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The Joy of Board Gaming: An Interview with Mín and Elwen of Lost Ruins of Arnak

Friends of mine have been busy creating one of the newest attempts at combining both worker placement and deck building together for a shared experience. They also crafted a wonderful theme of exploring a previously hidden island once inhabited by an ancient, unique civilization.

Mín and Elwen have gone by their LARPing names as long as I have known them. We met in Slovakia at a discipleship school run by Youth with A Mission. I came with many hours of experience playing Heroscape, Star Wars Miniatures, and Axis & Allies, but they opened my view of tabletop gaming exponentially throughout our seven months of adventuring. They have a brand new adventure game coming out called Lost Ruins of Arnak and wanted to share their passion for games and their inspiration for Arnak with you.

So, Mín and Elwen, tell us about your experience in tabletop gaming. What drew you to the table in the first place?

We both really like games, and there is something special about tabletop gaming. The social aspect of being together with our friends and our family. The relaxing feel of holding the physical components, experiencing a story, finding solutions to a puzzle.

With all of your opportunities for both LARPing and other hobbies, what keeps you coming back to the table?

Board games always felt compatible with our other hobbies. We could enjoy them with the same group of friends we shared our other hobbies with. Plus, it is easy to organize a meet-up and play a game or two, no matter the weather outside. Once we had kids, devoting a whole weekend to LARPing was much less feasible, but we always managed to find time for at least a short board game. That’s probably why it eventually became our favorite hobby.

So have you begun to share games with your kids? Are there any specific games that you love as a family?

Absolutely. Elwen started to buy kids games before our first child was born! Now we have 3 kids (9y, 5y and 1 year old) and we play a lot of games with the older two. They like games that involve stories; I think Above and Below is their favorite. We like to play cooperative games; Thunderbirds is one they really like. They also like chunky pieces and enjoy playing games like Splendor, Azul, or Project L. But they also have fun when they can team up and try to beat one of their parents in 7 Wonders Duel or Patchwork.

 You have been working with Czech Games Edition for a while, but what brought you to work with and for them?

It was a mutual passion for board games. We knew each other even before CGE started, and it was only natural to join the team once we moved back to the Czech Republic from abroad.

Are there any particular game designers that have been important in your experience with games? If so, how did they influence your approach to Arnak or your gaming as a whole?

Definitely, Vlaaďa Chvátil was a great influence in our board gaming career, and we are lucky to work with him. We also really like games by Ryan Laukat, who creates beautiful worlds that we enjoy exploring.

… there is something special about tabletop gaming

For Arnak, you chose to combine deck building and worker placement. Why did you want to put those two mechanics together? 

Both deck building and worker placement belong among our favorite game mechanics, and the initial impulse for designing this game was the idea to try to combine them. Our main goal was to create a game that the two of us enjoy playing together. It was a great feeling when we achieved that. We still enjoy playing Lost Ruins of Arnak, and we are excited to see that others seem to be enjoying it too!

What is it about deck building and worker placement that you enjoy so much? 

With deck-building, it is a sense of improvement. Basically, engine-building is something that we enjoy a lot in games. When Donald X. Vaccarino came up with Dominion, we were blown away by the design’s elegance and possibilities.

Worker-placement is just a nice action selection mechanism with good tension. If I do not select this action soon enough, it might be gone next time I have a chance to play.

It sounds like you were more focused on the mechanics than the theme. How did the exploration theme come about?

We like it a lot, and we wish there were more games with a good exploration theme.

I don’t think we were focused on the mechanics more than on the theme. We first tried to solve the riddle of connecting worker placement with deckbuilding, but once we had the basic concept, we chose the theme and designed everything around that theme. Discovering new worker placement slots, guardians, idols, and other parts of the game were all added to describe the theme that we had in mind. 

Building something to enjoy together is an excellent inspiration. Do you think there is space for games to be created for small groups of friends but not for publishing?

I think it is just natural for some people to try to invent fun activities for others. If that’s something you like to do, try to design something that you and your friends or family might enjoy together, and remember to have fun in the process!

As I played through the game on solo mode I found that the two play styles come together very well in Arnak. I applaud your achievement. We don’t associate these two mechanics with each other because they have rarely been put together. How does it feel to build something so unique?

It is great that it works so smoothly! Mín came up with the concept of combining these two mechanics in one of our prototypes already 7 years ago, but we did not manage to finalize that game. We decided to give it a second try in 2019, and this time it clicked. After we announced Lost Ruins of Arnak, other games with the same mix mechanics were announced. It seems like we all decided to work on the same idea, but none of us knew about the other project beforehand. It is funny how these things work sometimes. 2021 could be a year of deck-building + worker placement games. Hopefully, people will enjoy them!

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and inspiration with us. Would you like to share anything final before we say goodbye? 

Thank you all for being part of the board gaming community. It is great to have a hobby with so many friendly people who genuinely care and support each other!

You can find more on the game here

Eric Anderson writes the blog at nerdchapel.com where you can also find info on board game events he hosts in Michigan and books he writes with friends. 

Eric Anderson was introduced to nerdy hobbies as a kid. His Mom got him into Godzilla films and old school science fiction films while he and his neighbor created new forms of Risk with pogs. Super hero films and strategy games led the way to comics and other forms of gaming, including collectible miniature games like Heroscape and Monsterpocalypse as well as euros and cooperative games. His three favorite franchises are Star Wars, Stargate, and Doctor Who. As a Christian who happens to be a nerd he writes at the intersection of the Christian faith and geekiness at www.nerdchapel.com and has co-written the books 42: Discovering Faith through Fandom and The New 42: God Terraforms All Things. He has been a guest on such podcasts as Theology Gaming and Redeemed Otaku.

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