Board games that tell stories

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Archive for Ignacy Trzewiczek

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Can I bite your game?

The first time I came across this term was in 2007 during my interview with Bruno Faidutti for Polish magazine “Swiat gier planszowych” (World of board games). I asked him how many games he had in his collection. "More than five thousand, hard to say. I cannibalize many games."

"What?" - I asked, clearly not understanding what he meant. My conversational Polishenglish combined with his Frenchenglish... I think you can sympathize.

"I cannibalize. I take components from other games and use them in my own prototypes. Thus, a lot of my game boxes are incomplete and will never be playable again."

"Oh." I said. That was something absolutely new for me. And it was two years after my conversation with Bruno, when – during my works on Stronghold - I finally fully understood what he meant.


I have used wood from two Mykerinos boxes, two Glik boxes and one box of Elasund for my Stronghold prototype. I’ve added a cartload of Lego bricks as walls, pots, cannons, hooks... The castle looked like a vast construction site. For a moment it even seemed possible that five incomplete game sets and a pile of my son’s bricks was enough for me to work. Unfortunately... During the final stage of my work on the game I had to send the prototype to testers, and had I not discovered a store with wooden beads I would have been in serious trouble and Ystari company would have been over the moon with twenty more Mykerinos boxes sold.

While working on Pret-a-Porter I’ve cannibalized copies of Arkham Horror. This game has wonderful cash tokens. I’ve borrowed one of the copies from the club in Gliwice, the other one was lend to me by Tycjan from Opole. I have tarnished the sanctity during my works on Stronghold: Undead – I’ve used chess pawns for priests. I have also made use of green cubes from Space Alert. They have worked so well that eventually we contacted our friends from the CGE and with their help the final version of Undead is equipped with the same tape of cubes as in Space Alert, however they are blood-red colored...

My 51st State was created using wood pieces from Light Speed, and Light Speed was created on the basis of Ikea glass markers. I designed Witchcraft with the usage of damage indicators from the first edition of Neuroshima Hex, and Machina (Machine)... To be honest, I've created Machina from scratch, all by myself. It was my first game. I didn't know then that one should steal the components, and not cut them out with scissors from cardboard…


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I write about all this all as now working on my Robinson Crusoe game I’ve cannibalized without even noticing my favorite CGE game - wonderful and crazy Galaxy Trucker. And now, not only I cannot fly into space and experience great adventures there – I also had to splash some paint on my brave Czech astronauts for the sake of Robinson. In my prototype I needed meeples in four different colors, so I had to paint the astronauts. Their resemblance to Neil A. Armstrong is lost.

Galaxy Trucker is one of my son's favorite games. And what will I tell him now? How can I admit what I have done? Even if I finish my work on Robinson Crusoe pretty soon, even if none of the astronauts is lost during the tests and they all eventually return to Galaxy Trucker’s box, space trips will never be the same again. Robinson has left a considerable mark on them…
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Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:01 am
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Ignacy, there is no such card!

[this text was written in the middle of November. And I forgot about it. Sorry for delay!]

Essen fair has ended, stress level has fallen- finally a moment to catch a breath. I can play in the newest releases, see what the other authors have prepared, take a gulp of new ideas. I’ll note the interesting solutions that may be inspiring and I’ll allow my mind to be stirred by others. Sometimes – quite unexpectedly - something completely new is born from all this commotion.

Finally, after several plays, the commotion came. Oh yes. And as a result, within two weeks after Essen the brand new prototype has landed on the table. We play. Turns come and go. Step by step Merry is gaining the upper hand and finally I can see nothing’s going to change that in the following two moves before the end of the game. I was beaten. The prototype seems to be cool, yet the cards have little to do with balance.

I draw my last card. It's named Commandos, yet there is no text nor symbols with rules on it, only the title and cool graphics. I didn’t have a slightest idea for the mechanics, only a cool title, so I just tossed this card into the deck. Very clever. "Trzewiczek style" they call it - the story always comes first, then you’ll have time to worry, dude, about the rules.

And so I draw this stupid Commandos and with a poker face I put it in New York saying "Commandos. I won."

Merry’s eyes widen.

