First time game board designers Dan and Connie Kazmaier were “feeling fantastic” Monday on learning that donors had Kickstarted their dream of launching a family board game celebrating the world of tea.
As of noon, when the campaign ended, 2,596 backers had committed $135,883, exceeding by more than 500 percent the $25,000 the Kazmaier’s hoped to secure and guaranteeing that Chai will reach the production stage. Daily pledges averaged $3,800 during the 35-day campaign. Backers were so enthusiastic the project was funded on its first day.
“We are still processing overwhelmed with joy and excitement of how our global community got behind this,” said Dan Kazmaier. Kickstarter recorded 1,144 U.S. backers, another 442 from Canada and 139 from U.K. as well as 126 in Germany, a country known for its gaming enthusiasts.
Chai is an hour-long game that imagines players as tea merchants aiming to make the perfect blend for customers, explains Connie Kazmaier. Play begins with a trip to the market to buy fresh ingredients. Players then combine flavors like jasmine, lemon, and mint, and finish the cup with special ‘pantry items’ (honey, milk, vanilla, etc.) to win points and tips by filling tea orders. Forty colorful customer cards feature a chaiwallah, a granny with cats, Earl Grey, a sea captain, a chemist, a Moroccan making tea, a Japanese Chado server, and backpacking around the fire pit.
“Out-pour fellow merchants by completing customer’s orders, win awards and money,” she said. The set incudes 30 metal coins, 72 acrylic tiles and Japanese tip cups. Players track points on a 100-Centigrade thermometer.
Connie calls Chai “an innovative board game that encourages people to enter the world of tea while playing. Being tea lovers and family board game enthusiasts ourselves, we wanted to make something unique that has the best of both worlds. Board games and tea are both about sharing cultural experiences; about being a safe place for people of all ages and demographics to come together. We wanted to honor that experience with Chai,” said Dan Kazmaier, a long-time tea drinker who likes chrysanthemum and “a good London Fog. Connie is keen on dark blacks like a Keemum and pumpkin spiced chai.”
Dan Kazmaier was inspired, in part, as an aid worker in Iraq and Greece. Games were popular in refugee camps which brought together a very diverse group of people. “Everyone knew how to play Uno. Games really bring joy out of people, and they can push past different hardships,” he said.
Dan, who is an accomplished chess player, said he “grew up playing Risk, Monopoly, Parcheesi, and card games Dutch Blitz, Elfer Raus, and Rook.” Connie was more likely to play President or Cheat as a child. It was playing Settlers of Catan until 4 a.m. during a Lord of the Rings TV marathon that confirmed her enthusiasm, she said with a laugh. Morels, Imhotep, and Pandemic are some of her favorites.
During nine months of development “we quickly found out that family tea board games are a well-established niche. Our friends and family have played games like Catan and Ticket to Ride, so we’ve crafted Chai’s difficulty at the same level. This makes Chai accessible to families and players of all ages. “We’ve had more than 1,000 unique tea and board game enthusiasts try out the game helping refine the experience,” she explained.
During trips to Thailand and China the couple invited friends to play, leading them to design the game for its global appeal. They intend for the rules of the game to be translated into 15 languages.
Retailers may find the game helpful when introducing customers to specialty teas.
“Not only are the customer cards up to 50 realistic tea recipes (deluxe edition), people love discussing their own favorites during the game,” he said. “Whether playing as the oolong, rooibos, green, white, or a black tea merchant, the customers are encouraged to sip some tea between rounds,” said Dan Kazmaier.
“One to five can play,” she said, “we encourage retailers/shops to set the game up for two players. People learn how to play by reading our player aid card. Even inexperienced gamers learn quickly. The two-player game takes around 20 minutes.”
Connie suggested that retailers showcase Chai as an interactive aspect of their in-store experience, while featuring tea products around the table. The brightly colored box looks great on the shelf.
The company offers a discount on cases of six games, which is an accessible way to offer this innovative product. Production and distribution is expected to take about five months. The game will ship this summer for delivery in September, in time for the holiday season. In the meantime, several prototypes are in play at Calgary game rooms.
Dan Kazmaier says the game board business is forecast to grow at an annual rate of more than 9 percent during the five years ending 2023, according to Research and Markets. The market is valued at more than $12 billion globally. The couple invested $15,000 of their personal funds in the project which launches into a crowded consumer segment.
“The growing popularity of board games makes this is a great way for tea retailers to reach a new demographic,” said Connie.