Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A dragon's tale (part I)

Simurgh was the first game ever picked up by NSKN Games after a pitch, and it is the first ever project in which we had to work with a designer who was not part of NSKN Games.

It all started at the Nurnberg Toy Fair back in 2013. It was our first appearance at a large fair besides Spiel and it was as surprising as our first presence is Essen. A lot of famous designers come to Nurnberg to present their new ideas because unlike Essen which offers some incredibly busy four days, Nurnberg it 6 days long and quite relaxed, with fewer visitors and time to catch a breath.

That's where we met Pierluca Zizzi, a charming Italian game designer who pitched a "board building game with some awesome worker placement mechanisms and...dinosaurs", and we were intrigued. The game was sharing some game design principles with one of Pierluca's other designs, so we had to wait for another 5 months to actually play the game.

Our first game of Simurgh (back then Mu) took place in GobCob later that year. We said yes to the game the very same day and we brought along the prototype for further testing, but we already knew known that we had found a gem.

You need to know a few things about the earliest prototype we've seen. It did not feature dragons, but dinosaurs. Everyone, including the designer, knew that dinosaurs are not there to stay, nevertheless we had lots of fun imagining dragon... pardon me... dinosaur raiders foraging through some ancient forest. Dinos are not a bad thing - take a look at Evolution or Dominant Species - they were just totally out of place, not fitting at all with the game mechanics. But the game itself was so good that we decided on the spot to publish it after we found the perfect theme.

It wasn't long until Simurgh found its name and theme. It took some 12-hour car ride, a ridiculous amount of emails (if you have not tried brain storming by email, do not miss this unique opportunity... just kidding) and a few months later we were ready to dress the game into some beautiful artwork and present it in Essen. That was still back in 2013.

Dragon sketch by Enggar Adirasa

A legitimate question at this point is "Why dragons?" and what does the name of the game mean. We must admit that we were somehow conditioned by the original dinosaur theme and we were not able to shift our thinking into a completely different plane, so we gravitated around "stuff which can fly, stuff which can be ridden" and "a mythical universe", "of man and... (add word here)". Add to this mix another key ingredient - we like dragons  -  and we had the cocktail ready for a dragon themed game. The truth is that all the game mechanisms fit perfectly with the theme we chose and we were very happy to see the metamorphosis of Mu into Simurgh.

Our dragons were never meant to be evil. Scary - yes, by all means, but never evil. The legends of many peoples are filled with dragons, from Asia to South America and from Europe to Africa. We search the mythology for a perfect match and the Persian Simurgh came as the obvious choice.

Stay tuned for the second part of the story, coming up in a few weeks.

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