Toy suppliers come to Toy Fair to sell their toys, of course, but for board/card/party game manufacturer McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds, a chance Toy Fair encounter two years ago led to a country music-themed edition of its award-winning word game You’ve been Sentenced!
“The original idea came from one of our employees in a brainstorming session,” says VP Susan McNeill. “We had quite a few other ideas, too–like wild animals/natural history, to be marketed at zoos, aquariums and museums, and a history game with a companion ‘dictionary.’”
Then CEO/chairman/inventor (and McNeill’s husband) Don McNeill met a man at Toy Fair from Nashville, who told him that if he wanted to work in the world of country music, he needed to know Music Row insider Preshias Harris.
“That really got the ball rolling,” says McNeill, crediting Harris for helping come up with the country You’ve Been Sentenced! version’s words and stars, and organize promotional trade events including an all-star tournament last June at the Hard Rock during Nashville’s Country Music Fest (won by LoCash Cowboys’ Preston Brust) and a celebrity guitar-signing.
The McNeills had first thought about merely producing a country music “Add-on Deck” of cards to go with the original You’ve Been Sentenced! sentence-building game “system,” which employs 540 cards with over 2,500 words. Geared to ages eight and up, it has extensive rule variations available at the company’s website, and can be expanded with the Add-on Decks “Gourmet Cuisine,” “Pop Culture,” “NASA Space Terminology,” “Sci-fi and Fantasy” and “Sports Highlights.”
But country music offered so much in terms of words found in traditional country, new country and crossover country/rock songs, not to mention country music artists, song titles and lyrics, that a dedicated You’ve Been Sentenced! country version was warranted. It has brought such words and phrases as “deep-fried Oreos,” “calf-roping” and “Dairy Princess” into play while enlisting the support of artists including Neal McCoy, Buddy Jewell, Ty Herndon and Brust, whose tournament-winning sentence read “Crop duster, Mark Wills, freaked out and kicked sweet Band Perry’s nervous rear end backstage!”—and is featured in the new game’s initial print run.
As in the original, players simply deal a hand of 10 cards and start to build a sentence, which is then read out loud and submitted to the other players for approval. The number of game cards and words ensures unlimited variation and replay value; a “lesson plan” is included to turn the game into a classroom teaching tool for learning grammar and sentence construction.
You’ve Been Sentenced! has won numerous awards (including Creative Child Magazine’s Seal of Excellence, and National Parenting’s Seal of Approval), and You’ve Been Sentenced! Country Music Edition has followed suit with The Dice Tower’s Seal of Approval, an honor that recognizes the best in card, word, board and role-playing games.
McNeill Designs donates a portion of sales of You’ve been Sentenced! to Success Won’t Wait, Inc., a non-profit organization that helps fight illiteracy through the distribution of books.
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