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Tom Vasel
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Interviews by an Optimist # 19 - Angelo Porazzi

Angelo Porazzi is an Italian game designer who creates and illustrates his self- produced games. He is an artist, a passionate gamer and father of three baby girls who are now his former playtesting group Warangel and PeaceBowl are both very well known in Italy, due to Angelo being invited to numerous Italian games conventions where he demonstrates the games. His reports of all these Luding meetings, fairs, and cons are available on his website, a rich photo album of the Italian gaming world which in the past few years has really been growing.

Warangel was first published in 1996 and was distributed successfully to thousands of Italian gamers that responded with enthusiastic feedback. In 2000, Angelo decided to self-produce a boxed edition of his game and received four awards at four different conventions, including Best of Show prize at Lucca Games 2000 - the biggest games fair in Italy.

This same fair has awarded several well-known games outside of Italy:
2000 Warangel by Angelo Porazzi
2001 Le Saghe di Conquest by Vallerga, Porporato
2002 Bang! by Emiliano Sciarra
2003 Sine Requie by Rose and Poison
2004 War of the Ring by Di Meglio, Maggi, Neptello

In 2002, the WarAngel Card Game was the first self-produced game in the history of Italian games to be picked up for national distribution by Hasbro Italy. In the same year the illustrations of Warangel were selected to create a school line by Pigna, the greatest Italian paper-mill for schools. For all these reasons Warangel has reached enormous popularity in its country, although it is a self-production.

In 2003, PeaceBowl’s first edition sold out at light speed and was a great hit on the Italian charts: the reasons being that Angelo is invited to all the main Luding cons, and that his games are very well supported, communicated, known and played by gamers. In 2004 the second edition of PeaceBowl premiered at Essen Spiel, in both English and German languages.

Angelo Porazzi Games began to be known also out of Italy, thanks to the Essen Fair, BoardGameGeek and the official website, where all these self-productions may be seen and ordered, now also with credit card and PayPal. Payment and shipping are no longer a problem; Tom was one of the first "out-of-Italy" to order these games and receive them fairly easily. He produced two accurate reviews which are available on BGG that are the best descriptions of these "labors of love" as sometimes Angelo's games are called.

Tom: Angelo, WarAngel is almost ten years old now. Can you tell us the history of the design of your game?

Angelo: Hi, Tom. And Ciao to all readers of these optimistic interviews of Tom, I appreciate them a lot. Yes, WarAngel next year will celebrate its 10th birthday, and "optimistically" it will be in its fifth self-produced edition.

Thanks to our presence at Essen 2004, requests from "out-of-Italy” gamers are growing, so that I'm very close to selling out the self-produced fourth edition. "The history of the design of this game" as you ask me, is the history of all the games I enjoy to create. I'm not a game company at all; I just love to draw illustrations, then I create stories and games around them.

Here in Italy, 10-20 years ago, the gaming world was SO different from now. The games we knew, presently known as the “mass market” were mostly the same then (Risk and Monopoly style) but new games hardly were available. We had a gaming group that was very creative, and we had a great time creating and illustrating games on each theme we loved, from Gundam, a cartoon TV series at the time, to historical wars, to sports, to fantasy. When we had the fortune to play Zargo's Lords of Marco Donadoni, the first Fantasy War game I knew - well - it was an "illumination" for all of us. I can't forget the emotions I had looking at the great cover illustration, the enormous hexed maps and the fantastic creatures on the counters. The "fantasy boxes" in our minds were opened and tons of new races and new ideas came out. The optimal thing for our gaming group was to have a passionate illustrator like myself; because at our next week’s gaming encounter, I had already realized the ideas and the creatures we brainstormed seven days before.

I had the pleasure to personally present the first four races we created (Insects, Tentaculates, Ghosts, Felinians) to Marco Donadoni (he is from Milano like me), and he kindly encouraged me to continue on with this idea. At that time the international team that had produced Zargo's Lords was no longer in business, but Marco told me I had all the capacities to develop a new game with these creatures. That was a great experience for me, and I'm still glad I met Marco now, years later. I am still reaping the benefits at many Luding cons where I am invited to thanks to my games.

Turning back in time, I personally wrote the background of the "new game" that was clearly a way for me to exorcize the fear we breathed in those years: total nuclear war. The WarAngel scenario is our Earth after this fear. Hexed Maps of WarAngel are sectors of our planet, split into enormous islands - just recently I put on my website the complete list of available sectors. Creatures are mutants that have several "animal elements" to survive in the extreme environments of this New World. They are grouped in armies and keep on fighting with no hope of light; simply fearing and fighting that which is different, like what happened in the story before.

