Samurai Cover

Samurai is one title whose cover I've been meaning to get to. It's a favorite game of mine as it plays quick and is really a beautiful game. The design is a very simple, elegant thing. For such a tight design, I have created a simple, elegant box.

Samurai is really an abstract that has been created on a grid map of Japan. The lovely glossy black bits are like no other and really capture asian black lacquered arts. This thematic detail has a huge emotive impact in the game and is the inspiration for the box. Here, we have a smooth, black surface which cooly features the bits. "Japanesey" type is the play here. Mostly unreadable, its message can be understood over time. Like the FedEx mark whose embedded arrow quietly sits between the E and x, the fun of the mark comes in time to the observant... and that is a delight. More than anything, though, it really feels Japanese. Typeset type also supports the name and is composed to support the asian theme.

The cover's austerity is contrasted by the sides, which are filled with life. Bright colors and wild shapes formed by the tightly cropped paintings swirl about in the cramped space of the narrow box. I further worked to scuff and rough up the paintings in order to meld them together into a unit. The tension formed between these two opposites – the cover and the sides – is fantastic. It is a powerful force that invites the viewer to pick it up and turn it around to observe the effects. The simple cover has the design qualities of both Japanese design and the core values of the game – which is of simplicy and abstracted detail, while the sides add spirit and life to the program.

I very much enjoy the modernity of this box and the manner in which traditional imagery works its way into the design.

– Mike

©2007 Mike Doyle

Sneak Peek: Ystari’s Premium Limited Edition of Caylus

Note, if you have been here before take another look at things. The board background has undergone some very slight tweaks that make a larger impact on gameplay. Worth taking a look at and the bottom addendum section. :)

Yes, it’s true. Ystari – the company who brought us Caylus – is now developing their own premium limited edition version which, as I understand it, is to be released for Essen 07. I’m very proud to have been part of this endevour and think the whole production is going to be a sight to see. Most of the game art is complete and now aspects of production are being worked out. Below, I’ll describe some of the art that I have worked on. In addition, you can count on a product very worthy of the title “premium.” I won’t go into any details of the production and components as that is work in progress, but some fascinating and exciting upgrades are being looked into – the likes of which I've never seen in a game.

Cover art

Full box top art including cover and four sides. The seamless transitioning of the landscape encourages the viewer to pick up and turn around to reveal more. This wrapped look offers a more premium look as well. Additionally, the intricate, complicated composition is reflective of the intricate gameplay

Box Top Detail

For the cover, I have evolved the direction that I first had displayed last July. You can see the two side by side below. I’ve gone into much more detail with this final version which makes for a far more interesting cover. The overall look is based on medieval drawings of a castle and town. I’ve wrapped the entire cover with this image for a more premium look. To set this off, we have a thin ribbon with the game information.

The final cover is more intricate and interesting. It invites the viewer to look and pour over the details.

The board is structured so all the actions follow the track back to the castle for castle building. I like little information design points like the turn track located next to the stable (for easier connection to the stable's actions). Note, baliff and provost icons will be added at a later time.

Board Details

For the board, we have a look that marries well with the cover. The actions follow the road from the castle back to it where castle building follows. I enjoy little details like the turn order track being located next to the stables – which controls that order. For the buildings, I chose to use medieval illustrations. These seem to add a little life to the program. Coupled with these illustrations are blocks of text as if these have been grabbed from an illuminated manuscript. Period ornamentation finishes the board off.

The information design is primarily the same. I increased the size of the cubes in the upper corner to help readability.

Posted with the gracious permission of the publisher. I hope you enjoy.

– Mike

----- Addendum ––––

One image that I should have posted is the board with pieces on it. You can compare to an identical setup with the original board. Some things to note here are as follows:

– Contrast on the newer board seems lower than that of the old one.
– Less saturated board on the new one allows pieces to more effectively pop off. In the original board and tiles bright colors can tend to swallow up the bright bits a little.
– Allowing road to follow the board sides sets up alignment of bits which aid in scanning. This is because the eye runs up and down faster than at angles where the bits don't line up.
– The VP track is less contrasty and easier to track pieces. The addition of numbers helps support scoring a little bit.
– VPs awarded to building sections are not covered up by the pieces.
– Castle favor awards are now grouped with their counterpart building sections.

– VPs on tiles are a little easier to read than the original.
– Resource costs on tiles (upper left) are easier to read the original.
– In addition to being playful, the new tile images seem more unique and individual. The images also have a period look to them.

All this is not to say the original was bad at all but to say that there has been some thought toward usability in the new edition. While I don't claim it is necessarily easier to play, it seems to work just fine for me. Information seems to be where it want to be: the turn order next to the stables, the castle building favor reward chart below the each castle building section, the favor track following down from the previously mentioned reward chart. Some things to think about at any rate.

In addition, the background is undergoing some slight darkening and repositioning to set it back a bit. This was something I went back and forth on in the design process and previously pushed it too far into the foreground. So, this has been updated accordingly in the post. :)

©2007 Mike Doyle

Tower of Babel Cover (reimagined)

There are many styles that can be applied to give an sophisticated, adult appeal. One purpose of this blog is to introduce styles that can be appropriated for Euros. Here we have another look that is a bit dreamy and abstract.

Tower of Babel is one of these games that really has nothing to do with anything. Fun to play, but there is no sense of atmosphere. So, for a game about nothing, we have here a cover about... not that much – just building. I could have drawn this with many of the landmark wonders. But in the end, it seemed more powerful to have this single iconic tower. Given the theme doesn't matter or even provide atmosphere, going iconic/abstract and supporting the title seems to me a fine approach. I kept the colors fun – somewhat muted but certainly colorful.

I'm very fond of this style of drawing. It is cartoon like, but adult cartoon. The style is not dissimilar from what Alessandra Cimatoribus has done in games like San Marco, Big Top and Torres. The look has an attitude and for that I'm pleased.

– Mike

©2007 Mike Doyle