Children love to read. And they love to play. So, what better than to “play out” your favourite book? The first game tale of its kind - The big adventure of the little gremlin – appeared on the Bulgarian market a few years ago, followed by a family board game based on the book.
The man behind them both is Nikola Raykov, author of the tales, in which the children can themselves get to choose what the main characters will do next, how the story will unfold, choosing different options leading up to different endings.
Unlike so many other games, “The little gremlins…” is not competitive. To get to the end successfully, the players have to learn to help one another and work as a team.
“The little gremlin is a cooperative game, i.e. it teaches children to overcome their own ego and act in sync to attain a shared goal,” Nikola Raykov says. “That is an important thing because we live in a world that is overly competitive. Many children’s books, films, games have villains and negative examples in them. Whereas our game seeks a balance and shows that you can have a story that is interesting without the participants having to compete with one another.”
The rules are simple. The gremlins have to overcome the obstacles and get to the end in a set number of moves. The players cast the dies all at the same time, discuss the situation and are able to exchange their numbers if that will help a player who is lagging behind, avoid traps set or earn “gremlin” objects. The game is over when all of the players have reached the finish, and not before. Otherwise all players lose.
The board itself is different, more like a puzzle.
“That was a decision we came to quite by accident. At one point we saw that we couldn’t fit the board into the box, it was too big, and the only thing we could do was break it up into pieces, like a puzzle,” Nikola Raykov goes on to say. “It turned out to be a happy solution. Before starting to play, the children first have to put the board together. That in itself is a mini-game, before the actual game begins.”
The magical illustrations are by the talented Maya Bocheva, the first time she has worked with Nikola Raykov. Have there been serious challenged along the way?
“First, it was the format. The game is huge. To be able to assemble a project as big as that, I had to draw it in many little pieces,” Maya Bocheva says. “From that point on the pleasure was immense because there was such a wide variety in the game itself that I was able to let my imagination go. Second, it was the unknown. I know a certain story, but have no idea how the game itself is unfolding, so I am impatient to see what the surprise is. It is so easy to work with Nikola Raykov because he knows exactly what he wants, exactly what certain things, certain characters should be like, but lets me get on with my work, and likes what I come up with.”
The first tests of the “Gremlin” board game were a success:
“We tried out the prototype in its initial stages with my wife and my son. We had to do that to iron out any glitches. We have also played with my son’s friends. And I am glad to say they really liked it, and when they came back the next day their first question was: can we play it again? So I am very happy with the way the first tests went,” says Nikola Raykov and goes on to add that the aim of the game is not to win but to have fun.
English version: Milena DaynovaPhotos courtesy of Nikola Raykov