A few weeks ago I was the lucky winner of a copy of the new card game, Unreal Estate, designed by Kalamazoo's own Jason Slingerland. After busting it out at a Friendsgiving to rave reviews, I reached out to Slingerland to talk about his game, what he gets up to in Kalamazoo, and more. But first, you should add this game to your collection:

  • It's small. You can throw it in a bag and take it anywhere. (Fits in a Christmas stocking. Saying/not saying).
  • Set up is a breeze. There's no complicated board with seventy-five pieces to put in place before beginning, not that those games can't be fun. This is simple shuffle up and deal.
  • Game play is 15 minutes. Unlike some more involved games like Civilizations that can take four hours to play, the game is as long as you want to make it, with each round lasting 15 minutes or less. And when the game is over, it's over. No need to leave the board up, pieces in place, to finish it at a later time.
  • It's uncomplicated. Once you set up and play a few practice rounds, you're off and running. Very little concentration necessary. So, feel free to have friends over for a cocktail or two, put Stranger Things playing on in the background, and have conversation.
  • The artwork is adorable. I mean... look at it. It's downright whimsical.
Stefani Bishop
  • Appropriate for 13+, up to five players.
  • Easy, and different score keeping.  I say easy because it's very straight forward. Each card has the number of points it's worth printed right on it, so no going through the instructions to tally. I say different because you're keeping score on a board with colored pieces.
Stefani Bishop

And did I mention it's designed in Kalamazoo and made in Grand Rapids? I did? Well... it's a fact that's worth sharing. I got the chance to chat with the game's designer, Jason Slingerland, about how this game came to be, and this is what he had to say:

Stefani Bishop

Jason Slingerland Interview

How long have you been a game designer?

I have been designing games for about 5 years now.

What other games have you lent your creativity to?

I've worked a large number of games in the last 5 years. The truth is, most of them do not go anywhere. Game designers in general find themselves with a lot of prototypes that don't end up getting published.


That's got to be rough. Are there any games that have been shelved that you keep thinking about resurrecting and trying again?

I consistently bring out old games to see if there is any new life I can breath into them. As a designer, the more games I play and design the more I am able to increase my design skill. It's true for all designers really. That makes it so re-looking at old games with fresh eyes can be really beneficial. It's all part of the process, sometimes taking a break with a game can be the best thing for you and for the development of the game.


Stefani Bishop
Is Unreal Estate the first Jason Slingerland game to hit the market?
Currently, I have 2 games in print. The first, I self published a couple of year's ago is called Water Balloon Washout. It's a family friendly game about having a neighborhood water balloon fight but no one gets wet!
The second, as you may have guessed, is Unreal Estate. That game was published by the Grand Gamer's Guild, which is a publishing company out of Grand Rapids.
How did you get your team together (artists, other designers) for Unreal Estate?
For Unreal Estate, I worked closely with Marc Specter, the owner of GGG. We agreed on a local artist, Corrine Roberts, to do all of the artwork and then Marc hired on Chris Kirkman of Dice Hate Me games to do all our graphic design. The team was primarily built of people with whom we had previously worked.
Stefani Bishop
How would you describe Unreal Estate as relating to other card/board games people may have played in the past?
For me some big inspirations for Unreal Estate were lots of different little games. I've always loved drafting cards and set collection, which are the primary mechanics of the game. If you like, Sushi Go or Best Treehouse Ever, then you will probably like Unreal Estate.
Will there be expansions?
So far we have published one expansion, Gothic Estates, this mini expansion adds some special powers cards to the game and also presents a variant play style. I certainly hope there will be more to come.
Stefani Bishop
How can people buy Unreal Estate?
People can get the game at any hobby game store. Fanfare for sure carries it.
What's next for Jason Slingerland?
I am currently working on some new games that I am pitching to a handful of different publishers. I very much hope to see those game published and printed. I also make independent films and our new film, Atrophy is coming out soon so that is keeping me very busy!
Stefani Bishop
When you aren't gaming or creating, what do you get up to in Kalamazoo?
My wife and I moved to Kalamazoo back in 1990 to attend Western Michigan University and really found a true home in Kalamazoo. We love the area and everything it has to offer. Since then we've started a family and have a 5 year old and a 3 year old. Those two keep my wife and I very busy chasing them around!
One other note, I am the co-host of the Building the Game Podcast, which is a podcast I created with Rob Couch (another local game designer). We started it in 2012 because we wanted to start designing games and we couldn't find any resources to help us do that. So we decided to create a podcast to document our journey and hopefully either serve as a guide for others as what to do to break into game design or be a good warning of what not to do... I like to think we have somewhat accomplished the former. We are currently closing in on our 300th episode early next year.

Bonus Video: Let Your Freak Flag Fly