Don’t Bop It, Sling It! KID Group’s Dan Klitsner on being inspired by medieval sausage slinging

Dan Klitsner, KID Group

Dan, you’re back! We’re tying in so often we should give you your own column…
Ok! What would we call that?

Oh, there’s got to be a good title… Klitsner’s Kolumn… With a K! Or Klitsner’s Korner!
How about ‘Klitsner Kan’t Stop Talking’? Most people who know me would definitely relate.

Perfect! Ha! That’s what we strive for at Mojo – relatable content! So… Last time we spoke, you mentioned a game called Sling It. Great name. Tell us about it!
Sling It is a game in which you’re trying to sling a sausage-shaped beanbag into a slot. It’s a bit like cornhole meets ax throwing. In fact, the best way to teach someone how to aim the long beanbags is to say, “Hold it like a sausage, throw it like an axe.”

Hold it like a sausage, throw it like an ax?
So simple, right? Interesting that some people ask: “What do you mean by hold it like a sausage?” But really… How many ways to hold a sausage could there actually be?

Hmmm. Something perhaps for readers to weigh in on.
Good idea! I’m truly looking forward to their insights…

How easy is it to throw?
Imagine the way you throw an axe – end over end. You’re doing that with a sausage-shaped bean bag. That’s why it’s called Sling It… You sling it, and when it hits the slot, it’s got this most satisfying ‘thwack’ noise. The first time I slung one and heard it smack into the slot, it was THE most satisfying feeling! Like the way people describe the feeling of hitting a golf ball perfectly… Do you play golf?

Dan Klitsner, KID Group

No, you’re kidding; I’ve got a spine like a pork rind!
Ha! Me neither… Too hard. Fortunately, Sling It is a lot easier. Most people succeed within a couple throws and they all say virtually the same thing: “Wow, that is SO satisfying!”

So how does the scoring work?
The centre slot is worth three points, the two adjacent to it are two points, and the slots on the outer sides are worth one. You’re trying to be the top slinger to sling your sausage in the centre slot – can you say that fast?

And obviously we can put photos in, but the the slots on the board are vertical, are they?
Yes, they’re vertical slots about 2 inches apart and 30 inches tall…

30 inches? About 80 centimetres… And how wide is it?
It’s about half as wide as a cornhole board – 14 inches; 35 centimetres – give or take. And unlike cornhole, which is more horizontal, Sling It stands up like a wall and tips back at a slight angle so you can play it on any surface. The key to the scoring is that it has a game mechanic similar to horseshoes: you can have a great shot and score well, but if someone lands their sausage higher than yours, your score is eliminated. So only the top sausage in each slot scores…

Dan Klitsner, KID Group

As is so often true…
Sure seems that way! But in games of skill, the top dog wins the points!

The top dog wins! You – ha! That’s good! It’s hard to talk about slinging the sausage without sniggering, but that top-dog scoring must make it seriously competitive?
Absolutely. Our mantra is ‘ridiculously social – seriously competitive’. On the last shot, you almost always get this situation where – if someone else has got a pretty good score – the other team or player might still have a little room left in the slot above their sausage…

And you can sling yours in to steal the points?
Exactly. When you see the board, you think it looks impossible. But you try it, and you find your sausage slapping down over the top of the other one in this little bit of slot – and it’ll stick there. So, as you say, it’s very competitive because there’s room for a little strategy… You have to make decisions as to which slot to go for. Can you make the shot and steal a slot?

Which would be amazingly satisfying!
I’ve never seen a game where people erupt screaming more than they do with that victory shot. The other thing about it is that it’s got this very scalable, adaptable quality. You can hang it on a wall or stand it in a pub and play from ten feet away, almost like darts, or you can set it up outdoors in the summer and play it at 30 feet on the beach…

Ha! You know, it’s only just occurred to me you COULD be pulling my leg, Dan – we’re speaking on April Fool’s Day! But no, there it is… Oh, look! The game looks great, Dan! That’s amazing!
And you know, even when people just hold the sausage beanbags, they start making the obvious jokes… We call it ‘ridiculously social’ because the goal of a social game – tailgate games – is to have fun with your friends, joke around and laugh. And sausage slinging, slots… You can imagine how people start making the jokes before they even play.

You’ve tested it a lot, have you?
We have! We’ve tested different sizes, different widths, different sausages. We’ve had many a contest at social gatherings and continued to refine it… In fact, as you know, my dear dad recently passed; he was 97 – but not too old to test this. He stood there with his walker, throwing sausages at the slots. And he just said, “This is a good one. I hope you make it!”

