Dying Star Oblivion – An Interview

Unless you’ve been ignoring these last couple of weeks – which is entirely likely – you’ll know I’ve been banging on about a game on Kickstarter called Dying Star: Oblivion based on the fantasy trilogy by the awesome Samsun Lobe.

67aaab7ae5942e67c6be3bd4f94384c9_largeFollowing on from my post about the kickstarter and the Dying Star giveaway I’ve had a chat with the chaps at Superfluid Industries about their game their hopes and their dreams and what they look for in a man. Okay not the last one…

TSC: Guys, thanks so much for agreeing to the interview. I appreciate you’re a tad busy at the moment. So, Dying Star Oblivion has been on kickstarter for a few days now. What prompted you guys to create a game in the first place?

SI – Moley: To be honest I’ve always made games. I think my first one was when I was about 8 and then the first I finished was when I was around 13 or 14. But with this game I think that my skills, with the help of John to balance things out, have reached the point that the game can stand on its own merits. I create games simply because I love them, they’re the perfect way to socialize for me and they’ve always been a major part of my life.

SI – John: I have personally been working on home-brews and small games projects for a large portion of my life in the hobby. With varying degrees of success, and so it isn’t so much about being prompted to make a game, as it is finding the right someone to make a game with. In this case, Moley and I have created a game that we think is fit for sale, and have the opportunity to do so.

TSC: Ahh, so a match made in heaven. Eye meeting across a busy gaming table and all that. For those that haven’t heard of Dying Star Oblivion tell us a bit about the universe.

SI – Moley: I’ll let John field this question as he’s better at describing the universe to people than I am.

SI – John: The Dying Star setting is a kind of dark but not hopeless future, where great feats of technology were once possible, but the knowledge to recreate them is mostly lost. The setting has two planets; the first is the slowly-freezing planet of Gebshu, much like our own Earth and its terraformed desert moon Son-Gebshu. Aquatic humanoids the Kekken share the oceans with the ocean tribesmen of the Enki and the Eberus, while The Merthurian Horde and their Shektar Cavalry prowl the freezing waste. Above the waves, hidden in their fortress city, the Magta hide from the world while the mysterious Precusors sleep beneath the Ice, all the while the three factions of the Imperial Dumonii squabble over succession and the resources of both worlds.

Most of the setting is viewed through the eyes of the protagonist Var, as he goes on an adventure unlike many that I myself have read before, and the motivations of each of the races and factions are well-defined. It feels more fantasy adventure than sci-fi or space opera, and the pieces of technology still working from interesting anachronisms rather than magical McGuffins.

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Guardian

TSC: Christ. There’s a lot to it then, but that can only be a good thing long term. Tell us about the kind of game Dying Star Oblivion will be?

SI – Moley: Once again over to John.

SI – John: Dying Star Oblivion is a miniature skirmish game that is designed around small forces clashing over key objectives. Model counts are low but, depending on faction, can be from three to nineteen figures per side. We also have everything you need to field a unit together in the box, including all relevant cards and options sat on the sprues, ready for play. Finally, we are looking at a number of high-quality plastic resins for our miniatures, so that the models you buy are something that I would be happy to put on the table myself.

TSC: Sounds ace. So it has the flexibility to be a game that could be played over a lunch hour or an evening. And I love the fact all the options will be on the sprues. What kind of game play features sets Dying Star Oblivion apart from other similar games?

SI – Moley: And John again….

SI – John: Setting it apart from other similar games, Dying Star Oblivion is designed to be played on a small area, with relatively little clutter on the table. All rolls use 2 D10’s per player and games resolve quickly due to the aggressive and decisive nature of the rules and the source material. It also has a set of army creation rules that promote the use of themed forces, instead of purely focusing on the most competitive of all possible choices.

TSC: So a game for the narrative gamer, but still something punchy enough for the hardcore gamer. So, how did the project come about and did Samsun Lobe take much convincing?

SI – John: I’ll let Moley Field this one, as I became involved in the project a little after its original conception.

SI – Moley: One of my many jobs has been running a small laser cutter making things from wood and plastic for various people. Samsun wanted some wooden pendants making for the release of his new series Ruin and so asked me, after receiving the pendants, if I knew anyone who could make games, I replied ‘Yes. Me.’ and the project went from there. The rules took around 8 months to reach the point of being playable in a way I was happy with and then from there John and I have been slowly altering them to make the final game.

TSC: So it was it just a case of right place right time rather than being specifically being drawn to Dying Star?

SI – Moley: That’s pretty much it. Samsun asked us to make the game based on Dying Star.

SI – John: I actually got to read the source material a little bit before I was brought on to the project, as Moley originally wanted a second opinion on the way some things within the series could be transferred into a miniatures game. The Series itself was a fun read, and memorable enough for me to be able to talk about the bits I like or don’t like at length.

TSC: Tell us a bit about yourselves; what’s your background in wargaming and what kind of games float your boat.

SI – Moley: I was made to be my older brother’s opponent at 40k when I was about 4 years old, back in the Rogue Trader days, and I never really stopped. I’ve played just about everything that I’ve managed to get my grubby little hands on from GW to Rackham and back again. For me at the moment the ability to transport things trumps most considerations between games of the same type so I prefer card games and skirmish games simply because I don’t have a car and don’t want to carry a dedicated miniatures case with me in addition to my normal bag.

