Backspindle Games – the Northern Ireland-based games design company, the creators of fun and strategy board games such as Guards! Guards!, the pocket strategy game Codinca and the award-winning Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice – have begun shipping their new Discworld-inspired game, Clacks, featuring art by Amber Grundy.
The game, which had its official release at the Irish Discworld Convention in Cork early last month, is a race game in which players compete to be the fastest operator of the “Clacks”, the system of semaphore messaging towers depicted in Pratchett’s novel Going Postal. Using shuttered lamps atop towers, players either race against each other, or combine their efforts to beat the Ankh-Morpork Post Office.
The game includes rules for player-versus-player, co-operative, and a children’s version of the game.
The company have a long association with Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, having released the boardgame Guards! Guards!, featuring 90 illustrated characters drawn by Stephen Player in 2011. In that game, players are members of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, responsible for locating and recovering the “Eight Great Spells” stolen from the Unseen University. The players must infiltrate the Guilds of the city, using their unique abilities to overcome hazards and bedevil their opponents.
Set up by Leonard Boyd and David Brashaw in 2010, Backspindle Games has its focus on delivering high end game products. As the company grows, they’re investing in research and development of further games so they can bring they fans more enjoyment and engagement with their products. This includes publishing their games in other languages – a Polish language version of Clacks is being sold by Phalanx, for example.
Luchaodor! was the winner of the Best Family Game of the Year award at the UK Games Expo in 2014.
The initial idea for a Clacks game followed hot on the heels of the release of Guards! Guards, but talking about the game on the company’s development blog David says they were reluctant to become known as the board game designers that created only Discworld-based games and put the idea on hold and instead developed a different simple strategy game called Codinca. But the idea wouldn’t go away, and after more play tests at conventions in 2012 and securing a licence from Sir Terry Pratchett in 2013, development on Clacks began again.
“Keeping the high standards of Discworld is a challenging proposition, one that we had managed successfully before with Guards! Guards!and were very keen to do with Clacks,” says David. The huge success of Luchabodor! provided additional encouragement and the game was play tested again at the 2014 Discworld Convention in Manchester and it was there that the team first talked to the Yorkshire-based artist Artful Nudger, a.k.a. Amber Grundy, about the possibility of her working as the illustrator.
“We had previously worked with Amber on a charity card game for the Irish Discworld Convention,” says David, “and were very aware of the fabulous artwork she could produce, particularly her dragon illustrations.”
Thanks to financial support from the Creative Industries Innovation Fund, the Northern Ireland Arts Council, and DCAL Backspindle were able to bring Amber on board as their illustrator, invest money in additional playtesting and promotion, and print high-quality prototypes for showing at trade fairs and to others in the industry.
After a lot more work and tests, once both English and Polish contents and artwork had been approved, the game went to print and the pre-order was launched in early May 2015 for shipping around the globe and all the hard work that’s gone into the game is now out there for all to see and enjoy.
All the tests so far – including at the UK Games Expo in Birmingham in June – has seen that gamers love playing Clacks reassured the team they had once again found a good mix of fun, strategy and sneakiness in their game – ” just what we like in most of the games we play!” says David.
• Guards! Guards! also has a dedicated web site at www.guardsguards.com
Both games will be distributed in North America by Ninja Division from January 2016
• Amber Grundy is on DeviantArt here | She has an Artful Nudger Page on Facebook here | Check out her Discworld-inspired werewolf card deck here |