True Frenemies: Building A Board Game

family game

In the game of life, designing a board game was not in the cards for Derek White’s family–at least not until a Sunday conversation after church in 2018. “Did you enjoy Bible class today?” Derek asked his two tween-aged children. “Not really, Dad. You talked too much.”

The following Saturday, Derek, who was co-teaching the class with his wife, Lucy, had a last-minute idea to approach the class with less lecture and more play. Derek made a game on a poster board and put action prompts onto the back of business cards. He didn’t know he was creating the prototype for his future board game.

“That first Sunday, the game was a little rough. We spent three Sunday mornings playing it and tweaking it, but we recognized the potential,” Derek said. “After that, we started play-testing it. It was definitely a family effort, because we played it so many times, with so many people–especially my daughter and her friends.”

Board Games in the Basement

Fast forward to December 2019. The Whites had spent countless hours finalizing the artwork and production of their True Frenemies board game—just in time for Christmas. Two trucks arrived at the White’s home in Iowa with their first order of 5,000 games. 

“Twenty thousand pounds of games!” said Derek. “They got unloaded into our garage, and then we moved them down into the basement. Sales were just taking off when Covid hit, so a lot of our marketing plans and church game nights were thrown out the window.”

True Frenemies has experienced a rebound this season, however, because the merchandise was being stored in the White’s basement, not on a pallet at sea. The first sales came from local stores in Derek’s hometown of Edmond and nearby Guthrie, and the game has been picked up by Christian Books and Mardel. 

“The game is high quality,” Derek said. “I was stunned when I got the demo copy. The board feels heavy, the colors are vibrant. It’s like a work of art. Dug Campbell and Chris Wells created the visual elements, which is a Fortnite-inspired design of climbing a mountain.”

Keep Your Frenemies Close

When Derek developed the Bible-based game, he was teaching the concept of choosing friends wisely and being a good Samaritan. The premise of True Frenemies is similar to The Game of Life. “But it’s not enough to roll-and-move to the finish. The unique twist is that you have to covertly help a “secret friend” to reach the Tree of Life with you,” Derek said. 

Derek, a quantitative analyst, built a simulator to test portions of the game thousands of times and help calibrate every situation, which includes various consequence cards. “I knew it couldn’t be too complicated, so there are simple instructions and extra notes if needed. We’re a busy family, and we don’t want to read a ton of rules either.”

Although Derek never planned to design a game, he played Dungeons and Dragons during his childhood and even created a poetry game for his wedding reception. “I don’t know if it was in my DNA to create a game, but it all came together,” Derek said. He just never predicted that a Sunday school lesson would be the impetus. 

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