The Price of Coal is a card-based prompt-driven storytelling game about coal miners and their loved ones in West Virginia, 1921. It’s about the struggles faced by those who stand up for their rights, and about communities that come together through hard times. It’s about a history that should not be forgotten. It’s about the fights we still face today.
The game uses character and prompt cards to help you tell the story of a year leading up to a terrible battle. During this year, characters will face many trials together, both inside and outside the mines.
The Price of Coal is a GMless game for 3-5 players and takes about 3-4 hours to play. No prep is required and the game can be completed in a single session of play. Players each take on the role of two characters: a coal miner and a townsperson or family member of a coal miner. They then answer questions to set up the relationships between their characters.
Each turn, players draw a prompt card, decide which of their two characters to feature for that scene, and create a scene of roleplay with other characters. The game ends at the Battle of Blair Mountain, where the players must face the ultimate confrontation: the full force of the US Army against the United Mine Workers.
In 1921, coal miners in West Virginia fought for better safety protections, higher wages, and the right to unionize.The coal companies were unwilling to slow production or risk their own profits for the sake of safety. The companies kept an iron grip on everything in the coal mining towns, including the company store, the doctors, and the teachers. Eventually, a boiling point was reached. Martial law was declared, and the miners began to rise up to liberate their neighbors and to unionize the region.
Both the National Guard and the US Army were called in to quell the miners, including the use of aerial bombers left over from WWI. From August 25th to September 2nd, the Battle of Blair Mountain was fought, in which as many as 100 miners were killed. Over time, improvements were made to the worst of the conditions the miners faced, but the Battle of Blair Mountain was no victory for workers.
A century may have passed since the battle, but the fight for workers’ rights continues to this day.