The biggest thing I enjoy with games is interesting interactions, as I’ve always designed and wanted to design games I tend to pull things apart mechanically and see how they tick before looking at the wider game overall. I’m sure I could bore the arse off of most people discussing Rule Depth vs Breadth and Complexity as a requirement for emergent play but I’ll keep that under my hat for now.

SI – John: I’ve gamed since I was about 14 after encountering a games store in Weston-Super-Mare and picking up some miniatures and a copy of Hero Quest soon after. Since then I’ve played a bit of everything, I ran demos of Hordes for PP at salute one year and was part of a massive game of Warmaster at Gamesday as well. Nowadays, I play Warhammer and 40k and Battletech and Dystopian Wars when I can find the time. It’s not all toy soldiers for me though, CCGs and LCGS are fun, and a board game or RPG is often preferable, especially if you’re somewhere new. I like games with a lot of tactical depth to them, but often spend way too long agonising between different choices in an army.

TSC: Dying Star Oblivion has some pretty diverse looking factions. Can you tell us more about them?

SI – Moley: And back to John.

SI – John: The factions in Dying Star Oblivion are based on the cultures and races that the main protagonist of the series encounters. And the brief manner he does so has given us a lot of room to explore which is really exciting.

There are two amphibious factions, and the Kekken get some really interesting units dredged up from the bottom of the sea.

The Merthurians and the Magta are going to have some quite striking figures on the tabletop, with bear cavalry on one hand and a faction of 54mm scale giants on the other.

The Dumonii, Murai and Virtues all look at human factions from different angles, with varying degrees of training, equipment and specializations in order to make them all a unique playing experience.

Finally, the Precusors are a mysterious force of disturbed automata, with some cool mechanics and a visual twist to remove them from the traditional ‘cogs, gears and junk’ kind of robots.

dominator sculpt with card vesion 1Dominator Render

TSC: An army of 54mm Giants. Umm…sold! If the kickstarter is successful what can we expect from Superfluid in the near future?

SI – Moley: We’ve got plans for making all sorts of traditional games so Boardgames, Card Games, Collectable Games, Miniature Games and RPGs. We’re primarily going to be focusing on games based on Samsun’s, and possibly other authors, works. Games with a gothic and quiet horror theme and games which parents can play with their children to introduce them to gaming in addition to creating “normal” games interests us. Like all gamers we have more ideas than we could ever produce but we’d like to use Superfluid as a way to showcase the best of our ideas to the gaming world.

SI _ John: We are ready to move some games design projects out and onto release as soon as we can to be honest, everything from miniature games like Dying Star Oblivion, to stand alone RPG’s and self-contained card and board games. We would also like to produce a Living Card Game at some point in the future, but that for the moment is a little way off. As a father, I’m also looking forward to working on some games for younger gamers, as I’d like my daughter to share in my hobby without it being too much at once or too complex for her.

TSC: So plenty to be keeping you awake at night then? What’s the one model you’re looking forward to producing the most?

SI – Moley: It sounds corny but the first one. As soon as that figure is made, cast and in my hand I’ll know that the game is real and that means more to me than anything else.

SI – John: To be honest, I’m really looking forward to them all being produced, and ready for shipping! Before then, I really want to see how the Magta and Virtues turn out, especially the Void Concubine and Guard.

TSC: I admit, I can’t think of a model I’ve seen so far that I’m not looking forward to seeing. Guys it’s been a huge pleasure learning more about the Dying Star Universe and all that Oblivion has to offer. Good luck with the kickstarter, thanks for the exclusive artworks and I hope to catch up with you again soon.

If you’re interested in pledging on the Dying Star Oblivion kickstarter page click here.

An Interview with Maki Games

Yesterday I put up a post talking about the Maki Games kickstarter. A modular scenery system that, frankly, looks freaking awesome. In fact I was so impressed I got in touch with them and ended up doing an interview with the man behind the vision; Emiliano.

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TSC: Emiliano, thank you so much for taking time out to speak with me. For the uninitiated who are Maki Games and what are they all about?

MG: Maki Games is a startup company with a simple idea in mind: to improve the quality of wargaming. This means not only better accessories and terrain elements to expand the ones already available in the market but also innovative gaming paradigms for some projects that are in development. I work in the sciences as a researcher but wargaming has been a hobby for several years. So I decided to combine my skills with my hobby to create something new.

TSC: Science driven wargaming? Love it. The Maki Games terrain system is multipart and modular but what sets it apart from the other terrain systems out there?

MG: The aim of our terrain system is to be modular, for real. Not just modular in the sense that each building can be combined with other buildings from our line, but modular in itself.

Each terrain element has the potential to be assembled in several ways and to be combined with all the other terrain elements, like Lego but far more detailed! Since it won’t need glue it will be possible to assemble it every time in a different way, allowing to have a different battlefield each game. We stretched this concept as far as making double faced terrain. Instead of building elements with details on only one side, as often happens, the double side allows the same terrain element to be assembled as two totally different buildings.

Wargaming is so much more than just playing a game with friends. Wargaming leaves space for creativity and we want to provide our customers with the most flexible product seen so far. Something they can build and rebuild each time they play.

