Category Archives: Interviews

Dropships Inbound! An interview with Hawk Wargames…

Greetings folks! today I have a little something special, especially if you went to Salute. I have managed to convince Dave from Hawk Wagames to take the time from his manic schedule to answer some questions for me about his new company and upcoming wargame Dropship Commander! His salute stand caused a heck of a stir being the most consistently busy stand! Even Forgeworld died down eventually, once they’d sold out anyway. So without any further prattling…

 

"Dropships inbound!"

 

1. You caused quite a stir at Salute! For those that could not make it please tell all the folks a bit about yourself and your company.
Dave: Hawk Wargames is a brand new company, with the simple aim of producing the finest quality miniatures and games. I’ve pretty much dedicated the last two and a half years of my life to the pursuit of this goal (I’ve seen rather too many 2am’s for anyone’s taste so far!) My ethos is to always work a little beyond the limits of my ability, and to never cut corners. As such I’ve always tried to go the extra mile and to choose the best processes at every stage.
My first taste of miniatures design was as the main sculptor/ designer at Spartan Games in its early years. I designed all the original ships, and most of the new releases up until the Shroud Mages and the Elves (my last two fleets). My time at university also gave me hands on experience at the forefront of rapid manufacturing technology, knowledge I built upon with this project.
Dropzone Commander started with a desire to develop something I could entirely call my own. At the time I decided to take the plunge, I’d just left university and had a lot of options. Figuring that this was likely to be the only chance I’d get to do something like this, I grabbed the opportunity!

 

2. So far as anyone can tell, you came out of nowhere! The Dropzone Commander stand being one of the consistantly difficult to reach. Were you surprised by the reaction?
Dave: It was a truly intense day at Salute, and one I’ll never forget! After years of working in virtual isolation it was thrilling (if a little overwhelming!) to finally see peoples’ reactions to what I’d created. I’m not sure what I’d expected to be honest, but the level of interest and passion totally blew me away! I went through the whole day on pure adrenaline I think. My team worked their hearts out too, without them I’d have been completely swamped!

 

Unbelieveable detail, astoundingly clean.

 

3. Tell us about the concept behind Dropzone Commander, the way the game is likely to play, rules, dice used etc.
Dave: Dropzone Commander is an alternate activation based 10mm scale sci-fi game designed for large battles (although it can easily be scaled from titanic clashes to small skirmishes). It primarily uses D6’s, although a few cards will also be involved to inject additional flavour.
The whole project has been built around the central theme/ concept of air mobile forces. Often, speed, rapid reaction and flexibility will bring you victory. While you can play a simple ‘fight to the death’, the game will work best with scenario based gameplay. Tactical operations in modern warfare is rarely a simple battle of attrition.
An example I like to use is a Blackhawk Down/ Battle of Mogadishu situation. Perhaps you need to capture VIP’s from multiple locations, and extract them safely from the combat zone – you might not even have a friendly table edge!
The rules have been written, but are still in the playtesting phase, so this might change a bit. However, we are always working with this goal/ flavour in mind.

 

The Scourge... So many Eyes!

 

4. Why scale it at 10mm?
Dave: A lot people have been asking this, and it’s nice to get the chance to answer this question. There’s a whole set of reasons:
A) The project started with the concept of air mobility. I wanted to give gamers something fresh (very hard to do in the world of Sci-fi, which can be quite ubiquitous). As such, the entire game as well as its models were designed around this central tenet. That way the whole thing could stay pure to its ideal.
In 6mm, the miniatures would have frequently been too small and fiddly to achieve the designs I had in mind for such a game. 15mm scale would certainly have given me that freedom, but would have made the game too unwieldy to play. 15mm scale works fantastically for WWII games, where the largest unit you’re likely to field is a King Tiger Tank, and games tend to revolve around infantry actions, supported by armour. However, DzC is far more focused on vehicles, many of which are very large (e.g. heavy dropships able to deliver nine main battle tanks to the fray!) These would have been very big in 15mm, making the fielding of groups of them unrealistic both in terms of cost to the player and space required. I wanted a 4×4 table to be fine for a normal sized game. Also, buildings (capturing, garrisoning etc.) are central to the way the game plays. These would have been too large to be practical for most gamers (above small houses anyway).
B) I always intended to be as accurate as possible in scale, with as little abstractions as possible. 6mm would have required over-thick gun barrels etc, detracting from the realism. Also, I feel that 6mm infantry usually possess very little character. 10mm I think is the minimum scale to inject some real personality into infantry models (at least of the kind ordinary mortals can see!)
C) Heroic (ish) 28mm scale has proven so popular over the years, because I believe that’s about the ideal size for a miniature (at least for a ‘standard’ sized unit). In 10mm scale, my tanks are around 30-35mm in their largest dimension, closely matching the size of model people seem most happy with. Since you will be fielding mostly units around this size, it makes it familiar and friendly in terms of handling.
D) As Dropzone Commander will be a complete game, with a full range, rules and design ethos, I hope people will buy into this wonderful scale, previously largely overlooked by the mainstream. In terms of scenery availability, we intend to provide a full range. This includes the highly detailed resin modular stuff shown at Salute, but we also have plans for a modern style ‘flatpack’ city, which will be inexpensive. This will allow players to play with a highly portable city, reducing the investment needed to play in urban environments to a small amount. Also (although no one seems to have picked up on this yet), at 1:188 scale 10mm is very close to model railway N scale (1:200), where plenty of affordable scenery is readily available. Of course, 6-15mm natural scenery can easily be used for 10mm games. Sorry for the long justification – it’s just nice to get this out there to end the speculation! (My pleasure! – James)

 

