Half Truth, a trivia party game by “Jeopardy!” legend Ken Jennings and “Magic: The Gathering” creator Richard Garfield — both Seattle-area locals — has raised over a quarter-million dollars from more than 7,000 backers so far on its Kickstarter campaign, which ends later this week.
We caught up with Edmonds, Wash., native Jennings, most famous for his 74-game Jeopardy winning streak, and legendary game designer Garfield to learn how they came up with the game and why they’re releasing it via Kickstarter. We also found out what else Jennings is up to these days beyond the realm of trivia.
Jennings originally connected with Garfield ten years ago when Garfield sent what Jennings describes as “the nicest email I’ve ever received in my life” praising his book “Brainiac” and proposing that the two team up to make a new game that would “re-think trivia games.”
After working for about a decade to perfect the game with Garfield, the timing of Half Truth’s release worked out well for Jennings. This year he is riding a renewed wave of publicity thanks to James Holzhauer’s recent Jeopardy run, during which he came within $60,000 of breaking Jennings’ Jeopardy record of $2,522,700.
However, launching the Kickstarter in the same year as “Jeopardy James’ ” streak was more serendipitous than strategic for Jennings. Between design, playtesting, refining, strategizing, and some time-consuming rights issues with a European games publisher, 2019 just happened to be when the game was finally ready to release to the public.
Despite having dozens of games to his credit, Half Truth marks the first time Garfield has gone to Kickstarter for one of his games.
“With this game, it seemed important to develop a community before the release, both to direct the future of the game and to find an audience,” explained Garfield. “Half Truth is designed to be more inclusive than most trivia games, to explore this notion that Ken had in his book Braniac, that everyone knows more than they think they do. I felt more comfortable centering the release on a dialogue with players than handing it off to a traditional publisher.”
“You get people excited about it, talking about what kinds of questions they want to see,” added Jennings. “That’s something you don’t get with a traditional release. Kickstarter is really good at building that kind of enthusiastic community.”
In response to the success of the campaign so far, Garfield commented: “The reception has been great, and the chance to have that dialogue has been gratifying. Ken and I have talked to a lot of folk and learned good ways to explain why players who might not normally like trivia might find Half Truth fun, and how more traditional trivia enthusiasts might appreciate a game that brings together more people into a genre they already love.”
Eagle-eyed Seattle-area gamers may recognize the location where the Kickstarter video was filmed as Mox Boarding House in Bellevue, a popular board game store and hangout. Since both Jennings and Richard are Seattle-area locals, the location was a natural spot to highlight the game. Unrelated to Half Truth, Jennings also co-hosts a podcast called Omnibus with another local celebrity, rock musician John Roderick (formerly of the band Harvey Danger).
For Jennings, this is the bottom line about Half Truth: “It doesn’t make you feel dumb,” he says. “People tend to be better at trivia than they think. You’ll be constantly surprised by what you actually know.”