(AllHipHop News) Today (March 30th) is "International Tabletop Day." A day, promoted by popular YouTube channel Geek & Sundry, that is dedicated to building bonds with friends and family by playing card and board games at home and at local events across the globe.
So how can Hip-Hop help celebrate having fun on "Tabletop Day?"
One self-financed start-up company based in Boston, Massachusetts has filled in the rap void in the tabletop world by combining freestyling and gaming in the new Legend of the Cipher.
Noticing the lack of strategy card games involving Hip-Hop, co-founders Ben Sanchez and Todd Anderson created Legend of the Cipher as a combination of Hip-Hop karaoke and Magic: The Gathering.
Anderson and Sanchez were later joined by rapper Seth Brown and graphic designer Zeen Rachidi as the four Hip-Hop heads continuously strived to answer the question: How can we take Hip-Hop and convert it to the tabletop medium?
After three years of development and two failed versions, the team finally hit the right note with the rendition displayed at this year's PAX East gaming showcase in Boston. Now Legend of the Cipher is available for the general public to purchase and play, and not just by people who are already invested in Hip-Hop or gaming.
"We have video [from Pax East] of people who have never rapped in their lives, have no interest in Hip-Hop, don't listen to it, come sit down play our game and are rapping inside of forty-five minutes," says Rachidi.
The way the game works is that each person plays as an emcee trying to become the "legend of the cipher" by successfully achieving 5 different levels - local, nice, boss, icon, and then legend. Players level up by accumulating currency in the form of "hype" which is collected as your career grows throughout the game.
In order to earn more "hype" and get to perform at larger venues, players have to buy more opportunities by rapping a certain number of bars based on the cards in their hand.
The game can be played "raps on" or "raps off." In the "raps on" format the player has to actually rap out loud in order to receive a reward. Players have a choice to read printed lyrics on the selected card, freestyle their own lyrics, recite bars from their favorite rapper, or perform a rap cover of other songs.
Beyond the fun of pretending to be an aspiring emcee looking for fame and fortune, Legend of the Cipher also ties in the business aspect of the rap industry which allows participants to get a better understanding of the non-musical parts of what it takes to be a rap star.
"This is a real life skill that you are learning that you can transpose into the real world," adds Rachidi. "Not a lot of games offer that."
There are particular cards called "Moves" (wild cards that affect the game like the "flip the script" card which gives you an edge when you challenge another rapper who is at a higher level), "Crew" (employees like promoters, producers, and lawyers that are paid to assist you), "Ventures" (businesses that can be purchased like independent record labels that can earn you more currency), "Shine" (items you can buy like chains, vehicles, and clothes that can earn you more hype), and "Allies" (real underground artists like Wax, EOM, Alyssa Marie, and Prince Ea that you can collaborate with.)
The "Allies" stable will continue to expand as more and more independent artists with growing fanbases are added to cards available to buy online. Each artist will also have a profile on the LOC website with links to each rapper's various social media sites.
This allows players of the game to continue to discover new rising rappers, and for those rappers to expand their reach to a growing audience.
New "Moves" and "Crew" cards will also be added, and eventually the creators of LOC want to incorporate real life executives, managers, promoters, famous venues, and other authentic rap related people and places into the game.
Theteam is already talking about producing All-Female, Dirty South, East Coast, West Coast, and overseas expansions as well.
Legend of the Cipher is a game that salutes and promotes Hip-Hop culture by providing a virtual blueprint on how to make it in the rap music industry, but it can also be an effective classroom tool.
"We had a teacher from Brooklyn say that she could write a lesson plan around our game," says Rachidi. "She could incorporate it into her program because it teaches kids skills like creative writing and public speaking. It also teaches basic business skills."
Initially, Rachidi, Anderson, Sanchez, and Brown thought Legend of the Cipher's target audience would be a niche market of Hip-Hop fans who were also tabletop gamers, but they soon discovered that the interest group for their product was much larger than expected.
Hip-Hop has become so extensive that people of different races, ages, and interests can all find some part of the culture that they can latch on to. Gaming is just the latest realm impacted by one of the most influential cultural creations in human history.
"Hip-Hop is such a vast and diverse ecosystem that there is something for everybody," Rachidi gladly acknowledges. "I don't care how weird you are there is someone just as weird as you out there rapping about what you love."
With Legend of the Cipher, now anyone can learn to rap about that thing they love too- no matter how weird.
For more information about Legend of the Cipher visit www.legendofthecipher.com/.
To connect with LOC follow them @Cipher_Legend.
Watch video of Legend of the Cipher highlights at Pax East 2013 below.