In Legends of Andor, 2-4 players each take on the role of one of four powerful heroes as they attempt to save the land of Andor from a horde of evil creatures. The game features beautiful original art, and a unique method of teaching players its rules while they play using a special deck of cards. Michael Menzel, creator of Legends of Andor, answered some questions for FFG about his creative process.
How did you enter the industry, then how did you come to design Legends of Andor?
Before I started to illustrate board games, I worked for a computer game development studio where I met Peter Neugebauer, a member of TM-Spiele. Years later, when the studio went into insolvency, I met Peter again, and he gave me the chance to make some sketches for a card game called Manga Manga.
It was difficult, because I hadn't drawn anything in a Manga-style before, and I had only one weekend (with lots of "how to draw Manga"-books from the library) to make sketches that would hopefully convince the publisher. Fortunately they did!
When I began creating Legends of Andor, it wasn't my intention to become a game designer. My son was nine when we were looking for a fantasy game that wasn’t too complex and without too many rules. We also didn’t want it to be too abstract. When we couldn't find something along those lines, we started to draw our own heroes, items, and game board. The project was just for fun, and was an especially nice way for me to be creative with my son.
Did you create the artwork before the game, or did you design the game before the artwork?
I would say both started at the same time. The whole game is designed from the illustrator’s perspective. For example, look at the Witch’s Brew.
The reason the potion can only be used twice is inherent in the artwork. The potion-token shows the full bottle on the frontside. When you use it once, you turn it onto its backside, where the bottle is shown half-empty. If you use it again, it's empty and the token will be put away. The Witch’s Brew can only be used twice as an effect of its design.
Many things in the game work that way. In my opinion, rules that reflect the design make a game much easier to learn and easier to remember when you haven’t played it for a while.
What other board games, if any, inspired your design of Legends of Andor?
It’s a pity, but I actually don't know very many games. Within the fantasy genre, I like The Lord of the Rings by Reiner Knizia very much.
I have read that some people are comparing Legends of Andor with Defenders of the Realm, Talisman, or Castle Panic. I didn't play them. As I mentioned before, Legends of Andor has been developed primarily myself and my son in mind. Everything was designed according to the story elements. For example: Legends of Andor has cooperative elements because of its theme. The land Andor is in danger and is not far off from being destroyed by bad creatures, so it's only natural that the heroes work together.
What other artwork, if any, influenced that of Legends of Andor?
I'm a great fan of John Howe. His work influences me in general, not only with respect to Legends of Andor. It's the way he handles light and color. He is just amazing.
Legends of Andor is unique in that there is no rulebook. Rather, players learn as they experience the game. Was this your goal from the beginning? How did this approach develop, or why did you choose this unique path?
As an illustrator I had suggested this way of learning rules a few times for other games, but no one was interested or believed that this approach could work. My experiences with computer games made me think it would be possible. When the publisher and I decided that there would be multiple legends (in the prototype there was only one adventure) I thought to make the first legend very easy, like a tutorial in computer games, and increase the level of complexity with each new legend.
Of course, this required a lot of extra effort, because the editor Wolfgang Lüdtke and I did quite a lot of tests on just the rules, rather than the game itself. We watched people play the game, and then wrote down when there was a gap in the rules or something they didn't understand.
I'm very thankful that the publisher agreed to this unusual method. In the end I'm very satisfied with it. The heroes in Legends of Andor begin their adventure immediately after the two pages of Quick-Start rules have been read, and then have to fulfill their first (and of course easy) tasks. When playing a computer game, you wouldn't say the game is too easy after playing the tutorial. Similarly, in Legends of Andor the challenges increase alongside your number of options. This concept really pulls you into the land of Andor.
What is your favorite aspect of Legends of Andor? What do you think players will enjoy most about it?
I like the atmosphere very much. The story unfolds through the Legend cards which tell gripping tale with a huge arc of suspense. The Legend cards are triggered by the Legend marker. The Legend marker moves when all heroes have spent their hours or when a hero has defeated a creature. Very often, when the Legend marker advances because of a successful fight, this triggers another Legend card which brings out more creatures and adds tasks for the heroes. This gives the story’s progression a very dramatic and cinematic feeling. There is no rest for heroes in Legends of Andor.
Is there any other feature of the game or piece of the process that you'd especially like to point out to potential players that we didn't discuss?
A potentially interesting aspect for players is Legend six, which has yet to be written. There are a number of blank cards included in the box that invite creative minds to use the game system (movement of creatures, items, Legend track and Legend marker) to include new ideas and to invent even more epic tales in Legends of Andor.
The Legends Begins Soon
Thanks very much to Michael Menzel for taking the time to answer our questions about his process in crafting the world of Legends of Andor. Legends of Andor comes out early next month, so prepare yourself to fight the monster horde in next week’s review of the combat system!