The long-awaited Portal-themed board game collaboration between Cryptozoic Entertainment and Valve Software was playable at this year's Gen Con. Polygon had hands-on time with the $49.99 board game, which will be available this fall. Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game even comes with a Steam code for Portal 2 right in the box.
Cryptozoic's Sara Miguel was just as surprised as anyone when a pre-production copy of the long-awaited product landed on her doorstep just days before this year's Gen Con. So, she brought it along to demo at the convention.
"It’s a modular board game," Miguel said, "and you’re basically trying to kill the other test subjects. You want to be the winner and you’ll do anything to get the cake."
Test chambers are arranged in three rows on the table, and players take turns placing test subjects inside and then moving them around the board. The goal is to have the majority of subjects inside a room when it falls off the right side of the table, "recycling" its human contents and earning the player action cards, or the holy grail — fresh slices of cake. Test chambers are then flipped over, revealing new rewards, and added to the left side of the grid.
Action cards allow players to take special moves with their test subjects, or to position other thematic items — like the Portal turret and the Companion Cube — around the board. It's a fast-paced game that evokes all the humor that made the Portal series so successful. The game draws on Valve's body of tutorial and in-game artwork, and the game box itself is printed to look like it's been sitting in forgotten corner of Aperture Laboratories for decades.
As it turns out, the idea for game itself came first from Valve.
"They kind of came to us with this idea," Miguel told Polygon. "'We want to make a Portal board game. What do you guys think?' So we have connections with the company. One of Cryptozoic's execs even has a replica Portal gun in his office.
"The game has been in production for a long time, because we’ve really been working hard to make sure that it is something that Portal fans will enjoy. But it’s not Portal. You’re not playing the video game in a board game, because why would you want to do that? It’s a separate experience, but it’s still very much Portal."
For all the stories from this year's Gen Con convention in Indianapolis, see our StoryStream.