Martin Wallace is an award winning board game designer with over seventy titles to his name. He is known for games such as Brass, A Few Acres of Snow, and Age of Steam. Although he spent most of his life in the UK, he is now a permanent resident of Australia and lives near Brisbane.
The following interview is about his board game The Witches: A Discworld Game.
Jason (GameGobble): I know when designing a game you like to start with theme, and The Witches board game is based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. Can you share some of the research you did to come up with your design ideas?
Martin: After making the decision to design what became Discworld Ankh-Morpork I read all of the Discworld books related to the city. Once that design was out of the way I made a start on all of the witch related books, including the Tiffany Aching series. It was the Tiffany series that gave me the best insight into the world of the witches, as the stories are all about becoming a witch, which is the most interesting part of the process.
Jason: Like all games based on themes with a loyal following, there’s bound to be extra scrutiny. What can Discworld fans expect when playing The Witches?
Martin: The Witches has no clever mechanisms or deep game play but does convey many of the themes of the books, including the importance of tea. You play the game to enjoy the ride, not to prove you are the better player. Bad things can happen to you and you just have to accept that.
Jason: In another interview, you mentioned that The Witches is aimed more for families than gamers. What were some of specific design decisions you made to achieve that?
Martin: As much as possible you keep things as simple as possible. Having said that, The Witches has more rules than I would prefer, but it was also important for me to convey the theme as faithfully as I could. It helps if the actions you perform make sense, that they are intuitive. If players can relate to these actions easily then it becomes easier to remember the rules.
Jason: During play, there are a couple of scenarios where the game immediately ends and all players automatically lose. Talk about why you added this element and how you wanted to affect gameplay.
Martin: Writers like to create tension. That is why we want to read to the end of the book, to see if the heroes win the day. Tension is also important in a game, for similar reasons. Without the chance of everyone losing then there is no tension. Now, in a book the writer has complete control of events, so all we are doing is finding out how the bad guys eventually lose. A game cannot be so scripted, so if there is a chance that the forces of evil can win then in some games that is going to happen. You would not want to play a game on Lord of the Rings where it was impossible for Sauron to win.
Jason: What is one thing you want people to know about The Witches?
Martin: It’s fun, just accept it for what it is.