It all started with a dad who was a little bit tired of Go Fish, and a daughter with a wild imagination. Next thing they knew, their Kickstarter campaign was fully backed within 36 hours.
“Daddy, do you have any Boer goats?”
Goat fish? You mean “go fish”?
Nope. This is Goatfish, a card game created by a West Seattle father and daughter, Chad and Lillian Gray. The game has been in the works since Lillian was 6 (she’s about to turn 9). While it took three years to develop the game, its Kickstarter campaign was fully backed in 36 hours this fall, reaching its goal of $5,000.
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The game is simple, fun and unforgiving. Think Go Fish mixed with Skip-Bo but with the aggressive competitiveness and explosive reactions you expect from games like Mario Kart. Instead of numbers, cards are represented by goat breeds, making reference to viral videos such as the fainting goat and the screaming goat. Even the famed honey badger makes an appearance.
The idea for the game came when Gray admitted he was tired of playing classic children’s card games like Go Fish with Lillian.
“What we found was, while Lillian was having fun with it, after a few games as an adult or parent or older kid you start to get a little bored with it because there’s not a lot of depth,” Gray said.
There’s no denying Goatfish has depth. Matching goat cards are “herded” from other players. A player’s turn consists of three phases: Ask players for a goat cards to make matches of up to four goats (these are herds); don’t get a match? Goat fish; then play an action card. The action-card phase is where the game gets interesting: Steal herds, block turns, take an extra turn, the list goes on.
Lillian said she loves that people have fun playing a game she helped create. Although she said her friends didn’t believe her at first, Goatfish is now one of their favorite games to play.
“Having her be able to go into a store and show her friends ‘Hey, I made that with my dad,’ to me that’s really powerful,” Gray said. “I hope it gives her the confidence as she grows that if she has an idea she thinks is interesting that she thinks might appeal to other people, that she knows ‘Oh, I can make this real.’ ”
When asked about the game, Lillian is quiet and shy, but as soon as a game of Goatfish starts, her demeanor changes. Lillian the Goatfish player is unsympathetic, sometimes even merciless. When I asked her for a goat, she handed me a card that was actually an action card, abruptly ending my turn. Giggling mischievously at my dismay, she was already beating me at her own game. (Full disclosure: I still won with a whopping 33 points. Just saying.)
The original concept art for the Goatfish cards was drawn by Lillian herself. While Gray mainly developed the game mechanics, he worked in Lillian’s artistic choices.
The Kickstarter campaign raised a total of $11,000 during its one-month funding period that ended in late October. Every additional $1,000 unlocked a stretch goal, which added different dynamics and mechanisms to the game. Backers who pledged $100 will receive a copy of one of Lillian’s original hand-drawn cards.
Online success aside, the game has been greatly supported by the local tabletop-game community.
In September, West Seattle gaming cafe Meeples Games hosted the Grays’ Kickstarter launch party where they invited their community to come play the game with them. Only one table was reserved for the event, but to their surprise about 40 people showed up.
The father-daughter duo has also been showcasing Goatfish at some big-name conventions. They debuted it to the public in Portland at the last ever PDXAGE convention in May, a convention for analog games. Since then they’ve shown it at PAX West, Evergreen Tabletop Expo and GeekGirlCon, to name a few.
After our round of Goatfish and interview, I thanked Gray and Lillian for their time. Lillian excitedly pulled on her dad’s sleeve, “Is Goatfish going to be in The Seattle Times?!”
Gray smiled and confirmed. No longer acting coy, Lillian did not hold back her excitement, and grinned widely.
The card game will be available to purchase to the general public in June 2018.