Swamped has arrived!

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Jan 252016
 

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Here’s a closer look at my game Swamped! You can pick up a copy now at Bellwether Games.

Swamped is a semi-cooperative game of adventure, peril and treasure in which players move through a swamp searching for a rare herb that can cure diseases. Each player takes a turn steering the boat to find the herb. But the swamp has many other treasures as well, so players may try to steer the boat away from its intended goal to increase their own wealth.

Swamped is a game for 2-4 adventurers that plays in about 30 minutes and expands the vibrant world of Antidote. In addition to a one-of-a-kind theme, there are five core elements that make Swamped incredibly fun and a surprisingly unique gaming experience:

I should also mention that this game would NOT have happened without first and foremost my wife Jenn’s support and help.

Also both my daughters! Izzie for help with the initial game concept and initial play testing and Luca for continued play testing even when getting eaten by a croc got old.

Dennis Hoyle for the amazing job developing, tweaking and generally all around improving the game. Not to forget running the business side of things from pre-production through Kickstarter, manufacturing and distribution.

Jonathan Logan Clark gave the game it’s wonderful look, spent much time in development not only of art but of game play and mechanics and knocked it out of the park.

Dan Quilty, Hetchen Ehrenfeld and Kate Zirpolo Flynn spent hours playing unfinished versions of this game to make it better.

Alan Seymour and Russ Whinnem deserve praise for being awesome!

And a huge thanks to everyone who backed us both financially and emotionally. You all freaking rock!

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About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

The road to Swamped is full of crocs and Kickstarters

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Oct 272015
 
Swamped print sample, sealed in shrink wrap.

Swamped print sample, sealed in shrink wrap.

Today Dennis from Bellwether Games officially announced that the print samples of Swamped had arrived from China and he was able to show off some amazing pictures of the game in all it’s glory. Wow – it’s amazing to see something that Dennis, Jonathan and I have spent so much time on actually becoming real.

Box open, with the Rulebook.

Box open, with the Rulebook.

Jonathan did a straight up amazing job on making this little game an entire, vibrant universe all to itself – the artwork and graphic design look absolutely amazing. Dennis was wearing many hats during this entire ride, including business owner, negotiator, game developer, and Kickstarter wrangler. Both Dennis and Jonathan also poured a great deal of time into making Swamped a $40 game packed into a $15 box.

Coordinate cards.

Coordinate cards.

It’s hard to believe that this whole journey started back in 2013, almost 2 years ago to the day,  with a design I put together over an evening of thinking about my Grandmother’s art. From there I spun the submission wheel of fortune and happened to get extremely lucky by emailing Dennis at Bellwether. Dennis decided to do a little development work with me and then took a chance on a game that wasn’t yet called Swamped. Here’s a look at the original prototype I printed out.

Baby Swamped!

Baby Swamped!

We signed a contract and off we went! Or more realistically, off Dennis went! He came back to me a little later with a few ideas and a thought about perhaps making this game about taking a journey themed with a tropical swamp. From there it was a lot of development work a bit of bouncing ideas back and forth and from some basic mechanics sprang forth a semi-cooperative experience that we feel is an awful lot of game in a little box!

5 of the Adventurers!

5 of the Adventurers!

Dennis, Jonathan and I put in a good year and a half of our lives play testing, tweaking, and suggesting ideas. We had a ton of friends, play testers and interested readers take a look at the game and the rules – and here’s another public thank you for that! Without your help the game wouldn’t be as balanced and full of interesting (and sometimes wonderfully stressful!) choices!

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From there it was off to Kickstarter! 1091 people came together with us to raise $20,504 to bring Swamped into reality. We unlocked 10 stretch goals and did a fantastic job raising the funds when you consider that a pledge for a single copy was just $14 including shipping.

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Now Bellwether games is nearing their final goal – getting their copies into the states and off to backers and then retailers! The button has metaphorically been pressed and the game is moving into production in a factory located in China. From Dennis’ update:  Production is expected to take between 30-45 days. Add to that another 45-60 days for shipping the game across the ocean, clearing it through customs, sending it to the fulfillment company and shipping them out to all of you, and it looks like January will be the month you will receive your copies of the game. Bellwether has also pulled the trigger on a few extra copies of Swamped so if you missed out on the Kickstarter, you can pre-order them here.

