Student board game start-up prepares to launch flagship game


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

The Garage, 2311 Campus Dr. The Garage provides a space and resources for students to build startups.

Arianna Carpati, Reporter

Communication junior Elam Blackwell grew up playing board games with his family. He continued his love of board games as an underclassman, playing with his friends in the Willard Residential College lounge.

He and his friends have since founded Mark IV Games, a Northwestern student start-up that creates its own board games. The company has been working through The Garage since Winter 2020 and is planning to launch its first game, Factions of Sol, in the coming months. As they develop their own game, Blackwell said their collection is also growing.

“Between me and all of my other roommates here, we have about 100 games on our shelf right now,” Blackwell said.

Mark IV Games is named after a character in Dungeons and Dragons, a game the group frequently plays. Blackwell, the CEO and community outreach director of the company, said he feels the name encompasses the way they are often going back to the drawing board and creating original ideas.

The team has been working on Factions of Sol for about a year. In the game, players race to gain the most power and influence as aliens descend upon the solar system. The board mimics the solar system, and as players move between planets they leave behind “energy,” making it more difficult for them and their opponents to progress; after each round, the board resets. Once the team has finished designing and revising the game, they plan on creating prototypes, which they decided to produce themselves.

Within the next few months, it will be placed on Kickstarter, where they hope to raise approximately $30,000 to fund the initial manufacturing run of the game.

Adam Downing, Weinberg senior and CFO of Mark IV Games, handles the paperwork and finances of the company. He will oversee the implementation of the Kickstarter as well.

“We all wear many hats on the Mark IV team,” Downing said. “We’re game developers at the same time that we’re making financial decisions at the same time that we’re doing massive manufacturing and distribution contracts.”

Downing said there used to be a notion that board games are nerdy or antisocial, but that’s changing. He said during quarantine, people have found that board games can bring families and friends together.

Mark IV is unique compared to other game companies because they design games in teams, whereas many companies only have one designer, Downing said.

Communication junior Samara Malik said that she never saw herself as a business person before she got involved with the company. As the artistic director and social media manager at Mark IV Games, Malik has helped create designs for Factions of Sol.

“I never thought that was something I was capable of doing,” she said. “Now, to be having a front row seat to watching people discover us and fall in love with what we’re doing as much as we love it, has been a beautiful experience.”

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Twitter: ariannacarpati1

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