events where each team can play a whole bunch of their Shtick cards, the team with the most points wins Bikkurim!
A full game should take about 45-60 minutes to play, depending on the amount of players and how quickly everybody plays their turn. We also plan to include rules for "quick-start setup," for a quick-start game for experienced players who want to get through a full game in about 30 minutes. We know the sorrow of spending your Minucha playing an intense game and not being able to finish, and we're not going to let that happen to you!
The Cards and Components
Each base set game contains 60 Staff Member cards, 120 Shtick cards, 21 Rotation cards, 24 Marathon cards, and 13 Schedule cards. It also includes 12 Clipboard mats (3 per team, in team colors) and 70 Ruach counters, along with 4 colored player score pawns and a Scoreboard mat to use to track each team's point total throughout the game. All cards and mats are double-sided and full-color -- and we're also springing for jumbo-sized pages for our full-color rulebook! We'll show you a few sample cards now, so that you can get an idea of what we're talking about, with more card spoilers to come as our Kickstarter campaign continues. Here's a look at everything included in the box:
Here's an example of a Staff Member card. The number in the top-right corner of each staff member's card is the all-important Ruach value (and that star symbol always represents Ruach). Each staff member has his or her own unique mix of skills and abilities printed across the top row of his or her card -- Adam's got the Dance skill, which means he gets +2 Ruach when he's staffing Dance events, and he's got the Initiative and Brainstorm abilities, which we'll tell you more about in future posts. The two Shtick cards named in the box to the right of the picture represent Adam's Shtick Repertoire, which is the contribution he'll make to your team's Shtick deck when you build your own deck in an expert level game. On the right hand side of the card, each staff member has his/her own Captain Ability, which is a unique bonus that you get if you choose that staff member as your Team Captain for the game. Adam's is pretty simple, because he's one of the default captains that you use when you play the beginner level game, but that doesn't mean he isn't a powerful Team Captain! The flavor text at the bottom of the card doesn't impact the game in any way; it's just for fun.
Here is a sample Shtick card. You can see the name of the card printed across the top, above the picture. We did our best to make the Shtick cards easy to read; each Shtick card tells you when you can play it, and what it does when you do. And, of course, there's room for some flavor text down at the bottom.
Here's a sample Rotation card. During each Rotation, each team will compete at two Rotation events, one-on-one against another team. Rotation events frequently have skill symbols, indicating that staff members with that particular skill get a +2 Ruach bonus while assigned to that event. You'll randomly select Rotation cards before each game begins, because no two Bikkurims have the exact same Rotation events!
Here's a sample Marathon card. There are three mini-events in the Marathon, and like rotation events, they're randomly selected before the game begins. Each team sends staff to each Marathon event, and the team that has the highest Ruach total at all three Marathon events combined wins the Marathon, and gets a huge advantage in overall score. Some Marathon events have skill symbols, and some have other quirks to make every Marathon unique - you'll never play the same one twice!
Here's a sample Schedule card. Any event that's a guaranteed part of every Bikkurim is a part of every game and represented by a numbered Schedule card. This includes breakfast, silent lunch, Tug of War, and dinner, and also includes all three Final Ruach events: Song, Pop Dance, and Plaque. What would Bikkurim be without an opportunity to sing your team's song, perform your team's pop dance, show off your team's plaque, and cheer at the top of your lungs?
Here's a zoomed-in image of a Clipboard mat - this one is for the Blue team. The mat gives you a way to claim your place at an event (which is important, because only two teams can compete at any given Rotation event) and lets everyone see whose Staff Members are whose. The reverse side of each Clipboard mat has helpful rules tips, which we'll show off in our first few updates.
Are you wondering how you're going to keep track of how many points your team has earned throughout the day? Are you worried that you'll need to keep track of a pen while you're at camp, or that you won't be able to play the game on Shabbat? Relax! Take a look at this awesome Scoreboard; whenever you score points for winning or participating in a Bikkurim event, you'll move your colored score piece around the edge of this impressive 10" x 10" work of art to let everyone know how many points you've racked up!
