Designing Women: Helaina Cappel

Can’t find what you want? Make it! After playing a few ho-hum mainstream game with her kids, Helaina Cappel thought there had to be a better way to introduce kids to the hobby while still engaging their gamer parents.

What got you started playing board games? 

I played games as a child with my parents. I was completely uninspired with the games I played (Sorry, Monopoly, etc.), so I grew up thinking I didn’t like games. One day Josh, my partner, brought home Catan and the rest was history. I fell in love with the game. Although I never play it anymore, it was my gateway game. Catan lead to Carcassonne, which lead to Caylus and Stone Age. That was it for me. I became a gamer.

What was the catalyst for Kids Table Board Gaming?

When my oldest child was young, I played the typical mainstream games with him because I didn’t really know any better. The experiences were terrible and reminded me of my own childhood games (which I really disliked). When we played I always found myself making up house rules to enjoy the game a little bit more. As I got more and more into that, I started realizing that I could just make up games myself. So I (we) did. Josh and I designed Foodfighters, and the rest was history.

What are you working on right now?

For Burnt Island Games: finishing up Age of Expansion, which has been really blowing us away, working on getting In the Hall of the Mountain King wrapped up. For KTBG: developing the amazing Fossilis (with it’s innovative 3D board and terrain tiles) for Kickstarter in the fall, and then a new game, not yet named, which we are so incredibly excited for. Lots more to come for 2020!!

Endeavor Age of Sail has been nominated for a couple awards – congratulations! Tell us more about the expansion.

In Endeavor: Age of Expansion, players will take the mechanisms they know and love and use them with a new set of buildings and cards for all-new game play and interaction. New pathways and actions have been crafted to result in accelerated success and expansion for your burgeoning empires. Each game will bring a different path to prominence, changing the way you struggle for the upper hand wile you strive to fill in the maps of the world!

Whats your favorite board game?

I have many favourite games, but the ones that have stood the test of time for me are both Endeavor and Caylus. 

What is it about Endeavor and Caylus that you find appealing?

I like think-y games that have a theme. They are such a juxtaposition to what I do all day (family games).

Whats your favorite part of the design process? 

I find designing games and playtesting them very arduous. My favorite part of creating games is the development part. I have not yet designed a game on my own because I enjoy the process of working with someone. I am not sure I ever will. I come up with a lot of ideas, but I never feel like I want to develop them on my own.

Do you find the community supportive?

I find much of the community supportive. I especially feel like the community of gaming women is incredibly supportive. 

What challenges have you faced as a designer and publisher?
The biggest challenge I find is being taken seriously by the gaming world. I find that so much of the community has a hard time believing that a woman has designed a game, let alone publishes games. So, it always seems like I am working hard to design, publish, AND be taken seriously.  

If you could give a new designer on piece of advice, what would it be? Best advice I could give to new designers is to be okay with shelving a design for a while. Sometimes I work on a design and it gets stuck. And I work on it and work on it, and it just goes nowhere. That is what happened with Haunt the House. It went through so many iterations. And it was not what I wanted it to be. We shelved the game for about 6 months and had fresh eyes, and the rest was history. Our best selling game to date! 

What do you do outside of gaming? Do you think it contributes to the way you look at design?
I am actually a teacher. And I think it absolutely helps me design games. I always think in terms of what kids are capable of doing. And since I already also have experience as an adult, I think I have a good understanding of what we are looking for as a company. So far so good! 

Whats the best bit of feedback you’ve gotten from someone who has played one of your games?

The best is when parents write to me to tell me how amazing their game nights with their children have been. They love the fact that they actually enjoy playing the game with their kids.

You can keep up with Helaina, Kids Table Board Gaming, and Burnt Island Games via Facebook and Twitter.