Britain's Sensible Objects is launching an interesting online/offline take on the social tabletop game. The idea is to stack oddly-shaped animals and objects up in a teetering tower, while a tablet app visualises them in the virtual world, letting them interact and cross-breed with one another to produce ever more "fabulous beasts" until it all comes crashing down.
Full disclosure: Sensible Object founder Alex Fleetwood is an old, dear friend of mine, so I'm rapt to see his small company kicking goals on the global stage with this odd, collaborative, quirky, social, semi-digital, semi-tabletop balancing game.
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Fabulous Beasts, like many tabletop games, is difficult to describe succinctly, but I'll try. There's a platform, a bunch of weirdly shaped game pieces including animals, elements, miracles and other bits and pieces, and a tablet app.
Players stack pieces on the platform to create "worlds," and the app keeps score, reacting to everything you're putting down. Your goal is to make the most fabulous world possible, by populating it with animals, then evolving them and cross-breeding them to create new and ever more wacky creations.
For example, stacking a "migrate" piece with a shark lets it leave its home in the sea and become either an air shark, or a land shark – provided the legal profession doesn't have a trademark on that concept already.
And if you've got a bear and an eagle on the platform, and you drop in a "cross" piece, those two make sweet, ergonomically difficult love and produce a bear/eagle hybrid called an Urseagle that's far more fabulous than either beast alone. Stack it high enough and your hybrid beasts can keep on interbreeding to create an ever more fabulous menageries – presumably, if you get all the pieces stacked on the platform, you reach the theoretical limit of fabulousness and Richard Simmons is dispatched to your home or place of work.
Miracle pieces add challenges to the game in return for extra points. For example, there's a time challenge that forces you to stack quickly, and a distraction challenge that makes you complete tasks on the tablet as you go.
The game is over and your score is set when your stack collapses, although you do get a five-second grace period to re-stack the whole thing. If you've got any number of pieces on there, this is little more than an opportunity for slapstick comedy.
So effectively, while the fabulousness is happening on the tablet screen, there's a tense and difficult balancing game happening in the real world. It's Jenga with a storyline and a soundtrack and a whole lot of implied inter-species humping, if you like.
The whole thing is driven by a simple set of NFC chips and a weigh scale on the platform, which tell the app what's going on and make sure there's no shenanigans happening.
"It's trying to use really simple sensors to create a more dynamic relationship between a physical game and a digital game than you often get," Fleetwood tells me. "We always use a controller, but the game is all happening on the screen. The idea here is to get a bit more creative with the relationship between the online and offline game. And we want to make it as co-operative and social as possible."
Fabulous Beasts is two-thirds funded on Kickstarter with two weeks to go on the campaign. 3D-printed prototypes are already doing well in play testing, and the Sensible Objects gang is looking to move towards production.
Source: Fabulous BeastsView gallery - 7 images