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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Board Games Insider Episode 102 – Winners of the Contest!

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Welcome to episode 102! We are announcing the winners of the contest during our Strategy & Tactics section!

What’s more we have an update on Stronghold: Undead and more Kickstarters, we answer your questions, and we talk about the winners of the Golden Geek awards!

We also talk about Gathering of Friends – say hi to Stephen, and Luke from Portal Games, if you are there!

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Wed Apr 17, 2019 8:30 am
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Board Games Insider Episode 101 – Voting for Golden Geek

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This episode was recorder after Golden Geek nominees were announced, so you can listen to our commentary on the voting system. We also talk about the previous episode with a very special guest Tom Vasel, and of course we bring you up to date on what is happening in Portal Games, Stronghold Games, and in the industry in general.

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Wed Apr 10, 2019 7:35 am
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Board Games Insider Episode 100! – We’d have never made it here without Tom Vasel

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Here it is guys! The EPIC 1-0-0! With a very special guest. Celebrate with us Board Games Insider milestone!

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Wed Apr 3, 2019 11:08 am
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The possibilities are endless - Tides of Time app

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We announced founding Portal Games Digital in January 2017. A separate division of our company dedicated to bringing our best selling games to mobile. It’s been two years. They finished developing First Martians app. They finished the Antares website for Detective. They almost finished companion app for Robinson Crusoe.

But the main project they were working was Tides of Time. After many months, two weeks ago it finally got released. I couldn’t be more proud of it.

***

Tides of Time is the all-time best seller for us. Released in 2015 this small card game immediately became a major hit, got nominated for Golden Geek in two categories – Best card game and Best 2 player game. It got dozen of reprints, it got follow up game called Tides of Madness and became a strong contender in our catalog.

It was the obvious choice to make Tides of Time the first app developed by PG Digital.

***

Tides of Time is a game with stunning artwork. Every art piece on the card is a top industry illustration. And yet, PG Digital ordered more art. I was skeptical, I didn’t see a reason for doing that. Months passed, 3d versions of every building for every card were made. And then animations. And then the surrounding environment. And then…

And then I was amazed. The illustrations I knew so well from cards became a part of the living empire player was building, epic structures surrounded by trees or fields. It all felt familiar and new at the same time. I guess you were right, I had to say to the team.

Each new version brought something interesting. I loved when we were testing AI and tweaked it to be more and more smart. We hired Michał Walczak, developer for the original Tides of Time card game to write the whole strategy behind the AI, what it wants to achieve and how it plays. We finally went for three basic levels for AI and it was fascinating to see Michał competing with the program he designed himself.

Then PG Digital showed me challenges. The small thing that sounded stupid and absolutely not necessary until I actually played with it. Cannot imagine playing Tides now without it. Each time you play the app challenges you with a small additional task. Win the game with Most Gardens in Your Empire. Lose first round and then win the whole game. Win without drafting any Crown cards. And so on, and so forth.

***

What’s fascinating to me is the ongoingness of the process. On one hand, the product is ready, gets amazing reviews (we have an average rating on Appstore 5.0!) and everybody says PG Digital did a great job with this app, and on the other hand we have so many new ideas for the game. It’s different from the cardboard industry I work for. You finish the game, it goes to print, you are done.

Here it’s different. Releasing the game did not change our routine, we meet with the PG Digital team and we plan. We talk about online play. We talk about campaign mode. We talk about adding ‘character’ to the AI, one would be defensive, another mean, another would be risky…

We talk about incorporating every tiny comment we find on the Internet and think has value.

I love my cardboard, but Portal Games Digital is a fresh air I love to breathe now. Possibilities are infinite.

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Get Tides of Time app on Google Play or App Store!

Learn more on PortalGamesDigital.com

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Mon Apr 1, 2019 12:45 pm
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BTTS: Don't you dare!

It's Saturday, 11 pm, we are in a car, driving back home from meet up with fans in Bielsko Biała. It was an epic 6 hours evening with more than 50 fans showing up. I am dead tired.

