Interview - Michael Menzel on The Legend of Robin Hood
Here at Imagining History we love our board games. But we don't love all board games equally I'm afraid. That's because, to be precise, it's co-operative board games that have really caught our imagination and adoration. Many hours have been whiled away at IH HQ - when we really should have been working I guess - teaming up to defeat marauding monsters in the brilliant 'Horrified' or escaping with our treasure intact in the inspired 'Forbidden Island'.
What we really like however, is a board game that combines our preference for co-operation with our deep love of history, myths and legends. That's why we're so very excited for the release of 'The Adventures of Robin Hood'. It's a board game that promises co-operative game play fused with the iconic characters and legendary tales of Sherwood Forest. We decided that we must know more about this game, so we sought out and spoke to its creator, Michael Menzel.
We had a nice chat! Check it out below and, if you'd like to find out more about 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' head on over this way.
Imagining History - What was it about the legend of Robin Hood that inspired you to design a board game around it?
Michael - I think it was a combination of three things. Firstly, I really like Robin Hood, a lot. I saw the Disney Movie as a kid, and watched Kevin Costner in the cinema with my first girlfriend. The 80s television show I remember vaguely but I love the music of Clannad. The second reason is that Robin Hood is so neutral, which makes him a prototype of a modern hero. He doesn't steal for his own sake and he doesn't start a revolution to become a ruler himself. Literally the second King Richard returns, Robin steps aside. So in conclusion Robin does "bad" things, like robbery or fighting, but he does it out of the right reasons. And that leads to the third reason: Robin Hood is actually a very current theme.
IH - Which characters from the Robin Hood legend did you include in the game and how did you decide on their portrayal? Michael - The players take on the role of Robin Hood, Little John, Maid Marian and Will Scarlet. The Sheriff of Nottingham, Prince John, Alix, the sister of the King of France and Guy of Gisborne all make an appearance.
Friar Tuck will appear, too - some day :-)
IH - What adaptions did you make to the Robin Hood story to ensure it was family friendly? Michael - Well we use words like "overcome" instead of "killing" when we fight against a soldier of the sheriff. And when someone get's captured by the Sheriff, we don't explicitly mention that he get's tortured. An adult would assume this, but kids simply don't get it.
IH -Was historical research necessary during the design of the game? How did you go about researching this era of history? Michael - I've found a very helpful book by Rebecca Gablé "Von Ratlosen und Löwenherzen" in which she explains the history of English kings in a very amusing and highly readable way. I also had help from my friend Peter Gustav Bartschat, who is a walking history-book. We met at first when we both worked on Klaus Teubers' "Catan - card game". He helped me to use the historically correct words and so on.
IH -What was the most interesting historical fact you discovered during your research? Michael - There were many exiting things I learnt. For example, King Richard didn't really spend much time living in England. And, when he was later held for ransom, the amount that people donated for his release must have been huge. The most interesting part was that there really was an attempt by the king of France and Prince John, to get rid of King Richard whilst he was on his Crusade. IH - What will players learn about Robin Hood and his legend after playing the game?
Michael - Hmm, I don't know. The game was never intended to submit some historical knowledge. But I play tested the game with younger adults (who unfortunately didn't have a Kevin Costner in their youth) and knew very few things about Robin Hood. For them, it'll be good to play the game and find out more about the outlaws of the Sherwood Forest. A friend of mine, who played Robin Hood with his son, told me, that now he has to buy books of Robin Hood and show movies with Errol Flynn, because his son got interested in this "new" hero! That's actually a good thing, I guess.
Thanks so much to Michael for taking the time to speak with us. 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' is due out this week. Our copy should be winging its way to us as you read this, we can't wait to play it. I'm dibsing Will Scarlet, that red clad warrior is the coolest.