Board games that tell stories

You can follow me on Twitter at @trzewik I update this blog every Wednesday. This is BGG copy of my blog BoardgamesThatTellStories.com

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This is what I do

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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At some point she – out of nowhere actually – says something like: ‘This weekend we played Robinson, me and my family. We had a great time. My mom was so excited that she was standing next to the table, because she just couldn’t sit still. And you know, she is not a gamer, she never plays board games. We won. I know, I know, we played a few rules wrong, I double checked the rulebook after we finished the game. We had an amazing time together, though. It was great.’

This is my oxygen. This is why I work. This is why I stay up till 1AM cutting out prototype pieces and trying to playtest the shit out of this mess. This is why I have the strength to struggle with a prototype that is not working the way I want it to work. This is why I will trash bad ideas and look for good ones over and over again. This is why I am ready for sleepless nights and for long weeks of bad mood when I can’t find a solution and the prototype is not working.

I am ready for all this mess.

Because at the end of this struggle there is a family somewhere out there that will have a great time together.

And this is my oxygen.
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Tue Feb 9, 2016 3:41 pm
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Cool Kid on the Block

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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So Buonacoure makes fun of me. He calls me the Cool Kid On The Block because I use Snapchat and we all know that only kids use Snapchat, right?

Well, yes and no.

Snapchat is a medium for kids. It’s a medium for MTV celebs, for movie stars and sportsmen. I am none of them. No one is interested in seeing my wardrobe or my morning workout. I am pretty aware of that. So what the hell am I doing on Snapchat?

I talk about game design. I show my work. I show how I play test games. I show how my games are born.

Why not on Twitter? Why not on Facebook? Why not on YouTube? Why not here on this blog?

Cause each medium has its specific features and tools. Each medium is perfect for a different kind of message. You guys consume each medium for different reasons.

I chat with you on Twitter, I post mean comments to my board game friends, I banter and I love it. I got almost 10K followers because I feel that on Twitter I'm in my element, I can feel this medium with my entire soul. This is like my native environment. Punchlines, bantering, 140 letters that go straight to the point. Find me on Twitter at @trzewik and start bantering. Can’t wait to meet you there.

I have an official Facebook profile at facebook.com/trzewiczek where people who like my games can see updates every couple of days about what’s going on with me. I write short updates, post pictures and I am much more active there when I am visiting new places. It lets me show cool conventions and cities I visit. This is my most serious and official channel of communication with you.

I run the #askboardgames show (which previously was a Portal Games vlog and evolved). That is my medium for having a constant Q&A session with the gamers. When I visit conventions, you guys catch me and ask me many questions. That’s basically the formula for the show. You don’t need to grab me at conventions anymore. You can ask me questions about my opinion on Pandemic Legacy, about the app in First Martians or about the next Robinson Crusoe expansion release date and I’ll answer in the show. I used to answer a ton of email questions every day. Because of this show I was able to reduce it drastically. You guys are updated with my weekly answers. Clean and simple.

So, finally Snapchat, huh? Do I really need another channel of communication? What for?!

Snapchat is for unofficial stuff. It’s for prototypes that are in the works. It’s for stuff I cannot post on BGG yet. It’s for videos that can’t get published on YouTube. It’s for work in progress, for dirty stuff, for uncut, unprepared versions of my games. The real work. Nothing photoshopped, if you know what I mean.

Listen, you don’t need to be the Cool Kid On The Block. You only need to be a gamer who wants to see First Martians coming to life in real time. Without photoshopping. Without the marketing bullshit. Just the real stuff and a real prototype.

Join Cool Kid.

Find me at trzewik23
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Mon Feb 8, 2016 3:44 pm
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Enemy number one

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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I've been there. I wrote Neuroshima RPG, put my heart and soul into it, made the game successful in Poland and then I became the main enemy of the fans of the game.

I couldn't understand this. I was really shocked when I was reading mean comments on the Internet about me ruining the game. Fans were disappointed with the game's expansions, or with the lack of expansions, or with the price of expansions, or with the artwork, or whatever. There was always--always!--a reason to complain about the Neuroshima series.

I was their main enemy. That jerk. That fucker. That Trzewiczek-the-asshole. The guy who ruined their beloved game.

I was sitting in front of my computer and I wanted to scream. Hey, guys! I am the one who created the game. I am the one who wrote the book you love. I am the one who gave you hundreds of hours of great RPG sessions. Why do you hate me?

That was tough. I learned the lesson. This year I'll turn 40. A wise man, this Trzewiczek, has now become.


