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Priest has eyes on international board-game prize

04 August 2023

St Peter Mancroft, Norwich

Canon Edward Carter plays his game Serengeti Sanctuary

Canon Edward Carter plays his game Serengeti Sanctuary

THE Rector of St Peter Mancroft, Norwich, Canon Edward Carter, is a finalist in an international board-game-design competition run by the puzzle company Ravensburger.

His wildlife conservation game, Serengeti Sanctuary, was backed by the most people on the crowdfunding website to which entries had to be submitted. The funding goal was €30,000 (£25,800). The prize is publication, which includes a guaranteed edition of 10,000 copies and a share in net sales. The winner will be the entrant who both achieves that goal and gains the most backers.

Although Canon Carter is in the final three, and had the most backers, the funding window has now closed; he believes that he is unlikely to end up with a contract. But the crowdfunding commitment will enable a modest production run for his supporters, and reaching the last three is an all-round cause for satisfaction.

His interest in board games goes back to his childhood — he invented games for his classmates — and continued with membership of a games-playing club at university and in his family life. Before his ordination in 1997, he worked in print-buying and management. “Those old skills have come in handy as well,” he says.

He describes it as a hobby that has grown in recent years with the advent of broadband cafés and specialist board-game shops. He would always be cautious, he said on Tuesday, of bringing his hobby to bear on church life, but he has been able to practise it in meaningful ways. As part of the Jubilee 2000 movement for the remission of international debts, he invented a game in which each table of competitors was, in effect, a heavily indebted country.

“The aim was to try and recover from it; it was set up so that it was like real life,” he said. “I came round pretending to be the grasping banks and telling them that if they couldn’t pay their interest, they could chop down their rainforest to pay for the year.”

At Chelmsford Cathedral, where he was Canon Theologian from 2012 to 2018, he devised a game for national and regional conferences. It involved building cathedrals out of wooden bricks, “and then the serious game, because people were trying to shape the lives of their cathedrals using people and place”.

Serengeti Sanctuary has a wildlife conservation theme, which involves collecting sets of animals and “competing gently alongside the others to make your wildlife reservation or conservation area as strong as you can”.

He meets fellow members of a small games-design group as often as possible, and describes his creative projects as “the usual mixture of inspiration and perspiration. . . You get a good idea, and then you have to work away quite hard, as well, to shape it.”

His two sons, John and Matt, have grown up with games, and contribute to the process. “They’re young adults with skills in design and marketing; so we make a good team,” he says. “It’s a great time to do something with them at this stage in life, as well.”

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