English Novelist Jane Austen captured the hearts of audiences with her well known novel Pride and Prejudice. The success of the novel led to many television and movie adaptations over the years, but there is another adaptation on the horizon, and it came from the heart of Erika Svanoe.
Erika Svanoe is a musician, band conductor, and composer, and only started designing games within the last couple of years. She has a doctorate in conducting and has spent most of her career as a music educator, and professor of music. She grew up in Whitewater WI which is a small college town in southeastern Wisconsin with her parents who were also educators.
Svanoe currently lives with her husband in Menomoni, WI.
Svanoe took her deep rooted love towards Pride and Prejudice and developed Marrying Mr. Darcy: The Pride and Prejudice Board Game. This is the first official gaming project that she has done.
For those that are unfamiliar with Pride and Prejudice Svanoe explained some of the history about the time period in the novel, and how this affects the game play for the board game.
“The women of Pride and Prejudice had very limited options as middle to upper class educated ladies in Regency period society. They basically had to marry in order to maintain a respectable lifestyle. All of Austen’s novels are based around this central idea, which is completely antiquated today, but was a huge part of Austen’s reality.
The mechanics of Marrying Mr. Darcy come from the idea that a lady could try to improve herself to catch the interest of an eligible suitor, and hopefully be lucky enough to receive a proposal,” said Svanoe.
Here is the break down of the game play:
Players will choose a lady to play as during the game. They must earn points by improving themselves by increasing their Beauty, Wit, Friendliness, and Reputation. In addition players can also use a tactic called Cunning. While that won’t give them any points it may help the player get a proposal at the end of the game. The player who has the most points by improving herself and marrying well wins the game.
Svanoe walked through the process of creating this innovative game.
“I started working on Marrying Mr. Darcy in May of 2012. I got really excited about the idea and after scribbling a bunch of ideas in a notebook I ran out to the local office supply store and bought a bunch of index cards. I basically just started writing the cards and making a prototype so that we could play it. I worked on the game quite a bit that summer and it was in a state of constant revision. I eventually had to take a break once school started and I returned to teaching, but I always had the game in the back of my mind,“ she began.
“I started working on it again the following May, beginning with another major revision that I actually brainstormed while I was giving a final exam. That version ended up being fairly close to the final product. We revised and play tested during the summer, and finally launched our Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing costs in September 2013. The final proofs went to the printer that December and the printed copies arrived in March 2014. So the whole process took almost two years.”
During the development of the game Svanoe says the process overall has been enjoyable, and she enjoys problem solving. Once in a while there are a few challenges that do crop up and she has a hard time admitting that something isn’t going to work and so she has to toss an idea out.
“I think because I design games for fun, and not as my career, I am more willing to discard things that don’t work out. I get much more frustrated when I discard musical ideas or struggle to even write music in my compositions. The fact that I don’t take the process of game design too seriously and focus on just trying things out really makes the process enjoyable.”
All of the game play, designing of cards, research of Pride and Prejudice, and some of the basic card layout are Svanoe’s work, however her husband Erik Evenson who is a professional artist, graphic designer, and design educator did all the custom artwork and graphic designs. Svanoe believes the majority of the game’s popularity is due to her husband’s fantastic artwork.
Svanoe and her husband [Erik Evenson] leaned on a lot of friends to playtest and their Kickstarter backers funded the whole first print run.
Svanoe doesn’t consider herself a game designer, but said that she made a game that she wanted to play.
“I have fun with games that are light strategy, have some kind of narrative or theme, and are more about hanging out and having a good time. I would say that I prioritize the experience of playing the game more than the strategy and balance of the game. For me, it is more important to have a good time and good experience. That being said, I have more game design ideas in my head and a few prototypes I’m working on, so we’ll see if this carries through into my other designs.”
Svanoe shared which character from Pride and Prejudice she relates to the most.
“While I desperately wish I was as clever, witty, and charming as Elizabeth Bennet, I am definitely more of a Mary Bennet. She is a bit awkward, doesn’t really come up with interesting conversation, but I think is actually quite smart in her own way, despite Elizabeth’s rather harsh reaction to her. I’d like to think that my general musical skills are superior to Mary’s, though I suspect my skills on the pianoforte in particular are as poor as hers.”
Looking at how far the project has come, there is one thing that Svanoe wished she had done differently even though she is pretty happy with how everything turned out.
“I wish I had ordered a larger first print run because we were sold out for a couple weeks this past October before the second print run arrived! It is also currently difficult to find copies in stock in UK stores at the moment, which didn’t time out very well for the 2014 holiday season. The game should be more widely available in the UK again soon.”
Svanoe shared the most rewarding part of going through with this project.
“I really enjoy seeing people’s tweets and facebook posts about the game and how they have fun playing it. I get the occasional email or blog comment about how someone played it with their wife or mom or gaming group and had a blast. That is incredibly satisfying.”
Special thanks to Erika Svanoe for chatting with me.
You can order the Board Game at: http://www.marryingmrdarcy.com/