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Only From the Mind of Horn

What began as a parlor gag at parties quickly applied itself to Horn’s business aspirations. A business plan was developed. Tens of thousands of bizarre scenario questions were imagined, to become the substance of the game. Horn’s business plan went on to win third prize in large venture proposal competition, and investors followed.

Freelance comedians wrote many of the questions, and out-of-work actors tried them out. Thankfully, there wasn’t a workforce shortage in Los Angeles; 20,000 questions were soon reduced to 3,000 really good ones.

With the whittling down came categories:

Pain/Fear: “Would you rather be burned on the back of the knee with a cigarette, OR, stung by a bee on the eyelid?”

(Keep in mind you don’t really have to do these things.)

Appearance/Embarassment: “Would you rather have hair of straw, OR, a pig nose?”

Food/Ingestion: “Would you rather eat a carton of cigarettes, OR, the contents of a spittoon?”

Ethics/Intellect: “Would you rather know if Lee Harvey Oswald was guilty, OR, if O.J. Simpson was guilty?”

(Horn says, “The deep questions keep the smart people from rebelling.”)

Random: “Be a woman trapped inside a man’s body, OR, a man trapped inside a woman’s body?”

Every answer is personal; what may seem obvious to one person may be completely ludicrous to another. Sure, some of the scenarios are a bit…intense, but who wants boring questions? There is a “lite” version of Zobmondo!!™ for the fainter of heart.

The game plays like this: One person reads a question to himself and predicts how the group might answer. He then offers the question to the group. The group has three minutes to come to a consensus (or longer, if the discussion is stimulating). If the player guessed the group’s answer correctly, he rolls the dice and moves toward the finish line accordingly.

The name Zobmondo!!™ was suggested by one of Horn’s friends, who uses the word as a substitute for swearing.


The Quagmire

Randy Horn, our enterprising board game inventor, has inked most of the licensing agreements for Zobmondo!!™, in addition to crafting the public relations materials and wording of the game questions and instructions. He defines “quagmire” as follows:

“A quaking bog, marsh, mire, swamp or hole…basically, not where you want to get stuck.”

There’s a quagmire space on the game board, and it sounds fun. This is where a player can make up his own Zobmondo!!™ question for the others. You lose a turn if you make up too easy a dilemma.

It might go something like this:

“Would you rather give up a rare licensing opportunity with a major game company and go it alone, OR, take the deal, knowing after two years it might not work out, putting your distribution back at square one?”

How would you answer?

Horn took the second option, and when he decided Zobmondo!!™ was not performing to his expectations, he exercised a clause in his contract to regain control of the game.

Was it a bad thing? Does it smack of failure in any way?

Keep in mind Zobmondo!!™ was one of only two new board games that broke the top 25 in sales in the year 2000. The other one was Thinkblot®, which was boosted by television advertising and the notoriety of it’s inventors, who also came up with Pictionary®. Zobmondo!!™, on the other hand, captured it’s 1.1% market share on its own merits, and without major advertising.

“I feel good and bad,” Horn said recently. “I do not regret signing this deal with Hasbro ... I would do it again. But the fact of the matter is that I was doing very well before that deal and since I made more money before the deal, I have no hesitation in taking the game back and continuing to build the brand on my own. I have big expansion plans for the next five years.”

Still, some of the spoils of a big licensing deal will fall away: the Target chain sought and was granted exclusive distribution rights for the game in 2001, but that will dissolve as soon as the Hasbro deal is terminated.

The Next Turn:  Worse things have happened.

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