Card game creator makes the rules at South Jersey game lab
Carly Q. Romalino, Courier-Post Published 8:23 a.m. ET May 9, 2017 | Updated 11:21 a.m. ET May 9, 2017
WOODBURY - Playing a tabletop game to win takes skill and savvy.
Now, just think how much smarts it takes to be the game's creator, the guy who makes all the rules.
Building a successful game is all about choices, according to Jason Tagmire, a South Jersey card game creator.
"You look at a game like Candy Land. You flip over a card... you move to that color. A lot of people argue it's not a game," said 37-year-old Tagmire, while placing small, brightly-colored vinyl wallets on a table in his 10-by-10-foot office.
"It's a step toward a game. If there are two choices it's more fun. If there are some crunchy choices, it's even more fun."
At a folding chair at a folding table inside his small office — a cubicle in the back of Woodbury's Tiki Tiki Board Games — Tagmire is inventing choices for players buying his pocket-size games online.
In 2009 he turned his company Button Shy, which formerly made buttons for local bands, into a card game company. The company was born in his now-closed Audubon comic shop, but it recently became a roommate of Tiki Tiki's used board game shop.
The heart of his operation is at home in Westmont. He creates the games, his kids often test them, and his wife helps package the cards into vinyl wallets for online orders.
The first game — Pixel Lincoln — connected him to Tiki Tiki's owners, who are video game developers in a venture also run out of the board game shop called Island Officials.
Pixel Lincoln, played with cards and a game piece penny, pits a 16-bit animated Abraham Lincoln against enemies he must fight off using meat weapons, like mutton stars and a sausage link whip. Players in the card game must follow the cards' instructions, make choices based on what they pick, and build a deck to win.
When Island Officials began work to animate Pixel Lincoln, Tagmire started tinkering with other card games.
"If you play games enough you just start making your own," said Tagmire, a process manager for a Philadelphia law office.
Tagmire's games are often born with a single word in a notebook.
"I'll just come up with a word and start jotting down ideas. When one of those words starts to click in any way, I'll start expanding on it," Tagmire explained.
The word "wind," for instance, could become a little part of the game, like a small rule or an obstacle the player needs to overcome. It could become an overall theme concept for the game's artwork, he noted.
Or, it could be nothing at all.
"Some ideas are just a little tiny note I look back on years later," Tagmire said.
He, and several other game designers working with him for Button Shy, will take the good idea and crudely draw it out on blank playing or index cards. Once the rule kinks are worked out, Tagmire commissions graphic designers and manufacturers to produce the wallet games. The games show up to his small Tiki Tiki shop office, where the pieces are assembled.
Button Shy offers a game-of-the-month subscription, in which 12 new wallet games are sent out every year. That's the heart of Button Shy's customer base, Tagmire said.
"We're very close to them. I talk to them every day on Twitter. It has a mom-and-pop-shop feel," he said, although he's shipping the games all over the world.
Carly Q. Romalino; (856) 486-2476; firstname.lastname@example.org