Devlog Post #1: The Art Dilemma

Whimsical card art by Ffion Evans.

We’ve been working on House Rivalry as something other than handmade cards for almost a year now. We’ve gone from one set of designs and templates and one graphic designer, to a completely new set of designs and templates and another graphic designer.

We’ve gone from ink drawings and line art on the first prototype, to full-color versions on this one. We’ve gone from a hand of 5 action cards that each player had to keep and play, to a playmat with the actions noted on it. Through all the changes in points and mechanics, and wording and rules, one of the biggest things I’ve had to worry about as the Publisher, is the art.

Let’s face it: art sells games.

A game that looks really good is likely to get purchased, but that doesn’t mean it will get played, or replayed. And it especially doesn’t mean that a consumer who bought your pretty but unplayable or unenjoyable game will buy your next title. So you have to be careful, too. You want beautiful art, but you also want a good game.

Humorous art by Cas Wormwood.

I am blessed to work with four amazing artists on House Rivalry: Cas Wormwood, Lars Bundvad, Ffion Evans, and Dagmara Gaska. They are each awesome, and they each bring something to the game. They have different styles, though, so we challenged our super graphic designer, Dan Blanchett, with figuring out how to integrate the different art styles into a cohesive design. He did it, though!

House Crest & House Founder art by Lars Bundvad.

As you can see from the various artwork on this page, Cas and Ffion have a whimsical, comic style that we like for its humor. The game is fun and light, and let’s face it, magic is unpredictable. We like that their drawings make you chuckle, and often are plays on words or the card’s effects. I’m a fan of Munchkin and will enjoy looking at the art on those cards to see the cleverness. Ffion and Cas’s work is more polished than Munchkin, which I wanted, but it has a cartoony feel that I think is right for a game that appeals to ages 10 and up. Game Designer Dylan Grey has known Cas for years, and really wanted to use his art in the game. That style hearkened back to his first versions of the game, and we wanted to support Dylan and Cas on this. We had already been working with Ffion as our primary artist for our cryptids and creatures, so continuing with her was a natural fit. Each artist has different specialties, so we were able to divide the work between them and use their strengths.

We already had the House crests, drawn by Lars Bundvad, and the House Founder portraits, which he also did. We wanted to use those in the game, but as you can see, Lars’ work is quite different from Cas’s or Ffion’s. We love it too, but for different reasons. The Founders look regal and important and powerful, as the Founders of a magical college should. The crests are heraldic and inspire pride, as they should. They’re detailed and shaded and awesome, and anything but cartoony. The crests only appear on the playmats, but that means they are visible throughout the entire game. The House Founders are only on 5 cards, one each, but the remainder of the cards have artwork by Cas and Ffion, and they might be next to each other in a hand or on the tableau.

Character art by Dagmara Gaska.

We brought Dagmara in on Dan’s suggestion, and boy, are we glad we did. She is an amazing talent who is versatile, creative, skilled, and speedy. Quite the combination in an artist, I know! Dagmara is doing the 10 characters for the game, up to 6 of which will be drawn from photographs of actual people who purchase that reward on the Kickstarter (2 of them are the Game Designer, Dylan, and his fiancée, Melissa, as their wizard school characters: Neptune Klindt and Juniper Williams). Dagmara’s art is closer to Lars’ style, so the characters help integrate the look of the crests, especially as they go near them on the playmat.

We’re very happy with all the artwork in the game, and we think a lot of it will make you say “wow.” Others will make you laugh. That’s magic: both awe-inspiring and hilarious.

Next time, we talk about the box art quandary!

— Maury Brown, Publisher and Editor