The Ultimate Interview - Quest for the Dragonlords’ Robert Johannessen

The Ultimate Interview - Quest for the Dragonlords’ Robert Johannessen Hot

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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.

This is a copy of an article originally published on the old F:AT blog. Read original comments

The Ultimate Interview - Quest for the Dragonlords’ Robert Johannessen There Will Be Games
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