What will crawl out of the toxic ooze?

[this is guest post by Michal Oracz]

The end of January. High time to postpone all other projects and seriously focus on the new add-on for Neuroshima Hex.

I take out two boxes from under my desk.

I empty the first one and tokens fall out. They’re wastes back from the first edition, fortunately we never threw them away. That was a good choice since for years they’ve served us for developing new fractions. Their numbers are thinning, I have only around 200 blue ones used for Borgo. I count 50 and token after token I rip the printed layer off. My fingers hurt but in my bag there are 50 blank tokens.

They wait as a clear canvas waits for a painter.

I look into the other box. It’s filled with unfinished armies. I have to choose something.

On the top I notice Gas Drinkers, a fraction of crazed junkies who got their hands on a overabundance of explosives. Their headquarters is a refinery station near Detroit, taken both by force and cunning. They have been already tested as a new fraction but it was a false start.

Next there is a bag with Warriors of Ice. Certainly in this case quantity goes before quality – the troglodytes spread through out the game board like a disease. Last time when I tried to sort out this fraction during tests, I ended up changing them into… Sharrash. And as the rats of Sharrash it went to print. So maybe I will return where I last started and… well maybe next time.

What else?

The Parker Lots gang. A rather small group of ninja-snipers. We created them while working on the Neuroshima RPG supplement describing Detroit. This fraction has a lot of instant tokens. A freaking lot.

And here in one bag I have two sketched, a little bit similar to each other, fractions: Sand Runners and the Desert People. The first being soldiers highly specialized in desert combat and the second being mostly Native Americans living with perfect harmony with the desert. Oh I know that the fans of these desert McGyvers are waiting for their appearance for years.

The few plastic bags with scribbled tokens are a couple of mutant fractions:

Night Stalkers are a tribe of silent warriors. Only once were the mutant hunters able to capture one of them alive. His name was Vraanach and he quickly became a wonder of the gladiator arenas.

And Mesmerites – a very nasty band of telepaths, the most hated type of mutants. A bullet put in a Mesmerite is never a wasted one, as they say on the desolate continent.

What else do we have here?

Dead Breath – a disease raging in the North of the country, changing people into living dead, or something like zombie runners, as we know them form „28 Days Later”. The chain of infection seems very promising. And I love zombies. Tempting…

Or maybe Tetra? Powerful cyborg-mutants from the underground compounds spreading on the Moloch’s grounds. Would Borgo finally have a chance to fight someone of his own size and would Moloch stop bragging about his armored packaging?

The heck with Tetra, I just pulled something out of the box that I almost forgot about: Dark Visions! A motorcycle gang that runs the board over like the Monster Truck show! There is no fraction in Hex that will ever be more mobile and more offensive during their movement phase!

What else do we have left in that bag of mine? Oh yeah! Notes for the second gang for the core rulebook for Neuroshima RPG, the mighty Iron Gang. These guys are madmen who live only for the fight and like swarm they wipe out everything in their path to nowhere. Just like the Warriors of Ice they found their way to the pages of the Neuroshima RGP rulebook because I was inspired by one of the records of the Voivod band.

Hey there’s something more.

Wait a sec, I need to blow the dust off. What does it say?

Gladiator’s… League… Oh nooo… In brief we just call them the League. There was a time when these guys were the most worshiped organization among Neuroshima RPG fans. These are the guys who throw motorcycles at a distance and can run around with an axe in their back, well at least that’s what the advertising poster says. And the advertisement doesn’t show half of it.

Oh and here is my favorite, the Church of The Red Sun, worshipers of the great bomb, more messed up then anybody else. One huge bomb is already in possession of a certain red bunch but the Church of The Red Sun has an even bigger one, I can assure you.

Some other notes. What have we here? A draft of doctor Alluvach’s guerrilla, The Claws gang, Schultzs all dressed up in suits, The Eighth Mile and the Black City, a mecca for all sorts of scum.

I almost reached the bottom of my box.

As in a good book the best is always at the end: The Fourth Generation.

The Fourth Generation of what? Mutants of course.

When Moloch created mutants for the first two generations it experimented and today the results can be seen everywhere from West to East coast. Third generation was solid work. Maybe even too solid if you look on the mob gathered around Borgo.

But the Fourth Generation is a completely different story. They’re not walking piles of muscle nor telepaths with huge bald heads. Fourth Generation is a perfect creation. They are the real replacement for the human race, the aristocracy of the new era. Ominous and deadly angels walking on the surface of Earth.

