Beowulf — an epic game for the whole family


The guys who brought us the Moby Dick board game are after bigger fish now.

In the next few days, King Post Productions will launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise $25,000 for a game based on the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf.

Let whoever can win glory before death!

As it’s currently envisioned, the game involves a board that allows players to move through an era when men were men and monsters were monsters — and so were their mothers. Two decks of cards invoke various hardships and triumphs, powers and resources inspired by the Old English epic.

Roll the dice. Fate goes ever as fate must.

King Post founder and president Tavit Geudelekian explains, “Players raid, trade, feud and form alliances with one another on their quest to collect trophies of dead monsters, which symbolize the brave deeds of their people. Beowulf’s fatal struggle with the mighty dragon is the beginning of the end for the tribes of the north, when the influx of Christianity brought about a major shift in the culture.”

Clearly, this is no Chutes & Ladders.

“There’s been a big demand from our audience for another literary adaptation,” Geudelekian says. “With this game, we’re taking a historical perspective, examining the end of the Migration era, through the Viking Age and into the early High Middle Ages.”

Even if you’re a little fuzzy on the dates of the early High Middle Ages, there’s no ignoring Geudelekian’s enthusiasm. Despite the arcane history and the Old English source text, he insists that this new game will be fun for the whole Viking family: Monopoly as a blood sport.

A draft version of one of the cards in the upcoming Beowulf game from King Post Productions. A draft version of one of the cards in the upcoming Beowulf game from King Post Productions.

“By collaborating with game designers who were interested in balancing our esoteric inclinations towards gameplay, we were able to create a game that’s instantly more accessible than Moby Dick was,” he says. “Beowulf will bridge the gap between hardcore gamers, literary aficionados and anyone else looking for a riveting and fun few hours. The game will be for players 14 and up.”

I suspect that at 14, Geudelekian was already chuckling over “The Miller’s Tale,” but I don’t push it. I’m afraid he’ll start mocking me in Old English.

Beowulf was created in partnership with some friends from Highline Games. “King Post is very much a side-job,” says Geudelekian, who works full-time in the video gaming industry, which makes his fondness for cards and die seem like a fall-back to the Dark Ages. He and his cerebral colleagues know this ancient epic the way Beowulf knows Geatland.

Joel Clark, one of King Post’s creative and artistic directors, says, “Beowulf’s life is a reflection of his culture — a rise to power, a descent into death, absorption into the future: the day and night of a civilization expressed in the life and death of one man. This is a kind of ancient existentialism, which I think is why the poem and other Northern literature of the time is so compelling to us now.”

Face it: Scrabble cannot give you ancient existentialism.

Courtesy of King Post Productions. Courtesy of King Post Productions.

For the game text, King Post is using the Gummere edition from 1910, and Clark and his friends are “doing a little translation” themselves. This does not surprise me. His favorite version is Seamus Heaney’s 1999 edition, but he admits, “I’m really enjoying the newly published Tolkien translation.”

After raising more than $100,000 through Kickstarter last year, King Post sold almost 5,000 copies of its Moby Dick game. “Not enough to relocate our office to a whaleship,” Geudelekian admits, “but doing well for a start-up that’s just two years old.” They’ve also donated more than 100 copies of the game to schools and libraries.

Delivery date and price for Beowulf are yet to be determined, but get ready, gamers: Don your war-gear, indifferent to death.

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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