***



We are afraid of change. Change is always something unknown and we don't like the unknown. We like the stuff we know. We feel safe with the stuff we know. There is this famous quote from a Polish movie that goes: 'The songs I like the most are the songs I already know'. Pretty accurate, huh?

Announcing a new edition of the game is announcing a change. A publisher is telling you that the game you know, the game you love, the game you spent hundreds of hours with is going to change.

Let's face it. These changes cannot be good. It's obvious that they will ruin the game. Why would they change it in the first place?! Leave the game alone, you [redacted]!



***



A couple of days ago we announced a new edition of 51st State. The famous Master Set. The BGG threads went hot.

"F**k, this is the one thing I wished they kept"

"Horrible changes, the hype for me is dead."

"It just sounds like they gutted all the things I found most interesting"

and so on and so forth.

First of all: it's not 'they'. It's me. There is no Smoking Man who stays in the shadow and is ruining your game. It's me. The guy who created the game in the first place in 2010.

I spent the last few months polishing the game and making it better. I removed a ton of rules that were not necessary. I rebalanced the cards. I made it quicker and more riveting. It's either me or you now, there is no time for a 'we have five rounds' stroll as in Imperial Settlers. Just this weekend Merry crushed me at the end of the third round. That was something I did not see coming. You feel the pressure from the very first turn. Either you make your engine going or you are out. It's a gamer's game for real.

But even though I know the game is better, I know I will disappoint many fans of the game. I have no doubts about that. Because...


***



I've been there. I designed 51st State, put my heart and soul into it, made it the game successful worldwide and then I became the main...
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Wed Feb 3, 2016 1:45 pm
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I am tired of boring rulebooks

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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[warning: this post includes strong language. If you don't accept such language, please, don't read this post, visit me next week when I have new article. Thank you and sorry for problem.]



On Monday I posted a short article explaining how the Neuroshima RPG book came to life. It's a sort of preface for today's article, so if you have a minute, please, head here and read it. It's a 3 minute read, really short story. It'll give you good background for today’s article.

Link to Monday's article.

***


There were plenty of reasons why the Neuroshima RPG was a tremendous success. It was because of no other post-apocalyptic game on the market. It was because of a rich and immerse world. It was because of huge marketing campaign I did.

And it was because it read like no other book on the market.

Let me just give you few examples.

How did we describe the Abilities of Player Characters in the Character Creation chapter? More or less like this:

Dexterity
You need this high to shoot well. If you can't shoot, you'll die. You need this high because you will need to escape from ruined buildings that just collapsed, or to drive a motorbike and try to escape from mutants. You need this high or you better start creating a new character because this one is already dead.

Perception
You had better focus. There is death in every corner of ruins... in every bunker, old shelter… everywhere. If your perception sucks, you'll wake up with a gun next to your stupid head and 'bum' is the last thing you'll ever hear. You put low points in Perception and you won't even see that fucking tomahawk that is coming to cut you in half.

Charisma
Yeah, sure, invest in Dexterity you dumb ass. It's super helpful when you are surrounded by 10 pissed off villagers who want to kick your ass and your ammo is gone. Yeah, sure, I bet Perception will save your ass when you need to interrogate this ganger to know when his gang is going to attack your hideout. Let me just ask you one question. Did you ever hear of a dude who dodged bullet when he had a gun next to his head? Because, I tell you this... I did hear about guy who were able to convince people to put the fucking gun away.
So low Charisma? I don't think so...

Intelligence
Sure, you might be agile like a gorilla. You might have perception of damn Jessie James. You might be a charismatic bad ass like Tommy Lee fucking Jones, but you end up dumb as shit if you don't invest in intelligence. Guess, what...

And go on and on in that style. Every single sentence in the book was written for the player, and by saying player I mean a gamer who loves RPG, who wants to create best character possible and he wants to enjoy this process. Lots of jokes, lots of meta-stories, lots of jerking with player so he knows that we - authors of the book - know what we are talking about.

It's not boring rulebook that just includes all 'rules how to play'. It was amazing, engaging, funny guide telling players how to survive in the world of Neuroshima and how to create cool character. It was how we wrote the whole Character creation chapter and it was how we wrote the rest of the book.

Chapter describing Europe in the Neuroshima RPG? It goes more or less like this: "Europe, mate?! I have no fucking idea what's 10 miles away from the shithole we are in now and you ask me about Europe? Are you kidding me? There is no radio, no TV, no Internet, and you want to know about Europe. What's next thing you want to know? What's my opinion about the weather on Mars? Wake up dumb ass. No one knows shit about Europe."