Dan Klitsner, KID Group

And was his verdict on games a useful barometer?
Oh, yes. I tested a lot of games with him because he experienced a very simple joy in them. If ever I got too sophisticated with things, he would be super polite, but I knew when he wasn’t crazy about an idea. He was usually right as well! But when I had something really good, he’d say, “That’s it!” And even when he was in the hospital, he’d ask about the sausage game every day. So it was a very meaningful game to work on last year because it was sort of something I did with my dad while he was sick. I would come into his room and the first thing you would ask is, “How’s the sausage game coming?”

I’m sniggering like a schoolboy every time we say sausage! So, now… You told me part of the backstory on this, the medieval part, but we should cover that here too. I think it’s hugely interesting…
Yes – quite a fortunate coincidence. A few years ago, I was on a bike trip in Majorca. And, if ever you go there, you’ll see – everywhere you go – giant sausages hanging up in the markets and shops… Spain has something similar but in Majorca especially, you see sausages in all these places. It’s called a sobrasada…

These are like spiced sausages? Like a chorizo?
Very much like a chorizo. But there’s this long, long history of sausage making there – it’s almost like a national dish; there’s great pride is this sobrasada… If you google it, you’ll find pictures of these amazing sausage shops with sobrasada hanging everywhere. And I was in an old historic market, talking to the actual sausage maker – I say “talking”! He didn’t speak English, but we were trying to communicate, and I saw this picture behind him of what looked like a very old – like, medieval – woodblock…

Dan Klitsner, KID Group

Like a picture of a woodblock print?
Right! A reproduction of a woodblock print. And it looked like the people in it were holding sausages, but there was also this wall with vertical slots in it, and it looked to me like they were throwing sausages at it. So when I asked about it, he gestured a lot with his hands at his chest, like: big, medium, small. And I was pretty sure he was explaining that this picture was showing how sausage makers used to actually throw their sobrasada at slotted walls or gates to test whether the sausage was made properly!

We’ll put a picture of the print in here, Dan, so people can see what we’re talking about…
That would make it easier! But what we derived from a bunch of other material since is that – in medieval times – sausage makers would throw their sobrasadas at the gates of the royal palace. If they went through the slot, they were too small. If they bounced off, they were too thick… But if they stuck, if they wedged between the slots of the bars, they were considered the perfect thickness and consistency.

Dan Klitsner, KID Group

So this was like a medieval game?
No, quite the opposite; they took it very, very seriously. It was part of a big contest that the entire village would watch – a yearly festival held on November 11 called dia de la sobrasada – ‘Day of the Sausages’. And evidently it was a custom – which still exists to this day – to make sobrasada in three different lengths but the same thickness – ALL of which had to wedge between the bars. Which is what I think the Majorcan sausage maker in the shop was trying to explain: that there are short sausages, medium sausages and long sausages. We’ve retained that custom in Sling It with three lengths of beanbags.

I’m worried this sounds too bizarre to be true! Are you sure about this?
Ha! I did wonder if I’d misinterpreted – maybe there’s a sausage-history expert out there that knows more about this?! But what we believe from other paintings and ceramic tiles that have surfaced is that the final contest was held in front of the royal palace gates while the king looked, and the sausage maker that wedged their sausage in the gate higher than all the others was crowned the Royal Sausage Maker leading the team of Royal Sausage handlers. I know it sounds odd – but then a lot of old customs do, don’t they? Running of the Bulls, curling, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade…

Well, coming from England – where we have Morris Dancing and bog snorkelling and cheese rolling – I’m always curious…
Cheese rolling, did you say?

Cheese rolling, yes! We have a festival in a place called Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire. Every year, thousands of people go there to watch 40 or 50 contestants chase a wheel of cheese down this frightfully steep hill! I don’t really know the origin of it. They’ve been doing it for five or six hundred years. So, yes… Cheese rolling. Welcome to England! Ha!
That’s clearly more unbelievable and dangerous than sausage slinging.

Dan Klitsner, KID Group

But that’s what I was going to say… I’m always curious when someone stumbles across a custom and has the good sense to say, “If you could put that tradition in a box, that might make a pretty good game…”
Right. So that’s exactly it. Since we started this project, new information is mysteriously materialising weekly, including this old video link that looks like it’s from the History Channel… Clearly, they believe that our conclusions are real.

So… When and why did you decide to turn it into a game?
That part is really interesting. There are actually two intersecting paths here. Five years ago, KID Group started working on a game called Slots. My amazing partner, Brian Clemens, had an insight… He saw challenges on YouTube of people trying to throw bread in the slot of a toaster, or CDs in the CD slot.

Right! I’ve seen those!
So we started working on that: throwing circular things – like a CD, or a donut, or a bagel – underarm so it disappears into a narrow slot. And we really liked that. It’s very satisfying because it looks much harder than it is. Even so, it was hard to find the right combination of materials, and it didn’t have the right feel to it. And while it wasn’t impossible, it WAS hard… So we were coming up with ways to score when you missed – and they weren’t very satisfying.

