Brant Guillory, 31 October 2021
Brand-new company Sound of Drums are launching their Kickstarter campaign today, and we’ve got the first chat with the team! Based in Switzerland, with part of the team in Germany, these fine folks are joining the growing number of new publishers from Continental Europe.
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When looking for a name for the company we were looking for something that all the game may have in common. We wanted to draw the bow from the ancients to modern times. Finally we decided to use the drummer boy. For centuries soldiers all over the world followed the sound of drums to march into battle or to follow their leaders into countries far away from home.
More seriously, what was it about conflicts in the Ancient Mediterranean that made you guys want to focus your first games in that region?
For us the Ancient Mediterranean as for many many fellow gamers out there (hopefully) has an indescribable attraction. It is a period that is still mysterious, calls for adventures and building an empire out of nothing. We like to joke: While the Germanic peoples were still sitting on trees (I may say that: I am Germanic myself) people in Athenes were discussing democracy and philosophy 600 years before Jesus Christ. When you meet Greek folks today you can feel their pride for their past. This and the epochal Pax Romana and many other things like the Phoenician Seafarers that founded Carthage which again itself became a very powerful empire is simply fascinating. There is a reason why again and again publishers try to hit the nerve of this theme with a game. We are, like many, big fans of the Settlers family. But we miss some depth, some interactivity, a huge map, fleets and armies, the possibility to build an empire but also the thrill of the danger to lose it. And as there was no game out there we always dreamed to play we decided to publish it on our own.
How do the games break down between them? Which games are covering which topics, and how (if at all) to they fit together?
As mentioned above, I was looking since I can think for THE game about the Ancient Mediterranean Seas. The games I have in my collection are mostly designed for 2-5 or sometimes for 2-6 or even 2-7 or 8 players, games about the Peloponnesian War which are logically a two player game. The big games are only real fun and give you the big picture if you play them in full cast. There are then scenarios for 2 or 3 players that are playing on a small part of a great looking map.
This is in my opinion is not satisfying. It feels like have a Ferrari but you are allowed to use only second gear. So we took a decision: Each game is either clearly a 2-player game, a 3-player game or a game for 5 players. No wrong compromise here. Each game shares the same basic mechanics. For the 2-player game we chose the setting of the Peloponnesian War. Two city states, in relatively close distance one from another. But a whole little world to be explored and conquered.
For DIES IRAE we liked the idea to design a 3 player game. On the one hand there are not many games on the market that are for 3 players only and on the other hand we loved the constellation of 2 agains 1 or 1 against 1 or everyone against everyone. This game has really a very very special feeling, the players have the permanent pressure not wanting to fight against the other two.
And of course the 5-player game: A huuuuge map, five empires to be built: Everyone wants to play the Romans (after a couple of games you will be surprised you might win most easily.. it’s not the Romans, I tell you.) Far coasts to explore, mighty empires to be built, and so on. We wanted to have this in the game. And much more. We could not resist to publish three expansions that come with the games. There are many more ideas in our minds for this games series.
And one important thing you need to know: The game series has the setting of the Ancient Mediterranean Seas but these games are not a simulation. It is impossible to simulate within three hours on a table the extremely complex history of that era. The better the simulation, the worse the game. If you want to simulate history you better read a book. But what the games do: Give players a feel of the era and a feeling of the challenges the Greek City States faced, or the Egyptian Pharaos. Allow players to build an empire out of nothing, build colonies, face the danger of a costly war, build a trading fleet and develop your culture. And I am sure this the games do well.
Talk to us about the artwork and how it all fit together? What did Marc bring to the table in helping to set the graphical look and feel of the games?
Marc is extremely talented … ups, no, I don’t say that. This sounds like an empty phrase. Of course he is talented. He is a true artist, he is crazy.
Marc is awesome! I’ve remember hanging out with him at GenCon way back in 2006 and he was a very nice guy as well as a talented artist.
He had a very difficult task: We said we have one or two ideas what we would like to see realized. We have an idea for a cover. The games of our company shall have the look of a collection, so, if you start now to develop a CD, please be aware that this must also work for games we intend to publish in 5 five years (even if the theme is World War II).
For all the rest: You are in charge! You decide! Congratulations! This means, he had complete “graphic artist freedom”.
Our idea was that a graphic artist doesn’t have often the chance to draw a huge map of the ancient Mediterranean Sea. We asked him to draw a map as if it was the first and only chance to get this task and if he is happy at the end with his work, we are happy. Just let it be the most beautiful map you ever do. The freedom of decision can also be a burden. But as he is experienced he had no issue with this feeling of only having one bullet in the barrel (at least I guess so, LOL, he never seemed to be stressed or freaking out no matter how difficult and crazy we are to work with…). If a publisher has the chance to work with Marc, the publisher is getting more than just a graphic artist. He is totally involved.
What is something that went through a significant change during playtesting and development with the History of the Ancient Seas rules, and why did you change it?
The biggest challenge was the development of the action cycle. We wanted the game to be highly interactive, no downtime, each action by each player had to have a consequence for all of the players. The way the action cycle works made clear that this will only work with 2, 3 or 5 players. Not with 4 and not with 6.
The other big issue was that we wanted to have many different merchandise types. In the beginning the only difference between them was, that some merchandise gave more income than others. So it was very unimportant what kind of merchandise you control and this was kind of boring. We thought about how can we turn the effect of owning a merchandise type more important? Now, with the game in our hands we have a great system in which each and every merchandise type serves two reasons: Raise your income but also being necessary to be able to develop certain capacities. For example: If you want to have banking in your empire you need to control silver. And of course silver is a rare merchandise type.
That sounds pretty interesting. We’re looking forward to seeing the game hit the table soon. And best of luck with the Kickstarter!
Don’t forget, there are bonus questions from all of our interviews that we set aside for our Patreon supporters – just one of the perks of joining our Patreon! This time around, we also include some more exclusive sneak peeks at Marc’s fantastic map artwork.
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