At Horse Expo this year I happened upon a booth promoting a very fun horse themed board game. I thought it looked like an awesome game for barn sleepovers and camping trips! After a brief chat with them that day, I wanted to follow up and share the game with you! Please enjoy my interview with Keshia Swanlund, one of the creators of the Fantasy Stables game!
Is this the first board game you’ve created?
Yes, we originally created the Regular version for teenagers and adults then made the Junior version for kids 8+.
How did the idea come about to make Fantasy Stables?
Our tradition at Christmas has always been to play board games as a family. Since we are all into horses we naturally want to play horse games and enjoyed them as kids. However now that we are adults we noticed there are no horse board game created for adults to play! With our passion for horses and background in 4H horse knowledge competitions (along with Ana’s degree in graphic design) we thought- why not make one ourselves? We knew we wanted to create a game where real horses are the absolute center of the game – beautiful horses that would be a dream to own. So to begin the creative process we started taking pictures at local horse shows and then sorted through thousands of pictures in different disciplines to choose the ones that we loved the most. After 2 years of development Fantasy Stables Regular Edition was born and the Junior Edition followed.
Can you give me a brief explanation of how you play the game?
The actual game play is very easy and intuitive especially for horse people (no actual horse knowledge is required to play the game though- it’s all on the cards or the board!). The object of the game is to collect the most money in horses, cash and bonuses. Bonuses are awarded for collecting certain groups of horses like by color, discipline, gender, etc. They add a strategy aspect to the game but are totally optional. Both games have similar game-play, but the Junior Edition is just scaled down for kids to play independently.
In our board game you collect and show horses, but unlike other board games the horse cards are pictures we take of real horses. There are 50 horses featured in our game in 8 different disciplines (Dressage, Driving, Trail, Western Pleasure, Western Performance, Racing, Cross Country and Hunter Jumper). You get 4 random horse cards and cash to start off so there is no Monopoly style build up – you get going right away! As the game progresses, you add horses to your stable by buying them at public auctions where all the players can bid. This is fun because the horses have starting bids but the actual value of the horse is determined by a horse value card which is only drawn AFTER the auction is won. So you know the range but you never know what a horse is actually worth while you’re bidding! Sometimes you over pay (my sister is a wild over-bidder so that’s usually her) and sometimes you get a deal!
One of my favorite parts of the game is that no matter who lands on the space for a show everyone can participate if they want! Shows have a little realism to them and a little luck. When you’re “at a show” you select one of the horses in your stable to enter trying to match the discipline of the horse to the show. If you have the right horse you get a +2 added to your dice roll (there are other advantages such as the expense cards) or if you don’t you can enter ANY horse and hope for the best! We call the dice roll the mood indicator aka “how is your horse feeling that day” since we all know horses can be unpredictable! There are entry fees which come from the players and a purse that comes from the bank which are combined to make up the jackpot for the show. Who ever has the highest roll with the advantages added is the winner and takes home the jackpot.
There are also expense cards and yearly horse expenses to watch out for but you get a salary every time you go around the board. All the players are assigned (or pick if they want) a horse related occupation (vet, farrier, trainer ect) in the beginning of the game. The expense cards are paid to these occupations- all the vet bills go to whichever player is the vet for that game. This way even the expense cards are interactive! There’s also a goofy story about why you’re having to pay not just “Vet bill due!”
What is it like to create your own game? What is the process for getting something like this on the market?
It’s a lot of fun! You can make your own rules and change them whenever they don’t agree with you. It helped us improve the game. Whenever there was a part of it that wasn’t exciting enough we were able to change it. Creating the actual game-play was easier than we imagined it would be when we came up with the idea. We took thousands of pictures at local horse shows always trying to get the perfect horse in the perfect frame – preferably with a fabulous background!
We’re still in the process of getting it out on the market. It’s been easy for us to engage people one on one and get them excited about the game at horse expos. After only a brief explanation and a test of the game-play people are always enthusiastic about the realism and how fun it is to play together on all the turns. However one of our biggest struggles is how new we are. Both retailers and consumers assume we’re simply a version of Horseopoly and not a brand new unique game!
When we were sending our game out to printers for quotes initially it was really hard to find a printer based in the US that had experience printing board games. As a small business getting started on our own it was really important to us to support American manufacturers and when we stumbled across the contact info for Delano Services/EPI printers we struck gold! They were professional, knowledgeable and friendly with 30 years of experience printing board games so we knew we could trust them to consistently produce a quality product.
Do you have other games that you would like to make in the future, or is this your main product?
Yes we do! We’re focused on Fantasy Stables for the time being though.
Does your family ride horses? Tell me a little bit about your horses.
We were really lucky to grow up with horses. We had our first pony when we were 5, and our passion for horses has only grown from there. We really enjoyed 4-H when we were kids doing a little bit of everything. Currently we own 5 horses.
Ana’s horse Knight is a 5 year old smoky black Andalusian/Appaloosa gelding, he’s 16.1 hands and as sweet as they come. We’ve had him since he was a weanling and Ana has done extensive ground work with him for years so his under saddle training is really, really easy so far. Ana is starting him in Driving, and eventually she’d like to compete with him in Combined Driving Events.
We also own two horses that are featured in the game – Serena and Amigo. Serena is a grulla overo Sorraia/Paint mare, she’s only 15 hands and she’s an excellent trail horse – she never puts a foot out of place. Amigo is her 2 year old palomino sabino gelding son – we bred her to a Lusitano to get more size and spirit – and we definitely got the spirit part! Ana has her hands full working on his ground manners, but he is a neighborhood favorite to pet because of his sweet face. His registered name will be Amigo del Diablo! Keshia hopes to compete with him in 3 day eventing some day.
Scout is a chestnut few spot leopard 15.2 hand Appaloosa mare – we call her Scouty the Sturdy because she’s built pretty solidly. She will be featured in an expansion pack of the game, we did a fun photo shoot at the ocean with her. She has a classic Appaloosa personality, and we love her for it.
Foxy is a 15.1 hand black and white tobiano Paint, and she is a true alpha mare. Very spoiled and bossy, but with a heart of gold and she LOVES to go riding – in any weather, any time of day and anywhere. We know we have “too many” horses but we love them all and enjoy how they keep us busy!
Mainly we enjoy trail riding but recently Keshia started fox hunting (drag hunts only!) and loves it – it’s fun, social and challenging but not competitive like cross country. When Amigo grows up we’re hoping he’ll be ideal for 3 day eventing because that’s where Keshia’s interest really is. Ana has always been passionate about driving, and really looks forward to her first CDE with Knight. Competing is not as important to us as enjoying the horses and the companionship they give us.
Did any specific horses inspire this game?
Every horse we’ve ever seen at horse shows and trail rides and thought “We’d LOVE to own that horse!” inspired us! Like most horse people we’d like to own a million horses and do every sport there is but it’s just not possible. So we made a game where you can own as many horses in as many different disciplines as you want!
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
As crazy as it sounds we’re sisters who work together on a daily basis and still get along great (with only a little fighting)! Our company is 100% family-owned and we’re very passionate about continuing produce a made in the USA product. We love to hear from our fans, we’re on Facebook and our email address is [email protected]. Both games are available online – with free shipping – at fantasystablegame.com.