Roland MacDonald is the designer and illustrator of Ruthless, an upcoming pirate themed deck building game coming from Alley Cat Games and Board Game Circus. I asked him some questions about the game.
You're not only the inventor of Ruthless, you're also the illustrator. Which side do you feel more turned towards - game design or illustration?
I am a full-time board games illustrator so that is my comfort zone. Notably I have illustrated Western Legends, the Deluxe Werewords and the upcoming Tiny Epic Mechs. There is some overlap in the process of game design and art design though and that helped during the development of Ruthless.
How did the idea of developing a pirate game with poker elements come about?
Ruthless didn’t start out as a pirate game. I was hoping not to use a cliche theme but as the game developed Pirates was an obvious fit. Once I had made that decision I was able to focus on integrating the theme, mechanisms and art so that they all support each other an integrate well.
What do you think is so special about Ruthless?
I love deck builders but they can be a too non-interactive and often lack excitement and theme. I think Ruthless counters these issues. The flow of Ruthless is very different to other deck builders. As players take turns, to play a single command and recruit, the order you play cards and time recruitment is very important and leads to a much greater involvement between players. It also keeps everyone engaged in the other players choices as they can deeply affect your plans.
Do you have insider tips for the gamers out there that can give some more ruthpoints in the game?
Firstly, recruit early. You need pirates to assemble crews. The game is often too quick for big money strategies to payoff, a la Dominion. Secondly, do not forget about the Legendary Achievements. Even if you lose most of the rounds you can still pull out a win but building your reputation on these end game goals and recruiting Captains or Quartermasters.
Which one is your favourite pirate?
Illustration wise I really like the number two, Jenny Doe. She is also has great flexibility but the four, Mad Maggs, is my favourite. A great all rounder and so much attitude.
Is Ruthless the first game that you developed? Are there any more coming?
Ruthless is the first game I developed from scratch. I also made a card-based version of Cluedo that fixed that game. I am working on two new ideas at the moment and an expansion
In view of current events: How do you plan your visit of the SPIEL in Essen? What are you most looking forward to?
This year I will be spending 50% of my time with Ruthless, demoing and signing at Board Game Circus or Alley Cat Games. Essen is usually a series of business meetings for me. Talking to publishers about doing art in the coming year. So I am looking forwards to a new experience and interacting with people interested in the game. I really love demoing Ruthless so can’t wait.