Through the Designer’s Notes, Part 3

To be honest, when I started this blog, I had no idea it will be this long. It was meant mostly as some intro text to the designer notes for expansion cards we are adding to the game web. But when I was digging through that old history, nostalgia surfaced, and the text is now living its own life. Let’s see where it takes us today 🙂

Through the Graenaland to America

Since the previous millennium, Czech players are visiting Essen “Spiel” show – to hunt for new games, to compete in Europe Masters tournament, and generally to celebrate their love for games. But in 2006, it was different. There was a Czech booth in Essen! And one of the games on that booth was the first print of Through the Ages. Just a few hundreds of copies, not that nice art or production value, but done with love and hope.

Well, it was a small booth, in a small hall, and those usually do not attract much attention. But Czech Board Games was an exception, that small booth was crowded since day 1. Because of Through the Ages? Nope. Because of another game called Graenaland.

It was another of my games, and we managed to finish it soon enough to send a few copies to reviewers. And lucky for us, Rick Thornquist, sure one of the most influential reviewers of that time, really liked it. He liked it so much he put it as #1 on his list of expected Essen games. That of course dragged attention to that little booth of unknown Czechs. Curious people came to see Graenaland – and they discovered also Through the Ages. Thank you, good old Greanaland 🙂

One of these people was Jeff DeBoer of Funagain games. He bought a copy of Through the Ages, and they played it back at the hotel that night. And the next day, he was back, with a publishing proposal. Whoa, my first business meeting with an American publisher!

When working in videogames, I had few formal meetings with suits from game acquisition departments, so I was curious how it is in the board game industry. And I must say I loved it from the first moment. Jeff and I were just sitting on stairs in the Essen hallway, next to an overflowing trash bin, friendly talking about my game. And this meeting then led to the US edition of Through the Ages.

Back to the Czechs (and Poles, and a Frenchman)

While that US edition was being prepared, in the Czech Republic, the first amateur print run of Though the Ages started something. Something that was going to hugely impact my life and lives of people around me, and indirectly also many players around the world. Czech Games Edition was born. During the hundreds of hours of work on the first edition of TtA, my friends and I realized this is something we want to do for a living. And thus, since 2007, CGE is visiting Essen show with new games every year (damn you, stupid virus, for breaking that nice tradition).

Well, this blog is about Through the Ages, and it was produced in China and published by a US company at that time. Yet, something important for the future of the game was just happening here in the heart of Europe.

Some smaller publishers were interested to have their own language versions, and since these were usually just small print runs, I agreed with the US publisher they will be handled by Czech Games Edition. One of our first partners was a Polish publisher, and they wanted to add something extra to the game, something that would convince Polish players they want their edition (such a heavy game was not for everyone, and many of those who might enjoy it already had English version).

So, they asked us to add a few extra cards with famous Polish historical figures and landmarks. Wow, that’s a great idea, said the Czech publisher. And then the Spanish one. They all came with ideas for their own national bonus cards, and we balanced and tweaked them a bit, and then included them to their language versions.

And here comes the Frenchman I promised in the caption– Nicolas d’Halluin, author of boardgaming-online.com, the first site where you could play Though the Ages comfortably online. Besides all that great work on the online version, he also implemented those extra national cards. And he and the community around his server even came with some more extra cards just for his online site.

Why was it so important? I always knew Through the Ages would benefit from a bigger selection of wonders and leaders, but I never decided to go for it – I was aware it will require a tremendous amount of work to balance the game again, with all the new cards. However, after playing few games with a random mix of leaders and wonders on boardgaming-online, I also realized how much it actually adds to the game, and I decided it is definitely worth the effort, even if I spend a year with it. It was actually more years in the end, but yes, I still think it was worth it 🙂

— to be continued —

2 thoughts on “Through the Designer’s Notes, Part 3

  1. Vlaada, I’m loving these designer notes for my favorite game of all time! And I very much remember the debut of TtA at Essen and how it was bundled with Graenaland and a republished version of one of your earlier designs (Prophecy?). I know that Thornquist was very excited about Graenaland, but there were a bunch of us who were also highly intrigued by TtA as well. The information you guys released about it prior to the Fair had us VERY interested. So even though I’m sure that Graenaland accelerated the sales of TtA, the game that we rushed to try when our mule returned from Essen was Through the Ages. And it turned out to be even better than we dreamed it could be! It was such a wonderful game to discover and explore.

    Looking forward to the next installment of these notes. Stay healthy, my friend.

  2. Can somebody please translate the card texts? tia. Hopefully some of those cards make it into another expansion? 🙂

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