This is the 3rd and final part of our 3 part series on our interview with designer Marc Gouyon-Rety and his efforts on Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain, which is Volume VIII of the COIN Series of games by GMT Games. If you missed the 1st part, here is a link to the post: Exclusive 1st Interview with Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain Designer Marc Gouyon-Rety – Part I and the 2nd part here: Exclusive 1st Interview with Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain Designer Marc Gouyon-Rety – Deuxième Partie (Part II) With that back to the interview:
Grant: How did you get into board game design? Is this a hobby for you?
Marc: I’ve been playing wargames for 35 years, and like many players, have tinkered with house rules quite often. My first attempt at proper design came during my engineering school years (early 1990’s) when I created a multiplayer game on the wars of Alexander’s Successors, the Diadochs, loosely derived from Diplomacy (but with much more depth). This game got played only once by email over a few months… I then did some research and preliminary design on a full-fledged Diadochs simulation with two friends of mine in France, but this never became even a prototype, as ‘real’ life (work, family, expatriation) took precedence…
In 2012, as I was living in California, I got frustrated with the slow progress of the Ancient World series and the (relative) lack of interest (for me) of the topics covered and, on a whim, experimented with building Ancient World maps for the Diadochs, something which led me after months of effort to mapping the whole area from Greece to Iran, and the Danube to Egypt (one of these maps has been later transmitted to Richard Berg and Allan Ray for their ongoing development of the Thunderbolt volume. I did experiment with some specific rules for an Ancient World Diadochs module but again failed to make it into a full-fledged prototype.
However, in 2013, after a gaming session of Twilight Struggle with a good friend, I reflected how fun that game was despite a theme that leaves me mostly cold (no pun intended), and how cool it would be if someone would come up with a comparable game on a period I actually cared for, such as the Ancients. Somehow, that got my brain going and the next morning I was busy couching on paper the bases for a game that became Hubris… The epochal change though was that, for some reason, probably to a large extent that I have been so familiar with the material for decades, I quickly prepared a map, event cards, counters and player aids, and within about 2 months I had a playable prototype! After a couple solo runs, the game was play tested for the first time with two friends (one of them the original TS player at the beginning of the story), and, though we made painfully slow progress, their feedback was so exciting that the train was off and running…
“However, in 2013, after a gaming session of Twilight Struggle with a good friend, I reflected how fun that game was despite a theme that leaves me mostly cold (no pun intended), and how cool it would be if someone would come up with a comparable game on a period I actually cared for, such as the Ancients.”
Now, this is most definitely only a hobby for me! Maybe someday I will get lucky enough to score big enough on the professional front to become able to retire early and devote myself fully to game design, but until that (very hypothetical) time, I can only snatch as much free time as possible (which means I don’t get to play as much released games as I used to, unfortunately) to work on my designs, and consider myself already incredibly blessed to have a design of mine lined up for publication by no less than GMT Games… Truly a dream come true that I would never have thought possible just 4 years ago, and for which I am deeply grateful to Volko Ruhnke for both offering us this great COIN engine, for believing and supporting Pendragon from the very beginning, and now for being a tremendous developer for the game!
Grant: What other projects are you working on?
Marc: At the moment, for all the reasons outlined above, my available design time is essentially exclusively focused on Pendragon; my first priority must be to get it right, and get it ready for publication as soon as reasonably possible. Still, whenever I get a little bit of available time, such as recently once we had the game ready and released to play testers, I’ve been able to revisit Hubris, incorporating some ideas I accumulated over time, and some lessons learned from working on Pendragon, to streamline the game. I’ve also been playing with a few design concepts, but none has reached something even close to the prototype stage. First priority is to get Pendragon ready, second will be to find a publisher for Hubris and finish it; only then may I switch to something new.
Grant: Can you share anything else specific about the game Hubris: Twilight of the Hellenistic World?
Marc: Generally speaking, I am a sucker for games on virgin or little-covered subjects, and the primary reason I designed both Hubris and Pendragon was the absence of proper games on these subjects. In other words, I design the games I wish I could play.
Hubris: Twilight of the Hellenistic World is a 3-player game (2-players possible) simulating another key ‘hinge period’ of history, the fall of the great Hellenistic kingdoms, heirs to Alexander’s empire, and the rise of Rome in the Eastern Mediterranean. I have chosen to put the players in the shoes of the kings of the three major kingdoms (Seleucids, Ptolemies and Antigonid Macedon), while making Rome a non-player power governed by the system (with player input), in order to capture how they missed what, in retrospect appears painfully obvious to us, i.e. how the rising ascendancy of Rome made their traditional struggle for hegemony essentially irrelevant. The game is more of a traditional Card Driven Game (CDG), incorporating elements from such games as Mark Herman’s and Richard Berg’ Successors and Jason Matthews’s and Ananda Gupta’s Twilight Struggle to simulate the mix of political and military conflicts of the period. The game has already seen extensive development and play testing, and garnered some interest from GMT Games, though not a P500 slot yet.
Regarding future game subjects, in no particular order, I am very keen to offer my take on the Diadochs period someday, as this period presents a truly incredible mix of first class talents who conquered the Persian empire together under Alexander and then turned against each other with very little ideological interference, while in the meantime cementing the spread of Greco-Macedonian culture and its eventual merging with oriental civilizations, giving birth to the Roman world and, hence, our own… I also wish to address later periods of Dark Ages Britain, i.e. the struggle for supremacy among Celtic and Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, and maybe also the Viking period. And I’m thinking of possible future COIN applications covering the colonial struggles in Northeastern America between the French, the English, the American colonists and the Iroquois, and maybe the Hundred Years War in France between the French and English kings, the dukes of Burgundy and the Armagnacs…
“Generally speaking, I am a sucker for games on virgin or little-covered subjects…I design the games I wish I could play.”
Grant: Sounds like we could have lots of other great games on our hands in the near future. Did I mention that I am a sucker for Viking themed games?!? What is your favorite game to play? I saw your pictures of your recent move on Twitter and noticed you have a lot of great games!
Marc: That is a tough question… I’m not sure I really have one favorite game, but rather a number I really appreciate and always play with pleasure. Now, leaving aside my own designs and those games I have had the pleasure and honor of being involved with (Falling Sky and Liberty or Death), if I must pick one and only one, that probably would have to be Successors, which I played very extensively mainly in its Avalon Hill edition with my friends in Paris in the 1990’s (even developing some house rules for the battles…). Though I think the game comes short on a number of historical aspects, for instance regarding Greek cities politics and new cities foundations, it still captures the chaos and ‘sandbox’ aspects of the period very effectively and is tremendous fun…
And so we come to the end of our interview with Marc. I want to personally thank him for his time, his accessibility, his grace and his utter thoroughness in answering my questions. I look forward to playing Pendragon and Hubris in the near future and definitely feel that Marc is a rising star on the game design front and that we will hear much from him over the next decade. If you have any questions for Marc, please leave them in the comments.