Behold, the gerrymandering board game you didn't realize you wanted: Mapmaker [credit: Nathan Mattise ]
AUSTIN, Texas—Josh Lafair hasn't even voted yet, but he probably knows more about gerrymandering than most. To start, given that his family's from Austin, Texas, politics has never been a taboo subject around the Lafair dinner table. And in 2017, after the Lafairs watched another uncompetitive congressional election play out in their oddly shaped district (TX-10), Josh and his siblings had an idea: Is there a good gerrymandering board game out there? Could we make our own?
"Political games turn a lot of people off—political games tend to be really gimmicky,” says Lafair, the youngest (18) of the three siblings behind Lafair Family Games. “So while we did want this to be a game about gerrymandering, we also wanted to make a well-designed game. We wanted board gamers to think, ‘Oh, this is a good game. I’ll actually play this.’”
Mapmaker isn't the first title from Lafair Family Games, as older brother Louis invented the popular Pathwayz as a kid (more recently while at Stanford, he even developed an AI that can literally beat him at his own game). But Josh was so young he simply served as "chief guinea pig" on that one, and he considers Mapmaker the first game he truly had a hand in designing. Recently, before Lafair debuted Mapmaker to the masses at Gen Con 2019, he walked Ars through the game's creation while simultaneously taking us to task in a one-on-one battle.