PANDORA’s LOG: Stardate 22021004
This is the first log of the CSS Pandora as it embarks on its 2-year mission to go where no Guntower Game has gone before and heads into the unknown void of the Crowdfunding Universe.
Welcome aboard and thanks for joining the ride. Work and other things permitting, I’m hoping to produce this newsletter on the first week of each month, just to let you know how we’re progressing. I expect there won’t be much to report in the first few months, but I’ll still keep you updated with what I can.
So What is Pandora Celeste?
Many of you have already played the game, which is why you’re here. For those who haven’t, or have only played it briefly, here’s a quick breakdown.
Pandora Celeste is a light-hearted boardgame which pays homage to those alien survival films we all grew up on and loved. Think Alien, Predator, The Terminator, Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Thing. You play the hapless crew of the CSS Pandora, who find that they are trapped in a floating tin can with a veritable Pandora’s Box of Nasties from the Sci-Fi universe (hence the name ‘Pandora’ 😉), and they have to fulfil their Personal Agenda and get off the Ship before said Nasties kill them (hence the ‘Celeste’ – see what I did there 😏). As if that wasn’t enough, the Ship’s Computer is trying to protect the Company’s assets with a set of Emergency Protocols that make Hal from 2001 look a like a benevolent uncle by comparison – because they’re not designed to protect the Crew: they’re designed to protect the Cargo. These take the form of logic puzzles that the crew has to complete before they can activate their Agendas and get off the Ship.
The game is semi-cooperative, with players working together to shut down the Emergency Protocols until the Agendas come out, when it’s suddenly every Crewmember for themselves. It uses a loose Deckbuilding system, where you play Action Cards to do things, and can pick up extra Action Cards in the form of Tools and Memories that let you do cool things and increase your survival chances as you move around the Ship.
It's designed to evoke a laugh of recognition as you find yourselves presented with many of the classic tropes that make this genre so entertaining – but also to elicit a sigh of relief as you escape from yet another near-death experience by the skin of your teeth. If you don’t end the game thinking you’re lucky to still be alive, I haven’t done my job right.
How did we get here?
Well, you can blame my wife Lynn and my gaming buddy Darryl for that. Darryl’s been telling me for years that I should try to get one of my games published. Then Lynn asked me what I wanted for my 50th birthday, and I said: “Well, I’ve got most of the stuff I want. What I really want to do is sell a novel or get a game published, but you can’t get me that.” And bless her, she replied: “Well, I can’t help you write a novel, but I can help you publish a game. So let’s do it.” Fast forward (ahem) years, and here we are. After God knows how many missteps and false starts, Lynn has finally chivvied me into taking the first steps out into the Crowdfunding void.
It's a running joke amongst my mates that when most men hit a mid-life crisis, they trade in their wife for a newer model. But Mike didn’t do that. Instead, in typical Mike fashion, he got his wife to help him make a game 🤓. Thank you Lynnie, from the bottom of my heart .
TBH, I was putting the whole thing off because I’m terrified!
Designing a game is easy – I can (and do) literally do it in my sleep: I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve woken up with a game design buzzing round my head, demanding to be put onto cardboard. Figuring out how to budget a game, commission game art, work out manufacturing and shipping quotes – and all the million other things that go into Crowdfunding a game – that’s hard but doable: it just takes an awful lot of reading, researching and hard work to achieve…
But Marketing – getting you guys on board and building a community that will ultimately sustain and nurture the game… That’s a Dark Art for which I have no idea what I’m doing.
So any help you can give me – any advice, any encouragement, any recommendations to friends – will be so gratefully received.
Join our Facebook community at https://www.facebook.com/groups/pandoraceleste
If you’ve already done that, join in the discussion: ask questions, make suggestions, talk about the stories you like and the Nasties you’d like to see. I’d love to know what excites you about the genre.
And please, please, please help get the word out. Share it with friends and fellow sci-fi fans - anyone you can reach out to and say: ‘Hey, check this out, I think you might like it.’ Because the more people who know about this, the better.
Thanks for joining me on this ride. It’s gonna be a long haul, but it’s also gonna be fun. In the next month or so, I’m hoping to build a virtual copy of the game on TTS and Tabletopia, so that you guys can try out the Learning Campaign if you want to. And right now, I’m talking to an artist who’s on just the right wavelength for this game. Hopefully, we can afford him and he’ll be up for it.
So watch this space – and don’t back into too many dark corners as you do…