Board games that tell stories

You can follow me on Twitter at @trzewik. This is BGG copy of my blog BoardgamesThatTellStories.com

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12 Essens

2007
The optimism. The belief it is our life-changing chance. It's the year of Neuroshima Hex English release. It's also us almost get killed in the car accident on the way to Essen. It's us signing our first license with an American publisher, Z-Man Games. It's me having terrible flu on the last day of the fair. Like really, really terrible. It's Portal Games signing a contract with IELLO Games. They will become our partner for years.

2008
Moving to the new location. We are next to the CGE and we help each other to promote our games. It's releasing my first game in English, co-design with Michał Oracz called Witchcraft. The game doesn't become a major hit. It's me running demo of Witchcraft for one of the founders of BGG, Derk and kicking his ass. Not smart to beat press and media during the demo, but well...

2009
It's the first time Portal Games is doing the epic buzz for the game. It's the release of Stronghold, and the whole board game world is discussing it. It's my first live stream at BGG. It's the first time we are #1 on the BGG buzz list. It's the first time foreign publishers bidding to get rights for the game. It's the first time Tom Vasel reviews and praises our title. It's also our first terrible rulebook.

2010
It's the first scandal with our production - the box with 51st State misses one of the tokens, we made a mistake and didn't put it on the punch board. It's also the first glory moment - one of the most famous German reviewers, Frank Kulkmann, gives us the award for the best game of the Essen Spiel 2010. It's us eating Haribo bears all day long - we grab them from other publishers booths. It's the first time we are in Essen with Rebel Games, our exclusive distributor.

2011
It's Pret-a-Porter year. It's me trying to convince our hardcore fans who love Neuroshima Hex, Stronghold and 51st State that the game about fashion is a great choice. It's a Portal team wearing fancy clothes at the booth. It's the first year for the company without Michał Oracz. It's a strange year.

2012
It's the second time Portal Games grasps the attention of the whole board game world. It's the year of Robinson Crusoe. It's me going to BGG live stream with volleyball ball that pretends to be Wilson from Tom Hanks' Cast Away movie. It's us signing licenses with 12 different publishers to release Robinson in different countries. It's our first game we sign with Pegasus Spiele. It's another terrible rulebook. It's another great Essen.

2013
We move to the new location, again. We split with Rebel Games. After a few years of marriage, it is the first time we are on our own again. It's the release of Legacy: a testament of Duke de Crecy, brilliant, thematic game with the crazy title. It's spending great long hours with Michael Hendricks, designer of the game in the evenings. It's also starting the Kickstarter campaign for my first book right during the show. It's pure panic when in the very first hours the KS goes far better than planned. It's me running all around the fair, asking my friends designers to help me and write the article for the book as a stretch goal. It's me playing 51st State match against a very good Hungarian player. The match takes place in the evening in the restaurant. I am getting smashed. It's also a year of release of Theseus, but who remembers that game today...


2014
And again we move to the new location. And again, we have an Essen hit - Imperial Settlers. The lines are insane. A number of signed copies, each with a drawing of a cow, is beyond the limits. We have no free tables, we have no space, we have no clue what's going on around us. One of our volunteers builds a "coffee table" from cardboard boxes, covers it with a piece of rag, and starts demoing the game asking everybody not to touch the table. We are under siege, as never before. The game sells out on the second day of the fair. The most successful Essen in history. Poland becomes World Champion in volleyball that year beating Brazil in the phenomenal final match that takes place a few miles from my home. I don't hesitate to mention that victory when signing copy of Imperial Settler to my fan from Brazil.

2015
We are releasing Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot. Don't remember much from the show except one thing. Last day of the show, Sunday evening. We are in the Irish pub in Essen watching football match Poland versus Ireland. The winner of the match goes to European Championships. The loser is out. There is a pub full of Irish supporters and 5 of us from Poland. Singing, shouting, supporting with the whole passion. Poland wins the game. The night to remember.

