In an industry dominated by electronic gaming, Bruce Alsip stands proudly as a torchbearer for tactile board games. Rather than motion-sensing controls and hard drives, his creations are played with dice, cubes, cards and boards. With over 30 years in the business, his most recent passion has been a trio of games he produces and markets independently under his own brand, Alsip & Company. The flagship is a complex strategy game called Canoe. "Simple to learn, yet difficult to master" is the succinct and accurate claim made of Canoe on the Alsip & Company website.
An Alsip & Company game is more than a finely honed concept with a set of well-articulated rules, even though these elements may be enough for other game developers. Bruce Alsip has taken things a step further, creating a rich backstory to accompany his trio of Canoe, Strut!, and Staggers. He sees his creations as part of an overall lifestyle, one that emphasizes mental agility. These games provide exercise for the mind, not to mention a good reason to socialize.
I wanted to know more about Mr. Alsip's work, and the processes he goes through when painstakingly crafting timeless gems. I had the opportunity to sit down and discuss these matters with him in detail.
I'm consistently intrigued by the full range of detail you invest in your games, going back to your very first one on the market, Wykersham . You're intent on crafting a kind of cultural backdrop to accompany the game.
I want to tell a story with my games, which means having a rich product behind it. You can't tell a story and then give them a schlocky product. So you build this history - this mystique - then provide a product that has the same feel. It's satisfying to me to have someone buy a product that I would want to see in my own house. I saved an old ad for Bentley Motors that says, “You don’t park it, you position it." That’s what I try to embody with my games.
You've made Canoe available with a variety of hardwood game boards. There are carrying bags made of high quality leather and all-weather canvas. It's a far cry from the tattered cardboard boxes with splitting seams, sitting on most closet shelves.