By SDR Founder, Laurie Blake

There’s no real doubt in my mind that Pugs in Mugs will be a hit. This has been a year of many firsts for me; from beginning my own company and all that entails, learning how to coordinate the dispatching of a variety of different items to different people across the world, working out how VAT works while Brexit threatens to throw all the rules out the window, trying (and failing, a lot) to record high quality audio in the short gaps between seagull shrieks, and many more. So I’ve got a lot wrong, and I’ve had plenty of things that have cast doubt on the whole operation. I mean, have you tried to do physical, blind playtests during a pandemic? It’s not easy! 2020 hasn’t been a kind year to anyone, and there’s been a lot to shake up our ways of life. 

But Pugs in Mugs is something I can be certain about. It was a big decision to take on a game that wasn’t owned by a company member, especially since we hadn’t even started yet. Almost every game company’s first game is the baby of the founder, why else would they be starting the company? And don’t get me wrong, I’ve got plenty standing by! But if you’re making a start into a business you’re passionate about, and you want to go far, sometimes it isn’t about your personal preferences. It’s about the right choice, and whether that choice will give you the strongest first step into the world you want to be the rest of your life. And Pugs in Mugs is the right choice.

A Game I Can Believe In

It’s proved itself to be every step of the way. Drop by our About page to see what guides us, and what we think should be important about the games we make, and I think you’ll see that Pugs in Mugs not only fits those tenets but also demonstrates them in a way that can reach any type of player. Plus I’m a big fan of surrealism so the idea of stuffing small dogs in big cups just kind of fits with me, you know? When we first started working on it the only incarnation to date was slips of paper labelled ‘Pug Green, Pug Blue, Mug Pink, Mug Orange’ etc. It’s come a long way, with Stuart and I working closely to really strengthen the parts that made it such an excellent game, and along the way we’ve added things that really bring it to the next level. There’s been a lot, but a few really stick out to me. I love how we’ve given the game patterns to allow for people who struggle with colour to easily play. I love how we’ve managed to incorporate disabled pugs. I love how our way to determine who goes first makes everyone think of the last time they stroked an animal, bringing up happy memories. These are little details, but they really make the experience of it that little bit more for me, and make me so proud of the fantastic game we’ve developed.

And it is fantastic! It always has been, from the beginning, but the whole team agrees that through our joint efforts we’ve brought it to a point where it’s a card game everyone can love. Pugs in Mugs blends competitive collecting with small dashes of memory, deduction and stealing and we’ve yet to find a single person who hasn’t had an absolute blast playing it (our youngest playtesters have been 6, our eldest over 80), with most players, especially families, asking to play it again. The length of play makes for a perfect icebreaker game, the small size makes it great for travel, and the wonderfully ridiculous premise creates an instant atmosphere of fun and silliness. And all this without even mentioning the art?

Don’t Tell The Others But Rubber Ring Pug Is My Favourite

I love designing games, but I don’t think I’ve had as much fun with it before as I did when we – Stuart, Rob and I – put our heads together and came up with what pugs we wanted in each colour. I can’t really ever say enough about the incredible job Rob has done realising those early imaginings. Every pug is a comedic and adorable little bundle, and the differences between them in their normal cards to after they’ve been placed in their giant mug are brilliant. Every test we’ve run involving kids has been a joy to watch, they’ve all laughed and joked about each pug, talking about which one is their favourite (unicorn pug is, unsurprisingly, a big hit with girls) and the decision about which one they want to have in their mug is always such a trial! How can you possibly pick?

And several parents have told me how much they appreciate having a game that is fun to play, but also not easy to win against their child. That’s one of the things that makes it stand out to me, among other card games. Nobody has a clear advantage over anyone, at any point of the game. You can be far in the lead of the others, having more Mugs than other players, but through a combination of luck, clever use of ‘Mischief’ cards by your rivals, and people outright stealing your mugs, that early lead can be turned around. No amount of times playing will make you objectively better than others, yet you’ll always feel close to being able to catch up or win. None of the abilities are difficult to grasp or enact, and turns are fast, with hands and pugs changing quickly! I love that it’s so perfect for kids in this way, and it makes me excited to see people enjoying it across the world.

No Small Steps Here, Only Giant Leaps

So, Pugs in Mugs will be the first game published and released by Stop, Drop and Roll Games Studio, and I’m tremendously excited to be able to say that in the past tense. My team and I have a lot to learn, and no doubt there’s things we’ll discover we didn’t even know we needed to learn. Yet whenever I have doubts, I remember the calibre of game that we’re releasing, and that doubt turns to anticipation! It’s going to be one hell of a ride, but between a passionate, experienced team at my back and a game that stands above many I’ve ever played, what on earth do I have to worry about?

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