2016
We move again. We move to the prestigious hall 3. The epic booth is one of the best looking booths at Essen that year. For the whole 4 days of the show I cannot help it, but compare it all to the year 2007, the year when I feel we made it - Portal Games is doing something exceptional. At this show, we are releasing Cry Havoc, and for the first time, our German division releases a game - German edition of 51st State. Jeff, our volunteer from US, who was with us at every Gen con, visits Europe and is with us all Essen. I meet Patric, the most insane volunteer Portal ever had. Essen 2016 is the Essen we moved to the hall 3. The Essen to remember.

2017
We increase the size of the booth. Portal Games is one of the major exhibitors at the fair with a 200 square meters booth. We release First Martians and Alien Artifacts; none of them becomes a major hit of the show. It's the first time we must care for power banks and tablets - First Martians demos and Rising 5 demos need some technology! We have an army of amazing volunteers. We have a great team. And although I see that this Essen releases are not very popular, I am optimistic. At that time I am already working on Detective. I know the next year will be huge. Detective is phenomenal.

2018
Monolith Arena on 20 tables. Two offices as part of the booth busy with ongoing meetings all day long. Seminar for press and media with the announcement of L.A. Crimes expansion for Detective. Then a special Detective event for nearly 100 players playing Suburbia case in one big room. The year of Detective released in German at Portal Games and Pegasus Spiele booths at once. A great year, although there is one issue - I am missing Champions League game - my favorite German football club, Borussia Dortmund, plays a game a few miles from Essen. A ton of my friends go to see the match. I don't have tickets. Sad face.

2019
As I am writing this post, my team is on the way to Essen. It's the first time I will show up only for two days. It's the first time I will be more visiting than running the show. It's the first time Portal Games doesn't mean Ignacy. It's the first time Portal Games means amazing team that can do exceptional work and needs boss only to smile for selfies and interviews. It's the first time... It's awkward. Weird. It's different.

Things changed over these past few years. Things changed...






Which our Essen was your first Essen to discover Portal Games? Any cool memories from that time?
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Tue Oct 22, 2019 11:09 am
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Try Detective. It's fun.

THIS ARTICLE SHARES SOME OF THE INFORMATION FROM THE INTRO FOR THE NEW CASE FOR DETECTIVE. NONE OF THIS IS SPOILER, ALL OF IT PLAYERS LEARN IN THE FIRST 3 MINUTES OF THE GAME - DURING THE BRIEFING.









They came a few minutes earlier. Chris asks me for a coffee. Tony puts a bottle of wine on the table and asks where I keep glasses. Miriam rushes into my kitchen, grabs some snacks, and goes to the games room laughing. Everybody is excited. It's a game night. Today we play Detective. There is this new case, Natural Causes, Portal Games just released.

***

I’m the only one who played Detective before. For the rest of the gang, it's their first time with the game. They had heard a lot. Thirty nominations and awards including this famous, the German one, spiel the something. Hundreds of thousands of copies sold, dozen of local editions, even a Korean one. It's all marketing noise. What they really heard is that the game is good. And hard. Chris asks where the donuts are. Miriam brings a pencil and a notepad to the table. Tony pulls out his wallet, shows his ID and says 'Agent Tony Marino reports for duty!'

You can feel the energy — the game night!

***

I read the introduction. I am doing some small acting when reading the part of our superior, Richard Delaware. The story slowly unfolds.
'What was the dead guy’s name again?' asks Miriam.
'Higgs. Calvin Higgs.' answers Chris. 'He was killed yesterday. Do we know what day is today?'
'The story starts on Sunday, April 14th.'
'We don't know if he was killed, right? You said he was found dead.'
'Yes,' I say, 'Delaware said that the body of professor Calvin Higgs was found in his lab at the Biology Institute.'
'And he worked for FBI? What was he doing exactly?'
'Don't know. The intro doesn't say that. We can investigate this path. It's card 103 if we want.'

