Looking for Mr. Right can feel a lot like fun and games.
Just ask friends Alys Daly and Victoria Brewer, who grew tired of talking about their misadventures in South Florida dating. Rather than write a tell-all book to help other women, the pals literally thought outside the box and created a dating-themed board game, "Landing Mr. Right."
"Dating can be a very debilitating situation if you let it be. The game was about building camaraderie and having support,'' said Daly, 44, a public relations professional who lives in West Palm Beach. "Some of your worst dates can turn out to be some of the funniest and most hilarious stories."
With its winding path of pink, white and purple spaces, the game looks a lot like the classic "Candy Land" kids' game, but is aimed at women and gay men. The idea: A group of friends getting together to play and chat about their dating disasters and what they want in Mr. Right.
The women don't see themselves as dating experts, but they think their stories and those of other players can help build a supportive circle of shared experiences.
"Getting in the [dating] game is a scary process and bonding with your friends, sharing your story, and knowing that you are not alone out there puts the fun back in dating,'' said Brewer, 55, a Palm Beach real estate agent who is divorced.
The concept came about two years ago after Daly came out of a longterm relationship. She began dating online, which led to some really bad but memorable dates, she said.
She met one such date for happy hour. "He told me his ex-girlfriend was in real estate … so I asked how she was doing. I was expecting him to say something like, 'Oh, she's getting along, or she's in a new industry.' Instead his response was, 'She struggles with her weight.'
"I thought I had misunderstood him until he elaborated. 'You know, she's a big girl.' All I could think was what a jerk — and then, what is he going to be saying about me six months from now?''
Daly said another date offered to buy her breast implants. "As a 34-C, I thought I was doing OK," said Daly, who never went out with the guy again.
In sharing those stories with Brewer, "Landing Mr. Right" was born.
For inspiration, the pair studied (and played with) other popular games including "Monopoly'' and "Mystery Date," in addition to "Candy Land." They put up about $10,000 of their own money to build early game prototypes, a website and a promotional video.
Then last summer, they introduced their concept to the crowd fundraising site, Kickstarter.com, and asked for $15,000 to produce the first run of 1,000 games through manufacturer DeLano Services in Michigan. Depending on the amount donated, contributors received gifts such as a charm bracelet, a signed copy of the game and a T-shirt. In all, Brewer and Daly raised their goal plus an additional $500 from a total of 89 supporters.
In December, The Palm Beach Book Store in Palm Beach hosted a game launch party for Brewer and Daly. The game is available for purchase for $24.99 at the book store, as well as at To The Moon Marketplace in Wilton Manors, the PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens and online at landingmrright.com.
"They had people playing it and it looked like fun,'' said store owner Candice Cohen. "I thought it would be something unique in this store. We have had people coming in and asking for it."
The game is getting around, thanks to social media. Its Twitter account, @landingmright, has 17,000followers and its Facebook page has more than 2,500 likes since October.
But the ladies behind "Mr. Right" want to find more people to play with, so to speak. Last month, they set up a booth at the annual Toy Fair expo in New York City, where they promoted the game and met with distributors and retailer representatives.
"A great addition to girls' weekend or nights in on a college campus, 'Landing Mr. Right' allows you to have fun while getting to know your girlfriends a little better," according to a reviewer for The Toy Insider magazine.
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How do you play?
Roll the die to move along the board. When a piece lands on a heart-shaped date space, you pick a card and decide whom to go on date with: the dapper CEO, the Robert Redford-esque Blue Blood, the Techno-Geek, the beer-carrying Regular Guy, the hunky Triathlete, or the sexy Rock Star (a dead ringer for singer Enrique Iglesias). Read the card about your date out loud, then move your piece to the destination given by the card.
Move forward or backward on the board depending on the roll and space you land on. And, as in life, you have to watch out for "Red Flags,'' spaces that you land on with instructions such as: "He's 3 inches shorter and 40 pounds heavier than his online profile, move back three spaces."
There also are "Your Story" cards that ask questions to spark group discussions. One question on a card asks: "The Statue of Liberty comes to life and asks you to define freedom in a relationship. What do you tell her?"
Along the path, you have shortcuts as well, such as "Rose Alley" and "Fashionista Freeway." Whoever reaches the "Mr. Right" spot wins.
Up to six people can play.