Sometime around the end of July 2009, shortly after all bloody tests were finished, I realized that I hate Stronghold. I was fed up with it. I hated it. A few weeks later, when the production of the game started – a ride with no handlebars, I hated it even more. My heart would stop at the mere sound of the word “Stronghold”. I was fed up with phone calls from Rebel, or from the office regarding publishing. Of course back then I didn’t really know that much about hating Stronghold. Essen was the place where I finally learned what hating this game really meant.
Essen 2009 was tough. I have a gift of composing words into nice sentences and expressing emotions, but I fail to describe the horror of the last year’s fair. An unbelievable job held in the rhythm of a 15 minute game presenting monologue. The game is about a siege. One player plays a role of Defender, the other is Invader... Trzewik, this customer would like an autograph, will you sign it? Yeah, I’ll sign it, defenders know that there is no chance to save the castle.... Trzewik, this man is from a Portuguese portal, he’d like an interview. Ok, let him come back in an hour, they fight only for two reasons... They earn time for women and children to escape from castle... Trzewik, this guy asks if you have a publisher in Brazil. I don’t know, ask Rebel, I’ve no idea what they’ve signed so far. And they fight for honour, for history. They want to be remembered as brave warriors. Spartans, you know... Trzewik, the guy asks if the box contains a manual in French. No, it doesn’t, the French edition is made by IELLO, defender has altogether 30 cubes representing soldiers. Invader has 300. Question is not if he breaks into castle. Question is when... Trzewik, a guy from Phalanx Games just came in asking for some detailed rule. Trzewik, that Woman from the Czech Republic is back, what do I tell her? Have Multi explain the rules to him. And have her leave a business card, I’ll call her back later today. This is Glory board. It represents glory that players earned. It’s cool, I’m from Poland, you can explain in Polish. I can’t do it in Polish, I’ve been doing it in English for three days now. At the beginning of the game Invader has 10 glory points... Trzewik, Petr is asking if you lend them a copy for the night in the hotel. Yes, I will. After every turn of the game, he will lose one... Trzewik, Rebel say the Dutch are interested in 2000 copies, wicked! Cool, chronicle will say: 'Well, defenders fight brave'... Trzewik, do you want to swap?
We would get up at seven, eat breakfast, drive to the fair, explain Stronghold rules for 10 hours, come back for the night, hit the bed dead on our feet and repeat it the next morning. Yes, I really hated Stronghold then. There was no way in the world anyone could talk me into a game of Stronghold.
“Trzewik, you have to do an expansion, you know that, right?”, Piotr Katnik, Rebel’s boss asked me at the fair. “It’s an absolute hit of the fair, we will sell everything we brought with us. The stock we have in Poland will sell before the end of the year. People will want an expansion. You’ve made a hit, now you have to make an expansion.”
I knew that. I knew that bloody well. And I hated Stronghold even more. The thought of setting up the board and testing an expansion made me sick.
“I need a few months break, then I’ll make an expansion. I promise.” I answered.
I kept my word. I made an expansion for Stronghold. I put all my heart and talent into it. I bent over backwards to satisfy the players, to give them a new story, a new chunk of emotions and joy over the board. I’m looking at this expansion, I’m looking at the testers and I know I did a splendid job.
And now I know that before it was just teasing. Oh yes, now I do really hate Stronghold.