TSC: That sounds incredible. Tell us a little bit about you and your background in wargaming.

MG: The entire team is made up of wargamers, except for our engineer who just started. Personally I have been involved in wargaming for more than 20 years. I used to play Warhammer 40k and participated in several national tournaments in Italy. For a couple of years I managed a gaming club and organized a Qualifier Tournament for Games Workshop in 2000. Then I moved to other games like Warmachine and Infinity, but I play several different wargames and RPGs. In the past 10 years I slowly drifted to collecting rare and painted miniatures. Now I have a decent collection.

My co-founder is a wargamer too. If I recall correctly he won a few national tournaments of Warhammer Fantasy and has been in the wargaming scene for even longer than me.

TSC: There’s some strong credentials there. What prompted you to take the business on to Kickstarter?

MG: A kickstarter is the best way to start a business in this sector. It helps to speed up the production of a full line of terrain elements and gives great visibility to emerging companies. If you have a good product a kickstarter seems the best way to start.

TSC: It’s certainly worked for you guys which is great. With so many companies producing scenery from resin and, more recently, laser-cut MDF, what prompted you to use hard plastics?

MG: As one of the co-founders of Maki Games I think state of the art technology allows for far better scenery elements than the currently available ones. I personally love resin for its detail but I hate working with it as a modeller. We wanted something easy to assemble, easy to convert and very very detailed. I personally converted miniatures in metal, resin and plastic and I have to say plastic is the best. You can do so many different things with it and the effort required to achieve a great result is minimal compared to the other materials.

Plastic scenery will be lighter than their MDF and resin counter parts. The possibility of unassembling them will optimize the space to store them. All considered, except for the high costs to make the moulds, plastic is much better. It is not a case that all the companies are slowly moving to plastic for their miniatures.

TSC: You’re right about resin. Nasty stuff. So, what were some of the challenges you faced in developing your terrain system?

MG: Many different challenges. Building a team of developers able to work efficiently was the first challenge. It sounds easy before you actually start working under pressure, but trust me if I say it is probably the most difficult part of the whole project. Creating a modular system is much more complex than just doing one building at a time. We had to make sure parts from different terrain could be modular with each other. This is a very time-consuming process. I have a background in science and I can tell it is a complex problem needing both global and local optimization steps. Luckily it is not as complex as the problems I currently facing in my scientific research.

TSC: Sounds like you get to grips with it very well. Something so many have tripped on in the past. Your kickstarter is already a success with the project being funded almost twice over. What will the extra funds allow you to do?

MG: The extra funds will allow us to produce several terrain elements at the same time. Without the kickstarter we would have started with one product and we’d have to wait for that product to sell before releasing the next. Now we can market several ones simultaneously. This clearly helps us to increase the quality and quantity of the current and future products.

TSC: It’s great that the kickstarter will make such a difference. I was really impressed with the three sets that will be available, offering something for pretty much all modern and sci-fi gamers. How did you settle on those designs?

MG: As I said I collect basically all the most popular games and as a collector of painted miniatures from world famous painters I developed a taste for quality. We had several different sketches and 3D models for each terrain element. We usually discuss internally the pros and cons of each element until we reach an agreement. For some designs, like the sci-fi elements, I had the final word in order to have something closer to my own vision of the line. For the Gothic theme we relied more on my co-founder who has more experience with that.

TSC: What would you like to do next with Maki Games? Would fantasy scenery be on the cards or would you look to expand on the existing range?

MG: First of all we want to deliver the rewards of this Kickstarter as soon as possible, so we will focus on this for the coming months. After that we have a couple of kickstarters in line and at least one of them won’t be sci-fi.

TSC: Nice. Finally, what one piece of terrain would you love to take a pop at creating if given the chance?

MG: Oh, so many…but having to choose one, I would say an add-on to expand our sci-fi terrain into a city like those described by Philip K. Dick in Blade Runner. By the way…I have plans for that one too!

TSC: That sounds incredible. Might have to get me one of those. Emiliano it’s been a huge pleasure. Good luck with the kickstarter and Maki Games as a whole.

If you want to pledge on the Maki Games kickstarter page it has 13 days left. It’s a fantastic looking enterprise and one that could really shake up gaming boards everywhere.

Beyond the Gates of Antares – An Interview with Rick Priestly

 

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The other day I posted about the new game by Dark Space Corp – Beyond the Gates of Antares – that’s currently on Kickstarter written by none other than wargaming legend Rick Priestly.

Well in an effort to find out more I got in touch with said legend and asked him a few questions. And this is what he had to say…

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TSC: Rick, thank you so much for agreeing to have a chat. It’s a real privilege. You’re responsible for some of the most well-known games in the wargaming world including Warhammer, Warhammer 40k, Lord of the Ring SBG and Bolt Action (amongst others). What prompted you to set up DSC and launch Beyond Gates of Antares?

