Palettes – The Bright Inviting Colors

We get different opinions about the jolly color scheme of Cthulhu Wars. The figures are nice primary colors (like plastic dinosaurs!) and the maps are far from gloomy. (At least the faction sheets and rulebooks are a little more creepy-looking.) But this asks the question, “What was Sandy thinking? Why such a cheerful palette for such a dark theme?”

To answer this, I am going to go right back to my time spent at Ensemble Studios. From 1997-2009, I worked on the Age of Empires series and its sequels. This was a real-time strategy game (RTS). Now, most RTS games are set in horrendous dystopic worlds (Starcraft, Command & Conquer, Total Annihilation, etc.), and generally have drab or shaded color schemes. (Command & Conquer’s colors were bright, but desert-y and bleak.) Age of Empires was completely different – it was set in bright daylight, with flowers and trees, frolicking gazelles and birds flying by. Of course, the topic was as grim as any RTS game – sending in the cossacks to slaughter civilians, burning down houses, war to the hilt. But it was all set against this beautiful background scenery. At Ensemble Studios, we specifically had as a goal to have a “bright inviting world” that looked fun to play in.

I wanted to instill this ethos with Petersen Games – I wanted a game that looked bright and inviting. That looked like a family game. Sure the topic is ghastly otherdimensional horrors and that won’t go away (nor should it), but to me the contrast actually strengthens this feel. Now you know.

What Color are the Tcho-Tchos going to be?

Let’s think about it. We need a color that is immediately distinguishable from red, green, blue, yellow, orange, purple, white, and gray. That doesn’t leave us a lot of leeway. Basically I’m left with brown, black, and pink.

Black gobbles donkey goober when it comes to detailed plastic figures, so that’s out.

Brown is … ecch. Particularly since the proto-shoggoths and Ubbo-Sathlas are somewhat blobby, brown seems particularly inappropriate for this faction for reasons I don’t care to go into.

So we chose pink. “But,” you say. “Pink isn’t scary!” I beg to differ. Consider the terrifying pink face in M. R. Jame’s “The Rose Garden, the pink fungi from Lovecraft’s “The Whisperer in Darkness”, the pink organs vomited up by the hapless girl in Fulci’s City of the Walking Dead, or the pink brains on display in Hammer’s Frankenstein series. Pink can be creepy indeed.

I realize my opinion won’t be shared by everyone. Nor should it be! If we agreed on everything, then one of us would be superfluous! But at least I hope you understand my position, and that it is carefully thought-out, not a failure of imagination.