Games with Toys

How I adopted a toy and why I wanted to play with it

A treasure in the rough at a flea market

A treasure in the rough at a flea market

On a Sunday morning in September 2018, I was walking around a typical French flea market. The weather was nice, I was looking around … and there I met the object that would change a number of things for me, and would lead to the creation of the Rafiot Fringant: an adorable little DIY velociraptor (look at the picture, don’t you find it adorable?) One euro later, I had adopted it and my mind was racing…

My beautiful Velociraptor

A few days later, the spark happened! The idea of Dino Soldiers, a game with toys, came to me. More precisely, a game with toys from our childhood, to recreate the feelings we had at that time, the spontaneous play where we created entire universes with a whole lot of nothing. (Now you know where the onomatopoeia rule came from for Dino Soldiers.)

Once this idea was jotted down, everything came together quickly. This was followed by a call to my mother to see if there was still a box with my childhood toys in the attic.

Unfortunately, those had disappeared… No matter! I went to flea markets, sales, secondhand sale websites, madly looking for toy soldiers and dinosaurs, while developing the game.

The first notes scribbled on Dino Soldiers in September 2018

The first version of Dino Soldiers was ready two weeks later! I tested it with 12-year-old Victoire, the daughter of my good friend Simon. And she loved it! Since then, each time we meet each other, she asks: “So, is your game out yet?” #happy.

The right book at the right time

A little later, H.G. Wells’s Little Wars and Floor Games was published in French by Bragelonne. I devoured it. Not only because I have always loved H.G. Wells’s books, but also because it was a true love letter to this recreational vision of a “return to childhood,” even though the book was written in the early 1900s. I was convinced a game with toys, and not miniatures, was what had to be done.

Unfortunately, I had to wait to publish Dino Soldiers (even though I published some photos from the first playtests on my Instagram account towards the end of 2018). At that time, I was still working for Les Éditions Sans-Détour: I had to wait until I left the company, and believe me that was frustrating! But on the upside: it gave me time to flesh out the game a bit more.

One of the first Playtest, end 2018 (note that the designs have evolved since)

Doing with what we have on hand (or in the attic)

At that point, I wanted to make simple games with miniatures, but I didn’t have the means to make them. “Recycling” was the way to go: why not use toys instead? Going back to the origin of games, where you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars in Kickstarter campaigns to buy plastic, when we might have what we need in a box in the attic or in our kid’s room. Worst-case scenario, it is easy to find them for a pittance, almost anywhere, anytime.

The general idea is that my games can be played with what we have on hand. There’s no need to have exactly the right models or tokens. Any type of markers will do, whether they are coins, bottle caps or whatever else … even beans!

When a raptor meets one of the first pin-ups

Dino Soldiers is based on models you can find in any market, flea market or store in bags of toys.

Remembering Simple Sensations

The philosophy of Games with Toys is to have fun by emphasizing gameplay, touch, sound. Take a toy dinosaur in your hands, and you will want to imitate its call, to add sound effects to its movement. Same thing for the soldiers. The tactactacs, pows and booms become second nature.

It brings back the time I spent with my grandfather, playing with toy soldiers in the sandbox in my backyard, where he had as much fun as I did, but was the only one to light the fuse for the firecrackers to make the explosions (I was very young)…

You too can live new adventures with your childhood toys !

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