RP: Well I’ve been thinking about doing a new game for a while and I’d already got some ideas about the game system. I also had a fair idea about the overall style and feel – so getting away from the Gothic 40k universe – something different. Me and John – big chief of Warlord – knew we’d need more money than the Warlord business could afford to get the game going, let alone make the models, so we’d put it on the shelf whilst I got on with various historical projects – which is Warlord’s main business. We did look at kickstarter at one point – but as far as we could tell it was only used as a promotional tool by companies with existing ranges and games already for launch – and not as a way of generating cash for new ventures. So we dismissed the idea as out of our comfort zone. Then Rik – who I worked with way back when on a video games project – came up with the proposal to create DSC and pool our respective expertise – and it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss!

TSC: Well you must be doing something right as the campaign has been very well received thus far. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in getting the game and Dark Games Corp off the ground?

RP: Well raising the finance is the only issue we’re concerned with at the moment – and a good chunk of that will come from the kickstarter – so the biggest challenge right now is doing everything on a small budget. Fortunately lots of people have volunteered their efforts for free – come to think of it one of them is me! – so we’ve been able to do a huge amount all things considering.

TSC: From small acorns I guess… For those that haven’t come across the game what can you tell us about the background?

RP: Well it’s a far future setting – and humanity has spread throughout the stars by means of a series of wormholes that all thread through a nexus called the The Gates of Antares – in fact the star Antares which turns out to be a construct. Humans have evolved and changed as a result of transgenic implants to become a varied number of species, some created to fulfil specialist roles such as heat or radiation resistant asteroid miners.

The main force in this future civilisation is the Concord – which is a civilisation whose living inhabitants do nothing they do not wish to do – all work, decision-making, policy and innovation being developed through a process of gestalt intelligence that melds all living humans and all sentient machines by means of a nano-level cloud that permeates the air, food, water, living bodies and so on. This overwhelming utopia absorbs all independent worlds it comes into contact with, its nano-cloud technology simply integrates with other technology, so this happens without any intent – like a virus spreading wealth, happiness and utter passivity throughout space. Needless to say some independent and free-thinking worlds and planets don’t fancy being absorbed into this utopia, and form a loose association of free worlds called the Determinate – but these are in no way united and will happily fight amongst themselves when they get the chance. But they all fear absorption by the Concord.

TSC: The Concord sound like a right bunch of insidious bastards. One of the unique features of BtGaA is the Real Time Dynamic Gaming Universe. Or to put it another way, a living background that changes as gamers submit their results. How free will gamers be to influence the timeline? As they too free would they not have the potential to derail the background or take it in a direction you didn’t foresee?

RP: In principle, we’ll be running a number of campaigns which players can add their results to, and these will determine which of the rival factions captures zones within the campaign, and ultimately which achieves the overall objective. Depending upon the results, we will make available online upgrades – which may be temporary or context specific – some of which will represent tech captures, but others could be intelligence, resources, and so on. When we come to organising our model making schedules we will sculpt the various new technologies with the faction that captured or discovered it in the campaign, and then other factions will have to achieve success in subsequent campaigns to acquire the new tech. The campaigns will also drive the back story itself – so players have the chance to influence events and their forces will become part of the history of Antarean space. In some instances we will actually make models of player’s characters, and write them into the background, so there really is the chance to take part in the universe.

TSC: That sounds brilliant. And I love the idea of unique upgrade packs coming out as factions progress in what, I suppose, will be a community driven narrative. So, what can you tells us about how the game will play and the kind of features gamers can expect?

RP: The game play is based on an activation system where players take turns to activate one unit at a time according to an activation pool – the Combat Intensity Level (CIL). A unit can be activated any number of times, but it’s effectiveness drops if its Combat Status is affected, in which case actions then have to be expended just to keep the unit from becoming exhausted. When units take actions enemy units can make reactions, and in some cases reactions happen automatically – such as firefights and close quarter fighting. This means both players are active all the time, and play proceeds between the two sides quite rapidly. This was one of the things I wanted to get across in the game from the start – constant involvement by both sides.

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TSC: So rapid combat and maximum carnage. Works for me. There’s some pretty diverse factions in the game including some sentient robots and the rather gribbly Vorl. How do the factions differ in terms of background and playing style?

RP: Well – even within the factions there are different ways of honing the force depending on whether you want a high-tech base or a lower one, so exactly what kind of force you have can be adjusted depending upon the scenario. There are out-and-out battle scenarios, but there are also more role-play style skirmishers, raids, and exploratory missions where a heavily equipped military force wouldn’t always be the best option.

TSC: So gamers will essentially have the options of tailoring their faction to the style of game they want to play rather than just the type of scenario. Beyond the Gates of Antares is currently on Kickstarter and has had a very positive response. What would a fully funded campaign mean for the project?

RP: It means everything to the project. And it also means that the hard work will have only just begun.

TSC: So what do you have planned for the future the game? Can we expect more factions?

RP: Oh yes – the Determnate is set up to be infinitely expandable in that way – and you can always add more aliens too.

TSC: Being the game developer of legend that you are, was developing BtGoA any easier to create than Necromunda or the truly awesome Space Marine?

RP: I’ll let you know when it’s done!

TSC: Fair enough. One last thing; there are more than a few gamers out there wanting to put their own game out there. What advice could an oracle such as yourself give?

RP: Games are not about what you put in but what you leave out! Well I always say that – and it’s true – you have to decide what the game is about and focus on that. Otherwise – be open and appreciative of suggestions – listen – and when you’re playtesting just watch the players and don’t correct them – often they will arrive at the right response instinctively and when they do write it down!

