For those who don’t know, can you explain a little about DOMINA games?
I started DOMINA in 2014 to develop games with a particular theme – the mysteries of the world. I strive to make games that are not just fun, but are also beautiful objects that people will want to own, the way some collect paintings. I want people unfamiliar with board games to be able to enjoy the games I make just as much as any board gamer – this is why so many of my games have simple rules. I’ve released five games since starting DOMINA, and my newest title will go on sale this May.
Your games are known for a beautiful and unique aesthetic. As far as I know most of the graphics of your games are coming from あさひろ. What is coming first in your games: Illustrations or gameplay mechanics?
I actually had the rules and setting for my first game, Night Clan, finished before 2014, but I hadn’t been able to find an artist whose style that matched the world I had imagined. DOMINA is very fortunate to have found Asahiro-san, who we rely on for our art. Ever since, Asahiro-san’s art is a defining characteristic of DOMINA’s games. Similarly, for many of the games I’ve released since then, I thought of the game mechanics first. However, Pralaya is an exception, where the setting of the sinking island came first, and the rules after.
Your title Night Clan was brought to Kickstarter by Gamephilia. Can we expect more of your titles becoming available internationally?
I was approached by Gamephilia after remaking Night Clan in 2016. The Kickstarter for Night Clan was successfully funded, making it the first DOMINA game to receive an English version. Since then, we have been approached by other publishers as well. An English version of Argoat is already in the works. It would be very difficult to sell my games overseas on my own, so I’m grateful that publishers from abroad are taking an interest in my games.
We’re very interested in the Japanese tabletop community. How have you noticed this scene change and develop over the years? What would be your advice for people wanting to start their own board game company?
I’ve participated in Game Market, one of the biggest board game events in Japan, for over ten years. In contrast to those early days, the number of both exhibitors and participants in the event has skyrocketed. Board games are still not as well known in Japan as video games, but recently the tabletop gaming scene has gained some media attention. I’m hopeful that it will only continue to grow from here. As to starting a board game company, I actually think that it’s pretty easy to finish your first game; most people who want to start a board game company already have an idea for a game and the passion to make it. Compared to that first game, though, making and selling the second and third game is quite difficult. There will be times when you get sick of it, but when that happens, try to remember how you felt when you first started out. It’s a hard job, but the joy of getting a game finished and ready for release is irreplaceable. The key to success is originality. You have to do something different from everybody else. I’m excited to see what new companies will come up with in the future.
You have just announced Blade Rondo for TGM May 2018, a title we are looking forward to. This is the first game designed by another designer than yourself, namely Pawn who is known for games like Shephy. How came this collaboration to happen?
Pawn-san is actually a friend of mine. I had the opportunity to test play Blade Rondo several times, and it was after one such session that Pawn-san suggested releasing Blade Rondo through DOMINA. He felt that DOMINA’s art and design choices and standards were ideal for the game. As one of the game’s themes is world folklore, and because the characters were inspired from many different places, we relied on several artists in addition to Asahiro-san to accentuate each character’s individuality. Look forward to some exciting rules from popular game designer Pawn combined with beautiful artwork from our talented artists.
What else can we expect from you in 2018? Any new titles we can look forward to?
First and foremost, I’m working on a new game, which I plan to release this winter. Blade Rondo is a game of precise strategy and reading the opponent, but I’d like my next game to be more casual. Right now, I’m hoping to maintain my current pace of releasing two games a year. I’m also planning to remake Pralaya. I really like this game, but there are some improvements I want to make. I hope at last to be able to complete it, and perhaps I’ll add some new elements in the remake. Last year, I released two games of which I am very proud, and I was honored that they were so well received by board gamers. I’m starting this year off with my first release, the excellent Blade Rondo. Please look forward to what DOMINA will do in the future!