As many of my regular readers know, I’m not really a fan of abstract strategy games. They’re just not my thing, but every once in a while I come across one that I can’t help but love. I first played Stomple at the 2010 Chicago Toy and Game Fair and included it in my “ChiTAG picks” article (See HERE). And now that I’ve had a chance to subject some of my play testers to it, I think it deserves it’s own article complete with great inventor story!
To remind you quickly how to play (if you didn’t read the ChiTAG Picks article), the board is a 7×7 grid of marbles and players use “Stompers” to push the different colored marbles through holes in the board. On your turn you push down or “stomp” a marble adjacent to your Stomper’s position on the board. If there is a marble of the same color adjacent to the one you just stomped you must do that one too until there are no marbles of the same color next your stomper. At anytime you may move to another part of the board by jumping to and stomping a marble that matches the color of your Stomper. This is particularly useful when you find your Stomper with no marbles around you since you MUST stomp a marble on each turn. If you can’t stomp a marble on your turn you must remove you Stomper from the board and you’re done for the round. But if your Stomper is the last one on the board you get 1 point for each marble left and 3 points for special red cat’s eye marbles.
Greg Zima, of GaZima Games, is the inventor of Stomple – although he initially called it “Stomp.” He came up with the idea of stomping marbles through a board and thought it was a fun, toy-esque concept but the game play didn’t come together right away. At first he thought of stomping things around a track but really, it just wasn’t right. So he did what a lot of inventors do when they’re stumped. He tossed it on the backburner and let it simmer in the back of his brain for a while. About 18 months later he had the “ah ha!” moment he was waiting for. The game play was developed in just a couple days and his business partner Stefan Maroudis put together a prototype and they play tested it until they thought it was pretty close to perfect. (See pic of prototype above, courtesy of Greg Zima)
Stomple is manufactured by Spin Master and first time the game was shown to them, they weren’t interested because they weren’t doing games. The second time, however, was a totally different story. In Greg’s words:
Stefan and I were at the licensing show and we always bring a couple of games with us even if we don’t have meetings – just in case. We called Ben Dermer (Spin Master) and asked him if we could meet and he said ‘meet me in 5 minutes’ and we literally had to run, in our suits and dress shoes, across the conference center all the way up do Ben’s room — it had to have been about a mile! When we got there we were out of breath, but we showed him the game. He LOVED it and pretty much optioned it on the spot!
Fast-forward to now, Stomple was just named one of the Mensa Select award winners earlier this spring, which is extremely cool! I asked Greg if he found it difficult to license an abstract strategy game and he admitted that earlier on they tried to add some faces to the marbles to give it a theme and some artwork, but he said,
“Really you just have to remind [inventor relations people] that there are other very successful abstract strategy games out there like Tetris and Blokus. But it helped that our game also incorporated the toy-esque stomping.”
I agree that the stomp is super-satisfying to the point that I kind of don’t mind if I’m losing because it’s so enjoyable to stomp marbles on every turn. I also like that the games are quick so if I happen to lose, we can play again right and way and I can regain my position as supreme stomper.