I need a leader for each army who has the possibility to STOP the war. This is the meaning of WarAngel. You can "descend" into the game, taking the role of the Master of the army you choose with the goal not to destroy enemies, but to stop the war by controlling the resources on New Earth. This is a WarAngel, a guide to wartime that is able to keep off hate which is war's main feed. A lack of knowledge of creatures that are different from you. Different or unknown equals fear which equals war. This equation has ruled for too long. In WarAngel knowledge is the key for victory. You need to know your territory and the other territories in the game to move in the best way. You also need to know the possibilities of your warriors and abilities of the other creatures to act in the best way. Having lots of races, you do not need to read all armies at once but "step by step", examining the reference sheets of armies you choose that will offer continual different creatures you can call to manage to stop the war.

Maps are connected by "Blue Hole" dimensional doors that teleport creatures to the matching “Blue Hole” in the other hexed territory. This allows one to play as on a "multi-level board"; each player keeps their map in front of them, but they can exit in the map they choose, keeping an eye on the specializations of their creatures - to better battle in the terrain types more favorable to them. All these characteristics were appreciated by many gamers who had occasion to test WarAngel in that period: you can play also with three or five players, a number that normally unbalances war games. Here, all the players are at the same level, with the same possibilities to invade or be invaded in every map in the game.

And the theme was also appreciated. Now I have gamers who get new races’ reference sheets simply to read the history, like in a book. This is the story: the first illustrations of Warangel are from 1986. In 1994 I presented WarAngel to Hobby and Work, a publisher that created collectible issues for Mutant Chronicles, Warhammer, etc. The first comment WarAngel received from them was “it can be published as it is." In 1996, WarAngel was published in collectible issues and reached thousands of Italian gamers in a way it could never reach if published as a "normal game" with box and standard distribution for a game in Italy in that period. The feedback was incredible. I received 800 hand-written letters (no internet at that time!) requesting new races with enthusiastic comments.

In 2000, I decided to self-produce a boxed edition of WarAngel, and I presented it at Luding Bologna, a great convention organized by gamers at which WarMaster and other big company products were debuted. During the first national tournament of WarAngel held on that occasion, I received the first award of that year as the "Best Italian board game.” This was my first and most prized award, since it came from gamers themselves. In the same year, WarAngel was presented at LuccaGames, our greatest Italian game fair. I remember that the other finalists had international products such as Mage Knight and Pokemon CCG that during that period were so popular thanks to TV. The jury, composed of journalists, game owners, and event organizers, decided to award WarAngel with the “Best of Show” award as “Best Italian Game.” I had received the biggest award for gamers in Italy. I simply could not believe it.

Then came “Best Italian War game” at Milano Games, the greatest fair specializing in war games, and “Best Italian Self-produced Game” at AquiComics 2001. This would have been enough, but when Hasbro Italy picked up the WarAngel Card Game for mass distribution in 2001, well, that was a dream - the first self-produced game in Italy available in mass distribution, at malls, Toys ‘R Us... large markets. I was speechless. The card game is a game designed for children, and to me, this is a great “plus” value. Thanks to the card game I was contacted by fathers that had once played Zargo's Lords like me. They had found an easy card game to play with their child, and thanks to this they discovered the hexed map war game WarAngel. Also the school line with illustrations of the game by Pigna was an incredible push for the game, with thousands of books distributed throughout the country.

Now I have children that recognize the game in the fairs thanks to the logo and the illustrations on copybooks they have at their school. I can understand why WarAngel is known by so many people of different ages here. I just thank all people who appreciated this game and its illustrations and help WarAngel to be known both in and out of Italy.

Tom: Is all the artwork for your games from you?

Angelo: Yes, I do every component of my games: illustrations, artwork, rules, packaging, print files. I just go with the CD to the printer, and he creates the printed games. Formerly I was an illustrator and a graphic designer, so I know all off-set printing procedures fairly well; and I personally follow all aspects of these self-productions. For example, when I presented the card game to Hasbro, as a finished work, ready to sell, they asked me, "Did you produce it all on you own?” “Yes”, I answered; and they picked it up for national distribution. Managing creative projects from the beginning to the printing is my work. In the case of my self-produced games I just do the projects that I love and enjoy most.

Tom: Where do you get many of your ideas for illustration?

Angelo: From the world around me, mostly from animals. I love to know every aspect of nature, especially creatures as they are so different and interesting to discover. When you want to illustrate a man, an animal, a mutant warrior that is half-man-half-animal, you have to know muscles, bone structure of both of them and fuse them together, adding your fantasy.

