Every election has a storyline and even though many voters haven't been paying close attention, the stakes are high across New England. A major issue in the Ocean State is the sluggish economy, made worse by the famous collapse of 38 Studios.

The failure of Curt Schilling's 38 Studios has left its mark on Rhode Island, from investigations, debt and political finger pointing. But for former 38 Studios designer Danny Mandel, the company’s bankruptcy was much more personal.

"It was pretty devastating when things started going poorly. It was very sudden. So there wasn’t a lot of time to be sad. It just sort of ran out of funding. One day we were on pause and that was it. Then we were talking about what our next project was going to be,” Mandel said.

Mandel said 38 Studios had been a great place to work — so great, in fact, that in 2011 he recruited long-time friend and collaborator Ben Cichoski to join the company. The following year, 38 Studios closed its offices, and the two friends were out of work.

But Cichoski saw their sudden unemployment as an opportunity.

"We had talked to some people about making some games potentially on the side anyway. And when 38 happened we said hey we have some more free time, and it sort of grew from there," he said.  

In the days after the bankruptcy, Mandel and Cichoski co-founded Cumberland-based Super Awesome Games. Their studio focuses on producing board games and card games with more depth and strategy than games like Monopoly or Risk.

Since 38 Studios’ bankruptcy, they’ve designed more than 20 games, the first of which reached specialty game stores in August. It's called Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game. Mandel and Cichoski designed it on contract for publisher Upper Deck Entertainment, which asked them to create a card game set in the world of James Cameron's Alien movies.

"We knew two things right from the beginning. We knew one we were gonna have facehuggers and when a facehugger shows up its going to jump on your face."

In the completed game, aliens creep hidden across the board until they emerge and attack the players. On their turn, players draw cards from their personal deck and use them to fight aliens, complete objectives, or add better cards to their deck — which they'll draw later. Players win only by working together to complete three objectives before the aliens over-run them — which isn't easy.

With Legendary Encounters published, Mandel and Cichoski say they’re working on more projects for Upper Deck. They've also met with other publishers to pitch prototype games. And, in the coming months, they plan to post one of their own games on the crowdfunding website, Kickstarter.

As the pair moves forward, Cichoski said 38 Studios gave them not just a starting point, but valuable lessons in running their business.

"Our problem is we don’t like to let go of the game we’re working on, but what I learned in even just a year in the video games is I don’t have that kind of luxury and it was great and in some ways it was sort of freeing even if it wasn’t perfect I would just have to hand it off to them and get it started,” Cichoski said.

While that lesson has been useful for the former 38 Studios designers, their new business might have been impossible without their families.

"Our families have been really supportive of us trying this endeavor but its really fun and it’s definitely what we need to do for the rest of our lives, at least for a little while. I don’t want to commit to anything," Cichoski said.

Matt C. Casey is a freelance journalist and the creator of Clever Move Games