Theseus – expect unexpected

At the beginning Theseus was called Pandora. We really liked the name, it was easy to remember, it had great connotations with mythology, it was widely known word. And there was one tiny problem – there were 5 different games with that name in BGG database.

So we had to find something new. That’s how we found Theseus.

*

Pandora was inspiring word. At some point Michal came to office and said that he has this idea for fifth faction. It’s called Pandora. 

‘It will be a disease’, he said. ‘It will grow and affect enemy in a nasty ways. Very different, very unique faction.’

Yeah, idea was cool. But I had to make his dream collapse.

‘We can’t afford 5th faction in the box. My budget is already very tight. We aim for 36 euro box. We have unique boards, lots of cards, wooden pawns… There is no way I can add something more. Keep Pandora for expansion. We design game for 2-4 players, we will have 4 factions. I can not put more cards and boards into box, sorry.’

Michal said he understand it.

We got back to testing 4 factions. Weeks passed. Finally we changed name from Pandora into Theseus. I forgot about 5th faction…

*

One Wednesday Michal came to office to play-test Theseus. 

‘I have Pandora with me’ he said.

‘It’s called Theseus now. Get used to this name, man!’ I said smiling.

‘I mean fifth faction. Pandora. I have it ready.’ he said.

‘I told you I can’t afford it. Production of the game is already very expensive with those all unique boards.’

‘Let me show you’ he said.

He took zip bag and poured few tokens. He looked at me with pride with his eyes and smiled.

‘Can your budget handle few more tokens?’ he asked.

‘That’s it? Few tokens?’, I was really stunned.

‘Yes’ he said.

‘And it works?’, I couldn’t believe he really did Pandora faction.

‘You will love it’, he said.

*

So here we are. We have game for 2-4 players with 4 different factions… and he have 5th faction in the box. It’s added because we have dreams. It’s added because we believe impossible is possible. It’s added because Michal is stubborn son of a bitch and couldn’t agree budget taking control over his game. He spent as much time as needed and used his talent and passion to design faction that will fit my budget.

We give you more than you expect. We want you smile when you open the box. We want you think: “These guys at Portal really love their job…’

***

Me and Michal have one history – we both have RPG roots. Portal Games was founded in 1999 as a RPG company. We wrote together few RPG, dozen of expansions, countless number of articles and adventures for RPG. 

We both love good stories.

However, our approach to board game design is totally different. I design story driven – often too fiddly – huge games like Stronghold or Robinson. He designs quite abstract, very clear games like Neuroshima Hex or Witchcraft.

(What is funny, both of us think that our games are super thematic.)

At some point, when I was talking with Michal about Theseus I was really surprised with his approach – it looked like all faction cards have not only rules but also a story behind them. Michal exactly knew why each card was in the game not only in terms of rules and balance, but also in terms of story of this faction.

He knew exactly what’s going on on this space station.

‘We should show it to players.’ I said.

‘What?’ he asked.

‘Show them why these factions are on Theseus and why are they fighting.’ I said.

It took us few weeks to find a good way to show you this story…

*

Do you know term gamebook? Have you played or at least hear about Choose Your Own Adventure or Fighting Fantasy? Played Freeway Warrior created by Joe Dever?

We have RPG roots. We can tell stories. We can tell you what’s going on on Theseus in a really fun way…

*

I must say, it was not easy. I must say, it was much more work than we expected. I must say… I was crazy when I got this idea about writing 4 small gamebooks, one for each of the 4 main factions. 4 short stories that will unfold mysteries of Theseus. I admit, it was insane dream. Dream that showed me back of each faction board hiding QR code that heads player to small PDF file with a gamebook dedicated to this faction…

We didn’t have to do it. This is effort no one expect from us. This is something that isn’t industry standard.

It’s added because we have dreams. It’s added because we believe impossible is possible. It’s added because we want to raise bar.

We want to add more than you expect. We want you smile when you open the box. We want you think: “These guys at Portal really love their job…”

***

Dear gamers,
Yes, we love our job.
I believe that none of you, who read this blog doubt it.
Expect unexpected. And watch us raising bar.

Ignacy Trzewiczek
Portal Games

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