From the mind of Alex Rivas & Paul Lombardi, comes The Right of Kings, a board game that combines intense strategy, memory, and diplomacy crowned by a set of collectible playing cards. The original Right of Kings deck was inspired by the notion of four powerful kingdoms historically striving for balance and their search for the rightful king to rule them all.
Each suit portrays a unique cultural identity, commonly identified with their geographic influence. The layout of the number cards reflects the concept of the military formations in both on defense and attack mode resulting in a very original display of forms, unlike the conventional suit presentation.
We caught up with Alex to chat about his creative background and the inspiration and design process behind The Right of Kings Playing Cards.
Can you tell us about yourselves and what are your design background?
Paul Lombardi and I used to be coworkers both working in marketing for a consumer electronics company. We were part of a small “poker society”, meeting regularly for lunch and card playing. In one of our conversations Paul, who is an amazing woodworker, decided to work together on a project that could combine fine woods and my design. In a matter of days, we came up with the Right of Kings concept.
Paul has been designing and working with wood for many years, specializing in coin displays and precious woods ornaments. I have worked in marketing for more than 20 years and illustration has always been my passion. I really enjoy character creation, and what thrills me about playing cards, that every character literally comes to life when the cards are at play.
Can you describe the Right of Kings Playing Cards and why you’re passionate about it?
The Right of Kings concept is the story of four powerful kingdoms colliding to rule over the others. The phrase itself refers to the divine right of a rule. I based the cards on the Chinese concept of the balance of all natural elements. So every kingdom became an element. The West represented by metal was blue, the green East was the earth, South was red as the fire and North and the water was yellow. We are now releasing two playing card sets: Medieval and Renaissance.
How much time did you spend working on the deck?
We spent a couple of months just working on the concept and initial sketches. Then came the fun part. Creating all characters. Once the kingdoms were defined and the suits were assigned I started giving each character its own personality. It took me about 3 months to come up with all the royal court. Then came the styling and digital image tracing which is only fun when you are done. Finally coloring and styling to round-up almost a year to design both the Renaissance and Medieval sets.
Talk to us a bit about going from the first draft to the final version. How did you end up incorporating the gaming element into the deck?
My first draft was the king of spades. Although the original sketch is radically different to the final version, the style is consistent with what you see now. I moved from a more cartoony look to a reasonable balance between iconic and realistic features. Every suit has its own ethnic feel that gives personality to every kingdom. I decided to use vector tracing and render one of the characters and then play with all color combinations before moving to the final render phase.
As I was designing each of the characters, the ROK (the Right of Kings game) naturally came about. The game was modeled following the principle of the rightful king. With time we simplified the rules and after hours and hours of play and expert advice, we finally closed on the ROK board game. The game is not just fun, but requires a cocktail of strategy, diplomacy, and memory. Each round is easily played and provides for hours of entertainment and quality time at the table.
This is a game that you can play with or without the board. It is based on rounds that we call campaigns. You can play endless campaigns just with the individual decks. Adding the board to the experience allows for a more strategic approach and gives The Oreka card more function and power. We test drove the game for multiple sessions with poker experts, to make sure that the game was not just easy to understand but interesting, creative and smart.
What was your most brilliant breakthrough when designing the deck?
This project had three main breakthroughs-
1. The use of military formations on the number cards in both defense and attack mode and finding artistic ways to show them
2. Incorporating color to the Renaissance deck, which was inspired by the introduction of the board game
3. Adding a cryptographic watermark that gives the regional touch to the kingdoms and also differentiates the suits
Yes, for sure! We are currently working on what would be a new release of the playing cards. ”Dark Ages” and “Legends” will be complementing the ROK game. On the board game side we are working on the concept of the Oreka game. A medieval chess-like game that will be part of the Right of Kings legacy.
Finally, what are your favorite playing cards?
I really appreciate the art on the Wicked Kingdom Deck. I loved the double-faced concept and the illustration is superb. Heretic is also one of my favorite ones, as I enjoyed their rebellious posture and finding ways to go against traditional elements of playing cards.
Thank you for your time and all the best, Alex! At the time of writing, The Right of Kings Playing Cards project is only 28% funded. If want to support ROK you can find it on Kickstarter here.
The decks will be printed by the United States Playing Card Company. Pledge starts from $12. Additional pledge tier such as the Oreka medallion, aluminum art print, wooden coffers and uncut sheets are available for this project.