Winnipeg board game creator saves the world from imps and labyrinths

'Valor and Villainy' is Winnipeg game designer James Van Niekerk’s newest creation. (image supplied)

A Winnipeg board game creator is grateful to some real-life heroes for helping him realize his vision and bring his latest creation to life.

“Valor and Villainy” is creator James Van Niekerk’s second major fantasy game project.

He launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise needed funds and to gauge how popular the new game might be among fans. He said his original goal of $60,000 was reached in just under an hour. Now the total is pushing $400,000.

Van Niekerk says donations on Kickstarter function like pre-orders of the game and help him and his partner, game producer Skybound games, to calculate eventual production and distribution costs. The fund also helps him devote all his time to developing and perfecting the game experience for those who play.

“This has been my full-time effort to create this new game and it’s pretty exciting to see the success is taking off, a year and a half in quarantine has been difficult, all the positivity surrounding it, “said Van Niekerk.

Van Niekerk said his interest in developing fantasy-based board games was originally inspired by Dungeons and Dragons, but his games are meant to be more zany and funny. In the new game, players must fight their way past imps and labyrinths to lead their band of heroes out of what he calls, “The World of Eternal and Uncaring Darkness.”

“I read a lot of Terry Pratchett books and he’s an author who has a lot of comedy mixed with high fantasy. It’s sort of Lord of the Rings with a real bizarre, funny twist.”

He said the new game, which he described as having a lot of narrative elements that carry forward and influence future game sessions, carries a lot of that same comedic spirit.

“It’s very Saturday morning cartoons, over-the-top villains going to tie you to the railroad tracks and you’re going to have to rescue people.”

Van Niekerk says his new game will carry a 10-plus age rating, and for those who pre-order on Kickstarter, their game editions will contain actual miniature figures for gameplay rather than cardboard figures that come with the retail version.

 - with files from CTV's Gary Robson