Show some respect!

It’s October 2009. Outside Poland no one heard a shit about me. I am a random Polish dude with his first big game being released during the Essen Game Fair. One day I got an email from the BGG team. They were preparing the very first Essen live stream and asked me if I was interested in presenting my game.

Hell, yes, I was. I scheduled a 30-minute-long demo in front of a camera.

And then I start practicing.

I prepared the whole demo at home and I practiced, day after day. Like an actor preparing for the play, I practiced my demo over and over again.

When the Essen’s time finally arrived, I was scared as shit. My spoken English was really poor and I had never done a live recording before.

And yet, I delivered one of the best demos of that show. My video was viewed an astonishing number of times. The game’s buzz grew like crazy.
It’s October 2012. I have a big game for the Essen show. It is called Robinson Crusoe. The BGG team contacts me again about a live stream. I immediately reply that yes, I am interested. I schedule the date and time.

And I start practicing.

I prepare the whole demo at home. I go for explaining the essence of the game. I go for emphasizing the most awesome key selling points of the game. And I go further than that. I prepare a hand out, I prepare Wilson – a volleyball with a handprint just like in the memorable movie with Tom Hanks.

Once again I am scared as shit. Once again my spoken English is pathetic. And once again I deliver one of the best demos among those live stream videos. When we finish recording and the camera is off, John from the BGG team asks me to keep one copy of Robinson for him. He will pick it up right after he finishes all the recording. He is not going back to the U.S. without the game.

In the meantime I receive dozens of text messages from Poland with friends telling me that they watched the demo and it rocked.

Practicing like crazy before the recording clearly paid off.
For the past few days Eric Martin has been publishing his interviews from the Nuremberg Fair. No finger-pointing, but let me just say this – once again there were publishers who did extremely poor demos. Boring. Unprepared. Chaotic. No hooks and no selling points presented, no idea and no concept behind it.

Honestly, I don’t get it.

BGG offers you the best exposure you can ever get. It’s free advertising. It’s John and Eric flying to Germany with a camera and giving you a chance to present your game to audiences worldwide. They approach you and say: “Hey, we have a few thousands viewers and we’d like you to present your game to our community. Interested?”.

Can’t you prepare a good demo? Can’t you find in your company a person who speaks fluent English, performs well in front of a camera and knows what he or she is going to talk about? Can’t you show some respect both to the BGG and to their viewers by preparing for the demo? Is it that hard to do a good show and promote your game?

Why are you so lazy? I don’t get it. Really.
Anyway, when contacted by the BGG before the Nuremberg Fair I did the same thing I had done a couple of times before. I told them I was interested. I scheduled the recording’s date and time. And then I began to practice. I noted down all the major key selling points and unique mechanisms we had in Cry Havoc – one of our big Gen con releases. I prepared every minute of this monologue.

And then I did the same thing for my game about Mars. I noted down a dozen of real life examples from the First Martians gameplay to show all players who were anxious about the app integrated with the boardgame that this was nothing to be afraid of. In short, during a few-minute-long video I was shooting with one example after another, like a freaking machine gun to convince the viewers that the app and First Martians combine into the most immerse experience they’ve ever had in their boardgaming history.

You won’t believe how many tweets, emails and text messages I already received after this video was published. All of them said: “I was skeptical. Now I am excited.”

I did my homework. I took the time to prepare. And I won a few hearts over.

So my message to my fellow publishers today is – show some respect. Prepare your demos. Make me excited about the game you are presenting.


Follow me on Twitter at: @trzewik

Follow me on Snapchat at: trzewik23

Watch my #askboardgames show at: #askboardgames


I am tired of boring rulebooks

[warning: this post contains strong language. If you don’t accept such language, please, don’t read this post, visit me next week when I’ll have a new article. Thank you and sorry for the trouble.]

