Managing provinces in the campaign mode

Rise of the Empire introduces three pillars that add new gameplay elements to the Imperial Settlers. The first one is well known for all fans who played Imperial Settlers solo variant I published as a free expansion back then in 2014. I will discuss this element today as an opening material for this short series of articles.

Playing Imperial Settlers in the solo campaign mode (free PDF can be found on BGG) or with the Rise of the Empire expansion, you’ll have a series of games that conclude with a special phase at the end of the game – Managing your Provinces. In terms of the theme, it’s the time to manage the growing Empire – taxes, investments, new constructions, and others!

When playing Rise of the Empire campaign, each player receives a dedicated sheet that represents their domain. On this sheet, there is a map where you mark lands and provinces you already conquered. After each game, you mark one new territory. Each of these has a different cost – the cost you must pay to support and keep the province in future games. That’s why the first thing you must do after finishing the campaign game is paying the maintenance cost of each Province you already have in your Empire.

It’s the first of many important choices you must take. When playing Rome, will you conquer the Provinces that have a stone in the maintenance cost? It’s easy to pay for you, sure, but if you spend stone on keeping Province, you won’t have a stone to score points during the game.

As the campaign progresses and you must pay a dozen of resources to keep the Empire intact and keep all Provinces under control, you start to feel like these Roman Emperors, who struggled when the Roman Empire reach the point, when the collapse was the only answer.

After you pay the maintenance cost, the much more fun stuff happens – you draw a new Province card. In the Rise of the Empire, you will find 55 new cards that represent different Provinces. All of them are Production cards, so they boost the Empire’s resource engine. When you play the campaign, you start with all your Province cards already on the table, so the more Provinces, the more strong start in the first turn. The cost, in the end, balances it out in a big way, though…

That’s the first pillar. Gain new Provinces after each game. Get them into play right from the start and have a fantastic start. Have Japanese faction start with the production of Gold and Stone. Play Barbarians who produce a ton of Apples. Command Romans that have a few additional Swords in production from the start… It’s time for your Empire to rise. Eager to find out how it ends!

The Interview feature or How Rob Daviau changed Detective

I am with Rob Daviau at Grandcon, and he goes like ‘I have this idea for a new Antares feature, but I am not sure if this is possible…’
‘It’s possible.’ I promptly say. He didn’t even manage to finish the sentence, but let me tell you this – when the industry icon has a new idea for Detective, you say you can do this, period. You just have to keep in mind that long conversation with whining Portal Games Digital team is your first step when you get back to Poland.

Rob wanted to give players the feeling, the sentiment of old school adventure video games, those in which you choose some pre-constructed dialog sentences, and you choose one to move the story forward. Instead of reading the transcript of questioning like in the base game of Detective, you’d actively pick the questions you wanted to ask.

The idea was brilliant, but I was not surprised. I greenlighted it, so obviously it had to be good.

Over the months of designing and development, the system was evolving, and Rob was sending me updates. He prototyped the Interview feature, and we were able to play-test it. It turned out Rob went even further with immersion and putting players in the shoes of Detective – there were no pre-constructed questions anymore. There was a blank space and simple instruction: What do you want to ask about?

I typed: KNIFE.

The system reacted: I have it from my father. It’s a family item. What’s the problem?

I typed: ALIBI

The system reacted: I was with my buddies. We were watching baseball. I have a dozen people who can confirm that.

I typed: TRZEWICZEK

The system reacted: I don’t know anything about that.

Strange. But that was a clue. The guy was not a boardgamer.

***


Dig Deeper expansion is a single case that takes players to Boston. Not only it is a new amazing story to discover, not only a new case to crack, but you must understand – this is a new expansion designed by the industry veteran. And with the small tweaks in the system like the Interview feature, you can appreciate and understand what industry icon means. It’s not a blurb on the book. It’s a sign that you will play good old Detective and yet, you will experience something absolutely unique.

I am happy for you. You are gonna love it.

