Monday, 12 November 2007

The Ultimate Interview - Quest for the Dragonlords' Robert Johannessen


If you know me, you probably figured this was coming eventually. Yeah, that's right. It's the Dragonlords, baby. Forget that Starcraft foolishness that Barnes has been hyping as the greatest game of 2007. He'll move on to Laser Squad or some crap like that when it comes out next week. We're talking about the ultimate board game EVER CREATED here. So without further ado, here is the man himself - Robert Johannessen (AKA DLord Slayer).

robartin: I'm speaking with Robert Johannessen, designer of the Quest for the Dragonlords board game. Thanks for speaking with me Robert.

DLord Slayer:
: Thanks for the opportunity - I enjoy it.

robartin: Let's begin with a brief description of your game for those that are not familiar with it.

DLord Slayer:: It is a fantasy game of adventure and world conquest. What I tried to create was a game that fast and exciting to play. I also felt that it is important to have much eye candy, many playing pieces and colourful artwork to create a rich atmosphere when playing.

robartin: You definitely delivered in that department. I remember the first time I ever saw Quest for the Dragonlords on the shelf.

DLord Slayer:: What made you buy it?

robartin: The dark artwork and that crazy foil embossed box really made the game stand out next to the games about selling mushrooms and auctioning powder puffs. Your game has a "renegade" look to it and that's what sold it for me.

DLord Slayer:: I wanted to give the impression that you have found an old relic where you have to blow the dust off to get to the treasure inside. On the flip side though - it may have been a mistake. I received much critism for it from retailers though. They felt that the symbol was an evil pentagram. Some retailers actually put the game on the shelf backwards to hide the evil facade. So we printed the second edition with a more appropriate cover to reflect the contents of the game.

robartin: That's actually an interesting point because although I love the first edition box it does have a sort of malevolent look to it. While the game inside is about as family friendly as Lord of the Rings.

DLord Slayer:: The symbol actually represents the blessed cursed ignored concept found in the questing.

robartin: Let's take a step back for a moment - although a lot of people are quite familiar with your game, you are a bit of a "mystery designer". Tell us a bit about yourself and what led you into game design.

DLord Slayer:: This could take awhile. I have loved playing games my whole life. I used to enjoy the Avalon Hill games - Panzerblitz, Luftwaffe and a Napoleonic campaign game. I also enjoyed Risk and Axis and Allies. These are what inspired me to create Quest for the DragonLords. However, the one point I disliked about these games what the steam roller effect - whoever had the largest army won. I wanted to make a game where this was not the case - a game where there are no walls to hide behind. A bit more about myself... I am actually a tool and die designer. My buddies and I actually made the molds for the plastic figurines. We had never made anything like that and the first edition shows just how inexperienced we were. We tried a new process for the Crystal of Power expansion and the second edition.

robartin: I have to admit, one of the more humorous reviews of your game talks about how the first edition miniatures look like they had been chewed by a dog.

DLord Slayer:: Hehe. It was our first attempt. Some people actually asked me if we did that on purpose to add to the flavour of the game.

robartin: On that subject, your game is self-published yet unlike most self-published games, the material in your game is amazingly deluxe. You included all of these miniatures, full color cards, gold pieces, and even a CD-ROM. How did you manage such an extravagant first production?

DLord Slayer:: Thanks a lot! We really wanted the first edition to be special. It really was a labour of love. The idea of actually making money printing games never really entered the picture until it was time to pay for the production. Hehe.

robartin: American style (what we have lovingly dubbed "Ameritrash") games really hadn't come into their own when your game was initially released. This was during the height of respect for the "Euro" style game. Your game took a lot of heat on certain websites for being too "luck based" or "unbalanced". How do you react to that?

DLord Slayer:: Firstly I want to say - that I am honoured to be apart of the Ameritrash club!!! As far as unbalanced or luck based...quite frankly it pissed me off! But as always we responded to the criticism and made some significant changes for the second edition. I must point out that this game was designed for the whole family. I wanted to make a game where a kid could beat his old man. About this heat...I feel that Dragonlords were attacked by another game company who were in the process of manufacturing another fantasy based game!

robartin: Wow, a board game conspiracy... Do you feel that they were successful in their efforts?

DLord Slayer:: It definitely had an effect. I watched the whole thing happen in slow motion. The reviews that first appeared were all positive. QftD was a whole new idea. Nobody had manufactured a fantasy game with plastic miniatures before us. Then some negativity began to appear from people in southern Europe. Then that was it...we were tagged with imbalance and too much luck factor issues...

robartin: I think what you've really got is a bunch of armchair pundits that get a much bigger ear than they deserve because of the internet. Your game was released at a time when Euro game sensibilities were what all games were judged against. This was a time before Ameritrash games really had the voice and respect on the internet that they enjoy today.

