Q&A: Associate registrar invents card game

by Sandra Tully

Associate registrar Mark Baker describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur.” After competing in the Business Plan Competition as a student and receiving a $2500 prize, Baker said he realized he loves entrepreneurship. His latest business venture is a new card game called “5 to Close.”

Sandra Tully: Explain a little about 5 to Close.

Mark Baker: 5 to Close is a word game that is played in teams. It is played with a deck of 180 cards that include letters of the alphabet as well as a number of special cards (double, triple, wild, freeze, unfreeze). The game consists of four rounds. Each round is played until one team creates and locks five words. A word can be locked anytime it makes a complete word, so the challenge is determining if it is better to lock a shorter word (less points) or hold out and go for a longer word (higher points). Also, each round the minimum length of cards needed to complete a word increases. By the last round, only words of six letters or more can be used which becomes quite challenging … imagine playing Scrabble but only being able to play words that are six or more letters. Anyone who enjoys word games will love this game. Plus, it adds a new dimension to the typical word game because you play with a partner.

ST: What inspired you to create this?

MB: I’ve always loved word games. I grew up playing Scrabble and Boggle with my mom and grandpa. I also love entrepreneurship. So, putting the two together was natural for me. It actually didn’t take long to come up with the basic idea for the game, but that was just the beginning. It look many hours of computer work to design the cards, the game box and the rules. After I had some prototype versions made, I then had to play the game with different groups of people to test how it worked. That led to lots to tweaking of the rules and game play. I also developed a website for the game which took another long stretch of time. All in all, I probably spent the good part of a year working on the project to get things to where they are now.

ST: Do you have other games you are working on?

MB: No other games, but lots of other projects. I’ve started several online businesses in the past few years (www.asimplerweddingregistry.com and www. thevacationbrain.com). I also have some other Kickstarter project ideas that I’m currently working on and hope to launch in the weeks following the finish of the 5 to Close Kickstarter project. Sorry, these are top secret right now though. I have learned a lot from the Kickstarter campaign I ran from 5 to Close. At this point I would need a big boost in support in the coming two weeks to make the 5 to Close Kickstarter project a success, but hey, you never know what might happen.

ST: What do friends and family think of the game?

MB: Everyone I have played the game with really enjoys it. I also had a game reviewer do a review of game a while back. She really enjoyed 5 to Close as well. The game is fairly simple to learn, but is one of those games that has a lot of strategy within it. Once you play it a few times, you start thinking about how your strategy might be a little better or different the next time.

ST: Do you have a prototype of the game?

MB: Yes, I actually had 20 prototypes made originally, but either sold or gave away 17. I found a printer in New York that specialized in short run printing of card games. Having decks of cards printed is normally quite cheap, but only when you order in mass quantities. Most places I looked were wanting to charge at least $50 per deck to make prototypes. This company was much more reasonable, roughly $15 a deck. The reason I ran the Kickstarter campaign was to get the funding to do a large-scale printing of the game.

Contact Sandra Tully at stully15@my.whitworth.edu.

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