The Story

The Origin of Threaten

In 1992, 24-year-old college student Daniel School was losing his future wife’s attention by playing too much chess with his cousin Chris. He figured the only way to save the relationship was to create a piece moving, piece capturing game that could be played with three people. (A gamer solves relationship issue by creating another game. Go figure.) In one night, with the help of some tag board and an almost empty pizza box, Dan made the board, pieces were cut out and fashioned, (sorry about the cheese) and rules were drawn out. He called Chris over that night and showed him what he had devised and created. Within two weeks they introduced their friend Dean to the game, started playing together, and tightened up how to play. The original play testing had begun.

From left to right, Daniel School. Rodney Vellinga, James Becher
The mechanics were right early on, and the game played extremely well. But something surprised Daniel. There were elements to playing with 3 people that changed the interactions from what he was used to with two. You could still be the most experienced player and lose. Game knowledge, experience and strategy mattered but things were very unpredictable. A set style of play guaranteed nothing. Adaptability mattered. So did knowing your opponent’s personalities and tendencies. Trust? You needed it at times here. You needed to rely on others at certain points of the game. Or did you?

Time spent overseas as a member of the National Guard introduced Dan to piece moving, piece capturing games from around the world. He spent time playing Janggi in South Korea, which influenced his ideas on piece movement & capturing and the unique subtleties the variations created. Some similarities, some differences. Some things familiar, some things not. The combination made Threaten very unique and distinct. No game looked like another when you played, and things that appeared in one match may not be seen again for a hundred games on. It was really good.

Despite the early excitement, it was the 1990’s. A limited do it yourself world. Families to raise, mortgages to pay, clocks to punch. Years passed and others were taught to play but never with any written rules. Dan made versions of the game in his basement woodshop in Baraboo, Wisconsin while he worked to restore his 131-year-old East Lake Victorian style fixer upper and recruit full time for the National Guard. The game went through different name changes, rule books and themes as most games do, and at times even went through years of collecting dust.

As time went on, Dan introduced us brother in laws, Rodney Vellinga and Jim Becher to the game. In the early 2000’s, we played with kids on our lap and stayed up on the regular to 3 am (maybe that was 5 am?) on summer nights at the cottage in Holland, Michigan. We played hundreds and hundreds of times. As people married in and the kids started coming, we kept playing. The kids started playing. Nephews, nieces and friends joined in. It wasn’t getting old. It kept its place in the rotation with Settlers, Seven Wonders, Dominion, King of Tokyo, Machi Koro, Wingspan and the like.

We continually made more wooden versions of the game and came up with different shapes for a few of the pieces. It always had the potential to be something we thought. Why couldn’t it be if we kept playing it after all these years?

We would do something with it someday. Make the game. For real. Good intentions many a time, but timing. Timing mattered and we weren’t ready. 2005 turns into 2011 turns into 2019. Twenty years goes by and the boys with kids on their lap have kids in college.

It’s been four years now. Four years of learning what we are good at, what each of us brings to the table and how to do it together. Lots of experimentation with artwork, materials, colors, manufacturing, writing, etc. A lot to learn and not a strong desire to mess it up.

So here we are in 2023! A game that has been made out of wood on basement jigsaws for the past quarter century plus, is now making its way to you! Play happens the same way it did with the pizza box pieces and tag board back in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1992.

So join us! Join Threaten and get it in your rotation. The game is waiting for you. Enjoy the comradery it brings out in your friendships, the anxiousness it gives you between turns, and the satisfaction you get from emerging as the victor.

Strategy. Adaptability. Relationships. Manipulation. They all matter here.

How well do you really know those around you?

Threaten or be Threatened!

Threaten Through the Years

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