On Monday I posted a short article explaining how the Neuroshima RPG book came to life. It’s sort of a preface for today’s article, so if you have a moment please, head to my other blog post and read it. It’s a 3minute read, a really short story. It’ll give you a good background for today’s article.

Link to Monday’s article.


There were plenty of reasons why the Neuroshima RPG was a tremendous success. It was because there was no other post-apocalyptic game on the market. It was because of its rich and immersive world. It was because of a huge marketing campaign I created.

And it was because it read like no other book on the market.

Let me just give you a few examples.

How did we describe the Abilities of Player Characters in the Character Creation chapter? More or less like this:

You need this to be high to shoot well. If you can’t shoot, you’ll die. You need this to be high because you will need to escape from ruined buildings that have just collapsed, or to drive a motorbike and try to escape from mutants. You need this to be high or you’d better start creating a new character because this one is already dead.

You had better focus. There is death [to be found] in every corner of the ruins… in every bunker, old shelter… everywhere. If your perception sucks, you’ll wake up with a gun next to your stupid head and ‘boom!’ will be the last thing you’ll ever hear. Have too few points of Perception and you won’t even see that fucking tomahawk that is coming to cut you in half.

Yeah, sure, invest in Charisma you dumb-ass. It’s super helpful when you are surrounded by 10 pissed-off villagers who want to kick your ass and your ammo is gone. Yeah, sure, I bet Perception will save your ass when you need to interrogate this ganger to know when his gang is going to attack your hideout. Let me just ask you one question. Have you ever hear of a dude who dodged a bullet when he had a gun next to his head? Because I tell you this… I did hear about a guy who was able to convince people to put the fucking gun away.
So low Charisma? I don’t think so…

Sure, you might be agile like a gorilla. You might have the perception of damn Jessie James. You might be a charismatic bad ass like Tommy Lee fucking Jones, but you’ll end up dumb as shit if you don’t invest in Intelligence. Guess, what…

And it went on and on in that manner. Every single sentence in the book was written for the player, and by saying “player” I mean a gamer who loves RPGs, who wants to create the best character possible and he wants to enjoy this process. Lots of jokes, lots of meta-stories, lots of bantering with player so he knows that we – authors of the book – know what we are talking about.

It’s not [merely] a boring rulebook that just includes all the how-to-play rules. It was an amazing, engaging, funny guide that told players how to survive in the world of Neuroshima and how to create a cool character. This is true for how we wrote the whole Character creation chapter and  this is true for how we wrote the rest of the book.

A chapter describing Europe in the Neuroshima RPG? It goes more or less like this: “Europe, mate?! I have no fucking idea what’s 10 miles away from the shithole we are in now and you ask me about Europe? Are you kidding me? There is no radio, no TV, no Internet, and you want to know about Europe. What’s the next thing you’ll want to know? What’s my opinion on the weather on Mars? Wake up, dumb-ass. No one knows a shit about Europe.”

And that’s all about Europe you’d find in the rulebook. That’s how we rolled back then.


I’m writing about the Neuroshima RPG because I strongly believe that the revolutionary approach we made regarding the language in this book… the way we wrote it… was an extremely important part of its success . Players loved to read it. Players immediately got engaged in the game and its world. Players would – they really would! – quote the book like some movie one-liners. They were posting ‘the best of’ quotes and sentences from the book. It was a blast for so many players.

Board game rulebooks are a whole different animal. They have much more in common with technical manuals for your new DVD player than with RPG books.

And yet, I’ve been struggling lately with the idea of making them more reader / geek friendly. I wonder what if instead of writing: “Each player draws 7 cards, chooses one to keep and passes the rest to the player on his left. Players repeat this process until every player has one card remaining. This card is kept along with all previously chosen cards.” I would just simply write: “Draft 7 cards. Friendly advice – choose the best of them and then crush your opponents.”

Wouldn’t it be cool to read rulebooks that are fun? Rulebooks that provide important information but don’t spend the time on explaining every stupid detail we all know? I mean, do we really need to read sentences like: “Put the board in the middle of the table so every player has a comfortable reach.”

