The heat of the African savanna beats down, driving the more warm blooded inhabitants into the shade. A tree, a rock, even another family member might provide some relief from the relentless temperatures. But, as the sun goes down, the landscape is transformed. For you and your pride it becomes a hunting ground, a place that will provide food. However, there are other prides out there looking for prey and territory, as your family grows you’ll be forced to fight for both.
In Roar: King of the Pride, up to six players will lead their pride of lions in Africa in an attempt to grow their numbers and complete goals. It is the brainchild of Erica Bouyouris, co-designed by Daryl Andrews, and features art by the amazing Vincent Dutrait. Roar will be coming to retail from IDW early next year, but we got an early look and sat down with Bouyouris to discuss the project.
The theme for Roar: King of the Pride is pretty interesting. Have you always had an interest in large cats?
When I pitched the initial idea to Daryl as something we might want to work on, it had originated because I realized there were no games about lions (at least, not for kids). It just seemed natural that the behavior of a lion already had some cool action and mechanic possibilities. Where things got interesting (and I suppose a little sad) is that most breeds of lions are now extinct. Which meant doing some research. We had to go back to about the 1900s and took the six breeds of lions (I think 2 are still around today) that roamed and looked into approximately which regions were their hunting areas.
In all honestly, I’m not the biggest cat person, lions are just really cool! So, I guess I am a fan of larger cats. Roar is intended to be a series of games. In our research we found that there are only a handful of cats that actually roar. The follow up game to this is Ambush of Tigers where you can play Tigers (much more aggressive) in Asia.
King of the Pride is envisioned as part of a series. What can you tell us about the other games?
Because it will be a series of games (hopefully!) the art for the first two boards are already done since they fit next to each other. King of the Pride is a beautiful, large map of Africa and Ambush of Tigers (the sequel game) is Asia. The two fit together side by side. We did have to play with the dimensions a little bit of the continents to get that to work.
Roar: Ambush of Tigers is about the 6 breeds of Tigers that used to move about Asia. What makes tigers so interesting is that they really aren’t afraid of people. We have built this into the sequel game. They are also fantastic swimmers, which allowed us to create water zones for increased chances at food. There are some mechanics and actions that we have kept the same between the two games, but the behavior of each of the cats is different, allowing new actions and a very different food distribution compared to King of the Pride.
Roar is intended to be three games and an expansion, hopefully that happens.
You got the amazing Vincent Dutrait to illustrate Roar. What was it like to see it come to life with the work of such an accomplished artist?
I think one of the best descriptions I have heard about Roar‘s art so far is that it looks like a documentary come to life. What I really appreciated the first time I saw the board, was all the smaller details and pictures that were put into it. Everything is beautifully covered. Vincent did all the box art and both of the Roar boards so far. I can’t describe it better than everything looks like a piece of art. I really have to thank IDW and Daryl Andrews for getting Vincent on this game. I’m even more happy that Vincent is so happy with how it turned out.
Was this your first co-design project or had you worked with other designers in the past?
Almost all of my signed games have been co-designed with Daryl. Daryl and I have been working on games together for just over a year. I think we have 7 signed games together now. Daryl is my mentor in the Game Artisans of Canada (an invite mentor/apprentice program that we have for designers in Canada). He has been a HUGE part of getting me into the gaming world. I really didn’t know that all of this existed before him. He has been invaluable to me as a friend and a guide through conventions, meeting with publishers, contracts, etc. Plus, we work really well together! I love working with Daryl. We can create new ideas and games extremely quickly together. I didn’t realize until I tried working with other people that it is rare to find an excellent partnership. It’s just not possible to work with everyone. Styles, approaches, and personalities can be just too different sometimes. I’ve begun to find others that I enjoy working with as well, but I wouldn’t ever stop working with Daryl. Co-designers for life!
When you design a game, who is your target audience?
That’s different for each game. It might be that I have an advertising/marketing background, but I do have a feel and audience in mind when I start working on an idea. All of these ideas go into my prototyping too actually. I am a very visual person. After I have formed the majority of an idea, I need to see and touch my own games in order to see all the possibilities in the worlds that I am creating. It also means that I probably spend too much time on my prototypes, which are often called “pretty” but it is because I have a look and feel of a game in my head when I design it. I need to see it come to life. I have created kids games, entry level games, light strategy, mid strategy, etc, I am even starting to get into IPs (which is super exciting to get to work on something that I am a fan of!). I like to challenge myself to try to make a different genre of game each time, or try to build something around a mechanic I haven’t used before. I’m not sure you will ever see the same kind of game from me twice, haha.
What games got you into the hobby?
I have always been a gamer, but I will definitely say I was a cards person most of my life. About 12ish years ago a friend of my went to Germany and brought back Catan and Carcassonne, which definitely got me back into board games again. Then we started playing games like Bohnanza and the games collection slowly started growing again. It is definitely hard to keep up with all the great games to play, but I am slowly trying to work my way through, lol. I love playing with gaming groups that include reviewers, because I usually get to play the newest stuff coming out. It’s also a great way for me to know what is already out there. I have had a lot of ideas that seemed great, only to find out someone else thought so too because they already made it.
What was the first game you designed?
I do a lot of game design in my classroom, I am an elementary teacher, and games are the best way to make kids have fun with information. But the first game I tried to make that was not for education purposes was a small set collection card game that really wasn’t very good. I don’t have a problem scrapping games. I feel like there will always be more games to come and, in less I am in love with an idea, I will just get rid of everything but the parts I like and redesign it into something new. I have had games take some crazy evolutions. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. I think it is one of the reasons why I always work on a few games at a time. If something isn’t working, there are other things for me to focus on. Sometimes this means that I will come up with solutions for one game while thinking of another. I think this also lets me toss ideas that aren’t working because I can see the difference with games that are working.
What challenges did you run into with this design, that you hadn’t encountered in the past?
Roar has a ton of pieces. Keeping that in check was not always easy. I am so excited that IDW was able to give us lion meeples in 6 colours (male and female for each colour). It got really interesting trying to create the two boards to fit together too. I had to drop Asia a fair bit in order to get the boards and territories to line up. This also meant making sure that it still looked right to the eye. Most of the places that we were looking at in Africa don’t exist anymore. It was really hard to figure out what to name regions as or what exact size to make them. We took some liberties, but tried to keep things as true as we could. The hope for this game was to give people an area control game that included some attacking but that isn’t the primary purpose of the game. Survival and spreading your prides is. At the end of the day, I really hope that people like this take on area control. We incorporated euro type scoring to allow for multiple ways to win. Balancing those numbers for a player count of 3-6 definitely took some time, and more than a couple of attempts. But, it also allowed for different strategies and tactics for players. And hopefully, people will love the chance to be a lion roaming through Africa.