I hear notification sound on Marek's phone. He checks his messages. He says: 'It's from my friend. They just finished L.A. Crime.'

'They what?!'

'Ah, he asks me to not tell you that. He knows you'll be pissed off.'

It's 11 pm. I am dead tired. I am pissed off. Great Saturday night.

***

For the past few weeks in our weekly YouTube show called PlanszowkiTV (BoardgamesTV) I asked fans to relish L.A. Crimes. 'Don't you dare to open the box and finish it in a one damn weekend. Play once a week. Stretch it to the one month experience.'

Why?

Because I knew it - the moment they finish it, they'll ask for the next campaign. And man, I am so not ready for that.

A few weeks ago I recorded a special video called 7 steps to design a Case. Let me tell you about these steps today. It's a little bit more than seven, to be honest. Let me walk you through the whole process.

***

1.
It all starts with the script. That's what we get from the writer, Przemysław Rymer in the base game and Mateusz Zaród in the LA Crimes expansion. It takes a few months for the writer to come with a good story. The script for L.A. Crimes was about 80 pages long. It covers the main plot, all characters, and their motives, it details all moments and fragments when the plot connects with the real world events and facts so we can use 'Breaking the 4th wall' mechanism. It's a thick book full of facts about crime.

It's the first step.

2.
Then it's time to chop it into pieces. It's time to make the game out of it. It's this fascinating phase of building the mind map, putting all pieces of information on the whiteboard and slowly plan connections between them. Players will find this clue in that location, they will learn about this guy here, and that person will tell them about that thing. 80 pages long script cut into small pieces of clues players could find to deduct the whole story.

It's a madman job and it takes a few long weeks to translate the main plot into exactly 36 double-sided cards. It's the second step.

3.
Then you write the base version of cards. These are very simple, almost no fluff whatsoever, they read like: "You step into Laboratory. You find out that fingerprints match to John Smith." or "You talk with Stephen and you learn that he loves to promote his products and that he moved to Florida 3 months ago."

I run a few test games of such Case to see if the mind map more or less works. If not, I tweak. If yes, we just finished step three.

4.
We write all the text. It's massive work. In the game, we have 36 double-sided cards and then we have Antares website with all the autopsy reports, police reports, police files on suspects, and all kind of additional papers and files. It's a ton of writing. We showed it in one of our vlogs, the whole text from the base game of Detective is a huge 600 pages long novel. We wrote the amount of text that equals the first book in the Game of Thrones series. While playing players see only the friction of the material. You see about half of the deck and you see half of the Antares files.

Writing these cards is quite a challenge. Many of you made fun of the base game because of all the references to lunch breaks and salads. I smiled every time I read these jokes. Each card is a small story. Each one is like a postcard from the place. In the base game, we worked hard to help you imagine the scene. All these rush at work, hustle, lunch breaks with quick salad were on purpose. We planned the whole environment before sat to writing. Every time you visit PD Richmond, there is a hell going on. Every time you visit Laboratory, you are welcomed with silence, white, clean environment. Each time you work at your desk, you use high tech hardware.

Cards in L.A. Crimes are a little bit shorter, players asked to lower a bit the fluff part, but still, that's a lot of text to come up with. After another few weeks of work, we have our deck!

5.
Playtesting is fun. Our groups get the Case and play it. As you can imagine, in the first version, it all is one big mess. Mistaken dates. Mistaken names. Clues are hidden too deep. Other clues are too obvious. Links and numbers to other cards are wrong. Files in the Antares are not ready.

This is one big mess.

We record every test game and then I listen and make notes. I listened to every damn test game of Detective. As for now, I guess it's hundreds of hours of material. I listen to how players debate, how they think, what conclusions they get after reading each card. And I make notes and edit over and over again. We print cards again, a new test, a new group, new notes, new edits, new print and it goes over and over for weeks. First I playtest with my employes, then with other groups. Every group gets a better and better version, more polished, more intriguing and challenging. And finally, we have it. The Case is ready. Weeks passed.

