A Chat with Luke Laurie – Dwellings of Eldervale

Rob Kalajian article, interview, tabletop Leave a Comment

Dwellings of Eldervale is currently wrapping up a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign. I got a chance to chat with Luke Laurie, the game’s designer, and ask him a few questions about Dwellings and the world where the game takes place.

Why don’t you start by telling me a bit about yourself?

I’ve been designing for about seven years or so. I live on the Central Coast of California. By day, I’m a junior high science teacher. I’m married to an incredible woman and have two teenage kids. Most of my design work is in Euro-style games, though I’ve made attempts in all kinds of different designs. I had a small memory game called Stones of Fate published in 2015, and then The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire was published in 2016 and was Rhado’s number one game of the year. Energy Empire was codesigned by veteran designer Tom Jolly. He and I have worked on several projects together, and I often partner with another designer or a dedicated developer on my projects. I have several other completed games that have been signed, including one with Z-man, codesigned with Tom Jolly, and one with Bezier Games, codesigned with Scott Caputo. Dwellings of Eldervale is my current project and passion, and I’ve been focusing most of my efforts for the last two years assisting with the development.

Tell me about Dwellings of Eldervale. How did the game and its theme come to be?

Dwellings of Eldervale started with conversations that Peter Vaughan and I had on our way back from Kublacon. We had a long car ride to discuss all kinds of things we liked and disliked in games, and start brainstorming what we thought might be something like the ultimate game. We envisioned a rich fantasy world of magic, monsters, powers, and all kinds of interesting player dynamics, in a game that would play out like an epic tale. Over the years that followed through many fits and starts, Dwellings of Eldervale evolved to become what it is now. It wasn’t a game that came easy to us, and it wasn’t something that happened quickly. There were definitely inspired moments and sudden exciting discoveries, but there was also hard work, and repetition, and failures on this long road of design and development. We really couldn’t be happier with what Dwellings has become. It’s truly the game I wanted it to be. I’ll play it at any time. I’ll play any faction, and I always look forward to what new discoveries and exciting moments will occur.

Can you go into a bit of detail concerning Eldervale’s theme and lore?

We started with thinking about all of the things we love in Fantasy Genre films, books, etc. Dragons, Giants, Demons, Wizards, and all that great stuff. But we discussed how there are so many fantasy-themed games and movies that lack distinction. Many feel like they’re all kind of the same world. We wanted a strong sense of mystery and discovery – and even some fear as you go about exploring Eldervale. We began to craft a world that had long ago suffered a magical cataclysm. A once vast and powerful civilization thrived in Eldervale, but it was destroyed entirely.

The player factions are different groups of beings – entering Eldervale from another realm through magical portals. Each is associated with one of the eight elemental power sources. They might have come to Eldervale seeking adventure, or perhaps they come by necessity. We really wanted these factions to be interesting and thematic, and not your cookie-cutter fantasy races. We decided that every faction has common units with the same powers. Each faction has a Dragon, a Wizard, a Warrior, and six Workers. In addition, some units have powers based on your faction. If you play the Storm Horde, your Warrior is a Valkyrie, if you play the Cult of the Nightqueen, your Wizard is a Vampire, if you play the Embercrush Ogres, your Workers are far stronger.

We also created monsters, each with different powers, which are far stronger than most of the player Units. These monsters, like the Dread Crocodile, The Volcanic Terror, and the Death Reaper tower over Eldervale, and will be represented by large 50mm miniatures in the game.

You’ve already got me hooked! What can players expect when first playing Eldervale? What are the game’s core mechanics?

The mechanics of Dwellings of Eldervale are streamlined and smooth- but don’t necessarily look that way when you first look at the table. On each turn, you either place one of your units in Eldervale, or you return all of your units to your player board, while also making use of your tableau engine. Complexity in the game comes from the rules for unit placement, and the unique powers of units. Dwellings uses a form of worker placement on a map that’s different every time. Each unit is placed in a manner that affects the choices you have for future placements. You also have significant amounts of player interaction in terms of players using the same Realms that may trigger battles or provoke monsters.

Your explorations of Eldervale give you diverse choices about how to progress your game. You will work to summon new units, gain magic cards for special effects and special ways to score, and to construct Dwellings to occupy Realms. You’ll also be gaining adventure cards that boost your abilities and create your tableau engine. As you acquire Treasure tokens, you may use them for the resources they depict, or they can be used to modify your tableau cards.

Scoring is based on a variety of different aspects, though is strongly dependent on how much elemental power you have gained from building Dwellings and completing Adventures. 

Anything already in the works to expand the game, or possibly another game set in the same universe? 

We have incredible stretch goal additions that we’re on the verge of unlocking including a Frost Giant that guards the Bifrost Bridge, and a Mother of Dragons that is the most powerful monster in the game guarding amazing treasures. In addition, there is a lot of material that we explored that would up on the cutting room floor in terms of variants, scenarios, and other ways to play Dwellings of Eldervale. I’m certain that in further developments, we’ll be looking at exploring deeper into Eldervale with more story, character, or scenario-driven aspects. We’ve always imagined what a role-playing game might look like in the Eldervale setting. And though we’re not committed in that direction, this world is so vast and interesting that anything is possible!

Sounds awesome! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.

You are welcome!

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