I am with Rob Daviau at Grandcon, and he goes like 'I have this idea for a new Antares feature, but I am not sure if this is possible...'
'It's possible.' I promptly say. He didn't even manage to finish the sentence, but let me tell you this - when the industry icon has a new idea for Detective, you say you can do this, period. You just have to keep in mind that long conversation with whining Portal Games Digital team is your first step when you get back to Poland.
Rob wanted to give players the feeling, the sentiment of old school adventure video games, those in which you choose some pre-constructed dialog sentences, and you choose one to move the story forward. Instead of reading the transcript of questioning like in the base game of Detective, you'd actively pick the questions you wanted to ask.
The idea was brilliant, but I was not surprised. I greenlighted it, so obviously it had to be good.
Over the months of designing and development, the system was evolving, and Rob was sending me updates. He prototyped the Interview feature, and we were able to play-test it. It turned out Rob went even further with immersion and putting players in the shoes of Detective - there were no pre-constructed questions anymore. There was a blank space and simple instruction: What do you want to ask about?
I typed: KNIFE.
The system reacted: I have it from my father. It's a family item. What's the problem?
I typed: ALIBI
The system reacted: I was with my buddies. We were watching baseball. I have a dozen people who can confirm that.
I typed: TRZEWICZEK
The system reacted: I don't know anything about that.
Strange. But that was a clue. The guy was not a boardgamer.***
Dig Deeper expansion is a single case that takes players to Boston. Not only it is a new amazing story to discover, not only a new case to crack, but you must understand - this is a new expansion designed by the industry veteran. And with the small tweaks in the system like the Interview feature, you can appreciate and understand what industry icon means. It's not a blurb on the book. It's a sign that you will play good old Detective and yet, you will experience something absolutely unique.
I am happy for you. You are gonna love it.
Dig Deeper expansion is on pre-order now.
It releases on June 18th.
You can learn more here!
You can follow me on Twitter at @trzewik. This is BGG copy of my blog BoardgamesThatTellStories.com
- [+] Dice rolls
01 May 2020
That day we stayed longer in the office. I decided to give Marek ride home.
'I missed Detective.' he said when we were in the car. A few hours earlier, they were play-testing a new case for the game. It's been more than two months since the previous one. 'I really missed it.' he repeated silently, staring through the window.
Marek’s honest and surprising words struck me deeply. That evening, when I was driving home, I was thinking about the future of the game. Detective is a very unique design. It's a board game; you invite your friends, you have your goal, there are rules, and you win or lose in the end. And at the same time, Detective is not a game; it is a system, it is a portal to tell different stories. To some extent, it's closer to Netflix, Disney+, or HBOGo than to a board game.
Detective is a platform that my development team uses to invite you to experience amazing stories. And that being said, what's a long-run future for the game? We are not tired of watching new movies, aren't we? We are not tired of watching new TV Shows, and, I guess, we won't be tired of experiencing new stories presented through the Detective platform. The ideas I have for new campaigns, the scripts I have on my deck with new plots and stories are wonderful, and I can not wait for you to discover them.
If there is more gamers like Marek, people who love stories, the future of the game is safe. Detective will be your platform for years. That day I was late at home, but I was in a great mood.
The next day I came to Marek's desk and told him how he inspired me with his words the day before, and I told him how I see the future of the game and how motivated I am and with excitement, I asked him what he thinks about it.
'I don't know, man.' - he shrugged his arms. 'I just said I missed Detective.'
- [+] Dice rolls
24 Apr 2020
Boardgaming is a ton of work. I look at any of these free weekends, and oh my God, I've been busy all day long.
Let's discuss last weekend. It all began with the new Arkham Horror expansion that I got. The suitcase, where I keep all my cards said enough, no space dude, you need to come up with a new solution.
So I came. I took all cards from expansions I already finished and moved them to separate boxes - lucky enough, I had these "Return to..." boxes that FFG has in offer for crazy dudes like me.
It went smoothly, and I looked at my collection with pride. That was time spent well. Then I decided to move all cards from all other campaigns to a new place and keep in the suitcase only the one expansion I am playing at the moment, along with tokens, rulebooks, and other stuff, and by stuff I mean all these custom bits I hide in the box.
