Wondering how we got here?
So do we!
We figured we might as well document all the steps along the way. Love to have you along for the ride!
InceptionMay 1, 2018
There’s lots of great games out there but not the one we were dreaming of. We wanted a game that would take us back to the epic conflicts of our youth, where my brother would get so mad he’d try and push me down a flight of stairs like he did when we were kids. We wanted games where your friends would be laughing and shouting. We wanted a game filled with last minute betrayals and side deals. Eventually, we did the natural thing and decided to make one. In retrospect quitting a six figure job and cashing out a 401k to work on a board game, not so ironically named “American Dream,” might not have been the world’s greatest idea. But damn, it has been fun and that fun shows through in every aspect of the game. We late changed the name to American Empire since we could copyright that. American Dream had already been copyrighted, so fitting.Read more
IterationsApril 1, 2019
For over 12 months, we iterated. We took over a friend’s office in the evenings and rotated through groups of friends, going through over a hundred iterations of American Empire. Many a beloved mechanic ended up abandoned during this phase (we still miss buildings) but over time, gradually, American Empire began to take shape. Our primary focus wasn’t mechanics, it was experience. That meant our mechanics had to be fluid and intuitive and that above all, folks had to have fun. Even with that ideal original game play took close to 6 hours but an unbelievably simple change to the combat mechanics reduced gameplay to a far more manageable 30 min per player (2-3 hours). We even ran thousands of automated simulations so we could make sure the randomness was enough to add bit of chaos but not so much as to make it a matter who got luckier rolling the dice. In the end we produced a strategic engine builder where over 95% of games come down to the last 2-3 turns. It’s not perfection but damn it feels close.Read more
Art & DesignMay 1, 2019
After over a year of development and with our first con coming up we began to finally move on from our homegrown sets produced by the friendly but expensive folks at Kinko’s, migrating to Gamecrafter, Chiplab and Shapeways for all the various components. We used nearly a dozen artists before we found three (a classical illustrator, an editorial cartoonist and a professor of graphic design) that fit our style and our process. The board went from a heavy handed Visio diagram to a concise and clear representation crafted by our artwork director. It’s all rather beautiful if we say so ourselves.Read more
Meet, Greet and EatJuly 20, 2019
This was a failed social media experiment that was so much fun that we’re going to do it every year that we’re standing. We invited everyone we knew (and quite a few people we didn’t know) to come to on down, eat food, drink beer and hang out. We held a contest for the best photograph of the evening and asked everyone who turned up to post up picutres on social media (which no one did but that’s fine!). We got out all the promotional material we’d produced for American Empire from banners to an epic Lincoln Memorial made for us out of old business cards. We had BBQ, Indian food and a beer sommelier. And while it may not have produced the social media gains we were hoping for it definitely left everyone feeling warm, fuzzy and full. That’s why it will be repeated. Up next was the big show, Gen Con 2019!Read more
Gen Con 2019August 4, 2019
This was the first big showing for American Empire out in the general gaming universe. We went to the First Exposure Playtest Hall and held 12 events. Our copy was deliberately vague and, well, bad because we wanted to see what random gamers would think. We were the last table filled at every single First Exposure event we hosted and we did indeed get a random assortment of gamers that had no idea what our game was about. The results were even better than we dared to hope. On a scale of 1-10 we scored a whopping 8.8 over a sample of 48 players. We also held daily events in Lucas Oil as well as an after hour event in the local gaming store. One of our buddies showed up in Uncle Sam cosplay, standing seven feet tall, and we paraded him all around the convention but neglected to enter him in the costume contest. He may have gotten stuck at the beer tent which happens to the Citizens of Redneck Ganesha now and again.Read more
PlaytestaggeddonAugust 24, 2019
We came back from Gen Con with a ton of incredible feedback. We were positively bursting with excitement to incorporate and test it. What we didn’t want, though, was to spend another year in the iteration grinder. So we arranged Playtestaggeddon, 3 days, 12 playtests, 48 hours of game testing. We provided food and drink and folks new and old turned out to put American Empire through its paces. It was a marathon weekend, even more tiring than Gen Con itself, but well worth the effort. We got what we needed in terms of gameplay validation and were ready to start production on the demo copies.Read more
DemosOctober 14, 2019
Took us a long while to get here and we’re still in the thick of it but we’re making official demo copies that will be almost identical to the Kickstarter versions we’re aiming for making next fall. We’ll be bringing those copies with us to PAX Unplugged in December 2019, sending them out to blind playtesters and soliciting reviewers. It’s nice to finally see it all come together!