And that's all about Europe you'd find in the rulebook. That's how we rolled back then.

***


I write about Neuroshima RPG because I strongly believe that the revolutionary approach we made with language of this book… the way we wrote it… was an extremely important part of the success we had. Players loved to read it. Players immediately got engaged with the game and it's world. Players quoted (really) the book as quotes from movies. They were posting 'the best of' quotes and sentences from the book. It was a blast for so many players.

Board game rulebooks are different kind of animal. They have much more common with technical instructions to your new DVD player than with RPG books.

And yet, I am struggling lately with the idea of making them more reader / geek friendly. I wonder what if instead of writing: "Each player draws 7 cards, chooses one to keep and passes rest to the player on his left. Players repeat this process until every player has one card remaining. This card is kept along with all previously chosen cards." I would just write: "Draft 7 cards. Friendly advice – choose the best of them and then crush your opponents."

Wouldn't it be cool to read rulebooks that are fun? Rulebooks that provide important information but don't spend time on explaining every stupid detail we all know? I mean, do we really need to read sentences like: "Put the board in the middle of the table so every player has a comfortable reach."

I don't know.

I have a well-earned reputation of a guy who is involved in extremely terrible rulebooks. I know that. I messed a lot. I am probably the last person who should talk about improving the way we write rulebooks. And yet, yes, I am struggling with this topic. And yes, I am trying a different approach. And yes, I want all of us to have better and better rulebooks.

I might try something crazy with the 51st State rulebook but before I do this, I'll probably post some fragments on BGG and ask you guys about your opinion. Would you be interested in telling me that I should or shouldn't take that route? Would you like rulebooks to be fun and engaging to read or you just want them to be extremely precise and you don't care that they are boring as a shit?

Please, give me your thoughts. Meanwhile I go back to experiment with 51st State rulebook...
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Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:28 pm
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I said it. It's begun.

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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If you have listen or read any of interviews I gave in previous two or three years, you've probably noticed one thing. This one thing was - I was sending message: 'It's just a beginning. It's not started yet.'

I have unique perspective - I am active here in U.S., and I closely observe how the market grows and at the same time I work in Poland and I observe and analyze Polish market. I run business in these two countries. It gives pretty interesting angle.

I know how many copies of Neuroshima Hex, Robinson Crusoe or Imperial Settlers I sell in Poland. I also know how many times U.S. is bigger than Poland. And I also know how much more people earn here than in Poland.

In all interviews I will give this year I could repeat it over and over again. It's just a beginning. It's not started yet.

But actually I won't. I have pretty exciting news for you. It's started. Mark the date. January 2016.

We all saw it coming. Asmodee is the biggest company in our market. Lately it acquired companies one after another. What is most important for all of us, Asmodee also acquired rights for two titles: Spot it and Catan.

Does it mean Asmodee will come to Gen con, fight for customers with Portal Games, Strongold Games, Plaid Hat Games and destroy us? Or does it actually mean that they are gathering forces to fight for new customer? To go to Target, Barnes & Nobles or any other sale markets and bring new people to hobby?

Biggest company in our hobby sent clear message. We are ready to bring new people to the industry. We have Catan. We have Spot it. We have Ticket to Ride. We have all these amazing gateway games. We have knowledge and resources to use them the best way possible.

I can't wait to see what is going to happen in 2016. I know we geeks are super excited about second season of Pandemic: Legacy. I know you can't wait to hear about new game from Stefan Feld. Hopefully some of you are also eager to see what game Mr. Trzewiczek is going to announce on 23rd of January during Portal Games convention. But this is all just small, minor releases of 2016 compared to what will happen in 2016.

In 2016 boardgaming in U.S. will explode.

I said it. You may quote me on this.
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Wed Jan 13, 2016 7:57 pm
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Thank you for 2015

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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This is it. 2015 came to the end. Many months ago I posted on my blog this article After the battle. Basically I was telling you that 2015 will be freaking awesome.

Don't want to brag, but, hell I was right.

Let me just name three games. Pandemic: Legacy. Blood Rage. TIME Stories. Pretty nice addition to our hobby.

And I tell you this - I strongly believe that 2015 will be the year we will mention a lot in a future. A year that put very strong accent on storytelling in board games. We had this ideas floating around for a while, we had Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective that was some sort of interactive story. We had Tales of Arabian Nights that was crazy interactive story. We had Voyage of the Beagle expansion which is basically some sort of Robinson Crusoe Legacy game that everybody ask me for.