Many creatures of my games are suggested by gamers themselves, maybe inspired by movies, ancient cultures, and mythology. Sometimes I receive entire races roughly illustrated by gamers, complete with rough rules. In recent years my main capacity was to assemble together all these inspirations from gamers and balance them in the WarAngel universe. One hundred races are not born in a day. In this case they were created over about ten years, and there is quite a good selection. I like gamers when they give a new idea, something I don't know, since I love to know and work on new things and projects. The best thing for me in working on these games is to be contacted by lots of open-minded people who give me ideas, in a positive way. This aspect of board games has captured me: the possibility to know people in many countries of the world and to interact, work together, and have an exchange of energy, knowledge, ideas and creativity.

Tom: Angelo, what fantasy books, games, and movies inspired you when making WarAngel?

Angelo: With books, I’ve read a lot of anatomy books about human and animals, ancient mythologies and creatures of ancestral fantasy. With comic books I love illustrations of Segrelles: his warriors on dragons inspired the very first illustration of WarAngel in 1986, now a picture of WarAngel's Valkiries of the third Generation. BloodStar is a fantasy comic book that is greatly illustrated by Corben; its background is about a future Earth where man has lost old technologies and nature reigns - many aspects matched my own and inspired me for the WarAngel background.

When it comes to games, Zargo's Lords was surely the beginning, while Blood Bowl was surely the top when it came to creating new races and creatures. Kings and Things gave me the idea of animals specializing in various environments. About movies I can say that I was really "illuminated" by Star Wars when the movie came out in ’77. I was a young boy then. When at home, I illustrated a comic of the movie, doing it once again with Return of Jedi. The same thing happened with the movie Conan. I don't know if these movies really inspired me when making WarAngel, it was probably a combination of the elements around me.

Tom: About the scores of races in WarAngel, are they all evenly balanced, or do some have advantages?

Angelo: I always suggest that people use Tournament Races that can found on my website. They have been thoroughly playtested over the years by gamers themselves. Tournament Races are also perfect not only to have better balanced armies but also to have fewer pieces to mount on wooden blocks that are an outstanding component of WarAngel. I’ve reached eleven orders of production with them, and they are so appreciated by gamers. By painting them you obtain armies well recognizable on the battlefield, and you can personalize your own favorite warriors. To play Warangel in the best way today I give these two hints: use Tournament Races and the wooden blocks. Wooden blocks are not included in the WarAngel Base Box due to the fact that many players prefer to play in the "old way" style with simple pre-cut counters. This is the way that we’ve played war games for years (example Zargo's Lords) and in WarAngel Base Box you have pre-cut laminated counters. Wooden blocks are available in 100 piece kits you can order from the website. I was able to insert wooden blocks in the PeaceBowl box; it is a great goal of mine to be able to self-produce at that price.

Tom: What do you think about game companies who are producing games with incredible bits, such as the new War of the Ring?

Angelo: That they are "game companies" as you correctly wrote, and they do their work in the best way. My self-produced games are born with totally different economic possibilities and with different goals. They have different bonuses and negatives if compared with "game companies’ products". They are not "products" planned to sell or projects that request expensive logos to guarantee large distributions. My games are just game creations that stand on their forces and ideas; they are not grown or preexistent famous logos. In my little experience I've seen games with incredible bits or miniatures that were not supported or communicated in the proper way - maybe seen at Lucca Games one year, and then one or two years later gone. So maybe good plastic bits are not the point; they are a good aspect of a game but not the "soul".

I do my best to give gamers the possibility to see my games in every Luding meeting that I am invited to attend. My gaming tables/booths are always a good point of meeting for many gamers. This happened also at SpielEssen 2004. People who mostly appreciate my games are gamers who note and respect these aspects of my "way to communicate" games and gamers. Thanks to these self-productions, lots of gamers knew each other and had a good time playing together. This is the main goal of a game for me. These games have grown in quality, following hints of gamers themselves. Wooden blocks allow me to create "incredible bits," for example. Once they did not exist, but in the last two years they have been so requested that in my last game TATATA! I was able to produce cards with professional quality. Sure, they cost more than the PeaceBowl cards, but step-by-step I’m trying to do my best to improve the quality of these self-productions. Not "game companies’ products", but "Labors of Love" as they are called sometimes in a very true way.

Tom: Do you have a hand in running game conventions in Italy? Tell us, what they are like?