Seriously, these things are all incredible in the flesh


5. For the fluff junkies out there, tell a little about factions and story line etc.
Dave: There’s plenty of background in the book, since I believe gamers should know when/ where they’re fighting, why they’re fighting and what they’re fighting with. Dropzone Commander will introduce a rich game universe from the outset, giving people plenty of scope for developing scenarios, campaigns and narratives.
In essence, the game is about hope and vengeance (not the usual dark drudgery!) Mankind has previously suffered a horrendous defeat at the hands of the Scourge. The greatest planets in mankind’s former hegemony (including Earth itself) are all in enemy hands. Humanity has had to build a new culture from the ashes, based around the previously unglamorous and marginalised frontier colonies – the United Colonies of Mankind.
The opening of Dropzone Commander sees a resurgent mankind launching an epic invasion to wrest its lost heartlands from the hands of the Scourge, one planet at a time. This gives scope for battles both on the colonies and on Scourge occupied worlds.
The other two races play a crucial (albeit a supporting) role in the overall tale. The Shaltari are a highly advanced alien race, based in tribes. These tribes are often capricious, frequently violent and often unpredictable. Their motives and attitudes can be wildly different, and always challenging for humans to comprehend. As such, their role can vary hugely – giving the player plenty of scope.
The Post-Human Republic (PHR) are the once human descendants of those who fled the central planets before the Scourge invasion. They have developed entirely separately form the rest of humanity, and have recently emerged from isolation a changed species. They are greatly enhanced cybernetically, and no longer think of themselves as human. They have achieved this advancement (as well as their timely escape in the past) with the aid of mysterious council…
As expansions are released the timeline will actually progress, giving players new insights into the story, as well as an ever increasing range of battles to fight.

 

"We also Scourge from the floor"

 

6. Tell us about the miniatures. These were the cleanest sculpts I have ever seen, how was this achieved?
Dave: The majority of the models were computer developed, and rapid prototyped into masters using the most advanced high detail processes currently available. I worked to the very limits of detail this technology could provide, giving discernible features as small as 0.1mm in size, as well as smooth curved surfaces, completely devoid of stepping. This was quite an investment (both in time and money!), but I believe the results speak for themselves.
I hand sculpted the infantry, since I believe that traditionally sculpted biologicals always feel more ‘alive’ somehow than digitally produced ones. I certainly don’t believe that sculpting is dead, it’s just a case of horses for courses!
The commitment to quality extended to preparation of the thousands of sub-master parts, all of which I meticulously prepared myself. It was by far the most gruelling and least enjoyable aspect of the project (imagine months of nothing but cleaning up metal parts – talk about RSI!) However, this way I could be sure that the detail and quality was maintained.
Almost all the models you saw at Salute were actual production models. We’re using state of the art casting techniques to deliver this level of quality at a large and affordable scale.
Every single ground unit (except those of the Shaltari, who use portals) is physically dropship mobile. This means they will physically fit into their parent transports. While this isn’t required in game terms, the fact that it’s possible heightens the realism and gives plenty of scope for all sorts of hobby projects.

 

My favourite ones to look at

 

7. What difficulties have you faced with designing your miniature range?

 

Dave: Aside from the myriad and solvable technical issues, the major difficulty I found was working in isolation. It’s hard to push yourself every single day with no one around to raise your morale and share the pain. At uni we always carried each other through the hard times, with an ‘all in the same boat’ sort of camaraderie. Also, it’s hard to tell what people will think of the models when you’re trying to keep it quiet, so it’s hard to keep doubt from your mind. That’s why it’s so refreshing to finally be able to talk to people openly!

 

8. What can we expect to see in the coming months leading to the release date?
Dave: I’ll be trying my best to release a promo image on twitter (@hawkwargames) (Followed!-James) and facebook (Don’t like facebook-James) every day until June 1st, when the full website (www.hawkwargames.com) (Bookmarked!-James) goes fully live. At that point we’ll be announcing the prices and you’ll be able to pre-order, for shipping on July 16th. The only thing at Salute that won’t be released at that point will be the buildings, since we’re focusing on the models for now (there’s only so much a body can do at once!) They will certainly be coming well before the end of the year though.

 

The tiny joints!

 

9. There were a large number of attractive young ladies at your Salute stand, speaking as a Geek thats just about snagged one woman and married her to keep her around, how?
Dave: Lol! Well I frequently wonder why Bex (my ever supportive girlfriend) has stuck with me though all this – I honestly couldn’t say! She was wonderful at Salute. My friends and family were also there to help throughout the day, and I thank them all for their hard work and patience! Without their tireless support I could never have had a hope of producing this game.

 

10. Are there any other games in future of Hawk Wargames?
Dave: Oh yes, plenty. I have plans to extend the Sci-fi universe I’m weaving around Dropzone Commander to other games, as well as branching out into previously untouched territory. I won’t say any more for now, but if this project goes well I have at least a decade’s worth of plans in the making! Expect to see many expansions and new releases for DzC as well.

 

These can physically attach to the dropship, 6 of them!

 

And there you have it! from the horses mouth to my pixels. My pixels to your eyes. What is seen cannot be unseen. Please follow Dave (@HawkWargames) on Twitter to get up to date pictures for all your eye candy based needs and to support him on this new endevour! and keep an eye for the website to go live!

My eternal thanks go to Dave for taking the time out to answer my nonsense, and to his entire team for their efforts at Salute and the production of this game!

 

Cheerio for now!

 

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This is most… Irregular…

Greetings all and sundry. Today I have another of my world famous interviews with an independant wargames developer/publisher. For the first time today I am delving into a little bit of historical warfare. Usually I steer clear from this as my experience of historical wargames is 2 guys with their heads buried in books trying to out-read one another in the meanings of rules. I think most historical games get to bogged down in trying to be “Realistic” and they suffer as a result. I say this with the proviso that I have not actually played any at present, the head burying not making for an enjoyable game for me has kept me clear of them. Of course this has mainly been linked to mass combat wargames rules and I’m sure there are some that are fine but I do not want to try investing time, let alone money, on a fruitless endevour. My interviewee today though has himself “A wargaming system for small actions” which appeals far more. designed for small engagements between the years 1519 – 1641. Anyway I shall move onto the interview before I talk to much about stuff I do not know. This is the longest yet so if you feel it is to long and could have done with being split, please leave a comment to say so.  Here is Nic, creator of Irregular Wars…

 

 

1. For those that have not come across you before, please introduce yourself and your game(s)

 

Hi, my name is Nic Wright. I am an archaeologist by day (mild mannered?-James) and by night I fight battles against historical and fantastic foes using small soldiers on a table top. I bought my first miniatures in 1991 – at the tender age of 10 – and have dabbled in the hobby one way or another ever since. I sometimes go by my online alter-ego, Harry Hotspur and maintain a blog discussing my miniature habits at <http://irregularwars.blogspot.com.au/>.

