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TOPIC: Need some opinions on a game design: Whiskey Traders

Need some opinions on a game design: Whiskey Traders 14 Jun 2017 13:09 #249864

Hey everyone,

Sorry for the length of this post...

I haven't been on here in quite a while. I thought I would give some background about a project I have been working on for a long time. Yes, it is a game. More so, it is a game inspired from the real history of the west (circa 1873 - 1890). Not the spaghetti western stuff we see on TV. It is called Whiskey Traders. I need some help. I think those who enjoy a good Ameritrash session will enjoy my game. The game has fighting, trading, and swindling; I have not really pulled any punches on the history of events according to my interpretation of things.

Some history on the game development:

Back in the summer of 2011 I was on a camping trip with my kids and (now) ex-gf. During the trip we took a visit to Fort Walsh, Saskatchewan, Canada. As part of the tour I learned of the events of a massacre which occurred in 1873. I was hooked; the history completely drew me in.

As I was working on this game around 2011 one of my friends was dying of cancer. In an attempt to raise his spirits I was looking to secure a copy of Star Trek: Catan. On BGG Mat Loter had a copy for trade. I reached out to him to get his copy - at any cost. Unfortunately it wasn't quite in the marketplace yet. As we conversed I mentioned my game; he gave me contact details for Andy Lewis at GMT. Andy gave me a bunch of great feedback and suggestions for the game. But I was a new designer and a game about Whiskey Traders swindling First Nations is a pretty risky venture indeed. Shortly after an acquaintance had moved from Canada to Australia. While there he attended CanCon and he met Peter Hawes from Keyal Games (Francis Drake). Peter was interested in expanding his line. Ian mentioned my game. Peter got in contact with me and he then made the game from scratch. He asked for some more testing on the game as it is very different than most traditional titles today. You are playing three sides all at once, trying to bet on a winning position; this premise is one of the unique things about this game. But after thousands of hours of thought, research and play testing I needed a break. Today, I am again excited about Whiskey Traders.

And so here I am. The game has been played approximately 130 times. But I need more opinions. Is this a game you might actually spend your hard earned dollars on? What can I change to make it better?

The game plays somewhere between old school Ameritrash and Euro. I have taken inspiration for the game mechanics through RoboRally, Euphrates and Tigris, Blood Bowl (3rd Edition / Living Rules), and Axis and Allies. The game has a very strong theme using historical events and personalities.

Here is some history which was the impetus for the game itself:

In 1873 Canada was still an infant. With no army or law presence in the west Whiskey Traders and Wolfers moved above the border (Medicine Line as the First Nations called it) to do business. The traders would sell a cup or two of Whiskey (known as Whiskey Bug Juice as it was laced with a bunch of garbage) and then conduct activities with the First Nations. In essence the traders were swindling the Indians. Thy could then haul the valuable Bison hides back to the US for a handsome profit.

One night after heavy drinking one of the traders found his horse missing. They immediately blamed it on the nearby Assiniboine Indian camp. The next morning they went in guns blazing. It was estimated over 30 Assiniboine were slaughtered including women and children. Later that week the horse was found; it had merely wondered off.

When news of this event travelled back East the Canadian Government responded. They setup a military / police expedition to move West and restore law and order. It was called the North West Mounted Police (NWMP). This force later became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

At the same time the US Army was busy implementing their Manifest Destiny. The civil war had just ended and the army was idle. They would focus their efforts instead on Indian removal. The easiest way to make the First Nations submit would be to eliminate their food supply. Kill the bison and the battle would be easy. If they could move the Indians to reservations they could make room for white settlement.

As the army crept North the Canadian government became more worried. How would they defend their borders? The answer was in a railroad. If they could link Eastern Canada to Western Canada they would have claim for sovereignty. Also with the promise of the Canadian Pacific Railway they could entice British Columbia to join Canada instead of the more populous United States. It would also give Britain a fast route to Asia.

As the NWMP moved west they were trying to find a place known as Fort Whoop-Up. It was known as the most notorious Trading Post in the area. When they finally arrived it was all but empty. The Traders got wind of the police and bailed South across the border.

As time went by the Bison herds rapidly were becoming extinct. First Nations would gather at Cypress Hills and other tiny pockets where the Bison still came. Both governments were trying to get the Indians over to the other side of the border.

There were a few sympathisers, however. Superintendent Walsh was originally tasked to shut down the Whiskey Trade. When he met Sitting Bull and their plight for freedom he was caught in a hard position. The CDN government didn't want to feed the Sioux. The US Army wanted him for his participation in the Custer fiasco. When Walsh failed to get Sitting Bull to go back across the border he was re-assigned. With the fate of Sitting Bull sealed he became disillusioned. He resigned from the force a few years later until the Yukon Gold rush gave him a new opportunity.

On the US side Helen Hunt Jackson published a book called a Century of Dishonor. It was one of the most successful books on the subject. She was loved by the press. The US Government, however, was not so fond. A Century of Dishonor was once labelled one of the two most critical novels of the 19th Century (the other being Uncle Tom's Cabin).

As I delved further and further into the history I became more and more entrenched. The events between 1973 - 1890 were nothing shy of fascinating. Sure I learned bits and pieces in school. But so much truth was never given in a textbook.

In short I would like a few people to read the rules. Please note I am not a graphic artist and the rules have been hacked together using my limited skills in adobe indesign and photoshop. I have, however, had a professional cartographer (Michael Bricknell) and a graphic artist (Jason Kingsley) do work on game components and the board design.

If what you see in this post whets your appetite and you have approx. 30 mins - 1 hr to delve into my ruleset please reach out. Perhaps I can add your name to my dropbox account and you can see what the game is about.

Thanks so much,
Michael Becker
Last Edit: 14 Jun 2017 14:07 by celticgriffon. Reason: added a line of text...
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Need some opinions on a game design: Whiskey Traders 14 Jun 2017 14:21 #249871

It certainly sounds like a novel topic. And I enjoy games where you are manipulating various sides to your own ends, which is what it sounds like you're driving at.

I'd be happy to take a look at the rules. You can email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Geoff
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Need some opinions on a game design: Whiskey Traders 15 Jun 2017 11:03 #249947

Thanks so much Geoff.. I very much look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

~mb
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