GTM #219 - Happy Planet: A New Line of - No, a New Genre of - Games.
By Matt Mariani, North Star Games

Happy Planet: A New Line of - No, a New Genre of - Games.

Imagine that you just finished playing a brand-new game…You find yourself smiling ear-to-ear, laughing, you don’t care who won, and you just want to play again. Take a look at that game’s label. Chances are you just finished playing a Happy Planet game.

As gamers, we know what to expect from our favorite games. They are beautiful to look at, filled with strategic choices, and they can entertain us for hours.  That’s what good games are supposed to do. We can all celebrate that.

But recently a paradigm shift has occurred at the offices of North Star Games. Something so profound we all looked around at each other with looks that ranged from glee, to wonder, to even fear. We are in the midst of creating a brand-new line of games. Dare we say, we could actually be creating a brand-new category of games. The line is called Happy Planet. And these games achieve one main goal: They raise the happiness level of everyone playing. Yep, these games make people happier!

But before going further, we take a step back. We need to explain how we got here.

Two years ago, North Star Games launched a new game called Happy Salmon. This game was simply the doofiest game we have ever made. And if I try to describe it to you, I’ll utterly fail to convey why it’s good. You’ll think it’s the dumbest idea you’ve ever heard. The game has been a smashing success, and in-between taking orders and frantically shipping out product, we noticed something every time we watched people play. Players finished with gigantic smiles on their faces (often bucked-over with laughter), they didn’t care who won, and they wanted to play again. In short, playing Happy Salmon lifted the mood of every single person in the game.

Eureka! We’ve never seen a game do this!  We thought a lot about why Happy Salmon makes everyone happier. And after figuring it out, we came up with a name for a new line of games that successfully achieves one main goal: To raise the happiness level of everyone playing.

Happy Planet Games.

Before introducing these games, we should first describe the criteria used. Every Happy Planet game has been tested and certified to do the following: generate laughs while playing, create an active and energized experience, learn in less than 1 minute, and encourage 100% focus while playing.

So what we needed was more doofy game ideas.  A lot of the game ideas we looked at were not doofy enough.

However, a few of them were. The games good enough to join Happy Salmon in the Happy Planet line include Funky Chicken and Monster Match. The gameplay of both meet all the criteria - And adding to the happiness factor, the packaging is down-right amazing!

So now the Happy Planet line has three games:

Happy Salmon

Happy Salmon is the simple, fast-paced card game for 3-6 players that gets everyone moving and laughing in under two minutes. Players simultaneously call out the actions “High-5”, “Pound It”, “Switcheroo”, and “Happy Salmon”. When two players match, they celebrate by performing the action together and discarding their card. The first player to discard all of their cards wins.   If you want to up the insanity, get blue Happy Salmon, the original is green, so you can have up to 12 players!

Funky Chicken

Take all the excitement of Happy Salmon, add funky dance moves, pack it in a chicken, and you’ve got... Funky Chicken! You’ll be spinning in place, hip-bumping, swinging with your partner and, of course, doing the iconic “Funky Chicken”. Play Funky Chicken by itself or combine it with green Happy Salmon for even more happiness.

Monster Match

Monster Match is the screaming-fast game of catching cute, donut-eating monsters. Players roll the special “Monster Dice” and race to find a monster that matches the dice rolled. How fast can you find a monster with 3 eyes...or 4 arms? Just be faster than the other players to win donut points! But watch out... if you go too fast, you might catch the wrong monster and lose your donuts!

Alright gamers - enough of the serious number crunching, long term strategery stuff – it is time to get happy!  Here’s to new games, new genres, and to a happier 2018 for all of us.


Matt Mariani has worked for North Star Games for close to 10 years. A 30-year veteran in the game industry, Matt has developed and promoted hundreds of games, including Abalone, the Star Wars Customizable Card Game, Apples to Apples and Blink. In 2018, he’s back at it by helping with the re-design of North Star’s most popular games: Wits & Wagers and Say Anything.