When I was a kid I used to visit a game store called La Città della Luna, which translates to “The City of the Moon” (some of you might know two Italian designers named Francesco Nepitello and Marco Maggi. They worked there, and I believe they actually owned the place).

As a teen without means of transportation living 20-something kilometers away, it took me the whole afternoon to get there and back.

Despite the distance, I visited La Città della Luna as often as possible, because it opened a whole new world for me – and no, I’m not over it yet. I’m pretty sure that without Francesco and Marco spurring my interest in stuff like Magic: The GatheringMutant ChroniclesWarzoneChronopia and Call of Cthulhu, my passion for tabletop gaming wouldn’t be close to what it is now. They probably don’t remember me, but I owe them a lot.

One particular game that caught my attention back then was Knightmare Chess, a Steve Jackson creation that promised to change the rules of chess in ways that really tickled me. For monetary reasons I wasn’t able to purchase the game at the time, but the lure of its strategic fantasy battles stuck with me for years.

Until recently, Knightmare Chess was sold out and almost impossible to find at a reasonable price. But last year, when I started working on A Battle of Dwarves, I found an original copy on eBay for a non-offensive price. At the time I was pitching A Battle of Dwarves to my current employer. The idea was simple: we would develop a version of chess that featured factions, characters and mechanics from another property the company was working on. Despite initial enthusiasm within the prototype group (me, Markus Montola and Niko Mäkelä), the potential for incredibly long asynchronous multiplayer sessions, and other external factors, hastened the game’s demise.

Stubbornly, I refused to give up. I wanted to breathe life into my Knighmare Chess inspiration, and I was gonna do it with A Battle of Dwarves. It was then I realized it had to be a board game.

[continues in the next episode]