Board games that tell stories

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

Archive for Ignacy Trzewiczek

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Introvert has time of his life!

NOTE: I am not a psychologist. It's a crazy thesis. Everything I wrote below is probably false. Probably. You read. You smile. You have some reflection. Respect other people and our differences.

Extroverts rule the world. Everything here is built around them. Everything that is important for humans on this planet is built to please extroverts. Let me give you just a few examples—for instance, December 31st.

Every 365 days, the world celebrates New Year Eve. It's an important social event for the whole planet, and let's face it, extroverts told the world how we must celebrate it. There is a party, there is dancing, there are crowds on the streets—terrifying night it is.

And that's just beginning. When two people love each other and decide to marry, they must extrovert it - that's how the world is built. They must invite other people (often some they never met before, but apparently are part of the family) and they must share the joy with them. There is always a party and dancing and singing. And there are people, a lot of them. People all around. They smile and talk to you. You can't marry a loved one without that.

Even the most personal event—birthday is run under the extrovert terror policy. It's your own birthday, but you cannot spend it alone. You must meet those other people and extrovert it. Otherwise, you are a weirdo.

For the whole life, we introverts are forced to consume every critical event in our lives in an extrovert way, being stressed and under pressure for the whole time. Whenever it is my very own birthday, my very own wedding, or, granted, my very own funeral. I will be extroverted by force.

Well, well, well...

For the first time, extroverts are forced to live the other way. For the first time, the world makes them live a way that suffocates them, put under stress and pressure. Kept at home by social distancing rules, they are sitting alone in front of the TV, closed in four walls and it drives them crazy and nuts to be kept away from other people. No dancing, no crowds, no other people around. They suffer.

Dear extroverts! I know this pain. For the past 40 years, I felt it every time you made me party. Be strong. Yours sincerely, introvert Ignacy.
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Wed Apr 8, 2020 11:09 am
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I created a monster!

This is the post I wrote many years ago. Since many of us stay at home and may consider trying to play with your beloved ones, here is a warning...



I created a monster!


A long time ago in a faraway galaxy My Wife didn't play board games. Then I showed her Cash & Guns and Citadels and she began to play games. My mates were jealous. My Wife played boardgames. Lucky me. It was a great time. But months passed...

One day I came back home and said that I just sold Adel Verpflichted. 'What do you mean, you sold it?! Why haven't you asked me?! I like that game! Bring it back!' Man, I felt like hit by a big hammer. She was serious. She was damn serious. I wasn't allowed to sell Adel Verpflichted!

That day I discovered that there are games she likes. Games she wants us to have at home. That was something new. That discovery cost me 14 euros. I had to buy Adel Verpflichted back again. No more my games collection. It was our game collection since then.


We were in the car, driving back from board games convention in Vienna and talking about games played there. 'I want you to buy me Ingenious', she said. She was serious. She was damn serious. She wasn't talkin' about flowers. She wasn't talkin' about perfume. Nor about a new dress, handbag, ring. She was talkin' about the board game. She wanted me to buy her a board game. Wow!

That day I discovered that My Wife - like my true gamer friends - fell in love with new titles. She plays a new game, she loves it and she wants it. That was something new. That discovery cost me 20 euros. I had to buy Ingenious.


Early September, a few days after the holidays. Kids sleep, silence at home. My Wife asks me to play Race for the Galaxy with her. In the last few weeks, we played more than 50 games of RtfG. I am sick of it. I can not look at it. 'No, thanks', I say. I hear my voice and I can't believe it. I just refused to play a board game. My Wife wants to play a board game. I don't want to play a board game. This is crazy.

That day I discovered that I am not the only one at home who asks to play board games. And what is more, perhaps, I am not the truest gamer at home. It seemed that My Wife was more 'geeky' than me. I was scared. Terrified to be honest.


A few days ago. 'Do you want to play The New Era?' she asks. No way. I am sick of it. She knows it. I refuse to play it for few weeks. I am asked to play every day and I do refuse it every day. This is a deep deep defense. I refuse and refuse. This is terror. Seriously, I am in a corner, terrified. I feel like "a geek's wife", forced to play board games every single evening.

'Never mind' she says 'I asked Tycjan to come. He will play with me'. She is serious. She is damn serious. They play New Era. I only watch it. I don't play. I can't believe this is real. I can't believe this is happening.

