Ever since the first Europa Universalis game dropped in 2000, Paradox Interactive has slowly been cultivating one of the most devoted fanbases in gaming. While they were once a board game company, it’s been a while since they worked on the table. But this year they’re turning two of their hottest properties, Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis, into board games for the first time ever. To figure out why, I left the convention hall to visit the nearby Spoke & Steele restaurant, there to meet with Paradox’s Product Marketing Manager Luca Kling.
Dan: Before we get into the games themselves, can you give me a little background on Paradox?
Luca: Paradox was a board game company, and they started making computer games at some point. The owner of the company at that time decided that computer games had no future but apparently, he was wrong. The announcement of Paradox Interactive brought with it the video game department and with it the game we were developing: Europa Universalis. Which is actually based on a board game, though “board game” isn’t really quite accurate as it was more of a war game. So now, moving forward a few years, we are producing a board game that was a computer game that was based on a board game.
Paradox has two different parts to it. One part is where we produce all of our in-house games like Europa Universalis, Crusader Kings, Stellaris, all the grand strategy games basically. Then there’s the publishing part which is releasing and owning IP’s like Cities: Skyline, Surviving Mars, and we release Battletech although we don’t own that. In 2015 and 2017, we took a survey [of] our players to see what their tastes and habits were. And we got feedback from so many of them saying that they love to play board games. Forty percent said that they regularly play board games, and 10-20% of them said they play board games at least once a week or more. So we decided to make board games that serve our customers as well because, in the end, they are amazing. And when you play the games, you can easily imagine that the mechanics of grand strategy translate onto the tabletop as well. So what we are going now is going out and looking at companies that want to license our games, that is license our IP and create games based on it. We currently have four IP’s licensed.
The first game is based on our Crusader Kings games, which is where you are basically playing a family from the Early Middle Ages to right about the 1400’s. You’re marrying, you can become an emperor. In one game, I became Holy Roman Emperor as the King of Ireland. I paid off all of their debt and then was immediately overthrown. It is the first game, and it is being developed by Free League. Free League has a lot of connections with Paradox, there are a lot of people working for Free League who have worked with us as well. They’ve done a lot of RPG’s in the past like Tales From The Loop and Coriolis. This is the first game you’ll see during the demo.
The second is EU. You start as a nation and basically expand and try to become as big as you can. You start as a small city-state and, at the end, you’re conquering China, if you want. This is probably the game with the most possibility right now but also the most complexity. Its developed by Aegir Games, who developed the Battle of Norway before, where you play the invasion of Norway by the Germans (I guess you can play both sides but I’ve never played the Germans myself yet).
The third is is Hearts of Iron, which is set during the Second World War. You select a nation and decide to be a democracy, communist, or fascist and basically fight to win the war.
The fourth is City: Skylines, which will differ from the others in that it is intended to be a family game, as the fanbase tends to lean a bit more casual than the grand strategy ones.
Dan: EU has a much broader scope than CK, at least in the video game. Is that reflected in the board game?
Luca: Let me put it this way. CK is to be played in roughly two hours, while EU will be played in like 5-8 hours. EU is really a 4X game. You can do everything you can in the video game: conquer, trade, explore, colonize, you name it.
Dan: Are there plans to expand this out to other games like Victoria?
Luca: Yes, there are. We’re looking for board game designers that want to take on these IP’s. We’re looking for pitches, we already have some pitches which we obviously can’t talk about. We have some, and we’re quite confident that we’ll be able to broaden the portfolio going forward. And the reason we are going for a licensing deal as opposed to developing in-house is that we’re a video game company, not a board game company. That’s not our expertise. We want them to be good, so we shouldn’t develop them ourselves.
Dan: I’m curious about Cities: Skylines. I know people who have put nearly 250 hours into the game and I completely forgot that it was published by Paradox. Will it play how the game plays, or will it be a little different?
Luca: It will be a little different because there’s all of the upkeep in the background. We’re trying to be on-brand with the game, so we actually had to do a complete rework of the last version we did for the simple reason that it wasn’t Cities: Skylines enough. So what we’re trying to do is approaching it where you start small at first. You continue buying tiles until you expand and start implementing the other aspects of the game from there. The playtime will be around an hour, so you probably won’t spend hours and hours at the end of the game planning out where you want a roundabout to go to. We’re trying to capture the feeling of the game, same with EU.
Be sure to check in tomorrow for the second part of my meeting with Paradox, where I actually got my hands on the Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis board games.
Image via Paradox Interactive