Welcome to the second ever newsletter of the CSS Pandora on its 2-year voyage into the unknown of the Crowdfunding universe. In this transmission, I’m going to talk about how we got to this point, our 3-dimensional solution to a recurring problem, and what’s happening with the artwork.
How Did We Get Here?
Some time around 2015, I was playtesting my game RUS at Dragonmeet in London. It was nearing the end of the day, and I was just about ready to pack up and go home, when a bloke sat down with his son and asked if they could give it a try.
I remember, it didn’t go well. The bloke was struggling to get his head around the subtleties of the game, and while his son seemed to be enjoying it, I couldn’t say the same about the father.
So it came as a bit of a surprise when I got an email the following week from someone we shall call ‘Mr P’, saying that he’d played RUS with is son at Dragonmeet, was really impressed by it and asking if we could meet up to talk about my games. Turns out Mr P was part of a small startup company we shall call ‘The Eastenders’, who were looking for a title they could crowdfund in a few years’ time, once they’d established a proper fanbase with their stable of smaller games. After a few meetings and some very enjoyable gaming sessions, they settled on Pandora Celeste as the design they wanted take forward. Then Nemesis exploded onto the scene. For those who don’t know, Nemesis is a very good, very BIG space survival game by giants of the industry Awaken Realms. It self-consciously sets out to create a ‘filmic experience’ that feels like you’re in the middle of one of those movies. It was a massive, runaway success, and I thought Pandora was dead in the ether. No-one was going to want to try publishing another space survival game with that big beast lurking in the shadows. I was wrong. Turns out that in precisely the same month that Nemesis made over £2.5 million on Kickstarter, two other space survival games funded alongside it: CMON’s Zombiecide: Space Base made over a million, and Hall or Nothing’s Lifeform made £90k despite not having any minis or the marketing budget of the other two monsters. As far as the Eastenders were concerned, the space survival genre was clearly like fantasy dungeon-crawlers or sci-fi 4X games: players simply couldn’t get enough of them.
What’s more, they felt that Pandora had some key differences which meant that it would appeal not only to fans of Nemesis looking for a faster game, but to those for whom Nemesis was just too brutal and treacherous. To put it unfairly (but fairly accurately) Pandora is designed to give you a fast-paced roller-coaster ride that feels like you’ve escaped by the skin of your teeth: Nemesis is slow, dark and takes pleasure in arbitrarily killing you. They are two very different approaches to the same genre – and if anyone’s interested in finding out more, let me know and I’ll post about it sometime.
Then the Pandemic hit. This hit Mr P and consequently the Eastenders very hard, which is why I’ve given them pseudonyms. To cut a long and painful story short, the Pandemic forced them to call it a day and shut up shop. But very generously, before they did Mr P relinquished all rights to Pandora and reverted them back to me.
So there I was at the end of the Pandemic, back at Square One, with a game that worked well, but no-one to publish it. And that’s when my lovely Lynnie said: “Let’s do it ourselves.”
The rest, as they say, is a ton of sleepless nights, running on adrenalin and sheer, unadulterated panic. But, boy, does it feel good! 😁
How to Turn a Problem into a Marketing Opportunity:
One of the key criticisms that kept cropping up in our playtesters’ feedback was that the dotted blue lines of the Aircon System we had printed on the board caused a lot of confusion and made the Shipmap feel cluttered.
So Lynn suggested that we make it 3-dimensional and suspend it above the board. I was initially very sceptical – I thought it would get in the way of moving pieces around the Ship – until I saw this on a Designer’s Prototype stall at a convention:
Not only was it clearly playable, but it also made me stop and look.
Our first experiments were less than successful – unless you wanted your Nasties to be hi-wire acrobats:
But a little nifty work with a jig-saw and some acetate sheeting showed that the concept could work:
Now all we have to do is test it with the punters. So if you’re in the Ramsgate area on the 19th November, why not come and see us at UNCON https://unconkent.co.uk/ to help us try it out – we’d love to see you.
Adventures in Artwork:
I’m painfully aware right now that we don’t have any professional artwork to help show off the game. I don’t want to start advertising until we have something that looks really good – and the only way to do that is art.
So over the last months, we’ve been talking to a couple of artists to see if they’d be interested in coming on board.
One, Rick Bastos, is based in Brazil. He’s got a lovely, quirky style which I think will translate well into our character art, and (once the international banking system pulls its finger out), we’ve commissioned him to do our box cover art, which will look great.
But I’m just as excited to be talking to Kris Fosh. Kris designed and did the artwork for a
lovely looking game called Escape From Flat Earth: ‘A narrative-creating game for fans of sci-fi who should know better than to wear red,’ 😆. He has just the right sensibility for this, and if he does eventually come on board, I think we’ll have a fantastic time working together to create something really special that will light up the eyes of fans of this genre.
Thanks for reading. As ever, if you want to be part of the conversation, feel free to join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/pandoraceleste
And please do rate us an log a Wishlist on: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/375556/pandora-celeste
It really does make a difference.
I’m still working on a TTS simulation, but it will be a while yet.
And next time, I’m hoping we can show off our first art… 🤞