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Skidmore College

Growth in gaming for Leaf Pile Media

January 5, 2016

Ian VanNest, Walter Barber, and Andrew Zimmerman always had big dreams for Champions of Hara, the action-adventure board game they developed as roommates at Skidmore.

Leaf Pile Media
Walter Barber, Ian VanNest, and Andrew Zimmerman

Those dreams got a boost in 2014, their senior year, when their Leaf Pile Media startup won the $20,000 top prize in Skidmore's Kenneth A. Freirich Business Plan Competition. They grew last spring when the trio raised $22,000 in a successful Kickstarter campaign. Now they've ballooned again, thanks to a deal with Massachusetts-based Greenbrier Games Inc., which has paid for distribution rights to Champions of Hara and committed to publishing and distributing the board game online and in stores. Leaf Pile retains the intellectual property, so it's free to develop its concept in other media, such as video games and graphic novels.

To play Champions is to be challenged to save the world of Hara from the chaos of the Conflux, a mysterious force that lets Hara's primal sources of energy rage out of control. Journeying across Hara's shifting planes and unlocking new powers along the way, players forge alliances, battle epic monsters, and square off against friends and foes alike.

VanNest says the game was a big hit last summer at Gen Con, the world's largest gaming convention. A number of publishers expressed interest, and Greenbrier turned out to be the best fit. VanNest has now moved to Seattle, to be able to network in that city's vibrant gaming community. The Greenbriar deal is "enabling us to take Champions to an entirely new level," he says. "Their artists are miniaturizing our heroes into playable figures, and we're creating new heroes and boss monsters."

News of the partnership with Greenbrier—which recently raised $500,000 in a Kickstarter campaign for one of its games—has been warmly received by Leaf Pile's backers, even though it means they won't receive their copies of the game until next fall. "Super-excited for you guys," one backer posted. "I'm happy to be along for the ride." 

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