Shadows Over the Empire from designer Babis Giannios funded on Kickstarter last month, raising nearly 10 times it’s initial funding goal. This interview was completed during the campaign but I accidentally misplaced it – so apologies for the delay!
GDC: Give us an overview of your game and how it’s played.
Babis: Shadows over the Empire is an area-control/ area-influence game set in the world of the Archon universe, by Artipia Games.
Players take on the role of powerful organization leaders who try to gain the control of the city. In each round, players take turns trying on influencing important characters and performing their abilities. Each character however, offers to the player unique abilities that help him further spread his influence and approach the center of the game, where the distinctive personality of the Empire is located. The player that manages to flock the proper individuals under his banner, acts swiftly without provoking or drawing any kind of unwanted attention will be victorious.
GDC: What innovative mechanic or creative idea distinguishes your game from others?
Babis: The main idea of Shadows over the Empire is based on the fact that each personality has its own “ideology”, a combination of traits. Bearing those traits in mind, each organization has different sway on each personality. For example, the Herald, is a lawful citizen, a religious fellow, belonging to the court. Which means that he can be easily employed by the organizations that “abide” with these ideas. However, given the fact that he doesn’t possess any significant riches, we won’t be approached by the money-loving “Order of the Coin”.
With that in mind, players will need to form their strategy in order to be able to influence those characters that suit to their faction’s ideology better, which is represented by the amount of tokens that you put on them. More common traits, more tokens on the characters which offers an easier way to win the game!
GDC: Tell us about the spark or inspiration for this game.
Babis: As a gamer, I’ve always wanted to play a game of shifting loyalties and intense conflicts. To play a game where the agents I employ can turn against me or even double-cross my enemy. I always wanted a “heavy intrigue” experience, the one that you need to plan each step wisely, where every person is a potential enemy.
With those ideas in mind, 8 years ago, I decided to make a game that offers this kind of experience. Where a bodyguard would always guard his queen, but behind the curtains they would both be enemies belonging to different organizations.
GDC: Let’s talk about the design process. Tell us a bit about the iterations the game has gone through and the refinements you’ve made along the way.
Babis: Designing the game was a challenge of its own. The balance between each character’s traits had to be maintained leaving its theme intact. As the game was getting “refined” I was testing its “fun-factor” potential, if it maintained the strategic depth I wished, if it kept the theme as desired.
However, in the last 2 years, the game got enriched with some crucial mechanisms, became more simple maintaining its complexity. More characters were created, the three gaming modes were perfected. All that was kept in mind during the designing process of Shadows over the Empire, was to be a gamer-friendly challenge, with strategy. But all in all, it was about a game that was telling a story of intrigue!
GDC: What has been your biggest challenge in designing this game?
Babis: The biggest challenge in the designing of the game was the balance maintenance. It needed a huge amount of playtesting time, since I couldn’t be satisfied with a “trial-and-error” play through. But in the end I got the desired result.
GDC: Let’s shift gears and talk about you. How did you get into game design?
Babis: I have been designing games since I was a child. I remember that every weekend, my friends would come and play all day long! We were playing, alternate versions of boardgames, games that I’ve created. It was a good start up!
Four years ago, when the first Greek National Board Game Creating Contest had begun, I’d always been tempted to participate. And so, at the last contest, I decided to participate with “Shadows over the Empire”. The game had a good impact, and was loved by many people who played it, granting it the 2nd position. All this spurred me into game designing!
GDC: What is your greatest moment as a game designer?
Babis: My greatest moment as a game designer is, when people would approach me and offer their advice for my game, positive or negative. It certainly proves to me that they actually care for the game. It makes me feel wanting to design more and strive to make even better games.
GDC: Tell us a little bit about your life outside of game design and gaming: family? work? other interests?
Babis: I am 30 years old, live in Thessaloniki, Greece and work as a pharmacist.
I enjoy going to the movies with my friends, and have a great time when we gather up into someone’s home and have fun by playing boardgames and such!
In my free time I like to play pc games (mostly strategic games), going for a walk down the city center or going to the gym.
GDC: Do you have any works-in-progress or game ideas you would like to share?
Babis: I do have lots of game ideas and a handful of games in progress. Some of them are city-building, party games. I even have a worker placement one!
Given the fact that they are works in progress, everything is subject to change!
GDC: What games have you been playing lately? What have you liked, what have you disliked, and why?
Babis: Lately I have been playing Risk:Legacy, A Few Acres of Snow, Rattus and Yedo! I must admit that I adore each one of them and I really enjoy playing them with my friends!
Sadly or not, I haven’t disliked any of them. I am an easy-going person, and rarely would a game offer me something that I wouldn’t like.
GDC: Share your favorite game you haven’t designed and why?
Babis: My favorite game is Rattus. It has simple rules, lots of diversity, variable powers and great replayability. All these qualities define my favorite game and draw my attention.
GDC: A word of advice to your fellow game designers?
Babis: Even though I am an amateur, I would like to say to my fellow game designers, not to be afraid to trust their inspiration and work. Don’t dismiss your idea as tough or not important, but work on it and support it. That definitely works!
GDC: Anyone you’d like to give a shout out to? (playtesters, design mentors, your friendly local game store, etc.)
Babis: First and foremost I would love to thank my friends who supported me in this, the playtesters of the game that made the game as great as it is, “Epitrapaizoume Magazine” a greek e-magazine for boardgames that made a review of the game, and Artipia Games for their trust and hard work and finally to Konstantinos Kokkinis, publisher and friend for his invaluable advice, guidance and support!
GDC: Tell us how (and where) we can find you (social networks, BGG username, website, cons you plan to attend).
Babis: You can find me on BGG by the username “Theoloc” and on Facebook by my name “Babis Giannios”.
I will also attend SPIEL 2013 in Essen, where I will be in Artipia Games’ booth every day!