No, we weren’t at the private screening of Dune. We knew the book by heart, we knew every bit of the story, but the movie itself we watched as all of you – when it hit theatres.
Today I discuss the experience of designing the game tied in with the Hollywood blockbuster.
“The book has been available in bookstores since 1965. What spoilers?!”
This is the question I heard in the previous year the most. The common reaction when I discuss the strict policy we had about revealing the story presented in Dune: House Secrets. We could not tell about the plot of the movie, and therefore we should be cautiously introducing the plot and concept of the story in Dune: House Secrets.
“The book has been available in bookstores since 1965. What spoilers?!” you say.
“I know,” I reply.
I am myself a bookworm and know the whole series of books, and yet, I understand and sympathize with this difficult restriction we work with. Dune is a fantastic novel. Dune has more than 600 pages. Most of you never read it and never will. Most of you will know Dune only from the movie. Being very vocal when I promote Dune: House Secrets about the events on Arrakis may ruin your experience when you finally decide to watch this epic movie.
I am not happy with the limitations I have. I wish I could tell you more and more about Dune: House Secrets timeline, how it fits in the book timeline, how it uses events described in the book and how it engages players with the new intrigues on Arrakis.
Working with blockbuster releases must come with some limitations. To know more about the Dune: House Secrets fascinating story, you must play it.
“You read the book. You know the story. What’s the problem with writing your plot?”
The problem is that the book has 600 pages. It’s hard to translate it into the movie. I don’t know which fragments of the novel will be sacrificed and removed in the movie. I don’t know if some of the characters will have less screen time than they had page time. I am building a story based on the book that will be sold to the people who watch the movie.
We all remember the surprise of the fans of Glorfindel when they saw in the Lord of the Rings movie that suddenly it is Arwen who saves Frodo.
When writing the story in Dune: House Secrets, we hoped the movie was as close to the original material as possible. The plot in our story is based heavily on the events and some characters portrayed in the book. Any changes Denis Villeneuve introduces might throw our story off the track.
And although the movie is a magnificent adaptation and is everything fans could ask for, still some small details, some tiny cuts that were made here and there, slightly touched our plot. It was inevitable.
I can easily divide players into three groups. The first group – those who never read Dune or saw the movie. They will enjoy our game as a fun science fiction story about rebels fighting the evil oppressor.
The other group is those of fans who saw the movie – you enjoy the plot, recognize some characters, feel the theme and atmosphere of the story, enjoy the visuals and world-building that brings them to the Dune they know and love.
And then the third group, those who read the book, know all about Paul, Leto, Thufir Hawat, Bene Gesserit, their motivations, and goals. This third group can see all the layers and subtle motives hidden in the game.
Designing a game like that, set in the existing universe, is a new type of challenge, a challenge to create a product that speaks to all groups of fans. Seeing the praise in social media the game gets for the story, I think we achieved almost the impossible. I couldn’t be more proud.
“It looks pretty much like in the movie!”
The whole art direction of the game was a unique experience for the entire team involved in the game’s production. In Dune: House Secrets, the artwork played a significant role – it had to transport players on Arrakis, on the planet they saw in all its glory in IMAX.
The team behind visuals had access to a dedicated bible file and the style guide – a collection of guides and concept art pieces created for the Dune. Soaking with style, our illustrators began the work to bring the experience from cinema onto cards and into your living room, where you play with your friends.
Some of the illustrations were rejected, some sent for correction, most got immediately green-lighted. Week by week, piece by piece, Dune: House Secrets was part of this epic cinematography, and the locations created for the game looked as they were part of the film set.
The experience we had when we saw the movie for the first time in IMAX was priceless. The architecture, the technology (film book, ornithopters, shield), clothes, all of that felt so familiar to the team who worked on Dune: House Secrets for the past months.
Working on a big IP brings a significant number of new challenges and, at the same time, many great experiences. It’s a year of hard work and many exciting lessons. It’s a process that will give a topic for many more interesting articles. It’s the adventure that let my team bring a great story-driven experience for all of you, who love to experience a good story. Thank you.
You can follow me on Twitter at @trzewik. This is BGG copy of my blog BoardgamesThatTellStories.com
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In the previous article, I discussed most physical components of Dune: House Secrets and what their purpose was in the game, and how they helped immerse players in the story. Today we continue the breakdown of the design process - I'll discuss one deck and the website.