Why Signature Series makes a difference for Detective line

‘I hate you.’ said Rob Daviau when he approached me at Gen con 2018. ‘I played Detective. You know I was thinking about designing a story-driven game like that for a long time, and you did it. It is everything I wanted my game to be. I hate you.’
I look at him, confused, and he burst into a laugh. ‘Congratulations. You designed a great game Ignacy.’
‘You played it? Finished the whole campaign?’ I asked
‘Oh, yeah. I invited friends for a game retreat weekend; we played the whole thing. That was the game of the weekend. The only game of the weekend to be precise. Brilliant. I hate you.’ he patted my back, winked, and left. I smiled.

The idea behind the Signature Series was very simple. Invite the best storytellers in the industry and ask them to play with the Detective system. Ask them to write their own unique cases for the game. The fact that the game spoke to the storytellers was a good starting point. Few months after the release of the game, I reached Rob Daviau and Mike Selinker and asked them if they are interested. They both were.

The script
When you work with legendary designer, the icon of the industry, like Rob Daviau, designer of Betrayal on the Haunted Hill, or Pandemic Legacy, you might be in an awkward position. What will you do, if the material you get won’t meet your expectations? Will you pat Rob on his back and tell him to try harder? Really?

I was waiting impatiently for a script for his case. Finally, I received the email. At that very same moment, I got a Twitter notification. I checked it. It was Rob’s tweet.

I sent @trzewik something. I hope he likes it.

I took a deep breath and opened the attachment. Read the thing. Read it and loved it. Rob took real-life locations and places, real-life events, and build around them a fascinating crime story. It felt so real and so convincing. He moved the action to 70′, changed the setting of the base game, but kept the spirit and the heart of Detective – solving crimes that feel so real because they are hooked in the actual places and events. It was a load off my mind. No patting Rob on his back and asking him to try harder. His reputation is no joke. He is one of the best storytellers in the industry. That’s a fact.

The twist
‘I want to change how the questioning works in Detective.’ he said to me when we met at Grandcon. ‘Can your team change the way the Antares website works for my case?’
‘What do you have in mind?’ I asked.
‘I want players to actually ask questions. Type them into the website and then get appropriate answers.’
‘OK’ I said and greenlighted the idea. We started play-testing – players were able to bring in suspects or witnesses and ask them questions about these particular topics. The questioning changed from reading a pre-constructed transcript into a real discussion with the suspect. Play-testers loved the idea. Portal Games Digital team who was supposed to code it and upgrade the website, not so much.

New rules
In Dig Deeper, Rob introduced a few new rules and, by a few, I mean, the exact perfect amount. Not too much, so players won’t be confused and, at the same time, enough to make everybody excited about playing this new expansion.
It’s 70′, it’s Starsky and Hutch, it’s police chases. Here is the Gun It rule – players can spend Authority token and ignore the time cost of moving in the city. It’s a one-sentence rule, and at the same time, so much theme enchanted in it and added to the game (you turn on your sirens and slam on the gas pedal!). Rob added few more small tweaks to add flavor to the game, searching libraries or turning in witnesses. With just a few well-designed rules, he changed Detective: Modern Crime Boardgame into Detective: Starsky and Hutch edition!

The conclusion
Having icons like Rob Daviau joining the Detective line is a game-changer for the whole series. It not only gives the game a new audience and exposure but also adds new ideas and approaches to the game system. We called this small boxes line ‘Signature series’ because it is what they – great designers – do, they put their signature on the game, their very own stamp.

Dig Deeper is a fascinating new take on Detective: A Modern Crime Boardgame and a great promise of what can be done with this line in the future! I tell you this. I have on my desk script from Mike Selinker, and yes, he puts his stamp on the game too!

The Library feature in Dig Deeper or why somebody can hate Rob

There are two teams at Portal Games HQ. There is team #RobIsAwesome, and there is team #IHateRob. I must admit that #RobIsAwesome team is much bigger. Frankly speaking, it consists of most of my employees. The opposition, the #IHateRob team consists of only Portal Games Digital, and after all those delays they procured in the past months, I can openly say that I am, and I always was in the #RobIsAwesome team.