I push all of that aside and put it back into the box for the years to come. For the new layer of dust to settle on them.

This time I’m not picking any of the above mentioned fractions because a time has come for one of the major fractions of the Neuroshima world to enter the stage – this is what we agreed upon as publishers. So far we have Moloch and The Outpost, Hegemony and New York, Sharrash, Vegas and Neojungle. What else is left of the main locations of Neuroshima RPG?

Only few fractions: Appalachian Federation, Salt Lake City, Detroit, Miami, Texas, Mississippi, Saint Louis. And that’s all.

Among these main fractions I only have two ready drafts: Mississippi and Texas.

Moreover each of the fractions, excluding Texas and Saint Louis, already have fan made armies.

The fanmade version of Mississippi has been designed by FanTomas.

Does that mean I have to choose Texas?


Many years ago in an interview for „Hexomaniak” I wrote that there won’t be reservations for a certain fraction or for the special features of tokens – and I still stand by my word today. Back then I wrote that if anyone wants to create a DIFFERENT version of The Outpost or a DIFFERENT Moloch, I don’t have a problem with that. These are fractions that we invented for the Neuroshima RPG and any kind of booking or reservation is out of the question.

Today I will use that privilege myself, for the first time… So sorry FanTomas, I’m picking Mississippi. But you don’t have to worry about your divers as I have a totally different draft. Maybe we can overcome what was in the past: my Mississippi against yours? It’s a big river and it can fit a dozen of such packs.

Blank tokens will soon contain the first version of the army – the one taken from the notes. For sure 90% of the draft will land in the trash. Long months of tests and changes, hundreds of games played in each possible configuration await us.

Do I know what is it that I want to design? Sure. We described the Mississippi of the year 2050 in the core rulebook for Neuroshima RPG over ten years ago and for many more years we got deeper into this topic while preparing many other books. It’s not a pretty landscape along the blue, whispering river. Oh no, it’s not. It’s a different world separated as some kind of a Plan of Existence, as a terrifying Lovecraftian vision, full of all kinds of mutants and completely poisoned by Moloch. The gurgling and steaming toxins created a landscape similar to the surface of Venus.

Mississippi is a great scar of black ooze that divides the continent in half, with noxious gasses constantly floating above. Where under the hulls of armored boats, things live and slip through that are better left alone.

Mississippi is the mutated people covered in waterproof rubber coats who almost never take off their gas masks. Ordinary people wouldn’t even last few hours over there.

Trust me I know how it looks in 2050. I’ve got the draft of the fraction and their unique abilities. I know the system of designing Hex add-ons inside out. And yet I feel as if I were on a beginning of a new adventure.

I’ve got no idea what will be the final result of all this and I love this stage.

Alright, it’s time to finish, time to scribble some blank tokens with the first version of Mississippi.

Stop revealing mystery, please!

There were written reviews, when I got into hobby. Then, with new technologies that just exploded with new possibilities, there came new ways of presenting games – audio podcasting and reviews and then video podcasting and reviews.

We all now have access to cameras and microphones. We all have Audacity to edit our mp3 and heave plenty of different video editors too. It’s never been that easy, right?


Few weeks ago I asked on my Twitter account about best reviewers in the hobby (I cover it here). There was only one mention of reviewer who actually writes reviews. Rest of them work with camera. Tom Vasel, Joel Eddy, Rahdo, these guys use camera. And they do a great job.


With cameras that are so widely available, there was born a new format. It is called unboxing. Person with camera shows components of the game. Opens the box in front of camera.

And even though I know many unboxers by person and they are my friends. And even though I – as a publisher – do like this format, because it shows that my game is well produced. And even though I know this is very popular format…

Even though!

I have to say it. I hate it.


If there is a game on my radar, if there is a game I consider buying, if there is a chance that I will have this game in my collection… I will never ever watch unboxing.

I buy the game to open it by myself.
I buy the game to look inside with excitement and with curiosity.
I buy the game to see the components for the first time and have pure pleasure of discovering all these cute components.

I don’t want anyone to spoil that moment. New game box is a mystery. it is my precious. Don’t touch with your camera!

And since all games out there are on my radar, I just simply do not watch unboxing videos.

Winter is here

It is hard to explain, but Winter is here, internet is not. The day when temperature dropped drastically, we lost signal in our offices. No internet on Monday, no internet on Tuesday, if tomorrow we are offline again, I will kill somebody.