6.
We translate it into English. On average it was 2 weeks per case. It's done by translation company, we outsource it (with a small exception for the first case in L.A. Crimes). It takes time, but it is time for us to take a breath. As soon as we have the translation, we read it carefully, sentence after sentence checking if no clue was missing during the process. It always is. Every time there is this one tiny thing here and there, that got lost in translation. We fix it. We are ready to move on.

7.
Native speakers. There are two different series of editing the Case. The first one, the obvious one is native speaking editors fix all the tiny language problems in the text. Even though we try to hire the best translators, there are always some sentences that require polishing. We are lucky that Luke Otfinowski, who is leading editor for Detective speaks Polish. He was born in Poland and moved to the US when he was a kid. That allows us to have the best translation possible, Luke reads Polish cards - as they were originally written - and compares with the English version. He is in close contact with me and we have a ton of Skype conferences discussing different paragraphs. The language is polished and smooth and yet, no clue gets missing.

8.
At the same time, there is another part of editing going on. It's Vinny and few other friends (including real police investigator!) who are for us of golden value. It's a step for checking all the cultural references. They tweaks all small details that make no sense for American readers. The action of the game takes place in the US, but it is written in Poland. Hence, sometimes we are wrong. Without too many spoilers, for instance, in L.A. Crimes in one of the Cases, there is a scene in the hospital, and we had to rewrite the whole card and develop brand new clue, because apparently procedures in Polish and American hospitals are different and what we came up with as a clue, would never actually happen in the US. Vinny and rest of the team were especially important with L.A. Crimes campaign that takes place in 1986. Back then I was 10 years old and lived in Poland under Russian occupation. I know no sh** about America in 80' and even though I spent countless hours doing research for the campaign, Vinny was just on point tweaking cards and adding cool references. His: "I remember this football player, it was the main news on TV back then." were funny, but at the same time extremely valuable.

9.
Finally, our DTP department is ready to go. We have final text on all game components, in the meantime, our artwork department prepared all art pieces, layout, cardboard pieces, box and now only put the text on cards. I won't tell you how hard it is to find photos of people who look like it's 1986. I guess you can imagine.

These stock photos galleries you all heard about don't offer photos of people who look perfect as a Non Player Character in the game set in September 1986.

Anyway, my artwork department nailed it and the whole game is full of original photos from 80.

Back to work. Everything is ready, we have cards in PDF, we do another run reading everything over and over again, checking for every tiny mistake. I cannot look at these cards at that moment. I read them too many times. I am sick of it, but this is the last moment to catch any mistake.

10.
It goes to print. I can have a few weeks of break. And then I must come back to the Case and start promotion of the whole thing - for instance, write an article like this one.

***

L.A. Crimes got released in Polish, German and English this week worldwide. French, Italian, Czech and other editions will follow up soon. I wish you a great time with the campaign. We spent months designing it and working on it. We had a blast, even though it was really hard work.

I have one message to you today though - Don't you dare to finish the whole thing in one weekend.

Don't even think about it.
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Fri Mar 29, 2019 1:52 pm
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Board Games Insider Episode 99 – Last chance to enter contest!

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Board Games Insider episode 99 is here! We are just one step away from the epic 100!

In this episode Ignacy talks about Tides of Time app, and shipping of L.A. Crimes, Stephen announces a lot of street dates and updates you on Kickstarters. Meanwhile Games Factory Publishing, major Polish publisher goes out of business, GAMA trade show was a record breaking event, and CMON announces more changes.

It is also your last chance to enter BGI contest on BGG!

Tune in to learn more industry insider information: http://boardgamesinsider.com/…/episode-99-last-chance-to-e…/

In the meantime, Detective was nominated to 4 Golden Geek awards! Help us spread the word!

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Wed Mar 27, 2019 3:36 pm
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What happened in Alton?

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Where to start? This time I guess I need to take you to Alton in Hamshire, England. That’s where it all began. I was sitting in Asmodee UK offices meeting with their sales team and presenting Detective. It was spring 2018, a few months before the release of the game and as always I was doing my magic tricks. Everybody in the room was very excited about the game and when I finished one of the guys sitting left to me said something like: ‘This all sounds awesome. I’d die for a case in X-Files setting!’

