Category Archives: Orchestratraitor

Shenanigans: The Musical

Today we’re taking a brief diversion, away from discussing game design and exploring the creator’s journey. Shenanigans is launching in just five days so I want to write something that’ll introduce it to anyone who’s started reading these posts more recently. If you’ve enjoyed my previous posts, please share this one so that I can keep doing what I’m doing. Don’t worry, regular posts will resume shortly. If you’re new, then I wish you a warm welcome. I have something I’d like to share with you, I call it:


“They call themselves an artiste, but their ego is larger than their talent. They are ruining this orchestra, they have to go” – The Manager

“She cares only for profit! She dares to drive me away? Who cares for how instruments are ‘supposed’ to be played, I am the heart and soul of this orchestra.” – The Artiste


Shenanigans is a card game about an orchestra in crisis and the characters who inhabit it. The Manager hunts the Artiste with relentless determination. Meanwhile the Troublemaking Trombonist is trying to trip them up, the Part Time Drummer seeks recruits for his band, The Romantic Violinist is looking for love and the Overlooked Viola Player just hopes that somebody will notice her.

Which one will you be? Or are you the Artiste?

Each player has a hidden role and can use its power to look at other players cards, force them to swap with each other or try some other ruse. After three turns each the Manager reveals themselves, listens to what everyone has to say and kicks someone out of the orchestra! The whole game is focused on this choice, the manager wins by catching the artiste, the artiste wins by escaping and everyone else wins or loses depending on this choice and its consequences.

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The base game offers 24 unique roles and is available for a pledge of only £10 (including shipping). What’s more, we’re also throwing in three (3) free (£0) expansions! Each of these adds something significant to the game:

Artiste’s Conspiracy adds alternate Artiste’s to the game, to make it even harder to figure out what he’s up to.

Performance adds characters that require the players to perform, giving you the option to play an all-singing all-dancing version of the game if you so choose.

The Lovers brings the magic of love to the game. Adding characters who can make players fall in or out of love and changing their victory conditions accordingly. Maybe, just maybe, the conflict between the Manager and Artiste can be ended.

Lovers 1

By supporting Shenanigans: The Musical you’re also helping out a real life charity orchestra. While they don’t profit from the project directly, being able to print some extra packs of cards gives some extra merchandise to sell alongside their concerts and the project as a whole helps to raise their profile. So if you like the idea of making the orchestra accessible to anyone – regardless of status, colour, creed or whether we already have a million bloody saxophonists – then please help to support this game.

Our campaign launches at 3pm GMT on Monday April 11th. You can find the preview page here (unless the campaign  has already launched in which case that’ll link to the live campaign!). If you can’t pledge, then please share the project.

Thank you.




Shenanigans launching in a couple of weeks

Shenanigans: The Musical is slated to launch on April 11th.

When I started doing this stuff I figured that with experience it would all become old hat. Launches would get less exciting but also less scary. It turns out that this isn’t remotely true, I’m nervous as hell that things aren’t going to go well and excited at what we might achieve. I thought that I might use today’s post to go over my pre-launch checklist, as a means to share ideas with other creators and to invite my readers to point out the absolutely fatal thing that I’ve forgotten to do.


1) Have a game.

The difference between a scam launch and a real launch is actually having a game. Soemthing well tested that’s getting good playtester responses. Sure pretty much everything is going to come down to persuading people, which is mostly style, but all of the flash in the world is wasted if there’s not something substantial to back it up.

If you’ve been following the TPO projects blog you’ve seen months of agonising over how all of the parts of the game fit together. You can see the cards here. It’s definitely real. Check!

2) Have a page.

It’s a pretty sorry Kickstarter launch that doesn’t have a page. Fortunately we do: It’s right here!

Of course above and beyond having a page, it’s important to have a good page. There are a LOT of elements that go into that, I couldn’t hope to cover it. We want images of the final thing, infographics for people who don’t read, text for people who don’t graphic and videos for people who do neither. We need to say all of the things that need saying and show off all of the great things about this project: Fun! Quick! Cheap! Good for musicians! Good to introduce people to the genre! Supports a charity! Fun yet quirky art style!

Ideally all of this will fit into a video of 10 seconds or less and no more than 30 words.

Like game design itself, there are a lot of trade offs that go into making a page. And like game design, you can’t just look at it and pick the objectively best one – you need to solicit feedback and improve based on it. Our page is still going through this process – if you look closely you might spot one graphic that’s been suggested as an addition but does not yet have a professional touch.

It’s there. But it’s still improving. Check(ish).


3) Have an audience

The sad fact is that you could create the most amazing game possible and have a Kickstarter page that shows it off perfectly, but still not get to make the game. A lot of people will use “How many people are already backing this?” as their metric for whether it’s worth being involved in. That means having a bunch of people ready to go on day one, who’ve already heard of the game and think well of it.

Erm. Hi! *waves*

This blog is something of a drop in the ocean in that respect though. My list of people who said “Email me whenever you’re making a game” is approaching a thousand strong these days. There’s also the TPO’s existing audience and their musicians too. I’m reliably told that they’re gearing up to get this thing going.

