In the mythical land of Aztlán, four tribes strive to survive and prosper under the scrutiny of the gods themselves.
Since War of the Ring is one of my favourite games, it was an honour to do the graphic design for this latest Ares Game, Aztlán, which also hooked me up with illustrator Drew Baker of Ninjato fame again. The game features simple but ingenious rules and is set in the mythological homeland of the ancient Aztec peoples.
In 2012/13 one of my boardgame graphic design projects was Aztlán, by Italian publisher Ares Games (BoardgameGeek link). As I did on Ninjato, I was lucky enough to be asked to work with evocative images by illustrator Drew Baker. It was also a pleasure working closely with Roberto Di Meglio, one of the designers of an all-time favourite game of mine, War of the Ring, and a director of Ares Games.
On this job my responsibilities were to design and create the print ready art for the game box (including the logo of course), the rulebook, the board, and various sets of cards. A lot of the heavy lifting had already been done by the illustrator, and I consciously chose not to detract from the illustrator’s work with too much in the way of fiddly extra graphics, so the challenge was to bring everything together into a unified design package.
The starting point is always the logo. The game is based on the mythological land of the Aztecs, so I went for a monolithic feel, enhanced by some photographic stone textures of Mayan ruins I had taken many years ago during a trip to Mexico. I wanted something bold and readable and reflective of the shapes of Aztec ziggurats, and the typeface Recovery worked well as the basis for the logotype—strong and evocative, yet with a contemporary edge. My only ‘design indulgence’ was the placement of the accent over the A, which cuts into the letter below it.
For the board, I added the logo and scoring track in the same style as the illustration, plus the icons for different terrain types, among other things. The icons were modified from an initial set done by an Ares Games designer, which I added to, changed and recreated and then made them look carved from various materials used by the Aztecs—jade, silver, copper and gold. The card designs featured these icons, more stone textures, and the typeface Paralucent Text, which gave me the distinctive yet very readable look that felt right. Again, I tried to keep these cards as free of extra text and unnecessary clutter as possible and simply feature the stunning art, and I think this design sensibility carries across the entire game nicely.
A big project was the rulebook, which is full of detailed examples of play and took quite a bit of work. This involved elements of Drew’s illustrations, with some textural modifications of my own (note, for example, the different types of ‘splatters’ that help deep-etch the illustrated characters in interesting and dynamic ways). As usual, the design was carefully examined over and over and repeatedly tweaked so the layout read as well as possible.
Aztlán is an elegant and clever design by Leo Colovini (Cartagena, Clans, Inkognito, Atlantis) with some fascinating twists—I particularly like the way the victor in a battle can choose to conquer his enemy or peacefully coexist with him (to receive a ‘prosperity card’ in return). Ares Games have done a wonderful job on the production, particularly with the plastic box insert, the colourful plastic tribe pawns and the ingenious score markers, which stack together into a ziggarat when you go above 100 points.
I really enjoyed working on this one and hope you enjoy playing it!