You know the story of the "Three Billy Goats Gruff," who have to cross a bridge in the forest without being eaten by the resident troll.
But the story is always told from the goats' point of view. What if, wondered Alf Seegert, you were the troll? What if you had to get by with only the food and money you could extort from visitors crossing your bridge?
And that, he thought, could be a fun board game.
Bridge Troll was born. The game, designed by Seegert and illustrated by local artist Ryan Laukat, is being published by Z-Man Games, a major game company for designer games.
The game debuted in Germany last week and at the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio, last weekend. It will make its Salt Lake debut on Saturday at a special launch party at Game Night Games. The event will offer demonstrations, a chance to play the game, discounts and lots of fun, says store manager Mike Compton.
To have a game simultaneously published in the United States and Germany is any game designer's dream, says Seegert. "Germany is where all the really good games go; they love their games."
Seegert has been designing games since 2001. Five of his games have been end-round finalists at the annual Hippodice board game design competition in Bachum, Germany, which is considered one of the best — if not the best — game competitions in the world. Bridge Troll is his first published game.
In this game, each player gets to be a hideous troll who guards a bridge. In each round, players bid with colorful boulders for first chance at the travelers who may come along. (The number of travelers is determined by a roll of the weather die; more come on a sunny day than a rainy day.)
But the trolls must balance their need for money with their need for food. And they also have to watch out for knights, bandits, dragons and vicious Billy Goats Gruff that all may have to be driven away with some precious boulders.
On the other hand, king's messengers, fortune-tellers, garlic merchants and others may be of help.
At game's end, when all the travelers are gone, the player with the most points (and thus the most impressive bridge operation) wins.
It's a game for 3-6 players, approximately age 10 and up, that plays in about 45 minutes to an hour, says Seegert.
It has been classed as a family game, a fantasy game, a European-type strategy game, so it appeals on a lot of different levels, he says. "There was a review from a guy in Hong Kong who loves playing it with his family."
It's not Monopoly, he says. "That seems to be the point of reference for American games. This is as different from Monopoly as 'Matrix' is from old Flash Gordon movies."
It's a game that is more fun with more players, says Laukat. "That's rare. Many games play better with fewer people, because they kind of get bogged down, waiting for turns. This one plays very fast, so there's hardly any waiting time. More players just give you more options."
Seegert has been working on the game for about seven years. "I remember playing a prototype while we were waiting in line for the 'Two Towers' movie. He and Laukat are both members of the Board Game Designers Guild of Utah, and that has been invaluable in his design, he says.
Bridge Troll was a finalist at the 2005 Hippodice, and it was looked at by some publishers but not picked up. "It got reworked after interaction with the members of the guild, who offered really good suggestions," he says. For example, "Mike was the one who suggested the weather dice. I just had one with colors. Another friend suggested the boulders. This really is a guild-group endeavor."
Bridge Troll is the first game to be published by a guild member, but a couple more are now in the works. The guild, which meets twice a month, is helping create a solid reputation for Salt Lake City as a game center, Seegert says.
"A friend of mine says that Salt Lake is to games what Seattle is to music. There are not a lot of these groups around. This is pretty unprecedented."
Seegert grew up playing games. "I played a lot of board games, a lot of Dungeons & Dragons, a lot of role-play. But I didn't realize there was a different kind of game until I played Settlers of Catan. For me, like so many others, that opened up a new world of games. I still play that once a week with a group of friends. We done that for nine years now. And that was when I started thinking about designing games."
It's not a fast process, he says; "you have to have a lot of patience." But, it is a fun one. When he's not designing games, Seegert is a doctoral student and instructor of English at the University of Utah.
For Laukat, the life-changing game was one called Puerto Rico. "That one got me into games. But since I was more interested in art and illustration, I would come up with games so I could draw them." He started that at age 10 and has been at it for 13 years. "But I've only been a professional game designer for about a year-and-a-half."
He loved working on Bridge Troll. "This game is funny, comedic, really fun to draw. It's meant to be light-hearted."
Plus, he says, he drew inspiration for the border work from a intricately carved European dresser his mother owned. "I wanted some of that flavor."
"It gives it a great fairy-tale effect," says Seegert, who loves the way the art turned out. "They are just great illustrations."
Laukat was hired by Z-Man Games to do the artwork on Seegert's recommendation. "Alf had done the prototype with clip art, so I had a pretty good idea of where he wanted to go."
Getting published is every game designer's dream, but there's a lot of competition out there. "I read somewhere that Hasbro gets thousands of submissions every year," says Laukat. "It's really very difficult getting past all that." Plus, adds Seegert, not every company takes open submissions.
Bridge Troll, which sells for $24.95, is a game that Compton thinks will prove popular with his customers.
"It's a fast-playing game that is great for the whole family. It's easy to learn, and the artwork is just so fun. And it's a great value for the price. Anything under $30 is reasonable these days."
Seegert wanted to keep it fairly inexpensive, he says. For $25, you can hardly take the family to a movie, but "a game can be pulled out and played hundreds of times, by hundreds of people. Games are great that way."
Bridge Troll fits exactly what a lot of people are looking for these days, says Compton. "And it's great to see local people recognized by major publishers. For gamers, this is a very big deal."
If you go …
What: Bridge Troll launch party
Where: Game Night Games, 2030 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City
When: Saturday, noon-4 p.m.
How much: free