The Establishment: Inner Workings of a Secret Cabal

The Establishment: Inner Workings of a Secret Cabal

Take control of humanity's destiny in The Establishment, a card-based, storytelling game where you lead a secret cabal in the near-future.
$8,716 🎉
of $7,000 (USD) goal
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The Establishment is a card-based, story-driven roleplaying game about a secret society controlling the future of a space-faring humanity.

The game is for 3-5 players and runs between 1-2 hours.

The Establishment's story-driven, card-based play requires no game master so all players can participate, making it perfect for both RPG newbies and advanced players. Like most roleplaying games, players do not complete points-based objectives to win. The goal is to lead your faction and achieve a fitting end to your story.

How to Play

The game is played over four rounds. On the storyline cards, players choose a side. Players debate, make deals, and support others by playing influencers. A society card, representing the whims of society, may swing the story's direction. For full details on the game, read the rulebook. 

Game Overview

The Basics

Players choose their faction and receive seven influencer cards and select description cards that help them roleplay their faction.

Each round has three branching storylines. A single storyline card gives players information about the current situation and two options to vote on. Players place their influencers on the side they favor on any of the three storyline cards.

Resolve each storyline by adding the value of each influencer, any experience points, and any matching realm icon bonuses. A society card, representing the whims of the people, can drastically change the landscape. Events on the cards have lasting repercussions in the realms of influence. Specific realm icons are cancelled, and none of the influencer’s bonuses count. A bonus is added to one side.

The game ends after four rounds when all storylines have concluded with an epilogue. Players are encouraged to discuss how the epilogues affect their factions.

What's Included

The game includes: 

  • 93 Storyline Cards 
  • 35 Influencer Cards
  • 35 Sleeves
  • 40 Transparent Experience Cards
  • 38 Description Cards
  • 16 Society Cards
  • 5 Turn Order Cards
  • 5 Faction Cards
  • 1 Manual

Stretch Goals


Pledge Levels


What They Are Saying

"I'm a big fan of sci-fi and storytelling games, so I was really excited to try The Establishment. It's a unique game that allows you to create your own sci-fi adventure, complete with characters, plot twists, and even alien encounters. The gameplay is simple but engaging, and the story possibilities are endless. I played The Establishment with a group of new friends, and we had a blast. I laughed and they cried, (in character, of course). But most importantly, we had a great time creating our own unique sci-fi story. If you're looking for a fun and creative way to tell stories, I highly recommend The Establishment." - Warren Chester

"I've played this game several times and had so much fun. I especially loved getting into the heads of my faction members when deciding on paths to take - and then trying to influence the other players at the table." - Arletta Shenfield

"The number of branching storylines is just so impressive -- these stacks of cards are daunting to look at, in a good way -- look at all the narrative potential in here! It was fun to have a straightforward incentive to play both sides of a conflict via the levelling up system. 

The society cards might be my favorite aspect of it -- the narrative depth that comes from the event, the icons, and the side of the conflict that it connects to makes for such neat emergent story moments. I also loved the way that a given faction contains multitudes -- You might think that the "science and research" faction would be all high-minded intellectualism, but I played the Ceres Institute of Technology as a university riven by class conflict. Raharjo Enok was my star player, bringing a dose of radical solidarity to an egotistical, elitist institution.

The Establishment pushes forward a really cool design space, one that moves winning and losing to background and pushes play to the foreground. The game gives enough mechanical hooks that even if you're unsure of what to do as a role-player you can find something to make a compelling story out of." - Greg Lorring-Albright

This is such a great game to do what games are designed to do - have fun! Mechanics are great and light and lead to some really good roleplaying and banter, and the stories are always interesting. Lots of replayability too." - Alex Becker

About the Designer

Hello! I'm Manda Shafer. I'm a storyteller, designer, play tester, dungeon master, creator, and now a first-time game designer. During the pandemic of 2020, I had a lot of free time to work on my game idea. The Establishment combines my love of crafting engaging stories and developing new gaming mechanics in an interactive way.

Now, I need your help to make this game a reality. I've got most of the game design and art mostly completed, but I need funds for the first print run and shipping. Plus, there's some more art and graphic design that I would love to add. If we raise enough, I can add cool features like extra storylines, new factions, or a story reading app!

I'd be so grateful if you could pitch in and support The Establishment. Together, we'll dive into an epic adventure full of choices and secrets. Let's make it happen!


Timeline and Shipping

The campaign is set to end in mid-November. The game design and layout is nearly complete. Upon successful end of the campaign, I'll be reaching out to backers who choose to include themselves in the game for photographs. I will need to give the artist 3-6 weeks to complete the artwork. 

In the meantime, I can put any finishing touches on the stories, layout, and design of the game. Once the artwork is done, I will be adding the newest members of the cabal into the game. I am anticipating this work to be completed in the first quarter of 2024. 

Once files are sent to the printer, it will take a couple weeks to receive a proof. My main concern is ensuring the sleeves and the plastic cards will work right for the game. I am hopeful there won't be too much back and forth with that, but it could hold things up if there is unanticipated issues.

Production varies between two and three months. It will then take about 6 weeks to receive it in the United States. Once we receive the game, shipping to backers can begin. The estimated date for this is September or October 2024.

Shipping will be calculated at the end of the campaign through the pledge manager. I know there is nothing worse than being really excited for a game, and then realizing you have to pay more to get it shipped. However, the reality is that I need to charge for the shipping to keep the game reasonably priced. I will keep communication open and honest about that cost as soon as I know what it will be.  As of October 2023, the estimated shipping cost is $10-14 for US-based shipping.
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