Same fun, shorter game: alum creates board game

Nate White
Lisa Ryan/THE REVIEW
University alum Nate White has taken his board game “Middle Empire” from concept to reality with the help of friends and family.

BY
MANAGING MOSAIC EDITOR

When Judy White’s sons were growing up, the family would gather together for games of “Apples to Apples” or “Chutes and Ladders,” and they still have dinner and play a board game each Sunday. However, this is not the only way that board games are a part of life for her son, Nate White.

In 2012, Nate White began working on a board game called “Middle Empire.”

“It was really ugly,” the 33-year-old Hockessin resident says. “I ripped off a Monopoly board top, took some printer paper and just drew spaces on the board, and grabbed some pieces from other games, put it together, taped some labels on cards, got some people together and said ‘Hey guys, can we play this game that I think I’ve made?’”

Today, “Middle Empire” is on the market, available through Amazon as well as on Nate White’s website. He recently returned to the university campus to promote his game in the Trabant student center, as well.

A graduate of the university’s class of 2007, White majored in finance at the university and, in 2009, got his master’s degree in the same subject. While board games do not relate to that course of study, they have connected him to friends and family for years.

He says that every summer, his family and friends vacation at the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and every summer, they play a game of “Risk.” They start to play the strategy-based board game around 7 or 8 p.m., and finish around midnight.

Elements of this game and “Settlers of Catan” inspired White, but he felt he could create something with similar appeal and shorter gameplay.

“I think the big things are ‘Settlers of Catan’ and ‘Risk’ but played in 30 minutes,” White says. “That’s a huge, huge thing for people when they hear that. They’re like, ‘Oh, 30 minutes? ‘Settlers’ and ‘Risk’? I’m in.’”

It took a village to raise White’s board game from its original former-Monopoly-board form to its current incarnation. He took the game to Main Street, playing it with other attendees of Days of Knights on Tuesday game nights.

In addition to their feedback, suggestions from friends and family who tested the game also helped White to make changes and improvements to it over time.

“My mom and brother have been huge in really just helping out and being patient when I would say, ‘Hey, do you want to come and play this version with me?’” he says. “And without a ‘No, we’ve done this every, every week.’ It’s ‘sure.’ So yeah, family support is huge.”

Judy White, who studied elementary education as a member of the university’s class of 1977, recalls that the rules of “Middle Empire” changed as her son tested and revised the game. The gameplay became more fair, she says.

Now, her favorite aspect of the game is its element of strategy: players can change their course of action in the game based on the cards they draw.

“Each player has a lot of control about how they want to play the game, what kind of a strategy they want to use,” Judy White says.

Although Nate White spent several years shaping “Middle Empire” into its current finished phase, he says the greatest challenge has come with marketing the game to the public.

“That’s actually been the hardest part,” he says. “How do you get an unknown product known to a consumer who doesn’t even know it exists?”

He aims to market the game towards fans of similar products. He has also been promoting “Middle Empire” at toy and game fairs or conventions. Friends have helped him to continue to reach out to a college-aged audience, and he hopes to return to Trabant if his schedule permits.

Students responded to the game with curiosity when he brought it to campus, he says. He sees their interest as a positive sign.

The greatest reward of “Middle Empire” will be hearing people say they played it and had fun, he says.

Nate White says the stress-relieving powers of board games partially inspired the creation of “Middle Empire.”

“When you’re stressed out over something, a game, exercise or a movie will help you de-stress and get you laughing—maybe not laughing if you’re exercising,” White says in an email. “That was kind of a driver behind my game, to be something that can be quick and fun with friends while helping you forget about what you were stressing out about.”

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