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Perthshire man who made the world’s largest board game looks to Hollywood

John Bannerman and Andrew Allen of TKC Games holding their card game, 6 degrees of separation.
John Bannerman and Andrew Allen of TKC Games holding their card game, 6 degrees of separation.

Measuring the size of a one bedroom flat and taking six months to complete, it’s not a board game for people who get frustrated playing Monopoly.

Created by a Perthshire businessman, Mare Nostrum allows people to recreate the Africa campaigns of the Second World War in minute detail on a playing space measuring 23 feet by 23 feet.

When released in 2013, it gave Blairgowrie’s John Bannerman the title of the largest and most expensive board game in the world due to its retail price of almost £500.

His business, The Knowledge Company, has since gone on to create several other games based on WW2.

Recent game Barbarrosa, which covers the Eastern Front, measures a more reasonable 12 feet by 12 feet with 7,800 counters and 16 maps.

Mr Bannerman, who has now released a movie-themed game, said the war games could be played in parts, without having to be all laid out at once.

“It takes around 185,000 hours of research to give the games authenticity,” said Mr Bannerman.

“The USA is the core market but we have clients from across the world, including Japan, Australia and Italy.

“Our customers come from all backgrounds, including the military, doctors, lawyers and business people.

“People can learn a lot about history by playing them.”

His title of the world’s most expensive game has since been claimed by another firm, but Mr Bannerman is planning a sequel, Mare Nostrum 2, which will retail at £750 plus VAT.

The firm is also working on digital versions of the games and aims to open a games studio in Dundee early next year.

“We are currently in negotiation to get the software off the ground,” he said.

“We also plan to open a software studio in the city, but this has been delayed because of the pandemic, although we aim to have it open in 2021.

In a departure from the complicated World War Two games, Mr Bannerman has used the Covid-19 period to develop a movie-themed card game with old school friend Andrew Allan, priced at a more reasonable £19.99.

It is based on the concept of six degrees of separation – a concept which shot to fame when film fans sought to find the shortest path between any actor and Hollywood star Kevin Bacon.

“The Kevin Bacon game was good fun, but it always ends up in heated debate or uninteresting actor suggestions, and you have to question the relevance of Kevin Bacon in 2020,” said Mr Bannerman.

“Andrew and I spoke about how we could improve upon this by creating a bigger selection of actors for players to pick from and, importantly, integrate the latest databases out there into a suite of online tools that assist players to establish accurate connections.”

The firm is planning 15 editions covering film, television and a number of sports and is also planning a mobile app version of the game that would allow players to practice on their own or hold online competitions.

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