Game Designer / Publisher Interview: Régis Bonnessée (Again!)

RB pictureRégis Bonnessée has been hard at work since last time we spoke, releasing two expansions to Seasons as well as continuing to expand the world of Dixit as well. Now, this year’s Gen Con will see the release of Lords of Xidit, a remake of the Spiel des Jahres nominee Himalaya, now set in the Seasons universe. Régis was kind of enough to talk to us about all that and more. Thanks to Stefan Brunelle at Asmodee for the translation!


Last time we spoke, Seasons was just about to come out at Gen Con 2012, and was a smash success there. We’ve now had two expansions to the game. I noticed that the rules changes of both expansions were very similar, which I liked – they didn’t change the game too much. What’s next for the game Seasons, if anything? Do you think you’ll ever consider the game ‘done’?

At the moment there’s no extension planned. But as the game continues to work well and we regularly receive requests, maybe I will look at it for next year. In any case, I’m glad about all the good feedback I’ve had from the players. The tournaments we run around the world show us each day a little more of the attachment people have for this game.
Stefan: In USA, the next big tournament is at Gen Con; there will be special unique promos available for participants.


seasonsboxWith all of the new cards and mechanisms, do you have a favorite combo or strategy in Seasons? Any advice for newbies?

I have nearly a thousand games played under my belt (thanks to the online version on BoardGameArena) and I still don’t have a favorite combo. And this is the essence of the game: having to renew and be inventive with each new game. This is the key to success. Although I must admit there have been pleasurable times finding new combinations, e.g.: in round 2 of the first year I played “Vampiric Crown”, and with it I drew “Mesodae’s Lantern” (Asmodee anagram by the way). The game started well.


What’s hot for Gen Con this year is certainly Lords of Xidit, the remake of Himalaya. Why did you feel it was correct, or important, to transition Himalaya to the world of Seasons? Can we expect more games in this universe?

Europeans are less attached to theme and Americans prefer mostly mechanisms. For my part, I am attached to both. I love above all, when someone is playing one of our games, the players can immerse themselves in another world. That is why in Lords of Xidit one does not take a purple or black cube, but a battle mage or an infantryman. To return to the original question, we put a lot of time developing the world of Seasons and I thought it would be good game after game, since this universe is each time a little more rich and developed. I hope in any case that players will enjoy the process. For example, the majority of creatures lurking in cities of Xidit are actually familiars from the world of Seasons; players will find in the rules of Lords of Xidit small portions of background and detailed map of the Xidit Kingdom (the same realm where the tournament takes place in Seasons) which will be delivered in the box. It was also thought to put two exclusive cards for the game Seasons (which show a visual of threat by Lords of Xidit) to strengthen the link between these two worlds!
Regarding the last question, we’ll see how Lords of Xidit goes; if the Seasons universe always appeals to both or to different audiences, it may happen that other games could take place in this universe!


For someone who has never played Himalaya (like me), can you describe the game, its mechanisms, and what makes it exciting? What makes this new version stand out in the very-crowded board game world?

Lords of Xidit is a “pick-up and delivery” and programming kind of game, based on a unique elimination system. With their programming pads, players plan their actions simultaneously and must go in some cities to recruit units, and in others to repel threats – using the same units. In exchange, the Lords of the towns give rewards, allowing them to increase their wealth, their level of fame in the realm or their level of influence with mages – you will build magic guilds! At the end of the last round there is a final calculation based on 3 criteria for elimination. For example with 4 players, the player with the lowest level in criterion A is removed, then it’s the turn of one among the remaining players with the lowest level in criterion B to be eliminated and finally, among the remaining two players, the highest level in the last criterion is declared savior of the kingdom. Of course there are a thousand other things to say about the intricacies of rules, but it’s really the last point that I created that make the originality of the game. And the game has almost 150 figurines, making it a true strategic game favoring immersion.


lordsofxiditWhat kind of rules changes are going to be in Lords of Xidit compared to Himalaya, and what was the rationale for those changes?


Of course, the rules have been greatly refined from Himalaya’s. To cite some examples: the 3 player version is now fully enjoyable, you can now play up to 5 players without an extension, the ergonomics of the game are much better, the die which was for the resources and contracts has been deleted, Colossi are new to the game, the way to win has been reviewed, the game can be played in long or short version … Players who played Himalaya will not be disoriented, but their enjoyment of the game will be, in my opinion, better. At least that’s my opinion. No more yaks… well there is still one, just for fun!

(Editor’s note: for a full list of changes, click here.)

Xidit, of course, is an anagram of Dixit, the SdJ 2010 winner which you also publish through Libellud. Was this intentional?


Of course, when I created Seasons we had to find a name for the kingdom … And Xidit came to my mind naturally, because for me Dixit reminds me of a world of dreams and fantasy.


In our last interview, you talked about how Marie Cardouat was a key part of the creation of Dixit. Since then, several artists have been involved in Dixit Odyssey, Dixit Journey, and so on. What, to you, uniquely defines the world of Dixit? How were you able to recruit the right artists to continue Marie’s ideas, and how did you even give them ideas of what to draw?


I love the world of illustration. Whether through animation movies or comic strips (comics, manga …). I try each time to find an artist who has a specific talent or universe we can share and is also a little reflection of his worldview. For example, it’s Franck Dion who’s working on the next expansion of Dixit, Daydreams. His last short film was awarded in twenty countries around the world and I really hope that the public will be delighted with the work that has been done on Dixit.

For Dixit, Jean-Louis and I had proposed 80% of the card ideas to Marie. For this latest opus Franck Dion has given carte blanche to express himself freely. And that gamble is successful in my opinion. Verdict in October!


ladiesandgentlemenI would also like to talk about the game Ladies & Gentlemen, which Libellud published. Reactions have been all over the place about this game. The Dice Tower reviewers gave negative reviews, yet Shut Up & Sit Down made a fantastic video about the game, and Penny Arcade even did a webcomic about it. Some have even made accusations of sexism. What does this game mean to you? What kind of gamer is it for, and what made you excited to publish it?

What motivated me to work on this game is that it offered something really new in the small gaming world. The asymmetry of the game where ladies play their part while their husbands play on the other side, while sometimes they play together. I don’t think this game is sexist because here men and women are treated the same way. And I don’t think the caricature that we offer for gentlemen is particularly flattering for them. In any case I think the game was very well received by the U.S. players, to our greatest pleasure.


I’ve read that you are a movie aficionado, and obviously you’re a big lover of games. What have you been watching/reading/playing lately?

To cite some of my favorite movies I would say “The Usual Suspects”, “Big Fish,” “Gran Torino,” “Gattaca”. There are so many more, but these are the ones that come to mind at the moment. I also like Scorsese or Almodovar movies. I recently saw “The Grand Budapest Hotel” which really pleased me. In terms of games I played recently, I can say Medieval Academy done by Blue Cocker.


What’s next for you and Libellud? (And when is Nautilus coming to the U.S.?)

This year Dixit Daydreams should be out in the U.S., and Lords of Xidit. Europe will see Loony Quest but will not be available in the United States, since it’s a Blue Orange release under a different version called “Doodle Quest.” Unfortunately, no news for Nautilus. As for 2015, it’s still a bit early, but we promise, we will keep you informed.


Anything else you’d like to add?

Not much to share except we hope that we all stay young at heart as long as possible. At least we do not see the years pass.


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