A couple years ago at ChiTAG I kept running into these two other inventors… it was almost like they were following me. Or was I following them? Either way I’m thrilled I got to meet Nicholas Cravotta and Rebecca Bleau of BlueMatter Games because they are just downright fun people! So when Fat Brain sent me a couple of games to test out I was thrilled to know that a few of them come from this California-based duo (because I figured they’d be nice enough to do a little interview for The Game Aisle!)
Acuity is a real gem and I enjoyed playing it right away despite the fact that it took me a few turns (or half the game) to get to a point where I wasn’t losing. The game is amazingly simple but has great repeat play value. The game is made up of tiles that are divided into quadrants. Mix them up and lay them face-up in a 6×6 grid and the put the rest in a stack (or in the box lid) face-down and you’re ready to go. Players take turns flipping over a tile and everyone looks to find where you can see the same pattern on the board. It won’t match 1 tile exactly; instead it will be a combination of 2 or 4 tiles. OR you can say it would match if you turned one of the board tiles a quarter turn. If you don’t think anyone will be able to find a match you can challenge the group but we found the game enjoyable even without the challenge.
I really enjoyed Acuity and would highly recommend it. And so I thought it would be fun to hear how Nicholas and Rebecca came up with such a clever, simple but fun idea. Here’s what they had to say…
1. How did you come up with the idea for Acuity?
Acuity started off as a game designed for our 6 year-old son, Skylar. Its original name was “Tide Pool” and it had an ocean theme instead of abstract images. (See prototypes 1 & 2 below) One evening, we were sitting in the kitchen playing with fishy stickers. We wanted to create a game to play together, and we had the idea to create a school of fish and race to find various combinations. Using squares of paper, we created a tile set with different fish in each corner. Over the next half-hour, Skylar carefully placed all of the stickers. Then we put a bunch of tiles out on the table and worked out the different ways of locating the other tiles within the array. It only took a few games before Skylar was finding tiles faster than we could.
2. I find it interesting that you two work together. Is one of you always on prototype duty or do you split the inventing and mocking up stuff evenly?
We work as a team on all aspects of the design process. Either one of us might come up with the spark for a game, ranging from a game dynamic to something as obscure as “I want a game that mashes Go Fish with Cosmic Wimpout” (which resulted in our card game, Argh!). We’re always ready to play with a new idea, whether we’re on a long drive or out on a date. In the beginning, Nicholas came up with most of the initial ideas and Rebecca handled the art, but it wasn’t long before Rebecca was as dirty in the idea sandbox and Nicholas had learned how to use an Exact-O knife and Illustrator. Today, there is no way to say who comes up with which part of an idea. We don’t work like that. Our approach is “We”, not “You and I”. That said, we do have own our specialties: Rebecca designs original art for all of the prototypes while Nicholas handles any complex math and looks for loopholes in the rules. We both have sore hands from hand-cutting prototypes for Toy fair.
Acuity went through multiple re-skinnings and names over several years before it was picked up by FatBrain. As Tide Pool (see prototypes above), it was rejected as targeting too young an audience, so we dropped the ocean motif and tried different abstract themes. Our final prototype was named “Espy” and, as you can see, the art was used in the production version with only minor color tuning.
4. Can you tell me how you got started in this business and is it your full-time job now?
Nicholas has always loved games. Growing up, he and his brother changed the rules to every game they played. Once they created a Countries Expansion set for “Nuclear War” to give away at a local gaming convention. When playing with his own kids, Nicholas would try to figure out new ways to play with toddler toys to keep himself from going crazy. (Ever try to entertain yourself for an hour with the 1×1 Duplos?) Acuity was our eighth game sold but was actually our first formal game design. When friends saw our son playing with it and tried it themselves, they encouraged us to bring it to market. It had never occurred to us that someone designed games and that it could be us if we wanted. So we created our first production prototype, and Nicholas hopped on a plane to New York for Toy Fair to show it around. We didn’t have any appointments or a booth, but that trip was what opened the first doors for us. At this time, we work full-time for BlueMatter Games but don’t burden it with having to keep us in our home. That means we still have the day job too.
5. What were your favorite games growing up?
Rebecca’s favorite game was the Chocolate Game, the German way for sharing a single bar of chocolate “fairly” between eight children, that can best be described as brutal. Nicholas’ favorite is Cosmic Encounter played with 5 powers hidden, play 3. He has a complete set with all of the expansions that is not for sale.
A BIG THANKS to Rebecca and Nicholas for taking the time to share their story and prototype pics!!
A little more about BlueMatter Games: Rebecca Bleau and Nicholas Cravotta are the heart of BlueMatter Games based in Grass Valley, California. One of the few married teams in this industry, their passion is to invent new ways to “Feed the Fun Part of Your Brain.” Among the many games they have coming out this year is PicWits, their first party game, and Yottsugo, their first solitaire game/puzzle. You can reach them at (games at BlueMatterGames.com).
$17-20 at Fat Brain Toys, Amazon and independent game retailers
2-6 players (and I ENJOYED it with 2 players!)
Ages 6 and up