The Moment of Truth

This is the final part of the Design Diaries series. You can find Part I here.


We had a choice to make. Now we both spent another year on the project, still as a hobby, and mostly because we liked it. We needed to make a choice, publish or don’t publish. All kind of stuff that you don’t think about is required when you go from simply doing a thing to forming a company to bring that thing into production and publishing. This was the last chance to step away.

However, at the start of 2023 we together formed Purple Lantern Games as our vessel for bringing The Presence to life. We more or less stepped right into budgeting, tax law, project planning, learning production processes and cost calculations, webpage and social media, and the biggest milestone of them all: attending conventions to let you all know that we exist.


We probably didn’t have to, but we wanted to. The plan was to attend the big two, but first we needed some practice. This also was to be our first real test. Would the game be received well by people who didn’t know us? In Sweden the largest convention is GothCon, which is also the largest in the entire nordic region, and probably one of the oldest in the world (starting 1977). However, with its ~2000 attendees it’s still tiny 🙂

Coming out of GothCon we learned a lot. Never had so many people played The Presence for the first time, and we got so much feedback on the stuff we had had no input on: the graphic design and the first-play experience. I realized, even more than I knew earlier, the importance of good play aids, good teaching materials and intuitive rules. Stuff that was no challenge for our experienced testers confused the newcomers. Overall we got a lot of encouraging feedback though, and it fueled us to keep going.

We attended a second Swedish convention, LinCon, before we had the first real test. Packing up our banners, games and together with our partners we set off to the country where the game is supposedly (but not decidedly) set. Great Britain. The objective was to show the game to as many people as we could talk to, gather feedback, meet industry partners, and simply.. survive.

UK Games Expo is the second largest (?) event in the european region with its 50,000+ attendees. It was a different beast entirely, and overwhelming in scale. We talked to hundreds of you, we got amazing feedback on the game, language corrections and people intrigued by our very specific theme. We survived. Hey, we even felt somewhat professional.

The exhaustion was real. Luckily we got a whole summer of time after this to reflect, develop and prepare for what was to come. We really needed this, next up was to be the largest boardgame expo in the world. Essen Spiel with its almost 200,000 attendees. We were reinforced by dedicated friends and family, and attended in force with 6 people. Essen is an almost week-long event for an exhibitor, and not to be taken lightly.

We brought 2 full playtesting tables and a small table for viewing. As the gates opened on the Thursday the initial flood of people rushed to buy new games. Not many stopped by our booth. We talked to a few people, but the first hour was worryingly calm.

Then it happened: People started coming, and soon we had more people to talk to than we could keep up with at times. Interest was high as many were pulled in by the artwork and dark style, asking curious and detailed questions. Some of you sat down to play a full game (despite the noise). After the Thursday we were already fully booked on Friday for playtesting, and soon the rest of the week. Our playtest-sheets ran out halfway. What a blast!

For someone who merely participated in the hobby and having been to Essen 5 times before actually exhibiting felt incredible. Coming out of Essen we were completely wasted, but loaded with feedback and ideas. Thankfully we could now creep back into our crypt and start prepping for the final and most important show of all.. the crowdfunding campaign. While we still keep those secrets close to our hearts for a few more days, work continued in the background on the other major project..

The Narrative Campaign

As you can gather this was a busy year for game-development. We were getting all the feedback we needed to streamline and smooth out the experience, and after all of this the base game is mostly ready. Maybe it was the itch in my designer fingers, maybe it was something else. In any case, in the spring I decided to add something very significant to the game: a narrative campaign.

When I first set out to design The Presence I wanted it to tell stories. I wanted the player to feel immersed enough for the horror to be clearly felt. I wanted to see if by using purely game mechanisms I could create a dynamic horror board-game that did not rely on one-time written content. The game had survived its public test, but it was also clear it did not live up to that lofty goal. 

As players we easily focus on game mechanisms, on optimizing, on winning. A game is a vessel for problem solving, and while the base game of The Presence does evoke tension and anxiety like I want it to, it was lacking the emotional impact I aimed for. Investment. Narrative. A sense of stakes beyond a single game.

Horror only comes out when several ingredients are at play, we need to be: immersed, invested, vulnerable and exposed. Board games that attempt horror walk a thin line between dread and frustration. Only through the lens of a story can you as a player perceive the horrible outcome to your character in a way that doesn’t push you away from the experience. 

What makes a game thematic? People differ here. Some of us tell that story to ourselves while playing, others do not. Some like the narrative to be emergent through mechanisms, others want it to be spelled out like a film. What we will give you is.. something in between.

The answer will be a dynamic campaign, which your characters may not survive, where you will explore the tragic past of Wrightwatch manor and its inhabitants while trying to cling on to what sense of self you still have left. Something dark and powerful is stirring here, and your visit may just have pushed it over the edge..

Note: The game will be fully playable standalone, without the campaign.

The Moment of Truth

It has been a long road to get here, and we look forward to the rest of it. Developing a game is challenging, and  one may get lost along the way. You need many things; a clear vision, grit, humility, friends, very patient partners and an innumerable number of cardboard sheets and glue-sticks.

We are bringing The Presence to Kickstarter 27th February 2024. If you are interested in victorian ghost horror: know that we’re committed to bringing it to you, without compromise!

See you very very soon…

/Sam & Leonie.