NucleAnts tabletop game: ‘an imaginary future where giant mutated ants fight for atomic waste’

NucleAnts is the brainchild of German board game enthusiasts ‘Wendelhaus’. Using the Affinity suite and plenty of blood, sweat and tears, this is the first game they’ve built from the ground up. We spoke to them about the game and how Affinity helped them bring nuclear-mutated ants to life…

We are three board game enthusiasts, Martin, Marc and Fabian, who have come together to form ‘Wendelhaus’. For years we invented and played board game prototypes just for the fun of it. One day Martin came around with the first prototype of NucleAnts. Everybody enjoyed it from the first game onwards, so we started thinking about pushing it a little bit further.

As the three of us are specialists in different fields of marketing and design, we all have slightly diverse skills that help to a push a project like this to the next level. Since it’s the first board game that we have built from scratch, there’s also a lot of new challenges—we are definitely learning a lot. But we’re so excited to share our idea and the fun of playing board games, that it’s worth all the struggle and working on it alongside our 9 to 5 jobs.


Tell us about the premise of your game?

Martin: NucleAnts is a fast paced, middleweight game in a post-apocalyptic setting. It has Yahtzee inspired dice mechanics combined with cards and it’s about ants that survived the nuclear apocalypse.

Each player takes the role of an ant queen. They roll and combine their genetic dice and place them onto changing mutation-cards to use their effects. These effects may be getting more dice, disturbing your opponents or claiming the game’s most valuable resource: precious atomic waste! The one who has collected the most of it wins the game.

How do you use Affinity in the creation of your game?
For illustrations…

Fabian: At the beginning there are some early sketches—pen and paper—to develop a first idea and to find the best composition—accompanied by intense discussions in the team about the results. If we agree on a sketch, I start with the illustration by drawing the detailed composition with a pencil.

When everybody in the team is happy with the drawing, I paint it over with watercolour. That’s the moment when I have to think carefully about the light in the scene. Where does it come from, what is the source, which parts of the ant and scene should be illuminated.

After that the digital process starts. I scan in the painting to start colourising it in Affinity Photo. I retouch details in the painting, insert textures and refine the lighting using a Wacom pad. If I have to create shades or whatever elements I didn’t paint in the analogue process I use Daub Brushes to match the character of the watercolour.

A timelapse showing the progress of making one of the NucleAnts cards—from sketch to final design.
‘The Hunter’ finished illustration, drawn and inked by hand and then coloured in Affinity.
For design…

Every card in NucleAnts has its own effect and a distinct function within the game. It’s crucial for the players to recognise these effects as fast and clear as possible. This is why we decided to use a set of easy to understand, unique icons instead of writing long descriptions on our components.

I created all of these icons with Affinity Designer, evolving them through different stages of prototyping. The logotype of NucleAnts was also created with Designer and fine-tuned with Photo by adding texture.

The icons designed for Nucleants shown in-app.

The final card layout we originally created with InDesign. But at this very moment we are switching to Affinity Publisher to profit from the convenient workflow in between the whole Affinity suite. My teammate Martin is laying out the rulebook with Publisher as well.

For marketing purposes…

A lot of the images we use for marketing purposes are processed with Affinity Photo. It’s the perfect combination with Blender. We modelled a few 3D-visualisations of the game components in action. After rendering an interesting perspective I fine-tuned the image with Photo to dramatise lightning, add textures and retouch details. For example all full screen images of our website are created with this workflow.

A mock-up​ of five cards from the game.
a mock up of the dice from the game.

What made you choose Affinity?

Fabian:

  • Because of the smooth workflow between Designer, Photo and Publisher
  • We love the community—there is a lot of support out there
  • It’s affordable and payment is not based on a monthly fee
  • Because the software is reliable and super-fast

A few features make a really big difference to us like;

  • The convenient file export (to jpg, sag, png etc.)
  • Practical batch processing
  • preview of brush strokes on the artwork when hovering.
One of the card illustrations in Affinity Photo.
Who do you think would enjoy NucleAnts?

Martin: Anyone who wants to visit an imaginary future where giant mutated ants fight for atomic waste, or who simply likes chucking dice and having a good time with their friends at home, in the pub or in their doomsday shelter, is most likely in our target audience.

Prototype game components.

NucleAnts is designed for two to six players, aged 10 to 100. A game lasts 30 to 45 minutes.

What is your next step or goal for your game?

Marc: We have finally completed writing the rules of play. The cards and their effects have been tested over and over. So currently we have two main projects going on: creating an easy to understand and kick-ass looking rulebook and illustrating the rest of the mutation-cards.

We are planning to go live on Kickstarter in 2020, so marketing is a constant task too. Meanwhile, there is also still a lot of playtesting going on, because we want to be very sure that NucleAnts is a well-balanced, easy to learn and fun to play game with clear and complete rules.

Wendelhaus are…

Fabian—Multidisciplinary art director, designer and illustrator, he is responsible for creating the Antocalypse by illustrating all the eerie ants and designing the components of the game like the cards and dice.

Martin—The game designer, the brains behind the game concept and mechanics. His passion for boardgames and creativity gave birth to the NucleAnts. He puts all his enthusiasm and experience in the progress of the game.

Marc—The man behind the scenes, a marketing professional and tech enthusiast. He pulls the strings when it comes to marketing and campaigning. He also makes sure that the creative guys keep on track and don’t get lost in the Antocalypse.


To keep updated with NucleAnts news visit Nucleants.com and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.


Artist relations
Charlotte is an illustrator and arts lecturer who is passionate about the creative industries and is now part of our artist relations team. Her interests include mid 20th century inspired design, comic books, board games, movie memorabilia, baking cakes, feminism and yoga. She shares her 1960’s home with her graphic designer husband and her toddler son who likes to hide her iPad. Get in touch with Charlotte if you have work you have made in Affinity apps to share with us, or tag your work with #madeinaffinity in the usual places.
Credits & Footnotes

The artwork and images of Nucleants are copyright of Wendelhaus and are used with permission.