From Paper to Table: Why does The Red Cathedral look so good?gino.villablanca
In the previous article we told you a bit about the development process, from the initial ideas of the designers of The Red Cathedral, to what now is the finished game, to the point where it’s on your table and in play. Today we continue the conversation with David Esbrí, Editor from Devir, and we’ll learn more about the art, illustration and design elements incorporated into the game.
David told us that when Devir picked up The Red Cathedral, Pedro Soto and Chema Román were already working on the art, and many of their ideas shaped the final product. Pedro and Chema added that they’d worked together in the past and their styles complement each other. For Chema this was the first time working on a board game but his profile as a historian helped a lot. And Pedro added that they decided to use a pan-Slavic style, typical of the Restoration era of early 20th century Russia, adapting it to the period during which the cathedral was constructed in the 16th century.
When asked about their sources for inspiration, Pedro and Chema told us of wandering Russian painters who made historical paintings with front-facing illustrations, clean lines and flat but expressive colors. In particular they focused on the art of Ivan Bilibin, whose layered designs appeared as if they were part of a theatrical staging and without forced perspectives.
Combining their styles was a bit of a challenge though. Pedro wanted to achieve an effect where some more realistic designs meshed well with the models and blueprints of the cathedral. Although he was originally planning to participate in the graphic design, previous commitments presented conflicts and that’s when Jordi Roca entered the scene.
Because of his excellent work on the graphics of Paris: La Cité de la Lumière David summoned Jordi to give The Red Cathedral a graphic language and design the components. Jordi played the prototype several times to understand the mechanics and later work on the iconography. His goal was to make the actions easily understandable, provide a well-organized player’s tableau, and make everything language independent. (For those that didn’t know, The Red Cathedral comes with rulebooks in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Catalan and the cards do not contain text.) The rulebook layout also took similar concepts into account, giving the game a unique style.
Jordi recognized that designing the components to fit into a smaller box was actually a work of engineering but in the end they surprised everyone by making it work. And about those design elements, David recalled looking for objects that not only could contribute to the unique visual appeal of the game, but also were functional during gameplay. For example, originally the gems were going to be flat on one side, which made them difficult to pick up from the table.
Regarding the box, David bet on consistency with other Devir games (the box of The Red Cathedral is the same size as Silk, Karekare, and Ratzzia), and that at the same time it conveyed a big game, with high-quality components, in a portable size. He also had to consider that shipping half-empty boxes to North and Latin America is expensive, and this size would allow cost optimization as well as lower the final price to consumers.
When asked about the differentiating factors of The Red Cathedral from other games, the opinions were diverse. Pedro Soto thought that the mechanics of the dice rondel is very innovative. Jordi Roca mentioned that not only is the market phase original, the simple rules but deep strategy are very important. And David liked the overall gameplay and feels that it’s a game that appeals to a broad range of players and that everyone can enjoy it.
In summary, The Red Cathedral offers a fresh experience: simple mechanics, deep strategy, exceptional arte, high-quality components, and all in a surprisingly compact box.
Have you tried it yet? If not, what are you waiting for?