 

Over the years, I’ve played a few different games: Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Mordheim, Man O’ War, Warhammer 40,000, Necromunda, Flintloque, Song of Blades and Heroes (plus its many supplements), (And here ends any recognition on my part!-James) DBA, DBM, DBR, HotT, Armati, Napoleon’s Battles, Spanish Fury! Actions, Spanish Fury! Sail, Disposable Heroes, Coffin for Seven Brothers… I’m sure that there are a few others that have slipped my mind.

 

Right from the start I was tempted to write up my own variant rules to reflect scenarios not considered in the conventional rule books – most of these angled towards smaller actions and mission based games. However, my only commercial endeavour, Irregular Wars: Conflict at the World’s End was released in February 2011, published by Vexillia Ltd. (who also publish other independent games such as Pike and Plunder). In partnership with Vexillia we decided to make the game available as a pdf package to keep costs and prices down.

 

These fast play Renaissance rules (focused on the period c.1519 to 1641) recreate the smaller actions so common at the fringes of the European world. For those not too familiar with the period, the rules cover the reigns of Queen Elizabeth, Montezuma and Ivan the Terrible. There are already good renaissance rules out there which work well for the battles of the Italian Wars, French Wars of Religion, 30 Years War, English Civil War etc. What Irregular Wars offers are rules and army lists for Tudor Britain and Ireland, the major European colonial powers, and the peoples of the New World, the East Indies and the Eurasian steppe.

 

Designed for engagements between forces of around 500 – 2,500 men (and often women) the game emphasises the tactical concerns of command, company resolve, terrain, weather & disease. With a game scale set at around 1:25, the basic unit is the company of around 50-150 men, manifested as 2-6 figures based together on a single stand.

 

Rather than focusing on the minutiae of individual casualties and armour based saving throws, the core game concept is based on the resolve of individual companies given their situation in the battlefield. For example, a company of skirmishing Tupi scouts (Amazonian Indians) might not suffer many casualties from being fired upon by a single cannon, but the psychological effects of large black-powder weapons on peoples unaccustomed to their use stand a good chance of bringing that company one step closer to scattering back into the rainforest. When a company’s resolve drops to much, it ceases to function as a tactical unit and removed from play, regardless of actual casualties.

 

A revised and expanded edition of the rules (v.1.5) is about to be released by Vexillia Ltd. on the 20th of April. Any players who purchased v.1.0 should be able to contact Vexillia and receive the revised version for £1.20 (UK and EU) or £1.00 (rest of the world). The purchase price for new players is £6.00 (UK and EU) or £5.00 (rest of the world). Interested gamers can check out some of the sample pages at the webstore to get a bit more of an idea of what how the game is presented <http://www.vexillia.ltd.uk/common/shop_books.html#19>.

 

2. What drew you to write your own ruleset(s) and why did you choose 15mm?

 

The germ which grew into Irregular Wars: Conflict at the World’s End was planted back in 2005. I was working in Northern Ireland and was doing a lot of reading about the wars of the Tudors in Ireland and the fierce Gaelic resistance to English expansion. Throughout it all, I always had questions running through the back of my mind about how these wars would be played out on the table. Sixteenth century battles in Ireland were fought between quite small forces except for one or two noteworthy exceptions (such as Kinsale in 1601). Not so small as to be played as skirmishes, but smaller than the scales facilitated by existing rules sets – the entire English occupying force of Ireland before the Nine Years War (1594-1603) was usually less than 3,000 men.

 

In addition, the details that we have of the campaigns seemed to involve a lot of guerrilla, hit-run-hide, tactics with engagements taking place across drumlins and bogland and in heavily wooded areas. Most wargames – reflecting most historical battles in the ancient, medieval and early modern periods – feature this sort of rough terrain as a side note, something around the fringe of the battle field. I wanted rules which placed the effective use of terrain as one of the keys to victory. So I started dabbling with ideas and jotting down notes until, a year or so later, I had something approaching a rules set.

 

 

Having prepared the core rules, I then started to let my eyes drift over various miniature ranges and kept finding 16th and 17th century colonial figures, Aztecs, buccaneers, samurai and the like and wishing I had a set of rules for them too. Then it hit me that I did. The principles of 16th century Irish warfare were fundamentally the same as other early colonial theatres which saw more regular or technologically advanced powers coming to grips with indigenous fighters. Thus Irregular Wars: Conflict at the World’s End was born.

 

The rules themselves are not scale specific. Because the basic game unit is the company, they would function equally well in 6mm or 25/8mm scales – or anywhere in between. My personal preference for 15mm figures is for a couple of reasons. Although I am decent enough at painting, I am slow. Painfully slow. Even given a (rare) whole day in which to sit down and paint, I’d be lucky to get one or two 28mm figures finished. In addition, I am time poor, I have a day job, an infant son and a wife who, while she indulges my hobby, would still like us to spend time as a family. However, I can get maybe nine or ten 15mm figures painted on those rare painting days, so that is a considerable bonus.

 

I am also space poor (smaller figures equal less storage space and less table space), and more generally, I am just poor (smaller figures are cheaper!). So you see, entirely personal reasons really. All of that said, the scale of Irregular Wars means that the gamer does not require too much space to build a couple armies (called ‘battles’ in the game). My Colonial Spanish battle has 62 figures all told including a cannon and two mastiffs. My Hollanders only have 45 figures and my Caribbean Indians just 41. The battle sizes should make the purchase, painting and basing of entire forces relatively quick and easy on the hip pocket. Even at 28mm scale, the creation of an Irregular Wars battle is not too great an undertaking – the same as building just two or three units for some other popular games.

 

 

3. Why did you choose Historical gaming over (what I see as the more popular) Sci-Fi or Fantasy genres when you wrote your ruleset?

 

My first miniatures were 25mm Napoleonics – I was reading the likes of C. S. Forester and Bernard Cornwell far too young. As I have said, I have played a few fantasy and sci-fi games in the past, currently I am loving SBH by Ganesha Games (my time poor/space poor/money poor cheap streak shines through again) but I’ve always come back to historical wargaming.

 

I guess that being an archaeologist with certain leanings towards the Greco-Roman world, I’m also an advocate of the proverb that truth is often stranger than fiction. When you read the likes of Plutarch or Suetonius you realise that so many larger than life characters have populated history and steered the course of empires that fantasy often pales in comparison.

