Molly House

Molly House

From designers Jo Kelly and Cole Wehrle comes a game of queer joy and betrayal in 18th century London. Experience this immersive historical board game from the creators behind Pax Pamir and John Company.
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Throw grand masquerades and cruise back alleys as a gender-defying molly in early eighteenth century London.  In this interactive history game from debut designer Jo Kelly and veteran designer Cole Wehrle, you must evade moralistic constables who seek to destroy your community within the Molly House.


We started making historical games because we felt like there were so many amazing stories that simply weren’t being explored in our hobby. With Pax Pamir, we wanted to examine how the forces of nineteenth century imperialism played out in the borderlands, and what might be learned when you centered the story on the people who lived in these areas instead of their European counterparts.

With John Company, we shifted our focus to institutional history. The vast majority of historical games are primarily interested in exploring the decisions of heads of state or military leaders. However, some of the most important historical decisions have been made in boardrooms and by committees. John Company is an effort to tell the story of an institution and help players understand the deeply idiosyncratic behavior of one of the first global corporations and how its decisions helped shape our own world.
Now we are taking our efforts to social history. In Molly House, players must weigh their desires against their own sense of self-preservation. The rapid growth of London in the late 17th century allowed for greater anonymity, and the increase in population gave access to a wider range of people, allowing queer people to congregate in burgeoning communities. Molly House is a game about how these communities formed and flourished even in the shadow of great persecution. It is an intimate game about the very idea of intimacy.

Molly House is also a game about policing. Here the primary policing actors are not city officials but instead a citizen group, the Society for the Reformation of Manners, which sought to weaponize the legal apparatus of the city in order to destroy a community it perceived as a threat. Critically, this goal could not have been accomplished without the intimidation and eventual compliance of a handful of informers, drawn from the ranks of the house’s patrons.

Lastly, Molly House is a game about the practice of history itself. So much of queer history has been lost: hidden, suppressed, or outright destroyed. But, the story of the molly houses of the eighteenth century was protected in the most unexpected of places. As witnesses were pulled before the authorities in London, they gave their testimony and their accounts were preserved in the proceedings of the Old Bailey (London’s central criminal court). Despite the awful circumstances of their conveyance, these stories present illuminating first-hand accounts that are a tribute to the tremendous courage, playfulness, and defiance of their community.

Molly House is an effort to reconstruct that community in a game. We have done our best to build a world from these accounts that will hopefully give you some small sense of the remarkable community they built.

If you want to read more about the game's arguments and design history, please check out the Molly House Designer Diaries on BoardGameGeek.


Molly House is a deep, interactive historical game bedecked in a fancy party dress.

Over the course of a game, players draft hands of vice cards representing the different gestures, desires, and encounters that were frowned upon by the Society for the Reformation of Manners, a citizen group that sought to stamp out any behavior it deemed deviant in late 17th and early 18th century London. These cards allow players to host festivities with the help of their fellow mollies and create joy. But, those same cards can also lead players to be arrested and might contribute to the ultimate ruin of the molly house.


Parties begin when a player plays a molly card at Mother Clap’s. This card sets a collective goal which the table must meet in order for the party to be successful. Players then play cards over a number of rounds in an attempt to fulfill their goal collectively. However, players must be careful! Only one set of cards will be selected and any others will enter the gossip pile, threatening the discovery of the molly house. 

A player’s desires are also their greatest liabilities. Over the course of the game, constables will patrol the streets and attempt to corner the players. When a constable is revealed, players will have to reveal one or more cards of that constable’s suit. In order to escape persecution, players will either have to renounce that desire or may take on a number of guilt tokens, which will lower their final score. These moments may offer arrested players a critical temptation. Through the intimidation and coercion of the constables, players may elect to become informers. This will set them against the other players and require them to destroy the Molly House in order to win the game. Informers must try desperately to undermine the community around Mother Clap’s historic molly house without being discovered by their fellow mollies.

However, unlike traditional hidden role games, Molly House does not rely on overt dishonesty or a predetermined cast of characters. The game does not require players to become an informer, and players may discover that every player or none had switched sides by the end of the game. 

Together, Molly House offers players a novel twist on traditional secret role games where a player’s identity is as fluid as the cards in their hand. This 1-5 player game brims with opportunities for collaboration and coercion that bear the design hallmarks of a Wehrlegig game, but in a way that is approachable and easily playable within an hour or two.

