Local woman's new board game 'Philosopher'

By Mike Genet
The Examiner

About six months ago, while family stayed in town visiting, Loni Bernard had a bit of an epiphany. 

A board and card game enthusiast, she and her family had been playing UNO, Monopoly, Sorry, Apples to Apples and other popular games – just like many other families and groups of people embraced or rediscovered during the pandemic. 

Loni Bernard and husband Mike play Bernard’s new card game Philosopher in their Eastern Jackson County home.

“We were playing family-style games, and I was thinking of people and how the games we play are often so shallow,” Bernard said. “You’re trying to win, but you didn’t learn anything about other people. I wanted to have deeper bonds with friends and family, and I wanted to come up with a game that’s bigger than winning and strategy.” 

Such was born Philosopher, a table-top card game with a concept similar to Apples to Apples – or its raunchier cousin Cards Against Humanity. Except in Philosopher, instead of filling the blanks, each player receives a handful of viewpoint cards, the philosopher picks up topic card and other players (devotees) play a viewpoint card from their hand that they believe aligns with the philosopher’s beliefs. The philosopher chooses a viewpoint card, and the idea is that some thoughtful conversation ensues. Up to 25 people can play. 

“It’s educating everyone on things they may not know about each other,” Bernard said, adding that some friends who have given the game a trial run say some topical conversations last days afterwards. 

Bernard owns Lotus Key Homes in Independence and with her husband has real estate ventures around the city and owns and operates the Milo Farm camping and retreat grounds between Grain Valley and Buckner. She hopes to launch of her new game this week on the crowdfunding site kickstarter.com, where people can contribute to help individual get their various creative arts ventures off the ground. Contributors receive a first-edition copy of Philosopher, and Bernard promises to hand-deliver any copies to contributors in the metro area. 

“I’d like to get this into as many hands as possible,” she said, “and I’d love to see it in different languages.” 

Game Cafe on the Independence Square has an example copy of Philosopher, and store manager Jonathan Reinig said it’s a unique game that’s been making the rounds with employees. 

“It definitely feels a niche that doesn’t exist,” he said, referring to how Philosopher is similar to Apples to Apples but with the opposite interplay. “It’s super easy to play, super easy to teach and encourages table talk, which I’m always for.” 

If Bernard’s game catches on a bit, she’ll be joining a bit of resurgence in games during the pandemic. National game makers have reported rising sales over the past year, and Reinig said after a terrifying first couple months in the pandemic, wondering if Game Cafe and similar such stores would remain, sales have been steady and higher since doors reopened. 

“Once we were able to open the doors again, sales have been crazy – two to three times what they normally would be,” Reinig said.  

The store did online sales and deliveries in the early months. But as soon as people could come into the store again physically, even with masks and social distancing in place and limited opportunities for community game play, sales have been strong. 

Reining said they’ve actually increased staffing some and had some rare instances of product shortages, “which in this industry is kind of bizarre.” 

“I have no prediction whether or not this will continue,” he said. “We’re just kind of riding the lightning.”