Lightning & Bolt: The Epic (and Continuing) History
For those of you first hearing of it, Lightning & Bolt is "an asymmetric, co-operative game built for parents and kids—or anyone who wants to mix together a lighter and heavier game for a great time”. It has a long history and (curl up on the couch and get ready for a story) it starts a long long time ago…with an iPhone app….(fade to black)
When I created the app, The Brainstormer, in 2007, I had no clue how many cool people I’d meet because of it. One awesome person in that category was David Somerville, then creative director for The Atlantic Magazine. We became good friends through many shared art interests. We talked about fun projects we could collaborate on and hoped to build a creative studio together one day. But we were busy with family and work. Our friendship continued, but, for many years, our communication was sparse.
Then, in 2017, I discovered that my friend had designed a very innovative and successful board game called Vast. I was prepping for the release of my own game project, Planecrafters, and sought his advice. We caught up and David told me of a small, very personal, game he had designed for his daughter Beatrice, called Lightning & Bolt. As a thank you for his help, I offered to create some simple sketches to replace the clip art he had been using...and we finally had our collaborative project!
After seeing the basic design of Lightning & Bolt, I was blown away and, together, we decided that this game needed more than sketches and should be played by more than David’s daughter. We agreed to launch it as a US backer-only, Make 100 project on Kickstarter as a joint partnership. Since David had already spent a lot of time in development on the game, I jumped in as artist and producer.
I finished up the art, David created the Kickstarter page and video (click here to see it...David's pretty cool, but David's daughter is a rock star!), and we launched in late January 2018. We were very pleased with the results of the campaign, with our full stock of 100 games sold out in 80 minutes and 450 print & play versions of the game sold as well. Then, over the course of a couple months, I organized the printing, hand packaged each game, and spent a long morning at the post office sending every game on its way. And then it was all over!
The feedback from backers was wonderful and the games were well received. I also got my first chance to play the game 🙂 After playing through myself and gathering thoughts from others, two things were clear. First, this was a brilliant, revolutionary game concept. Second, it needed some fine tuning. With David’s permission, I spearheaded some tweaks and redesigns in preparation for a worldwide release. I playtested extensively, created numerous prototypes, and started on a brand new cover. But, once again, creative ambitions ran straight into reality and progress slowed. I was, at this point, shifting quickly from freelance video game concept artist to freelance board game illustrator and work kept me busier than ever. In addition, David was making some life changes as well. He decided to leave The Atlantic so he could take his young, adorable family on a year-long RV adventure across the country. And until they settled down, he worked as a freelance designer on the road. In addition to that, David was exploring other types of game design, such as RPGs. He launched a new Kickstarter for his storytelling RPG, Never Tell Me the Odds, and began work on other ambitious projects.
After about a year of L&B limbo, I started thinking about my own ambitions. I was neck deep in the board game industry I loved and about a half dozen people knew my name. I had loved board games all my life, but, for the first time, I saw tabletop as a possible delivery system for worlds and stories I’d been working on for decades. Months before I was ready to announce publicly, I told David about my ideas for Wits End. And we both decided that Lightning & Bolt would be great as the first release of my new brand, since I had been leading its design and development for the past year. The announcement was made (no turning back now) and here we are!
The story of Lightning & Bolt is hardly over. Its about to see the whole world! Please help make the next, and biggest, chapter of Lightning & Bolt an epic one! Spread the word…it’s coming!