Interview with the Creators of The Stifling Dark boardgame

We had the opportunity to talk to Jeremy Geenen from Sophisticated Cerberus Games about their upcoming game, The Stifling Dark. Check it out!

PopHorror: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us about The Stifling Dark. It looks amazing!

Jeremy Geenen: Thanks again for reaching out!

PopHorror: Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for The Stifling Dark?

Jeremy Geenen: The Stifling Dark is Ethan’s baby, and we started working on it back in March of 2020. It was a game that he thought of and wanted to play but didn’t exist, so he went ahead and started creating it! We all ended up liking it so much that we decided to continue developing it and self-publish. We’re all horror fans—especially Matt and Ethan—so we wanted to make sure that theme really shined through in the game. Whether it be The Butcher stalking you from just outside of your flashlight or The Insatiable Horror attacking you through a window, there are some fantastic cinematic moments that happen in the game.

PopHorror: How did Sophisticated Cerberus Games form and do any of you come from a game design background?

Jeremy Geenen: We all grew up in Appleton, WI, and went to school together, so we’ve known each other for about 15-20 years now. One day, Matt decided he wanted to create a board game and asked Ethan if he wanted to partner on it since both of them had fairly recently moved to Minneapolis, MN. Matt asked Ethan to join since he knew Ethan had been working on a horror game, and it took off from there! None of us have any game design background, although all of us have played games our entire lives. As with most game designers, we also purchase way more games than we should!

PopHorror: Can you give us a rundown of how the game works?

Jeremy Geenen: Absolutely! One player always plays the adversary whose goal it is to stop the other players from escaping. The other players are paranormal investigators on a mission to investigate some rumors of paranormal activity. Once they arrive, they realize they are trapped and have to find evidence in order to escape. The first phase of the game is all about finding evidence and avoiding the adversary, whereas the second phase allows the investigators to choose from multiple options to escape, including going after the adversary.

At the time of this interview, there are two adversaries and ten investigators in the base game with two additional investigators in the Nightfall expansion, and every single character is different, so you can mix and match each game to create unique strategies. Perhaps the most unique thing about our game is the flashlights, which are acrylic templates that are used to represent line of sight. They simulate how a flashlight would work in real life, only allowing you to see a certain distance from you and being blocked by obstacles that are scattered throughout the map. Aside from being super functional, they also give the game great table presence.

PopHorror: From the Kickstarter page, it looks like the game is a beautiful blend of aesthetics and function. Can you tell us a little about the art direction?

Jeremy Geenen: We definitely wanted a spooky, grim feel for the overall artwork… less campy and more horror. Our amazing primary artist [Cory Freeman] came up with the black and green concept for the cover and we’ve stuck with that ever since. Our investigator artwork by Judith Gastell isn’t all that spooky in and of itself but has a consistent theme that works really well with the game. Lastly, the game wouldn’t be complete without the adversary artwork by Márton Gyula Kiss, which we definitely took the spooky route.

PopHorror: What were some of the biggest challenges designing the game?

Jeremy Geenen: Two things immediately come to mind: the flashlights and the balance. We went through multiple iterations of how the flashlights would work, but we always knew we wanted them in the game. We initially had a square grid and then tried out hexes before landing on our current circle grid after lots of trial and error and math. Once we had the board layout finalized, we tested various shapes and sizes for the flashlight before landing on the current design. Balancing the game was the other most challenging part. Given the one-vs-many, asymmetric nature of the game, any change you make to one side inevitably affects the other, sometimes much more than you think. We’ve had periods of time where the investigators would consistently stomp the adversary, and we’ve had other albeit briefer and less frequent periods of time where the adversary was super overpowered. Ever since making some pretty big changes at the very beginning of this year, things have been much more consistent, and we’ve only had to make minor tweaks here and there.

PopHorror: Can you tell us about the Nightfall expansion? Will there be other expansions?

Jeremy Geenen: We’re super excited about this expansion since it introduces flashlight augments, which allow the investigators to give their flashlights special functions. It also includes larger acrylic flashlight templates, which have a unique function of their own. This gives the investigators more choices when using their flashlight. Are they going to use the small flashlight to try and find the adversary, or will they use the large flashlight to search a larger area for evidence and items? We have ideas for other expansions, but nothing that will be included as part of the Kickstarter.

PopHorror: Are there any events people should look out for that you will be appearing at?

Jeremy Geenen: We attended quite a few conventions this year and plan on returning to most if not all of them again next year, but we do not have any more conventions planned this year. We have a few livestreams planned throughout the Kickstarter: playthroughs on 10/21 and Halloween and a live Q&A session on 10/25. We’ll also be planning some in-person playthroughs at some of our friendly local game stores in Minneapolis and Appleton, so keep an eye on our social media to learn more about when and where those will be taking place.

PopHorror: Will The Stifling Dark be available outside of the Kickstarter, and if so, where?

Jeremy Geenen: We’re doing late pledges after the campaign and also have a number of retail backers already. We’ll be looking to get into distribution down the road as well, so we hope to make it into many game stores around the US and around the world. We’re also partnering with M.O.B. Vanguard for localization, so our goal is to get The Stifling Dark translated into other languages so more people can enjoy it.

PopHorror: Thank you again for doing this interview with us. I wish you the best of luck on the Kickstarter campaign!

Jeremy Geenen: Thanks once again for reaching out!

EDIT: The Kickstarter campaign has since ended, and the game is fully funded. You can pre-order The Stifling Dark here.

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