Mothman was spotted in West Virginia again. And he’s looking for a meal. It’s part of a new board game that features cryptids and local West Virginia food. Jared Kaplan and Chris Kincaid of Beckley, West Virginia created the game called “Human hunger.”
At Kincaid in Morgantown, we sat around the colorful board set in the center of a wooden table. His basement was a paradise for board gamers – a giant game cabinet lined the wall, and the table we played on was specially designed for board games.
It was the first time I played and I was facing the two creators of the game.
“I’m going to say ‘You look hungry’ and I’m going to feed you this extra thick milk,” Kaplan said. “So you have to go back.”
The odds were not in my favor.
“So us as players, we’re the humans, we each have a monster friend who wants to eat humans,” Kaplan explained. “But if you feed him enough, good food, normal food, he will satisfy his human hunger and he won’t eat anyone.”
That good food could be a sundae from Ellen’s Ice Cream in Charleston or a burger from Farmer’s Daughter in Capon Bridge.
“However, if you feed him too much, too fast, he [the monster] becomes too powerful and explodes,” he continued. “If you give him the wrong things, because there’s nasty food here, then he gets hungry. And it just gets mad at you and it’s going to eat you. And you’re out of the game as well.
“It’s toothpaste with an orange juice chaser,” Kincaid read on a playing card. “It’s one minus two.”
Kaplan said they wanted the game to celebrate their home country and its local restaurants.
“I love food, so I started thinking about a game that involves food,” Kaplan said.
They decided to focus specifically on food from West Virginia restaurants, like Tudor’s Biscuit World and Pies and Pints.
Cryptids are another important part of the game. The Grafton monster, Sheep Squatch, Mothman, and the Flatwoods monster are all special power cards that give you an extra edge over your competition. In real life, cryptids are rarely spotted. And it’s the same in the game.
“Do you hear that?” Chis asked.
“The buzz? ” I answered.
“No, that’s the sound of the Sheep Squatch coming to scare Jared out of the meal!” he said.
Kincaid and Kaplan met several years ago, in their hometown of Beckley. Kincaid said they bonded over their love of board games.
“We played games with people from very different backgrounds,” he said. “Very different places, with very different belief structures, and that’s great, nobody cares. We’re just here to rob the bank or save the princess.
As a child, Kincaid learned to play games with his father and two younger brothers.
“It has always been associated in my life with happiness and togetherness,” he said. “We grew up not super well off so a board game was about as much entertainment… we weren’t going to go on trips and vacations all the time. We played Uno until we ruined decks.
Now Kincaid is a family physician and a professor at West Virginia University. He said board games were his escape.
“My career is quite taxing, especially lately, in terms of time and energy, and that’s just how I recharge my batteries,” he said.
Kincaid carried on the family tradition of playing games with his own children. He said they’re budding board gamers with a gaming shelf that’s starting to rival his own.
Kaplan works in marketing at the Resort at Glade Springs in Daniels, West Virginia and he has his own marketing company. He said he was never very good at video games, so he played board games instead.
“For someone like me, who suffers from a ton of anxiety, I actually enjoy being around people more than you probably realize,” Kaplan said. “That’s what I love about board games because they bring people together.”
Kaplan said that for him, board games aren’t just something he goes out on vacation. It hosts frequent game nights throughout the year.
“It’s really the anchor right now for me that brings my friends together,” he said.
At one of those game nights at Beckley’s several years ago, none of their other friends showed up, so it was just Kaplan and Kincaid. Instead of playing something, they started brainstorming game ideas.
“If your art and your acting aren’t good, you’re going to hear about it,” Kaplan said.
Morgantown Artist Liz Pavlovic was the perfect fit for their second game, Hungry for Humans. She had never illustrated a board game before, but she is known statewide for her funky renditions of West Virginia food, like pepperoni rolls, and cryptids like Mothman.
“I really like celebrating the weird stuff in the state and the stuff that people might not know about, especially if you’re not from here,” Pavlovic said.
It was the first time that Pavlovic played the game, like me. His monster friend was none other than the fictional Flerbin Gusselpot, a peculiar creature, loosely inspired by a bat. It is her favorite and one of the many monsters she has illustrated for the game.
“He has a really weird nose. And otherwise, a kind of reptile body with a ponytail. And fangs and like a very long tongue and very long fingers. It’s purple with spots, orange spots,” she said.
When Hungry for Humans launched on Kickstarter last fall, Kaplan and Kincaid received unexpected support for the game, especially from West Virginia.
“I think about it and feel extremely lucky to be from West Virginia and to have our community,” Kaplan said. “If you make a game somewhere like New York, everywhere you look people are making it. In West Virginia, however, people are very proud of people who do different and unique things, and they want to support and uplift each other.
Kincaid said he enjoyed playing Hungry for Humans, but rarely won. And indeed, Kincaid’s monster – Porgis Bean-hammer – was the first to explode.
“Don’t blow me up!” Blow it up! Kincaid pleaded.
That left me, Kaplan and Pavlovic. When we totaled the meal it was a seven – meaning all of our monsters were about to explode. I had to think quickly. Without hesitation, I played a “Yuck” card – landing me right on the finish.
They may have let me win, but I’d like to think otherwise.
Hungry for Humans will be available this summer. And while their game isn’t even on the shelves yet, Kaplan said he already has at least 15 new game ideas.
“There’s a game skeleton under this table right now that I’m working on,” Kincaid said.