MUD – a new pill in the box?

Pillbox Games – the creators of the beautiful Side Effects are launching something new. Last we talked with Ben Bronstein about his art – which you can read here. So I welcome Pillbox back on GreenHookGames to tell us more.

Start by telling us how Side Effects was received. 

I couldn’t be happier with the reception we got, especially considering it was our first game. Every person who worked on the project gave something special to it. Have to give credit to Panda GM for how fantastic the final product came (especially the pre-press team).

Work in progress

Good – now let’s hear about the new game ‘MUD’. Why did you make it and what is it about?

I think it was inevitable that given our interest at Pillbox Games in making real world systems into games that we’d eventually make our own spin out of the ultimate real life game: Politics. Especially given the current environment there has been constant fodder for game scandal concepts. That being said, we made a concerted effort to draw bipartisanly from a wide range American history and not to focus too much on current events.

MUD by Pillbox
Work in progress
Sketch
Work in progress
Work in progress

That sounds wonderful and explosive 🙂 Looking at the images we see that you are somewhat staying true to your elaborate and perfected graphical style. It looks great. What considerations have you done about which art style to go with?

I think if you enjoy tabletop gaming to any extent, you have to enjoy systems, and figuring out a system to convey the information we had in mind was incredibly fun. First we wanted to reference actual American documents, so government emblems, campaign posters, vintage ballots, political cartoons and currency were the first thing we collected and referenced.

Then we had to figure out a system of conveying numerous parallel suits to our cards without confusing the player too much. (A little confusion can be a good thing, as it allows a player to sneak by or deceive their opponents during gameplay). Rather than having multiple suits in the style of a poker deck, we realized that utilizing the entirety of the card was the best solution. We basically have 3 suits; political leaning, economic class, and region. After a lot of tweaking, we realized the background pattern was best for political leaning, the border was excellent at conveying economic class, and then a central piece of art could clearly show a regional map. After that, we just had to figure out unique and differentiable color schemes for each category. 

Work in progress

Is there any place to go if we want to stay updated on the release and your works?

  • Instagram @Pillboxgames
  • The PillBlog on our website (pillboxgames.com)

I’d say Pillbox’s official instagram is the main place you should stay updated for all our games. Once we launch, I’m sure our Kickstarter page will also be just as prominent. My personal social media postings have basically dried up since the pandemic. 

Kickstarter launches on October 6! And you can still buy copies of Side Effects at pillboxgames.com.

THANK you! We will keep an eye out. And thank you for sharing a print and play here.

Print & Play: 


On the cover with James Churchill

You know those box covers that just seem to not only capture the atmosphere of some distant place – but also are soo well balanced it is the perfect board game cover? That is how I feel about James Churchill’s illustrations. I hope you can be inspired by this interview about his art. Welcome back.

Tell us a little about your artistic background?

I studied Graphic Design and Fine Art for 6 years at University from 1985 to 1991, which included life drawing, illustration, painting, photography and sculpture. For the past 30 years, I’ve been working in Theme Parks, Feature Films and other areas. I’ve only been working in the game industry for the past five years. 

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Illustrations on the border to board games – by Evgeny Viitman

Is a digital board game a board game? Where do you look for artists for your game? I find inspiration on behance.net among other places – and that was where I found Evgeny. I immediately fell in love with his strong expressive comic characters – and several of his works looked like digital games playing with analog references. I hope that he will be working on a board game project soon – his art rocks!

Hi Evgeny – where are you from?

Heyo! I was born in sunny Alma-ata in Kazakhstan which is right on the border with China, surrounded by beautiful Tyan Shan mountains. When I was a teenager my family moved to Siberia (still a big mystery for me, why), at the age of 23 I moved to Europe, to Prague, where I spent good 6 years of my life, then moved to Berlin, now me and my family are based in Barcelona.

Tell us a little about your artistic background and how did you end up working with art for games?

I am coming from a family of theatrical artists (my parents are scenographers and character designers working for theatre and also teaching painting, drawing and sculpting at the Art Academy, so I was exposed to art since I was born. Nevertheless, because of my teenage rebel feelings I wanted to become everything else but an artist, I chose to study physics, but life has directed me to follow the path of my parents and with time I switched to art anyway. My first experience as a game artist was in 2006 when I was working for Unigine.corp as a 3D artist/animator. Then it all started – I tasted the gamedev and dived under it’s muddy waters.

Have you ever worked on any board games or card games? 

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Vibrating lines from Cam Kendell

Illustration by Cam Kendell from the game 5-Minute Mystery

Some of my favorite game art is polished yet expressive and distinct at the same time. When I came across the board game 5-Minute Mystery I knew that we needed to feature the vibrating lines from the illustrator here on GHG. The name is Cam Kendell and he is from Utah, USA.

Tell us a little about your artistic background? 

I grew up drawing countless Ninja turtles, He-Man characters, and an endless supply of Jim Davis-esque animal characters. Comic Strips were my main form of artistic outlet. I drew a lot up until High School when I slowed down to focus on Music and learn to play the accordion.

