For this Klask designer Mikkel Bertelsen interview, we spoke with one of the hardest working men in board games and got some answers on KLASK, the tabletop phenomenon that has been sweeping the nation for the last few years and has been growing as a major competitive gaming event.
The game board is shaped like a ball field with two deep holes functioning as goals in each end of the field. In the middle of the field, three white magnetic pieces serve as “obstacles”. Your gaming piece is a black magnet controlled by holding another large magnet under the board. The purpose of the game is to push the small, red ball around on the field and get past the obstacles to score. The game is certainly great at what is does, taking the #1 spot on our list of the best real-time board games. For 2 players, games run about 10 minutes.
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The creator of Klask, Mikkel Bertelsen, had some great things to say about this wonderful past time. Take a look at his answers below or watch the full video response at the bottom of the article.
1. Where did the idea for KLASK come from? How did inspiration hit?
The idea for KLASK came about 8 years ago. I was at a party with my wife the day before, so we had a few drinks. The day after I sometimes have this crazy head full of ideas and stuff, so I was walking in the garden and the sun was shining and I thought I want to make a game, something fun for the family. I had a few inventions before that didn’t hit anything but one of them was a shelf for the kitchen where there was a round piece of wood floating in the air that was hanging with magnets. I think that’s where the idea came from.
I had the magnets in my head and the idea of making something fun for the family. Then I went back to my porch and I was sticking all my magnets to the table and some cardboard and found a prop to put the magnet up and put it on the cardboard and another magnet on top. I was fiddling around and went I went over the edge *KLASK SOUND* oh Klask. I put a hole in the middle, went over the whole, oh Klask. Then another magnet got stuck and I thought this could be fun. Then I added the ball and got some walls on it and within a few hours I had a very rough prototype for the game.
2. When did you know you had something with KLASK?
The same afternoon, I gave the rough demo to my neighbor and asked him what he thought of it. He tested it with his family and came back thinking it was a reasonably fun game. He told me later that he actually didn’t like the game that much but luckily he was lying that day because this helped make me feel like I had something. I felt like I had something, I felt that it was new and fun. Especially the magnet thing and when they got stuck, and that you have to avoid going in the hole. I was confident I had something. So I went to my real workshop and got to work on making the real thing.
3. What was the prototype process like? How many different shapes of boards and obstacle locations did you go through?
The size of the board and the height took some weeks just to figure out. You have to put a hand underneath and you have to be able to get the hand around the table, so it couldn’t have legs on all four sides. So I came up with the shape of the legs so you could move all around. The size was pretty much there to begin with. It would probably be better to make it a bit smaller or bigger so it could fit on a palette or fit on a shelf (even more important) but I went with that size and it seems to be working.
4. Did anyone ever tell you that you couldn’t do something and you proved them wrong?
My wife said to me when I did the last invention for the kitchen, where I spent lots of money and time, “Mikkel please no more inventions, it’s taken so much of your time and so much of our savings”. Luckily I didn’t listen to her, well I did, but that I forgot it for that day. She also saw that this could be fun. So I proved that wrong.
5. You are around this at Cons and other events, what is the reaction like from the people playing?
A Finnish company reached out to me and said they were very interested in the game. I met up with them in Coppenhagen because I won a small prize in Coppenhagen for the game. I kind of liked these guys immediately so we made an agreement and they got the rights to sell, produce and manufacture the game worldwide. They took me around the world for lots of conventions and stuff and it was so fun. They said if you stay on the couch nothing will happen, you need to get out there. I asked about the high price of conventions, but they said lets go out there and see what is happening. And it was so fun.
We had a lot of fantastic reactions, especially in the US where we had lots of “WOAH!”s and excitement. There is something about when people see the magnet thing work, its kind of weird, people really like it. It’s even more weird now that we have all these computer games where you can do anything with virtual reality and all kinds of stuff, but they still fancy the magnets. So we have had a lot of fun at these cons and small tournaments. People are having fun and it truely warms my heart to see people enjoying this game.
6. You are a marketing machine and maybe the hardest working man in tabletop, can you list out some of the crazy ideas or pushes you made to get KLASK into the world?
