Somewhere at the beginning of January, Steel Police got on my nerves and I snapped. The army’s made an incredible carnage on the table in Portal’s office. Won most of the battles. You see, it was not only winning all the battles – it was beating other armies into a pulp. Again and again. Results’ sheets from the turn of December and January are filled with such results as 17:0, 12:0, 13:1, and even 7: -4.

The day when we were to close our tests and start preparing files for printing was getting closer, and the army was behaving ridiculously. Finally I couldn’t stand it. I called Michał Oracz.

"Michał, come to the Company. We must weaken the Steel Police. What we have here is a mockery of a balance. "- since from January 2011 Michał no longer worked in Portal, we had to call him to the Company if we wanted to mix with Neuroshima Hex. And it seemed that we had to mix a lot. Michał had to come. Two hours later he stood in the doorway of our office.

"Michał, the army is not balanced. I have the entire file of results – and it looks very bad. " I greeted him quickly getting to the point.

Michał took the printout. Looked. And nodded.

"You’re playing it wrong."

I gaped at him.


"The army is balanced. You’re playing it wrong. Who's watching the rules during the tests? "


Michał sat down with him and began to question him from rules. Just like during the exam. He pulled from his sleeve the most bizarre situations and asked how he would interpret them. Such thing has yet never been seen in Portal. The situation was peculiar.

Maciek’s passed the test. He answered all the questions. And so Michał invited him to play.

"Show how you play the Steel Police."

Michał took the Hegemony. And took victory over Steel Police in stride. They played again. Steel Police has lost a second time. They played a third time. Steel Police has been beaten the third time in a row.

"The army is balanced. Learn how to play." He said simply and went home.


A few days later Steel Police tests moved to the next stage - we sent the file to the most trusted and experienced Neuroshima Hex players in Poland. Those guys who win tournaments. The ones that go to conventions and organize game shows. The biggest NS HEX geeks in the country. They were obliged to send daily packages of results, along with a description of their plays. The results ended up in Michał Oracz’s mailbox and a copy was sent to me. I watched them. They made my hair stand on the end.

The Steel Police was almost unbeatable. The results were frightening. We had 3 weeks to the tests’ closing date and the army had absolutely nothing to do with balance. It won all of the battles.

During this time I called Michał almost every day.

"Michał, did you get the latest results? We are weakening the army, huh? Introduce a few changes, please."

"They have to learn how to play against this army. It is balanced. Do not change anything. "

Just 3 weeks left. I was close to a heart attack.


Have you seen Moneyball? There is an extraordinary scene where Brad Pitt, manager of the Oakland Athletics is called along with his assistant on the carpet by chairman of the club. Team results are a catastrophe, Oakland lost eighteen games in a row. They are last in the group. The chairman asks what they’re going to do.

"We estimate that we will begin to win in mid-season."

"I beg your pardon?"

"The team will start to win in mid-July. We will qualify to the playoff. Trust us, please. "

They’ve just lost the eighteenth game in a row. Trust us. Yeah, they certainly have the nerve.


It was several days ago. Two weeks before the zero hour. After the weekend I received from our testers another large batch of Steel Police results. Resigned, I gave it a glance. And immediately, I mean immediately grabbed the phone.

"Did you see the results?!" I almost shouted to the receiver.

"They’ve learned how to play." Michał replied calmly.

The bastard was right. He had known from the start what would happen.

"They’ve learned how to play." I said and nodded. "They’ve learned how to play..."

In this story Michał has played the part of Brat Pitt. I was only the chairman who withstood the pressure and didn’t start to tamper in the team ...

Jokes are over

It’s January. Jokes are over. We begin the Operation: Essen 2012. It’s been like that in Portal for years. October means the Essen fairs, in November we take a break and rest, and in December we look through ideas, prototypes and different sketches we’ve collected over past few months. Then comes January.

In January we begin working on prototypes and new ideas. We analyze and discuss them. Finally, we choose the one we think is best and has the biggest chances for success. The one we want to present during the next Essen fairs.

In 2007, before Essen, Michał Oracz showed us his newest game prototype. He worked on it for the rest of the year and in January 2008 it was all clear - we will publish a game about a wizards duel. This is how Witchcraft was born.

In 2008 I had my idea for a game about a castle siege. It’s been a couple of years but I still remember how nervous I was when in January I came to the firm with a big sheet of paper with a castle drew on it to present my prototype to the rest of the guys. We decided that the game has a big potential. We began working on Stronghold.

We closed 2010 without an idea for a new game... We closed it with a finished game. That year we published Pret-a-Porter in Poland. We didn’t plan to publish it in other countries, but as weeks went by, that idea became more and more tempting. The reviews in Poland were incredible. Everyone was asking us the same question: “Are you going to Essen with this?”.

We didn’t want to do that. Pret-a-Porter was completely different from our previous games – theme was so strange. And cards - they were full of text. We also knew, that if we sacrifice another few months to prepare international edition of the game, we won’t have anything new for the Polish market.

Tough nut to crack. You have a great game on the table and a decision to make. Do you start working on it’s new edition? Or maybe put it on the shelve and begin a new project?

Finally, we decided to give Pret-a-Porter a chance for an international career. We had a lot of time. We designed the best, most legible icons in the history of Portal's games. We balanced the game even more. We added few new, great cards. We went to Essen 2011 with a fantastic game. Thanks to many months of hard work we polished up Pret-a-Porter in the smallest details.

What’s more, we still had a lot of time to rest, clear our heads, look for new ideas and prepare for the next year.

It’s January 2012. Again, there’s a lot of prototypes on our table. We have second 51. State’s expansion, we have a two-players card game, we have a new cooperative game, and couple of new armies for Neuroshima Hex. January is a month of playing and discussing. A month of decision making.

In a few weeks our publishing plan will be ready and approved. We’ll begin the Operation: Essen 2012.