Copper Country: The Board Game

HOUGHTON – Living in the Copper Country, it’s hard not be at least somewhat familiar with the mining history in the area. And now people can relive that history with a board game centered around mining in the Copper Country.

The initial idea for the game came from creator David Lankton, who thought it up while he was home for Christmas in 2012. David’s father, Larry Lankton, had retired from working at Michigan Technological University, where he spent his entire 30 year career in the social sciences and as a historian focusing mainly on the history of the Copper Country. When he retired, all of his research was moved from the office to his house and being around that information struck something in David’s mind.

“I was back home with my friends and we were playing board games a lot and it was one of those ideas, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a board game about copper mining in the Upper Peninsula,'” David Lankton said. “And it stuck with me.”

At the time, Lankton was living in L.A. and when he returned after spending Christmas with his family, he began to quietly work on the game.

It seemed like it was turning into something real so over the next six months, Lankton made a playable prototype without really telling anybody about it.

Over the past summer, he found himself back home for his wife’s grandmother’s birthday and he showed the game to his friend Scott Diehl, who jumped on board almost immediately.

“I thought the game was really exciting,” Diehl said, who grew up in Houghton with Lankton. “I said, ‘If you want someone to help I’d love to be involved with it.'”

When Lankton and his wife decided they were tired of flying back and forth from Los Angeles to visit family, they decided to move to Madison, where Diehl currently lives.

“As soon as I moved here we really started to take the game seriously,” Lankton said.

David and Scott even formed a company, CMX Games, under which the board game will be produced.

In the game, each player takes on the role of a mining company and the object of the game is to mine the most copper.

“You’re going to produce copper by hiring miners and building company houses and camps on the game board,” Lankton said. “The game board is a map of the Keweenaw.”

Throughout the game, players will also travel through different points in history.

As far as specific events are concerned, the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution are both included, as well as more local events like the spring thaw and the burning of Hancock. For 20th century events, the technological revolution and World War I are in the mix. Local events concern the 1913 strike and House Resolution 387, which was the House of Representatives inquiry into the working conditions in the mines of the Copper Country. For businesses that are represented in the game, the Michigan College of Mines, the Calumet Theatre, a Western Federation of Miners office building and the Portage Lake Mining Gazette are included, just to name a few.

In order to raise money to be able to produce the game, Lankton and Diehl need to get the word out first. After that, they’re planning a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise funds.

“That’s something we’re working on right now,” Lankton said. “We do a lot of stuff with social media. The earliest we could go to Kickstarter would be May, but that will probably be pushed to June, if not later.”

They estimate that they would need to raise between $30,000 to $40,000.

The plan is to be able to have the game out for Christmas 2014.

So far, people who have played a prototype of the game have really enjoyed it.

“People have said they enjoy the mechanics of the game,” Diehl said. “For the most part … people have been really positive about this.”

Lankton added that they’ve worked hard to make sure the theme of the game and mechanics work well together.

“We’ve worked really hard to make sure the themes and mechanics are glued to each other. When you’re doing something in the game from a rules or mechanics standpoint, it makes a lot of sense thematically,” Lankton said. “You build a company house for your workers, that’s the mechanics of it. The other mechanic is that when you work nearby, your miners work more safely. You can see how a company house in real life would encourage a worker to be more safe because if something happens to them then their family is going to lose their home when they lose their job.”

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