 

That said, there are also a number of really fun and/or good-looking fantasy games out there. Why go to the effort of developing one if it will only compete in a market that is already budding with good ideas. I am under no misconceptions that Irregular Wars: Conflict at the World’s End will make me enough money to live off, but it fills a niche that other products do not cover.

 

4. What advice would you give a budding games writer, especially one interested in historical gaming?

 

i) Research, research and research. Read a lot first, both the history of your chosen period, and also other rules sets. When reading up on the history, delve beyond your Osprey guides (don’t get me wrong, they are a great introduction) and look at some of the primary accounts. So much of popular history is presented as follows: “This is a fact. I know it is a fact because I’m an historian. You know it is a fact because I just told you.” It is not really going to be good enough if you are trying to develop a game that people will spend time and money investing in. You need to find out the origin of the so-called facts before you include them in your games.

 

ii) Be original. Don’t just copy or adapt the core mechanics of other sets. If you want to set yourself apart and produce a new product, make sure that it is a new product. The way that command and control of companies is structures, and the resolve loss system, are both unique in Irregular Wars. As a result, the mechanics produce a fresh gaming experience.

 

ii) Play test. I had people around the world playing early manifestations of Irregular Wars for a good year or two before an official version was published by Vexillia. The feedback of other gamers is essential as they will play the game differently from the way you do as the developer.

 

iii) Entertain other peoples suggestions. Be open to criticism and suggestions that might make your game better. After all, if you doggedly produce something which nobody else is willing to play, what was the point?

 

 

5. What would you say is the hardest thing about getting a Wargame “out there”?

 

There are a lot of bespoke wargames out there, many are free to download off the internet, many are not. I suppose the challenge which I saw was the greatest was building a visible profile without spending too much money. When the game was first developed I couldn’t afford advertising but I am lucky that I was able to build up a small following of wargamers who were prepared to try the game and engage with me in making it better. This helped to create a small but visible web presence; the first step to getting out ‘there’ in the scary world or actual consumers and gamers.

 

6. A fair amount of history is theoretical and sometimes pure guesswork. What difficulties have you faced with this? I imagine you have had disputes with people about historical accuracy etc.?

 

Yes and no. There is a lot of guesswork involved, especially when working out the proportions of different company types in the battle lists. As a foil to this, for the more obscure nations (in my mind) I have had a fair bit of engagement with the gaming community at large about what troops should be present and then more reading to work out how they might function at the scale of the game.

 

I haven’t yet had any disputes that weren’t resolved in a gentlemanly manner. I also am a champion of the attitude that says if a player wishes to make a change in the battle lists and their opponent agrees, go right a head. I’ve even provided a list of generic company types for people to include in their battles if they feel I have missed something.

 

I still refuse to include zombie pirates though. Refuse! (Boo!-James)

 

 

7. Have you created your own miniature line? or can you recommend a specific line for use in Historical gaming?

 

I haven’t developed a miniatures line. One of my pet peeves is the existence of gaming systems which suggest or clearly state that you need to use a specific line of miniatures.

 

There are a number of good brands out there which produce suitable miniatures for Irregular Wars. Perhaps my favourites (and the chaps which feature most on my tables) are produced by Vic Pocilujko at Grumpy Miniatures. In Australia these are available singly through Eureka Miniatures; in the UK, through East Riding Miniatures in packs. At 15mm scale, Grumpy produce all sorts, from Colonial Portuguese, to Cossacks, Indonesians, Afghans, Ming and Tupi, as well as buccaneers and Landsknechts. The figures are slightly more chunky than Essex miniatures, but of the same height.

 

Just about any manufacturer who produces 16th-17th century figures will have something appropriate for one of the nationalities featured in Irregular Wars, Essex, Khurasan, Peter Pig, Eureka, Legio Heroica, Old Glory, Museum, QRF, Tin soldier. There are lots out there, it’s just a matter of matching up brands so they look ok on the battlefield. My Irish and English are all Essex for instance, my other battles are a mix of Grumpy, Eureka, Museum and Essex.

 

8. Have you faced any difficulties related to artwork for your rulebook? Did you do it yourself or hire a pro?

 

To avoid any copyright problems, I did all the images in the rule book myself using my own miniatures, terrain, camera and a photo editing programme. There are a lot of nice images available in other books and the internet, but I didn’t want to wade through the issues of copyright permission or pay huge amounts for royalties.

 

9. What difficulties have you faced with the distribution of your ruleset?

 

Finding someone to go into partnership with to publish the game was a real concern of mine. I contacted several different companies to discuss the idea and the issues of sales, distribution, and royalties.

 

I never thought I would make a load of money off the game – I wanted to publish it purely to protect its copyright and the integrity of the game mechanics. However, different companies offered between as low as 7% or as high as 50% royalties from sales; there’s not a lot in that for a game which is only sold for a few pounds. I was very lucky when I made contact with Martin Stephenson at Vexillia – he has certainly been very helpful and supportive guiding the rules through its first year as a published game and in the work and assistance he provided in preparing the revised and expanded edition.

10. What have you found to be the hardest thing about getting your ruleset complete?

 

Ha! Is a ruleset ever complete? Almost from the moment the final proofs were approved for version 1.0, I started to have new ideas about slight tweaks and minor changes that might make the game mechanics a little tighter, or a little more unpredictable. Within a month of release we included an additional eight ‘chance’ cards (bringing the total to 32) which can be played through the game to represent random events such as heavy downpours turning good going into rough terrain, or the presence of a particularly virulent disease strain in the area of the battle.

 

As I mentioned earlier, we have just finished proofing version 1.5. The new changes will result in more randomised variability during deployment (companies being late or led by impetuous captains who lead them forward before the rest of the force is ready), the option for missions and scenarios such as ambushes, cattle thieving and raids on villages, and more battle lists – there are now 38 different nationalities or factions with slightly modified company behaviours and recruitment procedures.

 

I hope that these changes will been seen as advantageous to the game and look forward to hearing feedback from the community. It has certainly been a lot of fun play testing them – even if I do seem to lose four times out of five. I would like to think that the game is now a complete package.

 

It’s good to have the definitive version of Irregular Wars now off my desk and available to the gaming community. Next up I would like to work some more on a set of 16th century naval rules that I have been testing for some time. There is still a bit of work required to streamline the game, but hopefully it will be out soon (this year or next?) through Vexillia Ltd.