TSC: Rick it’s been an absolute delight. Thanks so much for taking the time and good luck with the project.

If you want to support the Beyond of the Gates of Antares project then you can check out the Kickstarter page here.

 

Pins of War interviews makers of THON

Seb, that cheeky bugger over at Pins of War has done an interview with the developers of THON, the game I posted about yesterday. Funnily enough I also had an interview with them yesterday so you’re going to have to wait for that now otherwise it’ll just be boring.

Thon1Thon – or THON – is a new sci-fi game. It will premier on Kickstarter later this year. The setting tells of the conflict between the name-giving Thonians and their Ordhren enemies. Thon will allow players to take on this conflict not only in one, but three distinct games. It is a bold project, bound to break the mould of current miniature wargames. The people behind Thon the Game were kind enough to answer me a few questions…

Read more here.

 

An Interview with Chris Wraight

It’s been a wee while since I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with a Black Library author so who better to interview than the author of the awesome Battle of the Fang and the upcoming Brotherhood of the Storm. Of course I refer to none other than Oxfordshire chap, Chris Wraight.

TSC: Chris thanks for taking the time to speak to me, I know how busy you must be with the White Scars novel. Now, you had the great fortune and great challenge of writing the utterly awesome Battle of the Fang which came out shortly after Dan Abnett’s revolutionary Propsero Burns. What was it like working on a Space Wolves novel with the background so recently redefined?

CW: It was both fun and frightening, as you’d imagine. The Space Wolves were ripe for a reboot, and the work Dan did on Prospero Burns was incredible. I was already writing Fang while Dan’s book was going through production, and only saw a copy halfway through the first draft. Encouragingly, the direction I’d taken was similar in some respects, though nothing like as deep and imaginative as Dan’s treatment. A rewrite followed, in which I tried to keep some level of continuity going. I hope the results make some sense.

TSC: I think so. Although you wouldn’t want it to be identical as you’re broadening the lore further. You’ve also written novels about Kurt Helborg and Ludwig von Schwarzhelm, two of my favourite and most iconic characters in Warhammer and the Empire. What considerations did you have to make when writing about such an important part of the canon?

CW: I wanted them to be different in character but equal in interest. It’s a classic theme: brothers-in-arms at war with one another as much as the enemy. In terms of the canon, there was very little actually written down about either of them, so I felt quite free to come up with my own ideas (in contrast to, say, Bjorn or Magnus). I’m glad that people seem to have liked what I did with them. The omnibus edition of their exploits, Swords of the Emperor, has just come out, which is a first for me and something I’m very proud of.

TSC: I’ve got the separate books but I have to admit the anthology looks beautifully put together. Jumping back into the 41st Millennium, your second Space Wolves novel is out in March entitled Blood of Asaheim. What can you tell us about it?

CW: Blood of Asaheim is the first in what I hope will become a new Space Wolves series. In terms of its tone and theme, it’s more like my e-short Kraken than Battle of the Fang. The Imperium is a very different place in the 41st Millennium than the 32nd, and the Wolves are a darker, more compromised breed. The story follows a single pack of Grey Hunters of Ragnar Blackmane’s Great Company. Having written a big set-piece battle narrative with the Wolves in Fang, I wanted to delve into the detailed mechanics and characters of the warriors fighting the Long War. I’ve aimed to make it an immersive, sombre look at the Sons of Russ in the gathering darkness of the Imperium.

TSC: Sounds awesome. Your audio drama, The Sigillite is out in the new year and further fleshes out one of the most pivotal and enigmatic characters of the 40k universe. What was it like writing for such an important character?

CW: Just great. I love the character of Malcador, and think there’s a lot to be written about with him. He’s enigmatic – and that needs to be preserved – but there’s also scope to uncover so much about the Emperor’s plans for humanity by looking at his role. He’s the ‘human’ face of the Imperium; not a Primarch, not a Space Marine, not a living god. Set against all of them he’s so weak, and yet, in more subtle ways, so unbreakably strong.

TSC: Not to mention the fact that his humanity keeps the Emperor grounded and guides him in the matters of mortal men. And, you know, founded the Grey Knights. Sort of. So, 0n top of the Sons of Fenris and the Children of Sigmar you’ve also written about the Iron Hands, specifically in the exceptionally well received Wrath of Iron. What drew you to such a culturally complex chapter?

CW: The Iron Hands were a bit of a departure. I’d written the short story Flesh, and was asked whether I’d like to write a Space Marine Battles book with them in. I love the core idea of the Hands, though they’re not a very attractive Chapter in psychological terms. They’re about the darkest of the Loyalist Chapters, showing how in 40K the boundaries are blurred between ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’. After all, who would you rather have a drink with: Ferrus Manus or Ahriman?

TSC: Fair comment. Beyond the work you’re doing for the new year, what can you tell us about any other projects you’re working on?

CW: Aside from more Space Wolves and White Scars at some point, I’m really looking forward to returning to the Old World with the Time of Legends title Master of Dragons. This will be Book II of the War of Vengeance series, which kicks off with Nick Kyme’s fantastic The Great Betrayal. I’m really stoked for this at the moment, and bursting with ideas for it. The central character will be Imladrik, one of the great heroes of the conflict. Plans are at an early stage on this one, but expect to see a truly epic tale of bloodshed, tragedy, forbidden love, vengeance – and, of course, armies of dragons turning the sky dark.

