A brief look into the design of Egyptian-themed IUNU by Todd Sanders

I’m Todd Sanders, a game designer and graphic designer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I’ve been designing games for seven years now and recently have had the good fortune to work with LudiCreations on the publication of several of my games in a line we are calling the Sanders Select Series or SSS for short. We have eight games planned for the series, coming out over the next few years.

My game design career actually began as a visual re-designer of older board and card games from the 1980s. I am probably best known for my visual redesigns of Barbarian Prince and Hammer of Thor (700+ cards and over 1000 counters for that game). I take older games, back in the era before computers and desktop publishing, and redesign the components for a modern gaming audience. This can often include scoring tracks, larger counters with clearer iconography and reformatted rulebooks with a better hierarchy of rule structures.

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From there I moved on to entering contests on BGG – One Page, 54 Cards, Solitaire Games, 24 Hour RPG Design – and discovered I had a knack for designing solo games as well as short games with strong thematic elements, good player interaction and a dose of humor. My 20 year background as a graphic designer has enabled me to develop a strong minimalist visual style for my games. I am very active in BGG’s Print and Play (PnP for short) community and have over 60 games to my design credits. The PnP forums and contests are an excellent way to hone your game design skills and receive excellent feedback on mechanics and strategic elements in games.

These days, in addition to designing my own games, I work as a graphic designer for several game publishers on the strength of my reputation as a Print and Play designer.

My newest game with LudiCreations is IUNU, a set collection game with an Egyptian theme and minimalist graphics. I’ve worked with LudiCreations for over a year now to streamline the mechanics and increase player interaction. I feel we’ve created an easy to learn game with a lot of play depth. We have done research into the Dynasties of Egypt and these historic and thematic narrative elements reinforce the player actions and strategic decisions.

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Some thoughts on the design history of IUNU:

Have you ever had one of those nights when you should be writing up rules for your solo game entry or working on a completely different project and suddenly you get a left field game idea in your head and, in about 20 minutes, the core idea is fully formed, seems elegantly workable, and seems to merge theme and mechanics well?

Often I find this is the case with my designs – the best and most elegant games come fully formed to me in under a half hour.

For IUNU, the idea was the kind of cards and their frequency in the deck had an inverse relationship to their value.

So 1 Pharaoh is worth 9 points, 2 Scribes are each worth 8 points, 3 Nobles are each worth 7 points and so on down to 9 Farmers each being worth 1 point. This card count works very well with a standard 54 card deck (my favorite starting point for a design usually is 54 cards. It is a very malleable number that easily divides into subsets of 3, 6, 9 etc…).

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The Egyptian theme for the game was suggested by this idea of 9 which is three 3s or the three main pyramids at Giza in Egypt (which nicely tied into three 4-sided dice, a great visual link to Ancient Egypt thematically).

A quick bit of research led me to 9 types of citizens and their hierarchical order, and I was off and running. Each of these types of citizens then meant I could have a separate action for each, thematically tied into their caste when the cards are played in sets.

• Pharaohs are singular and control the roll of the dice, or the fate of their subjects.
• Scribes are the link to the past and rewrite history (allowing a player to save a card to be revealed at game’s end).
• Nobles and Merchants benefit from the economy (the dice become an economic engine in the game and the Nobles and Merchants want the die values high).
• Priests control the afterlife (which, with a 54 card deck, let me use the remaining cards for in-game bonuses which affect the scoring) and fate.
• Artisans create culture and opportunity (a player may draw extra cards).
• Bakers bake bread which feeds the populace (the Bakers want low dice numbers to buy wheat cheaply to bake bread) and a well fed populace is worth more (this was an exciting mechanic to me because it meant I could award bonus points based on the types of Citizens with the lower class castes receiving larger bonuses because they did the work.)
• Soldiers protect the populace and raid other kingdoms.
• And the Farmers, who were the most populous in the game, were worth the least number of points individually, but who, when fed, were worth the most bonus points.

The dice become a very important aspect of the game, setting up an economic push and pull between players when laying down sets of cards. I happened upon the idea that once a die was used for something its value would be lowered by one. So, when to play Nobles, Merchants or Bakers, mattered strategically.

For those who follow my board game design forum, you know that I am always working on the artwork for a game while working out the mechanics. This organic sort of design growth works very well for me and lets me match the visual quality of a game with how it plays. In the case of IUNU, the initial card designs were very close to the final version.

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A second iteration fixed the color scheme and added icons for the Afterlife card and some additional symbol refinement. The game logo was perfect from the very start (as a side note I drew the triangle logo, representing the pyramids, from the actual tourist marketing photo they use for the Giza Pyramid advertising).

Below is a look at some 3d models of the finished artwork and components for the published version of the game.

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And that is a brief look into the design of IUNU. I hope you enjoy playing the game as much as I had designing it.

Photo credits: Todd Sanders & LudiCreations / Used with permission.

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21 responses to “A brief look into the design of Egyptian-themed IUNU by Todd Sanders

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