***

Miriam makes first notes. Chris writes down numbers of all available cards on a piece of paper in the middle of the table. Tony pours wine.
'So what are our options?'
'We can read the medical examiner's report. We can go examine the crime scene. We can contact the FBI and ask about the nature of Higgs's work. And the last one - we can go to the local police and ask what they already found,' I say.

All options are tempting. We debate. We laugh when Chris says that at the local police there will be donuts and he really wants one. Miriam says the medical report is the obvious choice; we need facts and data. I am eager to see the crime scene. Tony agrees with Miriam. After a short discussion, we all agree. Let's see what the autopsy says.

***

One hour passes. We talked to a dozen suspects. We visited the crime scene, and we met a couple of people Higgs was working with. We discovered some dark secrets about him. It's fun. It's what games are designed for - a group of friends talking, laughing, trying to solve the mystery. Another 30 minutes, another few cards, few leads, and clues, and we slowly get the picture of what happened to Calvin Higgs. We go to the Final Report phase; we answer three questions. We solved the crime. High fives! Glasses and toast!
'That was fun!' says Miriam.
I am happy. I knew they would have a great time.
'Are there more cases like this?' ask Chris.
'You bet.' says Tony. He shows off his wallet again 'Agent Tony reports for another case!'

***

Portal Games team spent around two months working on Natural Causes case. Every single day of the process, I was visualizing you having a game night like this. This week we published it. The case is free to download. You don't need a base game of Detective to play it. Just grab the files and play. It's a perfect demo for everybody who wants to discover Detective.

I did my job.
Now it's your turn.
Invite your friends. Have a great game night.




LINK: https://portalgames.pl/en/natural-causes/
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Wed Sep 25, 2019 3:52 pm
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Empires of the North GDJ - Boost and Underwater Cities

In this series of very short articles, I discuss rule differences and design choices we made when working on Imperial Settlers. There is so many of you sending us questions about how Imperial Settlers compares to Empires of the North. I hope this series of articles will answer this question.

#4 - Boost and Underwater cities


Underwater Cities is the best game released at Essen 2018. I haven't - obviously - played all the games released in Essen. I cannot compare party games with trick-taking games; I cannot compare dexterity games with heavy euro. I know all of that. Still, I freakin' love Underwater Cities.

I was lucky to discover the game when working on Empires of the North. I was building the action wheel; I was playing with all different variants. Empires of the North was like a building site — every day different rules and variants.


Underwater Cities couldn't have better timing.

***


In Underwater Cities you will find all the same type of cards as Imperial Settlers. It has Production cards that activate in each of 3 production rounds in the game. It has Permanent effect cards that work precisely like Feature cards in the Imperial Settlers. It has Action cards that work like... Yeah, I know, you get it.

Underwater Cities also has two more types of cards. Instant and End-Scoring cards. 5 minutes into the game and I fell in love with Instant cards.

'I salute you,'Mr. Suchy, I said and sat to design something similar in Empires of the North. We called them Boost cards. How do they work?

When you use your action pawn (we call them Clan tokens), and take a particular action, you may additionally play from your hand for free a Boost card if it matches the type of the action.

You take Sail action, you may play Quick raid card, and your ship is immediately back with all the loot. Boost cards influence the action you take and add some additional effect. They are another tempting choice you are making when playing. It's another great choice - do you go for Harvest action, because you need more resources, or go for Sailing because you have in hand this great Boost card?

We decided to use Boost cards for one more thing - differentiate faction decks. Each deck has a different distribution of Boost cards; Wandering Inuits have a ton of Boost cards for Explore action while Pillaging Vikings have boosts for Sail action. While designing decks, we were able to strengthen the theme of the deck just by giving a different number of boost cards dedicated to particular actions.

Boost cards fit the game as they always were there. They match the game perfectly, and I guess there will be some players who will praise Joanna and me for this smart concept.

We introduced and executed this idea pretty well; that's a fact. But the idea belongs to Mr. Suchy. So let me once again salute the genius and once again recommend you Underwater cities.

