Wolverine Board Game

4 December 2015

I’ve long been obsessed with strategy board games: Risk, Monopoly, Stratego, and Klaus Teuber’s perfect brainchild: Settlers of Catan. I’ve also enjoyed making my own. Often they are akin to the aforementioned greats, but earlier this year a friend and I designed a game of its own inspiration. The game is centered around the place we call home: the Great Lakes Region.


With a working title of “Wolverine,” the idea for the game was sparked by an event known as the Toledo War. Back in the 1800s, when Michigan and Ohio were seeking induction into the Union, they had a bit of a squabble. You see, there was a small strip of land on the bottom edge of Michigan’s peninsula and the top edge of Ohio–Toledo. Both states wanted it something fierce. Like bratty children, they bickered over the property for ages. They cast insults and threats, and at one point a Michigander fired a gun. Nobody was injured, but the gesture was of ill-taste. The Ohioans, disgusted at the audacity of their rivals, bestowed upon them the title of “filthy wolverines.” The conflict became such an issue that eventually the national government had to step in and forge a resolution. Like parents, they sought to educate their children about the merits of compromise. The Toledo strip went to Ohio and the untouched northern peninsula went to Michigan. At the time, Michigan was viewed as getting the short end of the stick. The Upper Peninsula, as it later came to be called, was nothing but a bunch of trees. Toledo, on the other hand, offered a position fit for trade and commerce. Although Michigan was bitter for many years, they later found great profit in logging the Upper Peninsula.


This is where the board game comes in. How would the Great Lakes Region have changed if the Toledo War had different outcomes? The Great Lakes and surrounding lands were filled with resources and opportunities. If state lines were drawn differently (or not at all), how would industry have shaped the region? Now, the culture of American industry, indigenous spirit, and geography intersect to provide alternate futures for the place we call home.


So the concept of the game was developed: players seek to build a state through harvesting and trading resources. By selecting a state, based off native animals, players adopt a succinct strategy to survive in the region. With a tinge of luck and reliance on strategy, the game is functional for most and fun for tabletop enthusiasts. Although it’s still a bit complicated and inelegant, the game has promise. The prototype was better than I anticipated, and I look forward to the next iteration.


Wolverine Game