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Illustrator's Notes

(please click on any image to see it larger)

The early prototype for Tara, Seat of Kings was originally called King Of The Castle and came with appropriate Medieval (clip)-artwork and pseudo-terminology. However, none of us felt particularly happy with this theme for what is, basically, an abstract game and being “Medieval” sailed rather too close, stylistically, to our first ever product: the 2-player card game “Coppertwaddle”. Never ones to wish to repeat ourselves, we retired to an excellent Mexican restaurant in Essen after the last day of Spiel ’04 (and four days of selling Bloody Legacy) and, over fajitas and fruit juice, established the Celtic Irish theme for the game; it’s major advantages being:

a) It is more in keeping with the structure of the game; for instance four village boards became the four Counties of Ireland, the placement spaces in the pyramids mapped to the hierarchy of Celtic Irish society etc.; and,
b) It is far superior in the richness-potential for presentation and component quality!

So, with these ideas brainstormed, discussed and agreed (and further spicy dishes digested), my thoughts and inspirations revolved around a core source: The Book Of Kells. The Tara box-art would be as intricate, colourful, organic and rich as the pages from this incredible work with the components reflecting detail elements contained within that central picture – now that’s setting one’s sights high!
First stop was the word “Tara” itself – obviously, this was central to the whole presentation and needed to be as distinctive (and large) as possible in relation to the rest of the graphics. The “T” is a typically Kells-ian motif, but the samples I discovered simply showed the plain letter – so, taking inspiration from a shield sculpture I’d seen, I added the head (and knotted tongue) of a beast. The A, R and A are in a simple script but, due to the size of the “T” had to be spaced quite carefully in relation to it – too far away and you had T – ARA (a kind of stuttered farewell); too close and you had TRA (a trumpet blast). Returning to the Book Of Kells, I noted that many of the pages have little or no ‘empty space’; all potential gaps ‘filled in’ with smaller pictures, or fractal-like knots-within-knots-within-knots. The knotwork is key to Celtic art in that it represents the journey of life; the border work echoes Kells (once again) and forms, should you wish to take the time to follow it (!), a single intertwining trail traversing the box border; the fillers in the Tara “T”, while standalone, still conform to common Celtic motifs and are also echoed on the game board and cards.

The intricate page that was now being built up afforded me the chance to slip in a few visual references and jokes for the more keen-eyed viewer. Those of you who have visited our other games’ websites will already be familiar with our tendency toward hidden detail, japes, tomfoolery and (wherever possible) deception! Take a closer look at the Tara box and you’ll find such items as Alan Paull (Author of the Game) sneaking a quick forty-winks; myself as a wise old bird; a detached eye (freshly-popped) from Bloody Legacy; a wormy-unravelling of knots; the titular chalice from Coppertwaddle and a suitably-surprised Celt!

Having sketched, re-sketched, knotted and joined all of the components onto a single page – a sheet of A0 (zero) cardboard – it was then necessary to add that all-important colour; this is where the graphic designer's work began! Although I considered hand-painting, I couldn’t achieve the depth of colour that I felt was necessary – especially after one had scanned, into the computer, the various pieces – there was always a significant element of retouching required.

Tony Boydell

Graphic designer's notes



Bloody Legacy / Confucius / Coppertwaddle / Fzzzt! / Guilds of London / Ivor the Engine / On The Cards / Paperclip Railways / Scandaroon / Snowdonia / Tara, Seat of Kings / Totemo

Surprised Stare Games Ltd.

Carrier Strike / Mission Command / The Cousins' War

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