Brownstein: This Montreal board game rewards the corrupt
So what do you get for that oh-so-special con artist in your life who appears to have everything?
What about a fun-filled extortionist board game, Construction & Corruption?
Uh-huh. This is cynicism packed in a parlour game and particularly perfect for would-be Montreal scamsters. Think of it as Monopoly for the really greedy and double-dealing.
Surprise! Montreal is actually the setting for this game and was the motivating factor for its creator, David Loach.
Only fitting that there is major construction taking place on St-Denis St. in front of Le Valet d’Coeur, the hobby shop that is one of the prime movers of this bilingual board game and where Loach and a few friends are heavily engaged in a game of Construction & Corruption. Can’t speak for any corruption there at the moment.
And it’s only fitting that Loach is decked out in an orange-and-yellow construction-crew vest and a yellow hard hat.
So, doth art dare to imitate Montreal life here?
“Definitely,” says Loach, 36, breaking out into a big smile. “That was the direct point. I was trying to capture an experience of the city all my friends could relate to and laugh at, so I thought I would really try to dig in with jokes we’d all be familiar with.”
And dig he does.
It’s no accident Loach first had the idea to create this game while stuck in gridlock here two years ago. He could have gone postal, as is the custom for many such afflicted motorists in these parts, but instead sought to channel his anger and energy in putting together a black-and-white prototype of the game and launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise the necessary $12,000 to bring it to fruition in bold colour complemented by some nifty artwork.
“I’ve always played a lot of board games, and it occurred to me, with nowhere to go because of the traffic, to make a game out of this situation. Where players would have to bribe their way to make it rich in the construction chaos around us, which never gets finished.
“I love playing negotiation games that have a little bit of finagling and backstabbing. So I tried it out with some friends and felt I could go forward.”
Unlike city traffic.
Loach recently found a distributor, and the game is now available at 70 shops around the province. He reports bustling sales.
“It seems the game has really touched a chord with Montrealers,” Loach says.
A nerve, more likely.
Loach is a Torontonian who came here to study at McGill 20 years ago and never left. And, no, it wasn’t because of traffic congestion, either, that he didn’t split. He found work in the fast-burgeoning field of graphics here, but if Construction & Corruption takes off, he could pursue more nefarious-like board games.
Construction & Corruption can involve three to seven players. Each is a construction boss, responsible for a construction contract. But here’s the kicker: The idea is not to finish the contract, so as to collect more money in the process of keeping the work going. In so doing, the players must pay off politicians who reward the biggest briber with a contract to construct a festival site. The game winner is the boss emerging with the most loot. On the downside, however, this winning boss must eventually hightail it to the tropics to avoid prosecution.
Loach is clearly diabolical: “The incentive here is to keep your work unfinished as long as possible and dispatch your workers to the sites of the opposing players and finish their work instead. The dynamic of the game is, really, to screw those in your way.”
The game comes with a board that is an illustrated map of Montreal, featuring its most glaring construction areas. Players are issued currency, “corruption” and worker tokens, traffic pylons, playing cards and, natch, plenty of potholes. Plus a bilingual rule book. But no knives or other weaponry, for the time being.
Loach hasn’t heard from any city officials, but he has received lots of other feedback.
“Some love the idea of yelling at their friends for two hours straight. Others say it’s the best backstabbing game they’ve ever played. High praise, indeed, when you consider such backstabbing games like Diplomacy and Risk out there.”
Not surprisingly, Loach has been contacted by investors to create Construction & Corruption games for their cities. So now he’s toying with the notion of an international version, which would encompass numerous cities.
“It seems construction boondoggles are universal, but Montreal really does stand out.”