Cardboarding with Carla: Haunt the House

Today, Carla chats with Helaina Cappel of Kids Table Board Gaming and discusses the current Haunt the House kickstarter campaign, diversity in games, and designing a game for both kids AND adults.

Game Title: Haunt the House
Short Description: BOO! Out-ghost your friends! Go invisible to fool your foes or stay visible for awesome powers. 2-4 players, 30 spooktastic minutes!
Launch date: October 10th, 2017
End date: November 4th
Funded?: Yes
Cost for a copy of the game: $23
Published by:  Kids Table Board Gaming
Campaign Link:

Carla: Hello! Welcome to Cardboarding with Carla and thanks for being on this interview! Could we start off with you telling us a bit about yourself?

Helaina: Hey thanks so much for having me Carla! It is a pleasure to be here!

So, I’m first and foremost a mom of two incredible gamers-in-training and the wife of the amazing Josh Cappel (game designer, game artists, and game graphic designer). I am an elementary school teacher by day, and a game publisher by night. I have a hard time calling myself a game designer because I feel like my job is really to make good games better. But Josh forces me to call myself a designer because I guess I actually design games also.

That’s an amazing amount of things you do! I understand not being comfortable calling yourself a game designer, but I’m sure that you’re a great one! Can you tell us more about Haunt the House?

In Haunt the House, we are ghosts competing to frighten Ghost Hunters from the rooms of our haunted mansion. Each player has their own deck of Scares (Bumps, Chills, Creaks, and Moans), and each Ghost Hunter is only frightened out of the house by a specific Scare combination.

On your turn, you’ll either play Scare cards on Ghost Hunters (invisibly to hide your plans, or visibly to trigger awesome room powers), or yell BOO to try and send a Ghost Hunter packing! Once one player scares out their fourth Ghost Hunter, the game ends and the highest score wins!

Did Haunt the House always have the theme it has now? It’s so unique!

Thanks! We love the theme as well. This is one of those games that began its design with the theme. We like to turn things upside down typically, so we chose to have players play as ghosts instead of humans. In the same way, we play as pesky ants invading a picnic in Problem Picnic: Attack of the Ants, and as foods fighting other foods in Foodfighters.

Josh and I often talk about designing games that are engaging in so many different ways. We like to design games that are exciting for a wide age range. This means making games whose mechanics are family friendly. Our ultimate goal is to design games that are engaging on all levels for all players.

Can you tell us a bit about designing a game for children that also works well for adults?

I guess I answered this question a bit in the answer above. But I can expand on it.  Essentially, we make kids games for adults AND adult games for kids. For example, Problem Picnic: Attack of the Ants is a fun and playful game designed by Scott Almes. Scott designed a system that includes some depth and strategy; this makes older players more interested in playing the game. However the game can be played completely without this strategy. This makes it engaging for kids. For Haunt the House, we created a system where adults can play the game by choosing to use “Phantoms” to help their game play (adds a layer of depth), while kids can choose to take score tokens instead.

Check out this related TIGR story

Dan goes inside Problem Picnic: Attack of the Ants
In his continuing series, Dan chats with Helaina Cappel of Kids Table Board Gaming about her... read more...

This is what makes KTBG, KTBG! We are super happy with our output in this department!!

Any advice you would like to give to other designers that want to create games that appeal to children and adults alike?

When you play test your game, make sure to play it with kids. Don’t assume that kids will be able to play your games. Play with adults. Don’t assume that adults will find your game exciting or engaging. Finally, play with kids and adults at the same time. Watch for the dynamics. Create a game that levels the playing field for everyone.

That’s really excellent advice! What do you feel was the most important thing you learned during playtesting with Haunt the House?

NEVER rush a design. When it’s ready, it’s ready. If you haven’t tested enough, don’t even try to bring it to market. Take as long as you need to with it. This design has been a work in progress for two and a half years. I was so eager to get it going. I am so glad we waited. Haunt the House has turned out to be our best game yet.

Do you have any interesting stories to share about designing Haunt the House?

We weren’t sure that Haunt the House was a good game until we started playing it with kids other than our own. When we play test with our own kids, we find that we fall into routines where they might not be so helpful at telling us how they really feel about a game. This past summer we played the game with our nieces and nephew who were visiting us from out of town. They were around for 2 months. We saw them several times a week. There was not one time we got together that they didn’t insist that we play. We knew we did a good job!

Ghost Hunters from Haunt the House

It looks like Ghost Hunters in Haunt the House are very diverse; was that an intentional decision and does that continue throughout all the Ghost Hunter cards?

Absolutely! Diversity is something we pride ourselves on. It begins with cognitive ability level (kids and adults can play together), to colour blindness, to gender and cultural diversity. My goal is to make our games accessible to as many people as we can. We know how important it is for people to be able to see themselves reflected in the games they play. So, we are doing what we can to make this happen.

That is a really admirable goal! I’m so glad that there’s publishers out there like you who strive for accessibility on all those levels. You’re slowly revealing information on the Deluxe version of Haunt the House as the campaign goes on and that’s very interesting! How do you feel that is going? Would you do it again on a future campaign?

I think it gets the people who are already invested in the campaign VERY excited about it. It brings them back for the reveals, and has them talking in the comments section. Would we do it again? I think we’ll have to evaluate that after the campaign.

Are you doing anything else different with the Haunt the House Kickstarter campaign?

Visit the campaign page after the 48 hour reminder goes out. You’ll love what we’ve done!!
I’m excited to to see what you have planned!

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned from your previous Kickstarter campaigns?

Get a following FIRST and foremost. Engage people on Facebook in the various board game groups, post interesting things about games on Instagram, and Tweet about anything board game related. Get people interested in you and what you have to say, and then get them interested in your games.

Fantastic advice!  Do you have anyone that you’d like to give a shoutout to that gave you some really good advice? Feel free to list more than one, if you’d like!

Three very important people who have helped me shape myself into who I am today in the Gaming industry are James Hudson of Druid City Games, Jason Kotarski of Green Couch Games, and Marc Specter of Grand Gamers Guild. All of these guys have been incredible leaders in the community, and I hope to achieve what they have. They have not only offered free advice to me throughout the last few years, but they have also helped to promote KTBG by playing our games with their families, and telling the public about it. I value their knowledge and understanding about the industry a great deal. I also want to give a shout out to all of the incredible women in the Industry that have helped guide me and are paving the way for us newbies! I feel so lucky to be working in an industry where people work together instead of competing against one another.

Thanks so much for having me Carla! This has been a really great interview. Maybe I’ll see you again in January when my sibling company Burnt Island Games brings Endeavor second edition to Kickstarter!

I’d love to talk to you about Endeavor! Thanks again to Helaina for being on Cardboarding with Carla and for a fantastic interview! Haunt the House will be on Kickstarter until November 4th, so make sure to check it out before then!

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