Molly House has been in active development for a couple years and we are approaching its completion. Over the next few months, we'll be tuning the rest of the game's content and working to adjust the game's balance so that its systems are as expressive as the players around the table. During the campaign, we'll share more information about the specific design elements which still need work and how we are approaching the finishing of the game. 

Like both Pax Pamir and John Company, Molly House will feature a solo mode designed by Ricky Royal of Box of Delights. Ricky is an award winning solo designer, and we have built room in the project's budget to accommodate any additional components or rulebooks he might require. With John Company's solo system, Ricky brought the world of negotiation games to solo players. Now, with Molly House, Ricky is attempting to capture the spirit of hidden role games. While our 1 player rules are still in development, know that our early tests are very promising and we hope to have it offer a distinct challenge for solo players that nonetheless evokes the full game.




This project is Customs Friendly: Wehrlegig covers the duty payments and customs fees for backers who receive our games in the US, EU, UK, Canada, and Australia. This means you may have to pay taxes on your order, but you will not incur any unforeseen fees or delays at time of delivery. Other countries may be subject to additional customs charges upon delivery.
Molly House is still under development, but if you are curious to dive deeper, check out the links above. Later this campaign, we'll invite you to read the rulebook and play the game virtually to see how things are coming along as the game is finalized. We will release a print and play kit later this campaign!

With Molly House, we are are continuing our commitment to creating games that are free and widely accessible anyone that is curious by making our game files available under Creative Commons license BY–NC–SA 4.0. That means we will continue offering a full, free print-and-play kit for all of our games! Anyone can use, remix, and share the game, so long as they do not use it for commercial purposes. 


At Wehrlegig Games our objective is simple: publish beautiful games with historical themes that treat their subjects and their players seriously. These are games that make arguments and encourage discussion. They don't shy away from difficult subjects.

We know the audience for such games is limited. In order for us to produce games up to our standards, we rely on a direct sales model. Our games are not designed for traditional distribution or retail channels. The vast majority of all copies produced will be sent to BackerKit supporters or to people who purchase games through our store.  This means we can spend many more resources on the game's physical production without having to worry about retail viability.

Jo Kelly is a musician and game designer based in Bristol, UK. They were a finalist in the first Zenobia Award with Molly House, which will be their first published game. Jo also writes and performs music under various guises on the Bristol and wider UK scene, mainly known for wild improvisations on the double bass and their lo-fi synth pop alter ego, Wendy Miasma.

Cole Wehrle is an ex-academic who decided to abandon the lucrative field of Victorian studies in favor of game publishing. He works as the creative director at Leder Games in Saint Paul and is best known for the award-winning games Root, Pax Pamir, Oath, and John Company. He is currently working on Molly House, the upcoming Arcs, and a new edition of An Infamous Traffic.

Rachel Ford is a UK based illustrator. As well as their personal art, they notably work with the games company Borough Bound to create quirky character designs and drawings for RPG TableTop campaigns, and with computer game company Two Headed Alien, providing creative direction, illustrations and animation for a visual novel style mystery video game. Molly House interests them because the idea of retelling these queer stories that have been unfortunately lost to time is a subject close to their heart as a non-binary lesbian.

Richard Wilkins is a British board game designer and collaborator often engaged in designing and developing solo rules (Pax Pamir, John Company, Guilds of London, Tales of the Northlands: The Sagas of Noggin the Nog, First in Flight, Ecosystem: Savanna).  You may better know him as Ricky Royal from the Box of Delights YouTube channel, where Ricky has been demonstrating how board games play for the past 10 years, predominantly to a growing community of solo gamers.

Drew Wehrle is a game developer and co-founder of Wehrlegig Games. He handles all of the business and operational elements of Wehrlegig. As Cole's younger brother, Drew has helped develop and playtest every game he has designed. Drew previously managed school programs at Chicago Botanic Garden, and as of early 2020, he now manages Wehrlegig Games full-time.

Thank you to our collaborators: Our incredible community on the Wehrlegig Games & Friends Discord Channel, Audrey Brinkers for the VO work, Devon Fisher for the 3D mockups, and all the backers that help bring our projects to life!

If you believe that this project is not in compliance with BackerKit’s Community Guidelines or Terms of Service, you can file a report by sending a message via this link: Report this project