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Game has Pittsburgh mayor's race go around a board to bring home election

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 12:13 a.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Mark Brasacchio,makes his move in 'Ninety' at Cannon Cafe in Brookline Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. The game has players taking on the role of mayor who must campaign in Pittsburgh's 90 neighborhoods.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Alex Pazuchanics assists players as they participate in the board game 'Ninety' at Cannon Cafe in Brookline Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. The game has players taking on the role of mayor who must campaign in Pittsburgh's 90 neighborhoods.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
The board game 'Ninety' is tried out by patrons at Cannon Cafe in Brookline Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. The game has players taking on the role of mayor who must campaign in Pittsburgh's 90 neighborhoods.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Ryan Askey (from left), Jen Askey, Josh Snavely, and Jenn Aylward try out the board game 'Ninety' at Cannon Cafe in Brookline Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. The game has players taking on the role of mayor who must campaign in Pittsburgh's 90 neighborhoods.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Ryan Askey (from left), Jen Askey, Josh Snavely, and Jenn Aylward try out the board game 'Ninety' at Cannon Cafe in Brookline Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. The game has players taking on the role of mayor who must campaign in Pittsburgh's 90 neighborhoods.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Seth Warren (from left), Mark Brasacchio, Sally, Stadelman, and Jen Sample try out the board game 'Ninety' at Cannon Cafe in Brookline Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. The game has players taking on the role of mayor who must campaign in Pittsburgh's 90 neighborhoods.

A week from now, it's likely Councilman Bill Peduto will be mayor-elect, but Tuesday he and others on council recognized a pair of young politicos for a game that gives ordinary Pittsburghers a chance to seek the title.

Alex Pazuchanics and Adam Shuck created Ninety, a board game simulating a breakneck contest for mayor of Pittsburgh, inspired by their love of Pittsburgh's 90 neighborhoods and their political work.

Pazuchanics is legislative assistant for state Rep. Erin Molchany, a Mt. Washington Democrat. Shuck is communications manager for Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, a Brookline Democrat.

“The idea for us was about getting people to break out of their neighborhoods, out of their mold; giving people a reason to learn more about these other neighborhoods and their communities,” said Pazuchanics, 23, of Brookline.

The game's not for sale yet. Pazuchanics and Shuck are working out production details.

It puts two to five players in the role of candidates jumping into the mayor's race just days before the election. They have 15 turns to build support and attend unique events in each city neighborhood, raise money Downtown to spend on ads and subtract other players' supporters by mudslinging. When Election Day draws to a close, supporters in each neighborhood are counted up to determine the winner.

Though Shuck and Pazuchanics admitted to being political junkies, capturing the character of the city was also a goal. They researched every neighborhood to fashion the game's special events from real life, such as the Mexican War Streets House Tour or the St. Maria Goretti Festival in Bloomfield.

“We're pretty well versed in Pittsburgh politics, and we spent a lot of time combing through local message boards to find events for every neighborhood,” Pazuchanics said.

They dug into the history of Pittsburgh politics to come up with many of the 15 candidate cards the player can draw at the beginning of the game, including “the sports legend,” who gets a bonus for name recognition; “the grandma activist” whose gossipy knitting circle can win supporters through negative campaigning; and “the bicycle advocate,” who can avoid traffic to move faster among neighborhoods.

“They're based loosely on Pittsburgh archetypes. Maybe even a few are based on real people,” said Shuck, 27, of Lawrenceville.

A $1,000 grant from The Sprout Fund helped the duo commission and print game boards with art by Carnegie Mellon University graduate Tara Helfer — earlier versions of the game had been play-tested on an oversized city planning map. One condition of the grant was that the makers would hold open game nights around the city, so they invited players to try the game Monday night at Cannon Coffee in Brookline and Tuesday night at Bar Marco in the Strip District.

City Council brought the men to council chambers on the guise that Shuck had to do an errand for Rudiak and Pazuchanics would attend a presentation about the South Side. Council's proclamation declared Tuesday “‘Ninety Day” in the city.

“I played a prototype ... at my house on a Sunday afternoon, and I won,” said Rudiak. “It definitely gave me confidence in my fundraising and schmoozing abilities.”

Shuck said the next steps will be setting up more neighborhood game nights and working toward mass-producing the games for sales. Information about future game nights will be posted at ninetypgh.com or facebook.com/ninetypgh.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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