October 05, 2021

Sammu-ramat - Design Diary chapter 1

By Besime Uyanik

Sammu-ramat is the first board game I have designed and the process is both exciting and nervous. Ok, this is not entirely true, just as many others I have made an attempt to design a board game when I was younger.  My cousins visited us every summer during my childhood and every summer we had some new creative project going on. Five girls that every summer got the luxury to spend at least one month together. One summer we decided to create our own board game based on our favorite game at that time, Cluedo. We loved the drawing and writing of character backstories as much as we loved designing our game. 

In Sammu-ramat the theme has always been really clear in my mind. This is a story I want to tell, a story about my heritage. Our country might not exist anymore but Assyrians have survived through several hardships. We are now spread all over the world and few still live in the area which once was Assyria. And through our history and culture we are still connected. This is also a story about a female leader and as a female CEO I can relate to some of the struggles that she must have encountered. In designing this game I strive not only to make the game mechanics interesting and follow the historical theme, but also to create an unscripted narrative that shines through.

My whole life my father has made sure that my siblings and I understand where we come from and feel pride in our heritage. Growing up in a diaspora, it can be difficult to find a balance of integration in your new country and still remember and cherish the traditions from your origin. I have heard about the brave Queen Sammu-ramat my whole life and about the mighty Assyrian Empire. Although the Assyrian is mostly known for their military powers, there were so many innovations and amazing projects they were involved in. The Assyrians were interested in culture  and had beautiful botanical gardens and zoos with exotic animals. The terraced palace gardens in Nineveh are said to have featured all kinds of plants and fruit trees. The gardens were watered by a network of canals. The more I read, the more I get amazed and the more I feel connected to my heritage. But it was also a time of conflict and brutality. My ambition is to incorporate all sides in the game.

By having this clear story to tell it has been easier to make design decisions. An Empire cannot be led by only one person and the Assyrian leaders had a royal court of more than 100 scholars and provisional governors that helped them, so it was clear to me from an early stage that this should be a co-op game. Also as a leader you need to balance several resources and sometimes sacrifice some resources to reach your goal, so this balancing act is included in the game.  Another mechanic that is included is an evolving bag containing effect tokens, which symbolize that any decisions and actions you take today have consequences that might affect you in the future. Almost all mechanics in the game have a story and a historical anecdote which I will write more about in coming design diaries. 

I am hoping that this game can contribute to the knowledge of Sammu-ramat to many and be part of making the memory of her remain forever. 

/Besime