SaltCon 2015: Smiling Pines
This year’s Salt Con is fitting me like a pair of Levi Strauss relaxed fit jeans. Comfortable and intimate in its volume of attendees, there is a niche game for everyone. If you want a game where you can spend two hours learning the rules, or one that only takes two minutes, it’s here somewhere. I came across the Smiling Pines booth, drawn in by the brilliant branding of Bejinx: The Game Changer. Kristy and John Oglivie have designed and created one of the most innovative, multifaceted concepts for repurposing old games that I have ever observed. The idea behind Bejinx is centered on the familiar concept of “house rules” for traditional family games. Each deck is an expansion to a very specific tabletop game, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan, and is integrated into the game play for each player’s turn. While I was watching the video and talking with the Oglivies, I sat recalling how many fistfights had broken out in my childhood because of supposed violations of rules that we made up as children without ever writing them down. Bejinx would have saved me from hours torture from my brothers, I’m sure of it. The second member of the Smiling Pines family is Skwozen, a clever manipulation of the traditional four-suit playing card deck. Containing a third of the cards of a traditional deck, and printed at roughly half the size, the cards are really genius. Another practice of recycling old concepts to reinvent them seems to be the theme with Smiling Pines. Instead of considering games outdated, John Oglivie helps them to evolve. The creations from Smiling Pines please both the casual and competitive board gamer in me.