‘Be careful what you wish for’ I said. He smiled. He knew what’s coming.

***

OK, let’s be honest. Nothing was coming. We were on our way to the hotel with Marcin, Portal Games Sales Director and my brain was working like crazy.

‘Did you hear what the guy said?’ I asked with the excitement.

‘Which guy?’

‘The guy sitting left to me!’ I was so excited that people on the street looked at us. ‘The X-File guy!’

‘What?’

‘X-Files. He wants X-Files! That’s brilliant. I can do this!’

‘X-Files?’

‘No! I can do different settings! I can do Stranger Things. I can do Miami Vice. I can do Beverly Hills Cop. I can pull off a dozen expansions, and every single of them may be unique. Fans will love that!’

Marcin smiled. That’s the reaction of a good Director of Sales when his brain starts to work like crazy…

***

It was Alton in Hampshire where I understood that I designed a system, a portal to new worlds. As with Robinson Crusoe which is sophisticated machinery to tell different stories, from Swiss Family to King Kong, from Time Traveling to rescuing Colonel Fawcett, from escaping Volcano Island to fighting with Cannibals, here with Detective I managed to do it again. Detective was a well-designed system to tell great crime stories.

Since Alton, I changed the way I thought about the game. Since the ‘X-Files guy’ I looked at Detective from a different perspective and higher level.

A few months later when I met with Rob Daviou and talked about his Case for Detective, he told me he has this story that takes place on a space ship heading towards Mars, and there is a murder – one of the crew members is found dead. I knew that with Detective the possibilities are endless.

***

We made it official at Essen. I held the keynotes, and I precisely remember the faces of people in the audience when the teaser for L.A. Crimes dropped.

‘How?’
‘What? Beverly Hills Cop?!’
‘OMG’
‘L.A.! That’s neat!’

We opened their eyes. They understood what I discovered in Alton. Detective is a system to tell stories. We all smiled.

---

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Fri Mar 22, 2019 1:33 pm
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Monolith Arena Strategy & Tactics: Harbingers of the Forest

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Dark elves from the magical and mysterious forest accompanied by other creatures will swiftly cut their enemies and drive many arrows through them. My personal favorites, they are tricky, they can poke their enemies while keeping save positions, and they are good at keeping their distance. And that’s where they excel if you keep your distance.your enemies will curse the day those damn elves decided to leave the forest and appear at the arena.

Running in circles

Let’s start with Banner – you want to have it in the middle of the board, or at least in the central zone. So how come you aim for the center if you’re going to keep your distance? It’s pretty simple, you want to take advantage of its special Feature. Move your units around the Banner, shot with Sparks over your Banner and don’t let your opponent catch up to your Units. Run and shoot, run and shoot – it’s pretty simple.

Don’t let them see you

Assassins can strike any opponents on the board which makes them deadly and dangerous, and your opponent will hate that and will try to get rid of them as soon as possible. You want to hide them in corners, and cover them with other tiles, preferably with the runes of acceleration. This way, you’re covered from any attacks, and you strike your opponents even faster, getting rid of any dangers before they have a chance to attack you.

Exploding… morlocks?!

Morlocks can make a lot of mess by removing any connected tile along with the Morlock before the fight even begins. They are powerful because they can remove heavy-hitting units or the ones with lots of shields when they oppose any threat to us. Use them even more efficiently, keep Morlocks near your banner, this way, you can switch positions with its feature if an even greater threat appears on the board.

More mystical creatures!

Apart from elves and Morlocks, we have also Hernes and a Wyrm, two mobile units that can hit hard our opponents. It’s best to use them and get rid of any units that try to take out our distance attackers, especially those with additional shields on them, just make sure you’re not caught off guard, because you’re limited to your defenders with melee attacks.

With elves, it’s not a race, it’s a marathon. You want to dominate the arena with your units and keep your distance from any tricky attacks like charge or fire concoction. Remember, hit and run, hit and run. Wear off your enemy and don’t give them a chance to counter any attacks, make sure you stay in shadows as any self-respecting dark elf.

