Blog Archives

15mm…

In my attempts to run a blog with regular updates im gonna try to have semi-regular sections about my various hobby goings-on. In view of this decision I thought I’d start with…

15mm…
My goings on in 15mm scale have been  focussed on an Ork army. Mine are less “Orky” than most, especially vehicle wise but since im not gaming in a 40k universe I decided this was not an issue. First, I have managed to paint a model…

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This model is intended to be my Warboss. To lead my Gruntz and vehicles to, if not victory, then at least to war!

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This jaunty little number is kitbashed from a Black Hat miniatures Prussian steam tank and a turret from a Khurasan transport vehicle. Super easy conversion and very effective. You see I tried to paint it once, wasn’t happy with it so I sprayed it again. Next up…

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Death from above. Armed with missiles and a gatling this bad boy is super effective and rightly feared in my 15mm circles. Its not terribly hard to take it down so it balances out well, testement to the unit building rules of Gruntz. The model is actually a die-cast toy I got from my brother-in-law who was chucking it out. This is the force in full…

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2 ten man units, 3 heavy weapon specialists (*cough* Flashgitz *cough*), the Tank and a Scout Buggy. Only thing missing from this picture is the chopper and a 3rd squad of Boyz I bought recently. So, thats where we’re at with the 15mm! Hope you like!

                                                            Ciao

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Small Packages…

They say great things come in small Packages, but they never consider if those same small Packages were bigger, you could fit more of the great things in them! With this in mind I have a small review of some 15mm terrain from Mad Mecha Guy…

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This package was gloriously large, and opening it has filled my house with the smell of laser cut MDF, something which has caused alarm more than once with my wife checking for burning items about the house. The first thing to state about Mad Mecha Guy stuff is the sheer level of reasonable cost. Compared to a lot of companies, you get a lot for your money. My purchase of the Small Military Base plus some raised walkways, which are not currently part of the catalogue. The service offered is excellent with great communication and, to my never ending surprise, they will do requests for whatever you want! I wanted raised walkways and mentioned this once I found out that he takes suggestions for future products. A few days later and we have collectively settled on a design and price. The small military base set sells for a low price of £20 plus P&P. With my custom walkways the cost was still under £40 and that included P&P!

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Not pictured, because it’s not been assembled, are 2 more huts, a vehicle shed, walls, gates and the rest of the raised walkways. This all together means you can very nearly fill a battlefield completely at a budget that will leave your wallet breathing a sigh of relief.

The quality of the stuff is generally very good with little in the amount of cleaning needed. Just a few pieces had not quite cut right but only in the sense that the cut had not gone straight through the wood properly. This is easy enough to clear up with a sharp knife though.

All in all I cannot sing enough praises for Mad Mecha Guy! To have a look at their website, follow the link below:

http://www.madmechaguy.co.uk

Gruntz: A Review

Yes ladies and germs, at long last since I first started interviewing independant developers I have managed to get my local group to drop Warmachine/Hordes just enough to allow other games a peek and , due in part to the cheapness of the scale but also the awesomeness of the game (spoiler alert) , I am now able to properly review Gruntz 15mm! This has been a long time coming as I am fairly sure Robin was my first interviewee for this blog and I promised back then that I would present a review of the game itself. Now I have a few games under my belt and the points level is increasing after every game I feel I can say something meaningful, so where to start…

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Fluff…

Gruntz is designed for you to put your own imagination to work, to come up with your own ideas and universes or adapt ones you love to the joy of 15mm gaming. That said Robin has given us a look at his imaginings of a universe with the Heliopause setting. The Gruntz book features fluff for a myriad of factions in the Heliopause setting as well as some history of the universe in general however there isn’t a lot. Personally I have not looked at this in depth as it is not a setting I’m making use of, so I cannot comment on the content but it is good that those not interested in the grey matter exercise of inventing such things can just use whats there already. I myself have devised a faction loosely based on the Covenant from the Halo universe. My Comrades have developed their own factions as well. At some point we’ll tie in how they encountered each other and build up our setting nicely into a thing! That is definitely part of the appeal to me. Not that we couldn’t have done this anyway but its easier when you can build your own units using the unit builder. In fact to play the game you will have to! or you will need to download pre-existing ones from somewhere. There are various locations but I would look to the Grunts forums first of all.

