A few months after the Sept. 11 attacks, Ann Stolinsky walked into the office of her boss at the Department of Defense and made a confession: For the last several years, she had been researching the military’s missiles systems and weapons by checking out books from the library and entering such search terms on Google.
She feared that officials investigating terrorism might wonder why an inventory manager in Philadelphia spent so much time on websites offering information about tools designed to kill. Her intentions, however, had more in common with a box of Crayola crayons than the colors used for terror alerts: Stolinsky was creating a board game of U.S. military trivia.
“I said, 'I’m not a terrorist,' ” said Stolinsky, who looks about as menacing as a kindergarten teacher. “I’m doing all this research for a board game I’m creating. It’s not something that most people say, so I think he was a little skeptical.”
A few years after the release of Mindfield, The Game of United State Military Trivia in 2003, Stolinsky started to design a game that would be less likely to arouse any suspicions — one to help people celebrate Purim.
Pass the Grogger is a card game that players win by forming pairs, Esther with Esther, Mordechai with Mordechai, and most important of all, Haman with a Grogger. She released the game in 2008.
“Where the idea came from, I don’t know. I must have been in shul someday and thought of it,” said Stolinsky, who belongs to Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park.
A mother of two, Stolinsky self-published the games through her company, Gontza Games. She said the experience of trying to get larger companies to purchase her games and then deciding to publish them on her own was more grueling than doing the research and writing for 2,400 trivia questions of the military game.
One of the most expensive parts of the production process was manufacturing the game domestically rather than overseas, something Stolinsky was committed to doing; “Made in China” doesn’t read so well on a game about the U.S. military.
Stolinsky said she plans to retire from the Defense Department in a few years, but for now she manages the game business in her spare time.
As to whether the dice has rolled in her favor, Stolinsky just said, “I’m still in business after 10 years.”