I was in a pretty awesome mood already, so when I finished moving all the cards to a new place, I put on my desk all cards for my characters and looked at the deckbuilding options I was postponing it for some time already. This Saturday seemed like a perfect time for that. So I built a brand new deck for one character and then brand new deck for the other one.
Then some sleeving. Then reading rules for the new expansion. OMG, this new scenario - exciting stuff. I was about to play it, but it was a late-night already. Well, it turned out I spent the whole day preparing.***
As with every hobby, board gaming is about everything except the actual hobby - that is, playing the game. We spend countless hours painting minis, we spend nights building new decks, we customize our games, and we spend day and night on BGG reading about the hobby.
The percentage of time we spend on actual gaming versus the time we spend on the hobby is not in favor for game time.
My wife Merry makes fun of me when I spent all weekends preparing for playing the game. And I guess, many of you are just like me. We smile and we have one honest response:
"Didn't play the game. Had a blast anyway."
- [+] Dice rolls
Last year, in November, almost one and a half years after I finished writing all of the Detective cards, I invited my old friends to the Portal Games headquarters. I used to play RPGs with them many years earlier. We sat in the conference room. I launched the Antares website on the TV hanging on the wall. “Welcome to the agency,” I said. “I have the first task for you…”
I will remember those five evenings for the rest of my life. We finished the whole Detective campaign in less than two weeks. All the boards in the conference room were filled with notes, conclusions, theories, dozens of notes with the details that could be useful in the future. We were the agents. We were solving the unbelievable, vast, mesmerizing case.
Yes, I played with them. Yes, I knew the plot. Yes, I was its co-writer, I was the author of most of the text on the cards, and yet I played together with my friends. I had lots of fun. I was the narrator, I was reading all the cards aloud, I was the devil’s advocate, I was controverting their theories, I was supporting the players who were outshouted, and I was encouraging them by confirming that their theories and ideas are completely sensible. I was also managing all the mechanics, tokens, time marker. I let my friends take care of the plot, and I was responsible for the rules.
Playing the game when you know all the plot inside out might seem the stupidest thing in the world. But it was better than I could imagine. I saw my friends solving the case, listened to their conversations, ideas, watching them as their theories start to make sense, and when they experience all those ‘wow’ moments. I saw their faces when they found the van. I was hanging out with them in the conference room till midnight when they were tracking down the suspect on the cameras and they refused to take a break in the game and continue the next day.
I knew the plot, and yet I played with them. It was so exciting. I cheered for them and kept my fingers crossed, hoping that they would find all the breadcrumbs I hid on the cards months earlier.
Invite your friends. Open Skype, Discord, or Zoom. Surprise not only your friends, but also yourself. Play Detective once again. The whole campaign. Take on the role of the narrator, manage the board, the tokens, and show them what this game has to offer - hours of debates, conversations, deduction. I promise you. Those will be the evenings you’ll never forget, even though you’ll spend most of the time just listening. Believe me. It will still be amazing.
- [+] Dice rolls
08 Apr 2020
NOTE: I am not a psychologist. It's a crazy thesis. Everything I wrote below is probably false. Probably. You read. You smile. You have some reflection. Respect other people and our differences.
Extroverts rule the world. Everything here is built around them. Everything that is important for humans on this planet is built to please extroverts. Let me give you just a few examples—for instance, December 31st.
Every 365 days, the world celebrates New Year Eve. It's an important social event for the whole planet, and let's face it, extroverts told the world how we must celebrate it. There is a party, there is dancing, there are crowds on the streets—terrifying night it is.
And that's just beginning. When two people love each other and decide to marry, they must extrovert it - that's how the world is built. They must invite other people (often some they never met before, but apparently are part of the family) and they must share the joy with them. There is always a party and dancing and singing. And there are people, a lot of them. People all around. They smile and talk to you. You can't marry a loved one without that.
Even the most personal event—birthday is run under the extrovert terror policy. It's your own birthday, but you cannot spend it alone. You must meet those other people and extrovert it. Otherwise, you are a weirdo.
For the whole life, we introverts are forced to consume every critical event in our lives in an extrovert way, being stressed and under pressure for the whole time. Whenever it is my very own birthday, my very own wedding, or, granted, my very own funeral. I will be extroverted by force.
Well, well, well...