***
Learn more about Empires of the North here.
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Fri Jul 19, 2019 10:06 am
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Empires of the North GDJ - Drafting cards

In this series of very short articles, I discuss rule differences and design choices we made when working on Imperial Settlers. There is so many of you sending us questions about how Imperial Settlers compares to Empires of the North. I hope this series of articles will answer this question.

#3 - Drafting cards


Some geeks might assume I a not a big fan of Terraforming Mars. Two games about Mars were released in 2017; one reached Top5 Best games according to BGG and became a bestseller, the other got on sale everywhere with the bad press all over the Internet. Terraforming Mars is the one with success. First Martians, the game I designed, is the other one.

The fact is, I love Terraforming Mars. I play it quite regularly, I have all expansions, and the disappointment I had with the reception of my First Martians has nothing to do here. Terraforming Mars is a great game.

We designers respect great games. And we love to get inspired by great games.

***


I probably never ended a game of Terraforming Mars with less than 15 cards left in my hands.

I cannot help it. During the draft phase, when I get all these interesting cards into my hand, and I can keep them all if I only want...

Yeah, I keep them. I keep them all.

Draft phase in the Empires of the North is a draft phase directly inspired by Terraforming Mars. At the beginning of the round, you gain 4 cards. You can keep any of these by just spending a worker. The same worker, you'll need later, in the main phase of the game, phase in which you activate cards.

That's a tough choice. Keep cards or keep workers.

The draft phase is so much more exciting compared to what was happening in the Imperial Settlers. You have all these awesome cards in your hand, you look at your pool of workers, and you count. I need to spend one dude to activate Tavern. I need one to activate Port. I need one to activate the Northern Festival card. I have only two to spare, but these four cards I have in hand can make a difference. If I don't do Tavern this round and keep this card instead...

Want to keep this awesome card?
Want to have workers to activate cards abilities?
You have 4 cards in your hand - make a choice.




***
Learn more about Empires of the North here.
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Wed Jul 17, 2019 3:45 pm
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Empires of the North GDJ - Harvesting

In this series of very short articles, I discuss rule differences and design choices we made when working on Imperial Settlers. There is so many of you sending us questions about how Imperial Settlers compares to Empires of the North. I hope this series of articles will answer this question.


#2 Harvesting


It all started with us looking for pillaging villages and stealing sheep. The first prototype had all production cards with wooden pieces put on them. We called them fields, and they represented our lands. Another player was able to raid our fields and steal those resources.

Viking theme, you know. Raiding the coast. Taking stuff. Making noise. Fun stuff.

It had a great theme. And it put the whole resource management off balance. One moment you had 4 sheep, next, you had none.

***


We came back to the basic Imperial Settlers rules with the Production phase, but I was not happy, and after a few games, I got rid of the whole Production phase. I said, 'Want stuff? Send your people to harvest.'

It was new - the player doesn't get free stuff at the beginning of each round. No Production phase. That changes a lot in a game. Now you value your resources. Now you care about every single wood piece you have. Now you pay attention to details.

It's just one rule change, but the whole dynamics and economy of resources flipped. The safe haven - Production phase at the beginning of each round - was gone. You were entering dangerous seas. You were on your own. When playing Empires of the North, you better manage resources wisely because nobody will back you up with free stuff.

It worked well. It was challenging. It was fresh. And although overall there was no pillaging other players fields, there was something new here.

And I did like this something.
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Tue Jul 16, 2019 9:17 am
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Pret-a-Porter and the unexpected stretch goal

The element of Pret-a-Porter I like the most is The Plan. The fact that at the beginning of the game, in the setup phase, we laid out all the exhibition shows tiles and The Plan for the game is ready. Every single person at the table knows when Quality will matter. Every single person knows when to invest in Trends. Everybody sees that Public Relations will be worth a ton of points in the third quarter.

We all see the plan. We all have it set up in front of us. We all are going to prepare for this roadmap and decide how to shape our company and how to navigate between shows - to have the best Quality in the first quarter, the best possible PR in the third and to not ignore Trends during the whole game, because they are low, but at the same time, will score in every show.

