Fun Times

Did This Houstonian Just Reinvent the Board Game?

Neal Murthy says Sedis is the first new physical game platform—think cards or dominoes—in 600 years.

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen April 27, 2017

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Sedis: 60 tiles, six sides, five pips, infinite possibilities.

According to Neal Murthy, the last time a new physical gaming system or platform hit the scene was 600 years ago, when French international playing cards—known today as the standard 52-card deck—rose to prominence. Murthy thinks he's invented the next one. He calls it Sedis.

Murthy, a Houstonian who describes himself as a serial entrepreneur, has been designing games as a hobby for 30 years—since he was 11. But when the idea behind Sedis came to him in a dream five years ago, he knew this one was different. 

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Sedis inventor and Nefer Games chief game designer Neal Murthy

Unlike Monopoly, for example, Sedis isn't designed as a single game with a standard set of rules. It's more like cards or dominoes—a platform out of which an infinite number of games can emerge. It's made up of 60 hexagonal wooden tiles with a series of five filled or blank dots, or pips, on each side. How do you play? That's what Murthy wants you to figure out. 

"The first person to see Sedis besides myself and [my business partner Mike Korupp] was my niece. I hadn’t thought of any games, I didn’t really know what it was, and she created the first Sedis game herself," says Murthy. They named her original game Honeycomb—it involves laying out the tiles by matching the arrangement of the pips on sides facing each other, and seems to be the most natural game that people are drawn to when faced with the tiles.

"We put Sedis tiles in front of people and ask them how they’d play it. They get taken aback, especially the adults—they're used to rules. But 95 percent of the time or more they create something like Honeycomb: take the tile, line it up with other tiles, count matching pips, it's a very natural thing for people to do," he says. "The other thing kids do is stack them up and build things. On Facebook there's a picture of a Sedis tower, its our version of a house of cards or a domino rally."

Murthy and his team at Nefer Games have invented a dozen games for Sedis that are explained on their website—some are for solo play, some are collaborative and some are battle-inspired. One is called Blüf, which sounds fun. They play even more games with Sedis internally, as they imagine how different game mechanic would affect play—what if people trade tiles? If you rotate them? Murthy hopes that the concept inspires people to invent more of their own games and share them with what he hopes will become a global Sedis community. 

To that end, Nefer Games launched Sedis on Kickstarter on Thursday, hoping to attract fans as well as capital. Anyone pledging at least $45 or more gets a Sedis set made of birch with laser-etched pips; higher bids up the rewards with tiles made of cherrywood and other fancy extras. 

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The team at Nefer Games has mostly focused on the online community for Sedis, but with the official launch they will be playing in and around Houston as well. Tonight the company is hosting a launch party at Under the Radar Brewery, and Murthy says they are hoping to bring Sedis to events like the board game night every Wednesday at Rudyard's in Montrose.

"I do think that Sedis is truly innovative. There's been nothing even remotely like it in at least 600 years," says Murthy. "Our entire game company is conceived of to go out there and help build better social connections through games. ... The reviews we’ve gotten are generally positive but the reviewers say things like, 'Creating your own game is hard.' Yeah, it's hard! The only way to make it easier is to practice, to go play and go create. I see families sitting around not only playing games together but also creating games together. It’s a really overwhelming feeling I get when I see that, because you can see the spark in people's eyes."

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