One of the most famous components in Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game, were photos. A square-shaped deck of cards with portraits of every non-player character in the story. As the game progresses and players meet these witnesses, suspects, and consultants, the photos land on the wall creating the beautiful, insane mind map of correlations and interactions between story characters. Players are detectives. They must find the murderer. The photos and mind map does the purpose.
Your experience in Dune: House Secrets is quite different. In Dune: House Secrets, player characters are now rebels, not investigators. So while players are still challenged to explore a world and unravel a complex mystery, the story itself unfolds in a new, exciting way. When players are given visual glimpses into this world, it's less about building a mindmap of suspects and case evidence, and more about navigating this rich, foreign setting. We hired an army of illustrators to visualize the various key characters and locations that you encounter during your missions. As the game progresses and players visit new places and cross paths with new people, they draw cards that transport them to the deep deserts of Arrakis and help to bring this immersive experience to vivid life.
This one small change in the art direction, moving from non-player character portraits into environmental artwork and location visualization is another small piece that adds to the new experience in Dune: House Secrets.
As mentioned in the previous article, Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game, is known for its integration with the website — the tool that allows players to log into a sort of FBI system and browse through databases, compare fingerprints of suspects, check DNA samples, and do other cool things.
I guess you heard about The Butlerian Jihad, the war that ended up removing computers from human life in the Dune universe. That was one of our first topics when discussing the game with Legendary. What about the website that the Detective system uses? Will Dune: House Secrets use a companion website?
Yes, with the twist.
We decided we would use it as a tool for players, not player characters. Let me explain.
In Detective, the player uses Antares website, but they do it roleplaying as their character. It's their character who logs into the system and checks DNA samples.
In Dune: House Secrets, the player characters cannot use an in-world website during their adventure, because there is no such thing as a website to access within the Dune universe. May it be in Portland or Poland, only the players themselves can access our website for their own purposes, so we needed to find an authentic way to use the website to enrich the gameplay.
We decided we would use the website as a guide into the rich lore of Dune. We use it to educate players about the Houses, conflicts, politics, and all things their character living on Arrakis already knows, but players living in Dallas don't.
Also, being aware that so many players will be discovering the world of Dune for the first time, and we cannot leave them behind, we decided that the Learn History feature is a must.
Beautifully animated cutscenes, two minute long videos assist players in some crucial moments educating them about Atreides, Harkonenns, Geidi Prime, and other important facts. Facts important to understand the depth and all layers of political plot we have in the game. Not only does this material establish the existing Dune canon, but also explains new stories exclusive to the game.
These videos are visually stunning, but more importantly, they make the complex mythology of Dune more accessible and help players comfortably navigate this world and solve the mystery on their own terms.
At the end of each game of Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game, players must complete the Final Report and answer questions. They answer who was murdered and what the motive was. Although this element seems absolutely mandatory in the murder mystery game, we’ve struggled with it for years. What we see in the feedback and playtesting is one big issue: players have a blast feeling like they’re awesome detectives for three hours, only to give a few wrong answers during the Final Report at the end and learn they weren't that awesome, after all. The positive energy, the fun, the amazing memories, and the experiences are all gone in a split second. You finish a 3-hour game session, and the game leaves a bad taste in the mouth… all because you gave one wrong answer at the end.
We played with this system and changed it for the Vienna Connection game, and then, seeing very positive feedback, we followed up this design direction in Dune: House Secrets.
In Dune: House Secrets, we went for the concept of the RPG campaign. When you play a tabletop roleplaying game, the game sessions flow, one after another, without Victory Points or the Game Master judging your efforts and achievements with some Final Score. You just get to play, enjoy the story, and wait for more.
At the end of each mission of Dune: House Secrets, players read the epilogue together and choose one topic that interests them the most. The one plot element they feel is most important, but they just scratched the surface. They ask Zarzur, one of the leaders of the Fremen rebellion, to tell them more about this particular element and help them prepare for the next game session.
We know this is an unexpected shift for all of you who’ve played Detective before, but it's a natural and satisfying conclusion for the game and anyone who has played tabletop RPGs.
