For those who don’t know – what is Animal Ailments?
Animal Ailments is a game I’ve been working on for the past year or so.
It’s a party game about animals with problems. There are two kinds of cards – animals and ailments – and one player has a time limit to act out the combination without making any sounds. So they might be a sleepwalking kangaroo or a hungover hyena, and the others try to guess what’s happening.
There’s also a very specific bonus item on each card, which players can try to convey for extra points.
How did this project start? Can you remember the day?
I can, actually. We were doing a Secret Santa for Christmas, but I had a really hard time thinking of something for my person. So eventually I decided to hand-make some custom Top Trumps cards. And they loved them, which got me thinking about making cards.
Animal Ailments sort of grew naturally out of that, bringing different things to try out with friends.
Did you spend a few nights trawling Wikipedia for different animals and medical problems? How did you generate the content on the cards?
With a game like this, new ideas just naturally come up in play. People have this idea for a weird insect or, like, some kind of disease that should be in the game.
I just take it down on my phone – although these days I have a giant spreadsheet for all this stuff.
There’s also a kind of wildcard in the game that people can make up their own and see if anyone guesses.
That’s quite clever, having a card that explicitly asks for players to generate stuff through the game – nice idea. And you brought Animal Ailments to UK Games Expo this year?
That’s right. It was my first time at a convention, and to be honest I didn’t know any of this existed until recently. It was great. I was there selling copies of Animal Ailments that I’ve made at home.
I suppose your Friday nights are full of cardboard and scissors then?
I’ve managed to keep my weekends free so far, but some week nights involve a lot of cutting, yeah. And in the lead up to Essen that’s only going to increase.
Luckily there’s this great network of playtest groups and board game cafes in the UK, so I’ve been bringing Animal Ailments along to that. The feedback has been really useful, talking to other designers and getting their input.
Has it been difficult trying to test this game in the right environment? I mean, designers picking apart a design is valuable, but it’s not exactly the intended use case. With a party game, you just want some friends sitting around with a pizza.
Well, my girlfriend had this idea which I thought was crazy at first. She said I should post something on Reddit, asking if I could bring around some food and the game to people’s houses for play testing. I was like, this is never going to work.
Who would ever agree to that? Letting this stranger into their home?
This stranger who is clearly a lunatic.
Right! But the response has been really positive. I’ve just been driving around Bristol, going to different houses with my game. It’s been great.
So what’s the plan for Animal Ailments? You’re bringing it to Kickstarter?
That’s eventually the plan, yeah, but at the moment I’m trying to take it as slowly as possible. This all has to fit around my day job as a data analyst. I’m trying to enjoy the process and really work on the game as much as possible before it’s properly published.
I’ve realized there’s a huge amount of work involved, and I want to get it right. So later this year I’m taking it to Essen, which will be crazy but I’m looking forward to it.
I’d love to chat again after publication. There must be all kinds of useful things you’ll spot in all the data that’s involved with running a Kickstarter campaign – social media and mailing lists and so on.
Right. I don’t have a lot to say about that right now, but I did see a really interesting breakdown called Sub Terra in Numbers which I’d recommend people take a look at.
For anyone who wants to learn more about Animal Ailments, where should they go?