You’ve just had a tough day at work, your family is making more and more demands, you’re smoking and drinking too much and if you’re not careful you could wind up dead. Sound dire? Well certainly – but only in real life. Here, we’re talking about your character in a new Czech game; one where players compete to change their lifestyles or else.
Most of us at some point have passed go and collected 200 dollars or put together seven-letter words for triple-point scores. But a new Czech party game asks players to do something a little different: avoid getting a heart attack. Infarkt marks the debut of game designer Vladimír Brummer and while the theme of the game is serious – some would say morbid – it is meant in good fun. The humour of course is undeniably black. In less than an hour up to five players compete to see whose character can stay the healthiest while forcing the others to eat junk food at parties, chain-smoke, or have “just one more drink”. Just as in real life but without the consequences. On Wednesday I spoke to the up-and-coming designer on a line to Brno:
“I got the idea and the basic theme for the game about five years ago when I was studying food chemistry and I was writing my dissertation about lifestyle diseases and food supplements. At the time I imagined how food, drink and tobacco - and their impact on health – would be presented in game form. The idea was to get a bit of reality into the game while keeping things fun.”
Interestingly, Infarkt which comes with rules in Czech, Slovak, English and German, features junk food players have to avoid (like French fries) but also Czech (or Central European specialities) like tlačenka (head cheese). There are even cards that feature communist-era favourites like lančmít many Czechs will recognise (lunchmeat or SPAM) neither of which will gain your character many ‘health points’. Better hit the in-game skimmed milk, Tofu and salad if you want your character to win. And block your opponents from doing the same.
As for making it to the market, it’s worth noting that Infarkt received backing from Czech Board Games, an organisation which provides forums and testing for new ideas. Every year, a sole winner is chosen for commercial release, while runners-up receive recommendations, as in Infarkt’s case, which can help get it into print. Czech Board Games’ Jakub Těšinský told me more:
“The aim is to help beginning game designers because like in any other industry it can be very hard to break in. You can have great ideas but it can be difficult to know what to do. So we offer workshops, discussions and so on.”
One of Infarkt’s catchy tag-lines is that the publisher is “not responsible for any positive influences the game may have on your lifestyle”, and perhaps that is meant only half in jest. According to Jakub Těšinský, playing the game can make some reconsider real choices in life.
“One thing that I like about the game is that it is a little bit educational as well. In the game you have to ‘eat’ all kinds of food – junk food, health food, good food and so on. It is all set up as party game but I have seen and heard people playing this game who begin to self-reflect, telling themselves ‘maybe I shouldn’t smoke as much’. ”
If you’d like more information about Vladimír Brummer’s game or if you are based in the Czech Republic and have ideas of your own and want to learn more about design workshops, visit www.czechboardgames.com