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Interview With An Artist: Cursed Court's Lee Moyer

Ozma of Oz by John Neill
Distinctive art and design are a major factor in a person's choice to pick a game off the shelf. Artist Lee Moyer created the compelling look of Atlas board game Cursed Court, so I talked with him about his choices and inspirations.

There's a lot of Art Nouveau influence on your Cursed Court art. Why did you choose that style?

"Art Nouveau combines richness and theatricality in a clear recognizable style. I grew up admiring John R. Neill's illustrations of the Royal Court of Oz, but it's the poster work of Alphonse Mucha that best defines the style."

Mucha poster
for Lorenzaccio
The costumes don't conform to any one time period, but they each suit the character very well. How did you decide to focus on the look rather than historical accuracy of some kind?
Character image: The Merchant

"I think we ascribe a conformity to European courts and cultures that is drastically oversimplified. My goal with this court was to create characters that were archetypal, not specifically historical. This allowed me greater latitude than 'simple' Elizabethan or Venetian fashion. In this case, the Duke's costume is based on a real courtier (though radically different in color); the Jester is wearing motley that was sewn for me many years ago by the brilliant Yvonne Parham (though much toned-down); the Merchant's clothes come straight from a Mucha magazine cover. The rest are pretty much made up from whole cloth."

You feature a diverse group of races, ages, genders, and ability among your characters. Was that important to you?

"Absolutely. Games have a huge and diverse audience, and representation is crucial. And while this group of characters may seem atypical to some, history offers far more unusual examples, like Poland's female King Jadwiga and Pocahontas in London."
Period depiction of Pocahontas at the English Court

Do you have a favorite character? Do you bet on them more often when you play?

"So many of the models I chose for this game are friends. So asking me about favorites is asking whether I prefer Della over Baize, Kira over John, or Jay over Saamanta. I just love seeing them when I play, and imagining how they'll strike people I'll never meet."

Interview With A Designer: Cursed Court's Andrew Hanson

When we playtested Cursed Court at our Atlas staff retreat, I was struck by how different the game was from anything I'd previously played. So I went to Andrew Hanson, designer of Atlas' newest board game, for some insights on his creation.

Most people have played bidding and betting games of some kind, like poker or casino games. What changes did it require to turn that into a board game?

"My first attempts at making the game were similar to a normal game of poker. The big inflection point was when I added the game board and the 3x3 grid of characters. Almost all of the other changes came as a result of that shift. I described some of those challenges in another article."

Why did you go with the theme of palace intrigue?

"The palace intrigue really centers around the characters. When I first created the characters, I wanted them to feel familiar to players of traditional card games. The intrigue part of the theme is meant to go with the secrets and stakes atmosphere I wanted the game to have."

You made the connection with Atlas at a Protospiel event. What role did spaces like Protospiel play in Cursed Court's development?

"Protospiel events were a huge part of Cursed Court's development. The feedback you get from other designers is invaluable. In addition to Protospiel events, there is a local group of designers near me that meets regularly to playtest each other's games. If you're at all interested in board game design, I suggest you search Meetup.com or ask at your local game store and see if there are any design groups in your area."

Are any strategies unique to this game that differ from other betting/bidding games?

"The most successful strategies in Cursed Court require you to forget about other bidding and betting games. You only have a limited number of chips, and the board ends up having a small aspect of territory control. Players seem to enjoy that shift in thinking as they learn to do better at the game."

What exactly is the curse of Cursed Court?

"The original title of the game was Unlucky Kingdom. That was back when there were only 13 cards in the deck, and the game board wasn't even part of the game yet. Once the game got closer to its final form, it felt like it needed a new name. The alliteration of Cursed Court rolls off the tongue nicely.

"The other main reason for the curse was the different bidding spots on the board. Each of the sets of three or four cards has a name. For example, the Assassin, Sorceress, and Duke is called the Revolt. In fact, all the names involving the Assassin seem to end poorly for at least one of the other characters. Maybe we should have called the game Assassin's Court."

Round-Robin Rivalry in a Cursed Court Tournament for Retailers

Atlas Games is bringing a new way to experience Cursed Court to the GAMA Trade Show next Cursed Court tournament.
week. Next Monday night, March 12, groups of courtiers vying for influence face off against one another in the first-ever

Game store owners and employees can register. After two round-robin games, the six players with the highest point totals battle it out in a final game. The store whose player wins the final match wins all the Cursed Court copies they can sell in a year! Runners-up packages include Cursed Court, The White Box, and other prizes. And every player wins a Cursed Court promo kit, featuring limited-edition game pieces and other exclusive treats.

Cursed Court promo kits are also available to retailers through distribution, so ask your Friendly Local Game Store to host a Cursed Court tournament you can play in!

Trading and Dealing at Industry Events

You may be surprised to learn that conventions for gamers, like Origins and Gen Con, aren't the only conventions that companies like Atlas Games attend. Trade shows and open houses are also essential to the way game companies make contact with the stores that bring our games closer to you.

The largest hobby game trade show each year is run by the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) GAMA is the professional association for over 900 game publishers. Their goal is to grow the hobby so more people encounter and enjoy hobby games. GAMA hosts the GAMA Trade Show (GTS) so game designers, game manufacturers, game publishers, and game retailers can network and share the best practices for each side of this relationship. Although GTS is for game industry professionals, streaming channels like BoardGameGeek's BGG News and Dice Tower report live from the show to bring you the latest news in games.

Distributors also host open houses for their retail customers throughout the year, which publishers also attend. Distributors are the companies that collect products from many publishers so they can send a single shipment with many companies' games to a retailer, without the retailer having to order from each company individually. Open houses are spread out, geographically, since there are distributors all across the country and around the world.

Though this kind of get-together is invisible to the gamers who come out for player conventions, trade shows are important for getting games by the publishers you like or haven't learned about yet onto the shelves of your Friendly Local Game Store.

Cogs and Commissars: A Word from the Artist

Cogs and Commissars is a clever card game of glorious robot revolution that we are currently funding through Kickstarter. One of the most notable features of the game is its art, drawing on Soviet-era propaganda images and early-20th century science fiction pop art. We asked the artist, Zoran Cardula, how he arrived at this delightful art style.

What was your initial reason for going with this look?
"For many years I have been researching the Soviet style and I believe it has a powerful visual impression depicting the retro-future."

How did you approach the card art?
"Each card is a separate propaganda poster showing the retro futuristic style. The chosen colors give even more power to the game. The characters were a challenge for me, they are worked on both Photoshop and Illustrator, and each part of them is separately created in the style of ’30s, simple but powerful."

What's your favorite image?
"I cannot choose my favorite card but in my opinion the cover is the most impressive as it depicts the game concept. Moreover the leaders are great part of the game (I grew up in a period when the Soviet Union was really powerful). All in all I think the game is a really great concept."

The Kickstarter has unlocked its first stretch goal thanks in no small part to Zoran's dedication and fidelity to a fun, consistent look for Cogs and Commissars. We hope you'll become a part of this revolution with us!