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Thematic Decisions

I've been writing games in one form or another for most of my life but it wasn't until recently, working on games design with Mike Hutchinson on the Osprey games release Gaslands, that I realised I had the necessary skills to write and release a game to the general public.

I'd been playing around with the idea of a horror game for some time. The traditions of horror, comedy and mystery are extremely problematic for a game designer since they generally rely on surprise and set pieces, things a game with replay value struggles to do. Recently several excellent games have taken on this problem by producing essentially single usage games, in fact ever since Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective in 1985 that has been a valid solution. That rout was not open to me for two fairly simple reasons. Firstly, that format of game is significantly expensive to produce and not only am I unable to cover the cost and weight of design such a game would require but I'm personally unconvinced that such games achieve anything like a reliable level of payback for their investment. Secondly, I'm of the opinion that digital games, written works, movies and TV deliver those sort of set piece moments much more efficiently and effectively; I don't work in any of those formats, I work in tabletop games design and I intend to make virtues of its limitations.

As much as there is horror in the unknown, what John Carpenter described as "the 6 foot cockroach moment" (you hear a scratching at the door, you pray in terror that it not be a 6 foot cockroach. You open the door to discover a 6 foot cockroach and sigh in relief that it wasn't a 60 foot cockroach) there is a certain other horror and tension in the very exactly known. It's horrible knowing you'll die, it's horrific knowing that you'll die at 4:14PM by being crushed under a runaway steam roller. That is the form of horror I've been aiming at in this game. Now, again, knowing that your crew will all suffocate in 6 turns is frustrating and dull. Knowing that they'll all suffocate unless you achieve something difficult and complex, or something distastefully ruthless, now that's our sweet spot.

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