SHELBY — Levi Robertson has been creating board games for nearly seven years, testing out concepts with cut up poster board and notecards.
Now the Shelby native is about to see his first published game become a reality.
Hissy Fit! is a cooperative board game where players must guide a cat along a path and into its carrier before time runs out. The game's concept was inspired by a friend who struggled to get his cat contained for a trip to the vet.
During each round, players draw human and cat cards. Human cards allow players to use treats, distractions and other strategies to move that cat forward. Cat cards make the cat run, hide, scratch or have a total conniption.
Players must plan ahead, dress their scratch wounds and build combos to thwart the cat's defenses. If the cat has too many "Hissy Fits" or players suffer too many scratches, the cat wins.
Hissy Fit! is suitable for players 8 years of age and older. It can accommodate one to four players and takes about 20 minutes to complete.
“I have a 12-year-old son, his cousin's 11 and they both love to play it," Robertson said.
Robertson began developing the game two and a half years ago with Chris Stone, a fellow hobby game enthusiast in Vacaville, California.
Robertson and his co-designer met three years ago on Tabletop Simulator, an online program that allows users to create digital versions of their original board game concepts and play with other users.
The pair began working on Hissy Fit! soon afterward. The final design team includes Robertson, Stone, graphic designer Drew Corkill, rules editor Emily Willix and artist Suchada Boonsong.
"All the people we're working with, I've never met in real life," Robertson said.
“We actually found (Boonsong) on Pinterest and she lives in Thailand. She doesn't speak English, so all of our communication has been through her boyfriend.”
By January 2022, the team had developed a prototype, created a Facebook group of supporters and was ready to seek funding.
The game's Kickstarter campaign launched Jan. 17 and met its $6,000 goal in just 10 hours.
"It blew my mind. It felt great. It felt like I accomplished something," Robertson said. “The week leading up to it was so stressful, like mental breakdown stressful.”
Robertson and Stone are also using their platform to give back. They began the campaign by sponsoring a cat adoption for one of their backers. The pair promised to sponsor an additional adoption for ever 200 copies of the game sold. They've sponsored three adoptions so far, covering adoption-related expenses including veterinary care up to $200.
“I heard one of them is actually adopting four kittens," Robertson said.
"Another one is a rescue that (the backer) couldn't afford and it was just perfect timing. She was just over the moon about it. So it's been great being able to help these people."
The game's crowdfunding campaign will remain open until Feb. 6 at 8 a.m.
After the campaign closes, the Hissy Fit! team will finalize the design and begin production. Backers who support the game on Kickstarter will be the first to receive copies.
The price is $20 for Kickstarter contributors and will increase to $25 after Feb. 6. Robertson said the game will likely be available for sale on Amazon or other online retailers after the Kickstarter ends.
Backers can also skip the shipping fees and purchase a digital copy to download and print at home for just $3.
Less than two weeks after the launch, Hissy Fit! had raised in more than $14,500 in pledges, but Robertson said it's still a labor of love.
“The profit will come from selling games after the Kickstarter," he said. "Even after funding and everything like that, we're still in the hole.”
Regardless of its profitability, Robertson said he can see himself developing more board games in the future.
His advice for fellow creators is to take time to fine-tune their game.
"Just play it over and over and over again until you're happy with it," Robertson said.
"You can't please everyone, that's a big one," he added. "Not everyone likes chocolate. So the chance of everyone liking your board game is zero."
“If someone asks you to play it again, that's when you know you have a good game."