"We had some vicious arguments about the merits of a 20-sided die."
Chicago-based Numero Group, the esteemed crate-digging label nominated for three Grammys, is known for trawling the depths of music history time and time again since its founding in 2003. It has brought brilliantly curated reissues of soul (via the Eccentric Soul series), gospel (the Good God! series), blues, folk (Wayfaring Strangers) and punk (Codeine and Unwound reissues), panning through tributaries of music's history for the gold secreted throughout that muddy loam.
So what in the hell are they doing putting out a fantasy board game? Glad you asked!
Numero released the "Warfaring Strangers" compilation back in March, a collection of the Tolkien-inspired haze-rock of the mid-'70s, all garage-borne gemstones of pagan spell-casting. Think the gremlin children of Led Zeppelin, with bands like Wizard, Stoned Mace, Stonehenge playing meandering, magickal dirges across its sixteen songs. Some of them were even moderately successful, as Numero Group general manager Dustin Drase explained to us on the phone from Chicago. "They were ripping for thousands of people. You'd take a bunch of acid, hang out in van and go play a show!" But, aside from the criminally epic music on that record, the best part of this story is how it came to be.
"A lot of the inspiration for the release came from [Numero Group co-founder] Ken Shipley's stepdad, Robert Soden," Drase said. You can see a piece of Soden's craft immediately above. "Ken was looking through his mom's closet and found all these original maps and detailed drawings of this game he used to play in the '70s. He had a notebook with all these logos like Rush, Van Halen... so we were like, 'Alright, how do we make something out of this?'"
Naturally, you answer that question by spending roughly a year creating a fantasy-themed board game from scratch, a companion piece for the kids to play over pizza and spliffs.
The game centers on each player's "band," named after the sixteen covens featured on the "Warfaring Strangers" comp, traveling across the land of Darkscorch. "The ultimate goal is Numenor, victory, and a record contract penned in brimstone, VD, and pot smoke," Numero Group wrote in its release on the game. Throughout are easter eggs of musical lore, from motorcycle crashes to dead drummers to career-ending pyrotechnic mishaps.
It's by far the most bizarre and inspired tie-in to a music release we've seen in recent memory, unsurprisingly delivered by one of the most dedicated and bizarre labels we have.
To save the band members from any embarrassment that could result from their association with this dive into ancient nerdry, Drase pointed out that "none of these dudes actually played D&D." Sorry ladies.