UPDATE 2: Scrooge is fully funded!! But don’t let this stop you from showing further support! Congratulations to the Gerring family!
Here it is, Kickstarter Spotlight number one! For this feature, AtB had the pleasure of speaking with Simon Gerring, one of the co-creators of Scrooge – The Board Game. Simon, along with brother Jason and their father, Peter, have spent the last 3 years transforming their dream of designing a board game into a reality. The Kickstarter campaign for this project begins on September 5th, 2017, and a link will be placed here once it’s launched. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get right into it.
As many of you are probably aware, Ebeneezer Scrooge is a fictional character from A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens in the mid 1800s. He is best known for being an incredible miser with a disdain for Christmas, at least at the start of the novella. Dickens described him in this manner: “The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice, bah humbug.” Though the term “humbug”, meaning an imposter or fraud, wasn’t originally coined by Dickens, it is most closely associated with the character of Scrooge. When Scrooge said, “Bah! Humbug!”, he was declaring Christmas to be a fraud, with personal reasons for his huge contempt for Christmas. These feelings become reconciled later in the tale, after several ghosts of Christmas visit Scrooge and analyze the consequences of his miserly ways, and how get got to be such a…well, Scrooge!
This story is the foundation and the setting of Scrooge – The Board Game, which takes place in Victorian London. Not only will you see characters from A Christmas Carol, you will see references and characters from Dickens’ other works, especially the themes he presented in his stories. Those intimately familiar with the works of Charles Dickens will get an extra level of enjoyment, revisiting locations, characters and events from Dickens’ stories.
THE BIRTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF SCROOGE
Peter Gerring can easily be described as a “Dicken’s enthusiast”, though that’s probably an understatement. Peter’s dream of designing a board game combined with his passion for Dickens’ works is how this all started. Peter pioneered the annual Dickens’ Festival in Rochester, Kent, which draws in over a million visitors each year. The project to create Scrooge began roughly 3 years ago, when Peter’s sons, Simon and Jason, stumbled across an old game Peter had created many years ago. Ironically enough, the family had moved into a new house around Christmas time, and were looking for a game to play together. That’s when they stumbled on Peter’s project. Though that Scrooge-game never made it to a “mass market”, Peter did produce 5,000 copies by hand, manually sorting cards, packaging and shipping them all out himself. The stories of how Peter pioneered the creation of the Festival and his hand-crafted board game inspired his sons to try their hand at the craft as well. Over the past few years, this entirely new Scrooge board game has been developed, play-tested, crafted and play-tested some more, evolving into the amazing looking game it is today. Below are some pictures from Peter’s first Scrooge-themed game, the one he designed and distributed by hand.
When the Gerring family first committed to developing Scrooge – The Board Game, they were living on different parts of the globe. Simon was residing in Australia, while Jason and Peter remained in the UK. This is impressive on so many levels, because designing and creating a board game is no small task. The Gerrings all had to learn many new skills in order to develop the game at all. It’s not enough to have a neat concept and few clever rules – each card, each space of the board, each game mechanic has to be created from scratch. Just getting the board to a finalized state is an incredible struggle, and this game was no exception. The Gerring family has lost count of the post-its and number of re-iterations the board alone has seen, as countless man-hours have gone into play-testing. “Bag of Tricks” cards, Ghost cards, and many more also had to be redesigned after early versions of play-testing discovered it was nearly impossible to beat Scrooge at his own game! Even a cursory glance at the information on their website demonstrates that an incredible amount of love and effort have gone into making this game what is today, and it can only get better from here. Like many game designers, the Gerrings had to work full-time jobs aside from their gaming project, leading to 90+ hours work-weeks, with barely enough time to manage personal business (and sleep, whatever that is.) Anyone who has tried to launch a Kickstarter of their own, let alone design a game from scratch, can appreciate the unfathomable amounts of man-hours that went into working on this project, while having to communicate in wildly different time zones, on a family budget. We are truly impressed here, at Around the Board, and applaud not only the Gerrings, but anyone who has the guts to tackle a project of this magnitude.
For future and current game designers, the Gerrings have a few pieces of advice. The first and biggest is to believe and be dedicated. It’s a great deal of work, but your belief and love for your own project with inspire those you reach. Secondly, be objective and be extremely open to feedback. Don’t just be open to it, seek it out! Ask questions until you run out, then make up a few more. Work with people to innovate and improve, as this gives you best chances for success. Finally, play-testing. Loads and loads of play-testing! Test with you in and out of the room (aka blind testing). It’s likely your project will go through many iterations, like this one, but that is how you can deliver the most quality product possible.