This is my newest discovery. I created a monster. There is a truly dangerous geek at my home. Help me.
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:25 pm
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Many dates or one marriage? A board gamer torn!

"No ideas of new games? Just cashing in on old titles?" - this is the comment I found after our announcements at Portalcon. In my opinion, the second sentence would benefit from one small 'huh' at the end. "No ideas of new games? Just cashing in on old titles, huh?"

So much better!

***

At Portalcon, we announced The Book of Adventures - a massive, 50+ pages thick collection of old and new scenarios for Robinson. We also announced Rise of the Empire, the revolutionary open-world campaign for Imperial Settlers, the campaign that you can play with different groups of players, and the whole system balances itself and evens out. We additionally announced not only new cases for our best-selling Detective but also a brand new story-driven spy game set in the Cold War era. Vienna Connection takes players to Austria, winter 1977, and puts them against KGB agents.

Three incredibly rich products that provide a dozen of hours of pure joy. All those new ways to die in Robinson, all these new plots and cases that you will have to crack playing CIA agent... It's one of the strongest years for my dev team at Portal Games.

Gamer's perspective?
Just cashing in on old titles, huh?

***

I'd like to ask you to do exercise with me. Play a game of theoretical assumptions and see where we get.

On one end, the common format of game publishing - the company releases a ton of new games, has something new in store for every gamer, every month has something new and exciting. If we can use an example, let it be Renegade Games, they put in 2019 about 20 new products. Something new almost every other weekend. Their dev team always want to surprise players with a unique design. Just this past year, you were trading fantasy equipment in Bargain Quest, you were fighting a monster in Terror Below, you were Power Ranger, and you were Paladin from West Kingdome. That's one epic ongoing phase of discovery and exploration for a gamer. The publisher always has a new game to discover.

Another format would be the opposite. Wizards of the Coast released Magic the Gathering in 1993. Since then, they continue to support this one game. They have new expansions, new play formats, a tournament scene - you know all of that. One great game, lifetime support. If you love Magic the Gathering, you know, you have a friend for life. They have nothing more in-store, no new card games, no new CCG, no new titles - just constant amazing support for this one great game.

Imagine your favorite game; let it be Gloomheaven or Agricola. Let it be Terraforming Mars or Root. Imagine if publishers of these titles instead of running for a new title and developing new games to feed cult of the new would, for the next couple of years, spend all the time and effort bringing you value by supporting these one great game they have.

Would you pick five years of great, dedicated, fully focused support for Terraforming Mars or five years of 20 new games per year?

***

The question I am asking today is simple - is a new game better than an expansion for your beloved title. I don't know. From a designer's perspective, it is exactly the same amount of hard work and poured heart into it.

When designing expansion, am I just cashing on existing titles? Or rather I am giving you lifetime support for your beloved game?

Or, as always, the truth lies in the middle?
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Fri Feb 21, 2020 2:57 pm
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Help me. I lost my compass.

I lost it. I am done. I qualify for retirement. My compass is dead, and I feel like for the first time in years, I am surrounded by a thick fog. It feels terrible. Let me explain.

I was pretty prophetic when in 2011 I created Board games That Tell Stories tagline for my company. I designed Robinson Crusoe and talked aloud that players look for good stories in games.

I was a bit too early to the party when in 2013 I published epic HMS Beagle campaign game - a massive expansion for Robinson Crusoe. Geeks needed a few more years to discover and fall in love with campaign games.

I was perfectly on time with Tides of Time in 2015. The whole industry was at the peak of love for microgames, small games got a ton of attention, and I brought one of the best ones out there. Tides of Time became a worldwide hit.

I pretty much nailed it with the timing for my Mars game in 2017. We all know it turned out into an epic disaster because gamers did not enjoy my game, but as for my compass skill - that was strong A+. The best compass in the industry. I would argue that in this case the compass actually killed me, the hype for First Martians was so huge, the expectations so high, the demand so crazy, that when I came with the game on the golden plate, it could only disappoint.

Anyway, a year later, the compass once again proved it's value. In 2018 I came up with Detective. That was an ultra combo - campaign game and a detective game. In 2018 you could not have any better. The game sold in more than 100k copies, won more than 30 awards, became the detective game. Mindblowing plot spread over five challenging cases was something never seen in the industry before. My - created 7 years earlier - tag line shined. It was a board game that tells story. And what a story it was!

