Jeremy Young and Matt Molen did quite well at the first round of the Game of Life they played. The two Brigham Young University graduates formed an Internet-hosting company in 1996 and sold it three years later for $50 million.
So, now they're are embarking on round two: creating board games for other folks to play. Which might surprise anyone who knew Young in those earlier years.
"I didn't like board games," said Young, "until one of my employees introduced me to some European-style strategy games. I played one called The Settlers of Catan, and I fell in love with it. And I thought, maybe there's a business opportunity in this."
Young and Molen hooked up with Guido Teuber, the son of the German inventor of Settlers of Catan, with the idea of licensing that and other popular German games to create local versions. Their first offering is called Settlers of Zarahemla, which gives Catan an ancient-American setting and adds a few enhancements, such as a game board for the hexagon grids the game is played on.
That was followed by The Ark of The Covenant, which was patterned after another top-selling German game, Carcassonne, which was named game of the year in 2001.
Those two games have religious themes and references that will be familiar to LDS audiences, Young and Molen explained, but the games don't involve any doctrine, so those not familiar with the church can easily play.
Those games are sold under the Inspiration Games label. In addition, the company has an Uberplay label, which features games with no religious ties.
Young and Molen's first Uberplay game is called New England and is set in the Pilgrim time period.
New settlers amass and develop property through a combination of strategy and luck. New England, which is an original design, was recently named Game of the Year by Games Magazine. That's a very exciting honor in the games world, said Molen.
A second Uberplay game that has been released is called High Society. It's a fast-paced card game that plays into the fantasy of owning some high-priced "toys" yachts and jewelry and such.
And depending on how things go, Young and Molen have another eight to 10 ideas in various stages of development.
Because of the way the games are set up and play out, they are different each time. And so it's easy to get hooked, they said. You want to keep playing because each game can be very different. But, said the guys, who now live in the Seattle area but visited Salt Lake City recently to talk about their games, they have made a commitment to high-quality graphics and game pieces so the games are works of art that will easily stand up to repeated use.
"Board games are huge in Germany," said Young. "More Germans play board games than video games, and something named the game-of-the-year there sells millions. Catan is the most successful German game ever. So we're excited to introduce our version."
Because, he said, games have a lot to offer not only for pleasure but also for family development. "Games teach kids how to gracefully lose and to gracefully win. Both are important. They make kids think. Games get kids away from TV and into a social environment where they interact with other people."
"Games build memories," added Molen. "They allow families and friends to have a wholesome, stimulating time."
While Young is fairly new to board games, Molen is a long-time fan. "My family was big into board games. We'd try to outdo each other; we were very competitive. Not everyone plays that way. And that's OK. What's good about our games is that they aren't just smart-people games. They are for everyone. My wife, who isn't a big game player, enjoys playing these."
Young and Molen are both married, and both have children; Young and his wife have three; the Molens have two.
"My 4-year-old even likes to play Ark of the Covenant, even though it's designed for older ages," said Molen.
"Games unite and uplift," added Young. They are just games but they "create experiences that can bond families together."
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