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Zoom in on Sophie Wainwright

Just before Essen, I was contacted by a Núria Casellas, from Cucafera Games. She was curious if I would take a look at their newest game ‘Zoom In Barcelona’. If you attended SPIEL19 you might have seen the game. I am always happy when designers or artists contact me about their project so I Zoomed in on the game. It is with great joy that I share this interview with the English artist – based in Barcelona: Sophie Wainwright.

Tell us a little about your artistic background? 

Without sounding like too much of a cliche, I’ve always been interested in art. I was drawing at a young age and it’s something my parents have always encouraged. 

As a teenager, I used to play online games and would sell illustrations of players’ avatars to make gold etc.

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Obscurio artist Xavier Collette says – ‘be yourself’

Recently there’s been a hashtag on twitter I love to follow. #10days10cards – It is a great source for beautiful card arts.

Post by @notplayingtowin on Instagram

SO when the Instagrammer @Notplayingtowin chooses to post this image I can only agree – it is wonderful. And the artist that stands behind some of the iconic visuals from the beloved game Mysterium is also behind the new equally beautiful Obscurio -published by Libellud. That is the Belgian Xavier Collette now living in France. I bet that I am not the only one that is awestruck by the incredible skills showing in his art. I’ve asked Xavier about his art beginning like always with his background.

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The ultimate challenge – almost.

In this post I will talk about the 18 card game contest that Button Shy Games has initiated this month. And there is still time for you to enter with a winning design – but I will assume this will be a contest with a humongous list of designers participating – and I will elaborate why.

To spark creativity in group you can make a lot of different sprint type exercises. Do an association play where you must generate new thought from one keyword. Or make reverse brainstorm where everybody should try to think about the worst possible solution – sometimes the right solution stands clear after this exercise. It is all really about setting boundaries – narrowing your mind’s playground. If you really want to generate interesting new ideas you should set a clear goal and a very confined play area. Our brains are wired to find the keys we need (In Brain Rules, Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist, states that our brain is bad at multitasking -and prefers to solve one single task at the time).

Button Shy Games as many of you already know is a small publisher of pocket-sized games – and more particular often 18 cards. They have put out an open contest to create a game of well… 18 cards – but with the small twist that it has to be 18 IDENTICAL cards. And this is the escape room for designers. Your first thought might be impossible (mine was) – then you might think ‘uninteresting and boring output’ and in just a few moments your mind is starting to work the problem and think ‘hey it might work’.

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Mad hat designs from Paolo Voto

It is not an easy task to create art that draws you closer with a vivid and magical atmosphere that matches the one in the fairy tales of Lewis Carrol. If you attend Gen Con you can experience just that in the game “Hats” designed by Gabriele Bubola and released by Thundergryph Games. Let me present you the incredibly talented artist Paolo Voto from Bologna in Italy.

Tell us a little about your artistic background? 

My journey in the illustration world began as a child. I cannot tell exactly when because, from what I remember, I demonstrated a great interest for drawing straightaway. For this reason, I have studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts for a couple of years. Indeed due to personal circumstances, I did not graduate.

The first professional tool which gave me the chance to earn some money is the airbrush pen. The same I have used to customize several choppers motorcycles. After that, I worked for a confectionary company where I used to decorate chocolate eggs and similar products for many years.

Meanwhile, I came closer to digital, I made my first illustrations with Photoshop getting more and more skilled.

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Mindblowing ruler system in the new Hej Stylus V3.4

Hej Stylus continues to impress with new features. We all know (I guess you do) that Photoshop introduced an integrated pen smoother and that Clip Studio has a Stabiliser as-well. BUT for some reason, I continue to go back to Hej Stylus for more control. I think the new bend and circular rules look rad! Check the video or click the button to get your own version (for Mac) of Hej Stylus v3.4

Art with a vibe from Shirin Rafie

I regularly visit ‘art & graphic design for tabletop gaming‘ on facebook – mostly to learn from the different feedback on art. I cam across the works of Shirin Rafie from Singapore on the game Jumpship. The kickstarter for Jumpship has gone under my radar and was apparently cancelled. It seems on the backers that they look forward to a re-launch. The game is available as Print and Play here. But the state of the game does not change the fact that the artwork on it is really incredible and personal. Enjoy the interview.

Tell us a little about your artistic background and how you got into making art for board games like Jumpship and March of Ants?

I got most of my art background from studying Animation in University, where back then I was very interested in developing my skills under pre-production and concept development.

I got into board games through a contact who eventually became a good friend of mine where he engaged me to work on art for various educational board games for schools. Having more familiarity with job scopes like these, I took my chances in finding more work over at Board Game Geek in order to find more opportunities!

Sometimes the style you think you have is great until you fit them all together and realize that they don’t work well together with other nitty gritty things, like the font or the graphic design.

Shirin Rafie
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