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Designer Diary: Lost Ruins of Arnak — The World, The Language, The Art

Mín
Czech Republic
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Lost Ruins of Arnak
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Board Game Publisher: Czech Games Edition
My husband Elwen and I work for Czech Games Edition, where we develop and playtest games and organize playtesting events for CGE's upcoming titles. This year is special for us as the game that we have developed is also a game that we designed. It was quite an adventure!

The game design of Lost Ruins of Arnak was an exciting journey, and I think we will write a separate article just about that, but today I want to let you peek behind the curtains of the Arnak world-building process and its art, which I think is quite special.

Board Game: Lost Ruins of Arnak

Elwen and I believe that Eurogames can both be clever and have a strong theme that helps you intuitively grasp the rules. That was one of the goals we tried to achieve with Lost Ruins of Arnak. We wanted to introduce unique gameplay that combines worker-placement and deck-building with some extra twists. We also wanted to let players experience the thrill of leading an adventurous expedition to an uncharted land, and we hoped for the game mechanisms to enhance the thematic feel, not diminish it. A huge part of this feeling is also in the game's visuals — which is why we gave a lot of attention to it.

From gallery of Minmyska
The whole world-building process started with the decision to set the game in an alternative history of the 1930s where a mysterious island was discovered, so we embarked on a quest to create an ancient culture that we could watch rise from nothing, only to let it fall to ruin, then bury it in the jungles of Arnak. World-building was a new experience for us, and we never expected to go into as much depth and detail when we started.

I cannot stress enough how lucky we were to put together a team of amazingly gifted Czech illustrators who worked on this project. They all brought something unique to the mix, and the results far surpassed our wildest expectations.

In the beginning, we had many long calls with our graphics team in which we brainstormed about how the island would look and who the people that once lived in Arnak were: their lifestyle, their beliefs, the stories pictured in the art they left behind.

From gallery of Minmyska

History of Arnak

I began to write a lengthy document called "History of Arnak" while Ondřej Hrdina started to sketch scenes from the past. This was one of my favorite parts of the process — letting the drawings inspire me to write, or to see my thoughts materialize in the illustrations.

We knew that we were not creating art that we would use in the actual game, but I hoped that the attention to detail would make the place look more real, and these concepts would become a cornerstone on which we would continue to build the world of Arnak.

Our team members Jakub Politzer, Filip Murmak, and Ondřej Hrdina were essential when discussing the civilizations that lived in Arnak throughout its history. They provided valuable information about the steps to take while building a world as well as great ideas and valuable feedback.

We kept adding details (and drawings!); we described the island and its geography, climate, fauna, and flora; and we described people who once lived in Arnak, their myths, lifestyles, materials, technologies they used, architecture styles, trading customs... The list goes on.

From gallery of Minmyska

From gallery of Minmyska

The mythology and religion was an important part of the culture, and you can see it reflected in the artwork they left behind: the artifacts you find, the sites you discover, the stories depicted on the walls of the Lost Temple...

From gallery of Minmyska

From gallery of Minmyska

Forgotten Language

Jakub Politzer led one part of the process that I found fascinating: how oral stories turned into myths, myths into drawings, and drawings into symbols that the people of Arnak used to write their sacred texts — symbols which later, in turn, permeated their architecture and artifacts.

From gallery of Minmyska

In the end, this evolved into a hieroglyphic script that you can see scattered on the illustrations throughout the game.

I promised you a peek behind the curtain, so here is a link to a small part of my notes if you would like to dig deeper into the meaning of different drawings in the game: Mín's notes.

After months of work, Arnak, with all the little details, felt alive to us. That was the moment when our actual work on the board game art began. We had to move centuries ahead, bury everything we knew and start looking at the island with the eyes of the explorers arriving for the first time to uncover Arnak's great mysteries...

From gallery of Minmyska

Discovering Arnak

Finally, Ondřej Hrdina started to sketch Arnak and how it looked when the explorers found it. The old temples and cities, all in ruin, overgrown and deserted. The jungle hungrily took over anything that was left, hiding the statues and sacred places.

We decided to capture two main biotopes on the game map: the vast rocky plains where the most efficient means of transport would be an off-road car, and the large river delta surrounded by dense jungle where the ideal way to get around would be a boat — although, of course, you can get anywhere with amphibious aircraft!

From gallery of Minmyska

Guardians

Jiří Kůs and František Sedláček joined our team and got the task of sketching, then finalizing the artwork for the ancient Guardians. These mysterious beasts stalk the abandoned cities, and the explorers who disturb their peace must face their wrath or find a way to pacify their anger. Below you can see the birth of one Guardian, from the first sketches to the final illustration.

From gallery of Minmyska

Ondřej Hrdina also put together some sketches of explorers making their first discoveries...and meeting their first Guardians. One of the sketches eventually evolved into the image you can see on the final box's cover.

From gallery of Minmyska

Cards

Designing the cards was a part of the game design that I, but especially Elwen, really enjoyed. Trying to come up with interesting effects that would also make thematic sense. Admittedly we were tired when we designed the Ostrich and the Sea Turtle. Still, everyone loved those cards, and as a result, we ended up with far more animal companion cards than we originally anticipated.

From gallery of Minmyska

During that time, Milan Vavroň joined the team, and he started to work on the card illustrations. He originally thought that he would have just enough time to illustrate the items, but he ended up illustrating all the artifacts as well. When we saw his first cards, we were blown away! Milan has worked on several CGE projects, but he seemed to really outdo himself in this game.

Designing the artifact effects was also fun! Jakub Politzer made beautiful concept art, and we tried to pick the right effect that would best fit the illustration, or we even created new effects based on the concepts. Milan Vavroň then took the concept art and set the artifacts in atmospheric environments.

From gallery of Minmyska

It was a fascinating journey to slowly watch Arnak materialize from nothing.

As I am writing these lines, we have just received the first samples from the printer. To be fair, we loved the game from the early drafts — we designed it to have fun playing it together — but seeing it with the final art is one of the nicest gifts we have ever received. We would like to thank everyone who contributed to the process, and we hope that you will enjoy our game as much as we do!

Mín & Elwen

Board Game: Lost Ruins of Arnak
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