We all see The Plan. And yet, only one player will win the game. Only one player will navigate the best, their company will adjust to each of the shows, their long and short time strategy will have the best synergy.

What does The Plan have to the new content? Well, I have a new plan for you.

***


It's called Modern Times. It moves Pret-a-Porter to the present day. You have online banking - you can use Bank space without action pawn. It's so much easier to get credit and increase your company's cash flow.

You have a home office culture, so you can hire employees without having a building for them.

You have Twitch streams and e-shows, so in August, before September show, you can present your collection on a special streamed show and get additional prestige for your brand.

Small tweaks in the gameplay that are presented on the scenario sheet in the setup phase. Every single person at the table knows when Twitch show starts. Every single person knows they can invest heavily in Employees. Everybody sees that we have easy to get a credit line.

We all see The New Plan. We all have it set up in front of us. We all are going to prepare...

***


Scenario-based Pret-a-Porter is aimed at the players who played the game a few times already and want a new challenge, want new scoring possibilities during the year, want small tweaks in the base engine of the game. Want a new plan.

Last week I opened the gate. Opened an endless sea of possibilities. I gave you a tool to develop Pret-a-Porter in the directions none of us could ever dream. Because of this fantastic Kickstarter campaign, I made the first step in this journey.

I will design a Modern Times scenario, offer it as a free PDF content for everybody and as a nicely printed of thick sturdy 350 g paper for every backer.

What's next?
You tell me. Cannot wait to see your ideas.



***

Check out this amazing Kickstarter campaign here.
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Mon Jul 15, 2019 12:10 pm
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Empires of the North GDJ - The wheel

In this series of very short articles, I discuss rule differences and design choices we made when working on Imperial Settlers. There is so many of you sending us questions about how Imperial Settlers compares to Empires of the North. I hope this series of articles will answer this question.


The wheel


It took us some time to discover the wheel. It all began with production cards. I put them on the table, I put sheep, wood, and fish pieces on them, and it just looked good. Let's change how the production works I decided. Let me keep these pieces on cards. Let players harvest them. Let's shake things compared to Imperial Settlers.

So harvesting became a thing.


There was also this 'seas and oceans' thing. The game is called Empires of the North so there must be ships and ports, and raids and Islands and sailing.

So sailing became a thing.


And there was this Architects of the West Kingdom board game and its unique workers economy, with one closed pool of dudes you must carefully manage. I really liked it and decided to play with this concept. A player starts with 5 people in their Empire. It's their pool of workers. Want a bigger pool? Populate.

So populating became a thing.

***


I had these actions listed on big tiles. I gave each player 2 action pawns, and it worked. I added two more actions, Explore and Construct, and that's how we played for some time - besides playing cards and activating their powers, each player was able to do two actions from the five tiles.

We really liked this part of the game, and I felt like it could use more prime time in the gameplay, it could play a more important role. After a few days of playtesting, I allowed players to spend an apple to flip the action pawn, put it on adjacent tile, and activate it again. Suddenly placing the action pawn became an essential part of the strategy - you could move it to adjacent spaces, you had to think ahead, and decide what action to do now, and what you gonna do next, on adjacent tiles. The five available actions became a vital part of the game.

***


And then Asia came to my office, she cut tiles into a new shape, placed them in a circle. 'It makes more sense now,' she said, smiling.

And that's how we discovered the wheel.
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Sun Jul 14, 2019 1:45 pm
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GDJ: Never before in my life I was so close to a heart attack...

Today I present you the story I published in October 2011, when the first edition of Pret-a-Porter was released. It's one of my favorite articles I wrote. The day it talks about is one of "these days", day I remember vividly after all these years. Enjoy.




Talks with the National Bank of Poland have lasted for months. We knew there was an NBP department of education that finances educational projects. We knew we had a game that can teach finances. Perfect match.