I am sorry for no posting yesterday, I am sorry for notposting today, I hope to be back to posting tomorrow. What can I say. I am sorry. I need internet to blog! 🙂

Here is a link to interview with me, we did two weeks ago with @BoardGamersAsk. Have fun reading 140 characters 🙂

Have fun

Antoine Bauza posted link to the video where 2 guys plays table tennis. You would say it doesn’t sound like ‘must seen’. Yeah, you right. And yet, I encourage you to click the link and see. Look at this guys and see pure fun, pure joy, pure happiness of doing what they do for living – playing table tennis.

I have the same. I just got back from PORTALkon,  our little convention with keynotes and I have to say, it was pure joy. I am super happy. Just like those two…

Have fun, my friends, have fun…

Can you steal your own idea?

[guest post by Michał Oracz]


Did you guys ever stole something from yourself? I did.

And so last year I insolently stole my own idea.

What can I say in my defense?

First of all it was an accident. I didn’t realize…

Yeah, so I sound like a typical thief.

Secondly, in game designing business stealing ideas is no big deal or so I heard. It’s not like MP3s or something, anybody can take whatever they want. So I didn’t press charges and you are probably wondering what’s all the fuss about?
Third of all, it’s not all black and white since I changed a few things and…

Wait a moment, wait a moment, do you remember that ‘golden’ rule about being truthful? If you have too many excuses it means that you don’t have any real ones.

OK, so maybe we should establish what is it that I actually stole?

Your Honor, it was like this: for many months, each day and throughout half of the night I designed, tested, polished, perfected and played my newest game. Sir, you might have heard of it, its the one taking place in a space station with space commandos, two alien races and a bunch of weird scientists.

At some point my work overlapped with another one, a certain project that really stretched in time. Finally got a green light and had to be finished.

The space themed game is Theseus, and the second project is Mephisto– a new add-on to Neuroshima Hex. I worked on Mephisto together with its author Michał Herda. And so somehow these two projects got mixed up a little and some of the solutions we used in Mephisto found their way into Theseus.

The first being the Quill, a super efficient attack as for Neuroshima. It hit’s anything that’s on the game board, no neighboring or line of sight required. You target a victim and it will surely be hit. The Quill emerges form under the ground and bang! It’s a hit. Mephisto really needed this. It serves as an inner balance tool so that the army won’t be too strong when it is next to enemy’s headquarters nor will it be helpless when it can’t get in range with it. Being a one soldier army forces nonstandard solutions.

Right, so where did this Quill come form? There was this card in Theseus, in the Aliens deck, which allowed attacking even when no Alien’s units were nearby. How does it work? Simple, the walls of a space station are filled with technical nooks, lockers built into the walls and such. Inside them, between cables and other devices all of a sudden an additional Alien jumps out and attacks. This card is called Hidden.

And so the Hidden found its way into Mephisto as Quill. Your honor, I swear this was an accident, I didn’t mean to!

The second shared mechanics solution are the Upgrade tokens.

Theseus is mostly based on upgrading your own cards the ones you were able to introduce into the game during your course of play – this is accomplished by putting upgrade tokens on cards. It can change a seemingly useless card into a raging behemoth capable of instantly winning the whole game. Of course Theseus rookies in their first few games don’t pay much attention to this mechanics, they are more focused on chaotic running about and inflicting some minor damage to their opponents. But when they grow bored with all the silly running tactics they start to look for the second or even the third layer of the game. Ignoring minor damage in favor of higher aspirations they discover the real power of Upgrades. Only then with one precise combo they can knock out any fan of running about. It’s one of many inconspicuous secrets of Theseus.

Coming back to Mephisto. One fighting token for the entire army is a huge threat for the balance of the whole game. If it’s too fast no one will stand a chance. Should it be too slow it won’t stand a chance itself. If it’s too strong it will always win in a hit for hit situation. If it’s too weak it will loose. If it will be too mobile it can escape from any trap set by the opponent. If it will be too stationary it won’t get a chance to get closer to enemy’s headquarters which will remove itself to the far end of the game board from where it will attack with immense fire power.

So what should this token be like, so that everything will work?

