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Wingham man launches board game business

Mark McDougall with the display of his board game, Charley Horse Derby, for sale at Chameleon's of Wingham. (Kelsey Bent Photo)

WINGHAM – The idea of creating his own board game came to Mark McDougall out of both admiration and disappointment.

“I had purchased a game that was dubbed the most successful Kickstarter in history and after we tried it a couple of times, it was just OK,” he said. “Not something you would think would be worth $12 million and still selling well.”

As a lover of board games, McDougall was always on the hunt for new, entertaining games to try. One day while playing with his grand kids, the idea for a board game came to him.

“I took blank paper squares put a number on them, made a track, and with two die you had to go around the track, land on a number, and perform the action,” he explained. “They enjoyed it so much we played twice.”

The next time he had his grandchildren over, he had made an actual track and bought miniature animals to use as player pieces.

Over the course of a year, the game evolved into what it is today – a professionally made game of strategy that is for sale by the name of Charley Horse Derby.

The name came from a bout of ‘charley horse’ cramps suffered by the inventor. The title is especially fitting since the tagline is, ‘Getting to the finish line can be painful.’

“Essentially you use cards and dice to race around a track for the two laps,” McDougall said. “The focus is based on the interaction between the players and the artwork. You have to complete a derby – which is two laps – but you have saboteurs like bears, goats, moose, and murder hornets. On top of that, you have opponents trying to steal your jockey card, impeding, colluding, elbowing all trying to get past the finish.”

Upon glancing at the finished product, you will immediately see that the artwork – on the cover, cards, and board – was a major part of the project.

McDougall hired freelance artists through Fiverr, an online resource to find freelancers from all over the world.

“I have worked with a few artists around the world but the main artist is located in Indonesia,” he said.

Communicating online, McDougall sent his idea and rough sketches to the artist and they would reply with their concept.

“I gave them total freedom to interpret my ideas,” he said. “The artwork was so impressive that some looked like they could be posters or puzzles and it inspired me to think more creatively.”

The game features several jockeys, each with their own personality and special abilities.

There are 10 characters in the game based on famous jockeys and two characters based on McDougall’s grandchildren, Rhys and Rachel.

“Rhys has a flying horse and Rachel a horse exhibiting their karate abilities in the game,” he said.

Other characters include Winston, based on the first winner of the Kentucky Derby, and Francine, based on the famous Canadian jockey Francine Villeneuve.

McDougall has already begun thinking about additional merchandise such as expansion packs, puzzles, shirts, mugs, and a second ‘Wild West’ edition, which will be available in 2021.

The first edition of the game is available for purchase at Chameleon’s of Wingham, although he said they are selling fast.

“By the time this article comes out, I could be sold out,” he said.

McDougall received the first shipment of 104 copies of the finished board game on Dec. 8. He said the only reason he got those games was because he had customers pre-order the game.

“A couple bought the game, they played on Sunday with their friends and before they had finished playing the game for the first time, they called me and bought three more games,” McDougall said.

He is expecting the rest of the shipment of games to come in the middle of January, at which point McDougall is planning to sell the game through Kickstarter, his website (www.charleyhorsederby.com), and in-store at Chameleons of Wingham.

“We played it last night – we play it a lot – oddly enough even as the creator I lost three times to my wife,” McDougall said.

Charley horse Derby can be played with between two and seven players.