If I had to buy her some contact lenses just in that moment, they would have to be the bottom of a jar size.

"What?" she asks almost completely speechless.

I lost miserably. The only thing left for me was to tease her a little bit. "Well, I pulled Commandos. Didn’t I tell you that when Outpost draws that card, it wins? And so I won."

Merry didn’t believe in what she’s just heard. "There is no such card."

I keep my face straight. "There is. As you can clearly see here. Commandos wins the game."

"Ignacy, there is no such card!" Merry furiously rushes to the other side of the table, grabs the Commandos and throws it away. The card lands besides the window. "Ignacy, there is no such card."
All I could do is bursts out laughing.

Two days later, the Commandos has its abilities described. Maybe it does not win the game, but… but still gets to be my favorite card in the whole deck.
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Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:51 am
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What Brad Pitt has to do with Neuroshima Hex...

Somewhere at the beginning of January, Steel Police got on my nerves and I snapped. The army’s made an incredible carnage on the table in Portal’s office. Won most of the battles. You see, it was not only winning all the battles – it was beating other armies into a pulp. Again and again. Results’ sheets from the turn of December and January are filled with such results as 17:0, 12:0, 13:1, and even 7: -4.

The day when we were to close our tests and start preparing files for printing was getting closer, and the army was behaving ridiculously. Finally I couldn’t stand it. I called Michał Oracz.

"Michał, come to the Company. We must weaken the Steel Police. What we have here is a mockery of a balance. "- since from January 2011 Michał no longer worked in Portal, we had to call him to the Company if we wanted to mix with Neuroshima Hex. And it seemed that we had to mix a lot. Michał had to come. Two hours later he stood in the doorway of our office.

"Michał, the army is not balanced. I have the entire file of results – and it looks very bad. " I greeted him quickly getting to the point.

Michał took the printout. Looked. And nodded.

"You’re playing it wrong."

I gaped at him.


"The army is balanced. You’re playing it wrong. Who's watching the rules during the tests? "


Michał sat down with him and began to question him from rules. Just like during the exam. He pulled from his sleeve the most bizarre situations and asked how he would interpret them. Such thing has yet never been seen in Portal. The situation was peculiar.

Maciek’s passed the test. He answered all the questions. And so Michał invited him to play.

"Show how you play the Steel Police."

Michał took the Hegemony. And took victory over Steel Police in stride. They played again. Steel Police has lost a second time. They played a third time. Steel Police has been beaten the third time in a row.

"The army is balanced. Learn how to play." He said simply and went home.


A few days later Steel Police tests moved to the next stage - we sent the file to the most trusted and experienced Neuroshima Hex players in Poland. Those guys who win tournaments. The ones that go to conventions and organize game shows. The biggest NS HEX geeks in the country. They were obliged to send daily packages of results, along with a description of their plays. The results ended up in Michał Oracz’s mailbox and a copy was sent to me. I watched them. They made my hair stand on the end.

The Steel Police was almost unbeatable. The results were frightening. We had 3 weeks to the tests’ closing date and the army had absolutely nothing to do with balance. It won all of the battles.

During this time I called Michał almost every day.

"Michał, did you get the latest results? We are weakening the army, huh? Introduce a few changes, please."

"They have to learn how to play against this army. It is balanced. Do not change anything. "

Just 3 weeks left. I was close to a heart attack.


Have you seen Moneyball? There is an extraordinary scene where Brad Pitt, manager of the Oakland Athletics is called along with his assistant on the carpet by chairman of the club. Team results are a catastrophe, Oakland lost eighteen games in a row. They are last in the group. The chairman asks what they’re going to do.

"We estimate that we will begin to win in mid-season."

"I beg your pardon?"

"The team will start to win in mid-July. We will qualify to the playoff. Trust us, please. "

They’ve just lost the eighteenth game in a row. Trust us. Yeah, they certainly have the nerve.


It was several days ago. Two weeks before the zero hour. After the weekend I received from our testers another large batch of Steel Police results. Resigned, I gave it a glance. And immediately, I mean immediately grabbed the phone.

"Did you see the results?!" I almost shouted to the receiver.