For the first time, extroverts are forced to live the other way. For the first time, the world makes them live a way that suffocates them, put under stress and pressure. Kept at home by social distancing rules, they are sitting alone in front of the TV, closed in four walls and it drives them crazy and nuts to be kept away from other people. No dancing, no crowds, no other people around. They suffer.
Dear extroverts! I know this pain. For the past 40 years, I felt it every time you made me party. Be strong. Yours sincerely, introvert Ignacy.
- [+] Dice rolls
26 Mar 2020
This is the post I wrote many years ago. Since many of us stay at home and may consider trying to play with your beloved ones, here is a warning...
I created a monster!
A long time ago in a faraway galaxy My Wife didn't play board games. Then I showed her Cash & Guns and Citadels and she began to play games. My mates were jealous. My Wife played boardgames. Lucky me. It was a great time. But months passed...
One day I came back home and said that I just sold Adel Verpflichted. 'What do you mean, you sold it?! Why haven't you asked me?! I like that game! Bring it back!' Man, I felt like hit by a big hammer. She was serious. She was damn serious. I wasn't allowed to sell Adel Verpflichted!
That day I discovered that there are games she likes. Games she wants us to have at home. That was something new. That discovery cost me 14 euros. I had to buy Adel Verpflichted back again. No more my games collection. It was our game collection since then.
We were in the car, driving back from board games convention in Vienna and talking about games played there. 'I want you to buy me Ingenious', she said. She was serious. She was damn serious. She wasn't talkin' about flowers. She wasn't talkin' about perfume. Nor about a new dress, handbag, ring. She was talkin' about the board game. She wanted me to buy her a board game. Wow!
That day I discovered that My Wife - like my true gamer friends - fell in love with new titles. She plays a new game, she loves it and she wants it. That was something new. That discovery cost me 20 euros. I had to buy Ingenious.
Early September, a few days after the holidays. Kids sleep, silence at home. My Wife asks me to play Race for the Galaxy with her. In the last few weeks, we played more than 50 games of RtfG. I am sick of it. I can not look at it. 'No, thanks', I say. I hear my voice and I can't believe it. I just refused to play a board game. My Wife wants to play a board game. I don't want to play a board game. This is crazy.
That day I discovered that I am not the only one at home who asks to play board games. And what is more, perhaps, I am not the truest gamer at home. It seemed that My Wife was more 'geeky' than me. I was scared. Terrified to be honest.
A few days ago. 'Do you want to play The New Era?' she asks. No way. I am sick of it. She knows it. I refuse to play it for few weeks. I am asked to play every day and I do refuse it every day. This is a deep deep defense. I refuse and refuse. This is terror. Seriously, I am in a corner, terrified. I feel like "a geek's wife", forced to play board games every single evening.
'Never mind' she says 'I asked Tycjan to come. He will play with me'. She is serious. She is damn serious. They play New Era. I only watch it. I don't play. I can't believe this is real. I can't believe this is happening.
This is my newest discovery. I created a monster. There is a truly dangerous geek at my home. Help me.
- [+] Dice rolls
21 Feb 2020
"No ideas of new games? Just cashing in on old titles?" - this is the comment I found after our announcements at Portalcon. In my opinion, the second sentence would benefit from one small 'huh' at the end. "No ideas of new games? Just cashing in on old titles, huh?"
So much better!
At Portalcon, we announced The Book of Adventures - a massive, 50+ pages thick collection of old and new scenarios for Robinson. We also announced Rise of the Empire, the revolutionary open-world campaign for Imperial Settlers, the campaign that you can play with different groups of players, and the whole system balances itself and evens out. We additionally announced not only new cases for our best-selling Detective but also a brand new story-driven spy game set in the Cold War era. Vienna Connection takes players to Austria, winter 1977, and puts them against KGB agents.
Three incredibly rich products that provide a dozen of hours of pure joy. All those new ways to die in Robinson, all these new plots and cases that you will have to crack playing CIA agent... It's one of the strongest years for my dev team at Portal Games.
Just cashing in on old titles, huh?
I'd like to ask you to do exercise with me. Play a game of theoretical assumptions and see where we get.
