Ophir, the upcoming board game from Denver-based publisher Terra Nova, is a battle of commerce. Players take the roles of merchants in an ancient civilization, amassing trading fortunes by outwitting and outmaneuvering their opponents on the high seas.
Thematically, it's like Monopoly or Steam, but with an interesting twist: Building up your own personal fortune isn't enough to win. Instead, players have to give back to the community by contributing to the construction of the Temple of Ophir, which rises in three dimensions on the board in front of them.
The game is the sophomore effort from tiny Terra Nova, a two-person partnership between developer Justin Schaffer and art director Robert Garza, who lives in Austin. It's also their first since deciding to switch focus from design to publishing following their release of Guile, a two-player memory card game set at King Arthur's court at Camelot.
"After seeing everyone's response to Guile, we decided to pursue the company a bit more full-time and direct our focus into solely publishing games," Schaffer writes in an e-mail. "What we like most about publishing is being able to transform a plain-paper prototype into a gorgeous boxed final product."
Ophir's designers, Jason D. Kingsley and Charles Wright, had spent more than two years creating the game's world and rules when they met Schaffer and Garza at a "speed dating" event at BoardGameGeek Con in Dallas last November, which gave designers a few minutes to pitch their creations to publishers. Following a longer sit-down talk and play-through, Schaffer and Garza signed Ophir on the spot.
What drew Terra Nova to Ophir was the way the game marries strategic, European-style play with rules that are easy for even casual gamers to understand. "We really enjoy the game's mechanics," says Schaffer, "and it has a wider audience since it accommodates more players with a rule set that's very approachable by anyone just picking up the game who may not be familiar with these types of strategy games."
To bring their vision to the gaming table, Schaffer and Garza are asking backers for $24,000; with just three days left, they're a little over three-quarters of the way to their goal. If successful, Terra Nova hopes to ship the game late this year, with backers receiving their copies in December.
To help sway potential players who are on the fence, they're offering a free print-and-play version of the game. You can download it, contribute to the campaign, or learn more on Ophir's Kickstarter page.
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Find more of Adam Roy's writing and assorted opinions on Twitter at @adnroy.