BRATTLEBORO — Erin Scaggs, vice president of the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance, has for a couple of years been kicking around the idea of "Brattleship" — an initiative inspired by the classic board game that would help local businesses.
"Only because of how kitschy the name is," she said. "Like, it's a perfect fit."
A mother of three, Scaggs said Battleship is a regular part of her family's repertoire, along with Monopoly and Scrabble.
In September, a state grant allowed the idea to come to life, and the promotion will kick off Friday during the third virtual Gallery Walk event. Scaggs is also chairperson of the committee that puts on Gallery Walk.
In August, Gallery Walk, a downtown event traditionally held every first Friday of the month, took place for the first time since the pandemic in the form of a locally filmed video series. In September came the first Gallery Walk Stroll and Stream, which included a livestream, plus an option for in-person, socially-distanced art viewing and gathering at downtown venues.
Starting Friday, Gallery Walk attendees can pick up Brattleship kits from 4 to 8 p.m. at either Harmony Collective or the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center. Each kit contains a game board with a total of 30 squares, each square containing a directive related to a local business, exhibit or gallery, and four ship stickers, each requiring a different number of "hits" to sink and covering a total 12 squares. Directives include the purchase of a certain type of dish at a Brattleboro restaurant or a kind of item at a shop. A couple of directives, such as taking a selfie and tagging an organization on social media, are free.
"It runs the gamut of things," Scaggs said. "It's not just artwork. We're trying to give a sense of what it feels like to hang out in downtown Brattleboro."
At the end of the game, players return their boards, along with receipts from the participating businesses, to Harmony Collective or the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center. Sinking two ships results in a $40 gift card to a business or gallery featured on the board. Sinking all four ships results in a $100 gift card.
"It's really a promotion meant to incentivize consumer spending in downtown Brattleboro," Scaggs said. "The whole point of the game is to get people out and about, supporting local businesses."
Players choose where to place their stickers, and try to sink their own ships.
Brattleship is a one-player game. Scaggs said one of her biggest challenges was figuring out how to make the activity resemble Battleship, as opposed to Bingo or another game with squares.
"In the end, I figured out how to make it work by eliminating the component of you playing against another person," Scaggs said. "That may hang some people up initially, but I think once they have these game boards and these ships in their hands, I think it's really going to feel like playing Battleship."
The game boards were designed by Brattleboro artist and jeweler Larisa Volkavichyute, and the stickers came from a company in Burlington.
"It's a really nice idea to help people be more involved in an interesting and exciting way," Volkavichyute said. "I'm just really excited about this idea and I'm excited that I can contribute my part."
Danny Lichtenfeld, director of the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, commended the creativity of Brattleship.
"Brattleship is just the latest example of how awesomely creative the folks who are working so hard to promote our town are -- the Golden Ticket, Everyone Eats!, now this." Lichtenfeld said in an email. "All of us at BMAC are excited to be one of the businesses 'on the playing field' as well as a pickup location for those wishing to participate."
At the end of August, organizers of Brattleship applied for a Restart Vermont Regional Marketing and Stimulus Grant, a state program aimed to support economic recovery in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Scaggs said organizers received the grant on Sept. 18, and were required to use it by Oct. 2.
"Part of the grant requirement was that it was a program that could be implemented quickly, and so we are implementing that part excitedly," she said. "We're excited to see it come to fruition."
Thanks to the grant, she said the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance will be giving away $5,700 in gift certificates to local businesses over the course of three months.
"For me, the part that feels really special is, we can approach businesses and say, this doesn't cost you anything except some time and energy and to participate in a funky game, and the legwork it takes to make this happen during pandemic, which isn't nothing, but at least it's not money," Scaggs said.
The October Gallery Walk Stroll and Stream will include a livestream on the Gallery Walk Facebook page at 5:30 p.m. and the option to visit participating businesses downtown from 4 to 8 p.m. Among the participants is 118 Elliot, which at 4 p.m. Friday will hold an outdoor, socially distanced reception with readings and music in the gallery's back lot. The current exhibit includes work by local artists Tina K. Olsen, Roxcell Bartholomew, Lauren Watrous and Jillian Farwell, all of whom met through the River Gallery School in Brattleboro.
More information is available on the Gallery Walk Facebook page, @brattleborogallerywalk.