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.

How?

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.

How?

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.

How?

I do not know, sire. It’s a mystery.

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