No one was more shocked when Edwin, Albert, and Kevin Mach’s board game Vikings of Dragonia won first prize in the Game Design contest at this year’s KublaCon, the largest gaming convention on the West Coast, than the brothers themselves.
“It’s our first game, so we never thought we’d win anything,” said Albert Mach. “We were nobodies. We were basically doing it for fun, as a hobby.”
The three brothers all come from engineering backgrounds. Edwin is a product manager who studied game theory and computer science. Albert is a biomedical engineer, and was named one of Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 and Business Insiders’ “Sexy Scientists” for his centrifuge-on-a-chip invention that could provide a rapid way to detect cancer via a blood test. Kevin is a student studying computer engineering at UC San Diego.
Vikings of Dragonia is a strategic board game where two-to-five players lead their own Viking clans and try to take over islands in the world of Dragonia. The goal is to earn the most Honor points by collecting treasure, controlling Wild Dragons, defending their land and attacking their enemies with fireballs.
Before KublaCon, over 20 entries from amateur game designers were whittled down to the top five games, which attendees were encouraged to play at the convention. The finalists were judged by a group of professional tabletop game designers, developers, and game managers who were looking for a game that was not only fun, but challenging and compelling.
“[Viking of Dragonia’s] game-play doesn’t just give the feeling that you are trying to take over territory, but that you are really trying to do so in a way that builds your clan’s honor,” says judge Anthony Gallela, the co-producer of KublaCon and game designer who appreciated the game’s interplay between mechanics and storytelling. “With a board that's different each time you play and a manageable but varied number of ways to go about winning, Vikings of Dragonia has a lot of replayability as well.”
“Before anyone even saw the game, the three of us played it amongst ourselves to make sure we had a solid product,” said Edwin Mach. “We wanted people to take us seriously, so it took a lot of methodical research to figure out what makes a game fun.”
The Machs have been developing Vikings of Dragonia for almost three years. Their first prototype was made out of hand drawings and paper. They kept a log of every move they made and how it affected the game. They elicited feedback through surveys and eventually hired an illustrator to create the Viking cartoons. Now, hundreds of players have tested the game in five different cities.
“We wanted the artwork to be cutesy and enjoyable for all ages,” said Kevin Mach.