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Boudicca, Warrior Babe
By Susan Robinson, Lys Fulda and Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
March 2007

The namesake of our Rome at War: Queen of the Celts game, Boudicca, was a fierce, take-no-prisoners kind of gal. Although she lost her final battle against the Romans, her army and allies killed 70,000 civilians in the violence that preceded her swan song.

Queen of the Celts, pinup edition. For a more bountiful view, click here.

We knew we wanted a certain look for the box cover of Queen of the Celts, so we hired freelance artist Lorenzo Sperlonga to paint a portrait of Boudicca and her two daughters heading into battle. Lorenzo and Avalanche Press have a long, happy history together. He has painted the covers for several of our games through the years.

Lorenzo has an affinity for capturing the beauty of women on canvas. Those familiar with his work know he especially likes to reveal the, er, natural assets of his subjects. Because the Celtic warriors (both men and women) fought topless, we asked Lorenzo to paint Boudicca true to history but to cover the “naughty bits” with something: a spear, a shield, or maybe her long hair.

Lorenzo went to work, and a few weeks later he submitted the painting for our approval. He had followed our instructions to the letter, and the final result is a powerful image. Boudicca’s intense expression says she means business, but we weren’t sure anyone would even notice her face after getting an eyeful of her bodacious bod. Those bountiful breasts positively defy gravity.

Avalanche Press President Mike Bennighof and Vice President Lys Fulda conferred on the wisdom of releasing the Boudicca cover to retailers. Lys was positive we'd be burned to the ground for doing so, and we knew she was right. But the painting is so good — and such an accurate representation of the warrior queen we portray in our game — that we hated the idea of asking Lorenzo to alter it by adding something to fully cover Boudicca’s breasts.

After much discussion, Mike and Lys decided we should have an alternate cover for retail sales but keep the original for direct sales. Of course, we wanted the alternate to be just as good as the original. Lys suggested using some Celtic symbols, but then Avalanche artist Beth Donahue came up with the idea of cropping the Boudicca image above the chest. That sounded perfect, but the result wasn't as inspiring as we had hoped.

Back to the drawing board. At some point, I suggested putting a faux “plain paper wrapper” on the box to relay our tongue-in-cheek admission that the Boudicca image was too hot for retail. No way, I was quickly told.

We started going in circles. Some ideas were submitted twice. I since have lost track of exactly what was proposed and in what order, but Mike finally said enough was enough. It was time to make a decision.

In the end, Beth created a beautiful illustration of a Celtic sword and shield. So now we have the “PG-rated” cover and the “G-rated” version. Something for everyone!

Susan Robinson
Production Director

Softcore Art for Hardcore History

When William Sariego revived our Rome at War series with Queen of the Celts, I knew we'd want to make a splash with the new game. The first game had done well despite a relatively high price tag, the second only reasonably so. But it's important for us to address more eras than World War II, and I knew the game itself would be very good. Rome at War is going to get many more new games in coming years. and it needs to be noticed.

So I turned to the same reliable source for a product launch, Lorenzo Sperlonga. Lorenzo's covers had become to trademark of our role-playing line, giving us what one industry magazine called "an unholy mixture of soft-core art and hard-core history." The role-playing line helped push our boardgames into many retailers who never would have considered them, and the artwork opened those doors. Of course, it also brought fits of online ire from other role-playing publishers — one raged that "Avalanche Press has destroyed the seriousness of role-playing" and wept in public when the cover for Ragnarok was nominated for an Origins Award.

The role-playing covers are beautiful work, and just as important, Lorenzo Sperlonga is extremely professional and a joy to work with. Real professionals are thin on the ground in the game industry, and every time I get an e-mail from a fan asking "Why don't you ever use X's work?" I usually have a whole litany of deadlines blown by months, refusals to follow specifications, temper tantrums, and worse. Like the guy who blew his deadline by three months, then demanded to be paid "on publication" before he'd turned in anything, since the website said the product would be published in July and it was now July so where was his money? (Yes, you read that correctly — I had to look at it a few times myself.)

Anyway, Lorenzo is no pampered artiste — he does his homework, he delivers on time no matter what the cost in lost sleep, and he works hard to figure out what the product needs. It was Lorenzo I'd turned to for a cover for Granada to launch our line of European-style deluxe boardgames, and so it was Lorenzo I went back to for Rome at War.

Lorenzo's concept sketch.

The "Red Goblin" turned in the game as a set of battles between Romans and Britons, and I'm not sure he even used a project title. Lys Fulda rejected "A Woman Scorned" as sexist drivel, and at first wanted to call it "Celtic Amazon," but Daily Content editor Shane Ivey suggested Queen of the Celts. The final title put the marketing focus on the Boudicca, and so the cover should emphasize her.

I wrote the cover specs to ask Lorenzo to base the painting roughly on the famous statue of Boudicca and her daughters astride her chariot. I provided several historical references — I'd written Celtic Age at the height of our role-playing venture — and Lorenzo dug up others on his own. Knowing Lorenzo's love of the nude figure, I specified that she could be topless (as Celtic women, when they did fight, usually did so semi-nude) but her naughtiest bits should be covered by hair, arms or weapons.

And that's exactly what he delivered. And exactly what Lys feared would bring howling, torch-bearing mobs to their local retailer. Unwilling to do without the painting, and unwilling to compromise it with a Victorian "paint over" to give her an anachronistic top or worse, brassiere, I agreed to put it out for commentary from a number of fans.

They confirmed Lys' concerns — the United States has become a much more prudish place in the last decade. I accepted Lys' arguments but specified that we'd do a comics-style alternate cover release and still use the Lorenzo original. Beth Donahue made a number of attempts to craft an alternate based on part of Lorenzo's painting, but none of these worked well. Her sword-and-shield cover looks fine, though, and is quite suitable for all audiences.

Mike Bennighof

What Could Go Wrong?

I was very excited when the idea for this game came about. Let's face it, everyone loves Celts, as we proved with the RPG line. And, um, hot Celtic queens — you couldn't pry a "no" out of me for any reason on this project. Add to that the boss wanting to work with the renowned Lorenzo Sperlonga again for a cover and I was like, "What could go wrong?"

Never tempt fate.

The retail edition.

Lorenzo likes drawing half-naked chicks, and we had tossed him the historically accurate fact that she probably went into battle topless. Well, he created the image that you now see as the pinup cover.

My first instinct looking at that painting was, "I wonder who's going to burn us to the ground for doing this first: The fans? Or the retailers?" The United States was founded by Puritans, and "historical accuracy" as the only defense before a populace culturally opposed to nudity doesn't help any of us get paid on a regular basis.

Mike loved the piece and I think it really goes against his artistic sensibilities to ask an artist to change the work. However, talking with retailers at the GAMA Trade Show only reinforced the fact that we could not release the image as the cover. We had to come up with a compromise. Our amazing in-house art department came up with a gorgeous safe cover and voila ... the safe cover as well as the pinup cover took shape!

Elysabeth Fulda
Vice President

Order Rome at War: Queen of the Celts
in the retail edition or the pinup edition.