I’m relatively new here in the marbled halls of FFG, and one of my first tasks has been to prepare Stratelibri’s Si, Oscuro Signore! for it’s American release as Aye, Dark Overlord! The game is based on characters from Riccardo Crossa’s Rigor Mortis , a series with a distinctly dark and twisted humor set in the fantasy world of Kragmortha.
The game has just about everything you’d want in a party game: easy-to-learn rules, a strong emphasis on fun, and Crossa’s brilliant illustrations. However, when we had the opportunity, we wanted to add something. We wanted an alternate set of rules that would make the game as appropriate sitting around the gaming table as it is normally in a party setting. This set of rules would be designed to appeal to a more strategic style of play, but without sacrificing any of the fun. And we called the rules variation Aye, Dark Master!
Normally, in a game of Aye, Dark Overlord! , one player assumes the role of the Dark Overlord and everyone else plays his cowering goblin servants. The servants play Action cards to accuse each other of failure and Hint Cards to provide excuses for their shortcomings. The Dark Overlord doles out Withering Looks to those minions who cannot provide excuses for their mistakes, until ultimately one of the goblins takes the blame and is dragged off.
But some players might wish to be more than just the cowering goblin servant who didn’t come to a bad end. Some players might wish to be the cowering goblin who proved he could make better excuses than anybody else.
For Aye, Dark Master! I decided that when a Hint card gets played, instead of being discarded, it remains face up in front of the player. It’s not just an excuse, it’s a building block for a larger alibi. At the end of the game, the player with the most Hint Cards played in front of him has established the most thorough alibi, and is declared the winner.
And since everyone loves the opportunity to abuse unlimited power, during Aye, Dark Master! , the role of the Dark Master rotates from player to player as the games proceeds. But even when playing as the Master, it’s possible to snare some Hint Cards, by challenging the excuses of your minions. If the servants can’t meet the challenge, the Dark Master gets the Hint Card.
I also decided (with the kind permission of the nice folks at Stratelibri) to add little icons on the cards. (Andrew Navaro, among his many other feats of graphic design kung fu, designed the icons.) These symbols divided all Hint Cards and Action Cards into one of six suits: Person, Monster, Place, Object, Event, or Wild.
This added a small level of strategic thought to the game. You can’t just answer accusations with any old excuse any more. Now you have to be specific! But possibly more important than the strategies, specificity also make things funnier. When someone makes an accusation that requires their fellow player to respond with a Hint card bearing a Monster icon, it may be a story about being thwarted by a dragon, or it may be a story about being thwarted by an annoying insect.
This created the challenge for me of dividing up the game’s 121 Hint cards into the different suits. (That’s right, 121 Hint cards. Don’t tell anyone but I crammed as many extra Hint cards from Stratelibri’s Si, Oscuro Signore! 2 as I possibly could fit into this release. Shhh!) Now some may argue that technically The Dwarfish Beer is an Object, not an Event. I would say such a critic is unfamiliar with Dwarfish Beer. I don’t think it’s too much of a conceptual leap to see The Wild Island as more of an Event than a Place.
Then it was simply a matter of turning over my insane ravings over to editor par excellence Mark O’Connor to make them fit for human reading, and let Andrew make the whole thing look awesome, soup to nuts.
The finished product is a great little game, I feel. It looks good and is a quick source of fun in any environment. Of course not everyone may agree with me. If so, I’ve got a slew of very fine excuses to justify myself, and I would be happy to place the blame on someone else…probably you.
Tim Uren is one of FFG's newest game developers and when he's not making up excuses, he is a comedic actor about the Twin Cities.