It’s about a month later than Bellwether was hoping for which I’ve already learned can happen, even to the big publishers. When you factor in holidays in China, shipping times, production issues that need to be cleared up before the game is mass produced and all the little nuances that (thankfully) Bellwether games dealt with, I think they’ve done a wonderful job! I’d much rather wait the extra month and get a product that is amazingly colorful and well produced!

This is my first game that I was lucky enough to license to a publisher and I feel a little like I’ve been on this journey with all of you who read these occasional blog posts I make. Thanks to many of you the game is going to be real! I’m happy to share this adventure with everyone and hope that other fledgling designers have been able to come away with at least a little something to help them along the way – even if it’s just the knowledge that this can be done.

I’m also super happy to say that I’ve signed my second game! Button Shy Games (who just wrapped up a really amazing Kickstarter of their own) have opted to bring Ninja: Silent but Deadly into reality! I’m also currently working on development of a third game with a third publisher – but that’s all I can really say right now about that.

Until the next Swamped update hits, which I expect will be that the games are on their way, let’s move!

swamped4

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Three Swamped stretch goals unlocked in 24 hours and we’re so close to two more!

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May 272015
 

sbacker

Swamped is having a fantastic week! Yesterday we unlocked THREE stretch goals –  boat tokens, croc tokens and the Create Your Own Adventurer card! Let’s take a look!

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We are 2 backers away from unlocking Spot UV on the box and just $266 away from unlocking the alternate Start Map! Wow! Thank you! That means if we get just 17 backers today, we’ve unlocked both upcoming stretch goals.

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This would be fantastic! And keep us going well on our way towards extra cards and EXPANSIONS! All of us working on the game want to see these unlocked but I can also tell you my personal favorite stretch goal is hidden in there in the expansions!

We’re also working to expand our social media reach to get more folks interested, maybe drum up new backers and reach even more stretch goals. It’s called a Thunderclap campaign. If you have one minute, click this link and give us a hand! Thunderclap is a way to coordinate posts to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr (one, two or all three – your choice) on the same day, at the same moment. This helps build momentum for the Kickstarter campaign and can bring in lots of new backers.

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Swamped funds in 6 days! On to some amazing stretch goals!

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May 112015
 
Check out that art!

Check out that art!

I’m extremely happy to say that Swamped has funded via Kickstarter in just six days! Now… now the fun really begins! Bellwether Games have prepared some amazing stretch goals for the game and I’m very, very interested in seeing them get unlocked! This Kickstarter campaign is unique as far as I know with the “Tech Tree” approach to unlocking stretch goals. At ever level, the backers get to vote on what gets unlocked and reveal the next branch on the tech tree.

Stretch Goals

Stretch Goals

As you can see, there’s a lot to get too! The only way we’re going to get to these is with more backers to the campaign! If you’ve backed already, please help spread the word through social media, word of mouth and if possible, sky writing. If you have not backed this project, please consider doing so! $12 plus shipping gets you a copy of the game with every single stretch goal unlocked! You can also help spread the word through Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and any other way you can think of!

A big, huge thank you to all who’ve helped us out in any way! Onwards and upwards!

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

My game Swamped is LIVE on Kickstarter for $12! Please check it out!

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May 062015
 
Now on Kickstarter

Now on Kickstarter

I am extremely excited to announce that the Swamped! campaign is now LIVE on Kickstarter! Bellwether Games and I have been working together to develop this game for a year and a half now. We feel we’ve honed this down to a fun, fast and easily replayable game with a price tag of just $12. We’ve taken my original concept and created a game that embodies a lot of what we love in larger board and card games and boils it down to just the fun bits. Cooperation, hidden agendas, cards with multiple uses and an always different play space in the form of the Swamp.

are you ready

You’ve been hired to collect a rare herb found deep in the heart of one of the world’s most deadly swamps. Together with your newly acquainted team, you must navigate this dangerous environment in a tiny boat to find the legendary plant before night falls or something more sinister finds you first…

In the game players take turns planning and executing movements for the boat in an attempt to collect lucrative natural treasures. As the game progresses, the boat drifts deeper and deeper in the swamp and players will suddenly discover they need to work together to get out of the swamp alive!

Please visit the Kickstarter page for more information and please, please help us with this campaign! How can you help?