"They’ve learned how to play." Michał replied calmly.

The bastard was right. He had known from the start what would happen.

"They’ve learned how to play." I said and nodded. "They’ve learned how to play..."

In this story Michał has played the part of Brat Pitt. I was only the chairman who withstood the pressure and didn’t start to tamper in the team ...
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Mon Jan 23, 2012 8:58 am
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Jokes are over

It’s January. Jokes are over. We begin the Operation: Essen 2012. It’s been like that in Portal for years. October means the Essen fairs, in November we take a break and rest, and in December we look through ideas, prototypes and different sketches we’ve collected over past few months. Then comes January.

In January we begin working on prototypes and new ideas. We analyze and discuss them. Finally, we choose the one we think is best and has the biggest chances for success. The one we want to present during the next Essen fairs.

In 2007, before Essen, Michał Oracz showed us his newest game prototype. He worked on it for the rest of the year and in January 2008 it was all clear - we will publish a game about a wizards duel. This is how Witchcraft was born.

In 2008 I had my idea for a game about a castle siege. It’s been a couple of years but I still remember how nervous I was when in January I came to the firm with a big sheet of paper with a castle drew on it to present my prototype to the rest of the guys. We decided that the game has a big potential. We began working on Stronghold.

We closed 2010 without an idea for a new game... We closed it with a finished game. That year we published Pret-a-Porter in Poland. We didn’t plan to publish it in other countries, but as weeks went by, that idea became more and more tempting. The reviews in Poland were incredible. Everyone was asking us the same question: “Are you going to Essen with this?”.

We didn’t want to do that. Pret-a-Porter was completely different from our previous games – theme was so strange. And cards - they were full of text. We also knew, that if we sacrifice another few months to prepare international edition of the game, we won’t have anything new for the Polish market.

Tough nut to crack. You have a great game on the table and a decision to make. Do you start working on it’s new edition? Or maybe put it on the shelve and begin a new project?

Finally, we decided to give Pret-a-Porter a chance for an international career. We had a lot of time. We designed the best, most legible icons in the history of Portal's games. We balanced the game even more. We added few new, great cards. We went to Essen 2011 with a fantastic game. Thanks to many months of hard work we polished up Pret-a-Porter in the smallest details.

What’s more, we still had a lot of time to rest, clear our heads, look for new ideas and prepare for the next year.

It’s January 2012. Again, there’s a lot of prototypes on our table. We have second 51. State’s expansion, we have a two-players card game, we have a new cooperative game, and couple of new armies for Neuroshima Hex. January is a month of playing and discussing. A month of decision making.

In a few weeks our publishing plan will be ready and approved. We’ll begin the Operation: Essen 2012.
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Sat Jan 14, 2012 4:36 pm
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Never before in my life I was so close to a heart attack...

Talks with National Bank of Poland have lasted for months. We knew there was a NBP department of education that finances educational projects. We knew that board games were a great tool for the postulated learning by playing and we knew we could make a fabulous economic board game that would teach players how to manage finances. There were offers, talks and first prototype versions. All this took us more than a year. During this time we have repeatedly visited Warsaw presenting draft stages of the game and reporting which economic mechanisms had been included and how they worked. Each time it was a journey into a different world for us. A world of adults. In the world of National Bank of Poland, there are people who dress in suits. They can tie neckties. At 7 AM they come to work with briefcases in their hands. They have lunch time during the day and vacation once a year which they spend in exclusive resorts abroad. And they use language such as could be heard on the business channel.
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. The ones who live in the capital, who have serious jobs, the ones discussed on TV.

Oh yes, I always felt huge anxiety and dread before these expeditions.


Finally, in early September, our 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 interesting 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’m going there. I’m going to present the game and justify myself from its existing and nonexistent elements and pieces.

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 the sum was large, allowing us to publish this game at the highest level.

And so I’m going to Warsaw with a box under my arm and whole time I’m just a step away from 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. 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 a green light or to pause the entire project, and one of the experts board.

“Have you met all the experts’ demands posed during our past meetings?” they ask bluntly.

“No, not all.” I answer.

"And why is that?"

