A tabletop game about technology, smartphones and supernatural evil. And Twitter.
Silicon Valley meets Lovecraft
Imagine a world where people are enslaved by their electronics. Where we willingly allow smartphones to spy on us, and even pay for the privilege. A world where a handful of all-powerful multinational corporations control the flow of information by dominating hardware, operating systems, social networks and search engines.
Oh wait, that actually kinda sounds like real life.
But, imagine all that stuff, plus the twisted CEO of one of these tech giants also using his power and influence to open the floodgates to another plane of existence, bringing ancient evils to Earth and generally causing a big mess.
That's what you suspect is happening at the Techlandia corporation, the world's biggest maker of overpriced smartphones. CEO Charles Ward is announcing the company's newest phone, the top-secret Techlandia TX-1, at an invitation-only press conference later today. But despite being a b-list tech blogger, you're haven't been invited.
It's Silicon Valley meets Lovecraft in Techlandia, a funny+scary new tabletop game for 1-4 players.
Wait, not a video game?
Surprising, right? After literally decades of covering video games as a journalist, author and TV news contributor, I became fascinated with the growing interest in analog tabletop games. Much of the most creative thinking in game design is happening right now in tabletop games like Gloomhaven, Scythe, Nemesis, One Deck Dungeon and others.
I spent many months playing dozens of different games, and put together a list of what my ideal tabletop game experience would look like. I envisioned a game featuring:
A tile-based hex map with different possible layouts
Supports solo or multiplayer
Can be played in about an hour
Fits on a normal human-sized table (very important)
Continuing narrative that unfolds as you play
Depth, but without overly fiddly rules or parts
Great components, but reasonably priced
Expandable and episodic, adding new cards and tiles for new chapters
I took all those ideas, and wrapped them around a ripped-from-the-headlines story based on my years as a tech journalist, covering companies like Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and others. That high-tech world is already absurd enough, so it made perfect sense to take a classic Douglas Adams satire vibe, add a dose of Lovecraftian horror, and combine it with our obsession over smartphones, spyware, digital privacy and hacking.
So, how does the game work?
Starting with a semi-randomized map built from 12 hex tiles, 1-4 players take on the role of a hard-charging tech blogger and need to sneak into the headquarters of one of the world’s biggest technology companies.
In order do that, players must investigate the different rooms of the sprawling complex for clues, which will allow them to collect the QR codes needed to get past security.
Our heroes also have to avoid the cultish company employees, or defeat them in combat. If you’re not careful, you may come face to face with a dreaded Executive, who looks like he got his MBA from Miskatonic University.
Helping you along the way are a deck of Gear cards, everything from extra smartphone batteries to emergency breath mints. Mess up and you could face down dangers like YouTube commenters or rogue Influencers.
All this happens with the help of five decks of cards, four hero miniatures, a small army of Tech Cultist minis, dice, player dashboards and a countdown clock ticking towards a multi-dimensional catastrophe.