Getting to know Board & Tale

by Nate T on February 23, 2016

We had the pleasure of meeting, sitting down and chatting with the fine folks over at Board & Tale, a fun group of Canadian game designers and makers of Stratos. They even let us ask them a few questions. Here are the ones they answered.

[WoodForSheep]: What tabletop games (besides Stratos) have you played recently (say in the last 6 months) and liked?

[Board&Tale]: A couple games that we've played recently and simply can't put down have been Splendor and Star Realms. Also Suburbia! It has a great structure and the subtle humour is icing on the cake.

[WoodForSheep]: What are some of the top tabletop games on your (all time) list?

[Board&Tale]: That's a tough one, but we'd have to say that Risk, Settlers and Twilight Struggle (not to be confused with Twilight Imperium!) are all near the top of our list. Also Puerto Rico and Mansions of Madness – the former is just brilliant, and the latter makes the rich Lovecraft theme so much more concrete by taking place in small-scale locations you can build and customize.

[WoodForSheep]: Why the name "Board & Tale"?

[Board&Tale]: We arrived at 'Board & Tale' because we felt it evoked feelings of play, wonder and story-telling and echoed what we wanted to give our players: games worth telling stories about, with memorable elements and really cool interactions between them to keep everyone on their toes!

[WoodForSheep]: What's the inspiration for Stratos?

[Board&Tale]: While 'Stratos' was not modeled after any particular game, it was inspired by our favourite elements from a wide swath of games, especially lesser-known ones – even in formats outside of tabletop games. While some inspiration was derived from strategy RPGs, you don’t need to be an RPG nut to have a great time playing Stratos, but if you are, there are certain things you’ll appreciate!

[WoodForSheep]: What's the twitter pitch for the game (ie done in 150 characters or less, or around that, we won't be that strict)?

[Board&Tale]: Beautiful RPG-themed euro game adventure for 2-5 players, with non-euro alternate scenarios that are even better than the base game (and more to come!).

[WoodForSheep]: From first concept of the game to its current form, how long was that journey?

[Board&Tale]: All told, 10 years, with various twists and turns along the way. After sketching out the core ideas we got to prototyping out of Lego and cardboard to start. Once we got the game flow to a good state, we started with a single prototype made out of painted wood that seemed more like a fancy chess set than a board game, and iterated through a couple rounds of wooden versions before moving to produce it for the mass market. Quite a long journey with many late nights in recent years!

[WoodForSheep]: Where/when did that first light bulb come up (ie is there some bronzed napkin somewhere with the birth of Stratos on it)?

[Board&Tale]: When? 2006 Where? In our parents’ garages! Where else?! The napkin exists!

[WoodForSheep]: Anything interesting (mechanic, character, etc) that unfortunately got left on the cutting room floor along the way (well, one that you can share with us)?

[Board&Tale]: Without spilling too many beans, we used to have a 'healer' unit. After much play-testing, we decided the game was simply better without it since healing slowed the pace too much.

[WoodForSheep]: After I play my first game of Stratos, what should that experience be? After my 5th game?

[Board&Tale]: The first game gives many ‘aha’ moments – simple enough to get started, with realizations a bit later of just how much flexibility and options you can have even from a fairly simple set of characters and actions. What we often hear at the end of someone’s first game is “I was so close to winning, next turn I was gonna …” followed by the exact plan they’d been eager to try. Which, of course, they try to do in the next game.

By the 5th game there is a definite meta game that emerges, as well as even more creative play in using characters together and coming up with interactions you simply wouldn’t think of on your first play-though. We don’t want to spoil anything here, but this is what we wanted all along – having real staying power and depth, even as we pursued simplicity and refinement through the iterations over the years. With spells and treasures that can actually change the game board itself during the match, even re-playing the same map is usually quite a bit different from the last time!

[WoodForSheep]: If resources (and say even licensing) were not an issue, what would be the dream Board & Tale project?

[Board&Tale]: Without naming names, there is a certain franchise we would love to bring to tabletop form. Otherwise, though, our dream project is already here!

[WoodForSheep]: If you can share, what's next for Stratos (ie expansion)? Board & Tale (ie sneak peak of a new game in development)?

[Board&Tale]: Actually, this is one of the first questions asked after people play for the first time – although usually more of a statement along the lines of “what’s the first expansion going to be? I can see so many directions you could take this” – and they’re right. We have a lot of ideas and feedback collected, and are working on our expansion plans as we speak. No details yet – stay tuned!


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