It's fascinating for me, as a designer, how much you can play with the system, how much you can tweak and change even in such a simple game mechanic like Detective. How we - designers - achieve our goals, specific player experience by changing a few small elements here and there, and how it was possible to change a full-blown investigative best-seller into a brand new beast about sabotage and rebellion.
I wish you all the best with the game, and I hope that you and your friends will have a great game night on Arrakis.
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Dune: House Secrets is a story-driven game inspired by award-winning Detective: a modern crime board game. The game uses the same system to tell an engaging story, but at the same time, with some tweaks and changes in the rules, it brings a very different experience. In this article, I'd like to discuss a couple of these changes.
Detective: a modern crime board game was all about putting players in the shoes of characters from procedural TV shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Players take the role of law enforcers and detectives. They visit the Lab to examine DNA samples, they visit Court and City Archives to dig in old files and cases, they visit Richmond PD to question suspects and witnesses. The game comes with a small board to help manifest this simple structure - Lab, Richmond PD, Court - this is your terrain, this is your playground, this is your procedure.
Dune: House Secrets invites player characters to Tel Gezer, a small city on Arrakis they never visited before. They are members of resistance on a secret mission. There is no structure, there is only unknown, there is only the fog of secret war.
In Dune: House Secrets, I decided to throw out the board as players know it from Detective to remove the safety of well-known locations. I gave them the map of Tel Gezer, a big paper map like in RPG sessions. I marked on it 26 different locations - tavern, palace, landing pod, gallery, market, all different places—the whole big city, the city that is unknown to the newcomers. Instead of solid structure from Detective, they are given a handout with things they need to explore and places they need to learn about.
It's a simple design change. Remove the board with four familiar locations and give a map with 26 unknown ones. Suddenly from the confident law enforcer, you turn into a traveler that visits a new place.
In Detective, at the beginning of each game, characters add their ability tokens to the pool. This represents their skillset and how they can add value to the team by excelling in some areas. These tokens are then used in the game to dig deeper into some cards and learn more about certain plot elements.
One of the characteristic elements in Dune is Fremen's frugality, their sacred care for water and spice. They are quite the opposite to today's society in which the word waste goes along with every day. I wanted to show it in the rules, both the scarcity of resources and the respect to what a person has. The ability tokens received one simple tweak. Once spent, they are gone. They don't replenish at the beginning of the next game.
Players begin the campaign with a few resource tokens. That is all they have for the whole 4 mission-long campaign. Each time they want to spend a token, they think twice. Each time they spend resources, they debate if this is the moment. Each time they spend resources, they feel the gravity of the action.
Welcome to Arrakis.
In Detective players are law enforcers. Confidence is their unlimited resource. They can visit crime scenes, they can question witnesses, they can check police databases, they are in control of the situation.
In Dune: House Secrets, you play a rebel fighting against evil Harkonnens. You act undercover, you run in shadows, you watch every step you take, and your every action is a risk.
To represent that with a simple mechanism, we decided to add a small Push your luck mechanism in the game. When taking certain actions, like passing behind guards or breaking into a Harkonnens building, players must take a risk test and draw a Consequence token. We have 2 good ones in the pool and 3 alert ones. When you draw the red one, the Consequence track moves, and if it ever reaches the final spot, the resistant forces are in trouble.
It's a simple mechanism added to the Detective system, but it adds this moment of uncertainty, the split-second-long thrill when you draw a token knowing that you are just doing something very risky...
These are three small changes, small tweaks in the Detective system we introduced in Dune: House Secrets that allowed us to change the feel of the game and help players immerse into Dune. They are no longer detectives. They are rebels in the city of Tel Gezer.
In the second part, I will discuss how we approached the Antares website and adjusted it to the world in which computers do not exist...
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20 Aug 2021
I am not allowed to play Bohnanza. It was 2009, we were on vacation at the Polish sea with friends, and I epically won Bohnanza. In the evening, when we get back to the room, my wife Merry, with a solemn tone, said to me: 'I forbid you to play this game ever again. You embarrass our family.'
Since then, over the past 12 years, I have played Bohnanza twice. Secretly, so Merry doesn't know. I am petrified of her anger.
