We had been thinking about working together on a project with Jo for some time. As we are both teachers, we see every day how difficult it is to learn maths. So we decided to create an online math learning site. We worked hard to create the online platform with the help of our students and their parents. After 2 years of work, the platform was online and working well. But the lack of interest of the school department for the project made us lose all desire to continue it.
However, we still had that creative flame burning inside us. We had been role-playing and board game enthusiasts since we were children, and we decided to devote ourselves to our passion and create our own game. This idea had been dormant in us for years, and and containment convinced us to take action.
Our first attempt at a game began in March 2020. We wanted to create a board game based on the theme of dwarves, our favorite race in role-playing games for years (our first D&D 1st edition campaign was in 1990).
At first, we thought of creating a “light-hearted little appetizer game” where the dwarves had to dig in the mines to acquire wealth, fight the perils of the deep, and battle the horrors that lurk deep in the earth. It was a game where players played against each other. But we also wanted to add a collaborative aspect. So we thought, “Why not add the Balrog like in Lord of the Rings? The dwarves could fight together to destroy him. And then we thought, to push this aspect, we could allow players to trade resources to build items? And then, the resources could be different depending on the level of the mine and we could combine them? And then we could add a traitor too? And what if we add equipment? In short, our game that we wanted to be light turned into a Frankenstein’s monster very quickly, a hybrid creature between a deck builder crossed with Junta, Battlestar Galactica, Mare Nostrum and D&D (but version 3.5 ).
We stopped the massacre and started over with a healthier foundation. From this first attempt, we nevertheless kept the theme of dwarves and the cooperative aspect. Then Jo, a big fan of video games, came up with an idea that we immediately adopted: Dwarves = Stronghold = Greenskins = Tower Defense. The foundations of what would become “Dwarves: The Fall Of Karnarak” were laid.
Before getting into the graphic design and all the details that follow, we made clear our vision of the game we wanted to create: A game where collaboration between players would be paramount and turns would be fast to make the game playable in less than 120 minutes.
We then wrote the game mechanics based on games we were fans of and that could be adapted to ours.
In order to preserve Mother Earth and not to kill trees for nothing by using paper that would be quickly thrown away, we launched a first prototype on Tabletop Simulator (developers of this software be blessed for having saved us a lot of time).
The first tests were, unsurprisingly, horribly cumbersome. We had to prune everything that was not necessary for the proper functioning. After a few weeks of testing with 2 people and the conception of an almost playable version, we decided to open the tests to our friends. And again it was no surprise that we had to make many changes (the first tests produced between 6 and 8 A4 pages of notes per game). During a particularly intense game, one of the players even managed to “hack” the game and found a flaw that created a “lockdown” on the game.
If we learned anything that day, it’s that it’s really important to create a first prototype of your game and have other people test it as soon as possible.
Once we were satisfied with the rules and the gameplay of this first version, we decided to produce a physical “home made” copy with pieces of cardboard and “home made” tokens in order to present the game to other groups of players, in a semi blind test mode.
… And that’s when the real work began…