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Wehrlegig Games at Work on Molly House, An Infamous Traffic, Sacred Band, Persuasion, and 1819: Singapore

by W. Eric Martin

In early February 2023, U.S. publisher Wehrlegig Games held a livestream in which owners Drew and Cole Wehrle reflected upon their work in 2022 — the release of John Company: Second Edition and the localization of same — then talked about various projects underway in the company, projects that may or may not emerge as published games under the “Wehrlegig” banner.

Cole Wehrle credited the generous licensing contract used by Sierra Madre Games for the brothers’ ability to publish second editions of Pax Pamir and John Company on their own, and they’ve now decided to do something similar, working with designers of historical games that fit the Wehrlegig style, i.e., no hex-and-counter designs, to help bring those games to print, whether through Wehrlegig, the designers themselves, or someone else.

• Let’s start with the sure things: Wehrlegig Games is working on a new edition of Cole Wehrle’s An Infamous Traffic, which debuted in 2016 from Hollandspiele. Here’s an overview of the original game:

An Infamous Traffic is a brutal economic board game for two to five souls brave enough to conduct the opium trade in the fracturing political landscape of 19th century Qing China. Initially, you will need to rely on smugglers in order to get your products into the interior, but, if Parliament can be swayed, perhaps an open war can make the trade more secure. At the same time, you’ll want to be careful. If British aggression goes unchecked, the region may become a failed state, which could jeopardize your hard fought gains.

Of course, the massive wealth you’ll earn won’t be enough. Trade is still a dirty word among those in the top rungs of society. You certainly haven’t forgotten how your business holdings were sneered at by some prodigal baronet during your brief stint at Oxford. They don’t understand. The empire they enjoy was built on trade, not pedigree. So, you’ll play their game, snatching up the precious symbols of nobility with your hard won cash. Perhaps you can restore a beloved castle and stuff it full of the latest luxuries. The right marriage or government post would certainly guarantee your place in society. You might even be tempted to rob your own firm to get that extra edge back home.

In any case, there’s demand for opium in China, and you intend to meet it.

Not the cover• Next, Wehrlegig Games has signed Molly House, a design by Joseph Kelly that was a 2021 Zenobia Award finalist. Since that time, Kelly and the Wehrles have completely overhauled the design many, many times, changing the mechanisms while retaining the core idea:

In Molly House, you play a group of gender-defying queers known as “mollies” who are regulars at a molly house in 1720s London. Your aim is to meet other mollies in secret and put on the best festivities in your molly house, but you need to do so while evading the notice of the moralizing constables of the Society for the Reformation of Manners.

Molly House is a competitive game with co-operative elements for 2-5 players in which you need to collect sets of resources like dresses, alcohol, and masks to plan festivities in the molly house, and visit cruising grounds to meet other mollies. In doing so, you’ll be creating happiness for yourself and your community, represented as joy in the game.

However, you’ll also be creating liabilities for yourself and others. Cruising or making your neighbors suspicious may lead to your arrest, which in turn may lead to a jail sentence — or even the death penalty. Putting on festivities will inevitably attract the attention of undercover constables, who may eventually raid the molly house, arresting all players.

To win, you have to balance your needs, represented by your personal joy, with the needs of the molly house community, represented by collective joy. If there’s not enough collective joy at the end of the game, no one wins. If more than one player fulfills both needs, the one who is held in the highest esteem within the molly house wins.

Now we get into titles for which Wehrlegig is supplying some degree of development or logistical help, with publishing still being a possibility.

• Sacred Band is a co-operative ancients game by Taylor Shuss and Joe Schmidt. The name (which isn’t necessarily final) refers to the Sacred Band of Thebes, an elite unit of the Theban army comprised of 150 gay male couples. The game has deck-building and hand-management elements, with the players trying to match one another in blind bids — the couple working together as one — to achieve good effects.

• Persuasion is a design for 3-8 players by Xoe Allred and it has a BGG listing, so let me quote the creator’s overview:

Persuasion is the Victorian courtship card game of deduction, catfishing, and conceding power.

While attending a party, you meet some suitors, full of potential wealth, standing, and passion. You’ve detailed your desires in your diary, and now you must discern who meets your needs by reading the trait cards they mail to you.

Image: tonytastey1

Your cards describe actions, but only the players you court will perform them. Each round, you share a card with a player, and they’ll choose which of your cards to leverage. When you find the one, send them your ring! They must reciprocate for you two to become engaged, so you must persuade them you’re compatible with their desires!

Space-Biff!’s Dan Thurot reviewed Persuasion if you want more details, or you can head to Xoe Allred’s website where you can purchase a print-and-play copy for the price of your choosing.

• 1819: Singapore started as a mock game that was part of a 2021 art exhibition at Temenggong Artists-In-Residence, a non-profit arts charity in Singapore, with a “review” of this game by Shut Up & Sit Down being part of the exhibit.

Then the designers — Chng Xin Xuan, Scott Lee Chua, Andrew Kwan, Sonny Liew, and Roshan Singh Sambhi of Mosquito Games — received so much interest on their mailing list for this phantom design that they decided to make it a real game.

The game is in essence a city-building design centered on the Treaty of Singapore in 1819, when Britain obtained to right to establish a trading post in Singapore.

Image: Roshan Singh Sambhi

If you want more details about these projects and what Wehrlegig is doing, here’s the livestream — although release dates are not set for anything right now:

Youtube Video

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