From Paper to Table – A Bit About the History of The Red Cathedralgino.villablanca
At the end of October, Devir will unveil The Red Cathedral, one of the most anticipated games according to the boardgamegeek “hot” list, at the Essen Spiel game fair (online, of course). In the previous articles we explained how to play and showed some of the components. Today we’d like to share some information about the development process, all the way from the designers’ initial ideas to you having the game on your table.
Israel Cendeiro and Sheila Santos, also known as “Llama Dice”, are a Spanish couple who began designing games in 2014. They developed and shared various ideas over the next couple of years, and in 2016 won a design contest with a prototype of Aloha Pioha. It was later published and that same year they also published Mondrian and Ray Master. Now dedicated to game design, they published Ramen in 2018 and Smoothies in 2019 and in 2019 they won the award of “Best Spanish Designers” at the DAU Festival in Barcelona. During the 2018 Cordoba design fair in Spain, they spoke with Devir’s Publisher, Xavi Garriga, about The Red Cathedral and from there the wheels were in motion. It’s also rumored that this is not the only game that will be born from this collaboration…
The Llama Dice group tells us that they began work on The Red Cathedral in 2015, after Isra became obsessed with the idea of a dice rondel. It was originally a 2-player game called Bernini contra Borromini (Bernini Against Borromini), medieval architects historically at odds, whose competition supposedly spawned the baroque style in Rome. For display at the Feria de Protos y Tipos in Zaragoza it was modified to include two additional players and the name was changed to Marble Empire. The company that originally planned to publish it suggested a theme change to the Red Cathedral, adding diverse colors, onion domes and other aspects that seemed perfect.
The original version was heavier and needed simplification, particularly by making it so that only one main action was possible per turn. And in 2019 they reached an agreement to publish the game with Devir and added a solo-player mode which allowed them to incorporate some ideas that had been waiting in the wings.
Now that the game is finished, Isra and Shei believe that one of the things that makes The Red Cathedral special from a gameplay perspective is the combination of the rondel with dice management, something they haven’t seen before in any other game. They recognize that there are similar mechanics in other games, such as in Teotihuacan or Oracle of Delphi, but in those cases the mechanisms are more complicated and managed differently. The designers tell us that every time they see a new game featuring a rondel, they fear that someone will have gotten the jump on their idea, but in the end they managed to introduce something novel.
Xavi Garriga shared that not only does he remember playing the prototype of Marble Empire, he had been following Isra and Shei for a while, looking for a project they could do with Devir. When he came across The Red Cathedral, he immediately brought it to the office for a deeper look and decided to publish it.
On a personal level, Xavi likes the Russian theme, but he also believes that an attractive feature of the game is that it has a lot of reimagined mechanics that have been integrated to function perfectly together. He also is betting that the exceptional design effort that went into this game will make it stand out.
David Esbrí, Editor at Devir, believes that Isra and Shei are the strongest designers in Spain, with a prolific portfolio composed of different types of games. What caught his attention with The Red Cathedral was the sensation it creates via reasonable difficulty: actions that are easily understood, that allow one to quickly internalize the rules, and concentrate on strategy. “It’s the type of game that we like to publish at Devir because it’s not complicated but is strategically deep.”
In the next article we’ll go deeper into the history behind this incredible game, with more commentary from David as well as conversations with Pedro Soto, Chema Román and Jordi Roca, illustrators and graphic designers of The Red Cathedral.