Valour: The Backstory

With all the posting I’ve done about Protospiel, board game testing, and marketing, it dawned on me last week that I have yet to actually put out a canonical post on the game I’m designing and developing. Whoops! Then I started writing it, and it got a little long, (which is why this post ended up coming out late this week!) so here’s the first in a three-part series about Valour, the board game I’m working to get out the door this year.

I

Back in October of 2009[1], I was hacking on a few board game concepts that ended up being untenable (Perhaps one day I’ll dust them off one day and see if they’re salvageable. Perhaps.), when the first disc of Terry Jones’ Barbarians arrived from the Netflix queue. Being a longtime nerd for the era, I couldn’t get it into the DVD player fast enough. The first episode was “The Primitive Celts”, and I was floored. True to the aphorism, history is definitely written by the winners, and the Roman Empire has successfully branded all their enemies club-swinging, loincloth-wearing simpletons. In hindsight, it’s fairly logical that most of the cultures in a time period are technologically and culturally similar, but we almost never think about that.

For the full experience, I highly recommend watching the episode, but I was floored by the level of sophistication of the Celtic Gauls, in not only their infrastructure, but their progressive laws and cultural values.

One specific graphic really stuck out, after Jones interviewed a man who had discovered the remains of a wooden Celtic road in Ireland. It was wide and strong enough to ferry a cart across one of Ireland’s bogs, and it predated many of the transportation advances we typically ascribe to the Romans.

Not ALL roads lead to Rome…

Not ALL roads lead to Rome…

For the rest of the episode, my brain was in full-on board game mode. I drank in the concepts Jones explored of Celtic and Gallic culture, and as the credits began rolling, the concept (concept only, obviously, not execution) sprang fully-formed from my head like a cardboard Athena. Gauls, deep in an un-winnable struggle for survival against a totally incompatible culture, building out a relatively advanced federation of loosely-aligned tribal kingdoms, remembered only in the words of the man responsible for their demise.

Thank goodness I had the Catch Sheet system in place by then, or the whole thing could have been lost to history!

Part II: Where I talk about what I actually wrote in my initial notes, how I came to choose this over all the other concepts in my catch sheet, and what it looked like the first time it hit the table.

[1] Thank you, Netflix, for including dates in my rental history 😉