TSC: Sounds epic. I interviewed Nick a while back when he was still working on The Great Betrayal so it’s great to see the story progressing. Writing licensed fiction is a great way of indulging in all your favourite IPs in a very personal way. What IPs would you love to work on in the future?

CW: I don’t have any plans to work on non-GW IPs in the near future, mostly because my schedule is full of BL stuff I’m dying to get started on.

TSC: Understandable. Plus there’s no shortage of material to write about. Being an established Black Library author you’ve no doubt been invited to cool planning meetings with Dan Abnett, Graham McNeill et al. What was the moment when you suddenly realised that you were a part of the very exclusive and very awesome club that is the Black Library authors?

CW: I still see myself as one of the newbies, but I guess I’m going to have to stop that soon. Next to guys like Dan and Graham it’s easy to feel very green, but the list of books with my name on it gets a little longer every year. It was a great experience being invited to my first Heresy meeting, something I hope happens again at some point. In the meantime, it’s a privilege being involved with the franchise. All the guys, new and old, are just a very nice bunch of people.

TSC: I won’t ask who your favourite is. As a treat to the readers, what little tid bit can you give us about the next phase in the Horus Heresy series?

CW: They’d have my eyes if I spilled the beans. Let me tell you what I’m most looking forward to discovering: what Guilliman’s up to, what the Emperor has been doing since Magnus interrupted him, and (of course) the Khan’s role getting fleshed out.

TSC: You wicked tease. Next time I’m in Oxford I shall have to get you outrageously drunk and get it out of you. And finally, Chris, what advice could you give budding writers out there?

CW: 1. Take criticism on the chin. 2. Think hard about how the stories you like work. 3. It’s the characters, stupid.

TSC: Thanks again Chris, it’s been a pleasure. Good luck with the Brotherhood of the Storm and all the other projects. Keep up the outstanding work.

An Interview with Membraine Studios

Earlier in the week I wrote about a band of Ozzies going by the name of Membraine Studios who are developing Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire, a tabletop wargame on your PC. On top of this they have flung open their project to the community in the form of a Indigogo campaign which I talked a little about here.

Aside from looking awesome, doing a straight port from table to PC was an interesting idea. So much so I decided to fire some questions their way…

TSC: Membraine Studios is currently developing, essentially, a virtual tabletop wargame. How did the project come about? Was it a eureka moment or something that’s evolved over time?

MARK SHEPPARD: Definitely something that evolved. I guess the idea for Fractured Empire started back in 2009, mainly from a desire to get to play more tabletop wargames, really. I have three young kids and not a lot of spare time, so I was finding it increasingly difficult to make time for my wargaming hobby—and that was just plain unacceptable.

The idea was to make a computer game that would capture, as much as possible, those things I loved most about miniature wargames: collecting minis, developing that “killer” army list, and playing a tactically challenging game. Most importantly, the game would need to capture the tactile nature of tabletop gaming, with minis to pick up and move around. This game would eschew the traditional computer-based strategy game conceits of the grid or the hex, and instead allow freedom of movement, like you experience on the tabletop. In short, it would be what I thought of as a “true tabletop game” on your computer.

Fast-forward a few months to the period in time where Josh, Glenn and I were coming together for the first time to talk about making games. My miniature wargame concept came up and we bounced it around, but it was ultimately decided that it was “too niche” and too complex for our first game, and we moved on. We released “Orbital Defence” for the iPhone a few months after that, so in retrospect that was probably a good call.

Following the release of “Orbital Defence”, which received great reviews from players and press alike, we all took a break for several months to regroup.  After that break, though, we returned to making games with a vengeance. We went through a process of rapid prototyping that saw us create more than 20 prototypes, each of which was scrutinised and brutally assessed for its suitability for our next project…before each was summarily relegated to the shelf as “not quite right”.

That process went on for more than a year. It was really only about six months ago that we finally hit gold and found what we were looking for—when, upon review of old ideas, we finally managed to rework my old miniature wargame design into something that worked.

Yes, it took three years and more than 20 prototypes to get there, but get there we did.

Being armed with a game design that we believed in energised us as a team, but we recognised the hard truth of it—that this was still a ridiculously niche design. So what could we do to broaden the game’s appeal?

Luckily, it didn’t take us too long to decide that that was a FAIL approach, and we decided to instead embrace the niche-ness and pitch the game directly to the wargaming community.

TSC: Trying to write a wargame is real challenge. Trying to write a wargame that’s also a video game must be doubly so. What were some of your considerations through early development?

JOSH ANDERSON: When we decided to make a representation of the tabletop, we realised that there were some key things we absolutely must have: army lists, deployment, customisation and flexible multi-player. As a theorycrafter, I love building lists. As an armchair general, Mark really loves getting an edge during deployment… and Glenn, well he’s an artist, so he has to have the prettiest models on the table.

And the icing on the cake is our multiplayer – start a game on your home PC, choose your list and deploy your forces. Head to the park with your kids and while they are playing, whip out your iPad and take your first couple of turns.