Well it should be variable. It’s the player who should decide whether he currently lacks fire power, mobility or speed. When you combine it with the ‘short blanket’ syndrome it provides demanding yet satisfying choices to be made during the game. With the seemingly useless Incubator tokens the player creates something that can equalize his chances and make up for his current shortages. This way Upgrade tokens from Theseus sneaked into Mephisto, of course they were previously modified to fit in with Neuroshima’s mechanics. And so Mephisto became Theseus’ cousin.

Is that all?

Nope. Many more cheeky thefts took place here, both sides. Above I’ve mentioned only two examples.

But… maybe you know about which Theseus’ cards and Mephisto’s (and generally Hex’s) tokens I’m speaking about?

Travels in 2013

We prepared cute infographic for Polish version of Portal Games. It shows  how many conventions we visited last year, how many different countries, how many new releases that had premiere at convention and finally how many kilometers we did.

Quite a numbers, huh?

infograf_konwenty2013And you know what? When I look at my calendar for this year, it looks like we are going to double this ‘kilometers‘ number. Ha!

It’s hard to just walk away…

You designed a game. It got published. It was hell of a job to design it, to make it really great and what is most important, to make it real.

You did it. You have it in your hands. You have it on your shelf. You are proud daddy. Right?

And since – without having doubts – this is an amazing game you are eager to see reviews, opinions. You want to imbibe feedback that’s coming. Oh, yes. Gamers will praise you, will say nice things, will congratulate you… Yeah…


Here is what you can do now:

Either you gonna end up being stuck in front of monitor for the next half of the year searching for all reviews, comments, discussions.

Either you sit on your ass and start to work on new project.

That’s your choice.


Woody Allen doesn’t give a shit about reviews. When it’s done, he just walks away.

I’m not Woody Allen. I’m high. Handsome. And I can’t walk away.

So here is my advice. Stop talkin’ about Robinson or I won’t do new game.

Hello! People! I can’t focus on my new project!

Golden Geek

Few days ago nominations for Golden Geek Awards began – biggest and most important award from players. There is a few famous awards in our hobby:

Spiel des Jahres – award from Germany, oldest award in our hobby. It all began in 1979! This award is super important in Germany – when you get it, your game will sell like crazy. Rest of the world looks at SdJ with interest and respect.

International Gamers Award – award organized by group of reviewers and insiders from our hobby. These are gamers from different parts of the world. There are 20 people involved in the committee. First award was given in 2000. I have an honor to got nominations for IGA for my three games: Stronghold, Pret-a-Porter and Robinson.

The Dice Tower Awards – young award (founded in 2007). Committee includes people from The Dice Tower Network – biggest group of podcasters. In 2009 Portal Games was nominated for Small Publisher category and last year Robinson Crusoe was nominated for Game of the Year category.

And there is a Golden Geek Award, award where committee is quite big – these are users of boardgamegeek.com On one hand this is very young award (it all began in 2006), on the other hand number of people allowed to vote is mind-blowing!Boardgamegeek.com has 800 thousands users and although not every user can vote, this is still damn huge committee! This is vox populi. These are gamers for whom we do design games! I had a honor to got nomination for Golden Geek for Stronghold and for 51st State.

What’s coming this year? Couple of titles have a chance! Geeks can vote for Robinson Crusoe, Legacy, Theseus and Voyage of the Beagle. This is resume of my work for the past few months 😉

If some of these titles make you happy, if you had a good time with one of these games, if you think that some of these areworth nomination… Don’t hesitate! Here is link to voting page.

This is time for you to act. This is how you say Thank you to publishers and designers. This is how you show your respect to thier work.

If you find my work worth your vote, I say Thank you. Thank you very much!

Hurry up!

So we play Tash-Kalar – me, Michał Oracz, Multi and Walec. Another Essen 2013 release that needs to be tested, analyzed and hopefully praised.  After 60 minutes we are done. Alliance of Walec and Multi wins. Both of them are so fucking excited like they just  won at lottery. I mean, I know, they kicked Boss’s ass but hey, chill out boys. ‘You won’t believe it’ Walec says. ‘I have prototype of  the exact the same game. I wanted to present you it in two weeks’ he says to me. ‘Only difference, my board has hexes. Rest exactly the same.’ ‘You won’t believe’ says Multi and takes sheet of paper from his desk. ‘Here is a draft for my prototype. I was going to finish it this year. This is exactly this game.’  And he shows us his notes. This is Tash-Kalar indeed. 


So here is my advice, young designers – don’t make notes. Make games. Because when you are taking notes, some one is just finishing his work on this very same idea… 🙂