On one end, the common format of game publishing - the company releases a ton of new games, has something new in store for every gamer, every month has something new and exciting. If we can use an example, let it be Renegade Games, they put in 2019 about 20 new products. Something new almost every other weekend. Their dev team always want to surprise players with a unique design. Just this past year, you were trading fantasy equipment in Bargain Quest, you were fighting a monster in Terror Below, you were Power Ranger, and you were Paladin from West Kingdome. That's one epic ongoing phase of discovery and exploration for a gamer. The publisher always has a new game to discover.
Another format would be the opposite. Wizards of the Coast released Magic the Gathering in 1993. Since then, they continue to support this one game. They have new expansions, new play formats, a tournament scene - you know all of that. One great game, lifetime support. If you love Magic the Gathering, you know, you have a friend for life. They have nothing more in-store, no new card games, no new CCG, no new titles - just constant amazing support for this one great game.
Imagine your favorite game; let it be Gloomheaven or Agricola. Let it be Terraforming Mars or Root. Imagine if publishers of these titles instead of running for a new title and developing new games to feed cult of the new would, for the next couple of years, spend all the time and effort bringing you value by supporting these one great game they have.
Would you pick five years of great, dedicated, fully focused support for Terraforming Mars or five years of 20 new games per year?
The question I am asking today is simple - is a new game better than an expansion for your beloved title. I don't know. From a designer's perspective, it is exactly the same amount of hard work and poured heart into it.
When designing expansion, am I just cashing on existing titles? Or rather I am giving you lifetime support for your beloved game?
Or, as always, the truth lies in the middle?
- [+] Dice rolls
10 Jan 2020
I lost it. I am done. I qualify for retirement. My compass is dead, and I feel like for the first time in years, I am surrounded by a thick fog. It feels terrible. Let me explain.
I was pretty prophetic when in 2011 I created Board games That Tell Stories tagline for my company. I designed Robinson Crusoe and talked aloud that players look for good stories in games.
I was a bit too early to the party when in 2013 I published epic HMS Beagle campaign game - a massive expansion for Robinson Crusoe. Geeks needed a few more years to discover and fall in love with campaign games.
I was perfectly on time with Tides of Time in 2015. The whole industry was at the peak of love for microgames, small games got a ton of attention, and I brought one of the best ones out there. Tides of Time became a worldwide hit.
I pretty much nailed it with the timing for my Mars game in 2017. We all know it turned out into an epic disaster because gamers did not enjoy my game, but as for my compass skill - that was strong A+. The best compass in the industry. I would argue that in this case the compass actually killed me, the hype for First Martians was so huge, the expectations so high, the demand so crazy, that when I came with the game on the golden plate, it could only disappoint.
Anyway, a year later, the compass once again proved it's value. In 2018 I came up with Detective. That was an ultra combo - campaign game and a detective game. In 2018 you could not have any better. The game sold in more than 100k copies, won more than 30 awards, became the detective game. Mindblowing plot spread over five challenging cases was something never seen in the industry before. My - created 7 years earlier - tag line shined. It was a board game that tells story. And what a story it was!
2019 in the industry was all about only three words. Roll and write. There was not a single publisher who resisted the trend and hype. We knew it, and we combined it with the rapid growth of solo gaming, the trend that could not be ignored any longer. As for the numbers and as for business decisions, it is much safer now to release a game for 1 player than for 2 players. Solo gaming has its moment, and it's freaking strong. Our Roll and Write had 48 unique boards dedicated to a solo play. Our other release, Empires of the North, had a dedicated solo booklet with unique scenarios and modes to play the game. The compass was on the spot again.
But... Yeah, and here we come...
Compass served me for years. Being part of the community, being on game forums, being active on social media, being a vivid board gamer myself I felt it, I knew what players play, what they like, what they discuss about, what's hot, and what might become hot soon. I was always one of them, and I was as excited as they were. I loved Love Letter back then, and it was no brainer for me to sign and develop Tides of Times. It all came naturally to me.
I no longer have it. The compass is silent. I am pretty confident we will see an epic collapse of the campaign games trend this year. I hope I am right because in two weeks, at Portalcon we are going to announce a very unique campaign product, a product that hopefully answers some of the problems I think I see among my fellow gamers.
But what's next? I don't know. Too many games. Too short life span of a game. No trends in the forums. No single game lives more than a few weeks on Twitter or Instagram. Games are played one time and tossed aways, replaced with a new hot title. It's crazy.
Fellow geeks. My compass is dead. Please help me with yours. What will we see in 2021? Where are we heading? What new mechanism or genre you see slowly getting attention?
Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/trzewik/
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- [+] Dice rolls
He was always driving me nuts. There is no other person whose face appeared on my smart TV that I yelled more often at than Sam's (well, besides some volleyball players from teams I support).
When The Dice Tower published Top 10 video, Sam drove me crazy exactly ten times - every single time he was about to say his pick, but instead of saying the name of the game, he was presenting freakin' 3 minutes entree! If I were there, sitting next to him, I'd grab his shirt yelling, 'Just say the damn title! Say it! Say it now!"
I wasn't there. I yelled at the TV. Kids were confused.
Every single time The Dice Tower published one of their Live Playthroughs, I couldn't believe that nobody at the table is making karate moves on Sam. I would. I would karate him every single time he took his 10 minutes long turn. I felt physical pain on my whole body when he was taking his turn. I am serious. My whole body was trembling. The legendary Downtime Master he is.
I wasn't there. I karated my coffee table. Kids were confused.
His picks in the Top 10 lists never matched my picks. I couldn't believe how often you can put Viking game on the list, whatever it is the best card game, the best sci-fi game, or the best party game. Apparently, there is a Viking game for every occasion. He was always wrong with his picks, he was always choosing the game, I would not consider even for Top 10000 for this category.
'Look what he picked?! Vikings again?! Is he crazy?!' I yelled to my kids. 'Dad, why don't you like vikings?' I heard back.
Tom Vasel, Zee Garcia, and Sam Healey created a dynamic, funny, and diverse trio that, over past years was recording one of the most entertaining and influential board games YouTube show. The chemistry between the members of the gang was one of the forces that drove the show. The diversity - in my humble opinion - was the second one.
With every episode, they manifested the diversity in the genre, the richness of our hobby, the differences in tastes in board gaming. The famous 'crossover' picks were a rare case. In most cases, each list was different, each of the members picked 10 different titles for the best games in a particular category.
I was yelling at Sam's picks, and I disagreed with him every time, and I thought it is the best thing that can happen. We have different tastes. We look at games for different things. We appreciate different mechanisms. We should celebrate the differences. Top 10 lists The Dice Tower was producing was the show that celebrated that.
Dear Sam, I wish you the best in your new career and thank you for driving me mad for the past few years. It was the best that could happen to our hobby - a constant reminder that we all should respect each other choices and the fact that we like different games.
- [+] Dice rolls
29 Oct 2019
I wanted to be smart, hack the system, and make an awesome Essen experience this year. It turned out, I am not that smart. It turned out, I ruined everything.
It was my 12th Essen. I figured out Portal Games is a pretty big publisher. I have an amazing team. They don't need me anymore. They can run the show. They can build the booth, bring the product, sell the product, organize a demo team, do it all. Finally, I can step back.
So I did. I decided I will arrive on Thursday evening so I will be at the show on Friday and Saturday only. On Sunday morning, I planned to come back home. What a wonderful plan it was!
It started bad very quickly.
Detective got nominated for innoSpiel award and the ceremony took place on Thursday afternoon, at Spiel. Along with Deutcher Spiele Preis - Detective made it to the list and won 6th. place. Prestigious, class ceremony with all the press and media from Germany. But you know, Ignacy had this awesome plan for Essen, right? Small faux pas, huh? Luckily, my German publisher, Pegasus Spiele knew how to act. They accepted both awards on my behalf.
Things escalated quickly. On Friday morning I received a printed plan for my meetings. I looked at it and gasped. My first meeting was at 9:30 am, my last meeting was at 6:30 pm. Altogether 16 (sixteen!) meetings packed every half an hour. 'What is this?' I asked Greg. 'I had to fit all the meetings in only two days. What did you expect?'
Awesome Essen experience, that's what I expected. Not being stuck in the tiny office for nine hours straight.
'Here are cookies from a fan'
'Trzewik, everybody asks for you'
'Zee was here, was looking for you'
'Rodney was here, was looking for you'
'Here is a gift from a fan from France'
'Everybody asks for you'
'Trzewik, that was a bad idea. Everybody asks for you'
Yeah, tell me about bad ideas. I know it all.
In the meantime, it turns out we were publishing on social media the wrong date for my seminar. All our fans are confused. Some come to our booth asking about seminar. We explain it takes place on Saturday, not on Friday as we were informing on our social media. Awesome Essen experience.
