David Chircop from Mighty Boards

Hamlet, Petrichor, Vengeance, and their newest release, Art Society - these are a few board games created and designed by Mighty Boards, the brainchild of various Maltese creatives working together to make top-quality games, evoking imaginary worlds with gorgeous graphics!

In light of our collaborative event on March 16th, 2024 (more info on how to apply here!),  we asked David Chircop, one of the founders and game designers of Mighty Boards a few questions about the business, the creative process, and the inspirations of the team.

il-lokal: Tell us a little about your story! Who are the creatives in the team of Mighty Boards and how did you come together to begin this creative project?

David: The Mighty Boards team is a mix of people from 3 specific backgrounds. Mark comes from many years of professional Graphic Design industry and teaching, Gordon comes mainly from game academia, having written 2 books for MIT press about game design, and I come from AAA video game design, working on series like The Witcher and Cyberpunk 2077. Together we set out to make a company that blends these three sensibilities.

il-lokal: How did you develop your skills individually and as a team? What was your learning path to get to where you are presently?

David: Each of us developed our skills over years of expertise in their fields. Board games specifically however were a fairly new thing when we met. There was no school teaching how to make them and barely is there now. We applied the individual relevant skills that we had gathered by then to this new board game world, as we learned together on the job. Although we thought we were fairly good at our job at the time, there was a lot to learn about how to apply that in a board game sense - and there was much more to learn about other things we had no clue about. Like how to make viable commercial products, the nuances of print, the logistical implications of shipping a physical product across the world, storage, distribution, localization, marketing, and events. There is a lot more in the board game world than good game design and good graphic design. Those are just the foundation on which the rest of the company is built. 

il-lokal: What motivates you as a team?

David: I think one thing that is important for us is the fact that we are making local products that are internationally relevant in the industry. The vast majority of our sales is abroad, and many of the Maltese people who know about us, have heard of us from international press and sources. The fact that we are making artistic entertainment products that are designed and created locally but then are relevant worldwide is a point of great pride for us.

il-lokal: Do you have a typical audience for your work?

David: Our product range is quite wide. Classically we have been making quite deep strategic games that require someone to already be a board gamer to enjoy. Now with our newest game "Art Society" we have taken a stab at making a product that is accessible to everyone - and we have seen great success. So it used to be board gamers, but now it's everyone who is looking for some non-digital, socially charged entertainment. Art Society is a great family game. 

il-lokal: How important is having an online presence (website, social media…) to showcase and promote your work? How does it work for you?

David: Although we are proud to be in Malta, being here also puts us at a massive disadvantage in terms of presence in people's minds. Board games are as physical a product as they come, so physical presence at conventions and events is a super important part of the marketing. Only now do we have the resources to be attending events in the United States for example (our largest market). So before then, our communication had to rely on solely digital means. Whatever the case, even if we were in the US, we would still need to rely on digital communication as this is after all the main method of communication in today's times. 

il-lokal: What’s the most memorable milestone of your creative journey? 

David: We have had many successes, but perhaps one of the more memorable ones is the good kickstarter success we had with Hamlet, one of our previous games. That campaign gathered more than 10,000 people supporting us on the platform and was quite successful in capturing people's imagination. 

il-lokal: Do you have any funny stories throughout your creative process as a team that you would like to share?

David: In some of our games, we often sneak in characters or places that are named using words that sound funny or mean something in Maltese, because nobody will know. I won't say more than that, maybe you can find them? :D

il-lokal: Where do you find inspiration? What are your go-to sources for a creative boost?

David: Oh this is a tough one. We consider ourselves hungry seekers of things like this, but thanks to that we find inspiration in a lot of different media and experiences. Sometimes it is a journey we took, sometimes a book we read, sometimes a conversation we shared. We make games, so we often play and strive to remain playful. We try to find inspiration in many things, small and large. 

il-lokal: What does the process of creating games look like? 

David: We could write a book about this, but in short, usually we start from a fantasy. An attractive fantasy that we would like to live and believe others would want to too. Then we begin to construct a framework that facilitates that. This is done through the tools we have at our disposal, in our case - words, paper, wood, sometimes other physical materials, and of course a set of rules. Some games use more of one tool and less of another, it all depends on which of those tools best services the fantasy we want to deliver. 

il-lokal: What are some challenges that you face in the business? And how do you overcome these? 

David: The fact that we are so far away from our customers is a really big one. We use social media to try to keep us relevant, and more recently we are starting to travel multiple times a year to the US for networking and for meeting our customers. This will always be a tough nut for us. Travel so far so often brings challenges with time, tiredness, and time under the weather. But as we hope that our games will continue to speak for us too - we try to make the games themselves a projection of ourselves as a means of communicating who we are and what we do. 

il-lokal: If you could collaborate with another local artist/designer/brand, who would it be and why?

David: Local illustrators, we want to get to know more of you and work with more of you. Especially if you like board games too! 

il-lokal: What are you working on right now? Do you have any exciting things in progress that you’d like to share?

David: We always have 3-5 games in production at different levels of readiness. This year we are publishing a game from a really (reaaaally) famous and respected German designer, and we are finally releasing Fateforge, an especially innovative game that we have been working on for years and we hope will shake up the genre. Art Society is blowing up in distribution and Hamlet will be receiving an expansion this year. A lot is going on!

il-lokal: What are some of your goals for the future?

David: Becoming more of a household name in our biggest markets. Possibly coming up with a game that will keep on selling in the background so that we can focus more on making cool stuff a little bit slower than we do now. Sometimes we need to sit back with a cocktail too. It's research after all, as I said, we find inspiration in anything... 

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