To be perfectly honest, I don’t know how best to classify Molly House, Wherlegig’s latest cardboard masterpiece. I feel like I’m describing the subgenre of my favorite drummer’s metal side project; it’s an interactive queer history exhibit/ artwork crossed with a snappy semi cooperative board game. I’ve played plenty of games that I couldn’t get out of my head during my time in the hobby, but while those usually had me thinking about game mechanics and strategy, Molly House had me examining shit about life.
I initially balked at the choice to include a church as a beneficial action space, given religion’s dual purpose as a driving force and behind and absolver of queer oppression, but as I mulled on the idea, I realized that my view of religion has been colored by my life an openly pan dude in the deep south. Doubtlessly, there have been an abundance of queer people who found refuge in their religion. As we stepped into the shoes of Victorian Mollies, we were initially enthusiastic about supporting each other as we chased our own happiness, there was an underlying tone of worry over striking the balance between joy and not gathering too much attention from the morality police. We had been promised that someone would get paid a cost by the constabulary, and at that point, they’d have to look at their game state and have a mathematically easy but otherwise difficult choice between solidarity and taking care of themselves by turning informant. It’s easy to see the parallel to real life, where more cynical queers throw the community under the bus to join in on the conservative grift of being “one of the good ones”.
All this isn’t to say Molly House doesn’t have plenty of promise purely as a board game. Turns are lightning fast since there’s no room to overthink a strategy- all you do is move your player pawn to one of the couple action spaces you can reach and perform that action. A couple spaces let you cruise, adding a card from your hand to your reputation to draw another card of the appropriate suit. The church is dual purpose, affording players a chance to accuse other players of becoming informants and/or ditch a card to discard a negative point token. Mostly, you’re going to be calling parties at the titular Molly House, where players will take turns chipping in cards until everyone’s passed, at which point the strongest poker hand is built and players will score points for cards they contributed to that hand. Ultimately, you may decide that being out and about in London is getting a bit too risky for you and head home, essentially passing for the rest of the game but also avoiding taking any more penalties. From our demo, Molly House has all the ingredients of a semi cooperative design I’d love to play regardless of the theme: plenty of reasons to play selfish while still being part of the team alongside plenty of pressure to straight up turn traitor.
I hate how much this reads like ad copy, but as I’m writing this late pledges are open on backerkit, and you should definitely check it out if the theme is appealing to you or you like the sound of a snappy social deduction game that almost dips into filler brevity.
Nick grew up reading fantasy novels and board game rules for fun, so he accepted he was a dork at an early age. When he's not busy researching the intricacies of a hobby he'll never pick up, Nick can be caught attempting to either cook an edible meal or befriend local crows.