Bellevue gamemaker seeks to grab booty with pirate-themed card game

Use tactics, strike deals, backstab your friends and win by grabbing the most booty in 7 Seize, a pirate-themed card game developed by Bellevue resident Jeep Barnett.

Use tactics, strike deals, backstab your friends and win by grabbing the most booty in 7 Seize, a pirate-themed card game developed by Bellevue resident Jeep Barnett.

Barnett has a long history of making games both virtual and physical, and has turned to crowdfunding site Kickstarter to help make 7 Seize a reality.

From between two and seven scurvy dogs can try to outwit and outlast the others with certain cards accomplishing different actions on the high seas. Players play the first round vying to be captain, who gets to split the loot into red or black piles. Players then — according to cards in their hands — can claim pieces of loot or perform various other actions to bluff other players out of their moves.

“You want to make it a relatively fair split to prevent everyone from piling onto the biggest pile before you even get a chance to play your card,” Barnett said.

In the Kickstarter prototype, players can balance loot in the “captain’s hat,” a bicorne-shaped scale which adds a fun pirate sense to the card game. The winner is the one with the most booty at the end of the game. Barnett said players can finish a round in as little as 15 minutes.

“It’s a fun game to play while you are waiting for the rest of your group to arrive or with someone who maybe doesn’t know everyone else that well,” he said. “It’s a great way to get to know everybody.”

Barnett, a Bellevue resident, has been designing games since he was a child and enjoyed playing games such as Monopoly and Sorry with his family. He began to read up on programming and designed text-based games on the computer before moving to simple platformers and flash games. He went to the DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond and secured a job at Bellevue-based Valve Corporation.

He has helped program titles like the Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress and Portal series, a puzzle platformer set in the not-so-distant future. From there, he began tweaking a board game based on the Portal series.

“My wife loves jigsaw puzzles and I got her a joke gift for her birthday. The “world’s smallest jigsaw puzzle.” As we were putting it together with tweezers, I had the idea of a never-ending puzzle,” he said. “I was working with an artist [Andrew Wilson] who was working on a Portal poster with some of the same themes.”

With an artist friend and an idea for a game, Barnett spent two years tweaking the game in his free time, eventually creating the “cake acquisition” board game with a constantly replenishing and changing game board.

Barnett said part of his inspiration for the Portal game and 7 Seize was his wife’s uncanny skill at another board game.

“My wife is magically good at Yahtzee and I hope to find out how, someday,” he said. “With that game there is the satisfying feel of rolling the dice in the shaker and I appreciate games with that tactile feel. Even when you play Solitaire on the PC there is a satisfaction from moving a pile of cards to another.”

He enjoys games like Ascension, a deck building game, and Pagoda, a … pagoda building game, where there is a sense of feel and consequences for moving too quickly or slowly when playing with savvy players.

Barnett said initially he wanted to make 7 Seize a cowboy-themed game, inspired by the stage play and Clint Eastwood movie “Paint Your Wagon.” In the film, two gold prospectors split loot. One character says “And I gamble and I cheat at cards, but there’s one thing I do not do. I ain’t never gulled a pardner.”

“I liked the splitting part of that, but realized that the backstabbing I wanted the game to have felt more pirate than cowboy,” Barnett said. “From there, I thought of the name and knew I had it.”

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