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Artist diary: Vincent Dutrait for Discoveries

The release of Discoveries is the perfect occasion to follow its creation through the journal of the artist, Vincent Dutrait. Before Discoveries, Vincent illustrated Lewis & Clark which is also about the expedition. Discoveries was a challenge. We invite you to follow the process…

Let’s start with a little anecdote: On an evening in summer 2014, I was playing Lewis & Clark with my family. At the end of the game, we ended up talking about the details of the expedition that I was beginning to know quite well since I had illustrated it several times in games or books.

At that time, I realized that in Lewis & Clark, I mostly represented the characters in the context of an epic trek — but we didn’t develop the discovery and exploration sides of the expedition.

I was keeping this thought in the back of my mind to talk about it with the Ludonaute team. The next morning, I received a message from them, telling me that Cédrick Chaboussit had just designed a whole new game dedicated to the journals brought back by the explorers, journals describing the tribes, the cartography, and the studies of the animals and plants! That game would become Discoveries.

Dances with Lewis & Clark

It is not that simple to work on a theme and a story several times. Moreover, Lewis & Clark and Discoveries are two very different games but with a similar theme and approach: The players have to manage the expedition members to achieve their goal.

I must admit that the idea of working on it again scared me a little bit at first. The design had been thought out in-depth for Lewis & Clark, and it was necessary to obtain the same result — but in a new light — in order to avoid comments like « It’s Lewis & Clark 2 », « Lewis & Clark: The Expansion » or « Lewis & Clark: They Are Back ».

The Designer, The Publisher And The Artist

After some very interesting discussions, we decided to focus on the representation of the journals written by the explorers. The next step was to research documents and references to be able to do realistic and credible illustrations. My main researches were on the different tribes, their environment, their lifestyle, the hunters, fishermen, the encountered natural species…

Then I set up a framework for the cards considering some distinctive features. First, the cards are played horizontally, which is an important detail because, physically and visually, it gives a different sensation from Lewis & Clark.

I have thought up two different treatments for the cards. For the Tribes, I have chosen to use ochers and browns to create warmness and to be reminiscent of the colors of the Rocky Mountains, the leather, the wood — everything that is lively.

On the contrary, the Discoveries sides bear a pale and cold background to enhance the visibility of the tracks and the illustrations of the encountered species.

Then I organized the cards so that the mechanism and the indications fit the best amongst the other elements in order to avoid a patchwork effect. Actually, I have drawn the symbols, numbers and pictograms by hand so that we can find the same graphic aspect as in the illustrations. My goal was to create coherent and harmonious cards that remain easily readable.

Wild Wild West

I tried to give the players the feeling that they are really about to do the work of an anthropologist and to study different cultures.

For the Tribes cards, I figured out pretty soon that it wouldn’t be that easy to represent the fifty or so tribes who live in the areas explored while giving personality to each card. Some tribes have similar environments (tepees, wooden houses or huts), lifestyles or clothes. For some other tribes, I had a hard time finding descriptions or representations.

To create variety, I have chosen to represent the environment only if I had documentation, to depict a character if I didn’t have references, and to include a specific element inly if I had an accurate picture of it.

This work allowed me to create landscapes, characters more or less closely represented, costumes, objects, everyday life scenes, links between nature and men, animals…

For the Discoveries cards, it was easier. What was more important was the mechanism and the tracks that needed to be clear and perfectly readable once the card would lay on the table. In Discoveries, none of the cards are kept in hand, which influences the treatment of the illustrations that are to be seen from a distance.

On the lefthand side are the rivers and the mountains, painted as two small icons so they fit perfectly in the card, and on the righthand side, the illustrations of plants and animals.

For the two kinds of cards, I have tried to give the sensation of a travel diary with illustrations like colored sketches as if they had been taken on the spot, like lively memories. Finally, I have added some writing marks, ink traces and stains to give the ideas of journals that are carried around in a backpack, whenever it is raining or snowing.

On the Board Again

In the very first versions of the game, there wasn’t any central board. It was during a test at the 2014 Spiel fair that Sébastien Pauchon (from Gameworks and Space Cowboys) suggested adding a main board in the center of the table instead of just designating a zone to stock the dice.

I liked the idea right off, as did the Ludonaute team, because at this stage the game lacked immersion, a frame, a decor to get really involved in the adventure.

The illustration of the central board shows a panoramic view of the expedition during a break, some men meeting the Native Americans, the others buzzing around the crafts and the horses.

I have rigorously composed the illustration to give it balance and strength. The strong lines all converge to the center of the image to create deepness, and the mountain is like a pyramid on the top of the scene. I aim to enhance the feeling of being a small man at the feet of nature.

The central board facilitates the organization and the structure of the game zone with the cards on each side. I personally think that Discoveries (as with Augustus, which I also illustrated) is a game with a « Wow » effect. There aren’t many elements and we start the game with not so much on the table — and then, step by step, the table gets full; we develop the game by spreading the cards. At the end, we get a feeling of achievement, visually reinforced.

The individual boards tend to be not so fun because they’re full of indications about the mechanisms of the game. Here, I have tried to use this space to layer various textures and colors and enhance the immersion of the player with paper pieces, a notebook, a little portrait, a colored stone…

Once Upon a Time

The cover illustration has been designed with the same spirit as Lewis & Clark. The idea was to present what the players are about to do in the game, to put into pictures the actions of it.

In the picture, we can see the head of the expedition, the proximity with the Native Americans, the work on the journals and Sacagawea indicating the path. Actually, she is pointing at the part of the decor that we find on the board inside the game. The goal is still to tell a story, with the mountains looking like those fromLewis & Clark and the eagle watching the expedition.

On Lewis & Clark‘s cover, I put the stress on the explorers, with a cold decor, closed by the steep walls of a defile, to enhance by opposition the warm colors of the characters on the crafts as they go into the unknown.

Here, I have done the opposite, being willing to show the wide spaces and use nature’s colors to create a warm atmosphere. I also wanted to change the atmosphere, enhancing the blues and the greens for more softness and the pinks and creams for the peaceful feeling. Thanks to my graphic treatment, the players will be able to make a link between the two game boxes, but we wanted them different nonetheless because Discoveries is a whole new game.

As always, I made the illustrations the traditional way with my pencils and brushes on paper. Sometimes, I did it on separate parts in order to recompose the pictures on the computer.

This Was Just The Beginning

Being able to rework a game thematic is not usual in a career, and I have been really happy over this wonderful opportunity offered by the Ludonaute team. I do thank them for this.

At the same time, it has been a complex challenge. I have just received the first sample of the game (which is particularly well made with an accurate printing) and I was really happy about it.

I have appreciated the opportunity to work again on this universe and develop new ideas that I couldn’t do on the first game, I have appreciated working again with Ludonaute and Cédrick Chaboussit, and I appreciate the chance to share my path a little longer with the players in this universe. Enjoy!

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