Angelo: In Italy we have many Luding meetings of different genres; the average organization has grown very well in the past few years, especially in communication of these cons and fairs. I do my best reporting all of them that invite me; my website has plenty of pictures and reports of these meetings. As mentioned in presentation, Lucca Games is the greatest and oldest we have. In 2000, when WarAngel got its Best Italian Game award, the fair had 44,000 visitors, and they have grown in number; the average in past few years has been 50,000. 2000 was the first year that Lucca Games promoted the so-called "Independence Bay", a space where self-produced games had a great opportunity to be known by a large audience.

I am proud to have been present in Independence Bay since its birth, and to be the first self-produced game to win the greatest award of Lucca, so called "Best of Show". You can read reports of 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004. Last year the Best of Show was won by War of The Ring; and John Howe, the illustrator, was so kind to visit my booth and attentively look at the illustrations of my games. Before I became a game designer, I was an illustrator, so for me it was a memorable event. In Independence Bay I do my best to communicate and introduce new self-producers that meet me to gamers that have known me since 2000 and have my booth as a "meeting point". This happened also for the first time at the “Giochi Sforzeschi” that we had in Milano. At first this convention was held inside the mighty Sforzesco Castle that gave the name to this convention. In the latest 2004 edition, organizers gave me the opportunity and the honor to coordinate the "Self production Area" where many authors, coming also from out of Italy, show their prototypes to gamers. I appreciate it a lot that more and more gamers are coming from the US, Germany, UK, France, and Austria to attend our meetings, to get to know us, our games and our beautiful country.

LudicaMente last year was kept in Mantova Castle's dungeons; there I organized National Tournament of PeaceBowl, and it was a fantastic location Another place where I feel at home, thanks to friendly hospitality of organizers, is ModCon in Modena. There, we kept two editions of WarAngel National Tournament, and last year we had as Guest Star Andreas Seyfarth and his Puerto Rico. 2005 started with first edition of IDeA G that is a gathering of game designers where I was invited as Host of Honor. It was a great opportunity to meet other authors, illustrators and game testers; everybody had a good time, and I had the last overview before printing my latest game TATATA!, timing was perfect I hope that in the future we could have more and more guests from other countries, authors, designer, gamers, distributors. In recent years Italy has shown what it can also give to Luding world - it is worth a visit

Tom: What games do you think are most popular in Italy?

Angelo: I could say the games that I see at many conventions I’m invited to, but they don't accurately reflect "popular games" if you mean games known by the masses. It mostly depends on period; a game may be very popular for a year, then disappear the year after. If you talk about mass market, surely the two games most known in Italy and sold per years are Risk and Monopoly. Then there are lots of "waves" depending on the movie or the cartoon TV series of the period. In 2000, Lucca Games and the Italian market was invaded by the Pokemon phenomenon; I can say I never saw such huge popularity; the CCG was distributed everywhere - a real hit. Last year’s were Lord of the Rings related, and Nexus was able to ride this wave. Mass market products that could be called popular here and that illuminated lots of gamers were HeroQuest and StarQuest (Italian name for Space Crusade). These two games had the uniqueness of linking together the masses with more specialized gamers and enthusiasts. Hasbro Italy included the WarAngel Card Game in the same catalogue in which contained the board game of Dungeon and Dragons. These are courageous attempts to link together the masses with the world of gamers; we must go on in this way like EditriceGiochi did recently by picking up Domaine for Italian Great Distribution. Popular games that reached this goal are Magic and WarHammer that live for years and are present in all specialized shops and conventions.

About Italian specialized Game Charts: Puerto Rico, Carcassonne, Settlers, Ticket to Ride are very well known and appreciated, of latest Italian games Bang!, PeaceBowl, Wings of War, but I can say they are not still popular for the masses. Sure it is not their fault; it is only that our game market is still very young and that's why many gamers appreciate Nexus, Venice Connection, Angelo's work of communication we did per years or younger companies like DaVinci or Kidult Games that not only produce games but participate in conventions and fairs. Joining our forces together we can do our best to improve the gaming culture here, in our country.

Tom: And now Italian gaming is affecting the world. What percentage of your games do you sell out of the country?

Angelo: Two events that allowed WarAngel and PeaceBowl to be known outside of Italy were BoardGameGeek and EssenSpiel2004. In 2003 the entering of WarAngel in the BGG top 10 sounded strange to people who didn't know the game due to the fact that it was I think the first Italian game in that chart, and few "out of Italy gamers" at that time knew it. In those years I didn't know BGG very well, and I saw a gamer create the BGG page of my game. I just linked on my website BGG and in short time many of Italian gamers who visit my website knew BGG. At that time games there were fewer than today: inscription number of Warangel was 490, the 2003 inscription number of PeaceBowl was 5,575, in 2005 I was able to create the page of TATATA! that declares not less than 15,407 games.