We had these ideas but they were not ready, not well laid out, not well presented, not well executed. If I can say, there was Tragedy Looper but we still were waiting for something. We were waiting for TIME Stories.

Now these ideas are well laid out. Now other designers can be inspired. Now our worldwide brainstorming is taking place. Now our hobby is taking deep breath and try to discover new possibilities, ideas, directions.

2015 add a lot of new to set of tools we designers have.
We have new toys to play with.

Having some behind the curtain knowledge, knowing a little little little bit of what my designer friends are working on now, and knowing what I am working on myself, I can tell you this - I promise you: 2016 will be great.

Happy New Year my friends. It's gonna be awesome.
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Wed Dec 30, 2015 2:11 pm
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I challenge you! Honest publisher manifesto!

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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Grant Rodiek in his recent interview said: "You can make a game that is functional. It is relatively easy to make a game that works and is balanced."

These are the most honest and true words about game design I heard in a long time. Let us talk about submitted prototypes today.

***


I have my reputation. The Trash Guy. The Delete Man. The Mad Man. The Guy who will play your prototype and torn it into pieces in no second. This guy.

How I got this reputation? I receive prototypes every single week. Every single week I find in my Inbox new message from designer who has prototype and is looking for publisher.

It's 50+ prototypes a year.
It's 50+ designers looking for their chance.
It's 50+ authors who met me and got 'Thank you, we are not interested.' replay.
It's 50+ prototypes I throw into bin every year.

Sounds drastic, huh? Well, I prefer to put it this way - it's 50+ prototypes that failed me. Prototypes that were functional, balanced and boring as hell, prototypes that introduced nothing to our hobby. They worked and that's all I can say about them. There was no reason why I'd choose that prototype over playing Bohnansa (published in 1997), Tikal (published in 1999), Tigris & Euphrates (published in 1997), Race for the Galaxy (released in 2007), Dominion (released in 2008)...

From all prototypes sent to me in 2012 I found only one that was good enough. It was called Nobles of Paris and it was released in 2013 as Legacy: testament of duke de Crecy.
From all prototypes sent to me in 2013 I found only one that was interesting enough. It was called Battle of York and it will be released in 2016 as Cry Havoc.
From all prototypes sent to me in 2014 I found only one that was freaking good. It was called Tides of Time and it was released in 2015 as Tides of Time.

I looked into 50+ designs and most of them were functional. Most of them were balanced. Most of them worked. None of them had something to offer.

***


Stop doing functional prototypes.
It's not f... enough.

I challenge you. Surprise me. Deliver something exceptional. I want your best. I want your prototype that make my skin tingle. Give me more than functional prototype.
Or leave my Inbox alone.
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Wed Dec 16, 2015 3:05 pm
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Let's talk about replayability

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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I am obsessed with replayability in my designs. You probably know it pretty well from Robinson Crusoe - 300 different cards with events and adventures, 6 different scenarios in the box, 3 more scenarios as a free expansions downloadable from our website... You buy Robinson and I promise that you'll have like 100 hours of fun. This is me designing games. The same is true for Stronghold, Imperial Settlers, for all the games I make. Replayability is the king.

But!

Even though my design philosophy is all about putting in the box so much content that you will never get bored, I actually agree with Tom Vasel who once said in his podcast that if he play a game and have a great gaming night with his friends, the game would already be worth buying and it might have the replayability value of 0 (zero!) and he would still be happy.

Probably most of you now think that this is dumbest thing you've ever read on this blog.

Believe it or not, but I am with Tom on this one.

Let me explain.

Grab your 3 friends and go to the cinema to see Spectre. 4 x 20 = 80 usd
Grab your wife and 2 kids and go to the ZOO. 4 x 20 = 80 usd
Grab your girlfriend and take her to a concert. 2 x 50 = 100 usd
Grab your friends and buy and play Robinson Crusoe. 1 x 70 usd

OMG, I would never buy Robinson if I could play it only once!!! Well, really? How about giving it a second thought, huh?

***


I am writing about this because Rob Daviau and Matt Leacock did something extraordinary. They convinced you to buy a game that has a limited replaybility. You'll play about 12 games of Pandemic Legacy and that's it. You are done with it.

(yeah, I know, the first step was made with Rob's Risk Legacy)

And yet the players are not complaining.
The players are happy like a kid who just got his Sphero BB-8 Droid.
The players praise it to be a great game.
The players value the experience they had, just as they would do with watching an amazing movie or reading an amazing book.