But wait, there's more! The expansion, titled "The Ballad of Bad Horse," gives you everything you need to play a 5-6 player game, including six more Clipboard mats and two more colored score pawns (Purple and Orange), new Mega-Rotation events that are worth twice as much as normal Rotations, and 70 more Ruach counters. It contains an additional 30 Staff Member cards, with new kinds of abilities that will blow your mind, and 60 additional Shtick cards, including some new Shtick cards you won't believe. These new Staff Member cards and Shtick cards can be used in games with any amount of players, and will radically enhance the replay value of the game!
The expansion also introduces Plot cards, which represent unique and unforgettable Bikkurim moments and alter the rules of the game while they're in effect. Instead of playing a Shtick card at an event you're at, you can discard a Shtick card from your hand in order to advance the Plot; when you do, you'll replace the current Plot card with the top card of the Plot deck. But watch out - some of the Plot cards feature Bad Horse, whose attempts to conquer Herzl will throw a wrench into everyone's plans until he's defeated. Whichever team has the courage to face down Bad Horse gets a Ruach bonus for their trouble! Here's an example of a Plot card.
Play at Your Own Level
One goal of ours has been to build in the ability to play the game at multiple different levels of complexity. In the beginner game, each player is assigned a pre-set list of twelve staff members, similar to the actual teams from Bikkurim Aleph 2012. Their captains are chosen for them -- Sam Bumsted, Sally Abrams, Anna Rose Peck-Block, and Adam Levitt, just like in real life -- and their captain abilities are simple and identical to each other to make the game easy to learn. The beginner game lets new players skip drafting their team and get right down to Bikkurim itself -- assigning Staff Members to events, playing Shtick cards to add extra Ruach, and trying to win more events and score more points than any other team.
In the advanced game, players draft staff members onto their team one at a time, trying to build the ultimate Bikkurim team with the perfect mix of relevant skills and abilities. Then, each player chooses one of their drafted staff members to be their team captain. Each staff member in the game has a captain ability that gives their team special bonuses or abilities and reflects that staff member's unique leadership potential, but only one staff member can be your team captain, so choose wisely! Each player will use the captain and the team they drafted to try to win Bikkurim, so it's important to choose your staff wisely!
The expert game makes use of each staff member's "Shtick repertoire"; each staff member has two Shtick cards' names printed on their card, representing the Shticky contributions they can make to their team. In the expert game, players draft their teams and choose their captains as they would in the advanced game, and then assemble all 24 of the Shtick cards in their team's collective repertoire into their own team's "Shtick playbook". Each player then draws Shtick cards from their own Shtick playbook throughout the game, rather than drawing Shtick cards from a collective pile as they would in the beginner or advanced game. In the expert game, the staff you draft determine the Shtick you have access to during the game, adding an extra layer of complexity!
Here's an image of the back of the Scoreboard, which guides you through game setup for whichever level of the game you choose to play.
The Plot cards included in the "Ballad of Bad Horse" expansion will add additional depth to the game for those who choose to play with a little extra twist. All players are affected by Plot cards' effects, but there will inevitably be situations where a Plot card helps or hurts one team more than another. Players will have to ask themselves whether it is worth it to spend their opportunity to play a Shtick card at an event in order to advance the Plot, and whether they're really the player who stands to gain the most from doing so. Bad Horse makes the game a little more unpredictable, because it can be tough to plan ahead when your Staff Members may suddenly lose important abilities, or when you may suddenly find yourself unable to play a Shtick card you were counting on. This gives you an incentive to advance the Plot whenever you're the player who has the least to lose from a sudden appearance by Bad Horse. We're really excited about the impact that Plot cards will have on the game; we'll devote a whole update to talking about Plot cards later.
The takeaway is that we're building a game that takes 90 Herzl staff members and turns them into 90 unique playable characters that can be used to play different game modes of varying complexity -- the game should be easy to pick up, hard to master, fun to play and to expand, and impossible to duplicate.
