Tristam Rossin and The Mariana Trench Board Game
Tristam Rossin is a designer and Illustrator living in Manchester, England.
He’s spent the last 20 years working in illustration, design, marketing and web development.
After being made redundant three years ago, his eight-year-old daughter returned home one evening with a board game she had designed. He figured he would try and do the same and has never looked back. Three years later Tris has had two games signed, and has developed the art and design for over a dozen publications.
JF: I found out about your work on through the Art & Graphic Design for Tabletop Games Facebook group. I saw your vector art and was excited because I haven’t seen many people push vector art so far. Digital painting seems to be the norm. What made you decide to stick with the vector art direction for the Mariana Trench?
TR: So this is a historic skill from over 20 years ago. I was fortunate enough to get a junior role as a designer for an education company, the head of the department was an avid vector fan, a master of clean elegant lines, weight and design and I caught the bug. I use vector very differently than most, I draw in paths these days, it seems natural, I love the block colour feel which has now become a bit of a trademark style for me.
JF: You have done a ton of art for games including your own. I’ve seen horror-themed families, forest adventures, little bodegas, and even a game about an animal delivery service to name a few. What was it about The Mariana Trench that made you say, “yes this is the game I want to develop and publish myself”?
TR: I was always aware that making the decision to develop and publish a game is not something to be taken lightly. You’re not creating a game, you’re running and producing a top-tier product and managing the entire thing from setting up a company, signing a designer with terms, designing the game, creating assets, play-testing, marketing and ultimately manufacturing and distribution. It is a massive undertaking.
So, with that in mind I decided to look at it from a management perspective. I see a lot of people trying to create these massive games as their first project, trying to compete with the big players in the industry. I wanted to partially mitigate some of the pitfalls and stress that comes with a project like this so the first thing to work out was what kind of game it was to be. I went for a small pack, low asset game with a relatively small card count (roughly 30 cards). This means manufacturing is much simpler, shipping is much cheaper and the whole art and design is enclosed in a smaller product meaning I could really push the art without it feeling like a never-ending or overwhelming project. I think in summary, I want to enjoy this experience as much as I want it to be a success, that meant making sure it was small and manageable as a first publication.
JF: What made you decide on the theme? I believe the game was originally called “The Trench” was there a reason you wanted to highlight the Mariana Trench in particular?
TR: This part is all down to Thomas Layton, the game designer for the Mariana Trench. The game idea and where it is set is all him. It has been my job to define what that looks like. The initial idea was to go super light in the design, almost make it icon driven. But after researching the creatures and world this game inhabits, it very quickly became clear that it had to show the richness and vibrancy of the sea, it really is a beautiful world to investigate and I had to try and recreate that feeling.
JF: The Mariana Trench has seen some artistic changes throughout the development. Mainly
through critiques from board game groups. Have you found their advice helpful? How do you
filter the constructive criticism from the not-so-constructive type?
TR: Yeah, and if any of the people who critique and support me in the forums are reading this, “thank you!” I use the forums for two reasons. Firstly, it’s wealth of knowledge that’s on the whole hugely constructive. Anyone who thinks they’ve nothing to learn about their craft is a fool so it’s great to listen to new ideas and suggestions. I think when I post for criticism and feedback, I’m also aware of my own skill set, experience and reasoning behind aspects of my design so it’s easy to distill the important stuff. I think you also need to be hard shelled, accept the criticism when your game design isn’t working and implement the changes. I see many artists and designers post for feedback and then never act upon it, it’s like they’ve posted it purely for the good comments, you’re missing out on some hugely valuable feedback and experience if you do that.
The second reason is to qualify the work I’m doing. I work from home, by myself doing long hours on these projects. So, to a large extent I’m working blind without critique. The communities help keep me sane; they encourage me and give me a boost. I doubt I could do my work without their help and support.
JF: What was the most enjoyable moment you had in developing The Mariana Trench?
TR: I think the first was seeing Tom Layton’s design and playing it through. It’s such a simple and elegant design and when it’s bolstered with a deep-sea theme, it got my mind overflowing with ideas and concepts. I think that’s what you need to make a project a success, a spark of inspiration about the possibilities of a game, I love that moment when you realise it could be something special.
JF: As an independent publisher, you wear many hats. What is your favorite hat to wear when
you’re developing a game?
TR: Well not yet! This is my first self-publication, although I’ve gained a lot of experience in designing games that have been published, this is a very different hat to wear. Right now it’s the design and illustration, actually creating the world that this game inhabits. The next phase is marketing which I worked in for many years prior to working on games so I’m also looking forward to that.
JF: Anything else about the game you’d like to share with us?
TR: Keep an eye out! There are some really nice stretch goals and expansions I’m going to implement in this project which should really make the game shine.
JF: What advice would you give to aspiring designers looking to grow a company like Bright Light Games?
TR: Use the forums, listen. You are tapping into years of experience you wouldn’t usually have and it’s available in abundance. Be open and share your game ideas as you not only invite constructive critique, but you develop brand awareness at the same time. There’s no point creating a beautiful game if nobody knows about it on launch day.
JF: I definitely want to check back in when your next game is gearing up for release, but until then, how can we learn more about Bright Light Games and The Mariana Trench?
TR: I have a Facebook page for Bright Light Games which is https://www.facebook.com/brightlightgames/
My main website which I will be using to push the game can be viewed at
And finally, you can find me on Twitter….
JF: Awesome, I'm looking forward to seeing everything develop. Thank you so much for your time!