So there were offers, there were talks and there were first prototype versions of the game. I have repeatedly visited Warsaw presenting draft stages of the game. It was a journey into a different world. In the world of the National Bank of Poland, there are people who dress in suits. At 7 AM they come to work with briefcases in their hands. They use a coded badge to enter the office. They have lunchbreak at 1 pm, and they have a vacation once a year which they spend in exclusive resorts abroad. And they use language I heard once in my life - when accidentally put Bloomberg on TV.

Each time I was there, dressed in my flannel shirt and combat trousers, with a rucksack containing a broken laptop that accompanied me on more than one incursion outside the city on my back, I felt I entered the world of adult human beings. Not exactly my world.

***

Finally, in early September, Pret-a-Porter was ready. The final, finished prototype. We had received a number of postulates concerning financial and market mechanisms to appear and changes we had to make in the game during those long months of discussions and consultations with representatives of NBP's Board of Experts. Some of these demands had been included, some rejected, as they made the game less exciting and playable, and those had been our top priorities. Above all, we wanted to make an interesting game that would smuggle in the meantime, a bit of knowledge about the world of finance.

There came a time of the final meeting.

I have never felt such dread in my whole life. The fate of the project depended on this presentation - NBP wanted to subsidize the game's production.

And so I'm going to Warsaw with a box under my arm, and the whole time I'm just a step away from the retreat. I'm terrified.

***

Finally there - as it is typical there - a lot of suits, guard at the entrance, passes, phone calls, ya know, the capital. The National Bank of Poland. I'm being led into a conference room; I prepare the game's setup. There comes the project supervisor, the man who finally decides whether to give the game the green light or to pause the entire project.

"Have you met all the experts' demands posed during our past meetings?" they ask bluntly.

"No, not all of them." I answer.

"And why is that?"

The conversation heads in the wrong direction. I feel the room lacks oxygen. When I entered here, I think I saw an air conditioning. Apparently, it just broke.

"Maybe we should play first, and I will show you how the game works, and then I will explain what we haven't done."

"Great, then we should play."

OK, the execution postponed.

***

And so we play. I analyze what is essential during the first fashion show, I look at what comes later on, how to plan the play. I'm awfully stressed, there's emptiness in my head. I see only that the Quality will be most important now, yet from my experience, I know that opting for expensive high-quality materials strategy in the first quarter is very risky. I watch the first opponents' moves. One seems to go for the Quality, the other was lucky with designs and will probably exhibit three. I will try to win Trends and PR and hope it will work out somehow. We play. One move, two, three, boom, the first maintenance phase. I can see that one of the NBP employees, the one responsible for this project, practically spent everything he had. The second player, the invited financial expert, plays without hurry. I play chaotically; I cannot help it, I'm devoured by stress.

February. The first and the second move. I see what the project manager is doing and I see that he is on his way to bankruptcy, he bought what he wanted, yet he doesn't have enough for the maintenance. Damn. He will have a surprise in the maintenance phase; he will have to get a loan. The expert, on the other hand, did what he wanted to, he calmly took Credit, bought the materials in the Warehouse, and he will go for the shows with three Designs absolutely undisturbed.

And I. I don't even know what I'm doing. Chaos. I just stare at project manager board and I know what's coming...

***


The second maintenance phase comes, the project manager, the guy who now has to accept the game for its production and confirm the NBP grant is in deep shit, his company is going through a rough time with no money for employees' salaries. I explain to him this massacre, and I tell him that he must get an expensive loan because he overinvested. "Hard luck," he says. Meanwhile, the expert paid all the salaries ending up with 2 $ in cash left. He cut it fine. Either he is fortunate, or he can count. I bet on the latter.

***


Finally, the fashion show comes, our supervisor wins in Quality, the expert is a leader in Quantity, and we have a tie in Trends. I get the scraps in the form of winning PR. We count our profits after the first show. My outcome is poor, the expert has earned quite well, after Credit's repayment, he gets a nice profit. My project supervisor earns a lot from winning the most important feature, but after repaying the private loan, he barely makes any profit.