I need to give you some context, huh? OK, let’s get back to the beginning. I think it was Gen con 2019…

***

‘The case takes place in Boston in 70′ and…’ Rob does the pause, looks at me and continues ‘…and there is no Antares database. It’s the seventies. People used libraries back then.’

Libraries. Books. Mystery. Lovecraft. I love Cthulhu. Man, I miss Call of Cthulhu games. Maybe when I get back from Gen con, I could… Rob notices he lost me on ‘library’.

‘Ignacy, focus!’

I am back. ‘Yeah, library. I get it.’

‘If players need files, need dig deeper, need to find something in the archives, they’ll go to the library.’ he smiles ‘And then they wait!’

‘You mean?’

‘You fill in forms, and that’s it. You wait. You get an answer the next day. If you are lucky…’

***

Rob introduced to the Detective the delay mechanism – you fill in the form, you put a library token on the time track, and you will be able to get the result a few hours later when the time token meets it.

It’s smart, it’s thematic, it changes the game and the way you approach the case, as players need to think ahead and follow different leads without some important data that they’ll get a few hours later from the library. With Antares and modern crime it was so different. The change in pace here was significant.

I loved the idea, I green-lighted it. And then Portal Games Digital entered the scene. You’d think if the mechanism is called ‘delay’, they’d love it.

Nope.

***

I don’t want to spoil too much. I don’t want to ruin the surprise and the experience, so let me be very subtle here and just tell you this.

Rob is crazy. Instead of giving us files that players find in the library, he wrote the whole damn dialog lines with the library employe. Each time you visit the library, you have different dialog scene, different things happen additionally to the basic file you were looking for. Just a small spoiler, look at this:

Gary, the librarian, is a hippy. Ponytail. Beard. Glasses. He’s reading a book called the Master Dungeon Guide or something. You mentally note to keep an eye on this guy. Gary looks at you with a twinkle in his eye. “Hello adventurers! Here to pick up your loot? That’s my word for ‘research’.” Gary is a hippy and a nerd. Great.

So Portal Games Digital was ‘very happy’ to code all these dialogs, write the whole code to recognize which dialog you already saw, which one to show next and all that jazz. You can imagine.

***

And that’s why, dear detectives, Portal Games Digital is in #IHateRob camp. That’s why the rest of the company is in #RobIsAwesome camp. And that’s why I have no doubts – I can already produce tees with the logo. Because as I said, I have no doubts – you’ll be in the #IloveRob team.

The Platform

That day we stayed longer in the office. I decided to give Marek ride home.

‘I missed Detective.’ he said when we were in the car. A few hours earlier, they were play-testing a new case for the game. It’s been more than two months since the previous one. ‘I really missed it.’ he repeated silently, staring through the window.

Marek’s honest and surprising words struck me deeply. That evening, when I was driving home, I was thinking about the future of the game. Detective is a very unique design. It’s a board game; you invite your friends, you have your goal, there are rules, and you win or lose in the end. And at the same time, Detective is not a game; it is a system, it is a portal to tell different stories. To some extent, it’s closer to Netflix, Disney+, or HBOGo than to a board game.

Detective is a platform that my development team uses to invite you to experience amazing stories. And that being said, what’s a long-run future for the game? We are not tired of watching new movies, aren’t we? We are not tired of watching new TV Shows, and, I guess, we won’t be tired of experiencing new stories presented through the Detective platform. The ideas I have for new campaigns, the scripts I have on my deck with new plots and stories are wonderful, and I can not wait for you to discover them.

If there is more gamers like Marek, people who love stories, the future of the game is safe. Detective will be your platform for years. That day I was late at home, but I was in a great mood.

The next day I came to Marek’s desk and told him how he inspired me with his words the day before, and I told him how I see the future of the game and how motivated I am and with excitement, I asked him what he thinks about it.

