by Terry Rogers
Tom Chafin of Lincoln has been creating board games for over 20 years. A woodworker, he has a specialized printer that allows him to print directly on wood giving him the ability to think of a game idea and then create it.
“Last year, I decided to do a commemorative family history monopoly-style game,” Chafin said. “I was learning about my family ancestry and wanted to create something that generations could play. Something my daughter could play with her kids one day so they could learn about our family ancestry, where we came from and interesting information about our history. While making the ancestry game, I learned how to incorporate trivia into Monopoly game play and it really takes the game to a different level. I thought ‘what if I could do this with other games.’”
Chafin explained that he always wanted to do a Delaware Monopoly-style game since he was born and raised in the state. He didn’t want to significantly modify the traditional game of Monopoly but he also wanted to create a game that hadn’t been done before while keeping it very simple and intuitive to play.
“I kind of feel like Delaware is an under-rated state,” Chafin said. “We have beautiful beaches, good schools and good people. Each county offers something special and the opportunity to raise a family in a wonderful environment. We are barely a few hours from three major cities. From my view, we have history, culture, lots of activities and work opportunities available to us. And its all in a beautiful, close-knit, friendly community. I feel like that needs to be commemorated and my work experience would lend me to be able to do that in the form of a board game.”
Several years ago, Chafin received a letter from Hasbro with concerns that some of the games he created were too similar to the look of games sold by the larger company. Although there are no patents on the rules of Monopoly, there are rules regarding how closely a different game can look like the game of Monopoly. Rather than fight the large game conglomerate, Chafin decided to change his approach. He now works with a company that has an agreement with Hasbro, allowing anything he creates to be mass produced with no concerns of copyright infringement.
Creating a game is complicated, according to Chafin, requiring a significant amount of trial and error. The time to create the game and test it is substantial with Chafin sometimes having to “sleep on” a problem in order to come up with a solution.
“Even after the game design is done, you still have the property cards, chance cards, money, etc.,” Chafin said. “They need to be designed with artwork and relevant info that must be printed on them. Then, I decided to make game pieces out of wood instead of just using a standard pawn. The trivia cards are a bit tough to do. They need to be very precisely written and coming up with questions is harder than I thought. The questions range from easy to hard, depending on your dice roll. So, if you roll a one, you are getting an easy question, but if you roll a six you better know your Delaware trivia or you could end up losing Burnt Swamp.”
Chafin included folklore in his game such as the legend of a witch’s tree and swamp monster in the Great Cypress Swamp, also known as Burnt Swamp in lower Sussex County. In the game, the Swamp Monster can send you directly to the Burnt Swamp and players are not allowed to collect $200 for passing “Go Blue Hens!” The game itself is made of mostly pine and poplar. There are six panels that are designed, printed and finished that make up the box. The game board is made of four printed and finished panels. Game pieces are created from wood from the Rehoboth Boardwalk and the money tray is made of oak. Over 60 screws are used to assemble the game box and hardware.
“Although it is challenging to say the least, it’s been a fun process,” Chafin said. “The best part for me is seeing people’s reaction to it and knowing they are getting a fantastic game with solid construction that is super fun to play that it is all about Delaware.”
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