It was early March, the last days before offices and businesses started to shut down in reaction to the growing COVID-19 menace. While I didn't know this at the time, it would be one of the last in-person product demos I hosted at my NYC office, a practice it doesn't look like I'll be resuming anytime soon.
The game being demoed was The Shivers, a multiplayer tabletop mystery game that was heading for Kickstarter, with a unique retro-gaming hook. The game's art style comes from lead illustrator Bill Tiller, a veteran of video game studio LucasArts, where he worked on classic PC games including The Dig, Curse of Monkey Island and Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine.
The game caught my attention the same way several other recent crowdfunded tabletop games have -- by mixing retro styling with either modern game mechanics or ambitious storytelling. A remake of raised $4 million on Kickstarter, almost $3 million and the hit $13 million.
The Shivers, as demoed for me by creator Andy Logan, takes place across a series of elaborate pop-up cardboard tableaus, similar to intricate pop-up greeting cards. Within each scene, clues and secrets are hidden behind working doors, under furniture and within puzzles. The pop-ups each represent a room in a creepy mansion and they can snap together magnetically for larger play areas.
Unlike a lot of modern tabletop games that pit players against card-and-dice-based AI systems, The Shivers requires one player acting in the role of the Storyteller (aka, a game master or DM), using secret information printed on story cards to drive the narrative.
I only got to see a few of the game's pop-up rooms and a smattering of the narrative, but the art felt like it blended that classic LucasArts style with a neo-Victorian haunted house vibe, and I liked the detailed instructions for the Storyteller.
But before The Shivers could hit Kickstarter in March, much of the world shut down, including a large number of crowdfunding projects. After a few months waiting for the dust to settle, The Shivers is back on track, starting its Kickstarter campaign today. The full game is expected in July 2021, and starts at $65.
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