SCROOGE – THE BOARD GAME
The object of Scrooge is to “out-Scrooge” the old miser himself through combinations of deck building, card management, and strategic decision making. A victor is declared when a player wins the Moment of Truth Challenge, transforming Scrooge into a “kinder, gentler man.” While the game is designed to be a family-friendly board game, perfect for holidays with the family, it contains a deep level of strategy, with enough unpredictability to have a different experience each time. What I find most intriguing is there are several ways to perform a movement each turn. In most board games, you simply roll a dice or two, and advance that many spaces on the board, with almost no backtracking allowed. In Scrooge, at the start of each turn, you declare which way you’re going to move – forwards or backwards – then decide what determines your movement that turn. Players may spend money to move, paying per space moved. They may also opt to roll one OR two six-sided dice and must move the total show on the dice. Certain cards can also effect player movement. This is where a great deal of strategy lies, as navigating the streets of Victorian London comes with a host of Scrooge-induced perils. Furthermore, the layout of the board can prevent you from moving in certain directions, making some paths harder to traverse than others, or simply making it impossible to back track. There are bridges, for example, that only allow for travel in a certain direction and some spaces will force you down other paths.
Deck building and card management come into play heavily, with varying card types. Players can sell certain cards, making money and making even more by selling larger quantities of cards. However, it can get rather dangerous holding a lot of cards or being the player currently in the lead. Many actions specifically target or effect the “leading” player, which is determined by a variety factors, always with some kind of “tie-breaker” mechanic to resolve anything like a tie. Scrooge’s Bag of Trick (BoT) cards, regardless of who draws them, are handed over to the player in the lead, who must immediately play them on their following turn. A BoT card could help or hinder the lead player, giving credence to a strategy of staying out of the lead and attempting to make some clever moves near the end.
Ghost cards are designed to give an advantage over Scrooge himself, who is a constant factor throughout the game. Ghost cards come in several varieties and can be played at any time, giving players a defense against some harmful effects, whether induced by the board or by other players. In certain circumstances, some Ghost cards can be used to deny the use of another player’s Ghost card, countering it’s effects and really Scrooging them over!
Nightmare cards come in a couple of varieties, classified as “Pure” and “Turning Point” Nightmares. These are the cards that players will buy from and sell to Scrooge, triggered by certain spaces on the board. Selling more Nightmare cards together can provide much more benefit than selling individuals, so when to buy and when to sell are large factors in the management of your Nightmare cards. Furthermore, players may not be holding any “Pure” nightmare cards in order to attempt the Moment of Truth (MoT) and win the game. “Turning Points” can also be used to interfere with another player’s MoT challenge, so again, understanding the best times and methods to load up or unload those cards is integral to ultimately claiming victory.
In addition to the card management and movement aspects, there are variety of events that each player can participate in simultaneously, aptly named “All Play” events. Certain streets on the board trigger these events, and take a couple of different forms. One is rather simple, and involves rolling a single dice. Before the dice is rolled, each player puts some game money in to the pot, and starting the with the player who triggered the All Play, players pick a number 1-6. After each player has chosen a number, the dice is rolled with all winnings going to that player. In the case of a game with less than 6 players, if nobody guessed correctly, Scrooge takes the pot and places it into his Counting House.
The other All Play event is dubbed “Scrooge’s Haggle”, and plays very akin to poker. Each player is given 3 Money Box cards, each with their own printed values, including Scrooge who gets his own 3 cards. Wagers being with an initial, minimum stake, and are allowed to bet up to a maximum, with Scrooge matching the highest bet at the end. Like poker, players may match the current bet, raise the current bet or decline to take either action (if they match the bet already). Once all players have all matched the current bet, or only one player is left in the game, Scrooge matches the best and everyone reveals their cards. If nobody beats Scrooge, the money goes to his Counting House! Ties are handled by splitting the pot evenly, with leftovers from odd-amounts going to Scrooge, but only if they beat Scrooge’s value. Players must exceed Scrooge’s value, or he will personally Scrooge them over!
The rules also include a very helpful section to strip-back some of the game-play to make it easier for younger players to digest, as this is intended to be engaging for players of all ages. This version of the game is sometimes called “Junior Scrooge”, and this is part of the core set of Scrooge. Additions are likely to come in the form of stretch goals, but according to the Gerrings, the focus is on adding to the core set, not creating separate expansions for stretch goals. We will have to wait and see what kinds of additions will come to Scrooge as it develops following its upcoming Kickstarter campaign.
As you’ve read, there are a lot of interesting game-play elements that make Scrooge – The Board Game so alluring. I can’t wait to get a chance to play it, and we wish the Gerring family a successful campaign on Kickstarter. Don’t forget, it launches on September 5, coming up in less than a month, so mark it on your calendars and get some support ready. Around the Board highly recommends this project, and we are extremely grateful that the Gerring family shared with us an opportunity to be a small part of it. Your support will not only go toward the creation of an incredibly unique board-game experience, but you’ll help to make the dreams of a very hard-working family come true.
Thanks for reading, and good luck Around the Board!
Did we mention they were having a prize drawing?! Follow the instructions!
Written by Jacob Walsh, published 8/18/2017
Re-use or redistribution of this article, in part or in full, through any type of website, written publication or other medium is forbidden without express, written consent from Jacob Walsh, operator of Around the Board.
Scrooge – The Board Game and all assets used for this article are property of Scrooge The Board Game LLP, and have been used with their permission.
Art credits to Marcin Warzecha.
Scrooge is protected under copyright, 2016.