Unit Builder…

 A game that is designed to be generic needs a good way for you to represent your forces on the table. Robin has done a remarkable job with the unit creation side of things. List creation became a joy to me once more as I devised the tools of my opponents doom. I have seen unit creators that seem to require a mathematical and scientific mind that would make Steven hawking feel like an outright idiot. The Gruntz creator is simple enough for me to grasp so, quite frankly, anyone can manage it with relative ease. The balance that has been achieved thus far is fantastic. My helicopter gunship that seemed to be an absolute powerhouse was quite quickly dealt with by normal grunts I thought would achieve nothing. This happened through me underestimating what they could do and moving to close. Nothing is so ridiculously strong that it cannot be dealt with. This means you uber aircraft of doom will die to far cheaper fighters or AA fire if unsupported. It all encourages a very balanced army selection and leads to evenly balanced games won on strategy and tactics rather than pure luck (though its a dice based game so remember luck can skew things) Perkz and Modz are what you use to give your vehicles and gruntz special abilities to make them unique and vary greatly from defensive abilities like auto heals to more aggressive ones that allow 2 shots from your units guns. They add some lovely flavour to proceedings and help you bring your universe and its inhabitants to life.

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Smaller scales mean bigger stuff! Paradoxical!

Rules…

The rules for Gruntz are simple to master. Anyone with any gaming experience will pick them up with ease and even recognise some of it from other games. The mechanic is 2d6 based and works the same way as Warmachine, roll 2d6+your models stat and compare the result with the opposing defensive stat. Equal or higher gets you the hit/does some damage. There’s nothing revolutionary about the rules and this makes the game easier to pick up. Models get to activate in units one at a time, once activated the unit has 2 action points they can spend to move, or shoot plus other special rules may take up an action. A commander is needed to lead your forces and he brings some boost to your units of his own but losing him can hit your army hard as every gruntz unit must take a morale check wonderfully called “Condition Brown”. In the normal course of the game units can be suppressed, if they take heavy casualties they can suffer “Condition Brown” and flee, they can go into overwatch, go prone, the scope of detail is just great without being complicated. The one rule that does stand out is models being waxed before they die, its a mechanic that iv not seen before but takes things like saving throws gained from Perkz out of your opponents turn and into your own, upon activating a unit you remove waxed models, or use their perkz to remove the waxed condition personally I like the way this works as it helps the flow of the game to remain smooth and consistent.

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Jaffa! Krie!

Models…

There are none. Sort of. Robin has not released a miniature line for gruntz and all are encouraged to make use of the large number of manufacturers there are out there to use for your games. I can’t review them all for this so I will include my favourites for you as links below and some of the images are from some of the lines that are out there. Seriously though, there really are a lot. If you have never looked at 15mm gaming before you’ll probably be surprised at the number of them. Each time I search google I find another brimming over with funky stuff. If there is a sci fi staple you love there is someone producing something thats damn close, Alien, Predator, Stargate, you name it, someone has come damn close to making it. As far as the book goes, it is available in print form but buy it electronically from places like DrivethruRPG or WarVault and then any future updates to the rules can just be downloaded free!

Barracks…

If the thought of unit creation is tiresome to you then a recent Indiegogo campaign may have the answer. Barracks is a program for unit creation that leaves you with a funky printable stat card at the end, making it super easy for you to create to your hearts content! Barracks can be purchased through WarVault here:

http://www.wargamevault.com/product/111366/Barracks-for-Gruntz-15mm-1.25

Conclusion…

 In conclusion I have to say that Gruntz only real restriction is your own imagination, cheesy as it is to say. It plays smoothly in just a couple of hours; is easy to learn; cheap to buy, both as a rulebook and in terms of miniatures, and outright fun. The requirement to design your own troops can be avoided easily, if that’s a sticking point for you. The only thing I would say is that this is not a tournament style game. Its very much more scenario based without being overly complex like some others can be. Basically, try it. It won’t break the bank to do so and I don’t think you’ll regret it. Your chairman commands you!

A few 15mm mini companies…

http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com

http://shop.groundzerogames.net/index.php?_a=viewCat&catId=2

http://www.criticalmassgames.co.uk

Seriously though, there are tons of them.

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.

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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!