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.

NEW: See Techlandia on BoardGameGeek!

Thematic and cool...an incredibly unique and interesting experience.
— Jorge Zhang, Rulebook Preview
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How to Play

Techlandia is a modern dungeon crawl adventure, where 1-4 players attempt to infiltrate the high-tech corporate headquarters of the Techlandia corporation. 

The objective of this episode is to gain entry to the invite-only Techlandia TX-1 smartphone unveiling being held in a subterranean auditorium under the Silicon Valley headquarters of the secretive Techlandia corporation. 

You've heard of mysterious disappearances and dark doings surrounding this all-powerful multinational conglomerate. Getting a scoop on what's really going down would be a career-making move. So guess what? We're sneaking in!  

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  • In order to do that, you must get past the security checkpoint, which will allow you access to the elevators leading down to the event level. 

  • In order to do that, you must present the proper QR code invitation at the security desk.  

  • In order to do that, you need to collect four QR code fragments, then present the correct final code at the security desk.  

  • In order to do that, you'll need to investigate rooms in the building for clues, discovering where the QR code fragments can be found and collecting them before anyone else.  

    By fighting and defeating cultish Techlandia public relations employees, known as Tech Cultists, you'll be able to decipher the four QR code fragments and present the proper complete code at the security desk to gain access to the elevator.  

    Fail at any of these tasks and you're likely to be arrested for trespassing. And the world might end, too. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.  

    All the while, a Doomsday Clock ticks down between rounds, from 20 to zero, unleashing new horrors at inopportune moments. 

    In the game, a turn consists of a player taking up to two actions. A round consists of every player taking a turn, and ends with the Doomsday Clock counting down one number. A single action can include: 

    • Moving from one room on the board to another room directly connected to it.  

    • Investigating a room for clues. 

    • Picking up a QR code from a room. 

    • Fighting a Tech Cultist or other enemy. 

    • Reloading your Gear deck from the Press Room.  

    • Submitting your QR code to the security scanner.

James plays upcoming game Techlandia on the Vorpal Board platform with designer Dan Ackerman. See if we can successfully stop the end of the world at the hands of an evil tech corporation! -- Watch live at https://www.twitch.tv/vorpalboard
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James interviews Dan Ackerman, the designer of upcoming board game Techlandia. We talk about Dan's background, his upcoming Kickstarter and the end of the world. -- Watch live at https://www.twitch.tv/vorpalboard

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:

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  • A tile-based hex map with different possible layouts

  • Cool miniatures

  • 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.

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Gameplay

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.


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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.

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Stay tuned for more updates, including the Kickstarter launch, how you can help playtest the game, and more. Follow me on Twitter at @danackerman, and bookmark TechlandiaGame.com for the latest.

Join the Techlandia Newsletter to be one of the first playtesters!