She forbids me from playing this game and many other games where you need to talk a lot and negotiate because, in these games, I somehow turn into a crazy salesman that yells, outtalks everyone at the table, begs and threatens other players, throws money, grabs cards from people's hands... I cannot explain it. Something is happening with me. I lose control. It's pure madness. It is really embarrassing.
My wife Merry didn't playtest Dreadful Circus. If she did, though, she would be proud of me. Over the years, I grew as a player. I don't yell. I don't grab other player's cards. And I still win. Because instead of yelling, I think. In Dreadful Circus, there are so many layers to discover and then take advantage of. Let me explain.
In Dreadful Circus, in each round, two players put one of the cards from their hand on auction. The rest of the players can make an offer for these cards. If a player wins the bid, they add the card to their tableau. These cards modify final scoring. It's super simple - see what cards are offered, pick the one you prefer, and make an offer.
And then there are these beautiful layers and levels of thinking the player who sells the card discovers. Should I take a better offer? Or should I be satisfied with the smaller bid but be sure that the offered card won't end up at John's table? Should I sell this card to Martha because this card has no synergy with her other cards, so basically, I will get money, and she gets nothing?
Nice. But what about we take one step backward. Before you choose offers... You look at your hand. You see what cards you may offer for sale. Do you go with the card that Robert would loooove to have, and you expect to earn good money? Are you going with the card that would help Mathiew? He is in a terrible position, and with this card, he could come back into the game. Will he pay a lot for it?
Nice, huh? But what about we take one more step backward. The setup is done. You have 7 cards in hand. You will put one of them in your play area now. It will tease a bit of your strategy for this game. You will sell four of these cards to other players during the game. These will help them score points. You will play the sixth card in your tableau at the end of the game. And you will discard the 7th card. No one will get it.
You smile? You see yourself building the strategy when you get the cards. And then in each round, you are adjusting strategy, and you put differently than the planned card on auction. You see how players' tables are growing, what they need, and what you have in your hand.
Dreadful Circus is a brilliant set collection game with the perfect mix of planning, negotiating, and outsmarting opponents. Bruno Faidutti did something exceptional here.
And most importantly, Merry allows me to play it!
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06 Aug 2021
It was 2001 when everything changed. My parents, who never were very enthusiastic about my passion for fantasy and science fiction literature, suddenly started talking about Gimli and Legolas. Suddenly they knew who Gandalf was. Suddenly they were passionate about Nazguls. Suddenly they needed answers and were asking me about the Gondor, Saruman, and what happens to Merry and Pippin next.
Peter Jackson’s movie made the Lord of the Rings novel a worldwide phenomenon.
Today everyone, your aunt, your brother, your mother-in-law, literally everybody knows words like a hobbit, shire, Gollum. Everyone discovered this fantastic story. The story we geeks already knew for years.
Ten years passed.
It was 2011 when everything changed again. My wife’s sister, who never read a single fantasy book and has nothing to do with us, nerds, suddenly started talking about Ned Stark. Suddenly she knew who Daenerys is. Suddenly she was passionate about Lannisters. Suddenly she needed answers and was asking about Arya and what will happen to her next.
HBO’s epic show made Game of Thrones novel a worldwide phenomenon.
Today everyone, your uncle, your sister, your father-in-law, literally everybody knows words like Westeros, Iron Throne, Night’s Watch. Everyone discovered this fantastic story. The story we geeks already knew for years.
Ten years passed.
It is 2021 when everything will change again. Your friend, who never read a single science fiction book, suddenly will start talking about the Fremen. Suddenly he will know who Stilgar is. Suddenly he will be passionate about Harkonnens. Suddenly he will ask you questions about Thufir Hawat and what will happen next.
Upcoming Denis Villeneuve’s masterpiece will make Dune novel a worldwide phenomenon.
This fall season, everyone, your cousin, your father, your neighbor, literally everybody will know words like Melange, Bene Gesserit, mentat. Everyone will discover this fantastic story.
The story I already loved for years.
You don’t know it yet, but I already know – you will fall in love with Dune. I am happy for you.
(illustration comes from book cover for the new print run of Dune)
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20 Jul 2021
Dune: House Secrets is a story-driven campaign game that takes place on Arrakis. Players take the role of rebels in the resistance forces against House Harkonnen.
