Panic Mode text

This entry is about the game Panic Mode!
a game of office politics during Disaster Recovery

Please download the Print and Play at or find us on Facebook or Instagram @panicmodegame

breaking rules

I would never tell any first-time game creator not to follow the common advice on the holy board game Kickstarter blogs (James Mathe and Jamey Stegmaier blogs, and yes you need to read and absorb them – it’s seriously the least you can do) or in the Facebook groups. Most people, including me, should listen to that advice more. But if you think you have a unicorn game then you probably aren’t reading designer diaries anyway, so I’ll continue.

Panic Mode is a niche game. To me this means it is not a gamer’s game, it employs only light strategy and the humor is IT-heavy for office humor. It has a limited audience. A lot of the advice for games doesn’t fit well with Panic Mode, and it’s up to me to know where to stretch the boundaries of what I am reading. Just as it is your job to translate advice to your situation.

No one is going to hand you a checklist that applies to your particular game. You can look up all the advice you want about fulfillment, but the reality is the right answer is so dependent upon your game with its weight and its dimensions and its timing that you need to really spend the time figuring out the right answer, and be confident in the choice you make even if you see advice to the contrary. Having trouble being confident? I don’t blame you. Fake it ’til you make it.

And I swear you could spend eternity figuring out the “right” amount to set as your campaign goal, particularly if you are even entertaining the possibility of needing a second print run and paying for it from your first run proceeds. Most of the advice is too low to be realistic. But where you need to be is too high. Figure it out and commit to it.

Breaking the rules can sometimes be necessary. Here are examples of where I break the rules with Panic Mode:

I am self-publishing!
I am not shopping my game around to publishers. I am not silly; I know they would laugh me right out the door. “Your game is boring! It’s like work!” No, it’s super fun and I’m hilarious.

But self-publishing is work, and it’s stressful. It’s like learning a new language for something I don’t plan to use long-term. I’m not starting a game company. Fool’s errand? Labor of love? Whatever. I’m self-publishing.

I used Creative Commons!
Let go of your pearls and let me explain why I did this, and why it’s the right decision for Panic Mode.

If you are unfamiliar with Creative Commons, it is a non-profit that supplies marks that you can use to provide limited protection to your work, with the idea that others can contribute to the work and share it also. Panic Mode uses Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International.

My game is about IT Disaster Recovery, and a lot of its fans live and work in the open source world every day. By using Creative Commons I am effectively creating an open-source card game. I love that. I firmly believe the fans of the game will love that too. And if someone out there can swoop in and improve upon the game, why on earth would I want to stop that?

I want you to play my Print and Play! For free! Now!
Panic Mode will either print or not. My goal was always simpler: to get the game out there. I share the PnP very openly and want people to play it. It was only through playtesting that I was able to fix the tracking cards, understand which cards were unclear and – perhaps most importantly – believe that some people really enjoy the game and I should follow through with a campaign.

Thanks to sharing my PnP far and wide, people all over the world have played Panic Mode. Many of them at work! How cool is that?

Most of Panic Mode’s biggest fans are not on Facebook or Board Game Geek!
This one is tough, but it’s a fact. And it’s completely okay. I have shared my game in Facebook groups and will receive a like or two. Maybe one like in BGG Work in Progress forums. These things can be difficult because when I see them, I am also seeing all games around Panic Mode that clearly resonate with that group a lot more.

But here’s the thing. I shared my game with a group of 20,000 LinkedIn professionals and got my biggest fans and advocates. I have fans that are not in game groups, but they are still my advocates. This makes so much of my campaign a complete unknown. And that’s scary. But it also kinda makes sense. My email list at this point is not huge, but it’s real and organic and I’m super proud of it. It is 100% people that think the PDF is cool but want to just buy the game.

Tabletop gaming is growing in leaps and bounds every year. Maybe this is what it feels like to be part of that growth, to be part of breaking down a barrier between gaming and real life. There is so much gaming enjoyment to be had between zero and Advanced Squad Leader. Why not invite our non-gamer friends and colleagues to identify with gaming? If I can contribute to that goal then I am happy.

Panic Mode is simple, with only light strategy, and relies a lot on luck!
I struggled with this one, but ultimately came to accept it. I want the game to be simple for teams to play together. I want to spark discussion. If the game happens to be successful I have expansion ideas that would introduce more strategic gameplay. But I feel good about the base game as is, and I will still feel good if I am never able to expand on the current gameplay.

There are thematic reasons that I like this approach too. In reality with Disaster Recovery if you did the work up front then things will run more smoothly. If you didn’t then it won’t. I was not fond of the idea of injecting that preparation during gameplay. The fact is, your options are limited in an actual incident because all the important decisions have already been made.

in conclusion

And that’s kind of how running a Kickstarter campaign is too. There are always anomalies in both failure and success in Tabletop game campaigns, but if you did the work then you just have to play it out.

If you look at my game in social media, on Board Game Geek or any of the usual Facebook groups I don’t look strong enough to launch. And most of the time I feel certain my upcoming campaign will probably fail. But I have brief, shining moments where I remember that it’s really not clear because Panic Mode is not in that box. And your game isn’t in a box either. Read everything, interpret objectively, work for months and launch. And if you need to, launch again.

FUN FACT: I went to the South Dakota state spelling competition in 5th grade and placed 6th. The word that I missed was campaign, which I spelled campagne. For many years I assumed I was trying to spell champagne. But now I wonder if the whole thing was foreshadowing and my campaign is doomed! Super exciting!

Thanks for reading <3