We want to get the bad news out of the way up front, but stick with us because we have some good surprises immediately after...!
The bad news amounts to a serious delay in our production timeline. Sarah suffers from, and frequently works while under the constant pain of, carpal tunnel; if you work with your own hands in any capacity, you can imagine how difficult struggling to output work on a deadline is when every wrist movement screams at you to stop. She's shown tremendous strength of will and tolerance by pushing through the pain in order to deliver everything she has thus far, and she fully intends on fulfilling her promise and commitment to this project by completing the character art for our game; however, her pain has recently reached a level of severity that, per medical direction, has forced her to halt non-essential use of her hands. Sarah is now exploring her medical options up to and including possible surgery to reduce, if not relieve her of, this debilitating issue. The consequential direct impact to this project is that her unfortunate inability to continue character art for at least the next six weeks (the soonest a nerve specialist will be able to evaluate her for potential surgery or other options) means we will regretfully slip well beyond our desired printing time frame. We hope you accept our sincerest apologies for this delay, believe us when we say we are just as eager to get this production phase completed and get the final game into everyone's hands (including our own); and we hope you understand our decision and the necessity to make Sarah's health and well-being our current priority. Once we know what her actual options are and how they might further affect this project and its timeline, we will inform you. One way or another this game will find its way to those of you who have supported us.
Okay, now for some good news!
Due to the unfortunate further delay of eventual fulfillment, we wish to make good by including the bonus character of The Crowdfunder in all copies of the game. This was originally limited to only those who helped promote our campaign during a short window near the very end -- a handful did, to which we will always be appreciative considering we just barely funded in the final moments -- but given the circumstances, we felt it only appropriate to gift it to everyone as we now ask for the additional support of your continued patience. So, let's show you that bonus character (along with The Psychologist and The Athlete, which Sarah was able to get completed before her forced hiatus):
You might have noticed a slight change to the Potential Character cards: we listened to the feedback regarding the previous text style's readability, and so we've changed to a bolder typeface. We've also increased the quick reference bullet list to include a shorthand reminder of bonus conditions. Each previously shown character has been updated to match, but we're not going to flood you with images you've already seen, especially when we have so many other exciting new things to show you!
...but before we get to those, we want to discuss an opportunity which might interest some of you. Aside from Sarah's sudden health concern, another issue we were about to run into, which could have equally delayed us regardless, has been a lack of required communication from a number of our remaining character models. As such, we are now actively seeking to replace many of those models. We have a few ideas for how best to fill these empty roles with appropriate models, but for most of them we're going to take more of a casting approach rather than attempting to sell or raffle off (though we may raffle one or two). We will have more information specifically regarding this in another update within the next week, but if you would like to be considered as a potential model, please let us know in the comments, and we'll be in touch to determine if you'd be a good fit for any of the remaining characters!
Okay, let's share more goodies!
Ready for the unveiling of our redesigned Special Item cards?
You'll notice the item depiction is fairly faded in the background because the text heavy nature of the item cards requires they be the strongest in readability, though we did also use a scattered fade effect on the text to heighten the typewriter appearance of the lettering. We also color coded the object illustrations based on whether their use leans more aggressive (red), trusting (green), or neutral (blue) in nature. Overall we hope the card design feels bold while appearing subtle.
At this stage you've now seen samples from the four major game cards: the Potential Character, the Hidden Identity, the Mark, and the Special Item; we want to briefly review each deck's unique but thematically cohesive design... but first, here's what the backs of each of those decks will look like:
When choosing to move away from the, admittedly ugly, prototype designs, we asked ourselves, "What is the perceived narrative of this game and how do we translate that to the new designs?" As our game is almost entirely focused on player discussion, interaction, and the overall group dynamic, we did not want to bog down emergent player stories with our own contrived narrative; as such, it has only been the character cards which have any real narrative flavor. It does not matter why these characters (and players) are trapped in a seemingly exitless room with its death trap waiting to be fed, it does not need to be explained how characters escaped if any players managed to succeed in that particular action, and it does not need to wrap up with what happened to the characters after the game concludes, only which player(s) managed to best manipulate the circumstances to their own ends; those inconsequential elements are all just the sand in the box, and our game succeeds because none of that really matters when all you care to know, as tensions rise, is who can you persuade to help build your sandcastle, and who might be about to throw sand in your face?
