Upgrading a game from the 1990s Hoboken game designer introduces new version

Bob Musgrave, one of the founders of Obrim, Inc, a public relations agency based in Hoboken, invented a party game in 1994 just out of the desire to challenge himself.

That year, Musgrave and his partner, Ondina Bennett, a computer systems analyst, put their heads together to see if they could create a game that would sell. Musgrave believed that between the two of them they had a good balance of practical experience and a sense for what is entertaining. Both of them had played games from Monopoly to Trivial Pursuit all their lives.In developing the game, Musgrave tried to keep in mind comments he had heard about Trivial Pursuit.

“Many people appreciated how intellectual Trivial Pursuit was, but didn’t particularly see it as a fun game to play,” he said. “I wanted to make a game that was fun to play as well as intellectual.”

What resulted was a game called “Clues & Yahoos,” which he has renamed this year as “ICUE.”

Clues & Yahoos, or the newer version, ICUE, is a combination of Trivial Pursuit and charades, a party game with an intellectual twist. In it, people form teams, select scorers, then appoint one person to give the clues. This role shifts as the game goes on.

As with Trivial Pursuit, players draw cards, and as in charades, team members must try to identify the subject through a variety of clues. Sometimes the card will call for the person to mime. Another time, they might be asked to hum, while other times the clue master allows almost anything to elicit the answer short of spelling it out. All this is done to the tick of an electronic timer, giving the game a tension that is often lacking in other intellectual games. “There are no dice, pawns, funny money, labyrinthine boards or minuscule widgets to assemble to drive you up the wall,” said Musgrave.

When he first contemplated the range of subjects the game should cover, Musgrave considered literary giants like Aristophanes and Boccaccio, but later chose to make the subjects more conducive to everyday experience. He opted to include the kind of things people should know, but rarely had a chance to talk about.

The game includes a variety of categories and disciplines, he said like history, literature, theater, dance and music.

After getting the idea for the game, Musgrave said he researched the games industry through newspapers and magazines, which focus on toys, then got in touch with associations for game inventors and various manufacturers. He even went to a games convention in New Orleans.

Among many of the things he learned was the fact that out every hundred games invented, no more than three actually make it in the marketplace. “All of this research gave us an understanding of what the public wants,” Musgrave said.

Over the years, Clues and Yahoos quietly made its impact, sold in stores from coast to coast, yet most of the sales were the result of people telling other people, not advertising. In fact, the game sold out. But the successful experiment in marketing faded into memory as Musgrave got on with his public relations business.

Then in early 1999, someone called Musgrave about obtaining the game. He began to think about possibly reissuing the game, maybe updating it with information more relevant to the new millennium. When he finally got down to making the changes, he also expanded the number of questions from 3,000 to 4,000, as well as the kind of questions. Then he and his staff play-tested the game.

Instead of calling the new version “Clues & Yahoos,” Musgrave called it “Icue” in an effort to better emphasize its intellectual element.

Musgrave changed the look of the packaging of the jar to match the name change, moving from a brightly colored jar of the earlier came to the classy ebony color.

In a letter that comes with a press release about the game, Dave and Kathy Shaver of Sea Bright, N.J., gush, “What made ICUE fun is that even without knowing a subject you could still create clues to get the correct answer.”

As with the original game, ICUE has a limited distribution. In Hoboken, it is available at A&S Comics on Washington Street. Or it can be obtained via the Internet at www.icuegame.com.


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