"Well, I think we have seen enough to assess the project. We don't need to play more.", he says pushing his cards, money and the board to the further part of the table.

In this split second, my heart stops working. I think I am having a heart attack. Shit.

The guy played only the first quarter, lost it completely and now he stops the game and says he is done with it.

I could have advised him not to go for the damn Quality in the first quarter. Shit. Shit. Shit.

"I do not know about you, Marek," he says to the expert, "but I'm delighted!"

Whaaaat? Did I just hear him saying the word "delighted"? My heart is confused. Do we proceed with this heart attack, or what? Maybe just faint?

"It is an excellent game." The expert answers.

"I intentionally risked too high costs to see whether the game reacts. As you well know, Mr. Ignacy, above all, this game has to be educational, has to show young people the consequences of certain actions. I have overinvested, I didn't take care of a credit line, and it ended up with my company being barely on plus even though my clothes collection was the best. In turn, as I have seen, Marek played very calmly, when he needed to push forward he took Credit and ended the first part of the game with the best result, right?"

"Yes, I wanted to see to what degree taking the Credit and obtaining additional funds would allow me to invest in larger purchases of materials and exhibiting more extensive collection. The return rate seems to be very well balanced. "

I hear what they say, but at this very moment, a little reach my brain. They begin to talk about numbers, whether the private loan has an appropriate handling fee, whether employees' salaries are well balanced and whether the dependence of credit value on the investment size – that is the size of collection – is a suitable solution.

At some point, I realize that they are talking to me.

"I congratulate you, Mr. Ignacy. You have made an excellent game. I am glad that we have trusted you and undertook this project. The project has my full acceptance, and Pret-a-Porter can move to the production stage. " my supervisor says.

I have worked for months to hear those words. I tell you, it was worth it.

"I'll accompany Mark out and get back to you in a minute, we have a few formalities to determine," he says and leaves. After a moment, the door opens again, and I can see Mr. Marek.

'When this game is published, I could count on a copy for NBP here, yes? I want to play with our team here. I like it a lot." He says with a conspiratorial tone.

'Yes, by all means." I answer.

I'm left alone. The feeling is amazing. I'm here, in the heart of National Bank of Poland. Yes, the National Bank of Poland. I have just played a game with Bank's experts. And they are delighted.

This is it. The moment.
Still, though, I think I might faint.



***


LEARN ABOUT OUR KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN FOR THE NEW EDITION OF PRET-A-PORTER HERE.
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Fri Jul 12, 2019 11:31 am
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Under pressure

I am strangely wired. My brain loves stress. The more pressure there is, the more clear I see the world, the more precisely I work, the best effects I get. The bigger the problem, the bigger shit I landed in, the happier my brain is. It somehow cuts any situation into small slices of issues, prioritizes them, and step after step fixes it. I am deadly precise and effective under the pressure.

Here is how it affects you, dear gamer.

***


In 2013 I ran a KS campaign for my book. The campaign needed more Stretch goals because it turned out to be far more successful than I expected. Every day I was looking at the KS page thinking "Shit, shit, shit!" I felt I am disappointing loyal fans because I cannot reward them with new goals for their support.

Late night few days in the campaign, I came up with the idea for mini-expansion for Robinson Crusoe. It was called Beach, it had a deck-debuilding mechanism. It was both very thematic and frankly speaking pretty smart. Fans put me against the wall, the campaign was going very good, and I knew I must design something awesome for them. And I did. Beach is my favorite mini-expansion for Robinson.

Why do I mention it?
Because it's July 10, 2019.
And it happened again.

***


Pret-a-Porter is a game I designed in 2010. Over the years, I received so many different questions from fans. They asked about the 5th player variant. They asked about the solo variant. They asked about new cards.

Over all these years, I came up with nothing. The game was a finished product — the closed chapter. I was happy with the game as it was. I had nothing more to add.

This year we decided to release a new edition. For the purpose of this new version, I spent some time playing the game again. Who knows, maybe I can come up with some improvements, I thought.