We wanted to maintain our philosophy of minimal narrative in the card redesigns, but we also needed them to more appropriately fit the situation we're placing players in, and we wanted each deck to be more than just color/element swaps (as with the prototype) but present a consistent theme throughout. We found our answer in this, for lack of a better term, "office supply scraps" style. Discounting the character of The Mastermind, the catalytic antagonist is not an entity which the characters can discover and overcome, all they can do is play its game; so we're utilizing the card designs to imbue that twisted force with some character of its own. The Potential Character cards are meant to resemble continuous stationery printouts of photographs, with hastily written notes scrawled in red marker. The Hidden Identity cards are the detailed personality notes of each character jotted on ruled index cards. The Mark cards are segments of a chalkboard outlining character relationships. The Special Item cards are doodled object illustrations with the details carefully explained via typewritten instructions. We are proud of the individuality each deck possess while adhering to this bizarrely cohesive thematic style.
Okay, time to get out of our own heads and show off even more!
If you've played our game, or if you'll recall from the campaign page, we originally had a single, double-sided action card which players were to use as a reference for the trust and aggression based actions available to them throughout the game. One of the biggest issues with the state related actions was having to mentally keep track of who had used up their available actions in a given round. We're fixing that by splitting the single card to two and using the back side to represent the spent action.
Those who do recall the old action card will notice a few other important changes.
On the aggression card we've beefed up Injure. Testing showed that particular action hardly ever used unless a specific character required some manner of violence; now players can capitalize on much more desirable results from its various effects. In addition to improving Injure, the wording on many actions has changed slightly for clarity purposes. We did completely remove Subjugate. While it was a neat idea, it was never used (maybe once or twice in all of our testing) as it had very little playability due to being a sixth round action; usually by the fifth round players all have their game plans set and are either trying to escape, kill, or use any lesser actions to achieve their victory. When it came down to it, all the other aggressive actions are essential to the game, and Subjugate was just a fun bit of fluff.
On the trust card we more heavily revised the wording on some important actions in dire need of clarity. For Assist, it is mechanically vital that players physically give their die to whomever they are assisting, as certain characters are concerned with the act of rolling the die themselves; also, it is equally important players understand that Assist is the only action which cannot be rolled for (forced) if a player refuses, thus it is the only action which can be safely offered without expending your trust action for the round if your help is refused. Ally is the most difficult action to explain within the limited available space due to its many specifics, hopefully the revision makes things clearer, but we may just have to settle for full clarity coming from the rulebook. We also fully removed Inquire. We felt it was unfair to require players honestly remember for more than half an elapsed game which cards it was they tossed away during the pre-game selection; this becomes especially difficult when playing multiple games in a row. Inquire did not see much use anyway as that type of information generally ends up freely shared much earlier in the game, this was only a means to test such info but it put too big an onus on player memory.
And now players can simply flip an action card over whenever they no longer have access to that state for the round, allowing all players to quickly see at a glance who has actions, and of which type, left to spend.
We have one more special card to share this month, but before that, here's something else we think is pretty cool: we're working on getting our game playable in Tabletop Simulator! For those unfamiliar and who have access to at least a modest gaming PC, we recommend you check it out, it's a virtual tabletop sandbox which allows for user asset importing, which basically means practically any tabletop game can be made playable in the simulation; many independent game designers have embraced it as a means of virtual playtesting and sharing their work. Note: we are not affiliated with Tabletop Simulator other than being big fans of what it provides.
These are simply some work-in-progress shots as we obviously don't have all the assets completed yet to import. We are unsure at what point during this production process we will officially open this up to be publicly played, and we're not even sure it'll play well in a virtual environment being such a socially focused game, but hey, if stuff like Secret Hitler, Werewolf/Mafia, and other social deduction games can be enjoyed by Tabletop Simulator players, perhaps ours might work too. At latest, we'd be opening this up around the time physical copies would begin printing, as all assets would be final come that point; but we'll consider opening it up sooner if we feel we've got enough game content in there to make it enjoyably worthwhile. It's also just kinda awesome seeing our updated design on the virtual cards!
Alright, we're gonna wrap up this massive update with one last cool surprise, something we've considered for a while, but as it didn't have any direct game effect, we kept pushing it off as unnecessary... but we realize we can't always be present to describe the only element of note in the otherwise empty room, to remind players of the ominous, commanding message and the task at hand, no, it's better we offer a persistent visual reminder: the Trap Door card!