I don’t do very well at organising these things on social media though. It’s meant to be a huge outlet but somehow – and this might seem odd for someone who writes so much here – I never really feel like I’ve got anything to say.

That weak point aside, we’ve got a lot of interested people. So check!

4) Third party shenanigans

You know who thinks something is great: The person who put lots of effort into that something.

Everyone else knows that too. So it’s super important to make sure that you get a ‘reality check’ from a bunch of smart people. If they’re also articulate this is a double bonus because they’ll communicate the (hopefully) good points of the thing and help with that whole audience building experience.

Plenty of reviewers have got their hands on the Shenanigans prototypes and I’m chewing through my nails waiting to hear their thoughts. It doesn’t matter how well something does in playtesting, I’m always nervous about what the experts are going to say once they’re in a position to hand down their judgement. I don’t imagine I’ll see most of it until a couple of days before launch so there’s really nothing to do here but wait and hope.

My bit’s a check but that doesn’t mean it’s really good to go yet.


5) Preparation

Sometimes people are caught off guard by their own success. Supposing there is a successful launch, there’ll be lots to do in order to keep the campaign running!

It’s good to have some posts and updates prepared in advance. It’s also super important to have the budget, manufacturing and shipping plan nailed down so that backers who ask tricksy questions can get straight answers. Contacting people who like to talk about live Kickstarters in advance via a spreadsheet of a hundredish places to send press releases to are also good tools to have to hand.

*looks around and piles of e-notes* Check.

6) That thing that I forgot.

There is always at least one of these. Unfortunately you never know what it is until it’s too late.

Still – perhaps this time – launch number four – will be the first time that nothing catches me by surprise on day one.

What do you think gentle reader? While I still have a couple of weeks, what’s the best direction for the last minute flail?

How not to drive reviewers away from Kickstarter

I’ve been writing to a lot of reviewers over the past few weeks, to try to make sure that there are some live reviews of Shenanigans when it launches. I’m a big fan of informed choice. As I’m sure you’re already aware, some reviews won’t touch prototypes for games on Kickstarter. I don’t write to reviewers who explicitly state on their sites that they don’t do KS – that’s rude – but I always end up talking to a few who don’t by accident or because the policy change is recent. This time I’ve been asking people why they don’t do Kickstarter, partly out of curiosity but also to improve my own practices so that I don’t contribute to other reviewer’s negative experiences of the platform. I thought that it might be interesting to share some of my results.



Continue reading How not to drive reviewers away from Kickstarter

Developing Outside the Bubble

Shenangians has been an interesting project to work on, because it very explicitly needs to work for players who aren’t generally tabletop gamers. What’s more, while this is usually a difficult group to recruit playtesters from (who’d have suspected a link between being really into games and being willing to volunteer time to their development!) I’ve had access to a steady supply of new players through The People’s Orchestra.


Continue reading Developing Outside the Bubble

Rules for Taking the Piss

Humour is a great tool across the board and game design is no exception. It won’t carry a game on its own, but it can go a long way towards making a good experience great. It’s also a fantastically volatile tool, if it doesn’t work at best it’s a little embarrassing, at worst it’s outright offensive. Doing it badly can utterly sour what might otherwise be an enjoyable experience. Yet trying to get it right is also undeniably attractive, when I found out just how far musicians go in mocking each others foibles my first reaction wasn’t “Better tread carefully and keep that out of the game”. It was “Fantastic, that’s going in!”


Continue reading Rules for Taking the Piss

Kickstarter Page Design

The Shenanigans: The Musical project has reached the point that we’re designing a page to launch it on Kickstater. I’ve spent a few years launching games on Kickstarter now and have raised around £80,000 (I didn’t get to keep any of it). That’s a pretty good record contrasted with the ~70% of UK based games Kickstarter projects which fail to fund, but a pretty poor one contrasted with projects that raise more money in their first day than I have in years. I thought that the wind up to the Shenanigans project might be a good time to talk about how I design the page, both as a means of helping people who’re having less success than me and opening myself up to suggestions from people who’re doing better.


Continue reading Kickstarter Page Design

Shenanigans: Review Process

Shenanigans: The Musical has returned from its dormant state and is once again undergoing active development. The gameplay and art are now complete and we’re increasingly putting development time into the crowdfunding campaign that will breathe life into it. Today’s post is about the process of getting reviews for the game, that’ll help people decide whether it deserves to live!

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Continue reading Shenanigans: Review Process

Multi-game scoring

I’m in the process of addressing what’s quite a pleasant problem to have with Shennaigans: The Musical. The game is quite quick to play and as a consequence some players who are enjoying it are playing a lot of games. Obviously that’s great, but it’s generating an emergent phenomenon: They want some sort of way to play multiple games as a cohesive whole with an overall winner.

grapes Continue reading Multi-game scoring


We’ve spent most of today recording footage for the Shenanigans Kickstarter video. It’s been an interesting experience for me since all of my other games had videos supported by the same team – some things are very much the same while others are really quite different. I though that it might be nice to discuss some of the differences in technique and how they’ve affected the outcome.


Continue reading Video