  1. Visit and “like” the Kickstarter page.
  2. Share a link of the Kickstarter page with friends and family either online or by talking about it!
  3. Pledge your support at the Kickstarter page. Even just $1 will get you access to the print and play edition of the game and all of the project updates. $X will get you a copy of the game, shipping included if the campaign is successful.
  4. If you’re a member of Board Game Geek, head over to the Swamped page and become a fan! Give some photos a thumbs up and let us know you’re here!
Swamped!

Swamped!

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Swamped is a game for 2-4 adventurers that plays in about 30 minutes and expands the vibrant world of Antidote. In addition to a one-of-a-kind theme, there are 6 core elements that make Swamped incredibly fun and a surprisingly unique gaming experience:

  1. Player-shared pieces: All players share ownership of the same tiny boat in the swamp, so the actions of any one player impact every other player directly.
  2. Secret and shared objectives: Everyone knows the main objective, but each player also has a hidden goal that might lead the whole expedition into deadly peril!
  3. Player controlled game-length: Players can speed-up or slow-down the game down depending on their preference. Some will try to get out of the swamp quickly, while others will delay until they’ve collected precisely the right combination of treasures.
  4. Surprise ending: It is unlikely that anyone can know with 100% certainty who has won the game before each player’s secret objective is revealed, leading to an exciting reveal at the very end!
  5. Efficient use of physical components: Despite its small size (35 cards and 2 pieces), most cards have multiple uses and orientations leading to a surprisingly deep set of decisions each player can make.
  6. Variable game map: As players move deeper into the swamp, the swamp expands from the action card deck, opening up unique adventure opportunities every time you play.

howtoplay

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2Hr2gubfbc]

Note: The game components in the video are all prototype quality.

stretch

Bellwether Games is trying something a little different with this project. Not only will funding drive unlocked stretch goals, but backers will also have quite a say in what stretch goals become unlocked and when! How? Here’s how:

Stretch Goals

Stretch Goals

I personally think this is a great thing – putting the available stretch goals into the hands of the backers so that they can unlock what they want to, in the order they want it unlocked.

If you want more news, I’d highly suggest going right to the source on Kickstarter! And for timely updates, consider pledging. Just $1 gets you all of the news as soon as it comes out and access to the Print and Play files.

meettheteam

Thanks!

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Swamped! Less than a week away from Kickstarter and here’s what we know….

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May 012015
 
Coming to Kickstarter on May 6th!

Coming to Kickstarter on May 6th!

Ahh, the swamp. It’s a dangerous place, full of intrigue, hidden treasures, secret motives and one very large crocodile. It’s also my first professionally published game! For 2-4 players, ages 13+ playing in 20-30 minutes.

Swamped is coming to Kickstarter on May 6th from Bellwether Games! A semi-cooperative game of adventure, peril and Treasure where players are moving through a swamp searching for a rare herb that can cure diseases. Each player takes a turn steering the boat to find the herb. But the swamp has many other treasures as well so players may try to steer the boat away from its intended goal to increase their own wealth.

Check out that art!

Check out that art!

In the game, players navigate their shared vessel through a dangerous water-logged jungle in search of lucrative natural resources. Your expressed goal is to help “save the world,” but as time runs out, your own secret motives may lead everyone into deadly peril. Secret motives you say? Each player takes on the role of one of many characters in the game.

Let’s meet the Photojournalist, one of the characters from the game. The photojournalist was hired to document the mission and tell the world about the team’s amazing adventure into the swamp. Why? Well, the employer wants the world to know what great lengths it takes to find and create life-saving chemicals. It’s great publicity, and the photojournalist is a highly skilled photographer who can tell the story better than anyone. The only problem? The photojournalist has traveled some of the most dangerous paths in the world already and believes this swamp is a “piece of cake” in comparison. So, deeper and deeper in the swamp we go…Will we get out? Nobody knows…

The Photojournalist

The Photojournalist

The game ends when players escape the swamp with three herbs (and other treasures), when the swamp crocodile attacks the boat, or when the card pile is exhausted (leaving players stranded in the swamp).

So what else can I tell you about this game? Dennis from Bellwether Games and I have been collaborating on this game for a year and a half and I think it really shows. Jonathan Logan Clark (who did the artwork and graphic design for Bellwether’s Antidote) has also been doing a fantastic job with the artwork, as you can see!

The game takes much of what we love about some of the larger box games that run $40-$80 and boils it down to a micro-game sized package. Don’t let the size fool you though because there’s a lot of game in the box, and you’ll be able to get it for far less than the $40-$80 price tag.

