?Troll? the dice with Utahns? game

By By John Collins

By John Collins

Board games have spent thousands of years proving that they aren’t going anywhere. Flat surfaces with movable pieces and pictures have been found in caves and tombs that date back to 2500 B.C. Much of this enduring appeal might rest in the fact that they’ve never required electricity or leaving the house. But board games are also pieces of art, sometimes far more intricate in design than the games themselves.

Salt Lake City is home to the Board Game Designers Guild of Utah. It meets twice a month to discuss, create and test new ideas for games. It was in one of these meetings that local artist Ryan Laukat met Alf Seegert, one of the Guild’s founding members and a doctoral student and English instructor at the U. Seegert was in the process of designing a game called Bridge Troll.

Put simply, the players of the game are trolls residing under a bridge who attempt to eat or extort any travelers who cross their path. In 2008, Seegert and his game were at the stage in development where he began needing artwork. That’s where Laukat came in.

“Art, especially game art, has been a passion of mine since I was young,” Laukat said. “I really started drawing and knew that I wanted to be an artist when I was in middle school. I would take around sketch pads and fill them up with sketches. I was also interested in board games, so in seventh grade I started designing them just so I could do the art. It’s a practice I spend much of my time with still.”

When Laukat heard that the BGDG existed, about two years ago, he started getting involved.

“Around my second visit, I brought this monstrously huge game that I had been working on,” he said.”Alf saw it and he really liked it. We became friends and we’ve worked on various projects since. He was the one to suggest to Z-Man Games that I could do the art for Bridge Troll.”

That suggestion was agreed upon, and Laukat began the careful process of giving Seegert’s prototype a visual life of its own, which took months to complete.

“The game’s theme has a light, comic feel to it and we wanted to make sure the art would reflect that,” Laukat said. “I think designing the trolls was the hardest part. Everyone’s idea of what a troll looks like is a bit different.I was inspired by so many ideas, and even used some that I got from dolls that I saw when I visited Norway a couple of years ago.

“We started in December ’08 and finished in February. Then of course it took a few months to get the printing done, so it was released in June.Alf had used some funny clip art for his prototype of the game, and he told me the direction he wanted to go, so I used that as sort of a basis.”

The collaboration was a success, with Bridge Troll already in its second printing. Bridge Troll has the sort of comic and distracting qualities that a good game offers those who play it, and the imagery fits the vibe of the story.

The designers at the Guild are back at work with new ideas. Laukat is putting the finishing touches on a game that’s based on Aztecs and chocolate. He hopes to get it published and made available soon. Although he’s pleased with the finished copy, he said researching the project has left him with an addiction to chocolate.