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This game is about War, Pain, Fear, and Hate.

You warred with the Colonists.

You warred with yourselves.

Then the Imperials came to your “aid”. Your cousins to the North fight under the banners of the North Valley Army and with the (allegedly) radical Valley Commandos.

You and your family are residents of the Southern Capital, occupied by a coalition of the Army of the Republic of the Valley, the Southern state to which you belong, and the Imperial States Army, foreign soldiers. 

Imperials do not look like you.

Imperials rarely like you.

Imperials never think of you as their equal. 

You can only hope to see the other side of the War.

So… Before the Boats is a game designed within the Wretched & Alone framework by Chris Bissette for 1 player about surviving in a state of war. A specific state of war. One in which a foreign power has co-opted your land, forces, and cause for its own machinations. The war will take the lives of hundreds of thousands. Chances are you’ll be among them. If you’re one of the lucky few to make it through you might not like what you find. 

Content Warnings: 

War, Imperialism, Colonialism, Occupation, Violence (including violence against children), Death, Racism, Corruption, Politics


This game is meant to speak to a very specific experience that is part of a larger pastiche that is the War. It is not intended to speak for all experiences for all affected by the War or even all the experiences of any given individual during the war. The intention is to recenter the lens on the often overlooked and washed over experiences and perspectives of those often relegated to the background, supporting cast, or faceless antagonists of narratives about the War. While some of the prompts are exaggerated few are wholly fictional. 

The conflict this work is based on was terrible to many groups including some systematically preyed on and forced to take part in the “police action” by a country that at the time and at the time of this writing did not treat them as equals to those in power. There were many victims but only a few true perpetrators who exploited the conflict for selfish gain and spilled the blood of innocents on all sides. 


This work is based on The Wretched, product of Chris Bissette and Loot The Room, and licensed for our use under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

THE WRETCHED™️ is a trademark of Chris Bissette. The Wretched and Alone logo is © Chris Bissette, and is used with permission.

Before the Boats was written by Kevin Thien Vu Long Nguyen and was created for Wretched Jam.

Developed with “ Make a Wretched Game” by Litza Bronwyn  (https://litzabronwyn.itch.io/make-a-wretched-game)

Cover designed and laid out on canva.com

Editing & Content Consultants

While not working on this game specifically, they each consulted on 

They Took Our War by Kevin Thien Vu Long Nguyen 

with which Before The Boats borrows a lot from and overlaps with. 

Hans Chun 

Twitter: @HansCTweets | https://hanschun.itch.io/

Vian Nguyen 

Twitter: @Jubnuggest | https://jubnuggets.itch.io/

Twitter: @PnoyXP | https://pnoyxp.itch.io/

Simon Moody 

Twitter: @LuchaLibris | https://colorspraygames.itch.io/

Viditya  Voleti 

Twitter: @VidityaVoleti | https://vidityavoleti.itch.io/

A note about Before the Boats & They Took Our War

Beyond the Boats and They Took Our War are two games developed in conjunction with one another. There is significant overlap between the two, particularly with the prompts provided. Each offers, in the designers opinion, a unique experience. 

Before the Boats, one of an individual trying to desperately survive. 

They Took Our War, one of a group of people in a shared traumatic situation trying to get by. 

Considering such both games are available as a bundle at a discounted price for those interested:  https://itch.io/s/32763/the-war 

If you have purchased either but would like the other please get in touch with me directly and I will find a way to send you the sister game for the difference of the game you’ve purchased and the bundle. 

If you are a marginalized person

And you want this game but cannot afford the price and there are no community copies at the time available please reach out to me directly and I will send you a copy at no charge, no questions asked.


Get this game and 1 more for $21.00 USD
View bundle
Buy Now$15.99 USD or more

In order to download this game you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $15.99 USD. You will get access to the following files:

Before the Boats.pdf 8 MB
Before the Boats Plain Text.pdf 147 kB

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Community Copies

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If you cannot afford the listed price of Before the Boats please feel free to claim a Community Copy if available.
If you appreciate the game please consider leaving a review of 5 stars on the game's itch page and letting the designer know your thoughts via Twitter. 


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This is a haunting piece just to read.

It’s rare for a game to give you a gut punch like this, even if you don’t have a Jenga Tower to use to play this.

Kevin, you’re utterly brilliant, and you deserve infinite hype