Want to know more as soon as you can? Here’s what you can do! Stop by the Swamped page on Facebook (and like us while you’re there too). Check out the game on Board Game Geek and keep your eyes on Kickstarter for our May 6th launch!

 

 

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

On Making Swamped and That Good Old Creative Drive

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Feb 022015
 

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I was recently asked why I decided to make games in general, and Swamped in particular. There’s the short answer – I love table top games. RPGs, board games, card games, and I love toying with things that make them work too. Then there’s the long answer.

The Long Answer

Way back in 1986 I was a high school freshman. I was hugely into D&D and Palladium RPGs. Then a mutual gamer friend introduced me to this thing called Talisman. It was love at first sight. I played and then owned all of Talisman 2nd edition. After that I got into first Blood Bowl and then Dungeon Bowl. Warhammer was around back then but the price was a bit prohibitive for me, so I purchased a few of the chit and paper map type war games that were available in the late 80s and continued my love affair with RPGs.

College happened and the RPGs were easier to pack so with the exception of Blood Bowl and Talisman, my board game stayed at home. There followed a long period where I was mostly an RPG player, only dabbling occasionally with board and card games.

Back in 2008, I launched this blog, based almost solely on table top games with a slant of course towards RPGs. That was the tipping point. I ‘published’ a number of Pathfinder and system neutral RPG things, along with a few small, self enclosed systems. I loved and still love RPGs but I found myself with two kids, my wife, a full time job and a long commute. My time to play RPGs kept getting whittled down.

So I glanced around my shelves, dusted off a few of the board games I had and promptly and instantly fell back in love with the hobby board game scene.

I’ve always enjoyed creating things, so after a year or so of doing research (which thankfully translates into playing a huge amount of board games) I started toying around with some design ideas of my own. They were, quite frankly, crap. Poor implementation of mechanics, way to much reliance on luck and things that had been done before without much of a change in how they were implemented.

The Inspirational Bit

Here’s the thing though – having written fiction and poetry in college and afterwards, having made a few low-end RPGs, and having read quotes on the internet, I knew one special fact. Here’s a quote from Ira Glass explaining that fact. It’s a little on the long side as far as quotes go, but it will be worth your 30 seconds of reading.

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

Knowing that and also knowing that many of the design ideas implemented in newer games came from ideas from older games, I started experimenting with Old vintage cards on a white background isolatedold (19th century) card games. I’d start with a simple re-theme, get to a theme that I enjoyed and then start adding/taking away mechanics until I had something that was similar but hopefully better.

It didn’t always work. But it worked enough that I was encouraged by my own designs. So I showed a few to other people and they were also encouraging, in the best way. That is, they like what I had done but found the flaws and pointed them out to me. A few of these I liked enough that I started making them available as Print and Play or Print on Demand titles.

Around about this time I also decided that since I couldn’t always find enough folks with enough time to play these games I loved so much, I’d do the next best thing, talk about them! So I launched a podcast and started interviewing game creators. I did about 50 episodes of that, which was an immense help. Nothing informs people on how to create games more than talking to people who create and (important point here) sell games.

By this time two years ago I have about 200 game ideas, ranging from a catchy title to a fairly well fleshed out prototype. Of those, I’d found about 30 that seemed like they might be viable games – have something that’s both fun, interesting, new and not boring. Of those, I found that about 5 really, honestly did have something to them. They were fun, engaging, with a neat twist on a mechanic that wasn’t everywhere else in the board game world. Swamped was one from that batch, although it wasn’t called Swamped then, and it was a bit of a lesser game than it is now.

On Pitching a Game

Holy Stock Photo BatmanIn my course of shopping titles around… well hold on a second. Let me touch on that briefly too. In my Game School articles, I talk a bit about finding new games from the publisher’s perspective and publishing new games from the creator’s perspective. I gleaned this information from two sources. First was talking to publishers and creators. The second was my attempts to put these ideas into practice.

Those 5 titles that I thought had some real potential, I shopped them around via email and my podcast connections and just plain old blind selling to perhaps 20 publishers, big and small. I consider myself lucky to have 2 publishers be very interested. One took a design (not Swamped), did a bunch of development on it, play tested it thoroughly and then did the dreaded cost analysis. They just couldn’t bring out ideas to a point where they felt it would be cost effective. They had some great ideas, and did a lot of work which I appreciated. Then, they turned over the work and ideas to me and said “Thanks! Hit us up if you have anything further!” and that was that.

