The radioactive dust of the Last War has frozen the northern countries. In the ice desert, the few survivors live in an icy hell as the resources of the “old world” are now exhausted, and travel to the south is too long and dangerous. But the last icebreaker ship, the Aurora, is cruising along the coast, looking for survivors.
Last Aurora is a competitive post-apocalyptic board game of racing and resource management developed by Pendragon Game Studio, with English edition published and distributed by Ares Games. In this Designer’s Notes, the designer, Mauro Chiabotto, tells of the game’s conception.
“I've loved the post-apocalyptic theme since I was young; I spent several months playing ‘Fallout 2’ and I’m a big fan of the ‘Interceptor’ trilogy. When I fell in love with board game design, I was immediately struck by the desire to create a game to honor this setting.
In October 2016 I start thinking about designing a new racing board game, but I didn't find a suitable theme. To find inspiration I opened BoardGameGeek and spent hours until I found an interesting thread concerning the 'survival' theme. I immediately liked the background and I started thinking how the “survival” and “racing” themes could blend together.
My initial idea was based around a sled dog race, in which people competed in a race through a wild land managing a sled, concerned about speed, loadout, its dogs’ features, finding food, and facing varying problems (lakes, animals, etc.). Unfortunately, even if this theme was a good starting point, I was unable to find a good mechanic for the core of the game.
A few weeks later I came back home exhausted after a long day of coding at work. I went to bed and put on a movie that I’ve watched many times. This is one of my habits when I’m tired, to clear my mind. The movie was “Mad Max: Fury Road”, and a light bulb went on over my head. I remember exactly when the idea was born, it was during a chase scene!
This scene triggered my imagination and I started to develop potential game concepts: "people have to drive a truck"… "they have to escape from a disaster"… "they have to fight to survive"… "they have to find fuel"… "they have to have different spaces in the truck for people, resources, and/or weapons".
I wanted to use a very simple idea that I had in mind for quite a long time: a card game with many characters, each one with its unique ability. The theme and my general idea seemed to be a good match. I had to design a game in which each player must save people. Each person is represented by a card and each character has a different skill.
I didn't sleep much that Friday night. I began mixing these concepts in my head in order to test the general idea and see if it would work. All the thoughts matched perfectly, so I started creating a world... a wasteland... to tell a story.
The first step of the design was the Convoy assembly: I wanted to give players the possibility to create a custom vehicle, modifying many aspects of it (such as speed, weapons, and load capacity). I began drawing an articulated vehicle and I tried many times to divide it in several rectangles, until I identified three essential parts: a vehicle, a trailer, and a device to put on the roof. They could be easily represented on a card and I designed the first cards in order to create a sort of puzzle to visually represent the Convoy built.
I spent many days to find an objective and, to respect the survival theme, it had to be something central to the game, to save people before something bad happened. After several attempts, such as a nuclear explosion to escape from, or a shuttle to reach before the planet explodes, I found a great objective to reach: a ship. The last ship that could save the survivors from a nuked wasteland. The ship quickly became the emotional core of the game. This ship was to be the only hope for survival, and I thought of its name evocative: Aurora, the first light of the day. The light of a new life away from radiation and murder.
Step by step I added all the elements belonging in a post-apocalyptic game: exploration, scavenging for resources, fire enemies, mutants, robots, and so on.
This little extract only covers the first step of a larger design work and editing together with the Pendragon Game Studio's team. I really hope to give you a pleasant (as pleasant as it can be in a post-apocalyptic survival game!) 90 minutes of gaming.”
Mauro Chiabotto is a 29 years old mechatronic engineer. Living in Aosta Valley, a little region in North Italy, he has three main passions: board game design, League of Legends and Brazilian Jiu jitsu. Last Aurora is his first game to be published, designed to celebrate his big passion for post-Apocalyptic settings.