The dice rolls seven. You move the robber to the wood square your buddy with the most points sits on. You steal his brick card, exactly what you needed. Time to lay down that last road you need to steal the longest road card as you throw your hands in the air in victory.
Board games like this one, Settlers of Catan, take time and effort to play, and even longer to create. And the brains behind these exciting games aren’t your typical tech geeks.
Dyson Yobb and Jason Szarkowicz share one major similarity. They like to design board games. Both living in Regina, in their separate lives Yobb is not only a fulltime IT guy for Information Services Management (ISM), but a fulltime father as well. Szarkowicz studies at the University of Regina in industrial systems engineering.
But put the creativity of Yobb and the drive of Szarkowicz together, and Nation: a Mighty Spark is the result. Six years ago the duo decided to finally put one of their board game ideas into production. Through long nights of little sleep, hours of the day dedicated to their game and a couple almost “breakups”, they released their first board game along with an expansion pack, Nation: Magic vs. Technology.
“Right now we’re actually in the process of sending out information to actual board game companies like Z-Man Games, Atlas Games, that kind of thing,” Szarkowicz proudly said. “Right now, we do have it for sale at various locations in Regina and Edmonton.”
The two produced 80 copies of Nation. With the price tag at $35, only 13 copies remain.
The pair has always had a love for board games, the ones that really get you thinking. “There’s a lot of really great board games out there and we just sort of wanted to try our hand at making one,” Yobb said. “There are so many that we liked but we felt that we could lend our own voice to one.”
These two guys are like the peanut butter and jelly of a sandwich – they just make sense and go hand in hand. They’ve had a good friendship for quite some time now, since early 2000s, but their work relationship started six years ago.
“[Yobb] always kind of balanced ideas off of me,” Szarkowicz said as they tried to narrow down their years of friendship. “So we’ve always kind of, not worked together at this level, but he’s always come to me and bounced ideas and respected my feedback on that.”
The key to their success has been their mutual respect for each other. That was one of the biggest things Yobb appreciates about Szarkowicz. “I value his opinion, and we respect it to the point where he’s like ‘Dyson, that’s a dumb idea’ and I’ll be like yeah, maybe he’s right,” Yobb said as he looked back at a smiling Szarkowicz. “That is a dumb idea and maybe we should move on kind of thing.”
For Szarkowicz, Yobb’s creativity is what keeps him going. “He’s always got new ideas and even ways to improve what’s already been done and build on that...I find that one of his biggest assets.”
They’ve play tested out Nation to friends and those who hang out at Chewsday Challenge, a board game night every Tuesday at the North Albert Boston Pizza in Regina. “What we found during the play testing is people actually not only liked the game, but they want to play again,” Yobb said. “So that was a big feather in the hat.”
“It’s one of our main goals I guess [to have] something that people are interested in,” Szarkowicz said. “Enjoy playing to the point that they want to play it again.”
“Not just us,” Yobb chuckles.
“Yeah, not just us forcing it down people’s throat,” Szarkowicz responds.
Yobb and Szarkowicz chirped back and forth at each other playfully throughout the interview. The entertainment was a glimpse into what their friendship and partnership is – professional, respectful, helpful and fun.
They’ve had their ups and downs over the years, but in the end, Nation speaks for itself as to how well they work together. They still are pushing to get their game on more shelves and produce more games in the future.