The next day, at work, log in via your browser and squeeze a couple more turns in over lunch, finishing the game off on your Macbook at home. How cool is that?!

TSC: Tell us about your wargaming backgrounds and from where your draw your inspirations from.

GLENN OSMOND-MCLEOD: I have been modelling and painting figs since I was about 14. I remember my first fig came out pink after I tried to add highlights to the red amour. Painting and terrain has always been a massive passion for me. Shortly after painting my first few models I turned my hand to creating tables and terrain and have made more terrain pieces than I can possibly remember. I have always preferred engaging with the spectacle of wargaming. I get the most satisfaction sitting back looking at a huge table of wargaming terrain and two armies deployed opposing each other ready to have it out.

JOSH: I have played 40k off and on since I was a kid, but I loved Necromunda and Mordheim. I played Warmachine competitively for a while but I’m really into Epic 40k, the Exodus Wars 6mm Ruleset (yet to be released) and Flames of War now.

I probably spend 80% of my time building and theorizing lists, 15% of my timing painting and modelling and 5% of my time actually playing. Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire will allow me to bring that play ratio up, WAY UP and that’s what excites me about it.

MARK: I’m the old man here. I started with the 1st Edition of Warhammer 40,000, Rogue Trader, I think, 1987. With ALIENS having been released pretty soon before that and having only recently read Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, the imagery of the Space Marines really gelled with me and drew me into the strange new world of miniature wargames.

Since then, I’ve played a lot of different games, and my tastes as a gamer matured, so these days I gravitate much more to 6mm wargames like Exodus Wars, of course, but also Blitzkrieg Commander and Epic.

I’ve always been more of a gamer than a hobbyist, though; I have great respect for the art works some guys can create with their minis, but I don’t have that talent…sadly.

TSC: For those that don’t know the Exodus Wars universe, can you fill us in on some of the details, and what made you choose it as a setting for the game?

GLENN: The Exodus Wars universe is amazing. When I first got into the background, I was astounded at the depth of the backstory. It’s not a black and white, good versus evil story that is war and destruction all the way; it’s more layered and intertwined. Humanity has split into two distinct factions and the tension between these factions is where our initial conflicts take place. Neither side is particularly evil, they just have significant differences of opinion on the future direction of humanity.

The Guild is a capitalist organisation formed by the people with the means and motivation to escape a society taxing itself into destruction. The Royal Empire of Man is made up of those who remained after the Exodus, presumably due to lacking means to escape their situation. This creates a contrast of the well equipped Guild with its well-trained and motivated troops—the best money can buy—while the Royal Empire of Man and its 12 remaining kingdoms vary in motivation and also struggle for power within the Empire.

Then there are the alien races—but bringing them into the fold at this stage is dependant on the success of the campaign. I can’t wait to bring the Khazari to life on the battlefield. Those guys are fast and crazy, but that’s probably for a later update at this stage.

TSC: The trailers for Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire look impressive but essentially a virtual tabletop wargame. What will you bring to the table to take advantage of the medium as players won’t be restricted by their purse string or their ability make terrain?

JOSH: The number one thing is the ability to play with friends that are interstate, overseas or just plain busy. Or test your skill against the top talent around the world. Our plan is to allow players to opt-in to social media integration, allowing them to challenge their mates and brag about their victories.

Our aim is to be as true to the tabletop as possible, but turning it into a PC game gives us some pretty cool options. How good would a game of Epic 40k be with Fog of War!? What about a ridiculous 10,000 point game over a 10’x10’ table? How about being able to play in multiple campaigns, one turn at a time over the course of a week? The sky is the limit here and it’s a bloody big sky!

These are things that are logistical nightmares in person, but the ease of use of a PC (and hopefully tablet) make this possible.

GLENN: We are creating a game that aims to bring the depth of tabletop wargaming to life. Tabletop wargaming brings with it a number of restrictions. Our hobby requires significant commitment of time, money and patience. I personally have a wife and kid that makes sure my time is full of family and all that comes with it.

Before resigning to go full-time on Membraine Studios, I had a full time job for The Man that took upwards of 60 hours a week plus travel away for me. Finding 3 hours or so for a wargame on the weekend is, sadly becoming more and more difficult for me. Most of my friends are in similar positions. Having a game like this that I can play without needing a good 3 hours of time is a big plus. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE table top wargaming, and have sunk many hours into armies and tabletops, but as time gets more scarce I still want to experience it in a way that I can fit into my life. It’s not the same, and it’s not better, it’s just an alternative way to play a game with mates.

Wargaming also requires a significant financial investment, especially if you want to own all units in an army or even multiple armies. Within Fractured Empire you get access to a huge variety of units right away that may have taken forever to collect and paint in reality. Maybe not as cool as the real thing, but certainly a good deal of fun for 10 bucks. (Plus they blow up and move with the click of a mouse.)

We are also not limited by table size. We can propose MASSIVE battles and we have every intention of doing so. We can go beyond the limits of a wargaming table both in battlefield size and also the landscape and terrain we feature. We will hopefully be showing off some of the larger battle field features planned for the game soon. I still want to capture that image you get when your forces are deployed and you look back at the table top and see two armies facing off against each other, but we can really go to town with the sheer size of battles available.