The conversation heads in an absolutely wrong direction. I have the feeling that there lacks oxygen in the room. When I entered here it seemed to me that there was 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 - with your knowledge about the course of the game then."

“Great, then we should play.”

OK, the execution postponed.


And so we play. I analyze what is important during the first fashion show, what comes later on, how to plan whole this 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 NBP employees, the one responsible for this project, practically spent everything he had. The second player, the invited expert, plays without hurry. I play chaotically, I cannot help it, I’m devoured by stress.

February. The first and the second move. I glance that the project manager is on his way to bankruptcy, he bought what he wanted, yet he doesn’t have enough for the maintenance. Damn. He will just get a loan and get mad. The expert 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.


The second maintenance phase comes, the project leader (guy who now has to accept the game for its production and accept the NBP grant) is in trouble, the company is going through a rough time with no money for employees’ salaries. I explain to him this massacre, that he will get an expensive loan, that it is a terrible start, that he overinvested. “Hard luck”, he says. Meanwhile, the expert paid all the salaries ending up with 2 $ in cash. He cut it fine. Either he is very lucky or it was very carefully calculated. 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, the guy who has the right to decide whether the game gets green light, earns a lot from winning the most important feature, but after repaying the private loan he barely makes a profit, he’s earned, but not much.

“Well, I think we have seen enough to assess the project, we can stop playing now.”, he says pushing his cards, money and the board to the further part of the table. Never before in my life I was so close to a heart attack as in that very moment. The guy played only the first round, lost it completely and now he just stops the game. I could have advised him not to go for the damn Quality in the first quarter.

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

My body doesn’t know what to do. Whether to die from this heart attack or to faint from joy?

“It is a very good 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 larger collection. The return rate seems to be very well balanced. "

I hear what they say, but little reaches my brain. They begin to talk about numbers, whether 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 a very good game in Portal. 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 production stage. "

I have worked for months in order to hear those words. It was absolutely 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 open again and I can see Mr. Marek.

'When this game is published, I could count on a copy for NBP here, yes? I would like 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. Still, I think I might faint.
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Fri Oct 7, 2011 8:29 am
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Please, don't kill me!

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I take a token representing a Victory Point in 51st State. I also take a card which says: 'You gain a Victory Point.' I compare icons.
"Szpaku, can you tell me why the icon on this token is different from the icon on this card?"
"I have no idea. Michal designed it."
"Michal designed it, I accepted it, and the army of testers too. It's not about finding the guilty person."
"Well, so I do not know why they are different."
"I know it. They are different because we're morons."


You lose perspective when you sit very deep in any problem. You give whole heart to it and all your time and you stop seeing things. I needed a few months break from 51st State to catch a new perspective. I needed time to be able to see things that previously I had no chance to see.

One of them was this ridiculous idea with the iconography of the game. Let's face it - who designs two icons, one for card and the other for token and wants everyone to learn that these two icons mean the same thing? That would be me. The moron.

So when we finally caught appropriate perspective and when we regained a cool mind for this project, we noticed that several things in 51st State could be improved. That with a few minor changes the game will be much easier for players to learn.

'What do we do?' I asked. 'Should we change icons?'
'People will kill us. If expansion had different icons than base game, you will be crucified.'
"Thanks, mate.'
'No, no, I'm serious. You are dead. Announce on BGG that The New Era will have different icons. Just do it. I give you two hours before you unleash hell.'


I contact Peter from Rebel, my distributor. He is in good mood.
'What's up Trzewik? Come up with something new?'
'Great. A hit?'
'Oh, yeah. This will be a loud thing. I came up with new icons for 51st State.'
'What?', I think that at this moment he just lost his good mood.
'Listen, I have an idea for new icons in the 51st State. We could use them in a New Era expansion.'
'You kiddin', right? Tell me it is a joke.'
'No, I am damn serious. I made a few minor changes and everything is now much clearer. The game is much simpler. People will have less problems with playing.'
'Trzewik, you can not change the icons in the game. The players would be furious.'
'You want me to print The New Era with bad icons even though I have on my desk new set of icons which is so much better?'
'I don't know Trzewik. But you can't change icons.'


