Spaaace’s director James Wallis will be speaking at #Include, a two-day conference for games developers to be held at UKIE’s headquarters in London on 21-22 March 2018. He will be covering the whats, whys and hows of paper prototyping, or how to test video-game mechanics without writing a single line of code. More information and tickets here.

Games Design Masterclass

Originally a tiny sideline, the Games Design Masterclass has taken on a life of its own and is running 1-2 times a month, in the UK, Australia and other locations. This three-hour crash course in the science and art of making board- and card-games can be run as a straight workshop, or re-focused as a team-building or project-management exercise for clients who require a test of design, imagination and coordination under pressure, as groups create a concept and take it though the process of building, testing and revising a working prototype.

The Game Design Masterclass now has its own information page, and if you’re interested in taking part in a future workshop or in running it for your organisation or event then please contact us.

2017 in review

2017 was an interesting year. Back in 2002 I sold my games-publishing company Hogshead and veered off to the film business, and if you’d told me that fifteen years later I’d have three major RPGs released in the same year, I would have… not believed you.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen was released by Fantasy Flight Games at the very start of the year. This is the third edition of a game that started as a weird half-page idea which became the harbinger of the entire story-games movement in the late 1990s, and is now a sumptuous hardback with painted artwork throughout. Nobody is more surprised than me that this exists, let alone that people are buying it. The Baron, I feel, would be pleased.

Paranoia came out a few weeks after that, the reboot of the classic 1984 game, to strong reviews and great feedback. It’s a beautiful box-set, a really nice production job that’s been shortlisted for a Golden Geek award. Very proud of every part of this. Paranoia was co-written by me, Grant Howitt and Paul Dean, and the whole project was commissioned by Mongoose Publishing in Swindon. A small number of them have been signed in ultraviolet ink.

And finally, just before the end of the year, Alas Vegas, an in-house production where writing, editing, design, layout and production was all executed by Spaaace and a few of its regular collaborators. It’s a 322-page book designed to look and feel like a hardback novel from the 1970s, down to mimicking the layout and paper stock of the first edition of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. We couldn’t get Ralph Steadman for the cover, but otherwise this is about as perfectly realised a project as we could have hoped. Very strong response from the industry, great reviews, and a lot of very satisfied Kickstarter backers. Job done.

Apart from that, 2017 also contained several interesting projects that are detailed elsewhere on the site. In particular, being a guest of honor at Gen Con Fifty in Indianapolis was an enormous privilege and joy, and my thanks to Peter Adkison for inviting me. The Game Design Masterclass has taken on a life of its own, and is now running on two different continents, with the possibility of a third opening up soon. Like Baron Munchausen, it’s something that I began doing because I thought it would be interesting, didn’t assume it would go anywhere, but kept at it and suddenly it becomes a Thing.

The world of games doesn’t just grow, it continues to become more diverse and more extraordinary every single year. I’ve said for a long time that games will be the dominant entertainment medium of the twenty-first century, and 2017 was the year that a lot of people realised I was right. But those games are still to be made. Let’s see what 2018 brings.


Paranoia Success

The Paranoia Kickstarter closed at a total of £217,517 (approximately $340,000) from a £30,000 target, or 725% above its original goal. The game is in development.

If you’re considering crowdfunding a project, remember that James Wallis’s fee for an initial consultation is “Buy me lunch”. The consultation will last for the duration of the lunch, so the better the lunch the better the advice. The “buy me lunch” scheme has been operating since the late 1990s and is anecdotally responsible for much of the UK RPG industry.


On 24th October Mongoose Publishing launched a Kickstarter for a reboot of classic 1980s dystopian RPG Paranoia, with Spaaace’s James Wallis as the game’s lead designer as well as consultant on the crowdfunding campaign. It blew past its goal of £30,000 inside nine hours, and within a day had passed £50,000.

