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Game Designer Interview: Regis Bonnessée
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Game Designer Interview: Regis Bonnessée

An interview of Regis Bonnessée from Libellud by Derek Thompson

You may not have heard this name before, but you have definitely seen his hand at work. Regis Bonnessée is the owner of Libellud, a French publisher responsible for Dixit, Bugs & Co., and others. Stefan Brunelle of Asmodee was kind enough help with the question translations, and to include a few notes of his own.

How did you first get into game design and get published?

The board game universe has always been familiar to me. When I was in college I founded a role-playing and board games club. And it was only natural that, gradually, I started creating. The first game I created was “Colony.” I was 20 years old at the time. It was an ancestor of Twilight Imperium, where the games could last for eight hours. And then my second creation was “Marchand d’Empire,” for which I put all the materials and rules on the internet. An editor, following good reviews here and there, noticed it and decided to publish it.

What gave you the idea to start Libellud? How were you able to do it?

Libellud was an accident. I had never planned to become a game editor. At the time, I had known Jean-Louis Roubira for about ten years. We met at a game convention and since we live in the same city, we became friends. One day he showed me a prototype of what later became Dixit. I immediately liked it and then I showed it to Asmodee, but they did not retain the game. That’s when I decided to edit it. It took more than two years. I had to find the money since I didn’t have any, find an illustrator, and fine tune things. Meanwhile I continued working. And then the game finally launched in November 2008. A few months later it was chosen for Game of the Year in France (As D’Or) and that is how the beautiful adventure began. That’s Libellud: an accident and a nice fairy tale.

What is Libellud’s goal as a game company? What separates it from other companies?

Have a great time, and take pleasure in giving. Meet authors and talented illustrators, and place the people at the center of all projects. And on the editing side, no interdiction, no exclusion and continue to operate as I always have, with my heart.

How did Dixit come about? I understand the idea belonged to Jean-Louis Rubira, but how did Marie Cardouat become involved? What was your place in this? At what point did you realize it was a game worth publishing?

Dixit was a fairy tale in which we all took part. Jean-Louis, Marie, myself and all the players. We all worked hard with Jean-Louis to give Dixit the shape we wanted. And we had complete freedom. For the illustrations I posted many ads on websites and in art schools. I had to see hundreds of portfolios and one of them was from Marie. I knew right then that it she should be on the project with us. In terms of image content, Jean-Louis and I created them. Mary also offered us ideas, and some were retained.

What was your involvement with the design of Fabula? Is it meant to be in some ways, an extension of the ideas behind Dixit? Why do you think it was not as well-received as Dixit?

I think we released Fabula too quickly. With what we know now, we would have done things differently. But it was a rewarding experience.

(Stefan notes:  Where I think Fabula is a success, is one very important point. Now everyone in the gaming industry, from editors to gamers, knows the standard – Libellud means awesome artwork.)

What about Bugs & Co. and Et Toque! made them worthy of being Libellud titles?

When I was presented with Bruno’s Bugs & Co. I immediately wanted to edit it. It was a crazy little game, fast and engaging, with a rhythm. And this allowed us to work on something different. “And Toque” was introduced to me by its two authors, two sisters. I had a nice feeling for this game and it reminded me of my first games of Dixit. Et Toque is a game where you have fun playing with ingredients, and create wild menus. This game was published in France and is being reprinted.

(Stefan notes: Et Toque is in the works for an English version. It needs a complete adaptation rather than a simple translation. It may take time, but people will be able to try a prototype version at different conventions this summer. It deserves it; this game has been a family favorite since the release.)

How did Libellud end up working with Asmodee for U.S. distribution?

Since the beginning we got along very well with Christophe. We talk on phone at least once a week, and he is someone I respect! He is very involved in the project, and within weeks you should have a nice surprise for Dixit in USA And then I was brought to meet all the team: Stefan, Claire, Ruby… They are all very helpful and do an outstanding job.

(Stefan notes: OK, Regis, how many drinks this answer will cost us?)

Tell us about your upcoming game, Seasons, and how it works.

Seasons is a game of cards and dice which takes place in two phases. The first consists of a draft. The goal during this phase will be to establish a strategy for the rest of the game using nine cards that can be selected (Each card has a specific effect and earns victory points). Once the draft is complete, each player must separate his nine cards in packs of three. He will begin the second phase of the game with his first pack of three cards, then as the game progresses, he will receive two more packets of three cards.

Then comes the second phase of play. At the beginning of each round a player will roll the seasons dice (1 die per player + 1). These cubes offer a variety of actions to the players:

- Increase your invocation (maximum number of cards you may have placed on table)
- Harvest energy (water, earth, fire, air) to pay the cost of invocation maps
- Crystallize energy (during the current season) to collect crystals. These serve both as a resource for some cards, but also many victory points in the endgame.
- Draw new cards

Each player can choose only one die per turn. The first player will choose among those rolled, then the following among those remaining and so on. At each turn, the dice indicate how many remaining cells (1, 2 or 3 boxes) are in the marker of the seasons ahead. In addition, all the dice are different depending on the season. For example, there are not the same energies every season. Throughout the game, players will therefore have to adapt to these changes. At the end of the game you will add the victory points on the cards given the number of crystals possessed. The player with the most victory points wins.

How did you get the idea for the design of Seasons?
I wanted to create a game that is not frozen during the game. A game where, each turn, the actions that the players can take are constantly changing. It took me over two years of development to achieve the current version. It’s a project I’m really proud of, and which I take great pleasure in playing. I really hope it will find its audience.

(Stefan notes: Release will be at Gen Con! With Regis with us on the booth to sign copies and get the free drinks he just earned with the answer he made on question number 7.)

What recent game designs outside of the Libellud line really impress you?

Without hesitation I would say 7 Wonders. This is a short game, engaging and rich, and I never get tired of playing it.

Where do you see the board game industry going in the next five or ten years?

I hope it will not change and it will keep its “human’’ size. Today the small family of board gaming is important to me. People are accessible, passionate. And it’s an environment where we can continue to develop projects with small teams, with almost only one skill – imagination.

After Seasons, what’s next for you as a designer and Libellud as a company?

No idea … I do not especially want to edit my [own] games. Perhaps there will be others … maybe not. I like to bring a bit of novelty in what I created. If one day I have new ideas I will consider it.

Complete interview available here: Meepletown