Have you ever been stuck inside on a freezing night and looked in the cupboard for a board game to play only to find nothing interesting? What’d you do next? Did you flop down on the sofa and watch a recorded episode of American Inventor, or did you jump into action and make your own? Kate Ryan Reiling did just that.

Kate Ryan Reiling’s big idea came on a freezing Minnesota night in 2002. It was too cold to venture out, so Reiling and her friends decided to stay in and play board games. They didn’t like their choices—Jenga or Pente—so they opted to invent their own game.

What they came up with was something similar to a 3D version of Pictionary. A member of a team picks a word, and using an assortment of objects, such as string, glass beads, colored cubes, and wooden sticks, she builds the word for her teammates to guess before time runs out.

After an evening of combining blocks, beads, and words from a Spanish-English dictionary, the night ended for everyone but Reiling. “I was amazed at how much fun we had,” she says. “I asked [them] if I could take the idea and run with it.”

The next day Reiling raided her local craft supply store, buying objects she could use for the game. She brainstormed words that could be “built”—such as “butterfly,” “pizza,” and “lightbulb”—and wrote them on the back of old business cards. Then, for the next few months, she lured friends over with promises of chili dinners and coaxed them into playing different versions of what would eventually become Morphology. In an early version of the game, she tested a random selection of objects, but after watching people play, she realized the simplest pieces were the ones most often used. After that, she focused on incorporating simple shapes and ordinary objects, like string and blocks.

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