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."

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