'Rhino' game creates living room safari
An expedition sets out in the early morning into the wilds of the African savannah. The goal is tracking a young adult black rhinoceros to photograph and track his progress each day as he saunters toward his favorite watering hole.
Along the journey other magnificent creatures — lions and elephants — make unexpected, and memorable, appearances.
One Gresham family has decided to bring that adventure into living rooms across the country, as they created a game of skill, strategy and chance that lets family and friends spend an evening together.
"Rhino The Game" is a trick-taking card-and-token game that was designed to be enjoyed by two to six players.
Each player guesses how many points they will score each round, accumulating a total by the end of the game based on the accuracy of their predictions.
"Making this game with my sons has been a wonderful experience," said Sue Penniman. "This has ended up being an amazing adventure for all of us."
From the beginning, "Rhino" was a family-effort. Sue and her sons, Andrew and Mark, put their combined creativity to work as they imagined the game while on a cruise in 2009.Craig, her husband, provided support throughout the project while Sue's daughter, Rebecca, gave ideas and helped test the game.
While on the cruise, the family met another passenger on the ship, an Australian, who taught them a card game popular in his hometown. The game, "Up and Down the River," was a more simplified version of "Rhino."
"'Rhino' was a result of our family loving card and board games," Andrew said. "We always played during our vacations."
After coming home from the trip, the Pennimans continued to play the game, slowly adding new rules and challenges to up the strategy and difficulty involved. They played with extended family and friends, continually evolving the game to create their fun variation.
"We spent a lot of time coming up with variations and new rules to the game," Andrew said. "It was a lot of trial and error."
All the while, they mused how neat it would be to officially make their own game.
"I got tired of hearing what we could be doing with the game, so I said we should dive in and actually make it," Sue said.
Early on the Pennimans leaned toward the "safari" theme. Rebecca had married Wayne, a man from South Africa, and they were inspired by the animals there and the idea of supporting conservation efforts.
As for the name, it just seemed to fit. Sue remembers they had been workshopping a few names before Andrew finally said they should stick to something that was easy to remember.
"Call it something simple, call it 'Rhino,'" Andrew said.
While "Rhino" is designed for ages 14 and up, younger kids can also enjoy it if they have a more experienced player explain the mechanics or if they like mathematics.
"One thing we have been surprised with is how young people are very enthusiastic to learn to play the game," Mark said. "Once they grasp the elements of it, they enjoy joining in."
From the beginning, everyone involved with creating the game agreed that if they were going to undertake the project they should go for it and make it as good and engaging as possible.
"It has taken quite a few years of design work to bring this all together," Sue said. "Andrew wanted to make it a nice project, so we went in with gusto."
Andrew, who now lives in San Diego, came up with the logo and designs for the game. He also brought in artist Marissa Quinn, who drew all of the artwork throughout the game, including the detailed images found on the animal tokens.
"There were points during this where you wondered if it would really happen," Andrew said. "Its surreal after all of the hours to see it finally finished."
All of the different components of the game are shipped to the Penniman's home in Gresham, where they assemble the game and add any personal touches requested during the ordering process.
The family is starting to market "Rhino," and recently completed a series of YouTube videos to explain the rules and strategy behind the game. They are also reaching out to board game stores in Gresham and across the region about showcasing the game and letting people try it out.
Right now, their dining room is dominated with boxes of the game ready to be sent to thoses interested in playing. "Rhino The Game" costs $45 and can be ordered online at www.rhinothegame.com. A portion of all profits will go toward the preservation of rhinos.
"'Rhino' is for people looking for something different than staring at their phones and computer screens all day," Andrew said. "It's been cool to see people respond in a positive way to something tangible."