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IMAGINATION TURNS BUFFALO INTO A GAME

All right, let's face it: This isn't a Park Place, Boardwalk or Marvin Gardens kind of town.

Which is why a Buffalo-themed board game that two local entrepreneurs are hoping to market nationwide soon seems eerily familiar.

"There's a subway to nowhere; it just shoots you across the board," said co-creator Paul Beres, 29, a Gatchell Street resident.

"Much like the city, the game has lots of one-way street signs," added Timothy Pokrywczynski, 23, of Windsor Ridge in Lancaster. "And every block in the city has a church, so we put a lot of them in, too."

The game, available locally at specialty shops and just signed to a Chicago game agent, is mockingly titled "Lordz of the Hood." Labeled for "adults only," it's a morality play of crime and urban decay -- a local version of Monopoly, with a Generation X edge.

There are no Community Chest bonanzas in this game. Here, it's more lucrative to sell auto parts to a chop shop, demand "proper respect" payments from opponents or seek the protection of the local mob.

And yet, players may find their legal "dream teams" disbarred or their fencing outfits cleaned up by the feds.

Nothing and no one, from City Hall and police officers to midnight basketball and the beleaguered garbage fee, is safe from a healthy skewering in "Lordz," but that irreverence has earned the game a cult of avid fans, including players who hold tournaments in Allen Street's Topic Cafe.

The object?

To take control of one of four city blocks, becoming a full-fledged "lord."

The fun?

There are ways -- and then there are ways -- of doing it.

"This game lets you make choices," said Beres. He and Pokrywczynski started developing the game in 1996 while they were students at Canisius College.

"You can be a good person, make good choices, go to church and do all that -- and that might be the way to win the game," Beres said. "But you can make choices and do bad things if you want."

Such as?

"You can pay the rent on your properties, or you can do drug sales, gambling, fencing or arson," Beres said.

"Yeah, because in Buffalo we're not building houses or hotels," said Pokrywczynski. "Monopoly doesn't exist anymore. There just aren't places like that anymore."

Especially not here, the game's creators said.

"We're big Monopoly buffs. But when we played it, we didn't see anything that we recognized," said Pokrywczynski. "We started joking about what Monopoly would be like in Paul's part of town on the East Side. It started as a spoof."

Joe Colosante, owner of Iron Crown on Main Street, said he sells a lot of "Lordz" games, besides being an avid player himself.

"I absolutely love it -- it's the best game," Colosante said. "I like the Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers games, but they're so strait-laced. We're Generation Xers; there's a little bit of rebel in us."

Colosante, who also has held "Lordz" tournaments in his store, said the game is more challenging than typical board games.

"There's a lot of strategy involved, unlike Monopoly where you just get lucky," he said. "You have to have a little deviance in you."

The off-beat game also catches the attention of shoppers at Buffalo Impressions in the Walden Galleria, said store manager Lisa Paschis.

"They think it's funny, and they think it's clever," she said. "I haven't had any negative reaction at all."

The game's creators insist that "Lordz" is meant to be taken in a spirit of good fun.

"This is a game; you should never lose sight of that," said Pokrywczynski. "Games provide vicarious experiences."

So far, about 300 of an initial run of 1,000 copies of the game -- which was made, illustrated and assembled locally -- have been sold, the entrepreneurs said. But it hasn't been easy.

"It's hard to catch a break in business," said Beres. "Just getting it made took every possible cash reserve we had. . . . The big problem is, Buffalo is fully mature. People don't look at things in terms of growth. But I want to stay here. This is a way to jump into the entrepreneurial stew. I want to have a business here."

The game is being shopped for consideration to a West Coast company, the former maker of the Dungeons and Dragons games, and may be more widely available by Christmas, Beres and Pokrywczynski said.

Milton Bradley Co. sent the two creators an in-depth review, turning the game down because it was "too edgy" but offering the hope of future marketing in Europe, they said.

In the meantime, the two are waiting and hoping that the fledgling game eventually will pay off more lucratively than Monopoly's "Free Parking" spot.

Said Beres: "We're close to beating the odds."

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