The Hatter’s Table is board game about discovering the hidden and wonderfully strange rules that govern an apparently irrational situation. Set around the Mad Hatter’s table, players must dash around the Wonderland tea party while trying to figure out what secret rules govern the other players' movement. The Mad Hatter character serves as both an audio guide and aid to chaos.
Prototype version of the game submitted for the 2010 Doheny Memorial Library Wonderland Award at USC.
What is the Hatter's Table?
Last year, three graduate students at USC decided to make a game about Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson) was not only the author of these whimsical and absurd stories, but also a mathematician and a logician. So it only seemed appropriate that our Lewis Carroll game should be a competitive logic puzzle set at the mad tea party.
We've designed and tested the game, and we're very happy with how it turned out. In fact, a variation of it was recently selected and shown at IndieCade, the so-called "Sundance of Games." We've commissioned an artist to spruce up the look of the game with some original artwork. All we need now is the money to actually print it. That's where you come in.
How do you play?
Each player has a secret rule. When play begins, the Mad Hatter shouts out instructions about where to move around the table: "Go sit at a tea cup," "Take a seat next to the March Hare," "Move one place counter-clockwise." Players move their tokens accordingly, unless they find themselves in a situation where they must follow their secret rule instead.
Your goal is to guess what secret rules the other players are following. If you can do so successfully, you are rewarded with buttons, and the first player to get fifteen buttons wins the game!
Here's a prototype of the game, done using public-domain artwork and cardboard. The version we're going to print will have all new art and look really nice!
At first, the game might seem like madness, but once you get the hang of it you'll learn to use some strategy. Watch the other players carefully and take note whenever they disobey the Hatter's direction - that's when you know they must be following their rule. Each place around the table has two different states, and every state has two positions around the table. When the Hatter tells you to sit next to the March Hare, a clever player will pick the spot next to the Hare that will best hide their secret rule.
If you want more information, check out this review of the game from a player at IndieCade, where we recently held a Hatter's Table tea party. The version we played there was full-sized, meaning we had players running around an actual table, instead of moving tokens around a board. The game's rulebook will include instructions for throwing your own full-sized tea party, as well.
Where is the money going?
The design is already done, so most of the money is going straight to printing and shipping copies of the game. This includes the box, board, cards, tokens and other assorted items. We also need to pay our artist to finish her work on the game. We'll do our best to make the final product as high-quality as possible. We'll put anything left over toward marketing and publicity for the game.
What about the rewards?
Well, the main thing we're doing is giving out copies of the game after it's printed. If you pledge $29, you're pre-ordering a copy. If you want to contribute more, we've got lots of other cool prizes as well. For example, postcards featuring original artwork from the game, or the special Jabberwocky token that lets you add a fourth player.
One of the rewards is that we will design a game for you. It's true! But there are a couple caveats. Basically, you'll provide us with a title, or a theme, and maybe a genre, and we'll devote a weekend to jamming on your idea and putting together a board game, card game, or roleplaying game for you. It probably won't be hugely expansive, and it will use some cobbled-together public domain graphics, but we will do our absolute best to make it something special, and in the end it will be all yours and nobody else's.
Additionally, we'll be giving out special rewards to our backers as we hit funding milestones. The first one will be released when we hit 40%, and it's adorable. The second will be released when we hit 80%, and it's delicious.
Who’s making this thing?
Sean Bouchard, Elizabeth Swensen, and Logan Olson designed the game. They all graduated last year from the Interactive Media Division at USC (the Princeton Review's top graduate program for game design). Kelly Matten is our artist (you can see more of her work). Brian Firenzi voices the Hatter (you may have already seen some of his other stuff).