Our names are Chris and Johnny O’Neal, and we are the founders of Brotherwise Games. Last year we launched a Kickstarter for Boss Monster, a card game that we co-designed. At the time, we were pretty nervous about our ability to raise $12,000 in 30 days without any existing fan base. A year later, Boss Monster is one of the most successful new tabletop games of 2013. The entire experience has been mind-blowing, but here are our favorite moments.
10. The first time we played what would become the final design of the game. After hundreds of playtesting sessions and dozens of variations of the game, we hit upon our core mechanic of “bidding” for heroes with treasure icons. (It wasn’t until later in development that Chris made the fateful suggestion to illustrate our side-scrolling dungeon-building game with pixel art instead of black-and-white doodles.)
9. Indiecade 2012, the first time we ever showed Boss Monster in public. We were totally unprepared …and unaware that we should have reserved a table months in advance. A friendly fellow designer shared half of his table, and before long Boss Monster had drawn the biggest crowd in the tabletop section. (Fun fact: the guy in the glasses enjoying the game was Daniel Dranove, a designer of Cards Against Humanity.)
8. The first five minutes of our Kickstarter. As soon as it went live, when we saw more pledges every time we hit refresh, we realized we weren’t going to have to beg cousins and coworkers to back the game. We spent the whole day excitedly texting each other, totally freaking out, and in a little over 24 hours we’d hit our goal.
7. The end of our Kickstarter …and what came next. Over the course of our Kickstarter campaign, every time we expected to falter, our community of backers managed to surprise us. We had no marketing budget or industry connections, but our backers kept our campaign growing by spreading the word across message boards and social networks every day. Whenever we weren’t sure how to handle something, or what to do for our next stretch goal, our backers were there with advice and support. Most amazingly, our backers were incredibly supportive when we announced that the delivery of our project would be delayed, and they waited with more patience than we would have ever expected.
6. Strategicon 2013. Two months after our Kickstarter, we’d provided all files to our manufacturing partner and were just waiting on the physical side of production. To pass the time, we attended the local Strategicon event in LA. Even though we didn’t have a real booth, we had a blast running demos. And we got to play Boss Monster with Scott Everts (pictured here) and Chris Taylor (slightly off-camera). They created Fallout, which is easily our favorite non-Nintendo video game series!
5. An e-mail from Patrick Rothfuss. On one particularly awesome day, the world’s coolest fantasy author found out we made a parody of his character Kvothe. Instead of asking us to cease and desist, he asked if he could buy a few hundred copies of the card (and the game) to sell for charity. We’ve kept it up, and are now a proud sponsor of Worldbuilders.
4. Comic-Con 2013. During Comic-Con, Boss Monster politely crashed the Tabletop party in downtown San Diego and ran some low-key demo games. The highlight was meeting internet superstar and board game kingmaker Wil Wheaton. Johnny’s fumbled attempt to explain Wil’s connection to our “Anererak” card was super geeky and awkward, but Wil was very nice about it. (Now if only he could get us on Tabletop…)
3. Boss Monster hits YouTube. It was pretty delightful seeing the creators of Super Apartment Bros make an animated Boss Monster video for Machinima. It was even cooler going on SourceFed Nerd, which exposed Boss Monster to tens of thousands of new people.
2. Fun around the world. When we set out to design games, our goal was to make something that the two of us could play during our weekly gaming sessions. When we were feeling ambitious, we phrased our goal as “design a game enjoyed by at least dozens of people.” At this point, we can say we’ve designed a game that has been played in dozens of countries, by thousands of players. Imagining people playing Boss Monster in Singapore and Sweden never ceases to delight us.
1. The chance to experience all of this serendipity and awesomeness as brothers. Running a business together has a ton of relationship pitfalls, but we have 33 years of experience putting up with each other’s shit. We’ve been able to argue about rules, money, and all the aspects of running a business without ever losing sight of the fact that our relationship as brothers comes first. The rest of this list was in chronological order rather than order of coolness, but this is #1 for sure. No matter where things go from here, this will always be one of the coolest things we’ve ever done.
We are thankful for an extremely lucky first year, but the great thing about this little retrospective is that it’s just the beginning. New people are discovering Boss Monster every day, we’re close to releasing our first expansion, and we have another big Kickstarter in our future. Thanks for reading this list, and for being a part of this amazing experience!