Skype. I catch my friend from France, Yann.
'Hey. Can I ask you for an opinion?'
'I fixed icons in the 51st State and I consider using them in The New Era. Can I show you?'
'Do you want to change icons? Expansion would have different icons than the basic game?'
'These are three small changes. Wanna look?'
'Show me'
I sent him some new cards with new icons.
'If rule is dedicated to token it is in a circle. If rule is dedicated to action I added yellow arrow to the icon. Token - circle, action - yellow arrow. '
'Yhm, I see. "
'Can we make a test? Tell me if you understand how these new cards work'
Yann says how he understand how they work. He is correct in 100%. Interpreted correctly all of the cards I sent to him.
'And what?' I ask.
'The new icons are much better. Not better, but much better.'
'And what do I do?', I ask.
'You know that the players will crucify you?'
'Yann, please...'


We've added a yellow arrow to indicate that a particular icon means the action. All the other icons we have put in a circle to indicate that it is a token. This is so small change and the game has gained a degree of clearity, that I would have never suspected. Suddenly everything became clear, testers suddenly stopped asking me dozens of questions, they simply started to play and enjoy the game. One small change...


I added this yellow arrow. Yes, I'm the guy who will publish expansion that has different icons than base game. Yes, I did it.

I could tell you, that every year, Apple releases new iPhone, because they came up with new ideas and improved the old one. I could tell you that every year there is a new FIFA for Playstation, there are new cars, new TV sets, I could tell you that everyone is trying to develop and produce year after year, something better.

I will not tell such piece of crap.

I did it, because the new icons are better. You will learn the game much more easily. You will have less problems while playing. You will have a great time with the game.

And that's all that matters for me.
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Wed Oct 5, 2011 1:45 pm
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It's a mystery

Have you seen Shakespeare in Love? As the bubonic plague breaks out, the Crown orders the complete closure of all theatres in London. Suspended performances, unemployed actors, audience in despair. And what about an investor who had put all the money in the show? He is furious to say at the least. Catching the play's director on one of the streets of London he demands an explanation. Now! He had invested a lot of money and was counting on fat profits. And what? A disaster! Theatres are closed! The guy is hungry for blood.

What are we going to do now?! - he shouts a question in director's face.

Nothing, sire. - the director calmly responds. - It always works out in the end.


I do not know, sire. It's a mystery.


From the sole beginning I had a problem with interaction in the 51st State. Testers said the game was fun, gave quite a satisfaction from playing, but - what a shame - no interaction. Again and again I heard the same thing repeated to me: cool and interesting, but you know, lacks the interaction...

As I subsequently added draft rules, open production rules and the Thieves Caravan, the complaining voices slowly died away. Testers saw that I was changing the game trying to add at least a bit of cooperation between players.

What's more, I've wrote articles explaining why there is no space for burning, raping and pillaging in the 51st State. In my posts on BGG I've argued that if the players were allowed to kill each other it would kill the game, everything would fall apart and turn into an old scrap.

People read, agreed with me, admitted that maybe I was right...

But you know, little interaction ...


Peter caught me in Essen. He is the guy responsible for Portal games' distribution, you know. I make games and he does business. I'm trying to invent the best game I can and he's doing everything to sell 50,000 copies. Or a hundred thousand.

So he caught me and said as if to a child - Trzewik, 51st State is a hit! Publishers fight for the rights to English edition. And they ask whether they will be expansions. Will you make an expansion?

I will.

Great, great. A very good game, everyone likes it, You did a really good job.

Glad to hear that.

Only you know what? - he pauses choosing the words carefully - I do not want to impose, but is there a chance that in this expansion...

...was more interaction?
- I finish for him.

Exactly. So you've heard there is a bit too little interaction?

Yea, so I've heard.

Damn interaction.

It had kept me awake at night for more than half a year then. - There will be an expansion. There will be interaction. Don't worry.


We came back from Essen. It was the end of October. I had absolutely no idea what to do with the interaction. Not even a hint. No conception was born in November either. And still nothing at the end of December.

I caught my friend and friendly spirit from France on Skype.

Hi Yann, what's up on French forums? Are people playing in 51st State? Any opinions, suggestions for an expansion?

