The game that would eventually become Granny Wars first came to the attention of Julia Schiller and then-business partner Amanda Milne at a Board Games by the Bay event in 2012. Then known as Tit4Tat, people were eagerly asking its inventor, Brad Thompson, if he’d brought it along.
Julia later met with Brad to talk about getting the game published, then in early 2013 Brad officially approached SchilMil Games about developing it further and publishing it under their label.
All agreed that the game would benefit from a theme. A few possibilities were considered but Julia’s idea, of grannies competing to win a handicrafting prize, was the one that stuck. No doubt she was inspired by the many vibrant older women she knows from playing competitive Scrabble across New Zealand over the past few years.
Along with the theme came the addition of wild cards, which were eventually renamed Gold cards–senior citizens in New Zealand receive Gold Cards which give them benefits including free transportation. The evolving game was tested thoroughly over eight months.
In fact, the Generation Gap Gold card ‘broke’ the game on numerous occasions–we knew something was amiss when a player scored 37 points–and required many revisions to reach its final incarnation!
Meanwhile, although SchilMil did some design work on the game (card layouts and backs, directions, etc.) it was recognized that the bulk of the artwork would benefit from professional help. Katie Curd, an Auckland designer, created the box top image, which was finished just before SchilMil kicked off a crowd-funding campaign on the Kiwi site PledgeMe. As the campaign began, Christchurch-based artist Kuan-Sheng (Kevin) Hsu had started producing the cartoons and the caricatures for the cards.
The PledgeMe campaign ran for three nail-bitingly exciting weeks. This was the first time SchilMil had turned to the public for support in this way… and they were happy to receive that support. In the end the target was exceeded by a few hundred dollars.
Creating the video to support the PledgeMe campaign was lots of fun. We recruited Julia’s Scrabble friend, Hazel, and Amanda’s friends Sue and Terry, to personify competitive grannies, down to the final threatening, “if you don’t pledge, I’ll knit you a jumper.” There is also an associated blooper reel.
Among the PledgeMe reward levels was “Honour Your Gran”. This was the way to get real people into the game, as the eight contending grannies. Murphy’s Law prevailed when we found we had three grannies named Alison, but fortunately we were able to distinguish them as Granny Alison, Grandma Allison and Granny Ali.
Kevin did a fantastic job capturing the likenesses of the featured grannies. His illustrations certainly lend humour and depth to the game. It was interesting reading about the grannies’ lives; some of their stories appear in the sidebar on the right.
In 2014, Julia left SchilMil Games to launch the game design, production, and distribution company, Cheeky Parrot Games. As part of the split, Cheeky Parrot Games received the right to publish Granny Wars. A second print run was done under Cheeky’s label in October 2014, and half went directly to Australia for distribution by Even Toys and Games. The 1000th copy was sold in New Zealand in the Christmas 2015 period, about two years after its release into that market, and the game continues to be a consistent seller.