Factions Battlegrounds: Changing the Game
Tabletop gaming has been one of the biggest pillars of Geek culture for decades, from the legendary Dungeons and Dragons that has spanned comics, animation and famous live-television series to Magic the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh, which have been multi-media juggernauts as well. However, fantasy in these franchises often focuses on adapting myths from medieval Europe and Feudal Asia, leaving cultures from Mesoamerica, Africa and the Middle East almost completely misrepresented in the medium.
Thankfully, Factions Battlegrounds is here to change the game (pun absolutely intended). Created by Peter Ferry and Jason Crayton, Factions intends to create representation in tabletop gaming for all the cultures and groups that have never seen themselves reflected in fantasy. In the game, different factions of mystical warriors and creatures face off to control Mana, a powerful resource that grants powers beyond imagination. Each faction takes inspiration from different cultures from across the world, including Mesoamerican civilizations, African nations, and Native American tribes.
I got together with Peter Ferry and Jason Crayton to discuss their inspirations, the process of creating a tabletop game, and their aspirations for the franchise in the future.
1- First of all, what pushed you to create Factions?
PF: I’ve always really loved fantasy and fantasy worlds, and I’ve also really loved games. However, as I got older, I think the best part of gaming was that I had the opportunity to experience it with my friends. As adults, part of the inspiration for me was to create a world and game with my friend that would give other people, especially teenagers and kids who love fantasy, the chance to jump into a new fantasy world with their friends. It became apparent that it was easy for me and others like me to see themselves in fantasy gaming, but it was not so easy for everyone. That really helped shape the process of developing the game, making representation a focal point.
JC: I grew up with fantasy like Pete. When I was younger, anytime I’d make a fantasy character they were always European. At that age, I didn’t really understand that fantasy could incorporate anything else, because I never saw it. So that inspired me to create something that my younger self would’ve wanted to see. And hopefully this project can inspire others to do the same. Representation matters in our worlds, characters, & media. I still love & value the traditional fantasy I grew up with, but variety is needed.
2- Could you explain the process of designing a tabletop game?
PF: The most important step is starting! It sounds cliche’ but getting your initial ideas from your brain to a prototype is an incredible tool. From there, it’s all about trial and error. Playtesting is a very challenging, but very rewarding process. It’s great to see what works well and it helps reveal areas that need adjusting. For Factions, we have changed every single aspect of the game multiple times! The key element is keeping your target audience in mind through the whole journey. The most important questions are: Who is the game for? What is the purpose of the game? Is it purely entertainment or are there other intentions such as educational value or social interaction? Once we had these questions answered, we were able to design the game with intention.
3- What are some of the Factions we encounter in Battlegrounds and what are the inspirations behind them?
PF: There are actually 9 different factions, each with unique real-world inspired cultures and a wide range of monsters. A couple of them feature some of the standard fantasy tropes, like Kragg, that is home to Goblins, Trolls and Griffins intent on raiding and overpowering enemies. Most, however, like Parada or Zermano, draw cultural influence from different parts of Africa. They feature monsters and creatures from African folklore and also break stereotypes by representing longstanding fantasy tropes much differently. Others, such as Primus, are inspired by Aztec legends, and then there are factions like Moonshadow, that draw from Native American and African inspirations. All factions have very different tactics and skills that can lend to victory!
4- How do you go about finding artists to portray the creatures and scenarios of the game?
JC: There are 2 things I looked for when selecting artists. First was their style. I really wanted to bring artists on board that would create artwork in styles that weren’t as prominent in traditional fantasy. We knew we weren’t making a typical fantasy world, so we wanted artists who didn’t traditionally work in that style. Second was opportunity. Pete & I wanted to choose artists that haven’t had the opportunity to work on a project like this, especially women & artists of color. Having their voices present in the creation process was paramount, starting with my former art student.
5- Are there any plans for a video-game adaptation of Factions Battlegrounds?
JC: We most certainly wouldn’t rule out a video game. The world and characters would lend themselves to combat games, RPGs, and 1v1 fighting games. I’d go crazy over a Mortal Kombat style game involving Factions characters. However, we really want to look into developing a mobile app to give more people the opportunity to play the game and engage in this unique fantasy world.
6- What is next for Factions Battlegrounds?
PF: Following the Kickstarter, the focus is going to be on developing our world, Graviterrus, and really honing in on the geography, history, civilizations, and cultures that make up each faction, as well as developing some individual characters for each Faction. As for the game itself, for the board game we have a trick or two up our sleeve for some potential new content and gameplay ideas, but the primary objective will be making the game accessible through an online or digital platform.
JC: One thing that is on the horizon is diving into the world and recruiting writers to help tell stories with our world. The world is rich with underrepresented cultures & folklore, but also themes that you don’t see in the fantasy genre very much. Themes that are important to me as a person of color.
You can support Factions Battlegrounds on Kickstarter right now at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/factions/factions-battlegrounds
Daniel D. Calvo is a Cuban writer, editor, translator and comics journalist currently based in Pennsylvania, USA. He is a published author in both English and Spanish, having his work appear in anthologies, magazines and literary websites. He is the Editor in Chief of Konkret Comics, working on titles such as Akolyte, Absolver and Odina. His translation credits include books, comics and film. As one of the lead writers of the Konkret Comics’ Blog, he has interviewed several figures from comics, animation, and other areas of the entertainment industry. He recently graduated from the prestigious screenwriting course of the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. His first creator-owned comic series Andy Starboy launched with great success in 2020.