Making an Impact
In creating this game, we're committed to making a positive impact on Herzl and on the Herzl community. Starting from the design of our staff member cards, we've taken great pains to ensure that no staff member is "nerfed" or "broken" (that's gamer lingo for the idea that nobody's card should be substantially weaker or more powerful than anyone else's), and we have exercised and will exercise a great deal of editorial control to make sure that nothing in our game portrays Herzl staff in a hurtful or inappropriate light. In a similar way, we have shied away from almost all mechanics that create any kind of negative interaction between players, including Shtick cards that cause other players to discard cards or remove staff members from events, because we want to emphasize the positive and cooperative elements of Bikkurim, both thematically and in gameplay. Furthermore, we're committed to creating a game that makes a positive impact on camp and on camp families whenever it's played; we decided against including pen and paper for use in keeping track of Ruach totals during events, which would create problems at camp and among observant families on Shabbat, and instead are using micro-cards with Ruach values of 1, 5, 10, 20, 30, and 40 to keep track of each team's total Ruach at concurrent events. That drives up the cost of the game by a couple dollars, but it's worth it to have the kind of impact on the Herzl community that motivates us to make the game.
Most of all, we want to replicate the contagious excitement that flows through Herzl during Bikkurim and share it with everyone. We're determined to do whatever we need to do to get our game into the hands of as many Herzl campers, Herzl alumni, and Herzl families as possible, and we're also planning to use this project to make an impact on the Herzl scholarship fund down the line so that more kids can experience the magic of Herzl and Bikkurim for themselves.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are you going to make a new set each year? Are you going to include more staff members than the 90 in the game?
As of right now, we're not planning to release any sets past the 5-6 player expansion. This is partly due to the fact that creating this game has taken countless hours of our spare time, and neither of us expect to be able to keep this up through next year. Further, the design space that we've explored with the cards that we've already created seems to make full use of the minimalistic design elements that we have to work with. We're working with as few moving parts as possible to make the game relatively simple and easy to pick up, but the tradeoff is that there's only so many different kinds of abilities before we run out of things to make a card do. Add to that the fact that we're trying to minimize negative player interaction, and you can see why we feel like the game is already a close-to-complete exploration of the available design space.
However, we're not going to rule out the possibility of a "Summer of 2013" expansion entirely. It depends on whether or not there's demand for such a set, and whether we feel like there is enough material to work with to add more to the game in a way that would meaningfully enhance it. We will confess that we would love to make cards for a lot of people who might be applying to be first-year staff this summer.
The bottom line answer to this question is: "Probably not, but we'll see."
What will you use my pledge for?
Most of the money from each pledge will go to paying for the cost to produce the game. Our printer estimates that each copy of the base set game will cost $37.62 to produce, but that number drops with each additional copy of the game that we order. That's why our minimum funding goal is set so high - to be able to offer the game for a $36 pledge, and to be able to pay for shipping and other expenses, we need to be able to get a certain bulk pricing discount, and that means selling a certain minimum number of copies.
If we have extra funds beyond expenses, we plan to divide that between adding additional content to the game (which we'll make sure you're aware of as we announce stretch goals for the project), and helping to finance an additional project for Herzl, which we hope will help bring more campers to camp who otherwise would not be able to attend. We want to help as many people as possible experience the magic of Bikkurim, whether that happens around their kitchen tables or at Machaneh Herzl.
I don't know any of these Staff Members - I went to Herzl in the 50's/60's/70's/80's/90's/00's. Can I still enjoy this game?
Absolutely! This game is primarily about Bikkurim* and about Herzl, more than it is about specific Herzl people. Sure, having 60-90 Staff Member cards may seem a little strange if you don't know any of them, but Herzl is still the same maelstrom of excitement and goofiness that it has always been, and these staff members are playing the same role that you and your friends did when you were at Herzl. Even if you've never met these particular staff members, you've assuredly met their archetypes, worked alongside them, and shared meaningful camp experiences with them. As my father said when he came back to Herzl for his Ozo group's reunion, "The names and faces change, but the characters all stay the same."
