It’s best described as a combination of backgammon and checkers.
However, unlike its counterparts that boast origins dating back to before the common era, Gambit was conceived by Vernon’s own Paul Cousins on Christmas Eve of 2016 and holds its inaugural tournament at the Prestige Inn Jan. 6.
“Board games become part of our culture when winter hits,” Cousins said. “Actually, it’s one of those things that just kind of come to you when you sit in the tub.”
It all started when Cousins’ granddaughter was visiting for the holidays and the family was looking for an activity to do together. Cousins — who also plays music and writes poetry — grabbed a plank of wood, took it to his shop, and Gambit was born.
“It’s all ages,” Cousins said. “Anyone who can count to six can play. It can also help improve mental dexterity for people with dementia.”
Two players take charge at either end of the handmade board where four to eight marbles, with more marbles correlating with more difficult gameplay, stand in a line. In the commonly played battle mode, players are tasked with lining their pieces up at the other players’ starting line. Two dice are rolled to determine the move, and when a player lands on their opponents marble, the opponent is sent back to home base. Play time ranges from 15 to 30 minutes per game, depending on difficulty and the game mode, Cousins said. And while the concept is simple, strategy is where the game comes to life.
“My granddaughter can beat me at this game and she thinks that’s great,” Cousins laughed. “I know it’s a pretty good game because my wife isn’t into board games and we play every weekend.”
And it’s a concept Cousins said has gained traction, garnering interest from several renowned game makers and recognition from the community.
“Ravensburger said that people want to play it again straight away,” Cousins said.
But for now, production remains under the roof of Cousins’ garage, with less than 100 boards in circulation and roughly 15 minutes of work put into crafting each set.
To help spark interest in his creation, Cousins announced the games’ opening tournament with a chance to win $1,000 in prize money.
“If you want to get it out there, you have to get it in front of people,” Cousins said.
The tournament places participants into three age categories: under 12, under 19 and 19-and-over, with games lasting for about four hours per group and a total of 64 participants required. Players will compete in all three game modes: break out, battle and sprint.
“Everyone has an equal opportunity to win,” Cousins said. “Anyone who likes checkers or backgammon can pick it up easily.”
To help keep the playing field even, tournament and game rules are announced 24 hours ahead of the tournament and an orientation is held before kick off.
“And then it’s game time.”
Registration for the inaugural Gambit tournament is $10, or $50 for registration and a game board. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm registration. All games are played at the Prestige Inn, with start time of 10 a.m. for the 12-and-under category, 1 p.m. for 19-and-under and 4 p.m. for 19-and-above. Refreshments will be available for purchase. For more information, visit www.gambitboard.ca.