View Full Version : Mound Builders graphics package

02-21-2014, 10:16 PM
At the beginning of Feb. the guys over at Victory Point Games asked if I would be interested in developing a map and associated graphics for a new board game called "Mound Builders:, trade and warfare in ancient North America". I said sure so they sent me the in-house beta test kit. Here is the map that came with the kit- the dimensions are 11x17 inches.

02-21-2014, 10:21 PM
I knew absolutely Zero about the topic, but found it fascinating. I had no idea these societies existed! After doing a fair amount of online research on the topic, I decided to try building a map what would have a sort of cave painting theme to it. After all, this was a game on a cuture that never developed a written language or paper, so making a "old paper" looking map, which is my usual default mode, seemed wrong. After several false starts, this is what I currently have. The folks at VPG like it and I am hopeful no more changes are needed.

02-21-2014, 10:26 PM
They also asked if I would like to develop the art for the card backs and the slip cover that will go over the box. Here is the cardback I submitted.

02-21-2014, 10:28 PM
And here is the slip cover. This is still a WIP. I have to find something to go on the sides. The back should probably remain largely blank as that is where most of the text describing the game will go (they havent sent me that info yet).

02-22-2014, 02:00 AM
Wow, cool project Tim! Congrats on the commission, sounds like fun.


02-22-2014, 11:48 AM
What a cool project! :) It looks really cool...

I'm not sure what level of accuracy ya'll want in the game. I also don't know, yet, what you're trying to convey.

First... The Cherokee people were never Mound Builders. I'm sure you've found references to Cherokee mounds, but that's been disproven through archaelogical surveys.
Those were Muskogean remains. :)

I wasn't sure if you were depicting the paths of only Mounds-builders, or those who may have battled/conquered them, but it's generally thought that the Cherokee migrated to those areas after they were abandoned/disused. After looking at the rest of the board, I tend to believe your "warpaths" are all those of enemies/conquerors, and that's fine, but it doesn't really show anything about the mound-builders.

2nd... your cave paintings look much more prehistoric than anything. Not saying that there were no cave paintings by the mounds-building nations, but they were vastly different in styles, from one culture to the next, and it would have been rare to see simple black-on-grey silhouettes, or single silhouettes as you have here.

Figures/symbols (even prehistorically) were grouped to tell a story, or for the sake of pure art:


I'd also tend to think you'd find more pottery and sculpture than cave painting... Mounds-builders were rarely cave-dwellers... they built structures to live in. Sometimes of earth and stone, sometimes of hide and/or wood, but actual structures.

While I'm glad to see references to places of import, I don't see references (especially since you center on Cahokia) to many (any?) tribes of the three primary mound-building civilizations: Mississippian, Hopewell, and Adena.

You reference the game as being about "culture, trade, and warfare" but I see only warpaths, referencing the wrong peoples, and nothing whatsoever of the trade and culture... no woven mats, bone and/or copper jewelry, no bone knives which were traded for hungrily. I see no pottery, no cloth of brilliant colors with feathers as shells as decoration...

Fine/good if that's not what you (or they) are going for, but it makes the description a little misleading.

I also don't think the box/card styles really match the style of the gameboard. I think they're both lovely, and I can tell how much work went into each... but they don't mesh.

And Finally... since it's a game about mound builders... I should think the mounds themselves would be stylized more in period-style than you've done.

They weren't just little hills... they were always carefully shaped, often as animals or pyramids, and you can still see many of those shapes today.

Sorry... It really is lovely, and I'm not trying to pick on you, just trying to help :)


02-22-2014, 12:22 PM
Well, I'm from Illinois, and though I don't live near Cahokia, I've been there. Cahokia is the center of the Mound Builders culture. Although many tribes buried their dead in mounds, most such mounds are rather small. From around 600 AD - 1400 AD, the Cahokia mound builder culture existed. It is believed that the extremely fertile soil along the banks of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers allowed these people to grow an excessive amount of corn (more than they could possibly eat themselves) and began to export the corn for trade among other lesser successful tribes across North America. Most native tribes live as hunter/gatherers or the most primitive neolithic agriculture techniques - most tribes spent the majority of their time finding enough food to survive. Because the Cahokia people had more food than they could eat, their culture advanced. Most tribal warriors spend a part of their time defending their people, and most of their time hunting and doing other chores in order to survive. Cahokia warriors were full-time soldiers, and the rest of Cahokia society was an early form of a caste system. Cahokia had full time religious practitioners and other full time workers in their specific niche. The Cahokia mound pyramids are the largest in the world, larger even than the Egyptian pyramids, though the Cahokia didn't use brick, rather rammed earth as their building medium, but they built literal mountains of dirt, capped by temples.

Although restored without full assurance of accurately depicting the original art, but the surface side of one of the earthen mounds had art of a giant thunderbird - believed by native Americans to ride the stormfronts from the south to periodically visit their region. Cryptozoology suggests these birds were/are real (I've known people who claim to have witnessed them in this area). I am sure their are other examples of Cahokia art, but the giant thunderbird on the mound has been reported since the French arrived here in the late 1600's, and was seen as late as the early 20th century. In the 1970's a native artist recreated the thunderbird, as by current times all traces of that art were gone.

It is believed climate change ended Cahokia society.

02-22-2014, 12:44 PM
Thanks for the input! Here is part of the introduction in the game rules; it can explain better what the game is trying to do--

MOUND BUILDERS is a solitaire States of SiegeTM game where you represent the two largest pre-Columbian Indian “mound builder” cultures that dominated eastern North America from before the time of Christ until the coming of the European colonists in the 17th century. Your empire represents the earlier Hopewell culture and the later Mississippian culture that derived from it.
Until the arrival of the Spanish late in the game, you will expand your control across the map of North America, extending it over the various chiefdoms encountered and incorporating them into your economic and religious sphere (“empire”). Your domain will grow and shrink, but be aware that rather than a military advance and retreat, this process represents the rise and decline of culture, religious ideology, and an economic way of life, threatened from outside by competing ideologies and lifestyles as much as by hostile armies.
Your goal is to extend Mound Builder culture and amass as many chiefdoms as possible before rival native powers (and the smallpox-ridden Spanish!) rise up to drive your back to your Mississippi River heartland and extinguish your vast capital city at Cahokia, Illinois – near modern St. Louis.

02-22-2014, 12:44 PM
here are what the counters more or less look like (i am not doing the art for these and it has changed a bit). and a picture of a beta test game in progress, on an earlier version of the map.

02-22-2014, 01:02 PM
As far as I know the Europeans never met the Cahokia mound builders, they rose and fell as a civilization before the arrival of the Spanish. The Illini, the natives of northern Illinois when the French arrived in 1675 under the Jesuit priest, Fr. Piere Marquette and his guide, Louis Joliet and were the first Europeans in the region. The Illini were believed to have migrated here from regions south of Tennessee, following bison to this region. The Illini had a similar benefit of an abundance of corn along the banks of the Illinois river flood plain, but their society became more pacifistic with their trade of corn to other tribes, however, unlike the Cahokia never advanced enough socially or technologically, though they spent less effort trying to survive as other less fortunate native tribes. The Illini weren't modern representatives of the Cahokia, being distinct cultures.

It wasn't the Spanish that ended Cahokia society, nor the arrival of European diseases, as Cahokia society ended on its own a century before the arrival of the Spanish.

02-22-2014, 02:54 PM
Historically true. But as a game, you can "change history" and create a more successful society, which could then bump suddenly into the Spanish.