The game comes with a Prologue and three main Chapters. They are all connected and form one plotline that takes place over a few weeks in Tel Gezer. Besides this immersive plot, the campaign aspect of the game also influences the gameplay mechanisms as well in the form of Experience Points and a Final Report. Today we’d like to discuss these aspects.
After each Chapter (including the Prologue), players log in to the dedicated website and choose a path for the story to develop. It’s called the Final Report and it represents players coming back to their hideout in the desert and reporting to the resistance commanders about the events in Tel Gezer. Players are then asked questions about what the resistance should do next. Depending on their answer, players will influence the story and also gain some new pieces of information or even Resources. The story then continues in the next Chapter
The other campaign aspect of the game is represented by the Experience Points. At the end of the Chapter, depending on the location of the Consequence token on the Consequence track, players receive Experience Points (XP) as a team. They cooperatively decide which character spends them and undergoes training. That character receives an ability in the form of a sticker that is added to their player board. Abilities add new resources to the pool and — on a higher level — allow players to manipulate tokens and exchange them.
As explained in one of the previous articles, Dune: House Secrets is not only an engaging story to discover but also a challenging game in which managing Resources and the development of Characters might affect the final result of the campaign.
LEARN ABOUT IT and check last days of pre-order campaign here!
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Dune: House Secrets is an adventure game that offers a fully immersive and interactive experience like none other. During the game, players draw Encounter cards to push the adventure forward, meet Non-Player Characters, and visit various locations in the city of Tel Gezer. In addition to cards, maps, and tokens, the game also comes with the website element. Today we’d like to discuss its role in the game.
The whole team here at Portal Games knows and loves the story of Dune. We know that many of you have read the novel and eagerly await the movie. We are also aware that for many players, Dune: House Secrets might be the first introduction to Arrakis and its story. We are using a dedicated website to help you understand the events in the game and enjoy the richness of the world. Here’s how it works.
Before each game, players log in to the website to watch a short introductory video, which presents the recent events in the city of Tel Gezer and shows the larger picture of what is happening on Arrakis. It’s a great way to start each mission with the right tone. The game builds the theme and rich narration within the first minute!
Later in the game, some of the Encounter cards give players access to additional videos. This part of the game is called History. It presents facts and events that player characters are aware of, but the players themselves may not be. These beautifully animated three-minute „cinematics” give additional background and help players understand the plot. Like many video games, such cut-scenes help explain the background of the story, present additional characters and their unique history. From these animated short videos, players learn about Giedi Prime, the conflict between the Atreides and the Harkonenns, and more.
The website is also used at the end of the Chapter, when players make an important choice and push the whole campaign in a particular direction. We will discuss this in the next update. Stay tuned!
Pre-order Dune: House Secrets to get a special limited edition of the game. ➡️ dune.portalgames.pl/en
Check out the update on Monday and see what bonus we’ll be adding to your copy of the game!
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Dune: House Secrets is an adventure game that takes place on Arrakis. It thrusts players into the midst of a conflict between two great houses and allows players to play a small part in Dune's history.
Dune: House Secrets is inspired by the award-winning Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game, but unlike its predecessor, it’s an adventure game. Players are not playing as investigators, detectives, or cops — they are rebels, part of the resistance forces fighting against House Harkonnen.
This brand new angle gives a fresh, unique turn to the gameplay. Players won’t have access to files and FBI databases. They won’t be allowed to visit crime scenes or question suspects. The whole game changes into an exciting adventure, where stealth, bribery, and sometimes brute force are the only tools available. It’s reminiscent of a good old-school RPG where a small team of heroes must complete a quest. Players eavesdrop on guards and soldiers, sneak behind their backs, and spend Resources like Water or Spice to get to places normally unavailable to them. Some of the Encounters resemble classic video games like Thief or Dishonored rather than modern crime shows. In some missions, players must commit the crime rather than find out who did it.
Do you have the strength to oppose House Harkonnen? Are you ready to join the resistance? Welcome to Arrakis, rebel.
Pre-order Dune: House Secrets to get a special limited edition of the game. ➡️ dune.portalgames.pl/en
Check out tomorrow’s website update and see what unique bonus we’ll be adding to your copy of the game!