I must admit that the biggest marketing machine is probably the two Finnish brothers, Christian and Thomas, with some of me. They found some crazy stuff to do at conventions. Driving the car into the convention, hanging crazy stuff on poles outside without permission, etc. I really like that stuff, not doing things without permission, but the fresh approach. They did a really good job making KLASK known.
7. If you could choose only one, what is the most innovative thing you would say you have ever done in the marketing, design, sales or distribution areas?
I don’t know. A good start is, before the Fins got involved, I called Carlsberg (beer) in Denmark and asked if they wanted to buy a bunch of games to put on their bars. I had a meeting with them 14 days after. It was good to have a meeting with them, that was not an easy thing to get in Denmark, I think I was lucky.
I met with two guys from Carlsberg and they really liked it. They thought this was something that could really create some fun at the bar and get people to drink one more beer or one more soda. I think I branded around 1500 games for Tuborg, which is also owned by Carlsberg. That was a good start, they put it out on 300 bars in Denmark with extra pieces and tournament sets, with stickers on the windows. That was a neat start.
8. KLASK is growing into a competitive gaming event. Are you involved with tournaments at all and what do you think of all this?
OOH! I really like the competitive gaming thing. We have had the world championships in KLASK three times now, once in Denmark and twice in Helsinki, Finland. It is an amazing thing, especially the ones in Finland when we were 20 people from 18 different countries all over the world, flying into Helsinki.
They all had national championships all over the world and then they flew into Helsinki. We all met up at the hotel, had a beer, and a game of KLASK. We spent the day with some food and some beers and some fun, talking with people all over the world.
The next day, we played the KLASK tournament for the whole day and found winners, world champions, at those events. There were cameras all over and it was really nice. So fantastic, I really like the competitive gaming aspect of KLASK.
9. What is your top priority for the future of KLASK?
I would say that the top priority for the future of KLASK from my concern would be to get more people involved. To get more people to know the game because there really is something in people’s eyes and face when they play the game and I would like that to happen for more people. Even though it is now a few years old, it is still very unknown because we haven’t had the power to push it out really big to begin with. The Fins made it grow steadily so there are still a lot of people who do not know what KLASK is. I would like to, if I can do anything there, make it bigger. The Fins are doing a great job still and with social media, but now the Corona has stopped all the tournaments for a while. I just want to keep get more people to know KLASK and have fun with KLASK.
10. What one piece of advice do you have for someone who wants to create their own tabletop game?
Actually, I do not know because this is my first and only game. We also made a round one now, but that is the same idea, just with four people. For new people, I would say, go to a party and make it the day after (laugh). No… just be fresh and don’t be secret about it. Show it to friends and family and don’t be afraid about people stealing your invention.
Remember when I did the kitchen thing, I would box it up when moving from my tool shed to my house so no one could see it. Since we are not doing medicine stuff or things for cars or anything for relevant to stealing from one another, I think you should just be open and playtest a lot and have fun with it. See people’s reactions.
There was a day when I won the trophy in Copenhagen for the game, there was a guy giving a speech and he said “the most important thing about board games if you look at many people playing different games, do not look at the games, look at the people”. If you see people having fun, then get excited. Get touched because then you don’t even have to look at the game you just know there is something underneath that is cool and that can be fun for people to play.
That’s my advice – be open, share it with other people, take in all the ideas they come with and use it in your game, the ones you think are relevant. And then try to meet some people.
11. And to end the Klask designer Mikkel Bertelsen interview on a light note – what is your favorite non-dexterity board game?
My favorite non-dexterity game is probably UNO or PARTNERS. I would say that they are very easy to access and it doesn’t take a long time. I think that is super fun, especially for a family game. That’s some other games. I do not think you would pull KLASK off the shelf sitting four people unless you have a little tournament, so these are fun choices for the family.
On that note, KLASK is super fun in the evening and with kids, but it is also great with a 8-year-old versus a 40-year-old. That is one other thing I link, you do not have to be pretending to be losing. Kids have great hand eye coordination, they are used to computer games. That is the good thing about KLASK, you can play different age brackets no problem.