I normally work on comics and individual commissions, but it has always been a dream of mine to create a fantasy adventure game. I was initially inspired by Magic the Gathering in middle school, and later Warcraft, Legend of Zelda, and Dungeons and Dragons in Highschool. I’m an avid “game watcher” and enjoyed the artwork and lore of games growing up even though I wasn’t into actually playing them was a gamer.
As I created more comics and wrote more stories I developed a love of world-building. In high school I designed a huge army of fantasy characters when I just started drawing with Prismacolor colored pencils. I kept the character concepts for years, and about three years ago I found these original drawings hiding out in the back of an old portfolio book. I was re-inspired seeing my fantastical cast and started redrawing each one; updating them in my more current and defined style.
After finishing my lowbrow comic misadventure, Seed of Sam and in between Survivor Seasons where I draw episodic comics, the “Reign” game slowly became bigger and bigger until it was officially my primary pandemic Hobby project. The landscape developed as I kept drawing, and a game started to take shape. As I continued to create characters and imagine their world, six groups or “Nations” came to the forefront: Humans, Elves, Boreans, Talos, Druids, and Draconis.
Two years and 120 Characters later I finally have the prototype created! I also designed countless other art assets to fill in the gaps and flesh out the magical realm, including strategy cards, card backdrops, artifacts, state tokens, resources, villages, castles, landmarks, land hexes, and the rulebook itself. Wherever I could fit more magical things, I did.
The “Reign” project also found a better name: Heart of Korrem, which is a play on the unique Attraction mechanic that operates between characters, as well as a powerful artifact that can help your Nation win the game.
Growing up I thought strategy games missed a really important component; humanity’s ability to empath. In a fantasy war game (like Warcraft 2, for example) you command units to attack the enemy, and your knights, catapults, and mages do as they are told. What would happen if their humanity stepped in, and the knights actually befriended the orcs and refused to follow your commands? What if the catapults had no humans to operate them? ..And what if the mage fell in love with a forest nymph and left battle entirely?
In Heart of Korrem, armies of creatures battle but they are subject to “human whims” and personal complications. Soldiers may befriend the enemy, and bring them into your army. A soldier under your command may find an aggressor attractive and they both may choose love over war. A charismatic leader may convert others to join them. You get the idea… At any point the Nation of Love will claim new recruits as it sees fit, and steer the course of battle.
You can view the version 1 rulebook (with plenty of helpful diagrams!) below to get an idea of the assets, art, and gameplay:
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I am continuing to build on Heart of Korrem, since there are still so many creatures and lands to explore. Everything I made so far is pushing me to keep creating, and stories prompt deeper stories to support them.
I enjoy the creative process, which is why Heart of Korrem has been such a fun project for me. I have the intentions to make an expansion that builds on the characters and landscape assets I have already created; right now I’m making more NPC Creatures but I’d like to add Caverns, Dungeons, and Legendary characters. I also would like to further develop the magical “Dominions” of the SkyRealm (Angels) and FireRealm (Demons).
Bringing in others is something I struggle with. I have found that when it comes to passion projects, working alone is best because I have such a drive to work on it and I innately have envisioned it in my head. Unlike paid commissions or multi-stakeholder projects, all answers comes from within me and are pretty immediate.
The benefit of a team is apparent, especially if I want to produce this game for others to play. I am currently grappling with the effort, time, and possibly money it will take to actually produce a prototype or work with others online to playtest the game. Any good tabletop game needs to be play tested (the more the better!) and that is something I simply cannot do alone. I could finish working on the game, acknowledge the successfulness of my work, and move on to the next project.
I am torn, because I believe the joy of creating it in the first place may be quadrupled if I work through the not-so-fun part of play testing it, editing it, and potentially publishing it so others may play it. It reminds me in a way of social media; is it a tool or entertainment? Some have a twitter account to promote their company or service, some have it to read tweets (funny, informative, etc.) and some do a little of both.
Did I create Heart of Korrem to satisfy a personal creative itch, or to make a profitable entity I can sell? I think the answer is a little of both.
In the past, I have found it to be incredibly tough to share a passion project without paying others to contribute or without having to compromise on the final outcome of the work. This is one reason I have been making this as a tabletop game instead of a digital game; I alone can make all the physical assets with my skillset as a comic artist and graphic designer. If I could code it into existence I would (I have tried really hard to learn, and it is simply not my forte). Still, as an IRL Cardgame it still will need human play testers willing to devote significant time to playing a game to death ( a tall ask I have found so far).
If you have any ideas, comments, or want to help in some way, please leave a comment or send a message through my contact form. For now, I will keep creating and thinking of what my next steps will be.