 

 

And there you have it! My thanks go to Nic for taking the time to answer my daft questions! I encourage you to check out what Nics rules have to offer as they seem an interesting ruleset.

The blessings of Ganesha Games be upon you…

Its been a while since I did one of these but I once again have an interview with an independent developer and, in this case, publisher. Andrea Sfiligoi of Ganesha Games agreed to respond to my prattling on regarding the Wargaming Industry and the struggles faced by the independent trying to get out there and bring you the stuff you need to enjoy this hobby. So lets begin. Are sitting comfortably? then read on…

 

 

James: I’m not sure how well known you would be to my limited readership, the first time I came across you was when I moved my blog to 6sided.net so why not tell us a little about yourself; your best known games and Ganesha Games?
Andrea: Hello! My name is Andrea Sfiligoi (Andrea, not Andreas– it’s Italian, not Spanish, and I am a guy — Italian is the only language of the world where “Andrea” is a masculine name). I am 43,  a self-publishing author of miniatures games and pen and paper RPGs. 

My products are successful enough for me to do this as a full time job, sort of… I am now in my fifth year of writing and publishing. You can say that Ganesha Games is a “digital native publisher”. That means, I wouldn’t have the same success with traditional distribution channels (print, stores etc) although I am also doing a little bit of that now through a few, hand-picked retailers who carry our print products. 

Surviving in this environment is hard and I can’t afford a wrong move, so all my books are sold either as non-DRMed PDFs through my site www.ganeshagames.net and a host of vendors such as wargamevault.comsabersedge.com or wargamedownloads.com, or as print on demand books through services such as lulu.com or adventuregamingsource.com.

 

James: You have a number of games available from your website. What would you say is your main or favourite genre and game?

Andrea: I am mostly a fantasy/ancients skirmish player but I also like large scale science fiction games. I generally say that my favorite game is the one I’m working on at the moment!

 

James: Clearly, with the sheer number of games you have, you have been doing this a while. Are they ALL your work and what inspires you to create these games?

Andrea: No, they are not all my work, although most are and I even do most of the illustrations and layout. I have an impressive amount of friends and fans, some of them already accomplished authors and editors, who work for me for free just because they love the games, or on a royalty base. I offer good royalties, about four or five times what a traditional publisher would offer. I have more requests for collaboration and spin-off games that I can coordinate. And no one of these guys is doing it because they want to make a quick buck out of my success (nobody gets rich in this business! I mean it), they are doing just because they really love my games. The best ideas always come from the fans.

What inspires me to create more and more games? Well, first of all I see this very seriously as my day job, so I need to have new products and I am always striving to make my games better, both in terms of presentation and of writing. Additionally, I am the kind of person who can’t stay on a project for too long — call it short attention span, or “life’s too short” syndrome if you wish — so my mind is always suggesting new stuff to try.       

 

 

James: What advice would you offer others trying to develop their own games?

Andrea: Be original. I am bored by games that show they have been developed in a vacuum and retread the same old mechanics and ideas. Question everything — can this be done in a different, more fun way? Today’s gamers are used to computer games and other, faster forms of entertainment, so over complex games with lots of charts and tables and tons of modifiers are out of the question. You are competing with games which give instant gratification, and miniatures wargaming can’t do that because of all the time needed to paint figures, build terrain, etc. It is a graying hobby — try to do something that attracts young people. Be daring and imaginative.      

James: What would you say is the hardest thing about being in the industry?

Andrea: It’s a small sub-niche of publishing. You gotta to embrace all the new distribution channels and media and learn how you can make them work for you. My best selling store is my facebook account (by the way, look for Andrea Sfiligoi on facebook and friend me if you are a gamer).

James: What makes a successful game in your view?

Andrea: All in all, a game should be simple enough, replayable, appeal to young people and mature gamers at the same time. and have the right mix of predictability vs luck. Easier said than done!

James: What is the hardest thing about developing games?

Andrea: Playtesting. It is always hard to find playtesters for your games, especially if you want to playtest in person.

James: What is the hardest thing to balance in the life of a wargame writer?

Andrea: You won’t be making lots of money (I’ve been driving the same car in the last 13 years) and the opposite sex will treat you as a geek/loser/weirdo unless they really understand that you are doing what you love, and are somehow infected by your enthusiasm. I lost at least two girlfriends to gaming because they couldn’t “get” what I was doing — their loss, not mine.

Also, you’ll be working 12 hours per day, 7 days a week, attending conventions in the weekends. If you love it, it won’t be a problem. If you don’t, you will soon burn out.

James: What part of developing would you say has been the most costly?

 

Andrea: I do all work in house to minimize costs. So I can’t really comment on that. I guess it’s graphics presentation for most start ups.

Song of Blades and Heroes PDF Song of Deeds and Glory PDF

James: You seem to be your own distributor, if so, how easy was this to set up and have you found it to be the most successful method of getting your games “out there?”

 

Andrea: The numbers do not compare with those of a solid traditional publishing. But you are making 60 to 90% of the money off your cover price compared to a 10 to 15% that a traditional publisher would offer, so it all balances out. You have to work with companies who make money only if you make money. Don’t waste money in publishing deals, advertising, vanity publishing etc. 

James: Have you dabbled with miniature ranges of your own?

Andrea: No, I’m not really that interested at the moment. It requires too much money and there’s already a lot of good stuff available out there. Maybe in two or three years from now, who knows.

Mutants and Death Ray Guns (PDF) Fear and Faith Horror Miniature Rules (PDF)

James: What gaming plans do you have for the future?

 

Andrea: I plan to continue designing, playing and selling games that I like. I seem to have a very simple taste which is shared by thousands of people.

James: Finally, what game would you recommend people buy?

Andrea: Well most of our games work with the same basic rules, so once you learn one, it is pretty simple to switch to other titles. The simplest game, the one that started it all for me, is Song of Blades and Heroes, a basic fantasy skirmish game which you can purchase as a PDF from my site www.ganeshagames.net . I ran out of print copies and I won’t reprint it until the new, revised edition is ready. I’m working on it right now. People should purchase the PDF with confidence as I always give free PDF updates when a new edition is out. Fr obvious reasons, I can’t do the same with paper products and I don’t want to sell an outdated product.     

