Jan 26, 2016 | By Alec

While the digital revolution has made so many aspects of our lives much easier, we’ve also sacrificed a few things. Remember when you’d play board games with friends and family? While the board game scene is still very much alive for those hardcore players, it has lost a lot of ground to the smartphone and tablet throughout mainstream society. Fortunately, the board game world is fighting back, and one forthcoming British game called Fabulous Beasts is cleverly positioning itself between the physical and the virtual. By combining plastic blocks that need to be stacked on a tower with an app-based point gathering system, this is a perfect 21rst century board game. Widely anticipated by board game enthusiasts, Fabulous Beasts is now seeking backing on Kickstarter to bring the game into the hands of the players.

This very clever mixture of the physical and the digital was developed by design studio Sensible Object, based in central London. It features Hide&Seek founder Alex Fleetwood, game designer George Buckenham, product designer Tim Burrell­Saward, artist Lyall McCarthy, and engineer Chris Shaw. And as they explain to 3ders.org, they don’t fear technological innovations when it comes to board games. “At Sensible Object we are obsessed with exploring a new territory for games in which the latest technology enables us to blend the physical and the digital into new fun and social experiences. We design our own hardware and create beautiful objects; each of our team members comes from a different field of expertise that reflects the breadth of our playground, whether graphic design, electronics, sculpture, or game design,” they say.

Their first game definitely reflects this. As they explain, the concept for Fabulous Beasts was born during a camping trip in northern California. “Surrounded by the beauty of nature, taking pleasure in the careful stacking of kindling and firewood, [Alex Fleetwood] imagined the potential of a game where physical balance translated into digital play,” they explain. And that Fabulous Beasts, which first caught our eye a few months ago for their clever use of 3D printed animal figures during the design process, definitely reflects that.

So how does it work? To win the game, you have to gather as much points, which you gain by making unusual combinations of blocks and animals to form a tower and simultaneously create new figures in their fabulous digital environment. Players take turns to build this precarious tower, stacking these animal blocks on top of one another above an electronic platform. “The tower rests on a smart sensing platform, which translates every piece into an equivalent in the connected digital world," Fleetwood explained. "As players build the tower it becomes more elaborate and complex and consequently the digital world they are creating becomes higher scoring. Every time you successfully stack an Artefact, you alter the connected digital world.The aim is to make the most fabulous world you can, before your tower collapses.” This fun Jenga-like experience thus not only tests your sense of balance (the whole thing crashes down quickly), but also encourages you to find creative combinations.

Importantly, the digital environment is more than a score sheet. Each of the animal blocks, which were initially 3D printed during design but will doubtlessly be injection molded during production, features a unique RFID chip. This can be read by holding it against the base before placing it. When two or more pieces are placed on top of one another, the virtual world produces a hybrid creature made up of the physical pieces. “A bear and an eagle might be combined into a hybrid called a 'beagle'," Fleetwood explained. “Or an octopus might migrate onto land and become a ‘rocktopus’.”

As you might have expected, a very modern design process preceded it as well. Each of the blocks were designed using Autodesk 3ds Max and Fusion 360 CAD software “We now have a set of tools at our disposal that allow us to design, prototype and scale very rapidly,” Fleetwood. “On the one had we have electronics prototyping tools like Arduino, on the other we can create and test pieces using a 3D printer and then of course there is a linking software layer that hinges the rest of that together.” This familiar dedication to modern making is also reflected in a special edition of the game, called the Maker Edition. It features a white set of blocks that can be painted by hand, while you can program the RFID tags yourself and even 3D print more blocks to expand the game and the app as far as you can imagine.

It’s no wonder that this game has been so widely anticipated. Already winning the Indiecade Technology Award 2015, Fabulous Beasts was also featured in The Guardian's 25 Most Anticipated Games of 2016. To finally bring it to the people, they now hope to raise at least £150,000 (or about $213,000 USD) through Kickstarter. An ambitious sum, but then they do have all the elements to become a huge success. A basic kit can be yours for a pledge of just £49 (or about $69 USD). For more information, check out their crowdfunding campaign here.

If you’d like to see the game in action first, check out the Let’s Play clip below.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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