Yes, they play and discuss a lot. They do like the game, but all complain about the lack of interaction.

Yann, gimme a break, ok?


Having no idea for the expansion's interaction rules in October did not worry me in the slightest. In November I still maintained calm. I believed - like Geofrey Rush in Shakespeare in Love - that everything will be fine.

Yet, in December, two months after Essen, I still had no idea for ​​the interaction. I think that Peter, my distributor, slowly began to worry in that time.

I rushed into January in unwavering good mood, although, with the end of the month coming closer even I began to worry.

Maybe believing that it always somehow works out is a bit illusory? Maybe it is a load of crap with Geofrey Rush? Gosh, I love this movie, but maybe I shouldn't base Portal's publishing plan on it?

Do you have this interaction ready? Designed many cards, huh? - Peter inquired.

None. - I replied. February was coming soon. - I still have no idea. But I'll manage.


I do not know, Peter. It's a mystery.


I play football on every Monday . We play in the hall late at night until we fall. I come back home just before midnight and I sit in the darkness having good two hours of gasping for breath and letting my adrenaline to chill. Hot tea, dark house and silence. I can analyze all my plays then, getting angry with myself for all the opportunities wasted and replaying in my mind all that came out nice.

Thoughts wander in my barely alive body... One moment, I even don't know when, I have my rules of interaction. They're just there. Suddenly. I don't have a slightest idea where they came from or how they got inside my head. I walk cautiously through the dark room trying not to trip on one of the toys scattered on the floor. I get to my desk. Paper, pen, three sentences, two drawings. Done. I carry out the tests in the morning. It works. Just so.


I do not know, sire. It's a mystery.
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Thu Sep 29, 2011 12:33 pm
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Pret-a-Porter like Oliver Stone's movie...

Mst won all the subsequent Pret-a-Porter plays. Battered his opponents left and right, without exception. I was always there. I watched. I noted. Sometimes I changed something in the rules for the sake of balance. I watched in silence as week after week Martin was leaving all the other players empty-handed. Asiok, Ryu, Sheva, Tollis, Arti... Anyone - and I really mean anyone - who sat at the table with him after two or three hours stood up with his or hers head held low. Again and again, Martin had more money than all the other players put together. Cornering them. Strangling. Bringing to the brink of bankruptcy. He profited on the opponents’ blood and tears.

In the end I couldn’t stand it. I put my notes aside. I also put aside the role of game’s author who’s carefully watching the ongoing test plays. I'll play - I said and sat down to play with Martin.
I won the first fashion show. I dominated him, got the biggest number of Stars, biggest amount of money and bright perspectives. I had carefully watched Martin’s moves throughout all those previous plays. I knew how to beat him. I knew Pret-a-Porter as my own pocket. My game. My territory.

Things went in an absolutely unexpected direction next round. Martin blocked me in the Warehouse, where materials can be bought. He did not need those materials. He did not have to do this. But he wanted to.
My clothing company went through a huge tumble. I obtained materials from a different source, but this slip had cost me a lot, the second fashion show turned out to be much worse. I would have managed to get on an even keel and stand to fight as an equal during the third show if I were fighting against an opponent that might allow that. I was not. Martin blocked the Credit House and once again left me standing at the Warehouse’s doors. It was as if he held his knee on my throat. And pushed harder every time he put his pawn on the board.

I finished the game with a disastrous result. Martin battered me so hard that I didn’t know where to look.

We played a rematch a week later. This time I managed to defend a bit longer. The decisive blow struck me not until the last quarter...


In 1987 Oliver Stone made a terrific movie with Michael Douglas called the Wall Street. He talks about what money can do with people. Wall Street does not show the well-behaved businessmen. It cannot be associated with peaceful economic games in which we buy raw materials, change them into goods and sell at a profit. Wall Street shows the struggle, the betrayal, shows that money is - just like firearms- a tool that can kill.

