Chatting with Rising Lords Managing Director, Chris Fernholz

by MaddOx
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In the realm of strategy gaming, few titles manage to capture the essence of historical depth and strategic complexity as intriguingly as Rising Lords. Developed by the innovative minds at Argonwood, this medieval turn-based strategy game presents a rich tapestry of tactical gameplay, combining elements of board and card games.

We had the distinct opportunity to sit down with Chris Fernholz, Managing Director of Argonwood, to delve into the intricate world of Rising Lords. In this exclusive Q&A, Chris shares insights into the game’s creative process, the challenges of developing a genre-blending title, and the unique features that set Rising Lords apart in the strategy game landscape.

Join us on a journey through medieval strategy, as we uncover the inspirations, aspirations, and intricate mechanics behind Rising Lords, a game that is not just about ruling but also about the art of governance, warfare, and resource management.

Hello! To kick things off, could you introduce yourself and share a bit about your role in the development of Rising Lords?

Hi, my name is Chris Fernholz, I am the Managing Director of Argonwood. 

Rising Lords screenshot of game map

What inspired the unique blend of turn-based strategy, card, and board game elements in Rising Lords?

My brother Manu, the co-founder, and I have always loved playing and designing board games and pen and paper games. We wanted to bring the feeling of a board game evening to the turn-based genre on the PC. Drawing cards, picking decks, moving tokens – we think this is something that just feels cozy and invites people to spend an evening playing with friends. We wanted the game to be a relaxed experience and decided that turn-based was the best fit. You can go get something to drink or talk to the kids without the risk of losing your progress.

The game’s art style is quite distinctive, drawing from medieval influences. Could you delve into what inspired this creative direction?

Manu has drawn almost everything himself. It’s his personal style, inspired by medieval tapestries, the Lewis chessmen and some other factors like the desired board game look. All of this comes together nicely in a unique art style that we get a lot of positive feedback on!

As developers, what’s your favourite feature in Rising Lords, and what makes it special to you?

The Story Campaign establishes our fictional medieval world and is certainly our most important feature. You can play sandbox games with custom settings, but we put a lot of love and dedication into the story and the art that goes with it. It’s our own little world where we’ve invented all the history, all the characters, and where we tell the story of Tankred of Tannheim making his way in a harsh medieval world. I also love all the pictures we made for the Story Campaign!

Rising Lords gameplay screenshot

Rising Lords seems to have a complex gameplay system. How did you balance making it deep and engaging while keeping it accessible to new players?

We have tried to maintain this balance by offering both tactical and strategic options, without going overboard. With 7 different unit types and a clear selection of buildings, it’s easy to understand the differences. Province management is straightforward with taxes and rations.

Nevertheless, we recommend that everyone plays the tutorial first, which is also the story prologue, to understand how Rising Lords works. There are lots of small things you don’t need to know to get started, but which will make things more interesting as you progress. Like the different figures, building and field upgrades, and the selection of battle cards. I was amazed at our last tournament to see how deep and inventive tactics can be when experienced players meet on the battlefield!

Can you talk about how the story campaign was developed and what players can expect in terms of storytelling?

The campaign gameplay is a sequence of different scenario maps, where progress from one map carries over to the next. The storytelling was developed around the idea of the gamebooks of the 80s and 90s (The Lone Wolf series as an example). You have a text and an illustration in a storybook, while every so often you have to make decisions in that book as well.

The player can expect an epic journey through the entire realm of Aubelin, with many interesting characters and challenging battles. And your decisions are important and will determine minor aspects of the missions, such as rewards, but also the final outcome!

What were some of the most significant challenges you faced during the development process, and how did you overcome them?

The main challenge for us is managing our resources. With a small team, you can never do everything you want and you have to prioritize. Finding the balance between bug fixing, performance, adding new features, and balancing and listening to the community is certainly a big struggle. I would say the best way to handle things is with experience, and it’s often better to work on existing features before implementing new ones. And it’s very important to distinguish between the opinion of a single player and something that the community as a whole wants. 

Luckily, we have our Discord where we can get the opinions of seasoned players on various topics whenever we feel uncertain.

Another big issue was multiplayer integration, especially cross-platform options and working within the guidelines of different publishing platforms. Fortunately, we were able to hire an expert who has been helping us with this for a few years now.

Rising Lords gameplay with cards

How has player feedback from the Early Access phase influenced the final version of the game?

Quite a lot. After all, we made Rising Lords not just for ourselves, but in the hope that it would be enjoyed by our audience. In the beginning, a lot of feedback was about lack of explanations and performance, so we spent many months on tooltips, tutorials and game engine changes to address that.

Are there any plans for post-launch content or expansions? If so, can you give us a sneak peek?

We are already working on an expansion behind the scenes and would like to extend our own little world. The following image is taken from the main game, but will give you an idea of the next steps in the development of Rising Lords 😉

Rising Lords sneak peek for game expansion

If you could have any historical figure play Rising Lords, who would you choose and why?

That’s a very interesting question, and one I hadn’t thought about before. The developers of Lords of the Realm 2 (the spiritual prequel to Rising Lords) would certainly be interesting to watch, but they are probably not historical figures. That said, a strategic genius like Alexander the Great would be great to see pushing the mechanics to the limit.

A massive thank you to Chris for taking the time to answer our questions about Rising Lords. You can find more information about the game on its official website, or by going and joining their Discord server where you can get chatting with other players. And should you want to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the latest developments of the game, you can go and give Argonwood a follow on Twitter.

Before we go, don’t forget to check out more exclusive Q&As by heading over to our interview section. Should you want to see a little of Rising Lords in action, you can check out the trailer below:

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