Tabletop gaming a booming industry, driven by internet crowdfunding

Mar 1, 2018, 9:02 PM | Updated: 9:19 pm

LAYTON – The board games you’ll see at SaltCon, inside the Davis Convention Center this weekend are not much like Monopoly or the many others you might have known growing up. They’re very genre-specific creations, designed to draw players with often very niche tastes.

Among the newest of creators are Ron and Jayson Smith, two brothers from Boise, Idaho.

Ron Smith (L), Jayson Smith (R)

“Tabletop gaming really tears down the barriers that sometimes we put [up],” Ron Smith said. “It allows us to be ourselves, and we’re not so self-conscious anymore.”

Their wizard-battling game, Wizardz Bluff, combines elements of what they call a more complicated version of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and Poker. Players try to cast the winning spell, sometimes using trickery to eliminate opponents. Like hundreds of other relative newcomers, their product is coming to market, thanks to crowdsourcing through the website, Kickstarter.

“We’re two wizards, in a crooked tower,” Jayson Smith started, jokingly, as he and his brother were both wearing brown wizard caps. “At the top of that tower, [we’re] creating these masterful games.”

Games that might have otherwise been passed on by bigger-name publishers, are now getting made with the help of grassroots movements, like the Smiths.

Dale Gifford

Dale Gifford, managing organizer of the SaltCon Board Game Convention, said the same movement has helped his event grow by 20 to 40 percent each year in its ten years of existence. Attendance in 2017 was estimated at approximately 1,100.

“It’s exploding,” Gifford explained. “Kickstarter just set off a revolution, because it eliminated the gateway to get your game published. Now, you can publish it on your own.”

The Smith brothers said Kickstarter is helping them realize a family dream. Their creation is in some ways a reflection of their childhood.

The Smith brothers’ parents, Ken and Maralee Smith

“We come from a family of eight boys, and gaming was always big,” Jayson Smith said, pointing out that their mother, Maralee Smith often drove their love for games. “She was always inventive, and she was always encouraging us to think outside the box, to play outside and create other games.”

Maralee Smith passed away about a year ago. She had cancer.

“Definitely, my mom had an impact on our lives, bringing us together before she passed,” Ron Smith said. “Just teaching us games and just having fun. [We] made a lot of friends that way.”

The Smiths lost both of their parents in a relatively short amount of time. Still, they say they have valuable memories of them and the whole family, at the table.

“They’re the best memories,” Jayson Smith said, holding back tears. “I know why people desire the same type of memories.

SaltCon runs through this Sunday, March 4.

Wizardz Bluff will be available on Kickstarter, beginning March 30.

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Tabletop gaming a booming industry, driven by internet crowdfunding