 

And thats it. My thanks go to Andrea, for taking the time to answer the questions. Some food for thought there for anyone seeking to release a game into the Ether.  I will be adding Ganesha Games to the Independent developers page of course and will, at some point, try to review something of his in due course. Andrea is on facebook, Twitter and Google+ so feel free to follow him!

Talking in Gruntz…

Welcome to the next in my series of interviews with independent games developers to see how they are getting things done in a difficult industry. There are many games out there and few are very successful, so I have been harassing busy people to get them to answer some questions for you, the readers, to help you make your game a success. If you can think of anyone you would like me to harass with questions, or indeed, any questions you have not yet had answered then by all means use the comments section to get them down and I will endeavour to put them to some developers.

 

Today I have Robin Fitton, creator of the 15mm Sci-Fi game Gruntz

 

 

James: What drove you to create the Gruntz ruleset?

 

Robin: It was back in July of 2009 and I was on leave and considering some design ideas for a mecha combat game in 6mm. I started in a note book and sketched out some ideas for turn sequence and damage location blocks. Within about 3 days I had come up with the idea of making it into a full ruleset and started playtesting. I had attempted to write some rules before called “Smite” a 28mm skirmish but never got it past the first stage of playtesting but somehow Gruntz kept rolling on. 

 

What made you chose 15mm?

 

I had been playing and putting on demo 15mm games at shows for several years but there was never much interest in the scale. In the last two years the scale had a lot of new attention and the ranges were now much more complete from various mini companies, so I decided to go for it. I also had several pre-painted sets of figures and vehicles which were mostly Ground Zero Games models, so it was easy to get testing started.

 

James: What have you found to be the hardest part of developing Gruntz?

 

Robin: Just the time and effort to do the text in the rules. You might have a perfectly good rule but actually writing it in a way that people can clearly understand is very difficult. Some people can also write very well but even good writers might have trouble explaining the sometimes abstract nature of a game term. Combined with the content text is the difficulty of layout. Even the most simple table or chart takes time to build and then you spot an error which might require a lot of rework across several pages. For the new 1.1 rules I started to re-build all of the tables and charts in a new format, it takes some significant effort to rework them but the result will be easier updates in the future and less reliance on various different graphics apps.

 

 

James: What advice would you offer others trying to develop their own games?

 

Robin: Get the basics down on paper and playtest a lot first with friends. That gave me my initial rules and the ideas coming in from friends on the feel of the game really helps and also getting the game to a couple of shows for public feedback – even in the early days is great. It is all about perseverance. My number one rule would be to say “Finish it”. Don’t just go out with a few scraps of ideas and hope it will happen. I think I actually had it slightly easier than most, because there are a lot of smaller companies trying to combine rules with miniatures. I did not have to think about miniature design and ranges, so I was able to focus just on the rules. So I would say my number two rule would be to stay focused on the one piece of work and don’t try and write rules and development miniatures at the same time – something will suffer unless you have a big team to help.

 

James: What is the hardest thing about being in the industry?

 

Robin: I don’t consider myself in the industry… I work in Travel as an IT Manager, so I only get minimal exposure to industry related issues. If it was my only line of business I think the nature in which ideas and concepts are shared around a lot would annoy me. Especially if I was producing miniatures and seeing other companies launch very similar ranges. That would be hard to deal with. However everyone I have made friends with from Old Crow Models, Ground Zero Games and Critical Mass Games have all been really nice and supportive. Jez at Old Crow let me visit his workshop a couple of times and the whole experience of getting involved with the gaming industry is fun and friendly.

 

James: What makes a successful game in your view?

 

Robin: I think success is measured by how many people are playing it. There are thousands of gamers (including me) that buy dozens of rule sets but don’t get to play them that often. I do play Gruntz a lot but usually always to play test something. So seeing battle reports is probably the highlight for me, because I can get a picture of the games people are playing and that feels like success.

 

James: You have started to develop a miniatures range, What struggles have you faced with this?

 

Robin: Slow sculpting is the first challenge. Expensive artwork is another issue. I think artists can be difficult to work with, either artwork in the rules or sculpting. They are all nice people and a couple have been very fast but sometimes things take a bit longer than normal. However I have got into that rhythm now and I am happy to have things work at an artists pace – especially when the end result is good. The most difficult thing for me was not wanting to actually produce or sell models directly myself. With a full time day job I don’t have the time to cast models and ship them. So finding the right partner was tricky and I made a mistake initially which has now been sorted but did cost me some money.

 

  

 

James: You have rules for unit creation, what was the hardest thing to balance about this?

Robin: Balanced? Who said it was balanced? The hardest thing for me was making a rule set with vehicles and normal squads that did not treat the vehicles as “large marines”. So balancing was a combination of working with a PHD Mathematician friend who helped with some of the points balance by creating combat scenarios which looked at the killing/damage potential of weapons and squads and also playtesting. Playtesting is the biggest balancer and would sometimes result in a decision which does not make sense to someone just reading the points factors. I also made a few mistakes and consider the points as always in development.

 

James: What part of developing would you say has been the most costly?

 

Robin: Artwork I think but it was mostly my time. It really does take hundreds of hours and I don’t think selling the rules will ever pay a true “hourly rate” back to me for all the effort put in.

 

James: How easy has it been for you to get your game distributed?

Robin: Very easy, I just used one of the popular on-line sales sites for PDF’s. I think there are dozens of options for on-line sales like the various book selling options. If I had the money I would have gone out with a hard copy first but in retrospect I think it would have been full of errors and issues. So going out with a v1 in PDF has let me spot those issues which I can now fix for the Print on Demand version.

 

James: Presumably there are plans for more miniatures?

 

Robin: Yes, I have three more artworks completed of mecha models and the possibility of a couple of tanks. These will be slow to release though, I can’t see myself starting it as a business. However I do think the quality will be excellent and I hope the models will be original. There might be 2 more in 2012 and I may even think about a squad but there are so many on the market now, it will be difficult to be original but I can still see some gaps in the market.

Gruntz_Map_V1_rf.png

The Heliopause Universe, Robins background setting for Gruntz

James: You have created Gruntz to be very open, to be applied to whatever background someone can think up. Do you have a set background in the works or even in your head?