2019 in the industry was all about only three words. Roll and write. There was not a single publisher who resisted the trend and hype. We knew it, and we combined it with the rapid growth of solo gaming, the trend that could not be ignored any longer. As for the numbers and as for business decisions, it is much safer now to release a game for 1 player than for 2 players. Solo gaming has its moment, and it's freaking strong. Our Roll and Write had 48 unique boards dedicated to a solo play. Our other release, Empires of the North, had a dedicated solo booklet with unique scenarios and modes to play the game. The compass was on the spot again.

But... Yeah, and here we come...

Compass served me for years. Being part of the community, being on game forums, being active on social media, being a vivid board gamer myself I felt it, I knew what players play, what they like, what they discuss about, what's hot, and what might become hot soon. I was always one of them, and I was as excited as they were. I loved Love Letter back then, and it was no brainer for me to sign and develop Tides of Times. It all came naturally to me.

I no longer have it. The compass is silent. I am pretty confident we will see an epic collapse of the campaign games trend this year. I hope I am right because in two weeks, at Portalcon we are going to announce a very unique campaign product, a product that hopefully answers some of the problems I think I see among my fellow gamers.

But what's next? I don't know. Too many games. Too short life span of a game. No trends in the forums. No single game lives more than a few weeks on Twitter or Instagram. Games are played one time and tossed aways, replaced with a new hot title. It's crazy.

Fellow geeks. My compass is dead. Please help me with yours. What will we see in 2021? Where are we heading? What new mechanism or genre you see slowly getting attention?


***
Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/trzewik/
Watch my vlog: http://bit.ly/PortalGamesYT
Tweet with me: http://bit.ly/Trzewik
Check out Portal Games FB: https://www.facebook.com/portalpublishing/
Visit Portal Games website: https://portalgames.pl/en/ and https://portalgamesus.com
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Fri Jan 10, 2020 11:00 am
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How Vikings landed in the best scifi push-your-luck micro game!

He was always driving me nuts. There is no other person whose face appeared on my smart TV that I yelled more often at than Sam's (well, besides some volleyball players from teams I support).

***

When The Dice Tower published Top 10 video, Sam drove me crazy exactly ten times - every single time he was about to say his pick, but instead of saying the name of the game, he was presenting freakin' 3 minutes entree! If I were there, sitting next to him, I'd grab his shirt yelling, 'Just say the damn title! Say it! Say it now!"

I wasn't there. I yelled at the TV. Kids were confused.

***

Every single time The Dice Tower published one of their Live Playthroughs, I couldn't believe that nobody at the table is making karate moves on Sam. I would. I would karate him every single time he took his 10 minutes long turn. I felt physical pain on my whole body when he was taking his turn. I am serious. My whole body was trembling. The legendary Downtime Master he is.

I wasn't there. I karated my coffee table. Kids were confused.

***

His picks in the Top 10 lists never matched my picks. I couldn't believe how often you can put Viking game on the list, whatever it is the best card game, the best sci-fi game, or the best party game. Apparently, there is a Viking game for every occasion. He was always wrong with his picks, he was always choosing the game, I would not consider even for Top 10000 for this category.

'Look what he picked?! Vikings again?! Is he crazy?!' I yelled to my kids. 'Dad, why don't you like vikings?' I heard back.

***

Jokes aside.

Tom Vasel, Zee Garcia, and Sam Healey created a dynamic, funny, and diverse trio that, over past years was recording one of the most entertaining and influential board games YouTube show. The chemistry between the members of the gang was one of the forces that drove the show. The diversity - in my humble opinion - was the second one.

With every episode, they manifested the diversity in the genre, the richness of our hobby, the differences in tastes in board gaming. The famous 'crossover' picks were a rare case. In most cases, each list was different, each of the members picked 10 different titles for the best games in a particular category.

I was yelling at Sam's picks, and I disagreed with him every time, and I thought it is the best thing that can happen. We have different tastes. We look at games for different things. We appreciate different mechanisms. We should celebrate the differences. Top 10 lists The Dice Tower was producing was the show that celebrated that.