I don’t know.

I have a well-earned reputation of a guy who was involved in extremely terrible rulebooks. I know that. I messed a lot. I am probably the last person who should talk about improving the way we write rulebooks. And yet, yes, I am struggling with this topic. And yes, I am trying a different approach. And yes, I want all of us to have better and better rulebooks.

I might try doing something crazy with the 51st State rulebook but before I do this, I’ll probably post some fragments on BGG and ask you guys for your opinion. Would you be interested in telling me that I should or shouldn’t take that route? Would you like rulebooks to be fun and engaging to read or you just want them to be extremely precise and you don’t care that they are boring as shit?

Please, give me your thoughts. Meanwhile, I’m going back to experiment with the 51st State rulebook…

Edited by Piotr, thank you.

Jack Vasel Memorial Auction

Once a year at BGG site there is an auction. Important one. Auction where gamers from all over the world bid for unique items and what’s most important, bid for a good cause. In January 2011, Cate Pfeifer (Cate108) posted an auction for Tom Vasel and his family to help with the financial hardship related to the unfortunate loss of his son, Jack. The generosity of the BGG community was amazing. Tom was touched and wanted to pay the kindness forward so he created the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund. He used some of the money that BGGers donated and spent to build this fund. The fund is a not-for-profit with a simple goal: raising and distributing funds to help gamers in their hour of need.

It’s fifth year of fund. Once again I am happy and proud to be part of this action and to offer you super unique item. I called it Treasure Box. In this box you will find pretty unique things. Like original pieces from amazing designers…

London Masterminds from Antoine Bauza

prototypy nie nasze paczka 1 (1)

7 Wonders Duel from Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathalha

prototypy nie nasze paczka 1 (2)

Among the Stars from Vangelis

prototypy nie nasze paczka 1 (4)

Lewis and Clark from Cedric

prototypy nie nasze paczka 1 (6)

Tong from Bruno Cathalha

prototypy nie nasze paczka 1 (7)

Red November from Bruno Faidutti

prototypy nie nasze paczka 1 (8)

Rampage from Ludovic Maublanc

prototypy nie nasze paczka 1 (10)

Guilds of London from Tony Boydell

prototypy nie nasze paczka 1 (13)

Please, head to BGG site and bid. It is for a good cause! Here is a link.





I try to play as much as I can. I do play because I like games, I do play because I am vulnerable to hype, I do play because I love to see new great ideas from other designers.

Of course, for most of the time I need to play my own prototypes and it takes a lot of time, I have not enough time to play games published by other designers. I do my best, but still, it is damn hard to catch up with all those great games published every year.

Yesterday I was writing about great games of 2013. Today I want to write about great – so it seems! – games of 2013 that I did not play yet. My disgrace list consist of games that were not on my radar, games I haven’t played, games I have nothing about:

  • Battle for souls,
  • Serpent’s Tongue,
  • Targi,
  • Pax Porfiriana
  • Sushi Go!
  • La Boca

I know nothing, literally nothing about these games. How on Earth this is possible that these titles missed my radar? Have you played them? Any recommendations? 🙂



A very good company

Without a doubt you saw nominations for Golden Geek Awards. I wrote about this awards in one of my recent posts – basically this is you, this is you gamers giving us, designers and publishers your vote. You choose what you liked most. This is vox populi. I love it.

I looked at nominated games and woow, so many great games!

