Jerry Hawthorne is a popular tabletop game designer known for titles like Mice & Mystics. He’s also a parent, and one of his dreams has always been to make a dungeon crawler-style tactics game that he could play with his kids. Stuffed Fables: A StoryBoard Game is the culmination of that dream, and fans were lined up all weekend to play a demo at this year’s Gen Con.
The StoryBoard system is a novel approach to tabletop games. Players open to the first page, place their pieces on the map and read from a set of instructions. Rules are introduced slowly, and the final manual will include QR codes that direct players to short videos — less than a minute long — that describe the rules as they play.
“It was a natural evolution,” Hawthorne said. “One of the problems of Mice & Mystics was that we had a series of tiles in the box that we were constantly using to tell this rich story, but I had to constantly recycle these tiles.
“I needed a way to solve that problem so that I could tell a more rich story with a lot more variety and environments. I was going to design a separate map book and a separate storybook, but then we realized that we could just put them together into one thing. And that was even greater because that adds to the charm of it.”
Stuffed Fables will tell the story of a little girl who has to sleep in a big girl bed for the first time. Without her magical crib to protect her, the stuffed animals in her room must come to life and fend off the monsters under her bed. Each of the two-to-four players at the table will take on the role of one of those stuffed animals, which Hawthorne says are the stars of the show.
“They each represent different aspects of the little girl’s personality,” he said. “She has Theodora, a female teddy bear. She is the one that the little girl snuggles at night so she has a special prominence. She’s kind of like the leader. There’s Old Stitch. He’s an old sock puppet that’s been passed down from generation to generation. He’s seen everything. And he represents the wisdom of the parents and the adults who influence her life.
“Then there’s Lumpy, who is the little elephant. He’s the one that she goes to whenever she’s sad or blue. And when she has problems she will talk to lumpy and he’ll listen. He takes all those burdens on himself, so he’s kind of like a little blue character. But he’s also very strong. He’s basically the tank of the party. Then there’s Flops, who has these super-long ears. Flops is sassy and she is all full of agility and she is just real upbeat and chipper. There’s Lionel who is a grumpy little lion. He represents any time that the little girl might feel grumpy or aggressive. And that’s the stuffed animal that she likes to play with because he’s rough and tumble. And then there’s Piggle, and Piggle is all about positivity and cheerfulness.”
Stuffed Fables has a few tricks up its sleeve. It’s a board game, but it’s also a 104-page Choose Your Own Adventure-style book. Each one of its seven chapters has multiple endings. Hawthorne said that the flexible dice mechanic he designed for the game has opened it up to multiple gameplay experiences, not simply dungeon crawling. There can be minigames, exploration games and worker placement games as well, all suited for both parents and children to play together.
“There’s all these charming little capers that they go on that are fun and imaginative for children,” Hawthorne said, “but for parents or adults it’s sentimental and it’s nostalgic. Everybody has had a stuffed animal in their life, so it’s relatable to just about everyone.”
Stuffed Fables will retail for $59.95 and be available in time for the holidays. Plaid Hat Games is taking pre-orders right now.
Polygon was on the floor at the 50th annual Gen Con tabletop gaming convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can find all our stories here as they go live throughout this week.