Interview With the Co-Creator of Lords of War, Martin Vaux


Martin and Nick were nice enough to reach out to us a while back to do an interview for their new game, ‘Lords of War’! Here’s our little convo with them:

GaaC: Please tell us what inspired you to make the game.

MV: Nick and I had been making games as a hobby all our lives – it took us meeting for the first time to inspire us to turn our hobby into a business. Plus, because the company (Black Box Games) is so small, just the two of us plus our friends and family volunteering for conventions and so on, we found it very hard to get the attention of the bigger companies out there. But we received tonnes of positive feedback about our prototypes from retailers and gamers, so we decided to self publish.

When it comes to Lords of War specifically, Nick originally came up with the idea when he was trying to put a tabletop, miniatures war game onto cards. I then came along and, as he describes it, ‘ruined his idea’ by taking his initial mechanics and doing a whole bunch more stuff with them!

GaaC: Is this the first game that you’ve designed?
MV: It’s the first game we’ve published – or should I say they are the first games, with emphasis on the ‘s’. First came Lords of War: Orcs versus Dwarves in December 2012 and then second came Lords of War: Elves versus Lizardmen in July 2013. Now we’re in the middle of a Kickstarter to launch the third game, Lords of War: Templars versus Undead, and we’re over 55% funded as of this morning… it’s a terrifying process!
My first game design was an RPG racing game, based on Rock n’ Roll Racing, the old video game. I must have been about 6 and spent ages drawing all the car designs, missiles, upgrades and so on. It was mechanically sound – it still works today! – but my colouring was all over the place…

GaaC: How did you start getting into games?

MV: My family – and specifically my mother. She’s a big strategic game player and card game player, although she’s into the classics mostly. But she bought me a Sega Master System when I was 4 years old, and that started me off thinking about level design, gameplay mechanics and so on. Between video games, which are a big obsession for me, and card games, which I’ve always played tonnes of, and board games… put it like this – I’ve never not been into games. My friends find it exhausting, but it’s who I am I guess!

GaaC: What are your favorite kinds of games?
MV: That’s tough. I like pure strategy games a lot, like Go or Chess, where it’s all about skill and cunning, or gambling card games like Bridge, Cho Dai Dee (a Chinese card game) or Doppelkopf, (a German card game). When the rules to a game are as simple and stark as possible, I feel like I’m being handed responsibility. That’s exciting. And, you know, I play Agricola and Catan and Arkham Horror and all those hip new games. That people are into board gaming again makes me so happy – I’ve been waiting for our moment in the sun to return! 

Elsewhere though, I’m massively into video games and – my true love! – D&D. I like to DM and have been running the same 5-6 person campaign for 7 years now, using my own systems and world. Designing all that stuff is its own kind of game, and is a great test-bed for Black Box. Plus, when you’re playing D&D, that sense that you can bend rules is really powerful – the limits are your imagination. As you might have picked up though, I’ll play most things! 

GaaC: Do you have any advice you would like to give to anyone who wants to design/publish their own game?

MV: I would say that the amount of work you’re going to have to put in is going to equate to a part time job – and a part time job you won’t be paid for! Nick and I have been working for between one and three hours a day for three years now, seven days a week. Often our hours are more than that, and we haven’t made a penny of profit yet, just to be clear. The company keeps itself ticking over, but imagine things go well for you – everything you bring in will have to be piled into the next print run as you expand. Risk follows risk!

We’re really lucky to be where we are, which is in a pos
ition of a fair amount of critical acclaim, having won a big award (Lords of War won the UK Games Expo Best Strategic Card Game 2013), being available in over 80 UK retailers and having distribution secured in the US, most of Europe and some other countries too. But it’s really, really hard work. We love it, but I’ve shed friends along the way, dealt with heaps of disappointment and have really had to graft. It’s relentless and exhausting and… really rewarding when it goes well! 
So then, if I could offer anyone getting into games design advice then it would be 1) Don’t expect to get rich quick! 2) Don’t think anyone will give you anything for free, because it’s competitive as hell, 3) Make sure you’re not doing it alone. If I didn’t have Nick at my back, the company would have never made it as far as it has! And 4) Just because you love your idea doesn’t mean customers will. Take it out to playtest and listen to people – don’t be defensive. What they tell you is probably true!

GaaC: Will we find you at any conventions in the future?

MV: Oh yes, most certainly! We’re going to be at Chichester Con on the 30th November, then Dragonmeet in London on 7th December celebrating Lords of War’s 1st birthday! Then, next year we’ll be at Salute, the UK Games Expo, Colours, Essen, GenCon… perhaps Origins. We get around!!

GaaC: And finally, what’s your favorite curry and where can we get it?

MV: Are we talking Indonesian, North Indian, South Indian, African, Thai? My wife is British Asian and a fantastic cook, and grew up overseas moving from place to place so I’m deep into this kinda stuff! Let’s go Indian in my wife’s honour, and keep it simple. I’ll go for a Aloo Baingan (a Potato Eggplant Curry). Super easy to make, great hot or cold, and you can eat it by itself, with other stuff or in chapatti, which is my favourite way to go about it. As for where you can get it, it’s so simple you can make it your damn self!

Thank you, Martin and Nick for taking the time to message us and interview with us! For those of you who are interested in their Kickstarter with AMAZING artwork, check it out here!