How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Release a Game During SPIEL, Part 2

Thanks to everyone for the very successful Kickstarter campaign for Steal This Game, designed overnight at SPIEL’16. Here’s the second half of the story behind the game. (Find Part 1 here.)

So you know what? Let’s do that. Let’s actually make a game!

And, let’s put it on KS. We’re bound to find 200 people that would like to have this!

We’ve all had a rough day at the Messe, but there was some vague buzz going on. It was a little weird. As if there was some expectation that something was going to happen, only held back by how tired we all were.

Dave was in his room, barely awake, lit by the glow of his laptop screen. The Drawlab people had gone downstairs to the lobby to play some games, and our team was just returning from the fair, trying to decompress and come to terms with what had happened.

“So Dave, why don’t you design a game?”


“Yeah, a game. We put it on a postcard, quick and cheap. Put it on KS, see if we can make some of the money back.”

“Uh, OK?”

“How about a solo game? Something about stealing? Maybe about the thief trying to steal, or a store owner trying to protect themselves?”

At this point, barely 30 seconds into the discussion, we estimate that Dave had already designed half the game. The above discussion was about the extent of how much we would contribute to the game design.

Of course, Dave had a much better idea of how the game would work, and he managed to make a game for two players. An asymmetric, dynamic, fun little micr-, nay, a nanogame. A very thematic nanogame.

Twelve minutes (yes, just 12) later, Dave was done with the rules. Even before he was done, Falko was prototyping using whatever components we had lying around (Netrunner cards, a few dice, some postcards).

The idea would be to make a simple, portable game, cheap to make and ship. The players would need to supply two dice of their own and a simple token to track attempts by the thief.

The thief is playing a compact version of Liar’s Dice, where a series of bluffs may get them closer to the real cash box. The exhibitor is playing a shell game, trying to hide the real box among three decoys, using the cashier card to protect one of the cards from the thief peeking at them.

The more the thief successfully bluffs, the closer they get to the real cash box by eliminating decoys. If the thief is caught in a bluff, they lose, but not without one final attempt to grab the cash and run.

As soon as Dave had a stable game, we got the prototypes, we got our people, we got some coffee and rum, and we went down to the lobby to playtest.

While Alvin was writing up the KS campaign material and Dave was uploading the game info to BGG and answering questions, the Drawlab joined the rest of us to playtest the game thoroughly.

That’s when we knew this was a good game, because playtesting, sometimes a bit of a dull experience, was actually fun!

4-5 hours of playtesting, a few shots of rum and a few bottles of Mate later, we decided to call it a night. After all, we needed our 2 hours of beauty sleep before we had to get up the next morning. But not before a quick email to Rahdo, Paul, Kurt, and a few other board gaming luminaries.

So as soon as we got to the fair the next morning, we had our first demo of the day, a scene that would be repeated many times, which resulted in the videos you see on the front page, all shot on location at SPIEL.

News spread quickly, and it was all hands on deck. We commandeered one of the demo tables for Crisis (it was sold out anyway), and we started to work. Viktor, our graphic designer, sacrificed almost the entire day at the fair to make some campaign graphics, something that would help us show you what the game would look like.

Many other publishers, reviewers, designers, and more came to the booth to see if there were anything they could do., also exhibiting at the fair, allowed us some time to show the game off during their live feed and also lent us their high-speed internet connection so we could upload videos. Kickstarter itself was co-exhibiting next to us, and Luke (head of games at KS) was able to take a look at the campaign page and critique it on the fly; a number of things could use improvement. At around 18:00 or so, the campaign was ready.

At that time, the fair was closing for the day (and for 2016). It was a bittersweet moment, but we had to get to work, dismantling the booth, with the help of our amazing volunteers.

How we could have done this without them, we truly do not know. While we were working on the campaign they were explaining games, carrying stock, dealing with cancelled meetings, and otherwise being incredibly supportive, many of them giving us 2x and 3x the time we expected. Astounding.

After we packed up our booth as much as we could, we were out of the fair, and off for our traditional Chinese buffet wrap party. And there, between plates of Peking duck and Mongolian grill, this campaign was launched… and funded, only a few minutes later.

This was quite the surreal experience, with all sorts of emotions and a lot of energy flowing through everyone at our booth, and beyond. While we certainly would have preferred to not have been robbed, it truly shows what our community and our team are made of when one sees how we reacted to what happened.

It is a privilege and an honor to have you be part of this. Thank you. Let’s see what other wonderful things we can make together.

With deep appreciation and gratitude,