I created Montsegur 1244 for Fastaval 2008. I had completed my master on the IT University of Copenhagen and I found myself with newfound spare time.
At the time I explored the wave of American Indie Games such as Dogs in the Vineyard, Primetime Adventures, and A Thousand and One Nights while at the same time still frequenting the Fastaval scene.
I had also played an Ars Magica campaign with a group of friends where we took turns running the game. That is where I learned about the Albigensian Crusade and the siege of Montsegur. I was intrigued that someone would choose to die for what they believed rather than giving up their faith. I reflected if there was something in my own life that I was so passionate about that I would make the same choice. Some of us even visited the location of Montsegur on vacation one spring.
The story of the Cathars was never front and center in Ars Magica and I felt that it was a story that needed to be told. A game that I wanted to play.
So in my newfound spare time, I began designing Montsegur 1244. I sent a pitch for Fastaval that was accepted which meant I had a deadline and access to feedback. An early playtest validated the design.
Fastaval and the first English edition
The existence of an English edition owes a lot to Jason Morningstar. I’m not sure there would have been an English edition without him.
At the time when I was creating Montsegur 1244, I also hosted Jason Morningstar as international guest of honor at Viking Con in Copenhagen. I pitched the game for him and he was all excited. For some reason I had not yet picked up his game Grey Ranks, but later when I did, I could see that we were into many of the same things. Grey Ranks is a story game about teenagers in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. It has the pre-defined story arc, players take turn setting scenes, and the stories are all about exploring the values of and the relations between the characters.
Montsegur 1244 did ok at Fastaval 2008. It didn’t win an Otto Award, though it got a nomination. More importantly, many groups played it and I got plenty positive feedback afterwards. I got extra motivation to publish the game from that. But I think mostly that I took on the project just to see if I could.
Also, Jason kept asking about an English translation so I had to stop him nagging about it.
Publishing Montsegur 1244
Chris Bennett picked up the translation and played it at Go Play Northwest. I got great feedback from there. A friend offered to do the graphical design of the game. Another hosted the website. Lulu was there and I had bought a couple of games through there so I knew what it could do. Great progress.
Then I got to the Marathon in the Middle. Small questions came up that I did not have an easy answer for. Other stuff happening. Time passed. At some point I found the spark to return to the game, wrap up the loose ends, and release it. That happened to be January 2009.
Releasing something that has been with you for so long feels immense. To you. The rest of the world barely notices. So one thing was making the game available for sale as print on demand in Lulu. Another is growing an audience and making them aware of it.
I had the great fortune to be able to travel to New York on a business trip and could time it so I could take some days off and go to Dreamation. I signed up for the convention and to run my game three times. First session we were three players in a big noisy room. Third session was with Jason and his crew in a closed space. The rest is history. It was viral marketing from there. Dreamation is also where I connected with Indie Game Revolution.
In Denmark I got the response that it was very American, in USA people thought it was very Scandinavian. I thought that was funny.
The Italian Edition
A gaming group in Italy picked up Montsegur 1244. Claudia Cangini and Elena Melega among them. They loved it. They were on a mission to bring story games into Italy. Italians prefer to buy and play games in Italian, so they had set up a company (Narrattiva) to publish indie games in Italian. They had already done beautiful editions of My Life With Master and Dogs in the Vineyard so when they approached me for an Italian edition of Montsegur 1244, I was all in immediately.
I had the pleasure of travelling to a cosy game convention in Italy in May 2010 to promote and play Montsegur 1244 and to meet up with Claudia, Ezio, and a friendly community of Italians story gamers. I also met Ron Edwards and played and talked games with him.
Montsegur 1244 spreads
A few years later, Narrattiva expanded into German, French and Korean markets. I had already licensed a French edition of Montsegur 1244. But when Narrattiva created the German Edition, I got the opportunity to create an English edition using the boxed format of the Italian edition. It felt great that I could finally create a version of Montsegur 1244 that fulfilled the promise of “everything you need to play in one box” without extra work to print and cut components.
Recently I have licensed Montsegur 1244 to New Games Order for publication in Japan.
Creating and releasing Montsegur 1244 has opened doors for me. The value you get from putting a price tag on your games is not measured in what you see on your bank account. To read what players have taken from playing the game, to have inspired people to create games of their own, and to be part of the forever ongoing conversation about how we create and share stories, this is the true value.
To call out a few games that explicitly state Montsegur 1244 as inspiration: Red Carnations on a Black Grave. Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne.
During the pandemic, I started working on a revision of Montsegur 1244. The English Boxed edition had sold out after a couple of years and I was experimenting with online play. I wanted to create a version of Montsegur 1244 that was easier to play online.
Before Corona, I was thinking that the only real way to play story games is face to face. While it is true that playing in a physical space with a small group of people creates a truly unique experience, it does not mean that there is not fun to be had elsewhere.
Some of what I learned was that it was easier to schedule games as people were mostly sitting home weekday evenings. It was also less of a commitment as sessions can be cancelled and rearranged on short notice without someone having lost one hour of commute. Another thing I learned was that sessions should be shorter, no more than 2 or 3 hours, including smalltalk. It takes a while for people mentally to travel from whatever they were doing before to a state where they are excited and inspired to dig into a story.
The Montsegur 1244 Revised Edition
What the revised edition does is that it removes the story cards and the scene cards and instead provides cues for scene setting using seeds in the same way Mars to Stay does. Players get more information up front and can plan a little bit ahead. There are a few other changes, but mostly it is a way to make a great game available again in a format that is easy to bring to the table. You will also get new interior illustrations by Claudia Cangini and the appendix on the history and legends of Montsegur written by Ezio Melega.
Buy the Montsegur 1244 PDF from the store on Thoughtful Dane or the Montsegur 1244 paperback as print on demand from Lulu.
One thought on “The story of Montsegur 1244”
What a great write up, and I’m excited to see the new edition! I had such great experiences playing your game in those days. My own magnum opus, Meridian, wouldn’t exist without it. Thank you so much for making and sharing your art.
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