29 June 2023
We look at board game hobbyist Garry Hrustinsky's gaming blast from the past: Rum Rebellion
Release Date: 1983
Publisher: John Sands Pty Ltd
Still Available New?: No, only had one printing
Second hand?: Tricky to get outside of Australia
Price: £70 for mint condition, Pictured £30
What's in the Attic this month?
What does social mobility look like in colonial period Australia? According to this fascinating find by tabletop enthusiast, Garry Hrustinsky, it’s all about starting off as a deported criminal, with a short period of honest work, before returning to ethically questionable work by becoming a politician. We chat with Garry, who unearthed this Australian blast from the past and helped us learn a little more about the game's history.
Interview with the lucky finder of Rum Rebellion
Hello! Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m an Australian living and working in Napier, New Zealand. As a board game enthusiast, I spend too much of my free time convincing family and friends to play board games with me. Thankfully, there is an active local gaming community (the Hawke’s Bay Geeks Guild) that arranges numerous gaming events. I would like to say that I play to win, if I ever won that much. I am more of a professional seat warmer that is just happy to be invited to the table.
How did this game come to be in your attic?
The game was purchased back in 1983 by my older brother. Technically it is still his, but I suspect he has long forgotten it. I’m claiming squatter’s rights.
Can you remember how it works and how it plays?
The game follows the same mechanism popular with many board games at the time: roll the dice, move your character, resolve any conditions of the space that you land on. Very much luck-based.
Where Rum Rebellion was a bit different is the four-tier board. Starting out as a convict, players need to save up sufficient money (in the form of neat little plastic rum barrels) to gain their Ticket of Leave (end their time as a convict) and move to the second tier. Working in a trade (e.g. cooper), players save up to buy their way into the Officer Class of the Rum Corps (the third tier). After collecting 50 votes, players can try to become Governor of the Colony by picking up a Win or Lose card (the fourth tier).
The mighty pyramid of Australian economic progress that forms the centrepiece of Rum Rebellion
Tell us about any specific memories you might have of playing with it?
It was the Summer of 1983 and we were visiting our grandparents on their farm. There weren’t many kids around the area and not a lot to do on the farm. My brother went into town and came back with the game. We played the heck out of it – maybe two or three games per day over the space of three weeks. Those Win or Lose cards were a killer. Thinking you had the game in the bag, only to draw a Lose card and need to collect votes all over again. I remember one time I tried three times in a row and kept drawing Lose cards. My brother collected 50 votes and won the game on the next card! I have fond memories of the time and how much we enjoyed it. Rum Rebellion saved my Summer that year.
What do you think of it now?
I played it again with my kids several years back. It was a novel experience, but damn if it isn’t a boring game! We have an unspoken agreement to never play it again.
The game has a surprisingly strong theme; as a kid, it taught me a lot about an interesting period in the birth of modern Australia.
The barrel markers that helped mark your progress in Rum Rebellion, certainly looks better than paper money!
Are you keeping it, selling it, or donating it?
Definitely keeping it. Even just seeing the box triggers memories of a special time and place in my life.
What do you wish you’d found in your attic instead?
Aside from a few million dollars? Probably another gaming buddy that I could sneak down at night and play all of the board games with me that my family roll their eyes at. That’ll show them!
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This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.