During the time between the Essen gaming convention in October and end of 2010, I had a relatively simple idea for a card game. The main concept was for a multi-player game about a two-sided conflict, with the winner of that conflict determining the winning conditions for the players. Because I am a fan of games about antiquity, I chose the theme of the Spartacus slave revolt against Rome.
I was inspired by Scripts & Scribes/Biblios in designing my card-distribution
mechanic: each turn, a player drew 3 cards, 1 at a time, and decided to put it under the stack, add it to his hand, or add it to the market. Then he could buy cards from the market, add cards from his hand to his display (for a price), and collect income.
I finished the first prototype in lightning speed, and the first playtests that I conducted by myself showed much promise. In fact, for a time, I focused almost exclusively on Partacus, which was my working title for the game back then.
After having high hopes to have the game ready for Essen 2011, however, further playtests with others showed weaknesses and the design did not progress to my fullest satisfaction. Instead, I focused more on my other card game, Pergamemnon, as the next Irongames release. For a long time, the main problem was getting the card combinations right, and balancing their special powers. After reaching a break-through in this area, the next challenge was to achieve a balance in the conflict between Rome and the revolting slaves. I knew that Rome always needed to have the possibility of winning, so that the slaves could not count on their own victory.
It also had to be possible to intentionally play for a Roman victory, and it also had to be possible for the other players to try to prevent this. As this slowly came together through extensive playtesting and design tweaks, my hopes were restored for a 2011 release. Even so, I was still balancing the game up until shortly before the delivery of the illustrations by Klemens Franz (illustrator for Agricola, among many others) to the printer.
And just before the game was sent out, during another playtes
t round at the Spielewiese gaming café in Berlin, a notable guest inspired another last-minute change. Mariano of Italian publisher What’s Your Game? suggested the better title, PAX, and fortunately it was not yet too late to change it.
The upper pictures are from the prototype,
the lower pictures are deleted graphics and early drawings of Klemens Franz.