Dear Sam, I wish you the best in your new career and thank you for driving me mad for the past few years. It was the best that could happen to our hobby - a constant reminder that we all should respect each other choices and the fact that we like different games.
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Tue Dec 17, 2019 10:13 am
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How I ruined Essen 2019

I wanted to be smart, hack the system, and make an awesome Essen experience this year. It turned out, I am not that smart. It turned out, I ruined everything.

It was my 12th Essen. I figured out Portal Games is a pretty big publisher. I have an amazing team. They don't need me anymore. They can run the show. They can build the booth, bring the product, sell the product, organize a demo team, do it all. Finally, I can step back.

So I did. I decided I will arrive on Thursday evening so I will be at the show on Friday and Saturday only. On Sunday morning, I planned to come back home. What a wonderful plan it was!

It started bad very quickly.

Detective got nominated for innoSpiel award and the ceremony took place on Thursday afternoon, at Spiel. Along with Deutcher Spiele Preis - Detective made it to the list and won 6th. place. Prestigious, class ceremony with all the press and media from Germany. But you know, Ignacy had this awesome plan for Essen, right? Small faux pas, huh? Luckily, my German publisher, Pegasus Spiele knew how to act. They accepted both awards on my behalf.

Things escalated quickly. On Friday morning I received a printed plan for my meetings. I looked at it and gasped. My first meeting was at 9:30 am, my last meeting was at 6:30 pm. Altogether 16 (sixteen!) meetings packed every half an hour. 'What is this?' I asked Greg. 'I had to fit all the meetings in only two days. What did you expect?'

Awesome Essen experience, that's what I expected. Not being stuck in the tiny office for nine hours straight.

'Here are cookies from a fan'
'Trzewik, everybody asks for you'
'Zee was here, was looking for you'
'Rodney was here, was looking for you'
'Here is a gift from a fan from France'
'Everybody asks for you'
'Trzewik, that was a bad idea. Everybody asks for you'

Yeah, tell me about bad ideas. I know it all.

In the meantime, it turns out we were publishing on social media the wrong date for my seminar. All our fans are confused. Some come to our booth asking about seminar. We explain it takes place on Saturday, not on Friday as we were informing on our social media. Awesome Essen experience.

I am entering the booth office again, but before that I grab Marek. 'Take Pret-a-Porter, go to the BGG booth and prepare the presentation, set up everything. I have a meeting now, and right after the meeting, I will run to the BGG booth. The live stream starts right after I finish this meeting. Prepare everything so I can start the demo the moment I am there. It's gonna be tight.' He grabs Pret-a-Porter and goes to BGG booth. I have a meeting. I finish the meeting. I run. The live stream starts in a few minutes. I take no prisoners - I trip over people, I act like an elephant, I have one goal - run, Ignacy, run!

When I reach, Marek smiles.

'You had it wrong in the calendar. Live starts in 50 minutes.'

Very freaking funny.

I guess, I just won a special price - I can visit the restroom for the first time today.

Back to the BGG booth. Live stream with Rodney. Great time, he knows Pret-a-Porter - it is so much easier to discuss the game and present to the audience when Rodney asks me good questions, knowing how to teach the game. In the meantime, I drop the bomb and make reference to the classic joke about Rodney and his tutorial video for Star Wars Rebellion. Rodney loses it for a few seconds. Well executed Ignacy.

Run. Back to the booth. Late for a meeting. One more meeting. End of the day. It's Friday evening. The second day of the Essen. I saw no Essen. We are in the car. My team complains on me. 'People are asking about you all the time. You should be at the booth.'

I know. I know. Awesome Essen experience. What was I thinking?

***

Saturday starts. I try to be at the booth as much as possible. I sign games. I take selfies with fans. I take all the meetings fast and efficient. I have two double-booked meetings because of another calendar mistake. Hours pass. Finally, it is 3 pm. We run for a seminar. Spiel invited me to run seminar about 20 years of Portal Games. We are in Germany. We are at Essen. I am a guest speaker for Spiel. I prepared a nice and civil version of my Gen con seminar. And then the files on the computer are gone, somehow I have only half of the prepared slides. I need to improvise. I can improvise. I am best when I improvise. The only problem, no longer I am nice and civil. With every minute the seminar is more and more funny and less and less nice and civil.