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12 Jul 2021
Dune: House Secrets is an adventure game that takes place on Arrakis. It’s set during the events described in the novel and allows players to play a small part in Dune's history.
The game is inspired by the award-winning Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game. It’s a card-driven game in which players have three unique Chapters to complete. Each chapter is a series of Encounters represented by cards that, based on the player's choices, shape the game’s story, just like in RPGs.
Each card in the game represents one Encounter. It might be spying on somebody, talking to merchants, breaking into a mysterious warehouse, or following a spice transport. Each Encounter pushes the story forward, reveals new choices, and gives access to new Encounters. Players will gain new allies, new enemies, and with each card, they will learn more about the story.
To resolve Encounters, players may need to spend their Resources: Water, Spice, and others. Sometimes they use them to bribe a guard, but they could also use them to fight their way through. To add to the theme of the game, Resources are limited, just like in the merciless desert of Arrakis. Players start the game with a Pool of Resources, and the supply
doesn’t replenish unless they gain Experience Points (XP) at the end of the mission and spend them on training. In Dune: House Secrets, you not only pursue leads to reveal the story, but also manage your Resources to survive another Chapter on the planet. If you spend too much of your Resources, or if you don’t gain enough XP for training, your adventure may end sooner than expected.
Welcome to Arrakis. Are you ready for an adventure?
Check out tomorrow’s update and see what bonus we’ll be adding to your copy of the game!
LEARN MORE AT: DUNE WEBSITE
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12 Jul 2021
I always supported England. I was a die-hard fan of the team with Joe Cole, with Frank Lampard, with Steven Gerrard, with David Beckham, I loved them all. I remember the epic shot from Steven Gerrard that was a goal, but there was no goal-line technology back then, and we all in front of TV saw a goal, but the referee did not. I remember myself taking bets that David Beckham will have the most assists in the cup. I remember the anger I felt when Sven Goran Eriksson lost the match that was basically won, but he decided he will do the substitution...
I always supported England. Always, but not this time.
Rahim Sterling's dive in the match against Denmark was a disgrace. I couldn't accept it. I turned my back on England for the first time in my life.
England scored a quick goal against Italy and stopped playing. From the 10th minute of the game, they decided that they want to keep the score. No ambition to score again. No motivation to create a spectacle. Just stone cold Mourinho style game. It was a disgrace. The whole world watching and you just defend the 1:0 score. I couldn't accept it. I felt it was good I turned my back on England this time.
English fans attacked Italian fans on Wembley, including kids. The video spread like crazy on social media yesterday. It was a disgrace. I couldn't accept it. I felt it was good I turned my back on England this time.
English players took off the medals they won the second they got them showing disrespect to the achievement. It was a disgrace. I couldn't accept it. I felt it was good I turned my back on England this time.
I discussed in this blog a few days ago my First Martians case. I discussed Pride as a deadly sin.
England was drowned in Pride yesterday.
Congratulations to Italy. You played great football over the course of the whole tournament.
That's it. The Eurocup ended yesterday.
In England, people woke up this morning with an eternal hangover, on a more depressing Monday than ever. In Italy, people are just about to go to bed. The hangover will probably come too but has a different cause.
For a fan, watching your team win Eurocup is something you will always remember. You know where you were, what happened, and how it happened. At this moment, you never realize how long you have to wait until next time. I myself remember that moment in 1988 very well. I was 11.
But as the smoke clears, people start to look at the club football again. The clubs are already playing their practice matches again. It's really relaxing to go and watch one of your clubs. No tension, no fight for championship or against relegation. You need that on a holiday. Just watch new players trying to work themselves in the first team. Look at a couple of goals. See your friends again and discuss the best lineup, as if you were managers. A little relaxation during the summer holidays.
In Eleven you will also discuss your best lineup with your friends. But only after the match. You don't want to help your opponent of course. It's always nice to give your friend a little advice after he messed up. It's not only about the victory points. It's about honor. Of Course, you know more about football tactics. In Eleven you can prove it.
Thomas Jansen is the designer of Eleven: the football manager game. Ignacy Trzewiczek is the developer of the game. They both will share their thoughts about EuroCup 2021 and also talk about the design or development of Eleven. Be with them every day during Euro! If you like football and board games, please, share the news about Eleven!
You can learn more about Eleven HERE!
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