Today we caught up with Petter Schanke Olsen, Norwegian movie producer and creator of Kill the King, the successful 2016 game of medieval warfare. Petter’s latest game, Donning the Purple, set in the turbulent times of the Roman Empire, is currently on Kickstarter. So, without further ado, welcome Petter and thank you for this exclusive interview!
Petter, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. Before we discuss your new game, Donning the Purple, out now on Kickstarter, could you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a movie producer by day and a board game designer by night. I live in Norway and enjoy medium to heavy weight games. The longer the better! I also run a blog where I interview different board game creators about the tactics they use on Kickstarter. (https://tompetgames.wordpress.com)
Donning the Purple has already achieved its Kickstarter goal with just under three weeks still to go. It’s set to be a very successful campaign and looks like a fun game. In your own words, how would you describe it to our readers?
Donning the Purple is an asymmetrical king of the hill game with a bit of worker placement. Each player leads a powerful family in ancient Rome, trying to get the most victory points during 4 rounds. If your family member becomes the Emperor and manages to hold the position he can earn lots of points. However, he will also become the target of the other players, as they will try to dethrone him and become the new Emperor themselves.
Your previous game, Kill the King, focused on medieval siege warfare. What influenced you to base Donning the Purple on the Roman Empire, with its more strategic and political theme?
I have always been a history buff, so I enjoy historical themed games. I got the idea of Donning the purple from listening to a podcast series about the history of Rome. It seemed really stressful to be the Emperor of Rome, so I wanted to recreate that feeling in the game. The Romans also did a lot of fighting internally in addition to the external threats and that creates lots of political and backstabbing opportunities. And that is something I enjoy!
Were there any ideas or lessons you took from creating Kill the King and working within Kickstarter that you put into Donning the Purple?
Lots! You can read about the kickstarter experience on this blog post.
Game design-wise, it’s just to keep on playtesting and work hard on the rules. It is really important!
When writing the gameplay rules for Donning the Purple, were you focusing on gamers who prefer concise and “simple” instructions, or those who prefer the rich and complex style. Were there many challenges in playtesting and revisions?
I find writing the rules to be one of the biggest challenges of game design. They are so important to have right and can literally make or break your game. When I write them I try to make them how I would prefer to read them myself. I have also had many other game designers take a look at them and give feedback. That has been very useful and I would recommend doing that if you are making any kind of rules.
The artwork looks great and evokes the theme very well and I love the ‘your picture here’ in the game pledge option. Is this the look and style you always had in mind from the start, or was there a lot of development involved until you had it just right?
Thanks. Yeah, the art has turned out pretty much how I had imagined it. As I’m into history I see a lot of different art styles but I seem to prefer the “classical” style. Joeri Lefevre, my illustrator is the right man for that job. I also enjoy different map designs and that’s why I hired Daniel Hasenbos, who is a cartographer.
So, when you set out to create a game, do you have a specific, or precise, way of working, with set guidelines, or do you take a more open and creative approach?
It’s different each time actually. On Donning the Purple I wrote down ideas and rules for a couple of months before I actually made a first prototype. On Kill the King I made a prototype within hours after the first core idea popped into my head while showering.
Once the first prototype has been made its all playtesting and adjusting until finished product. Well, a game is never really finished, you can change and add stuff forever, you just have to say stop.
What advice would you give someone who was looking to create their own board game from scratch?
Just do it. Make your first prototype and test it. It is probably going to be crap but it’s a start! And do not care about artwork until you know what you want to do with the game. If you are pitching it to a publisher they are not interested in original art, they are probably going to change it anyway.
What’s your view on how Kickstarter has developed the gaming community over the last few years? Are we living in a Golden Age of Tabletop games?
I think this is a great time to live in if you want to make board games. Kickstarter is the main reason for that. It’s really hard to be picked up by a publisher and KS gives you the chance to do it yourself and see if people really dig your project or not. KS has changed some over the last few years, before you could get away with only and idea. Now you need almost a finished game before you can even think about KS. I think that is a good thing.
What are your game-creating plans for the future, after Donning the Purple?
We have 2-3 other game ideas that we want to explore, but I can’t say any more than that 😉
Petter, thank you again for your time and the very best of luck with Donning the Purple!
Thanks for having me!
Check Donning the Purple out on Kickstarter!