ARTICLE: I want exactly what you’re the best at

I’ve approached the pinboard to add yet another cut-out newspaper piece about an unexplained accident near the abandoned factory on the north side of the city. It’s the seventh case in the last half of the year. Young people die in these empty facilities, and the only thing that connects those kids is the fact that each of them was a metallurgy student of one of the local universities. Another look at the pinboard – all those pictures, notes, and newspaper pieces – I know the answer must be somewhere here, a thin thread that ties it all together. I need to find it.

To write the story for the Detective I’ve hired my all time friend. We know each other since college. He was the best Call of Cthulhu DM in the entire area. After college, I’ve chosen the path in the gaming industry, while he became a well-known architect. Next thing I know, 20 years have passed.

I gave Przemyslaw all the freedom that he needed to create the story for the Detective. I remembered the fantastic stuff that he was creating years ago for the Call of Cthulhu, so I had only one demand: ‘I want exactly what you’re the best at – I need a story with a number of layers, plot twists that players will reveal when they get further in the story.’

It’s what he is best at – an amazing ability to create simple at first sight plots that are not simple whatsoever. He masterfully combines different threads into one single master plot that connects everything. He spends countless hours searching through the internet and looking up different facts and slowly builds a story stretched through different times and places, that somehow, in the end, create one big picture. Playing either Call of Cthulhu with him or the Detective is like watching outstanding Netflix show filled with surprises and plot twists over the whole season.

I’ve experienced it so many times during playtesting – that stunning moment, that frame of a second when one of the players suddenly stops reading a card in the middle of the sentence. The player raises their head and looks at everyone else. There it is. Everyone at the table realizes it, this detail, that missing piece that allows you to see the whole big picture, a small crumb that turns everything around, a fact that ties with everything else, and connects things that had no connection at all just a second ago. Goosebumps.

For all these moments, for those chills running down your spine, when everything is finally making sense, and you’re nodding silently impressed with how deep it was all hidden. For all of the above, you have to try and play the Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game. Przemysław Rymer is a genius.

Once again, I’m going through the box filled with everything that we’ve secured at the house of one of the victims. I grab an invitation for the Metal Heads Competition that took place in April, last year. A hunch? I reach for the phone and dial the number listed next to the company responsible for the organization and ask for the list of participants. A few minutes later I receive an e-mail, I print it out, highlight some names and stick it to the board. Twelve people were participating in this competition, and seven of them are dead, sitting there on my board right next to this list. Is this the thread I was looking for…?

Welcome to PORTAL GAMES

We are bookworms. Movie maniacs. Story addicts. We grew up reading Tolkien, Howard, Herbert, Dick, Lem… We were watching Willow, Blade Runner, Never Ending Story, Robin Hood…

And yet, we don’t write books… we don’t make movies. We don’t make those things, because we make games. We make games that tell stories.

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