Yes, if you got it in, that would be incredible! But the number of times you’d miss would ultimately make it unsatisfying…
Exactly. So we kept it in mind, but we put it on the back burner. But going back to Sling It, what I learned from that trip to Majorca was that sausages sticking IN slots might work better than round things going THROUGH them. That sounds like such a small thing, but it made a big difference. It caused me to change the approach completely. When we got home, my wife – Alicia – made up this sausage beanbag prototype… I threw it at the slot, it stuck there perfectly on the first throw!

Dan Klitsner, KID Group

So that was one of those great inventor moments when I knew, “That’s it!” I took a video and sent it to Brian and Gary and said, “I think we have a solution for the slots-game problem!” We kept refining the feel for over two years – there was still a lot of work to do. We had to prove to ourselves that it was going to work. We’ve had 25 prototypes of it in all different sizes while we’ve uncovered more evidence of the tradition. It’s hard to believe how these two things intersected.

Is the sausage history now part of the marketing?
Of course! We want people to know that although it’s ridiculously social, it’s inspired by what we believe is a seriously competitive medieval sausage-slinging contest. As a side point, I will say that we’re looking for more pictures of that custom. If anybody knows about any images of the dia de la sobrasada, please let me know. I think it’s fascinating.

Dan Klitsner, KID Group

And am I right in saying that this is something you’re putting out on Kickstarter?
Yes, we’ve never done a Kickstarter before – but this doesn’t really fit the type of products that major toy companies launch. For this category of game, which we’re positioning as a backyard or tailgate game, we feel we need a grassroots launch. A lot of the successful games like this – Can Jam or Spikeball – start a bit more grassroots before they can become more of a mass-market game.

And because we can make it out of wood, it needs very little tooling. We’ve partnered with our friends at Get Movin’ Sports to manufacture the first 500 and make them available on Kickstarter – if those sell, we’ll make more.

So this is one of the reasons I wanted to come back to you pretty promptly, because – presumably – the Kickstarter gets underway soon?
Right. It starts on June 4th – but we’re trying to get people to sign up now. I’m going to make an appeal to every single person in the toy and game industry – as well as every relative and every random person who’s ever known us because we hear succeeding at a Kickstarter is much harder than it looks! We’d be grateful to anyone who backs it and, honestly, we feel pretty good about pleading because we’ve never believed in a game more.

Dan Klitsner, KID Group

This is something people will have a lot of fun at with their friends and family over the summer. You can sign the mailing list and see the game when you go to… Even if you don’t want to buy one, just send it to all your friends who love cornhole, ax throwing or tailgating – they will thank you. That’s my pitch!

So we’re going to sling it game dot com?
Yes. It was going to be sausage game dot com but we though better of it!

Understandably! The game looks great, though…
And it’s pretty universal… Doesn’t matter who you are, the game generates this great eruption of laughter. That’s why we say it’s ridiculously social. Also, we added a couple of other things. We wanted to represent the king in the design, so we added those crenellations at the top like a crown. If you throw a sausage there, and it flops over, it steals that entire slot. It’s a very tough shot to make, but if you want to go for a really tough shot, you can. That last-minute shot would be highly risky, but it might be you have to go for it to win the round.

Now, you may not know this, but we don’t often don’t usually cover stuff on Kickstarter… To be clear, though, you’re making 500 to sell elsewhere?
Yes, whether they sell on Kickstarter or not, we’re making those with Matt and Danny Nelson. They’re the guys we partnered with on Perplexus. They have a backyard-game business called Get Moving Games. And that’s where you’ll be able to buy it after the Kickstarter. So it’s not just a Kickstarter but we do want to socialise it and find a grassroots audience. Then, if a toy company wants to do a smaller-size version at retail, that’d be great. But for now, we’re just happy to do it this way. It’s super fun! And we hope, too, that people in the toy industry will see it at a game convention…

Dan Klitsner, KID Group

Where might we see it?
Kublacon for sure. It’s about a 4,000-person game convention in San Francisco We’re going to have a tournament there. That’s in May, right before the Kickstarter. We’re also hoping to have a gigantic version at the Gen Con Block Party. You might also see it at the Mojo Nation event in June… We’re also going to try and set up a giant one in Essen for October Fest – because why wouldn’t you have a sausage-slinging game during October Fest?!

Quite so – makes absolute sense! Let’s end on a jolly good plug, then. We’ll put sign-up address in here and that web address again so people can just click and support it.
That would be amazing! The web address is It’ll probably also be at as well.

Wonderful. Thank you so much, Dan. Happy sausage slinging!

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