Board Game: 2-Player Game – look at these titles! BattleCON: Devastation of Indines is one of the games Tom Vasel was raving about for many months, super fun street fighter type game. I have it on my shelf, I will play it in a few days. I can’t wait. BattleLore (second edition). Do I need say anything more? New BattleLore. This is a game! The Duke – one of highlights of Gen Con 2013, I was really dreaming about this game but price was a little bit too high for me, but I know it is an amazing game and I know, one day I will buy it. Le havre for two. Brillant. Mage Wars – I wrote a dedicated post to Mage Wars few months ago. What a game! Polis, super board game from Spain, I am eager to play it, I heard so much good stuff about this title. Star Wars X-Wing (yes, Sam Healey you see that? Two player game. 2 not 3 ;), pure awesomeness, with cool models, simple rules and super fun game play. And this is only half of this. Can you believe it? All those games published in the last few months.

or let’s look at card games:

Board Game: Card Game – Let me begin with Love Letter, small game that changed our hobby, began new trend, opened whole new category of games. This is a game that make a revolution in our hobby! And I love it and my Merry love it and I can’t say enough good words about this mini game. On the other hand, Mike Selinker’s Pathfinder. What a box! I will play it tomorrow, but even though I haven’t played it yet, there is no doubt – this is great title. The one that will be played and played over many years.  Smash Up for those who like pure fun, Bruges for those who hate theme in games 😉 Legendary, Mage Wars

Category that blows my mind is Family games. I mean, this is hall of fame of our hobby. Look at this: Escape, a game that changes 10 minutes into celebration of pure fun, let me stay around table with my kids and throw dice, shout, scream and have most intense 10 minutes ever. Mice and Mystic which combines super production value with storytelling like no other. What can be better than gather around the table with family and tell a story… And we have more, we have Rampage that is super crazy, we have this little Qwixx, small game that looks not interesting, but when you start playing, you just keep rolling dice and have fun. And Tokaido with the most amazing artwork I’ve seen for years and Forbidden Desert. And Days of Wonder is back with a good title, so we can run for relics…

Is our hobby innovative? Oh, man, look at this category! Escape and Space Duel with real time dice rolling, Love letter with a game that consist of only 16 cards,  Pathfinder that manages to put RPG into cards (I will play tomorrow, I will play tomorrow, I will play tomorrow), and last but not least, Terra Mystica with bringing euro-boring-experience onto highest ever level! 😉

And this list go on, with Lewis & Clark (man, I love this game), Caverna (I bought it yesterday), Spyrium, Tzolkin, Freedom, Going, going, GONE!

I mean, when I saw this list, when I saw all those games in one place and when I understood – this is just a small part of our hobby, these amazing games are just a tip of the iceberg, just releases from one single year this blew my mind. This is whole damn IKEA Expedit bookstand full of super cool games that were published in just 12 months.

Our hobby is in a great moment. And two games that I published, Robinson Crusoe and Legacy are in a very good company. I am so proud. Thank you for putting me there.




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 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! 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!

Wanna bet?

When I was a kid,my father said to me: from among two persons who make a bet one is a dick and the other is moron. The first guy knows he is right and he takes advantage from it. The other is just a moron wishing he is lucky and is right. Obviously he is not.

In December 2012 I was running demo games of Robinson at Pionek convention. It was long time ago. Before Robinson got these all great reviews. Before it got licensed to Germany, Italy, Russia, China or Korea. Before he got awards and nominations…

What is more, at that time I was in the middle of hell – at Polish game forums dozen of haters attacked me with a strength and hatred I have never seen before. It was so brutal and personal, that admins of game forum decided to react and kick some asses. Yeah, Polish release of Robinson was very sad time for me.

At that Pionek convention, devastated by Internet haters I was still struggling for success of Robinson and running demos of Robinson, all two days, from dusk till night. One of players who decided to try was my friend Klema. He played, then he came to me, hug me like bear and with very serious voice he said to me: ‘It will make top 20 at BGG. Congratulations.’

At this time it sounded like the dumbest thing on Earth. The very very dumbest thing. The dumbest. If he ask me back then: ‘Want a bet?’ I would bet with 10 000 $ that he is not right. I would bet without a blink.

From among those two who would make a bet, I would be the moron. Today Robinson make it to Top20 at BGG.