Additionally, playing this game can be a great way for you to get to know some Herzl staff members from recent summers through the eyes of the campers in your life. If you have children, cousins, nieces, nephews or even grandchildren who were recently at camp, play this game with them. Ask them about their Tzrif's staff members, and about which staff they remember from their Bikkurim team. We guarantee that this game will provide a context for conversations about camp that will lead to campers telling you stories about their most treasured memories from Herzl, whether that has to do with their experiences on Bikkurim or their interactions with staff members who made an impact on their summer.
If you want to learn more about who these staff members are in order to enhance your game experience, follow our project updates. We'll be talking about game mechanics and specific staff cards every few days, and we'll always make sure to share a little bit about the person behind the card, so that you can know who some of these characters are before you even open the box.
(* -- If you were at Herzl in the 50's, you might know Bikkurim better as "Maccabia." It's still essentially the same wild and crazy experience.)
I have a better picture of a staff member, an event, or a Shticky concept in your game than the one you're using - do you want it?
Of course we do! You should send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org - we'll be sure to take a look and see if it belongs in the game! And thanks in advance, because we want the very best pictures we can get our hands on to really show everyone how awesome Herzl and Bikkurim really are!
Follow Our Project Updates!
Want to see more cards? Want to hear more about the gameplay? Want an edge when it comes to strategy and tactics? Want to hear some funny stories about the staff members in the game, and get all the inside jokes? Want an opportunity to contribute, and maybe even write card text? If you said "yes" to any of those questions, check out our project updates! Every few days, we'll post an update to this project page, and you can get them sent right to your e-mail inbox. Usually, we'll include links to articles we write that preview a few Staff Member cards and/or Shtick cards and work that into a discussion of gameplay, starting with the beginner level of the game and the basic game elements, and eventually working our way up to an in-depth treatment of the strategy underlying the expert level of the game. We'll also make sure to show you the human side of our fantastic Herzl staff, and we'll share stories about staff featured in the game that will help you understand who they are and why we love them.
After each update, you'll have an opportunity to leave comments. You can ask questions, share a memory of a featured staff member or a related Bikkurim moment, and even suggest flavor text for any previewed Staff Member card or Shtick card! We'll definitely be reading through the comments, looking for good flavor text submissions, and we just might choose yours!
And on top of all that, if you follow our project updates, you'll be the first to hear about any special, super-secret Kickstarter promo cards that we may or may not have already written... If you want to stay in the loop, follow this project!
If you want a copy of the game, this is your chance! Pledge by selecting the pledge/reward level that you want from the sidebar on the right. Kickstarter will take you to an account creation page, and then you'll be taken to an Amazon payments page where they'll ask for your payment information. You won't be charged until our campaign ends on March 30th, and you will only be charged if we've met our minimum funding goal at that point. If we don't, we can't make a single copy, so your pledge is crucial!
Thanks for reading all this, and we hope we can count on your support!
Risks and challenges
We'll be playtesting this project every week at the Herzl office to make sure that we've ironed out all the kinks and made all of the cards as easy to understand as possible. Even though this is our first time designing a board game, we're putting in so much time on this project that we're sure that we'll get it right.
We're working with a print-on-demand service to produce our game, and we're going through a couple prototypes to make sure the game looks the way we envision it - while it may take longer that way, it will help us reduce our costs and make the game look exactly the way we want it to. We're still going to do our very best to make sure that we get all of our backers' games shipped out in time for them to bring the game with them to Herzl for the summer of 2013!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Anna Rose Peck-Block
Who are the Herzl Alumni who have been commissioned as part of the custom Staff Member deck for the $72 pledge level?
We're still waiting for more pledges and names to come in - when we have names to give you, we'll post them here!
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