Exclusive interview with Alessio Cavatore

Producing the Dragonbond: Lords of Vaala board game

Introduce yourself

Hi, I’m Alessio Cavatore, managing director of River Horse, and I’ve been designing games for over twenty-five years. I began my career at Games Workshop, where I have worked on Warhammer, Warhammer 40K, the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, and many other games and supplements. Ten years ago, I left GW and founded my own gaming company - River Horse, which designs and manufactures its own games and provides design and business services to other companies in the sector.

How did you end up designing a board game for Draco Studios?

Draco got in touch with us about a year ago, initially to provide some consultancy for the team designing their Dragonbond: Battles of Valerna wargame. Our work relationship was very positive, so much so that more recently, Draco has taken the step of hiring River Horse to continue the development of the Dragonbond wargame, as well as helping them market and sell both this and other products.

And while this process continues, the natural next step in the process was the idea of marrying the rich background written for the Dragonbond novels, RPG, and wargame with the design know-how of River Horse, also to produce a board game. And thus, the Dragonbond: Lords of Vaala board game was born.

What can you tell us about the game? What makes Dragonbond: Lords of Vaala different.

What's the coolest thing about the game?

It’s a strategy board game for one to four players, where you’re fighting across the continent of Valerna, trying to accumulate as much political influence, magical affinity, and armies as possible, represented by power tokens - the player that gets to 10 tokens wins the game. Through extensive playtest, we fine-tuned Lords of Vaala to be very balanced, often ending up with very close-fought games leading to nail-biting game-ends.

The game has a couple of exciting features, as the four playable factions are of two very different and very asymmetric types.

For a start, you can play as a general, controlling the forces of Tyveria or Allaria, intent on conquering more land and building cities and vaster armies to defend your growing empire and destroy the opposition. Alternatively, you can play as either of the two mightiest dragons to descend on the world of Rhaava - Fulgen or Magnifex. Yes, you got that right; you can play as a rampaging dragon! Differently from generals and their armies, the dragons can gather power either from the lands of Valerna or from devouring the armies of their enemies. These two different types of faction make for a very varied gameplay experience, significantly increasing replayability.

Another exciting and unique feature is the brand-iconic Dragonbond mechanic. When a general and a dragon interact, the spark of the Dragonbond might be triggered, and the two might become one - the two factions become one, sharing both the boons of their triumphs and the vagaries of their defeats. It is both a very characterful theme to the setting of Dragonbond, and a fun, game-twisting rule, which might alter the strategy and balance of the game in mid-play, requiring some quick-thinking on the part of the players.

To complete the offer, Lords of Vaala provides you with an AI script for each of the factions so that it works with any number of players, from solitaire to four players. We found very intriguing the choices available for a two-player game, ranging from two human-controlled generals dealing with two AI dragons to the more bizarre two human-controlled dragons facing off against AI generals to the highly asymmetric mix where each player controls a different type of faction… have I already mentioned the great replayability?!

What is your favorite board game of all time?

Oh… that’s an impossible question. There are too many, and like many gamers, I go through phases where my favorite game changes. Recently, for example, I enjoy playing the Battlestar Galactica board game with my family to color our lockdown afternoons with suspicion and paranoia!

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