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An alt-history Cold War-era spy adventure, told over 8 weeks online, by email, and through the post. Read more

New York, NY Fiction
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This project was successfully funded on September 17, 2011.

An alt-history Cold War-era spy adventure, told over 8 weeks online, by email, and through the post.

New York, NY Fiction
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Balance of Powers
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Balance of Powers

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About this project

Balance of Powers is a dark new alternate-history world from the team that wrote Perplex City. Follow the free-to-read story online, with eight chapters unfolding over eight weeks. 

...Or better, sign up and receive bonus content in email, artifacts in your mailbox, or be invited to take part in live online events! You could even have dinner with us.

The Story

Our four main characters journey across a Cold War-era world a little like our own -- but also darkly different. Their stories converge at a strange city on stilts called Midway; a place between places, where the balance of powers will be decided.

The Bulgarian ambassador is found eviscerated in his London quarters, and Major Sonja Slade of the Prussian Army searches for his killer while trying to forget her own ties to the dead man. 

Kitty Kinsey travels all the way from the 39 United States to clear her father of unspeakable allegations, and discovers that old powers are already lying in wait for her. 

John Smith thinks he's just an ordinary insurance clerk, but as he investigates a sunken supertanker, his strange dreams hint at something he's not being told. 

Hausmann, an ex-spy, thinks he knows just how to look after himself. But when he asks one question too many, he'll find out there's much more to fear from his past than he ever imagined. 

Someone is pulling the strings to bring these four together. The Great Powers thirst for war once again. But for what purpose?

We want Balance of Powers to run and run. Our first eight-week season is only the beginning.

Is it an ARG? A book? A what?

Even though we made Perplex City, this isn't an alternate reality game. There aren't going to be puzzles or secret codes; we're focusing on telling an amazing story in a way that's accessible to everyone.

We think it's something original: a free-to-read online episodic story with lots of special content for subscribers, where you receive letters from the characters, take part in live story events online, and even get newspapers from the world through the post! (so it does share some qualities with an ARG...) It's going to be awesome.

We've been working on Balance of Powers in our spare time for quite a while now. In fact, quite a lot of it is already written! But it's time to kick it up a notch. We want the site to look as good as the words deserve, and we want to create amazing in-world artefacts for the readers. So we'll be using our requested funding for:

  • graphic design
  • web hosting
  • creating the physical objects you're buying
  • making the user experience as enticing and engaging as we can

If we raise more than our target, then we'll be able to:

  • begin work on Season 2 of Balance of Powers
  • record audio and create other awesome features we can't include at the moment

We could have gone a traditional publishing route with this project. But we really loved the way that making Perplex City put us in contact with our readers and players every day. We want that level of engagement again. 

Funding by Kickstarter is a great way to start to build a community around our new world. We want the freedom to make our own thing, to explore new platforms and this new funding model. We want to make it together with the people who are excited by our work and ideas.

Who are you guys, anyway?

Adrian Hon: Runs Six to Start, a London-based company that has made storylike games and gamelike stories for Disney, Channel 4, Penguin, the BBC, Death Cab for Cutie, and sundry other fly-by-night organisations. Their projects win awards and set the agenda in next-generation storytelling. Adrian writes about technology and publishing for The Telegraph, runs Transmedia London, and is writing A History of the Future in 100 Objects.

Andrea Phillips: She's worked as a game designer and writer on headline-grabbing projects like America 2049, Routes for Channel 4, The Maester's Path for HBO's Game of Thrones, Thomas Dolby's Floating City, and the 2012 Experience for Sony Pictures which was condemned by NASA. We can only dream that Balance of Powers will match up.

David Varela: As cuttingly funny as the day is long. Writes plays for the theatre and drama for radio, as well as the occasional screenplay. He also writes and produces games for companies like Reebok, Dr Pepper, the BBC and Sony PlayStation. Yes, he actually makes a living from this stuff.

Naomi AldermanOrange Award-winning literary author of novels such as Disobedience and The Lessons, now branching out into pop culture with her commentary on games in the Guardian and her Dr. Who novel, Borrowed Time. She brings highbrow class and culture, thereby keeping us squarely out of the comic book ghetto we'd be in without her.

So it's not like we don't have other stuff going on. Really, we do. But we missed working together a lot, missed talking about characters, missed making a world. We think we do it really well together: David brings the sinister and the funny, Adrian brings the games design smarts, Andrea brings the heart and the laser-like focus on user experience, and Naomi brings the bagels and the po-faced feminism, and wrote this so she can't possibly comment. Together we invent imaginary crime, and then fight it.

Help us launch a new world and be part of something very special.


Adrian Hon, Andrea Phillips, David Varela & Naomi Alderman


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  • You selected
    Pledge $5 or more

    2 backers

    RECRUIT: Our sincere thanks, and your name on our list of contributors on the site. We'll also give you a hearty handshake or high-five (your choice!) if we run into you somewhere.

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    Pledge $15 or more

    50 backers

    CADET: Get access to the story before anyone else, with additional exclusive behind-the-scenes commentary and extra content. (Plus the above thanks and high-five or handshake.)

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    Pledge $40 or more

    44 backers

    LIEUTENANT: A handsome printed newspaper sent to you in the mail, including articles and adverts from the world of Balance of Powers that will expand the story and shed light on just what's going on. And of course all the above rewards.

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    Pledge $75 or more

    19 backers

    COMMANDER: An invitation to take part in a special online performance where you can become a character in the story. Plus all the above rewards!

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    Pledge $200 or more

    10 backers

    CAPTAIN: A signed, limited-edition book of Season 1, and access to exclusive online discussions with the creators. And... you guessed it... all the above rewards.

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    Pledge $500 or more

    1 backer Limited (9 left of 10)

    COLONEL: An extra-special and ultra-exclusive physical artefact from the world of Balance of Powers. But nothing else. Just kidding! You get everything in the reward levels above, too.

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    Pledge $2,000 or more

    0 backers Limited (2 left of 2)

    GENERAL: A private dinner in London with the creators for up to five people. Ask any questions you want - we'll even read your manuscript! The amazing benefactor who backs us to this amount will, of course, also get the artefact, book, newspaper, and access to all exclusive events, content, and behind-the-scenes material included in other pledge levels. Transport and hotel not included.

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Funding period

- (30 days)