DLord Slayer:: You got that right! It is actually hilarious to meet some of these reviewers at the shows...They walk around like they were gods. They actually look down at small game manufacturers.

robartin: The whole Euro vs. Ameritrash meltdown that occurred on had a lot to do with this gaming cult of personality.

DLord Slayer:: What do you think of the gaming cult?

robartin: While in a sense it's just a game for those of us wasting time on the internet I think it's important to realize that this armchair punditry really does have an effect, especially on smaller publishers.

DLord Slayer:: It really does...It really is a much smaller community than people realize. News travels fast. Once you have been marked, it is difficult to overcome.

robartin: I think your Second Edition game has been generally very well received. I personally feel that the ideas you were pioneering with the First Edition really gelled in the Second Edition. Can you talk a bit about the Norwegian influence that made its way into the second edition?

DLord Slayer:: Thanks Robert! Sure...I am a Viking at heart. Lord of the Rings was based on Norwegian folklore. We wanted to go back to the beginning and look closer at what inspired the greatest book of fiction ever written. We re-created a story that was believed to be true by the Vikings about Ragnarok and the apocalypse. We then added dragons to the mix. When I started to research the Viking folklore, it was very amazing how close our story behind the first edition was to legends found in Viking mythology.

robartin: Recently you announced that you will be producing an online version of Quest for the Dragonlords. Can you tell us about that?

DLord Slayer:: Sure. Let me first say that it will not be a 30 million dollar production. What we want to create is place where fans of the board game can meet and play the game. The video game format will allow us to pursue concepts that you simply can not do with a board game such as random events. Imagine a ship on it way to conquer another player that gets attacked by a sea serpent. Now that would be cool. Since we do not have a 30 million dollar budget, we hope to make a simple game that is cool to play.

robartin: Well your fans on certainly looking forward to it. We'll be looking for your online game. Any other products in the pipeline you can tell us about?

DLord Slayer:: We are working on few other projects, such as another expansion game for Quest for the DragonLords called the King's Wrath. We are also looking at manufacturing plastic units for the advanced game system. I also want to release the pewter miniatures as well. These were not well received but the DragonLord miniatures made in pewter are very cool. But we have to see how well the on-line game is received.

robartin: Great, well it's been great speaking with you Robert. Thanks for taking the time.

DLord Slayer:: Thanks for asking. It was my pleasure.

23 comments:

Michael Barnes said...

OK, first things first- at least I like more than one game, Robert. Oh, wait, it's two...you like MARE NOSTRUM as well. At any rate, I think I speak for everybody here that it's great to see you back online after your exile.

Second- if there's anything that gaming needs it's more evil pentagrams. I'd say somewhere in the neighborhood of 60% more and we'll be fine. There's plenty of crap out there to satisfy the church game groups and the families who won't let their kids watch DUMBO because it might scare them. Remember back in the 80s when there was plenty of devil worship, witchcraft, and diablism in gaming? Let's get back to that and away from all these "family values" games. Unless your family is awesome, like Mr. Johannessen's likely is if they're gathering around to whoop on pop in a game of DRAGONLORDS.

Third- This is a great interview that totally puts to shame anything that the celebrity Board game review crew have ever done. It's interesting, Mr. Johannessen has some good insights and is very frank and honest, and Robert actually engages him in active conversation.

Fourth- contrary to popular belief, I do like DRAGONLORDS. The second edition is a huge improvement materially and systemically. I'm not really sure why it's kind of been ignored in the wake of the AT revolution but it definitely deserves a place in the canon. The advanced game is a little nuts, it makes it very wargamey.

mtlawson said...

Frankly, I'm amazed that Robert actually posted something.

Oh, and nice interview, Robert.

--Mike L.

Mr Skeletor said...

Wait, Robmartin writes for this blog!?!
I recently brought this game, but haven't sat down and nutted out the rules yet.

robartin said...

At any rate, I think I speak for everybody here that it's great to see you back online after your exile.

I finally escaped from Colditz prison. Damn wirecutters took forever to find. Luckily the guards fell asleep right in the middle of a game of Portabello Market.

Mr Skeletor said...

QftD was a whole new idea. Nobody had manufactured a fantasy game with plastic miniatures before us.

Ummm, what???

Apart from that oddity I like this guys style. Sounds like a real AT fan.

Ken B. said...

First, I think I speak for everyone when I say, "Who the hell is Robert Martin?"

