Streets of Steel: An Early Look at a Kickstarter Campaign to Follow!

We’ve covered many interesting and ambitious Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns over the years, each with their puzzly goals and aspirations. Some reinvent an old classic, while others forge a new path by creating a unique solving experience.

The subject of today’s post is doing a little of both. Enjoy as we delve into the world of Streets of Steel!

Streets of Steel endeavors to capture the spirit of ’80s 8-bit Nintendo fighting classics like Streets of Rage or River City Ransom, all while creating an engrossing play experience built around cooperative combat.

As a huge fan of games like this (particularly the Double Dragon franchise, which has a similar gameplay style), I was immediately intrigued by the idea of translating the side-scrolling video game experience to the tabletop realm.

Check out this intro from the Kickstarter page for the game:

Steel City has fallen into disarray. You and your crew must clean up the streets in this 1-4 player SideScrollin Co-Op boardgame

A generation ago, Steel City was a shining beacon of cooperation, peace and prosperity. Neighbors cleaned up after their dogs. Graffiti rarely used offensive language. PTA meeting attendance was high. Then, the Disaster struck. Now, Steel City is a mere shadow of its former glory. Roving bands of thugs terrorize honest citizens. Evil corporations dump toxic waste in the street. PTA meeting attendance is low.

Tired and fed up, a few brave Steel City heroes have banded together to stem the tide of carnage. YOU are one of those heroes. YOU will clean up these STREETS OF STEEL.

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The campaign has already reached its funding goal, and now supporters continue pushing the total higher, reaching several stretch goals that increase the quality of game pieces and add new mechanics to the gameplay itself. (And there’s still time to become a backer!)

I reached out to creator Ryan Lesser, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about the early development days of Streets of Steel.

When asked about how Streets of Steel came to be:

I was thinking of other ways, besides my first board game High Heavens, to bring a combat-heavy tabletop game experience to non-hardcore gamers. Randomness and dice rolling are both pretty much non existent in High Heavens, so I figured I would go heavy on that.

I also wanted to make a cooperative game, where High Heavens is competitive. Those two goals had my mind crunching, looking for cool gameplay that could support that. Pretty quickly, I thought to bring the beat ’em up video game genre to the tabletop.

When asked how the development process (both in game design and Kickstarter launch) was different from his previous game, the thoroughly enjoyable mythology-fueled player-vs-player game, High Heavens:

In a lot of ways the dev was similar, but specifically, the co-op play was very different. Instead of creating a tight but expandable experience that pits players against each other, every decision that I made for SOS was to bring them together as a team. Every single new idea, move, power, etc that was generated, had to serve the purpose of team play.

I also designed this one, not alone, but with a partner-in-crime. Matt Moore and I have been working together since about 2006, when I hired him as an Artist at Harmonix. Since then, he has become an Art Director himself at other companies but all the while we have both played, and jammed on ideas for board games. This time I formalized things and he came on board to help me finish the game. He spent a large amount of his time on SOS crafting the Baddie Behavior Deck… our AI system that tells the game what to do against the players.

Another big difference is that instead of leaning heavily on ancient mythology, as in High Heavens, I wanted to invent my own, new IP based on all of the inputs I had during the 80s. It was sort of my Weird Science, but instead of trying to make a human, I wanted to make a board game. In SOS, you can see not only my own inventions, but lots of influences from movies, TV, music, comics and of course, video games.

He definitely nailed that aesthetic. Each player controls a different hero, each one a pastiche of fighting game characters and ’80s movie tropes. Average Joe, for instance, definitely wouldn’t have looked out of place as a member of Cobra Kai, or among the Warriors as they battled their way across town. And yet, for video game fans, there’s no denying the resemblance to Ken from Street Fighter.

Mayor Van Dammage, on the other hand, is every cop-movie authority figure joke simultaneously. He’s the exasperated police chief, the partner with one day until retirement, and the cigar-chomping rogue cop on a mission, all at once. And with a name strongly reminiscent of one of the hokiest tough guys in film history, every player will find something recognizable with him.

Plus the bad guys are topnotch. Check out this quick Instagram clip of Ryan getting the Boss Mutie’s expression just right (in a ghastly way, of course):

As a co-op game, players must work together, combining their skills, wits, and items acquired in the game in order to stop the bad guys and save Steel City. All co-op games rely on strong problem-solving, strategic thinking, and careful resource-management, which just happen to be three skills that puzzlers have in spades.

And I suspect this game will give puzzlers and fighters a challenge well worth their time.

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse behind the curtain for Streets of Steel. There’s still time to back it on Kickstarter and contribute to the game’s production and success! Click here for all the details!

And be sure to check out their Kickstarter Live broadcast on Friday around 11am EST!

Thank you to Ryan Lesser for not only taking the time out to talk to us, but for opening up the archives to show us some of the development process for the game! Here’s hoping Streets of Steel reaches even greater heights of success before the campaign is through!


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5 Questions for Artist and Game Designer Jennifer Hrabota Lesser

Welcome to 5 Questions, our recurring interview series where we reach out to puzzle constructors, game designers, writers, filmmakers, musicians, artists, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life!

It’s all about exploring the vast and intriguing puzzle community by talking to those who make puzzles and those who enjoy them! (Click here to check out previous editions of 5 Questions!)

And I’m excited to welcome Jennifer Hrabota Lesser as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

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Jennifer Hrabota Lesser is an artist. Whether it’s commissioned artwork, passion projects of her own, or design work for board games and video games, she adds a personal touch to every piece she works on.

Initially getting into the game industry as a way to pay off student loans, she has since gone on to build a small board game company, Wild Power Games, with her husband. She also teaches a summer class on game design at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Jennifer was gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!