The players are witnessing a revolution, even though they might not be recognizing that yet.


***


Back to Tom Vasel statement - the question we might ask today is if we are ready to pay 60 or 80 usd for an amazing one-time experience, just like we pay for a cinema ticket, a Rolling Stones concert or a visit to the ZOO.

I think we are not there yet. But the wall has been breached. Pandemic Legacy has showed us that there is a new world out there.

I am very curious what's next. Are you?
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Wed Nov 11, 2015 9:19 pm
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Let's talk about bits!

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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Some time ago Rob gave me this topic for a blog post: “Bits, it’s all about the bits in the box. Do you get component-envious and how do you decide how much to spend on in-game components? When do cardboard tokens become wooden pieces?”

It’s a good one. Most gamers really love good pieces and value quality components. Just today I had a discussion with a friend of mine who brought The Gallerist to show me the quality of production. ‘Look how thick these are!’ he said showing me the game’s tokens. Oh, yeah, thick they were!

Thick tokens, custom wooden pieces, miniatures, metal coins. It’s an amazing time for gamers.

I would risk a thesis that the biggest influence Kickstarter had on board game industry was not a flow of new revolutionary ideas, not indie designers and publishers, not promoting our hobby outside our circles, but the huge change in production value standards.

Because of stretch goals, because of competition, because of user demand, games published on Kickstarter raised a bar for production value to an incredible level. Soon after it turned out that gamers are looking for the same quality and production value in a regular games, games published without upfront funding, without stretch goals, without KS support.

Take any game published in 2010 from your shelf and compare its components with those of games published these days. You’ll clearly see the difference.

Try to find custom wooden pieces in games published in 2010. What about those released in 2015?

Try to find miniatures in games from 2010. Compare with these released in 2015.

Look for custom dice in games from 2010. Compare with 2015.

And my favorite – money. Do you remember how we dissed paper money in 2010 and we praised games that had cardboard tokens instead?

In 2015, money in the form of metal coins is not a standard yet, but we are so damn close to this point, huh?

***


With higher production value comes higher production cost and higher MSRP. Even though our market grows, and trust me, it grows fast and it grows worldwide, game prices stay the same or – as we could see lately – go up. You would expect publishers to offer better MSRPs for their games because they print more and more games and the market is growing but it’s not happening. Quite the opposite. Prices go up.

I watch it happening and I analyze this every single day. I see what other publishers put on the market and I watch out for your – gamers’ – feedback. I look carefully at every piece in The Gallerist, I look at the MSRP and I hear what you say. I see announcements coming from FFG about another 100 USD game and I eagerly listen to what you say. I publish Rattle, Battle having pushed the production value to my dream level and I wait for feedback…

If Rob asks me about components I can say only one thing – our market has changed a lot in the past few years. It’s fascinating to watch this, to be a part of this and to wonder what’s next.

What do you think? Can publishers add [pack] even more good stuff to their boxes?

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Wed Nov 4, 2015 4:12 pm
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Jack Vasel Memorial Auction

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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Once a year at BGG site there is an auction. Important one. Auction where gamers from all over the world bid for unique items and what’s most important, bid for a good cause. In January 2011, Cate Pfeifer (Cate108) posted an auction for Tom Vasel and his family to help with the financial hardship related to the unfortunate loss of his son, Jack. The generosity of the BGG community was amazing. Tom was touched and wanted to pay the kindness forward so he created the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund. He used some of the money that BGGers donated and spent to build this fund. The fund is a not-for-profit with a simple goal: raising and distributing funds to help gamers in their hour of need.

It’s fifth year of fund. Once again I am happy and proud to be part of this action and to offer you super unique item. I called it Treasure Box. In this box you will find pretty unique things. Like original pieces from amazing designers…

London Masterminds from Antoine Bauza



7 Wonders Duel from Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathalha



Among the Stars from Vangelis


Lewis and Clark from Cedric



Tong from Bruno Cathalha



Red November from Bruno Faidutti



Rampage from Ludovic Maublanc


Guilds of London from Tony Boydell


And last but not least
Imperial Settlers cards from me
But for no reason at all I don't have a fancy photo of these

I'd like once again thank designers to join me and contribute to the auction. This is unique item build from the good will of many great people.
It is for a good cause guys!
Here is a link. Bid with generosity.
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Wed Oct 28, 2015 7:43 pm
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