Wow, this pandemic has really changed the way we work and play!
About 2 years ago, Andrew, Adrian and I started chatting through an idea for a board game. We wrote down some rudimentary rules, scratched out some cards and came up with a name for the game: at first we called it Gold Rush: Egoli.
Then, Covid struck. We were forced into a lockdown and relegated to discussing the evolving board game idea over WhatsApp, video calls and the like. We discussed and discussed, often talking over each other with ever-increasing enthusiasm. At first, we tried to play the first few rounds of the game on mocked-up cardboard cutouts with a go-pro and mobile phone camera streaming to the other collaborators. This didn’t work too well.
After a lot of searching, and even contemplating building a dedicated website where we could prototype the game as well as the game mechanics, we settled on creating the game inside Tabletop Simulator. By this time, Juan had joined the team, and we advanced rapidly with the game design.
For the next few months, we spent hours and hours play testing, refining, designing and redesigning the game – all on Tabletop Simulator. Some playthroughs lasted several hours, as we meticulously analysed every aspect of the game.
The more we played, the more the game evolved. Over countless iterations, refining the mechanic and balancing the play became an obsession. We will expand more on our process in the future. During this time, we came up with a myriad of names, but eventually we settled on the name that was right in front of us all along: The Randlords. As the team became more familiar with the nuances of the mechanic, and were finally happy with the balance, we started focussing on the artwork. We searched popular web forums, design websites and freelancer databases for artists, but eventually decided to give the talented Randall a go. As Randall evolved the design – with a very limited brief and almost no real guidance except “make it steampunk-like”, we eventually found a direction we all loved. We offered Randall a share in the business, and so our team grew to its current contingent of 5.
Over the next few months, as we refined the artwork, solved some of the issues raised during playtesting and still managed our day jobs, the artwork finally felt ready, and we decided it’s time to print our first real prototype. Unfortunately, being in South Africa means we don’t have access to specialist board game manufacturers locally. As we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on this for a playable prototype, we decided to make use of a general printing services company.
We were hoping to have our first in-person playthrough over the December festive period, but then the Omicron variant made its appearance! So, back into our hermit shells we crawled, from where we fired up Steam and settled for a few more virtual playthroughs. Our print-test prototype got delayed, and we were resigned to not being able to have an in-person playthrough in 2021.
And then, on Thursday the 13th of January 2022, our stars aligned.
We had finally received our much awaited print-test prototype. It looked all shiny and new, and for the very first time, it felt like an actual, real board game.
We hastily arranged to meet, spent a few minutes critiquing the printed results, and then launched into the most epic of all our board game battles. It felt like the first time we had all played the game, yet we had played it virtually, hundreds of times.
We still need to tweak and polish the game a bit further but for us, at this moment, the game feels like it belongs on game shelves around the world. We can’t wait for fellow board game enthusiasts to enjoy it as much as we have.
And best of all, even though it took 2 years to finally play in-person, within the first minute of play, we forgot all about Covid, and Omicron, and the pandemic.