Let us know how you lead your elves, do you prefer this style of game or you try to take out your opponents as fast as possible.

Matt Dembek

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Tue Mar 5, 2019 10:33 am
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BTTS: I hate board games!

I hate board games. I am serious. It's a constant flow of disasters. I see new amazing cover art and I am immediately sold on the game. I know nothing about the gameplay, I did not read the rulebook, but man, I know it's gonna be great.

Hey, don't give me that look. Want to talk about your reaction after you saw Scythe cover?

The publisher hires an artist to paint the best art piece possible. It has one purpose - attract. This cover art has nothing to do with the game. This artist never played the game, read the rulebook, met designer. Most likely, he doesn't even play board games. He is a hired gun. I know all of this. And yet, when I see a new box art immediately all these small meeples start to run all over the place - by the place I mean my head - screaming "OMG, this game is awesome, I want it!!!!"

Stop it, I yell at them. This cover art has no connection to the rules and gameplay. It's an art piece. Stop it!

"But we want it!" they keep running and my head hurts. "It's awesome. This game will be awesome. The box says it all!!!!"

So I buy the game.

Of course, I am the only person on Earth who misses the pre-order specials. My Instagram feed has it all. Every gamer on the planet shows all the bits my copy of the game misses. This cover is not that awesome after all, and my bits suck. I haven't played the game yet, but I already know that without these additional seventy-two scenarios it's useless. I hate this game. Why did I buy it?!

I delete my Instagram account to stop seeing all these awesome promos I missed. It doesn't help. People post pics of metal coins on Facebook. I delete my Facebook account, but then I got an email from a friend of mine, he just got his copy signed by the designer. I turn off the Internet and sell my computer.

Brilliant. Now I cannot write articles anymore.

I buy a new computer.

I should buy a poster with the cover art. What I needed the whole game for? I hate it.

Anyway.

I put all components out of the box and try to figure out how the game works. There are spaces on the board that matches the shape of some tokens. I put them there. There are pieces in 4 distinct colors. I give set to each player. We sit and look at each other. I create the bank and put all coin tokens in a big pile.

I shuffle the cards. I separate all wooden pieces by shapes.

My wife starts to get impatient. I separate the square tokens by size. To be honest, I have no clue what I am doing.

Wife looks at me and I know this look. I quickly take one piece from each player and put it on space 0 on the track that hopefully is a victory point track. I wink to my wife and smile.

It's a mistake. I shouldn't wink at her.

"Did you read the rulebook?" she asks.

"Well..."

"You must be kidding me!" she yells at me and stands from the table. I can tell it - now she is really angry. Every husband knows when his wife is angry. We get this power along with the wedding ring.

"I will figure it out. This cannot be difficult. I played the other game from this designer a few years ago!" I say but she doesn't listen. She just gives me another look. She has a whole wide arsenal of looks. We are in the 'You are in trouble' section.

So I am sitting now reading this damn rulebook. I feel like being at school again. My brain is defending. I want to go to bed. I want to eat. I want to stand. I want to do anything but the homework. I mean the rulebook. It goes slow, but I have some progress - I am 4 pages in. Only 32 to go. Smallest font possible. I can imagine how it was manufactured. Printing machines and the whole factory in the scale of bonsai trees...

I hate board games. I am serious.

(to be continued...? give me your ideas what's next!)
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Fri Mar 1, 2019 10:18 am
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Board Games Insider ep. 97 - Hasbro wins the game of life

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We continue the countdown to the EPIC #100 special episode! Meanwhile Ignacy went on tournee to 6 cities, finished Imperial Settlers: Roll & Write and is teasing us with L.A. Crimes pre-orders. And Stephen announces Aftershock coming back to Kickstarter soon, Egizia will be live on April 9, and talks about a month long Forum Trajanum Envoy Store Splash! Also, some more news form the industry!

---

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Wed Feb 27, 2019 10:09 am
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