Could you fit 51 bags of tropical fish under your skirt? It’s been done before. Turns out people will try and take all kinds of crazy stuff through customs. They also try to get it through in all kinds of crazy ways.

About a year ago, I decided to make my own board game. As someone whose life (living room) has become full of board games and a regular backer of Kickstarter games I figured I should give it a try.

My initial concept was two take elements of my favourite games and mash them together: I like games with a lot of player engagement (Munchkin, Exploding Kittens); and I like games that have a balance of luck and skill where you can stand as much chance of winning the first time you play as the hundredth.

Fast-forward a year and  I’m a week away from completing my first Kickstarter.

It’s called Nothing To Declare, it’s about smuggling things through customs. 

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If you’ve played Sheriff of Nottingham (eds note: great game), you might think this sounds familiar. But in my take on goods-smuggling, there’s no bluffing from players, and there’s no distinction between banned items and legal/allowed items. In Nothing To Declare essentially everything is illegal contraband – but that wasn’t always the case…

Somewhat conveniently my brother is a customs officer. That was my starting point, going through leaflets he handed me, checking what’s allowed and what’s not using those items as a starting point. About midway through development I realised there wasn’t any need in my game for legal items – the contraband was just much more fun.

So, I started to do some research (see: googling, intensely).

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Turns out people will try and take all things under the sun through customs. Obviously, a lot of this is drugs, and it’s impressive how ingenious how people try to smuggle drugs. Clams full of cocaine glued shut, check. Meat laced with drugs, check. Breast implants stuffed with drugs, also check.

I wanted to get weirder, drugs are too easy. Sometimes the story of this stuff is just as weird, if not more so than, the actual item. The person that tried to smuggle a tiger cub, sedated it and stuffed it in a bag alongside a bunch of stuffed toys, presumably thinking that no one would be able to tell the difference (just like E.T.).

Even the smuggling of rare and tropical animals makes – some kind of – sense. What the stuff that is truly baffling? 94 kilograms of dried caterpillars for ‘personal consumption’.

Some of my favourite are those with seemingly no plausible explanation. The man that walked straight into the airport carrying a large tree branch. The guy that was stopped by customs officers for having three suitcases full of empty egg cartons. There’s nothing illegal about it, it’s just incredibly suspicious.

It’s these truly bizarre things that I’ve put into Nothing To Declare and now you have some insight into where they come from and the stories behind them.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourites: a 100% true customs find, and how it’s represented in Nothing to Declare.

Remember you can back Nothing to Declare now on Kickstarter here

Nothing to declare