Fair Games

Fair Games

New Havener Matt Fantastic Athanasios Loter has a name that stands out in a crowd, and a look to match. At board game conventions, he’s easy to pick out: burly, carefully coiffed, heavily tattooed—and dressed as a princess.

Many people think the costuming is just a marketing strategy to promote his fledgling board and card game company, Prettiest Princess Games, but in reality the outfit came first. “It’s been a thing ever since I was a little kid. I used to just run around in dresses all the time.” As he grew older, he wore dresses less often. “I got a little more caught up in the idea of conforming to heteronormative social behavior,” he confesses. But on Halloween, and every time he could get away with it, he’d dress up as a girl, or better yet, a princess.

“I think it’s fun. I think it’s funny,” Loter says. “When I go out in dresses I have the best time.” He finds it’s an automatic filter for the people he wants to know and those he doesn’t. If you’re put-off by a man in a dress, “odds are I didn’t want to waste time talking to you anyway.”

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In the board gaming world, Loter has found plenty of people worth talking to. When family time means Dungeons & Dragons and a visit to grandpa means pinochle, it becomes a part of you. Since his late teens and early twenties, he’s been running booths at gaming conventions and making friends in the industry. So when Loter wanted to fuse his love for games with his eccentric, gender-bending spirit into a business, the endeavor practically named itself.

Prettiest Princess Games was founded in mid-2013. This past month, after a few setbacks involving artwork delays, PPG came out with its first official release, Bearanoia ($5 plus shipping), designed by Jasmine Davis and Pete Butler. It premiered at Internationale Spieltage SPIEL in Germany—the largest board game fair in the world—and sold out. Loter ordered another printing for the Pax Australia convention in Melbourne, Australia, where it sold out again.

Simple and ludicrous, Bearanoia’s info card lays out the backstory for the game: “You’ve just arrived at your first day of camp but there’s a problem… one of you is a bear!” Three to 15 players are dealt a single face-down card marking their identity as either a camper, a bear cultist or the bear, who can only growl. Players talk in an effort to figure out who’s who, accusing one another until a consensus decides who in the circle is to be “killed.” The campers try to kill the bear, the bear cultists growl trying to fool campers into killing them and the bear tries to divert attention towards anyone else.

To add complexity and absurdity, there’s a time-crunch—each round is just 60 seconds—and there are plenty of optional rules and specialty cards. You might quickly find yourself at a table with talking bears, celebrity impersonators, a “camp commando” and a koala. Two specialty promo cards, not part of the base deck, allow you to play as either a bear dressed as a princess, or Loter himself—also dressed as a princess, of course.

The next PPG game, forthcoming, was intended to be the company’s first: Glamazons vs. The Curse of the Chainmail Bikini (pre-order for $25). Loter’s own invention, the game lampoons the non-functional, nearly nonexistent suits of armor often given to female characters in fantasy-genre video and board games. In Glamazons, each player starts out as a female warrior in search of a decent suit of armor, but the only things available at the blacksmith’s are chainmail bikinis. Players set out to fight goblins, dragons and the like to assemble a complete suit. The first one to be fully clad wins.

Loter loves seeing his zany ideas coalesce into something that other people enjoy. But as with his dresses, he likes to have his fun at the expense of stereotypes and gender boundaries.

You can often find Loter at Happiness Lab’s board game night every other Thursday, where he and others from the local gaming meetup (which he helps run) might be play-testing something in development. Even if you don’t see yourself as a gamer, you might be surprised at the fun you can have.

“Everyone enjoys games,” Loter says. “It’s just about finding the right game.”

Prettiest Princess Games
81 Beacon Ave, New Haven (map)
(203) 524-5756 | PrettiestPrincessGames@gmail.com

Written and photographed by Daniel Shkolnik.

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