With a co-ordinated campaign across social media including podcast and website interviews, and AMAs on Reddit and RPG.net, as well as convention appearances by the design team, plus press articles in the likes of Forbes magazine, the Paranoia Kickstarter looks set to be one of the highest-funded tabletop RPG crowdfunding efforts in history.

Wish us luck.

Six Tips To Crowdfunding Success

This is a short piece I wrote for a recruitment agency’s client newsletter, which I thought you’d be interested to see:

1. Show your working. Don’t ask people to back a concept, ask them to finance the final stages of a project that’s almost completed. Successful crowdfunding is not about asking people to make your dreams come true, it’s the other way around—you’re offering them something amazing, if they pay for it.

2. Don’t set your target too high. Greed is not attractive to backers. Run the financials, work out how much it’ll cost to produce the basic form of your product, and ask for that (less the cost of rewards, of course). If the project over-funds, use the extra to add in more features.

3. Structure the rewards you offer. Kickstarter is a way for people to pre-order cool new stuff, so let them. Arrange your rewards so that someone can buy the basic product for £20 but ends up pledging £50 because they’ll get even more cool bits.

4. Prime your publicity. Kickstarter will not bring you an audience: you have to do that. Make sure your network is ready to help you publicise the campaign on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, newsfeeds and via mailouts. Some people pay to advertise their crowdfunding projects on popular websites.

5. Monitor the campaign daily. Staying in contact with your backers and supporters and making them feel invested is important: not only will they spread the word about your project for you, but often they’ll come back
and pledge more money for extra rewards and stretch goals.

6. Don’t worry if it fails. Cancel the project, work out where you went wrong, redefine the project or retool the campaign and try again. Crowdfunding is a great way of learning if your idea has a potential market, and refining it until you find the sweet spot.

Bringing crowdfunding to the masses

On 29th January at UKIE James Wallis gave a masterclass in crowdfunding and using Kickstarter, along with film-maker Martin Gooch and independent game-developer Andrew Sage. The evening was organised by Edugameshub and the London Educational Games Meetup (LEGup).

After the Starter

One of the things that nobody tells you about Kickstarter is how much a successful campaign raises your profile. Since Alas Vegas was spectacularly funded at the beginning of March, Spaaace’s client portfolio has exploded to include environmental charities, major oil companies, a major brewer, an educational establishment and several other new faces. James has delivered a number of lectures and workshops, including one on an island in a fjord courtesy of Hyperion, the federation of Norwegian gamers, has judged a couple of awards, and has contributed material to at least three other Kickstarter campaigns including a complete RPG for Mike Selinker’s barnstorming Maze of Games interactive puzzle novel, new games for Hide & Seek’s Tiny Games app, and Robin Laws’s Hillfolk drama-system game. For the last he created ‘The Battle of Wits’, which is almost certainly the only tabletop game based on the feuds and in-fighting of the Augustan poets.

All this has regrettably meant that Alas Vegas is running late. However its lead artist John Coulthart has now finished his amazing major arcana which will illustrate the book, and things are on track for a release in the autumn. In a race between quality and speed, we prefer the former.

Kickstarter update

The Kickstarter campaign to fund Alas Vegas launched at 5pm on Tuesday 29th January, and reached its funding goal less than eight hours later. At the time of this entry it has been running for just over a week and stands at £7202 from 364 backers, averaging £20 per backer. Three stretch goals have been unlocked, with the fourth less than £800 away.

The project runs till 28th February and is projected to raise almost £25,000, or over 800% of its original goal. You can follow its progress here:
ALAS VEGAS: an RPG of bad memories, bad luck & bad blood -- Kicktraq Mini

or you can visit the project’s Kickstarter page here.

Once the project is closed we’ll make a post with our conclusions about the process and advice to anyone thinking about using Kickstarter as part of a funding campaign. Or contact us directly.

We Can Kick It!

An update on the previous post: Alas Vegas hit 100% of its Kickstarter funding goal in seven hours and 45 minutes. According to Kicktraq it’s likely to reach a total somewhere in the region of £52,000.