Robin: Yes the Heliopause setting is my own creation and I actually wrote it as a roleplaying game background about 4 years before starting Gruntz. I have a lot more to put in on the background and recently had a very nice galactic start map created which will be featured soon. I really must get my timeline published with some key battles and historic characters, these will be something I develop in parallel with the rules and will hopefully add to in time. I do think any setting works though, SCI-FI provides unlimited scope for primitive worlds with strange retro politics or different technologies.

 

James: Any other plans for the future of Gruntz?

 

Robin: I am looking at the open licences you can use to allow others to develop and sell or freely share their own content. I would also like to keep refining the core content until it becomes as paired down and rock solid as possible.  Next year I want to really promote it and have the final 1.1 rules out in print. I will be holding off on any major new modules while it continues to establish itself in 2012 but then again I might surprise myself and end up writing something if I get the itch.

James: Anything else you would like to say to either of my readers?

 

Robin: I think it is worth mentioning that it does take investment in time and money. I could not walk up to a miniature manufacturer and tell them I am writing rules, so please give me free models. You have to put your money where your mouth is and invest the money and time in miniatures, painting and rules writing. It is all a bit of a blur for me now but the effort and money spent was significant and in the first six Months of sales there has been no sign that the sale of the rules is going to cover the investment. Time will tell though and in 2012 I might start to see a return but for a solo, self-publisher, it is an uphill struggle and the effort is significant. 

 

There you have it. Thanks go to Robin for the effort he has put in to Gruntz as well as the fantastic answers he has taken the time to supply us. Below are a few links to the Gruntz website and forum, the War Vault site you can buy the Gruntz rulebook from as well as some 15mm manufacturers to get your models from. Once I get a few games in myself (still need a few models) then I plan to review the game itself as well, as I may have said about the other interviews….

 

Gruntz Links:

http://www.gruntz.biz/

http://gruntz15.proboards.com/index.cgi

Purchase Gruntz:

http://www.wargamevault.com/product_info.php?products_id=92879

15mm mini Manufacturers:

http://www.criticalmassgames.com/

http://www.oldcrowmodels.co.uk/

http://www.groundzerogames.net/mambo/

http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com/#15mmscifi

 

 

Do you want me to speak with a particular developer? Let me know within the comment, with a link if possible, and I will do my best to speak with them! Otherwise, stay tuned for more nuggets of wisdom from other developers.

 

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The Three Plains Interview

Today I have another interview from an independent developer, bringing there wise words to your eyes and ears to do with as you see fit. My hopes for these interviews are that they will inspire any would be games writers to continue with what they are trying to do and to inspire them to bring their games to completion and release them. To forge ahead with their vision despite any set backs they may experience. This started with the “Interview with a Vaettir” where Tor Gamings Gavin shared his wisdom gained from releasing Relics. This time I have interviewed Dave from Epic Wargaming, creator of The Three Plains  fantasy game. Presently a free download, print and play game. This kind of game is great if you do not do painting models but still like to see good looking armies on the table. So without further ado…

 

An Lord just on the Elf Warriors coming out soon1 Elf Warriors or as they are going to be known in the Three Plains, the Imperial Elves

 

James) What inspired you to write your own wargame?

Dave) Rules – At the time when I started with Three Plains, I was falling out of love with the WHF gaming rules, as I thought they were/are just too top heavy, with characters and elite troop mashing everything else up.

With that system, I used to hold troops back, even though I could move them into an tactically sound position (flanking or rear attacking), but because I would lose more troops in that combat, costing me combat points I would hold them back…

So it was time for change, but there really wasn’t that much else out there for larger fantasy battles I wanted to play, as most were created to deal with smaller skirmished games. So that’s one reason why.

Time – I really am over painting and fixing the models together for days on end… With Three Plains it takes time to build up an army, but at a fraction of the time to create a physical army of the same scale. Another reason right there.

Money – Gaming with Game Workshop just got silly on the cost side of things and it keeps on getting more costly too, from what I hear.*

*Um yeah, just a bit. fantastic stuff but these are hard times financially

 

James) Why did you choose the format you did, i.e why massed armies? Why 15mm?

Dave) 15mm is a really good scale, as it gives you the right amount of realism and detail. I know 25mm models looks great, but to pass them off as an army fielded is just a little unrealistic* for me.

 *Unrealistic? but… Dragons and elves…   Oh nevermind.

James) What made you choose the papercraft print and play option for your games?

Dave) Time and money. Plus anyone can get into wargaming with Three Plains, without it cost them a bomb!*

*This is true. If you are interested in, or know someone that is interested in, wargaming, It doesn’t get much cheaper than this!

 

IMG 0446 A Short Post About Todays Game Test :O)...

 

James) Do you do all the artwork yourself?

Dave) Yes lol.*

 *No need to laugh! Theres great stuff. Its an incredible amount of work for one person.

 

James) Clearly it is difficult to make a living from this style of print and play. Would you mind sharing your other occupations?

Dave) Three Plains really is a labour of love, otherwise I wouldn’t do it, and it current does not make any money.

I hope in the future with the game growing, it will, just what model of making money it will use depends on the users for the game.

 

James) Where did the idea for The Three Plains come from?

Dave) I just love all things old world fantasy, Elves, Dwarves all of it! not much else to say there, sorry.

 

James) What were the main difficulties you faced getting to a releasable product?

Dave) I’m dyslexic, so I can’t help but make mistakes. 

At the moment I’m currently sat on the 2nd Rules and the new Elves which are all ready for release, but because I have to find or rely on others to check it for me, it holds the whole thing back. Always looking for more people to help out.*

*Why not check out the Epic Wargaming Forum for ways to help Dave out?

 

 

James) Could you see Three Plains taking a more commercial route in the future?

Dave) Hard to say… Its building up a following and I do believe that it is much better than most of the paid stuff out there. I would love to keep it free for the end users, as I’m hoping to earn money of Epic’s forum and other advertising avenues. But if it doesn’t, then I will have to look at charging for it, eventually, to keep it going.

 

 

James) What plans do you have for the future of The Three Plains?

Dave) More armies firstly, as that holds it back. So by the end of next year I hoping to bring out another 3 armies our for it, Dwarfs, Mercenaries of Many and an Wizard army we are looking at.