Secondly, I mean, seriously...a great interview with the designer of a cult AT classic? You pushed down an article about Gay He-Man for THIS?!?!


Lastly, you should have mentioned to him that in the delusional fantasy world I've created for myself, Ronnie James Dio is a HUGE fan of Quest for the Dragonlords.

DLord Slayer said...

You mean Ronnie may NOT be a fan of QftD? Get me his address and I'll send him a copy. I have been a fan of his since "Black and Blue" at the Roxy theatre in Toronto.
Speaking of family values...nothing like a good game over a bloody steak, scotch and a good cigar!

notbillysparkles said...

"Speaking of family values...nothing like a good game over a bloody steak, scotch and a good cigar!"


I think I just experienced my first man crush.

SIGNS OF THE COMING APOCALPSE:

#655: Robert Marting once again posts on F:AT (check)

Michael Barnes said...

And he's a freaking viking! IS ROBERT JOHANNESSEN AT PERSONIFIED????

NeonPeon said...

Barnes, do you remember when 4th edition (I think) Magic came out...They removed the fiery pentagram from the Unholy Strength artwork, yet the dude in the pic remained the same...so it looked like he was getting head or something.

In the mid 80s, my older brother had this RPG called Arcanum. The rulebook: black background, big red pentagram. (Maybe it was a pentacle - I didn't understand the difference at the time.) What a bold cover - it was awesome - but we had to hide it from my mother cause she's very religious...hehe.

Thanks for the interview, Rob. I'd only heard the game's name in passing, now it sounds interesting...Or at the very least, it sounds like it was made by a designer whose head is on straight.

the*mad*gamer said...

You got that right! It is actually hilarious to meet some of these reviewers at the shows...They walk around like they were gods. They actually look down at small game manufacturers.

I love this line in the interview!
I can see the "Schlossenator" walking around like this but in the end what did his diety status net him?

As Greg said himself on a podcast, "He gets a lot of men in their 50's running up to him and NO 23 year old girls!"

HA!

Welcome back Robert! Great Interview!

Michael Barnes said...

One of my favorite gaming memories was playing a D&D campaign over at this kid's house whose parents where super fanatical christians...he warned us ahead of time that we could play, but we couldn't have any reference to magic that his parents might overhear. So I go to cast a fireball "I'll throw a torch"...it got pretty ridiculous, and then his parents saw the cover of the DM guide (1st edition) and it was all over.

I do remember when they took the pentagram off Unholy Strength...

All this religion/"religious correctness" in games, I swear it's just like christian rock...

notbillysparkles said...

SIGNS OF THE COMING APOCALYPSE:

#333: Christian Rock

Mr Skeletor said...

Dio sucks.
I just noticed - is that pic the first edition? Are they the famous gold painted rocks?

Michael Barnes said...

Maybe we ought to make "Rainbow in the Dark" the official AT anthem. Even though Dio does, in fact, suck.

Robert loves those painted gold rocks. I even "revealed" the secret that they're just simply rocks from Mr. Johannessen's yard spray painted gold and he still believes that they are magical Elven gold from the land of QFTDL.

Now, if Robert wanted to really represent QFTDL, he would have posted pictures of his HAND PAINTED Dragonlords miniatures. One of them has RED EYES to indicate its wickedness. It's sick.

robartin said...

I accept the challenge Barnes. I will also post up pics of my amazing monochrome paint job I did on the rest of the minis. Robert Johannessen will probably have a Viking heart attack when he sees what I did to those minis...

Mr Skeletor said...

Did the rocks come in that nifty drawstring bag?
Man, I feel ripped off. The 2nd ed cover is no where near as cool, and despite Barne's mocking Gold painted rocks are way cooler than boring cardboard coins.

Michael Barnes said...

Robert Johannessen will probably have a Viking heart attack when he sees what I did to those minis...

A loud pop, then a musky smell...don't kill him Robert...HE MAY NOT BE ABLE TO WITHSTAND THE AWESOMENESS.

I actually do agree, Frank, that the gold rocks are better than cardboard coins. Hell, I'm all for games containing more stone components.

Michael Barnes said...

OH MAN, I forgot about the startling paint job Robert did on the rest of his QFTDL miniatures...the red guys? COMPLETELY RED. Blue? COMPLETELY BLUE. It's almost hip, you might see these things at an Urban Outfitters or something.

Robert Johannessen said...

My set of pewter minis are spray painted. But hey, I made a 4' x 6' gameboard with mountains and forests. Now that's hardcore!
Ooops the truth is out about the rocks.
ken b. - your post on the geek was hilarious!

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