The art and components in a game have a big impact on how the overall product is perceived. They help to tell the story. Good art can transform an abstract into a game rich with theme, featuring characters full of life and their own compelling backstories. A single image or miniature figure can add a ton of drama, emotion, and narrative information to a board game.
Rising Sun is a very personal project for Eric M. Lang. It’s the second in a series of games inspired from the legends and mythologies that thrilled him as a kid. The Viking epic Blood Rage was a remarkable example of how a game can embody the source material in theme, mechanics, and especially art and components. It was this same attention to aesthetic that CMON hoped to recreate by reuniting the same creative team for Rising Sun.
Eric M. Lang is a fanatic for Japanese culture. He grew up with the myths of Japan and knew right from the start what type of game he wanted to create. His vision wasn’t limited to the mechanics; it encompassed the entire emotional vibe of the game. Designing Rising Sun gave him the opportunity to revisit the history of the Feudal period, as well as to dive back into the mythologies that first hooked him when he was a kid.
The aesthetic of Rising Sun is a mixture of the beauty of traditional rice paper drawings and the captivating magic of the heroes and monsters of Japanese folklore. “The Japanese myths that I read as a kid are all about the simple iconic moments that tell the story,” said Lang. It was these powerful moments he wanted to portray with a mixture of traditional art and the actions that players are able to take. With Rising Sun, he wants a game that people will be talking about long after it ends.
“I want people to tell stories. All of this is just a way for people to tell each other stories about the cool things they did.”
In working on Rising Sun, Lang was joined by artist Adrian Smith and sculptors from Studio McVey. They have collaborated a number of times in the past, including on Blood Rage and The Others. The working relationship has evolved so that Lang can send a few notes and parameters and Smith will return with the right sentiment and feeling in the art that he was going for. For Rising Sun, the aesthetic was extraordinarily important for Lang. He wanted to go with an artist he could trust to capture the evocative feel of the feudal period of Japan. Smith was the obvious choice.
“What I was going for in this games was atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere,” said Lang. “I wanted it to have a real vibe of players being polite, orderly Japanese leaders, and everything from the game stems from that.”
Past games that teamed Lang, Smith, and Studio McVey have produced some of the most memorable board game art and components in recent memory. A glance at either The Others or Blood Rage is enough to inform you that these are creative minds that like their stories on the macabre side. Their work on Rising Sun definitely keeps that tradition alive.
The five clans in Rising Sun represent different aspects of Japanese culture. They draw upon elements from the natural world that signify strength, wisdom, beauty, speed, and honor. Each of the different clans have four different sculpts for their figures. There are two Bushi, a Shinto, and a Daimyo. These figures are unique to the clans they fight for, and they are all adorned in traditional Japanese clothing and armor that evoke the period.
However, it’s with the monsters that can be acquired, where the legends and myths of Japan really come to life. Creatures like the River Dragon and the Komainu are traditionally seen as symbols of good luck. The Onis, on the other hand, are vengeful gods that embody emotions like spite and hate. The artwork by Smith for each creatures serves as nightmare fuel, and the miniature figures by Studio McVey add a physical menace to the board.
The combination of the polite orderliness of the game’s mechanics and the horror of the creatures from Japanese myths that can be added to a player’s army make for a beautiful final result. Players will be swept back into the times of the Daimyo and Shoguns, when the fate of the future of the country was on the line, and honor meant everything. For warriors in feudal Japan, the stories and legends of monsters and gods were all too real and would inform their decisions, even on the battlefield.
As we approach the Kickstarter, there has been a lot of excitement around the art, miniatures, and the game, itself. All parties involved in the creative process were committed to telling a story with this game and honoring the source material. This has been a game that Lang has had in his head since he was a little kid, absorbing stories about ancient Japan.
“I leave a piece of myself behind in every one of these big games that I do,” said Lang. “I try to create something that speaks to me, and hope it resonates with the market.”
Rising Sun is coming to Kickstarter on March 7th at 3 PM EST.
Read our Game Overview here.
Read about Diplomacy in Rising Sun here.
Read about the Battle System of Rising Sun here.