5 Questions for Jennifer Hrabota Lesser

1.) How did you first get into puzzles and games?

I’ve always loved puzzles and games. I think that I’ve always found them to be very calming. As a kid, puzzle books were a great way to get through long car rides. (Back in the days before iPhones!) These days, they are a way to unwind and calm down.

I am definitely a gamer, I adore board games and table top games. I also find Sudoku very soothing and meditative.

2.) I had the pleasure of scrolling through the art on your website, and there’s a really wonderful trend of reaching out that seems to suffuse many of your works. People holding each other, or finding themselves enveloped by things like flowers. Is that an intentional theme, either for your site or for your art in general, or just something I pulled from this sampling of your work?

Connection is an ongoing theme in my work, both connection with other people and connection with nature. I try to portray my subjects in transitional moments, where they may be at a point of finding a deeper connection with someone, or they may feel as if something has just been lost — the moments of feeling untethered. I believe understanding our connection with those around us is important to our health and happiness as individuals and as a society.

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3.) How does your art inform your work in games, and vice versa?

My work is strongly influenced by mythology and fables, and the games I work on are often character-centered. I really enjoy working on games that have a story, and I think the same applies to my artwork. There is often an implied narrative in the work I’m doing.

I often like to portray strong female characters, finding their power. Years ago I got to design some great female characters for Guitar Hero 2, which was a blast because I love playing guitar and women tend to be underrepresented in rock. More recently I was able to design some of my favorite goddesses for our tabletop game High Heavens. I particularly loved painting Nut and Isis from the Egyptian pantheon. Illustrating The Mother of Dragons for a recent Game of Thrones expansion was also pretty great.

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4.) What’s next for Jennifer Hrabota Lesser?

I am working on a poker deck that will be featuring my artwork, which is going to be an intense undertaking, but one that I am excited about!

5.) If you could give the readers, writers, artists, aspiring game designers, and puzzle fans in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

Whatever your creative path is, find time to do it every day. Create when you are inspired, but create when you are uninspired, push through the times when you aren’t feeling it, to get into the habit of working. I love the quote by Pablo Picasso: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

We work and work, and sometimes when we least expect it, something amazing happens. It won’t happen if you aren’t doing the work in the first place.


A huge thank you to Jennifer for her time. Be sure to check out her website for the latest updates on all her marvelous endeavors!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

Let’s get this party (kick)started!

The newest tool in the arsenal of big thinkers and big dreamers is crowdfunding, wherein creators take their ideas directly to the people in the hopes that a lot of small donations will add up into capital to make their ideas reality.

Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have literally made dreams come true, and that’s as true for puzzle entrepreneurs as anyone else. Many top-tier constructors are going straight to the fanbase with their puzzles, and with marvelous results. Constructors like Trip Payne, Eric Berlin, and Matt Gaffney have all had success on Kickstarter and Indiegogo with previous campaigns.

And I wanted to spread the world about some other puzzly endeavors that might interest the PuzzleNation readership.

There’s only a few hours left in the kickstarter campaign for musical duo the Doubleclicks.

This marvelous musical duo has not only written songs about numerous nerdy subjects — board games, Dungeons & Dragons, and dinosaurs among them — but they’re also champions of self-expression and self-confidence, especially among the geek girl community. (Their song “Nothing to Prove” served as the buoyant soundtrack of a video decrying “fake geek girl” nonsense.)

Pairs, a card game for two to eight players, was just launched yesterday by the folks at Cheapass Games. A 5-minute card game where the goal is to NOT gain points, Pairs is designed to be easy to learn and easy to play.

[Click here to check out our session of 5 Questions with Cheapass Games president and game designer James Ernest.]

Apps and online games have also gotten into crowdfunding. There’s Colorino, a color-matching strategy app that would appeal to the Candy Crush crowd, as well as Puzzle Nuts 2. A sequel to the physics-based puzzle game Puzzle Nuts, Puzzle Nuts 2 challenges players to negotiate different contraptions and figure out how to transport all of their acorns from one end of the screen to the other. Fans of Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and other mechanical-style puzzles could find plenty to enjoy here.

A master maze designer with several successful Kickstarter campaigns under his belt has already reached his primary goal, and is now striving to reach a major stretch goal. (Stretch goals are additional finish lines that creators can make available if their initial goal is met. Stretch goals often include more puzzles, finer artwork, additional game pieces, and other details that allow for a richer play experience.)

And then there’s Steam-Donkey, a card game where you try to attract visitors to your steampunk beachside resort. With ne’er-do-wells all around, it’s a game with emphasis on art and characters with a curiously distinct flair all its own.

High Heavens is a combination board game/card game/miniatures game that places the player in a battle between the gods. Right now, creator Ryan Lesser is on his second Kickstarter campaign, an expansion that will offer new gameplay options, miniatures, and characters to the original High Heavens set. (The original High Heavens was also funded through Kickstarter contributions.)

Sweet Escape is a platformer strategy app where you try to lead walking bits of candy to safety while dealing with all sorts of obstacles and threats inside a bizarre factory.

Finally, over on indiegogo, we have PuzzleFix, a photo jigsaw puzzle game actually encourages people to submit their own photographs to become new puzzles.

The amazing thing about all of these projects is that the audience, the potential fans, have an enormous role to play in not only sharing their thoughts with game and puzzle creators, but they can show their support for designers and projects they believe in, and do so in a meaningful way.

I’ve contributed to several of these campaigns with high hopes, and I can’t wait to see how they turn out.

Thanks for visiting the PuzzleNation blog today! You can like us on Facebookfollow us on Twitter, cruise our boards on Pinterest, check out our Tumblr, download our puzzle iBooks and apps, play our games at PuzzleNation.com, or contact us here at the blog!