Also, I think Print & Play (P&P) would make a medium for a Siege Games, so next year I’m going to  be looking at that too. The idea would be to print off walls, keeps, castle entrances and you would build them up yourself and arrange them as you wished for a game.

 

Thats it for this interview. I will be reviewing the Three Plains as well in a future post but I think I a long way from that at this time. So look out for more interviews here and keep an eye on the Independent Games page for more recommended gaming!

Interview with a Vaettir…

Ever wandered about releasing your own game?

If so then this post may be of some help to you! Being interested in doing so myself, I spoke to Gavin Moorcroft, not just from Tor Gaming. He IS Tor Gaming. Developing the games some of you may have heard of and played, Relics. This is the first game Tor Gaming has produced, (see the Tor Gaming Forum for info on Relics Clash) and it features a stunning line of miniatures, so stunning in fact, that they have been nominated for the WAMP Best Range of 2011 award (Please visit, register and vote!) and its not hard to see why! It is a stunning range as well as a creepy one in places! You have to wonder about the kind of mind that can come up with this…

Gallery – Britanan Trooper

See? Creepy as hell! Click the image to go to Tor Gamings website to see more Britanans!

So its with this mind in mind (inmindinmindinmind…) that I started to launch a few questions at Gavin. After several well answered responses I was invited to Email him. In doing so it occurred to me that I could make this a full interview and post it here for all to see. I’m sure there are others out there who would like to know more about this deranged mind, as well as more about developing a game from scratch! So here we go…

James: What inspired you to write your own games, Especially Relics?

Gavin: Ummm… …Jebus… …good one to start with… I think the main inspiration was more an aspiration. I couldn’t find a game that had all the “Right” elements. By “Right” I mean “Right For Me”, if others like them then Yahoo! The only way to get a game that ticked all my boxes was to write that game myself.

James: What would you say is the hardest part of being an independent game developer?

Gavin: Bit of a difficult question as I have no idea what its like to be a non-independent developer, so can’t really compare. But I would say the hardest part of what I do is finding reliable people for testing etc. Many people sign up with good intentions but soon find that, at Tor Gaming, we develop and evolve our rules rather quickly. That’s not to say that we rush them, far from it. Rules will go through several iterations of testing until we are happy with them. So, we take our time on finishing the game but go through many iterations to get there.

James: What one piece of advice would you give someone trying to make their way into the industry?

Gavin: Develop a very thick skin, very quickly. Because there are people out there who have never done, and will never do, what you are about to do but will be happy to sit in the safety of their homes, somewhere in the world and tell you how rubbish your products are.

Learning to deal with people like these is very important. Best way to deal with them is simply to ignore them, that’s where the thick skin comes in. If you let them get to you, it drags you down. Have faith that what you are doing is worth it and keep going.

But be sure you are able to recognise when you are onto a loser!

James: What would someone have to do if they wanted to release a game for serious commercial release?

Gavin: How long is a piece of string? What is their financial situation? Time? Access to resources?

Best thing I would say to someone who wants to write games in this industry, bearing in mind that I am new to this too, is that you need to make it original. Anyone can rehash the same old crap over and over again. Make sure you do it right as well. Test it until you are fed up, then test it some more. Get others to test it and don’t be there when they do.

Make sure you have something that makes your ruleset stand head and shoulders above the rest.

I will say that if you want to make a living out of it, you may find it difficult with just rules. There is no reason to repurchase from you if its just a rule set. They don’t need to come back to you for anything. To make a living out of it you will need one of two things:

1. Produce a supporting model range.

2. Do it freelance. – This is not as easy as it sounds as as you will likely need to prove that you can write good rules. Certainly you would for Tor Gaming. I expect its the same for other companies. Of course this is always an option once you have published a few rule sets.

James: What would you say is the most expensive part of developing you game systems?

Gavin: Time. You never have enough of it and can never get done what you need to do, when you expect to do it. Learning to manage your time is very important, especially if you have a family.

Gallery – Orcnar Eotan Abifian

It's easy to see the reasons for this beautiful ranges short listing...

James: What part of your diseased brain came up with the races in Relics?

Gavin: Ha ha… Good question! 

When I create a race for Relics, I want them to be unique. The market has plenty of Lord of the Rings copies already….

However, I have to start somewhere. So what I do is to take a classic race (elves, dwarfs etc) and look into their background as a race and try to pick something that we can twist and darken to come out with something new that is grounded in what we all know.

It’s obvious to everyone that the Orcnar are based on Orcs. This is clear, but we didn’t want their history to reflect the usual ‘backgrounds’ of Orc races. SO, Daniel (the guy who is working on the Relics fluff) wrote their history with them starting out as tall, golden skinned and blue eyed.

The Nuem are Dwarves at their core. But we wanted to avoid the classic ‘short legged, beard wearing, grudge bearing’ traits. We did tie in the mining theme however by having them enslaved and forced into it in ‘mining suits’. We twisted them further by giving a kind of dark, religious, sadomasochistic feel to them.

I’m not 100% sure where these ‘twists’ come from, they just seem to pop into my head when I’m not thinking about it.

That’s the trick kids, don’t think about it too much!!

James: How does it feel to be short listed for the Best Range of 2011 in the WAMP awards?

Gavin:  Amazing. Sometimes I start wondering why I ever started this, then something like this happens and WOW! It’s a massive buzz to know that people have actually nominated us for this and not just that but enough people have nominated us that we have been short listed.

I have no idea who those that nominated us are and that is the coolest thing ever!

James: Finally, What plans do you have for the future of Relics?

Gavin: Plenty!

1) Get the bloody Rulebook out.

2) Get the bloody Nuem out.

3) Get the 5th faction out.

4) I’m not allowed to talk about the rest yet, sorry.

Well there you have it. I thank Gavin for the time he took from his busy schedule to answer my questions and hope to be seeing more of him and Relics in the future.

For more information on Relics and Tor Gamings other rule set, Relics Clash (Where you can get involved in the development), as well as Unbridled Fury, a game hosted by Tor Gaming, written by Damien Brymora. Pop over to the Tor Gaming website at www.torgaming.co.uk Where you can find galleries of the short listed model range, beta test rules for free download and loads of background fluff about the Relics world!

Gallery – Vaettir Varrier

Bet you wondered about the Interview with a Vaettir thing eh? You did though...

Fin