Indeed, I found a few small things to tweak. I changed how the Contracts worked, added an advanced variant with complex, but smart player order rules, and obviously, I changed and rebalanced a few cards — overall it was polishing. The game is as good as it always was, and I am proud of it. Closed chapter, as I said.

And then you know, Kickstarter happened.

***


The funding goal of 35k was reached in 41 minutes. More than 900 backers backed the game in the first 90 minutes of the campaign. 3000 backers in the first 24 hours. Planned stretch goals were almost all unlocked after the first day of the campaign. And I had 13 days in front of me.

Some people call it a success. I call it pressure. Shit. Shit. Shit.

There is no more bits we can upgrade, every wooden bit in the game is already custom and screen-printed, cardboard is thick like dinosaur skin, the insert is not only plastic, it also has added the removable plastic tray for all resources. Cards have the best illustrators in the industry.

We cannot upgrade the game anymore, there is no single game piece left not upgraded already.

We are done.
Or not...

***


It's Wednesday morning when I am writing this post. 48 hours in the campaign. I have new content for Pret-a-Porter on my desk. Needs polishing. Needs playtesting. But it's here. If the campaign still grows, I have material to work on. Brand new content.

I haven't designed anything new to the game over the past nine years. I haven't created any new content while playtesting it recently and preparing a new edition for KS. It only took 48 hours of a Kickstarter campaign to put pressure on me and put my lazy brain to work.

Thank you.


***


Check out this insane KS campaign here.
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33 Comments
Wed Jul 10, 2019 12:54 pm
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I want exactly what you’re the best at

I've approached the pinboard to add yet another cut-out newspaper piece about an unexplained accident near the abandoned factory on the north side of the city. It's the seventh case in the last half of the year. Young people die in these empty facilities, and the only thing that connects those kids is the fact that each of them was a metallurgy student of one of the local universities. Another look at the pinboard - all those pictures, notes, and newspaper pieces - I know the answer must be somewhere here, a thin thread that ties it all together. I need to find it.

To write the story for the Detective I've hired my all time friend. We know each other since college. He was the best Call of Cthulhu DM in the entire area. After college, I've chosen the path in the gaming industry, while he became a well-known architect. Next thing I know, 20 years have passed.

I gave Przemyslaw all the freedom that he needed to create the story for the Detective. I remembered the fantastic stuff that he was creating years ago for the Call of Cthulhu, so I had only one demand: 'I want exactly what you're the best at - I need a story with a number of layers, plot twists that players will reveal when they get further in the story.'

It's what he is best at - an amazing ability to create simple at first sight plots that are not simple whatsoever. He masterfully combines different threads into one single master plot that connects everything. He spends countless hours searching through the internet and looking up different facts and slowly builds a story stretched through different times and places, that somehow, in the end, create one big picture. Playing either Call of Cthulhu with him or the Detective is like watching outstanding Netflix show filled with surprises and plot twists over the whole season.

I've experienced it so many times during playtesting - that stunning moment, that frame of a second when one of the players suddenly stops reading a card in the middle of the sentence. The player raises their head and looks at everyone else. There it is. Everyone at the table realizes it, this detail, that missing piece that allows you to see the whole big picture, a small crumb that turns everything around, a fact that ties with everything else, and connects things that had no connection at all just a second ago. Goosebumps.

For all these moments, for those chills running down your spine, when everything is finally making sense, and you're nodding silently impressed with how deep it was all hidden. For all of the above, you have to try and play the Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game. Przemysław Rymer is a genius.

Once again, I'm going through the box filled with everything that we've secured at the house of one of the victims. I grab an invitation for the Metal Heads Competition that took place in April, last year. A hunch? I reach for the phone and dial the number listed next to the company responsible for the organization and ask for the list of participants. A few minutes later I receive an e-mail, I print it out, highlight some names and stick it to the board. Twelve people were participating in this competition, and seven of them are dead, sitting there on my board right next to this list. Is this the thread I was looking for...?
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Thu May 30, 2019 11:12 am
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