Making a Game Out of Fraud

For the past 10 years, Maplewood resident Pete Newman has been working on bringing a card game to market. Relying on a Kickstarter campaign, he set out this past March to raise the needed funds. He had 30 days to do it.

Called Fraud — The Game of White-Collar Crime, the topic is one that comes easily to Newman. With a job in compliance in the bond market for a financial technology company, he has witnessed plenty of bad guys in action. He says, “In some ways, be-cause I’ve been focused on compliance laws and regulations, the complete disregard for all of that has always been really funny to me and [is] why I’m satirizing it.”

And that he does. Based loosely on Mille Bornes, a French card game listed in the GAMES Magazine Hall of Fame, the object of Fraud is to assume the identity of a crooked CEO and bank $150 million in your offshore account before going to prison for fraud, all while fending off attacks and indictments. Described as an attacking-style card game for two to six players or teams of two, it’s easy to learn and combines strategy, luck and wicked satire.

CEO cards carry clever names such as Menace Scuzzlousy, Shady Sherry Kovich and Spike Bilkem. Other cards explore various aspects of white-collar crime that are routinely found in the news but are hilarious in play, like “Flee the Country” and “Bribery and Extortion.” Newman drafted Rick Parker, an internationally-known cartoonist and humor writer formerly of Maplewood, to create hand-drawn caricatures and custom art for the cards.

“Pete asked me to do something I love to do,” Parker explained. “It’s in my wheelhouse. I loved his sincerity and wanted to help him realize his vision. Plus it was fun to collaborate with someone local.”

Refining the game was a labor of love. Newman explains, “I used a lot of Maplewood folks to play test it, [as well as] family over exhaustive sessions.” Doing so yielded a number of changes such as the “Presidential Pardon’ card, which is used as a power card, similar to a joker.

In order to raise the money to fund production and all the costs associated with bringing a game to market, he turned to Kickstarter, a finding platform where creators can appeal to individuals to fund a specific creative project. If the funding goal isn’t met within 30 days, the creator loses the money raised.

Newman explains that launching games with Kickstarter campaigns is very popular and points to one of the most extreme examples of success, Exploding Kittens, which raised over $8 million. His goals were more modest —$18,000 — enough to print 500 games of Fraud. To incent higher pledges, he devised several levels that rewarded backers with a copy of the game as well as other Fraud swag including The Rick Parker Sketchbook, signed cards or the chance to design one’s own corrupt CEO card to include in the game.

The campaign kicked off on March 26 and was a nail-biter to the end. Although Newman wasn’t able to find a huge social media influencer to help his campaign, he did secure an official endorsement from reformed fraudster Walt Pavlo. Having spent two years in prison for the MCI WorldCom accounting fraud, Pavlo now speaks and writes about fraud, forensic accounting and other related topics.

Recounting the final days, Newman says, “I was 77 percent funded on Easter Sunday, with four or five days to go. And within two days, I was 97 percent funded.” Twenty hours from the finish line, he still needed $700. That’s when he sweetened the deal by offering Jeff Kreisler’s book Get Rich Cheating as an incentive to backers to increase their pledge or push others to fund the campaign at the $50 level or above. Kreisler, in turn, helped Newman by tweeting out to his followers on Twitter and Facebook.

He reached his goal 14 hours before the deadline with 181 backers and $18,292. “In the end, it was friends and family, people who found me on the web, and Kickstarter, who pushed me over the top.” Newman hopes to start shipping games out to backers in September and to sell the game on Amazon. For more information, go to fraud-game.com.

Ellen Donker loves games and has fond memories of playing Mile Bornes in her youth. She looks forward to receiving her copy of Fraud.

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