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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Drawing a new hand

By Lea Hogdal


A team of six combined their passion for competitive card games with a multi-dimensional fantasy world to create Ivion, a soon-to-be released board game. It all started with Aislyn Hall, the creator of Ivion and president of their company, Luminary Games.

Hall started brainstorming ideas about this fantasy world during her sophomore year in high school.

“I started writing it down because I just have to, it bursts in my head and I have to do something with it,” Hall said. “It kept getting bigger and bigger and then I had all these pages of notes, and all these ideas, but I didn’t have anywhere I was going with it.”

The game features over 290 cards which are divided into six classes, 12 specializations and 54 feats for players to use. // Photo by Tyler Morris

She said she continued to write down her ideas about these characters and the abstract world they lived in until three years ago, at the age of 19, when something clicked. Hall said while she had written small excerpts about the world and its characters, she hadn’t felt like a good enough writer to pursue her ideas in a written direction. Instead, she chose to combine this world with her interest in game design.

Ivion is a competitive card game that holds over 290 unique cards. Of those are six classes, 12 specializations and 54 feats which allow players to customize a new character in every game they play. According to their Kickstarter website, your deck is your character’s skills and spells.

The battle takes place on a four-by-four tile grid, and the board fluctuates as the game moves forward and different battles occur.

Ivion is currently in its last preparations before being sent off to manufacturing on Monday, Nov. 13. The game will be sold on Amazon and in stores downtown, Dark Tower Games and Cosmic Comics in about two months.

The Luminary Games team consists of current and graduated Western students. Eight months ago, seniors Adam Hockemeyer, Hugh Wichman and Jake Dardzinski joined on as game developers.

Jake Dardzinski was drawn to the literature and story of Ivion. He is a creative writing major at Western. // Photo by Tyler Morris

Dardzinski, one of the game developers and now narrative designer, is a creative writing major at Western. He was drawn to the literature and story behind Ivion. The Ivion team originally brought him on to write the reveals for the classes, which showcases a character’s class and creates a narrative behind them, but this led to longer stories on the many different aspects of the world.

“Behind all of this [the board game] is a huge world, a huge storyline, that has multiple planes of existence, a whole pantheon of gods, and we’re just looking at a tiny section of that. Jake [Dardzinski] and Aislyn [Hall] are working through figuring out the storyline and getting it written down, but for the most part it’s all in Aislyn’s head,” Hockemeyer said.

CEO of Luminary Games Adam Hockemeyer is majoring in economics with an emphasis on small business management. Hockemeyer said Hall wanted to bring someone else on board to deal with the business aspects and run the company.

Hockemeyer sought out many experts throughout the process of creating this board game to aid them with taxes, international trade and other issues that came their way. He spoke to small businesses downtown, economics professors, the Western business office and many others within the game design industry.

A key part in getting this board game produced was creating the Kickstarter. Hall said this part of the process was one of the most difficult, with knowing where to advertise, who their audience was and competing with other game illustrations and presentations on a platform that is crowded and judged on a massive scale.

“You’ve spent all this time crafting this [game] you’ve poured your heart and soul into it, and it’s so much safer to not show it to the world,” Hall said.

With the launching of the Kickstarter, the team members worked full-time to playtest and get their name out into the community. Playtesting the game has led to small details being tweaked so that it can provide the player with the best experience possible. The Ivion Kickstarter raised $21,000 and allowed the team to move forward with the project.

Wichman said they were fortunate to take part in playtestNW, an organization that helps smaller board games get into conventions for cheap. The team paid $25 a month and were able to gain tables at popular conferences. They attended PAX, OrcaCon, Bellingham Anime Convention, GeekGirlCon, Dragonflight and Evergreen Tabletop Expo.

While showcasing their game at PAX, the Ivion team met Warren Yung, a competitive card game fan living in Vancouver.

Yung loved the game and has been talking to stores in Vancouver about it and even going to stores and demoing it for them. Hockemeyer told the story of Yung’s first time playing, and how afterwards he pulled out and offered all the cash he had on him, in hopes of scoring one of the three demo sets in existence.

“I think it will be really successful as long as it hits a critical mass of players, ” Yung said. “I really hope they do.”

Freshman Noble Solana-Walkinshaw met the Ivion team two weeks ago at Western’s Magic: The Gathering club, during one of their blind playtests. By the end of the day, he knew this was something he wanted to be a part of.

“I want to be able to say in five years I was there when Ivion started, because I think it’s going to be big,” Solana-Walkinshaw said.

He compared the game to other card games, like Magic: The Gathering, and said with Ivion, you feel involved in every game.

“There’s never a game where you’re like, ‘I don’t think I could have ever won this game,’ but there are games like that in Magic and basically every other card game, even poker, where you just get screwed over by the draw.”

Solana-Walkinshaw said the game’s layout was unique. People interact on a physical board rather than only with their opponent. He said what he loves most about Ivion is the deck-building aspect of the game, with its almost limitless combinations and strategic possibilities.

“I could just sit down and build decks for 10 hours and only have started to scratch the surface,” Solana-Walkinshaw said.

He said the major price differences between this game and others like it make it a very accessible game to play. Solana-Walkinshaw said a competitive Magic: the Gathering deck costs around $500 to $600, meanwhile you can buy all the decks in Ivion for $60.

The Luminary Games team plans on releasing more expansions after this version, Winterstorm, adding to the deck-building aspect of the game. They hope to ultimately create other types of board games, with Ivion as the flagship of the company.

With its pending success on the line, the creators of Ivion are sure about one thing: their love of the game.

“I’m fine with us losing half of our investment, as long as it exists. I just want it to exist,” Wichman said.

The game, Ivion, will be sold on Amazon and in stores throughout downtown Bellingham. // Photo by Tyler Morris


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