This is unbelievable, but this is true. I can’t believe this is real…

About testing, part III

This story takes place in Gliwice, winter 1997. Long time ago. I am at the collage and of course I run a games club there. We play RPG and miniatures games every Wednesday and Friday evening. I run Warhammer Battle campaign for more than 10 players, with huge map of provinces, with additional set of rules, with development system (when you conquer province you are allowed to get magical stuff, gold, soldiers…). We have a great time.

One day doors open and we see a kid. He may be 15 years old. OK, maybe 16. Kid. He enters and silently says something like: ‘I’ve heard you can play Warhammer Battle here…’

We look at each other and laugh. You know, we were at collage and this 15 years old kid…

Finally Tom points his finger at kid and asks: ‘You play? I challenge you! My name is Tom by the way.’


Before we move on, few words about Tom. I met him few years earlier. He was ‘munchkin type’ player. He exploited every single game he played. I met him when I was playing Doom Trooper CCG, then we played Warhammer Batle, then many other games. He always won. And always broke the system to do that. No remorse. No conscience. No honor.

Tom was exploiting my Warhammer campaign those days. He played Undead army. None of players in the campaign had a magical weaponry yet(because of development rules they needed to conquer lands with magical weapons before they could have them) so he used Wraights regiment in the campaign. Wragihts were immune to non-magical weapons.

Yeah. That kind of player.

That day when kid entered our club Tom had something about 10 wins in a row in a campaign and still no fucking idea about fair play.

So he challenged a kid. He saw it as a easy prey.

And you all probably know how the story goes then…


Next week kid came to our club with his Wood elves army. He set up his forces and in 20 minutes defeated Tom.

Just like that.Kicked his ass in less than half an hour.

Even today, when I am writing this right now, 17 years later, I am still smiling. That was amazing.

After 30 minutes it was over and Tom was defeated. He was standing in the room and couldn’t believe what just happened. Kid was looking at us not fully understanding why we all have big smiles on our faces. ‘Someone would play with me? It was quite short.’ he asked.


How it was possible that he crushed Tom? He spent some time preparing to the battle and thinking what he can do best. And he did it.He approached Tom’s regiment with elven Wardancers unit, made a special dance and direct all 18 hits against one model – Vampire, general of the Undead army. Vampire was not a Wright. Was not immune to non magical weapon. Kid killed general and Wraights vanished. Simple. He hit precisely in the guts.


17 years later we are still friends. I play with Kid football every Monday. We play RPG games, we discuss games, we are really good friends.

With Tom we are friends too. In the meantime Tom has won couple of tournaments. He was European Champion in L5R CCG. Twice. And Vampire CCG European Champion too. Not to mention winning Polish Champion few years in a row in both games. He is winning every competition he starts. Fair play? Not too much. Exploiting holes in the rules? Oh yes!

As you suppose both of these guys are my testers. Most of my games were tested by them. Why? Because they are best players I met in my life. If my game has a winning strategy, they will find it and point it out.

I have Mst in my team too, the guy who three times in a row won our local board game league – beating all those nerds who love Brass, Agricola, Le Havre…

Michal Oracz goes to tournaments of NS HEX and looks for best players. If he sees a very good player, he adds him to his very own NS HEX team – group of best players in Poland. They help Michal test new armies.


That’s how it works. That’s what you need if you design games. You don’t have to be smart ass. You just have to know one.

I am not that good player. I can not play my games. I play and I got kicked every time. But this is OK, as long as I have team who supports me. Team of very good players who search for holes in my games, players who play very well and who can really find winning strategies that are brilliant.


I know there is a smartass living out there who will beat my team one day. I know it is coming. I will read on BGG that someone found a winning strategy in one of my games. And I will cry.

But you guys have to do your best to find it. Because my team found most of them before I published the game. And if there is a hole in one of my games, it is hidden really really deep.

I challenge you. Beat my team. Find a hole.