‘I don’t know, man.’ – he shrugged his arms. ‘I just said I missed Detective.’

My beloved hobby!

Boardgaming is a ton of work. I look at any of these free weekends, and oh my God, I’ve been busy all day long. 

Let’s discuss last weekend. It all began with the new Arkham Horror expansion that I got. The suitcase, where I keep all my cards said enough, no space dude, you need to come up with a new solution. 

So I came. I took all cards from expansions I already finished and moved them to separate boxes – lucky enough, I had these “Return to…” boxes that FFG has in offer for crazy dudes like me. 

It went smoothly, and I looked at my collection with pride. That was time spent well. Then I decided to move all cards from all other campaigns to a new place and keep in the suitcase only the one expansion I am playing at the moment, along with tokens, rulebooks, and other stuff, and by stuff I mean all these custom bits I hide in the box.

I was in a pretty awesome mood already, so when I finished moving all the cards to a new place, I put on my desk all cards for my characters and looked at the deckbuilding options I was postponing it for some time already. This Saturday seemed like a perfect time for that. So I built a brand new deck for one character and then brand new deck for the other one.

Fun time.

Then some sleeving. Then reading rules for the new expansion. OMG, this new scenario – exciting stuff. I was about to play it, but it was a late-night already. Well, it turned out I spent the whole day preparing. 

***

As with every hobby, board gaming is about everything except the actual hobby – that is, playing the game. We spend countless hours painting minis, we spend nights building new decks, we customize our games, and we spend day and night on BGG reading about the hobby. 

The percentage of time we spend on actual gaming versus the time we spend on the hobby is not in favor for game time. 

My wife Merry makes fun of me when I spent all weekends preparing for playing the game. And I guess, many of you are just like me. We smile and we have one honest response:

“Didn’t play the game. Had a blast anyway.”

I had this crazy idea – I decided to play Detective!

Last year, in November, almost one and a half years after I finished writing all of the Detective cards, I invited my old friends to the Portal Games headquarters. I used to play RPGs with them many years earlier. We sat in the conference room. I launched the Antares website on the TV hanging on the wall. “Welcome to the agency,” I said. “I have the first task for you…”

I will remember those five evenings for the rest of my life. We finished the whole Detective campaign in less than two weeks. All the boards in the conference room were filled with notes, conclusions, theories, dozens of notes with the details that could be useful in the future. We were the agents. We were solving the unbelievable, vast, mesmerizing case.

Yes, I played with them. Yes, I knew the plot. Yes, I was its co-writer, I was the author of most of the text on the cards, and yet I played together with my friends. I had lots of fun. I was the narrator, I was reading all the cards aloud, I was the devil’s advocate, I was controverting their theories, I was supporting the players who were outshouted, and I was encouraging them by confirming that their theories and ideas are completely sensible. I was also managing all the mechanics, tokens, time marker. I let my friends take care of the plot, and I was responsible for the rules.

Playing the game when you know all the plot inside out might seem the stupidest thing in the world. But it was better than I could imagine. I saw my friends solving the case, listened to their conversations, ideas, watching them as their theories start to make sense, and when they experience all those ‘wow’ moments. I saw their faces when they found the van. I was hanging out with them in the conference room till midnight when they were tracking down the suspect on the cameras and they refused to take a break in the game and continue the next day.

I knew the plot, and yet I played with them. It was so exciting. I cheered for them and kept my fingers crossed, hoping that they would find all the breadcrumbs I hid on the cards months earlier.

***

Invite your friends. Open Skype, Discord, or Zoom. Surprise not only your friends, but also yourself. Play Detective once again. The whole campaign. Take on the role of the narrator, manage the board, the tokens, and show them what this game has to offer – hours of debates, conversations, deduction. I promise you. Those will be the evenings you’ll never forget, even though you’ll spend most of the time just listening. Believe me. It will still be amazing.

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.

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?

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?