Boise & Garden City

This card game developed by two Idahoans lets you beat up your friends

Pass-a-Fist Kickstarter video

Russ Worstell, left, and Gary Welch created Pass-a-Fist, a party card game where players figuratively beat each other up. This is their promotional video. The game raised money on Kickstarter in July 2019.
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Russ Worstell, left, and Gary Welch created Pass-a-Fist, a party card game where players figuratively beat each other up. This is their promotional video. The game raised money on Kickstarter in July 2019.

Russ Worstell was roundhouse kicked. Then he was karate chopped. Then he got divorced and was later tickled.

He didn’t suffer, though. All of that happened during a card game.

Worstell is one of the creators of the card game Pass-a-Fist, described as “an overly violent game for non-violent people.” He thinks he has probably played the game up to 500 times since it was created in February 2015, but he said no two games have ever been alike.

Worstell and Gary Welch, who also goes by Pete or Perry, created the game nearly five years ago when they got tired of playing the same games over and over during game nights. They cut up some paper and grabbed permanent markers and created the game.

Since then, a deck of cards was developed and Pass-a-Fist became a real game. Worstell and Welch showed it to people they knew and over time became convinced it could attract a wider audience than just their group of friends. They worked with an artist, Anthony Bachman, to create the current deck of cards.

The game started as an inside joke between friends. Worstell and Welch didn’t expect it to become something big. A Kickstarter campaign that began earlier this month to raise money to produce the game reached its $7,000 goal within a week. As of Monday, July 22, it had raised $8,258 from 178 backers, many of them from Idaho.

“We had no idea,” Welch said in an interview with the Statesman. “Neither of us had made a game before. … It was mostly just an arts-and-crafts project for ourselves.”

Since then, Pass-a-Fist has gained a following among game lovers, especially in Boise, since both of the creators, who are 32, have lived most of their lives in Idaho. Welch grew up in Castleford and moved to Boise about 10 years ago, and Worstell moved to Twin Falls in 2003 from Nevada. He then moved to Boise in 2012 but now lives in New York.

“Boise has been so supportive,” Worstell said in an interview with the Statesman. “There’s a lot of hometown pride in Boise. As a result, we’ve gotten more credit than we deserve. I wouldn’t call us game designers. Right now, we just got lucky.”

The game is very easy to learn, Worstell and Welch said, and the goal is simple: figuratively attack and injure other players.

A round starts by shuffling and dividing fight and injury cards into two different piles. To start a round, a player needs to draw a fight card and then play an attack card on another player.

There are 55 different attack cards, and they range from some serious attack moves to more ridiculous ones. One card urges players to attack with “literally killer dance moves.” Others allow the player to bite or give a roundhouse kick.

From there, if an attack card lands on a player, that player has the opportunity to counter the attack to either redirect it to a different player or stop the attack altogether. There are also 55 counter cards, which include crying, ducking or even faking a heart attack.

If a player gets hit with an attack card and can’t properly counter the attack with a counter card, that player then needs to draw an injury card face up. Injuries can be anything from getting divorced, amnesia or a splitting headache. There are 42 of those cards, and the first player to gain three injuries is out of the game.

Each round of the game is different because of the ridiculous scenarios that come from the unique combinations of cards. There are also 10 special cards that can be played at anytime during the game, even if it’s not that player’s turn. Those can make a round more interesting, Welch said.

full card evolution.jpg
Pass-a-Fist began nearly five years ago when its creators first cut pieces of paper and made the cards with permanent markers. Now the game is on Kickstarter and reached its goal about a week after launching the campaign. Pass-a-Fist

“There’s ‘Yoink’ (which lets you steal another players’ card), and ‘Release the Kraken’ (all players in the game have to draw an injury),” Welch said in an email to the Statesman.

Welch and Worstell have said the game has universal appeal and players with different senses of humor or personalities can play together and enjoy themselves.

“We remember having a great time picturing all of the scenarios in our minds,” Worstell said. “How the heck did you get obsessive-compulsive disorder from a karate chop? We were all enjoying the awkwardness of it all. It dawned on me that this isn’t just for us.”

While most party games are focused on adults or teenagers, Pass-a-Fist can be fun for different age groups, including children. Welch said kids are incredibly fun to play with because they “have no sense for mercy” and will “go right for your throat,” while adults will play more strategically.

pass-a-fist stretch goals.png

Since the game reached its goal on Kickstarter, Welch and Worstell are looking to hit additional goals that would allow them to increase the quality of the card game. The first new goal of $8,000 was met Sunday, but they are still working to raise more money and meet additional goals. They said that in the future they are looking to expand the game, but they also have a list of other games they’d like to start creating.

“The goal is to try to see if we got lucky or find out if we have some sort of magic here,” Worstell said. ”I’d love to be able to call ourselves game designers.”

Maddie Capron is an intern with the Idaho Statesman, covering general news and features. She is a recent graduate of Ohio University and grew up in Ohio. Previously, she was an intern with the Ohio Center for Investigative Journalism, Garden Center and Cleveland Scene magazines.