What would an unemployed, hyper-meticulous geek come up with if he had a free week on his hands and a burning desire to blow people's minds? Why, Cones of Dunshire, a new game for “eight to 12 wizards, a maverick, an arbiter, a corporal and a Ledgerman” — “who just keeps score.”
The geek in question is Ben Wyatt, the boy mayor turned accountant played by Adam Scott in the NBC series Parks and Recreation, who introduced his complicated strategy game to his wife, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), in a November 2013 episode.
A few more details from Ben: “Four cones wins, but in order to get a cone, you have to build a civilization, which is where the spirit cards come in.” And: “The thing about the challenge play is that it's basically the game in reverse.” And: “Are the cones a metaphor? Well, yes and no.
The prop for the scene was created by a genuine gaming company, Mayfair Games, publisher of the enormously successful Settlers of Catan, which Ben forces his friends to play at his bachelor party in an earlier episode.
Parks and Rec co-producer Dave King told Vulture they asked Mayfair to create a “kitchen sink-type” game that would have “elements of Dungeons and Dragons where there were dice, and Catan elements where there would be actual hexes and resources.”
And now Mayfair is translating that prop into a playable game, which will debut 7 p.m. Saturday on Georgia Street during Gen Con. Thirty-three players paid $100 each to participate (with proceeds headed to Gleaners Food Bank) in the outdoor version, to be played on a giant carpet rendition of the game board. Mayfair's Alex Yeager tells us more.
NUVO: How'd you decide on gameplay, rules, etc?
Alex Yeager: When the producers contacted us, the idea was simply to give them enough of a game that they could write jokes with the material provided. At the time, I don’t think that there was a plan to produce an actual game, and whatever cohesiveness there was to the content was almost an afterthought. As we’ve moved forward with our planning for this charity event, we’ve come to regret that a little bit!
NUVO: Are there still tickets available? Would it be fun for spectators to watch?
Yeager: The tickets for the event sold out in under six hours, but there is one more special opportunity. As fans of the show may be aware, there a special participant in the game: The Ledgerman, who doesn’t actually play, but keeps score and wears a spiffy hat. We are going to auction this game position off live at the event, and the auction winner will participate as the Ledgerman, take home the hat, and also receive a pass for next year’s Gen Con (we’ll even throw in a pass for the rest of this year’s show if the person who wins the auction isn’t attending Gen Con).
The game takes place out on Georgia Street, and we’ve tried to walk a line between something playable, and something still rooted in the crazed imagination of an unemployed geek. The game is being played on a giant carpet with oversized pieces, so players and spectators should have no trouble following the action! Anyone will be able to come down and watch (or bid on the Ledgerman). Registration for participants begins at 7 pm, with the Ledgerman auction at 7:30 pm and the game starting immediately thereafter.
NUVO: I'd guess that you have a good sense of humor (if you could say that of an entire company) to put together this kind of affectionate parody?
Yeager: A lot of our job involves taking games and finding a balance between their inherent geeky qualities, and the mass popularity that we hope our games will have. It was fun to simply let loose and ask, as game producers, show writers and actors, “If this game was created by a person with no sense of marketability, with no filter on the elements included, and no experience with game design, what would it look like?” The ultimate punchline for us, of course, is that now that game exists, and we hope that what the team at Mayfair has done is to be true to the spirit of The Architect (Ben Wyatt’s game design pseudonym), while still having a game that players will enjoy playing. We’ll find out Saturday night!