I am entering the booth office again, but before that I grab Marek. 'Take Pret-a-Porter, go to the BGG booth and prepare the presentation, set up everything. I have a meeting now, and right after the meeting, I will run to the BGG booth. The live stream starts right after I finish this meeting. Prepare everything so I can start the demo the moment I am there. It's gonna be tight.' He grabs Pret-a-Porter and goes to BGG booth. I have a meeting. I finish the meeting. I run. The live stream starts in a few minutes. I take no prisoners - I trip over people, I act like an elephant, I have one goal - run, Ignacy, run!
When I reach, Marek smiles.
'You had it wrong in the calendar. Live starts in 50 minutes.'
Very freaking funny.
I guess, I just won a special price - I can visit the restroom for the first time today.
Back to the BGG booth. Live stream with Rodney. Great time, he knows Pret-a-Porter - it is so much easier to discuss the game and present to the audience when Rodney asks me good questions, knowing how to teach the game. In the meantime, I drop the bomb and make reference to the classic joke about Rodney and his tutorial video for Star Wars Rebellion. Rodney loses it for a few seconds. Well executed Ignacy.
Run. Back to the booth. Late for a meeting. One more meeting. End of the day. It's Friday evening. The second day of the Essen. I saw no Essen. We are in the car. My team complains on me. 'People are asking about you all the time. You should be at the booth.'
I know. I know. Awesome Essen experience. What was I thinking?
Saturday starts. I try to be at the booth as much as possible. I sign games. I take selfies with fans. I take all the meetings fast and efficient. I have two double-booked meetings because of another calendar mistake. Hours pass. Finally, it is 3 pm. We run for a seminar. Spiel invited me to run seminar about 20 years of Portal Games. We are in Germany. We are at Essen. I am a guest speaker for Spiel. I prepared a nice and civil version of my Gen con seminar. And then the files on the computer are gone, somehow I have only half of the prepared slides. I need to improvise. I can improvise. I am best when I improvise. The only problem, no longer I am nice and civil. With every minute the seminar is more and more funny and less and less nice and civil.
I get my applause. After the seminar, fans from the audience are coming to me saying it was the funniest seminar they ever attended at any game convention. I am pretty happy with the outcome. Then, about an hour later I meet Max from Spiel. He says that the seminar was recorded and will be published by Spiel on their official channels. Well, that's exactly why I should stick to the slides, be nice and civil. That's exactly why...
Anyway, I run again. We have a live stream for Essen Spiel. I am supposed to play with Tom Vasel. We run to hall 6. In the hall there is no booth number as mentioned in the email. I double-check the email. Ah, that's the booth number they used last year. No idea where they are this year. I sit at the booth and wait.
Few minutes later Max from Spiel rushes to Portal booth, looks at me and yells: "Ignacy, where are you, Vasel is waiting!" I answer in the most stupid way possible: "Where are YOU?! I was looking for you in a hall..." We run. We reach the booth. They are doing me makeup. 'Where is the game?' Andreas asks. 'What game?' I ask. 'The game you should play with Tom.' Ah, that game...
They run. I sit with Tom and chit chat pretending everything is fine. In the meantime Max tries to convince Portal employees they need to get him copy of Empires of the North and they need to give it to him NOW!
We play the game. It's fun, a ton of jokes, plays quick, I lose. Damn it.
Go back to the booth. Pizza party with our amazing Portal Gamers team. Jokes, selfies, beer. And the German security guard. 'You have no right to have a party here.'
'Yes, we do'
'No, you don't'
'Yes, we do'
'No, you must stop now and leave the hall'
'Ignacy don't argue. The party is over.'
We say sorry to our team. We clean the party. We go back to the apartment. We check in the emails. We did have the right to have a party, we did all the paperwork and payments. Something went wrong on the Essen side. Pity. Ruined our fun time with our friends volunteers.
On Sunday I come to the booth to say goodbye to our team. Shake hands with volunteers and that's it. I am leaving Essen. I feel terrible. I bought 3 games. I missed all friends. I missed all the Essen. I failed my fans. I ruined Essen for myself.
No more. No more. Never again 2 day Essen.
How was YOUR Essen?
- [+] Dice rolls