The following Flagship interview was with Martin Woods, co-creator of The Da Vinci Game.
1. Can you begin by telling our readers a little bit about what inspired you to create The Da Vinci Game?
I’ve always loved making games and was making a ‘Lord of the Rings’ board game for my kids when Allison suggested I should work on a game we could publish, as there was already 365 Lord of the Rings games on the market and we felt one for every day of the year meant the market was probably saturated.
She suggested a ‘Da Vinci Game’ as we both loved The Da Vinci Code – Allison because of the spiritual references to the divine feminine and me because I’ve always loved codes and riddles.
2. What makes The Da Vinci Game unique and stand out from other games on the market?
We created it together and have both put different parts of ourselves into it. Allison is an artist and designer and has incorporated a lot of symbolism of the sacred feminine, including designing the board in the form of a pentacle.
I write the cryptic crossword for The Big Issue in the North and together we wrote the 800 questions in the game – which are a mix of codes, riddles and anagrams.
Many of the questions are rhyming riddles, which I feel makes it immediately more interesting than a standard general knowledge question as it gives you the chance to work out the answer if you don’t already know it. The rules of the game are also such that the person moving then reads out the question and everyone else races to answer it, with the quickest answer winning 3 tokens, the second right answer 2 tokens and everyone else 1 token. This means that everyone’s involved all the time, so no-one’s off making tea waiting for someone else’s turn to finish.
3. Is it a steep learning curve for new players to grasp how to play the game?
The rules of the game are fairly straight forward, however it can take people a while to get their heads around some of the clues, as they can involve play on words and somewhat strange logic, for example, here’s one of the Codex clues:
Pam takes a turn, showing where to travel,
She knows all routes on water, road or rail.
I’ve explained the answer at the bottom of this interview.
4. If you had to compare The Da Vinci Game to any other game, what would you compare it to, and why?
That’s one of those questions, I tend to avoid answering, however if pushed, I’d say Trivial Pursuit. The similarities are that you have to answer questions correctly in order to gain treasure (in our game) or pieces of pie (in theirs) and that once you have one of each type you then return to the starting point and answer a final question correctly to win the game.
There are however lots of differences – as I’ve already said, our game has riddles, anagrams, logic puzzles and codes instead of standard questions. I also feel that the extra rule that the person moving asks the questions and everyone else races to answer (against each other and a 1 minute timer) also makes the game more dynamic. It’s also more empowering, as you can often work out the answer from the question and if one player’s really good at the game, then it doesn’t mean everyone else is waiting around for their turn.
5. Will there be a follow-up game for The Da Vinci Game?
Yes, we’re working on a follow-up at the moment. It’s likely to be a separate stand-alone game which has overlaps with The Da Vinci Game, but also significant differences. We’ve also made a ‘Da Vinci Game Book’ and are waiting to hear from a distributor about that.
6. The Da Vinci Game has 800 puzzles, riddles, logic problems, and codes in it. What made you decide on that particular number?
We felt that 800 clues gave the game longevity – if you use 50 clues per game, then you can play the game 16 times before you repeat questions, which is good value for money. There’s not more questions primarily due to manufacture and transportation costs, as the box is already quite heavy and more questions would have necessitated increasing the retail price.
7. For the person who is considering buying The Da Vinci Game, but who might be on the fence about making the purchase, what would you say to them convince them to go ahead and buy the game?
If you enjoy riddles, codes or anagrams and like playing games where you have to think a little, then this is the game for you. We also get regular emails from players asking when we’ll make an expansion set and telling us how much they love playing The Da Vinci Game.
8. Who did the artwork for the game's various components?
Allison designed the artwork for the board and all the components, with the help of Leonardo, who painted the Mona Lisa J. Games Talk worked with Allison to create the box.
9. What made you decide to make The Da Vinci Game into a board game, instead of a card game or an online game of some type?
The game idea itself just seemed to lend itself best to a board game and we also both play board games ourselves more than we play card games or online games.
10. Why a Da Vinci game, and not a game named after some other famous artist?
It was as much the other aspects of Leonardo’s life that drew us to him, not just his art. He was an enigmatic character himself, could create mirror writing without a mirror and used codes and symbolism in his paintings. This plus the popularity of The Da Vinci Code made him the obvious – in fact the only – choice.
11. Looking back, what has been the most rewarding thing about creating The Da Vinci Game?
I think the most rewarding thing is when we get emails from people saying how much they love the game. Knowing that tens of thousands of people have played a game that we invented is really quite a thrill.
12. Of all of the games out there, what is your personal favorite other than The Da Vinci Game, and why do you like it so much?
When I was growing up, I’d have definitely said Dungeons and Dragons, which is a role-playing game, rather than a board game, as I love using my imagine and feel that role-playing games give you limitless possibilities to do this.
Now, my favourite game is The Transformation Game, which was produced at Findhorn, a spiritual centre in Scotland. The Transformation Game is my favourite because it helps players to work through real life challenges and to gain insights and understanding on the way.
Allison’s favourite game changes daily. She’s loving mousetrap at the moment, but before that it was Scrabble and next week it could be Risk and world domination!
13. Sometimes, games face controversy of various sorts. Has there been any controversy surrounding The Da Vinci Game?
Remarkably little. I think that the world’s becoming a more tolerant and accepting place and that people are becoming more used to non-Christian symbolism, like the sacred feminine symbolism used in the game. Either that, or anyone wanting to create a controversy has been concentrating on The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown and our games managed to slip through the net!
14. What is the object of the game? In other words, how does a player win when playing The Da Vinci Game?
To win the game you must race against other players to correctly answer a range of riddles, codes, anagrams and logic puzzles. The fastest correct answer wins the most tokens. You then use these tokens to have a go at winning four treasures:
Once you have won all 4 treasures, the first player to reach the Ankh space and correctly answer a final riddle wins the game.
Comment on question 3:
The answer to this riddle is ‘Map’, as you have to ‘turn’ or write backwards the name ‘Pam’.