Pret-a-Porter is like Stone’s movie. It is dynamic, aggressive and players feel the pressure of fighting for victory in subsequent rounds of the game. It has been achieved in a simple manner – there are four moments of scoring (fashion shows) during the game and you have to be ready for each of them. You must be active all the time. You need to have your short-term strategy (for the upcoming show) and a long-term one (for which show to press the most and on which ones to allow your company to catch a breath). You have to watch your opponents’ moves and try to thwart their plans - win the show for which they prepared the most, get at least a tie in other scorings - not allowing them to win and get a large amount of cash.

This is a real fight. Here, you count your money and calculate what you can afford. Whether you have the funds to pay the maintenance costs of the company? Whether you have enough to purchase materials? Or enough funds for your business development? And if you have the money, you calculate even more. What if? What if I employ a model thus increasing the maintenance costs – will that thwart my enemy’s plans? What if I opt for more expensive materials’ purchases – will I outdistance my opponents on the show where the quality counts? Can I afford to buy more materials in advance in order to dominate the following show? Will taking the credit for those actions pay off? Will I manage to invest money and win the next show?

This is facing the constant choices. This is observing your opponents. This is finding weaknesses in their businesses and snatching the employees they need from under their nose. This is inflating your maintenance costs to draw your opponents into a trap, into an exhausting race for dominance in Public Relations. This is checking your expenses constantly and analyzing what else you can afford, how far you can risk the struggle for collection’s other features. This is sometimes bluffing and sometimes merciless stabbing in the back. This is training your employees, buildings development, loans, materials of three quality classes, short-term contracts and permanently built buildings.

When I sat down to work on this game and I wrote down the feelings and emotions that I wanted to rise in my players, I did not expect that I could achieve all of that. That my flesh would creep before making each move. That I would hold my breath before my opponent’s actions. That I would swear like a sailor or a tavern wench seeing what my opponent’s doing and how much he crashes me with his movement.

I have to admit this today. Pret-a-Porter came out to be much better than I expected.
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Thu Sep 22, 2011 8:30 am
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The race begins

Last year there were 650 game releases in Essen. A year before - as far as I recall - there were 630 . This year, the record probably will be beaten again. How many of these 600 games will get to players’ wishlists? How many of these games will manage to attract attention and leave players without 20 or 30 euro? How many games will be remembered after a year or two?

Essen 2010? 7 wonders. Vinhos. Troyes. Inca Empire. London.
Essen 2009? Dungeon Lords. Stronghold. Egizia. Small World.
Essen 2008? Dominion. Ghost Stories. La Havre. Space Alert.

600 new games each year. But only a few of them stay with us for a really long time. That’s truth. The Brutal and cruel truth..

The authors and publishers of these upcoming games are on the stand today and they start preparing for the most important race of the year. Race for players wallets. How will they try to seduce?

Great, new theme? If you have the theme, you will attract players, even if they've never heard about you and your publisher. Tell them that you do a 4X game, and you will immediately gather true circle of science fiction geeks. And believe me, this is a very good start. In 2009, I had my Stronghold. I had great theme. That was it. The game blasted off like a rocket.

A year earlier, in 2008, I presented in Essen a game called Witchcraft - wizards fighting each other. Have you ever heard about this game? Well...

Do you have a name that makes people buy every single game of yours? An author with a recognized name is a treasure. People look for his new games, they are driving a spiral of excitement and expectation. Gossips, shots of prototype, sneak peeks from test games...

If your name is Martin Wallace, Uwe Rosenberg or Bruno Faidutti, you are probably a lot less scared before Essen than young designer like Ignacy Trzewiczek.

Publisher's reputation
Does your publisher have a known brand? Did previous games get him good reputation? Has he a bunch of regular customers who go back year after year for his titles? Such a faithful player base is a blessing.

In 2007, Portal was an anonymous company from even more anonymous Poland. I remember words from Neuroshima Hex review written by Greg J. Schloesser for Counter magazine: "I honestly do not know much - OK, anything - about the gaming scene in Poland but if Neuroshima Hex is any indication I am impressed." Then, in 2007 we were starting from nothing.

Today, five years later, we are in much better situation, we are those people who made Neuroshima HEX, 51 State or Stronghold. I feel that, through our hard work, step by step we are getting closer to famous brands, slowly approaching CGE, Fragor or Ystari Games.

