The digital board game Armello features a cast of anthropomorphic animal characters vying for the throne of their medieval fantasy kingdom. Though it took Australian developer League of Geeks several years to release the final product, they have continued to expand on it. They’ve added more game content via DLC, but also through more literary means.
Armello is packed with plenty of details, many of them written out through playing card descriptions, quest guidelines and branching outcomes, and other gameplay features. More can be learned about the world of Armello by piecing together the lore shared through these in-game writings.
But even more can be read through Armello Adventures, a series of official novellas written by members of the game’s development team, League of Geeks co-founder Trent Kusters, and quest and lore writer Alex Kain.
Each volume follows one of the first set of playable characters Armello started with, following their individual stories in greater detail.
Game of Publications
Games getting spin-off books, or getting directly adapted into books, is fortunately not new. Insomniac Games’ Song of the Deep was adapted into a novel and a picture book, and Gearbox Software’s Borderlands series got its own books revealing more about individual playable characters.
But those examples are generally AAA powerhouses, with more resources they can use to expand their intellectual property. It tends to be rarer for indie developers like League of Geeks to translate their game worlds into books, but it has happened before.
For example, Five Nights at Freddy’s developer Scott Cawthon co-wrote books based on his game series with Kira Breed-Wrisley. And if not books, more indie games like Hollow Knight have been growing their intellectual property through other means, such as clothing and toys.
Five Nights at Freddy’s has definitely expanded to clothing and toys besides books—which come in both digital and print copies. Insomniac and Gearbox also had their books available in both digital and print. In contrast, Armello’s novellas have only been released digitally.
A print and digital release for their books is another thing more readily available to AAA developers like Insomniac and Gearbox. And though Five Nights at Freddy’s and Armello are both indie games, Five Nights at Freddy’s has had a more explosive popularity, and the resulting profits from that to make releasing books in digital and print editions possible.
Using digital distribution to remove the costs for physical print copies could have made publishing Armello Adventures simpler for an indie studio without the power of a AAA developer, or just the widespread popularity of a game like Five Nights at Freddy’s.
Copies of Armello Adventures can be found on Kindle through Amazon, with sample excerpts free to preview. The books also come free with an update on the Steam and iOS versions of Armello, which includes an in-game novella reader.
According to Kain on his website, his involvement with Armello started when he got in touch with Kusters over Twitter, and then at PAX East. Kain was brought on to help Kusters write the quests and lore for Armello. After the game released, Kain then began writing Armello Adventures, with input on story from Kusters.
Kain is a fitting pick when his other projects with anthropomorphic animal fantasy are considered. He’s worked on the games Dust: An Elysian Tail, Ghost of a Tale, and Tooth and Tail; the graphic novel Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Volume 1; and the ongoing webcomic Beyond the Western Deep.
With its combination of anthropomorphic animals and a medieval fantasy setting, Armello has been previously compared to Brian Jacques’ Redwall novels. Knowing that the game did end up with its own book series feels particularly appropriate.