I get my applause. After the seminar, fans from the audience are coming to me saying it was the funniest seminar they ever attended at any game convention. I am pretty happy with the outcome. Then, about an hour later I meet Max from Spiel. He says that the seminar was recorded and will be published by Spiel on their official channels. Well, that's exactly why I should stick to the slides, be nice and civil. That's exactly why...

Anyway, I run again. We have a live stream for Essen Spiel. I am supposed to play with Tom Vasel. We run to hall 6. In the hall there is no booth number as mentioned in the email. I double-check the email. Ah, that's the booth number they used last year. No idea where they are this year. I sit at the booth and wait.

Few minutes later Max from Spiel rushes to Portal booth, looks at me and yells: "Ignacy, where are you, Vasel is waiting!" I answer in the most stupid way possible: "Where are YOU?! I was looking for you in a hall..." We run. We reach the booth. They are doing me makeup. 'Where is the game?' Andreas asks. 'What game?' I ask. 'The game you should play with Tom.' Ah, that game...

They run. I sit with Tom and chit chat pretending everything is fine. In the meantime Max tries to convince Portal employees they need to get him copy of Empires of the North and they need to give it to him NOW!

We play the game. It's fun, a ton of jokes, plays quick, I lose. Damn it.

Go back to the booth. Pizza party with our amazing Portal Gamers team. Jokes, selfies, beer. And the German security guard. 'You have no right to have a party here.'
'Yes, we do'
'No, you don't'
'Yes, we do'
'No, you must stop now and leave the hall'
'Ignacy don't argue. The party is over.'
We say sorry to our team. We clean the party. We go back to the apartment. We check in the emails. We did have the right to have a party, we did all the paperwork and payments. Something went wrong on the Essen side. Pity. Ruined our fun time with our friends volunteers.

On Sunday I come to the booth to say goodbye to our team. Shake hands with volunteers and that's it. I am leaving Essen. I feel terrible. I bought 3 games. I missed all friends. I missed all the Essen. I failed my fans. I ruined Essen for myself.

No more. No more. Never again 2 day Essen.

How was YOUR Essen?
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Tue Oct 29, 2019 12:03 pm
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Thou shalt fear! Stronghold Undead 2nd Ed. is coming.

It’s impossible. It literally cannot be done. There is no way I can sell you the full scope of colors, depth, and history of this project. I spent more than a year designing the base game of Stronghold, and then another few months designing Undead variant. The game was out of print for 10 years until we finally decided to get back to it. I sat with my team and spent countless hours developing the game even further. Stronghold: Undead is a pure manifesto of my Board Games That Tell Stories tagline and trust me, it’s a great story on so many levels. It’s impossible to tell them all, and yet, let me try.

So where do I begin?

Besetment of the fortress is one of the richest and most inspiring themes in the fantasy genre. The battle for the Helm Deep and defending it against an army of Uruk-hai is a stunning piece of fiction. Having a board game telling this story, having a chance to command forces and try to break the walls, or fight in despair to defend them, is the theme for a great game night with your old friend.

Stronghold: Undead tells that story. You command dark forces of evil marching towards the Pearl Keep. You may summon Phantom Gale to move your forces, or change the foregrounds into rotten Marshes boiling with dark energy. You may cover ramparts with Ghostly Mist so your forces can move unnoticed. Your Vampires besiege walls and give their dark power to Phantoms that hover over the towers and dump defenders on the ground. Skeletons slowly march towards walls, while Strigoi abducts archers. Cursed bats veil the moon covering the battlefield in darkness. The whole table is in your control, wherever you look, it’s your army closing the pale fist around the human castle. It’s a majestic view.

That’s a glimpse of what the game has. 24 different spells for Invader player, different forces, different wall sections they can attack, and then we can start talking about the wealth of defender actions and his desperate fight to keep the fortress safe. Stronghold: Undead is a fascinating project that lets you relive the epic siege.Well, as I said, it is impossible to tell it all. It’s impossible to sell the depth of this project. And yet, I’ll try. I’ll try to give you a small glimpse, a piece of all the stories that Stronghold: Undead tells. I have a couple of weeks until the Kickstarter campaign finishes. Stay with me.

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Tue Oct 29, 2019 9:51 am
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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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