Demo games and prototypes
Had your game been presented at large cons? Did you go with the prototype and tested it by playing on every possible convention? If so, that is good. There are relations and session reports on various sites written by people who were lucky and played the game before its release. At there are first opinions, BGG is full of rumors - someone out there was playing, and someone saw, and it was a damn good...

Game becomes legend. You are lucky bastard. There is nothing better than a rumor saying that there is a great game out there, and there are some players who played it and apparently the game is great...

Traditional Marketing
If you can afford it, you will have banners on most important board games' websites. You'll expose the cover, show preorder offer, bundle offer or whatever. Finally, you get some attention, you are positioned in their minds. You show up on their wishlists. Your cover becomes recognized, theme is well known, even - in the end - people remember your stand’s number and Essen promotion price of the game.

Not very subtle, but it does its work.

Visual side
Okay. Time of honesty. Rise a hand to admit, but honestly, that sometimes a cover was so amazing that you just put the game in your bag not even knowing a single thing about rules. It is just the cover. The board? It's the same thing. Hands up who had never heard of Mr. Menzel. People buy stuff with their eyes. Clothes, furniture, games, doesn’t matter.

Zack & Pack? I knew nothing about this game, yet I bought it. Golden Compass? I saw the board and bought the game. With a good illustration on the box player has zero chance of defense reaction. He sees the artwork and he buys the game.

Two years ago we paid a hell lot for Stronghold’s cover. For Pret-a-Porter we hired Tomasz ‘Morano’ Jedruszek. It was the most expensive artwork in the history of my company. This is the guy who works for the FFG on a daily basis and who made covers for Middle-earth Quest, Battles of Westeros or A Game of Thrones LCG. This is the guy.

A good cover is like Aikodo. It throws a man to the ground and simply makes him defenseless.

Preorders and promo stuff
A great preorder offer? Some promo stuff for free? This is something that can make a difference. If a customer has a choice of two games and cannot decide which one to pick, it is better to have some kind of limited bonus in your game for Essen occasion . A few extra cards. Additional tokens. Unique extra miniature figure.

The player will rather take the game with special Essen free figure. This second game he will probably buy after Essen. Or not at all.

Or maybe you just have a bust of luck? And maybe your stand in Essen - by accident - will be positioned next to some famous publisher and you will have large traffic? Or maybe you’ll manage to convince people that you printed only 500 copies of the game and they have to buy it now or never? Or maybe the game will be played by the boss of big US game store at a hotel lobby in the evening? Maybe he will fall in love with the game? And the next day he will buy 250 boxes from you?

You'll need it all. In Essen, six hundred new games will have their debut. Famous BGG Geeklist "Top Ranked Essen Games" contains slightly more than 20 titles. So - 20 games make it and the other 580 go overboard and you will never hear about them again. This is brutal. This is cruel. This is Essen.

In 2009 and 2010 I had the honor to have my games in this 20 games list.

However, this year - after doing Neuroshima HEX, Stronghold and 51st State - I'm going to Essen with the game about clothes and fashion. Pret-a-Porter. Fashion. Clothes. Hot models.

This is crazy. I can't believe it.

And you cannot imagine how scared I am.
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Sat Aug 27, 2011 9:51 am
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I created a monster

Long time ago in a far away 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 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 have at home. That was something new. That discovery costed me 14 euro. I had to buy Adel Verpflichted back again. No more my games collection. It was our games collection since then.

We were in 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 new dress, handbag, ring. She was talkin' about board game. She wanted me to buy her a board game. Woow!

That day I discovered that My Wife - like my true gamer friends - fell in love with new titles. She play new game, she love it and she want it. That was something new. That discovery costed me 20 euro. I had to buy Ingenious.

Early September, few days after holidays. Kids sleep, silence at home. My Wife ask 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 board game. My Wife wants to play board game. I don't want to play board game. This is crazy.

That day I discovered that I am not the only one at home who ask 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.

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 since few weeks. I am asked to play every day and I do refuse it every day. This is 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 game 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. 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 true dangerous geek at my home. Help me.

[this is post from]
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Sun Jul 31, 2011 4:23 pm
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