The other was Bellwether Games.

Dennis from Bellwether was interested enough in my not-quite-Swamped that he asked if he could toy around with it. I said yes and he took me up on this. He came up with some cool ideas for this little game that I hadn’t thought of and we agreed to move forward. This was approximately 11 months ago.  We had a video call, exchanged some emails and suddenly this contract arrived, was amenable to both of us and I signed it.

Making a “Nice” Game into a Great Game

More development on Bellwether’s part, more emails, a few more video calls, some online testing, ideas flowing back and forth, collaboration that worked and suddenly… quite suddenly (a mere 2 years after I had initially come up with the idea) there was this game and it worked and it was new and packed more game into it’s tiny little structure than some $60 games I owned. This part was also quite fascinating to me and reminded me why I enjoy degrees of openness on a creative project.

With just me working on the original game, I came up with a fun, quick and interesting little game. Once Dennis came on board and got his folks play testing this though, he came back with some different ideas that just wouldn’t have occurred to me. We talked, the ideas go developed and test and the entire project began to evolve into something better.

The part in all this that keeps me going personally, that keeps my interest in this project high and my enjoyment in seeing it completed is that I had a major part in making it. The part that gets me excited about this game from a fan of the hobby in general aspect is that Dennis from Bellwether also had a major part in making it better. That means every time I played a newer version, it may have moved in a different direction than I had anticipated but it got closer to my vision of making a great game.

In short, I was and am very excited about this game. It’s moved from the sometimes drudgery of play testing before I even sent it out to Bellwether to a game I really, honestly want to play, even though I have a ton of other games in my gaming library. I still had one problem though.

I’m a pretty open person when it comes to development of things like this when I’m working on my own. I love to talk to everyone and anyone about my latest ideas, what worked, what failed awfully and everything else. When you’re working on a game for someone else however, there’s an expectation that things not get blurted out as soon as they occur. So after nearly a years worth of development this press release was made. Partly I’m convinced because I was about to explode from excitement and I think Dennis didn’t want a death on his hands.

There’s still lots of information about the game I’m ready to go on about. Mechanics, more on the theme, which bits have teeth and which bits require some subtle manipulation of the other players. But I must end this now as my wife has challenged me to another game of Swamped and she won the last one!

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

My Next Game, Swamped, to be Developed by Bellwether Games

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Jan 262015
 

belllogo

I am very proud to announce that after a very interesting, very productive year of development, I have a new title on the horizon!

Swamped is going to be published by Bellwether Games and we’re all hard at work making it a spectacular game to play! Dennis from Bellwether has done up a press release and I really can’t say much more than what he’s written there. But I can say I’m terribly, wonderfully excited for everyone to see more!

Here’s the press release:

About one year ago, game designer Ben Gerber contacted us about a micro-game he’d been working on that needed a publisher. This was the beginning of a very positive and productive relationship between Ben Gerber and Bellwether Games, the outcome of which is an incredibly fun and unique little game we’ve titled “Swamped!”

Although there is still a lot of work to be done and many things we’re not quite ready to share, we couldn’t help but give you at least a glimpse at what this game is about:

You’ve only just met your companions—a motley assemblage of characters from who-knows-where. You’ve been told each one of you was “hand-selected” for this urgent (or desperate) expedition into one of the world’s most feared swamps, but this thought provides you little solace.

Together in a tiny boat, you and your team have been tasked to find a rare herb with chemical properties that will help your employer cure the great disease of your time. At least, that is the plan. This swamp is full of secret and valuable treasures…and hidden dangers. Will your team honor their contracts and complete the mission before daylight fades, or will hidden agendas and unknown obstacles lure you deeper and deeper into the swamp?

Swamped is a card game for 2-4 adventurers and plays in about 30 minutes. In the game players navigate their shared vessel through a dangerous water-logged jungle in search of lucrative natural resources. Your expressed goal is to help “save the world,” but as time runs out, your own secret motives may lead everyone into deadly peril.

There is not yet a launch date for a Swamped Kickstarter campaign, but we will soon be making a print and play with demo artwork available for you to test out. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project so far and can’t wait to get started on this adventure with you!

 

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.