This shows an incredible growing bank data, full of detailed reviews. At that time I didn't know you, and you emailed me just as a normal gamer requesting my games. The two reviews Tom Vasel produced on BGG for WarAngel and PeaceBowl were and are excellent and deep descriptions in proper English that help a lot with communication outside of Italy.

Then the article on Command Magazine Japan, two entire pages about WarAngel, gained the attention of several gamers in that area. The second main event to introduce these games outside of my country was EssenSpiel 2004; in the fair many journalists and so many gamers from every country in the world came to visit my booth and knew my self-productions. Articles on Spielbox, Spielerei, and reviews written by gamers after the fair, in proper English or German, help a lot with communication outside of Italy. Before these events, 1st and 2nd self-produced edition of WarAngel was sold mainly in Italy. After these events, the percentage of non-Italian gamers requesting WarAngel and PeaceBowl has grown a lot; now it’s about 50%, and they keep on growing due to Credit Cards and PayPal that are now available on my website, helping a lot of orders.

Tom: Tell us about your newest game, TaTaTa!

Angelo: Well, I invite all interested gamers to take a look at pictures on my website; illustrations are "PeaceBowl" style, and the "MAD" factor in the game is even bigger
It is a dog-fighting race for crazy pilots, where the Sky Cards always form different circuits. Playable for 2 to 8 pilots, you have to run for victory, damaging opponents in many different ways but mostly avoiding to overcome them and to stop in front of their guns. TATATA! is the friendly sound of machine guns that you may shout when you have the right cards and an enemy plane right in front of you. So, if you don't overcome, you won’t win the 3 laps race; but you have to overcome in proper situations, to avoid having planes right behind you, or you may hear... TATATA!

I started with WarAngel that is a game so appreciated by those who are passionate but that requests time and love if you wish to play it in the best way, with painted wooden pieces. It is a deep and vast game that I created, with 100 available races that you have to know and read well, in order to understand and see the work in the maps and in the counters. Then I add the mad factor in PeaceBowl that has few wooden blocks in the box to paint and mount, and a lighter, funnier weight more adapted for those wilder companies: I also see many girls like it, hitting their boyfriends. TATATA! is a simple, complete Card Game "ready to play" with professional cards, to enjoy with children, families and light company. Of the three it is the easiest to explain, ready to go and ready for distributors-shops-gamers in any country. Hope you, Tom, will appreciate it like you appreciated WarAngel and PeaceBowl

Tom: So what games are you designing for the future?

Angelo: Well, I’m currently in the production of TaTaTa!, and I like to concentrate my energies on one thing at a time. For the future I hope to design games in which I believe, that respects gamers as people like me, not as market numbers. I like to produce complete games or provide them with complete expansions, where you know what you get, like I do with WarAngel. This is my philosophy, choose what you like and get what you like. I also like games that allow interaction among gamers, where they speak and get to know each other - not games where everybody is thinking about their next move in silence. The best part of my work is being contacted by lots of open-minded people from many different countries and seeing them enjoy playing these homemade games. If I will be able to transmit through my games the passion, the love, the enthusiasm I put in them, like what has happened with many gamers until now; well, to me this is the greatest goal: transmit positive energy and receive back good energy, making something that I love come to realization.

Tom: Angelo, thanks for taking the time to do this interview! Do you have any final words for our readers?

Angelo: Just to say thanks to you, Tom, for this idea to interview people of the gaming world, which is so useful for people who want to know. I suggest that you open a personal website to collect your reviews, your interviews, and your charts. I'm quite sure that many gamers will read your works with attention and interest; your method of reporting games is always deep and complete. When you, Tom, and all gamers who are reading this have occasion to visit Italy, contact me. I’m sure there will be a Luding meeting during that time period, and you'll be welcome. All the best!

- Tom Vasel
March, 2005
“Real men play board games.”

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Andrea Angiolino
European Union
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Thanks a lot to Angelo for quoting my little "WoW".

>Best of Show prize at Lucca Games 2000 - the biggest games fair in Italy.
>This same fair has awarded several well-known games outside of Italy:

Here you have the full list - missing only this year's update:

A little dictionary...
Voto popolare: vote from the public*
miglior gioco tradotto: best translated product
miglior gioco originale: best original (ie developed in Italy) product
menzione speciale: Runner-Up (for each of the two categories above)

*) The first two Lucca Games people visiting the fair would vote for the Best of Show - then a jury of experts was appointed instead.

Bye and thanks again!


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