Ron Halliday is using his love of maps to create a series of board games now being played around the world.
“I’ve always loved maps,” says the North Alton, N.S., native who now looks back over his school years and realizes how much he loved geography, even in elementary school.
“My mom saved the map that I drew on the first day of school,” says Halliday, explaining how one side included a detailed street map.
This love of maps and his ability to draw them, he says, is just something he was born with.
Halliday says he didn’t even realize maps could be a career until he attended a job fair at Central Kings High School. This led him to attend the Centre of Geographical Sciences in Lawrencetown, where he studied maps and cartography.
Following graduation, Halliday says he headed west to Calgary, where he worked as a mapping consultant, making maps for oil and gas and related industries. There, he met and married a Brazilian woman, and the two eventually moved to South America in 2004 so his wife could take a government position. After spending three years in Paraguay and three years in Peru, the couple ended up in Brazil, where they currently reside.
Because the couple moves around, Halliday says he looks for different jobs and is currently making maps for a variety of projects. Now, his map-making abilities have spilled over into creating board games, as many of them involve maps.
LONGTIME LOVE OF GAMES
Growing up in North Alton in the 1980s and 1990s, playing board games, is just something everyone did, Halliday says.
“Because of the five- to six-months of winter, especially growing up on the South Mountain in North Alton, sometimes we’d have three to four days straight we couldn’t go outside because there was so much snow,” he says.
With younger sisters in the house, his family always had board games to play.
It was about five years ago, he says, that he got seriously back into playing board games through friends. His favourites are filler games that only take 15 to 30 minutes, or co-operative games.
“I pretty much like every game I play,” says Halliday. “It’s the people you play with that make the games fun.”
Over the years, Halliday thought about getting into board game creation, but he never did so until living in Peru in 2015.
Now, Halliday has several games signed with publishers, the first being Psychomachia, about the seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues, which is available in both English and Spanish. His second game, Revanche – which means both revenge and rematch – is a soccer-themed card game with dice.
Currently, Halliday is working on publishing his newest game, Seven Bridges, his first game to use a map. It is based on the seven bridges of Konigsberg in Russia, a puzzle that people did in the 18th century.
“Couples would go walking around on Sundays, trying to cross all seven bridges in the city and go back to a starting point, without having to cross the same bridge twice,” explains Halliday.
No one could figure out the puzzle, and even Euler, a famous mathematician at the time, proved this was impossible. This became the foundation for graph theory, says Halliday.
Seven Bridges is meant for players aged 12 and older and for anyone who is interested in maps or types of games where you roll and write.
Recently signed with a publisher, Halliday has a fourth game coming out about the Brazilian carnival and the Samba competition side of the event. This game will be featured in an upcoming showcase in Germany – the world’s largest game fair.
DRAWING INSPIRATION FROM LIFE
Halliday says his inspiration for games comes from watching TV or even while in the shower. He looks for ideas that he has information about and themes that he would enjoy working on. The next step is to investigate whether a game like that already exists and do the background work to see if the idea is worth pursuing amongst the thousands of games around the world.
When you think you have something unique, says Halliday, you need to create a version that is playable for people to test. Those first tests allow the creator to see if the game is working and identify the elements need to be fixed, he says, as well as ensuring the game is fun to play.
Once ready, Halliday says the next step is to research which publishers would be a good fit for the game. If you’re lucky, he says, a publisher will sit down and play the game and sign you on, with the designer getting royalties on sales.
“As a professional cartographer, I hope to bring something different to the games, including the quality of the map, and other elements people don’t learn about as a graphic designer,” says Halliday.
That’s what he’s done with his game Seven Bridges - looking at a map and transforming it into a game.
Making a board game and making a map have several similar elements, Halliday says.
“You have to make something that doesn’t exist, you have to present it in a way that people like, you have to do something modern, and you have to balance that with expenses, how long it will take and whether you think it will sell,” he says.
Another similar element, he says, is the attention to detail. With a map, if you see a mistake or a spelling error, you lose confidence in the product and don’t want to use it. This is the same with a game.
The response so far to Seven Bridges, says Halliday, has been great and people are really enjoying playing it.
“That’s the risk you take when you make a game,” he says. “You don’t know whether people will like it until they have played it.”
Although Halliday’s game Seven Bridges is finished and has been signed on with a publisher, there will be a Kickstarter crowd-sourcing fundraising page to help bring in money that will assist with the production of the game. The project will be relaunching at the end of October and can be found by going to kickstarter.com and searching for Seven Bridges.
An increased number of backers means more games can be produced. Based on the number of games they want to make, explains Halliday, the cost of production and shipping is the amount of the crowd-sourcing request.
If the game gets funded, Halliday says it should arrive in Canadian stores in August 2020 and will hopefully be picked up by some stores in the Valley.
Halliday has plenty of ideas for future board games, with not enough time in the day to design them all. He hopes to someday create future games about the Bluenose and Oak Island.