Jorge Salas’ Fuego! Game
● By Melissa Mendonca
It's All Fun and Games
Story by Melissa Mendonca
Photos by Sunshine Rush
IT SEEMS INEVITABLE now that Jorge Salas would have developed his own card game. The aficionado of board and card games has never played a game he didn't think he could make better.
“I always loved games and every game that we have bought and played, I've always changed the rules,” says the Chico-based school counselor. “It was already good, but I'd think, ‘I can make this better.’”
He had reason to try. The 54-year-old husband and father of two daughters, Alicia and Adriana, enjoys family game nights and also coaches an even more critical audience, the Chico Junior High School Game Club, both after school and at lunch.
Not content to just hand his students a simple deck of cards or a board game, Salas arranged a complex variation of the popular card game Uno that involved five decks and dice. “And the kids loved it,” he says with joy in his voice. “We played that one forever.” The game also had staying power on vacations with family and friends of all ages, as well as in his household. He knew he was onto something.
Salas was born in Costa Rica and moved to Florida when he was 14, eventually finding his way to Redding, where his mom lived, and Shasta College. He became housemates with his Red Lion co-worker Ron Gilmore, now a Los Angeles-based graphic designer and information technology professional. “They were always doing creative endeavors together, even back in the day,” says Salas’ wife, Jennifer.
Having stayed in touch all of these years, Salas took Gilmore up on an invitation in January 2017 to see Morris Day and the Time in Los Angeles. “Prince and Morris Day were my idols,” he says. After the concert, rather than going out to the clubs, the two stayed in and played one of Salas’ reinterpreted card games. “He showed me the game and we played it when we weren’t at the concert,” says Gilmore, a Central Valley High School graduate.
Struck by how much fun they were having, the two decided to create an original card game for the commercial market and began designing it that night. Fuego! was born. “It’s because I loved a segment on Seth Meyers called ‘Ya burnt!'” says Salas of the game’s name. Gilmore designed a special card with Salas' face on it. “When you draw it you have to say, “Ya burnt!,” says Salas with a laugh. Gilmore notes that he went through several iterations of Salas’ face and “made him look a little more handsome.”
“It took me a year to finish doing it and then we refined it,” says Gilmore of the deck's design. The refinement process involved hours of playing with family and students. When Salas noticed that a couple of cards confused kids, he had the colors changed. He took note of the number 13 being considered unlucky and took it out. He also noticed that students hated cards that reversed the order of play. So he added some in. “The object of the game is to get rid of all of your cards,” says Salas. “There’s strategy and luck.”
Once the refinement process was finished, Salas and Gilmore put in their first order for production. Salas has been busy demonstrating it at places such as the Chico Farmers Market, Bird in Hand and Made in Chico. He’s also enjoyed feedback and minor celebrity status from fans of the game. When the school year began, a parent approached Salas to tell him her family, from children to grandma, had played Fuego! all summer. “When I hear that, it just makes me happy,” he says. He also got to chuckle when he overheard a middle school student at a cafe excitedly tell his mom, “That’s the guy that invented Fuego!”
“I've seen whole classes play and the kids just love it,” he adds, noting that shy students are often drawn out by the game because it’s so engaging. “It requires you to talk. Whoever is closest to winning, you plot against them. You strategize.”
The game is also garnering fans out of the area due to its availability on Amazon. The first five-star review came from someone unknown to Salas and Gilmore.
Now Salas is working on an expansion pack for the original Fuego! game and may just have a concept for another game in him. “Jorge gets and idea and he runs with it,” Jennifer says with a laugh. “He makes it happen.” •