Interview: Robert Burke on Draco Magi

Draco Magi Kickstarter

Browsing Kickstarter, I came across a wonderful gem of a card game: Draco Magi. The appeal – obviously – where the fantastic dragons that give the game its name. I had a look at the game-play video, which looked equally exciting.

Long story short, I wanted to know more. So I sent the Robert Burke, the driving force behind Draco Magi, a message with lots of questions. Luckily for me, he somehow found the time to answer them, despite having his hands full with a Kickstarter-campaign!

Here is what Robert Burke had to say about his latest game!


#1 – The Story Behind Draco Magi

Draco Magi Work in Progress

When and how did you decide that you wanted to make a game about Dragons? Why Dragons? Are they a longstanding obsession, or did you have a specific inspiration?

Draco Magi started it was an abstract strategy card game. The cards we’re just numbers and colors. Players played cards to try and win gems pulled from a bag. I was laser focused on the strategy of the game.

Then I saw the dragon art of Kerem Beyit and immediately knew I wanted them on this new game. I suppose this was the birth of Draco Magi.

Over the development process, and after collaborating with Richard, the game has really transformed! But many of the strategy elements that drove the original idea still remain.

The Dragons in Draco Magi are absolutely fantastic. Where does the graphic design come from?

The artist is Kerem Beyit. If you play Pathfinder you’ve seen his work. His dragons are the best dragon illustrations I have ever seen, and they are a inspiration for the game. I am very thankful I had the opportunity to buy this work for the game!

Did you know Louis Francesco before starting this project? How did he get on board?

Yes, Luis was the first graphic designer I met on Boardgame Geek when I was developing my very first game Cartoona. He took my cover drawing, created a 3D box image and posted it. It was stunned at how beautiful it was! I hired him as freelance talent right then, and Luis has been the graphic designer on all my games since.

If I ever do well enough to be a full time game publisher, Luis will be the first person I try to hire. He is very talented and a tremendous asset. I am always nervous that he won’t have time for a small company like mine.


#2 – Draco Magi Game-Play

Draco Magi Game Cards

You have designed card games before, though you wrote this game together with Richard Launius. What was – as a game designer – your goal in designing this particular card game? What makes the game as such unique?

Richard and I had different goals, which I think has been a tremendous benefit to the game. The game started as a pure strategy game, and when Richard played it he did not feel the theme come through. The great artwork was not enough. Richard is the one who brought theme into the game while I continually tried to make sure we did not lose sight of the strategy elements.

Our goal was to make a quick, highly strategic game that was also highly thematic. I think we have succeeded and this is what makes Draco Magi unique.

How does the Draco Magi play? How long is an average game?

Draco Magi is a two player game and each player is commanding dragons to fight for three different gems in play each round. The placement phase includes ranged attacks and is really a strategic set up for the melee phase which is fought with a completely different mechanic. Win three gems of one color or three of a different color and you win the game immediately.

What makes it engaging is every decision you make with a card is very important. Each card played has an immediate impact and a lasting impact that will ripple through into later parts of the round.

A full game of Draco Magi runs about 30 minutes.


#3 – The Draco-Magi Kickstarter Campaign

Draco Magi Cards

Your Kickstarter campaign for Draco Magi is explicit about not offering any “Kickstarter-exclusives” of any kind. Why is that important to you?

I think many people have become caught up in the “collectors mindset”. While this is not bad, it hurts those of us who don’t care about collecting, but do care about playing.

I also think having exclusives that are not available to people who buy the game post-Kickstarter is bad for a game. Many gamers simply won’t buy a game, unless they can buy the whole thing. We are in this for the long haul, not the short term.