The news that Vic Davis is abandoning computer game design to focus on board games isn’t that much of a surprise. His western card game Six Gun Saga can be easily imagined as a cardboard and plastic material object. His first game, Armageddon Empires was a deck-building hex-based wargame. And his multiplayer masterpiece, Solium Infernum looked like a boardgame, even though there were so many things to manage that it’s nearly impossible to imagine anyone finish a faithful facsimile in their living room.
I’ve played all of Vic’s games, and enjoyed them all. Vic was the first guest on Three Moves Ahead (episode 1 is no longer available because Julian’s mic wasn’t working and a lot of the conversation is lost.) My glowing review of Solium Infernum for Crispy Gamer is now lost to the vagaries of website shutdowns, but I should see if I still have a copy somewhere.
So even though I understand Vic’s decision to move to boardgames (boardgames are hot right now, he already has the mind for them, his choice of development language seems have been a poor one), I’m can’t help but be disappointed.
Vic Davis is one of those developers with an unerring sense of “theme”. Every mechanic and every bit of art buttressed the idea that games can be (though they certainly don’t have to be) escapist, in the best sense; a means to translate the soul to a new world for a few hours.
Solium Infernum, I think, stands out for me because its theme of demons competing to reign in hell is so unique that even people with no head for convoluted strategy games got sucked into play-by-email matches. There was a built-in unfairness to a lot of the systems, and how you build your starting demon can mean everything or nothing if the map and avenging angels had a say in how the game progresses. It’s a game made for chat rooms and secret deals, using cards as blue shells to simply stop whomever is winning and damn the rest.