I can’t wait to breathe life into the miniatures we play with. With enough community interest we hope to be able to really bring the battles to life. I want to see the mechs march across the battlefield and actually see the effects of their barrage of fire.

I spent most of my time as a kid gaming against the same 5 or so guys, (you know who you are) and it was not until I started playing tournaments that I got good at wargaming. I started to think differently about how I approached each game. Playing a game like this online will open up doors to a variety of tactical possibilities. Facing a range of different situations on a regular basis is quite hard to achieve playing against the same mates or even regularly at torneys.

I have mates scattered across the globe. This wasn’t always the case, but sadly it is now. Being able to catch up with them, be it virtually, for a quick wargame is something I am really looking forward to. It’s not the same as sharing a beer and pushing around models, but it will capture the same tense moments and excitement of a war game (with explosions) and this is something I can’t wait to enjoy.

TSC: What can you tell us about Exodus Wars: FE’s army builder elements and will there be a campaign?

JOSH: The Exodus Wars 6mm rule set has army list building that most wargamers would be familiar with. Battles have a total points cost per side agreed up-front, units cost a set amount of points. There are some force restrictions to ensure people take balanced lists, but otherwise you build it to your heart’s content.

In terms of a single-player campaign, that depends on how well our crowdfunding campaign goes. I’ve done some work on infrastructure for a campaign mode, but it may be released in a cut-down form in order to get the game out in time (e.g. a few scenarios that form an in-depth tutorial).

And release will not be the end of development for Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire – if we don’t get the funds we need now, we’ll use money from post-release sales to fund the next stages of development – a single-player campaign would be pretty high on the priority list.

TSC: There are those in the community who feel that this is taking the wargaming hobby in the wrong direction as part of the appeal is building and painting an army. What’s your view on this feedback?

MARK SHEPPARD: I do get where those guys are coming from, but I think there’s no real conflict there. Our game aims to enhance tabletop wargaming by offering an additional experience, not a replacement.

The physical hobby offers so much that computer games will never be able to. From being able to hold your minis in your hands and place them in heroic poses, to the model conversion side of things and, of course, painting.

By way of example: as much as people might enjoy playing World of Warcraft and surrounding themselves with their online mates, it’ll never replace hanging out with your mates in the local pub. Playing Wow and hanging out in the pub are both a lot of fun, and—better yet—they’re not mutally exclusive. What’s to stop you from having a couple of pints with the guys after work, say, and then catching up with them again later in WoW?

JOSH: I agree with Mark. We don’t want you to quit wargaming on an actual tabletop—we just want to offer you an awesome way to get your fix in between your face-to-face gaming sessions.

TSC: So multiplayer will be the name of the game. How this work both in terms of game modes and friends being able to interact with each other effectively via online play?

JOSH: While we’re not ready to share the full list of multi-player game modes, we want to offer people as many ways to play this as possible. If your readers have a specific mode they’d like to see, they should contact us via Facebook, Twitter or our website and let us know!

TSC: To date, what’s been your favourite part of the project?

JOSH: The reveal to the community and the positive feedback we’re getting is incredible. The money is nice, but knowing that what we’re doing is making people happy—that feeling just inspires me. All I want to do right now is make Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire even better than people expect.

GLENN: The environments. We have shown two of our environments to date. These are fairly typical of what you might see on a nice wargaming table, but with the freedom afforded to us by working in a digital medium, we are not limited to the real world restrictions of making terrain. We can engage with the background of our universe and create environments that truly reflect the opulent scale of the Guild capitalist society or the Royal empire cities that are dilapidated and in disrepair. Given my background as an architect, my favourite part of the project is investigating what form the cities might take and why they have developed the way they have. Whole cities with a story to tell. I would love to bring some of these environments to life if we exceed our funding target for the basic game.

MARK SHEPPARD: For me, it was seeing the Behemoth animate and fire for the first time. So awesome.

That, and discovering all the background material the guys at Steel Crown Productions are developing for their Exodus Wars universe. It’s pretty cool stuff; it’s well thought out and reasoned, so it feels possible and real—in a way that some other sci-fi universes I’ve played in never have. <cough>

TSC: You currently have a Indiegogo page active to help fund the project. Here’s you soap box, explain to the community why it’s important and why it should get their help and, more to the point, money.

JOSH: I think the crowdfunding concept is perfect for us. We’re not asking people to fund the entire development of Fractured Empire—we are asking the crowd to put the cream on the top so we can add the awesome features we want to make—army customisation, deformable terrain, campaigns, and so on.

MARK SHEPPARD: I think the best thing about what we’re doing is that we’re trying to service a niche market, turn-based strategic tabletop wargamers, who haven’t received a whole lot of love from the games industry in recent years.

We’re trying to make the type of game that the industry largely ignores because it’s so niche. That makes Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire a bit special to my mind, and I think it’s something that deserves to be supported.

If someone else had thought of this and was making a tabletop TBS for PC, I’d be lining up to buy their game. That’s probably the best endorsement I can offer.

TSC: And finally, assuming all goes to plan, when can we expect Exodus Wars to be available?

MARK: <<Looks at Josh>>

GLENN: <<Looks at Josh>>

JOSH: Ha! I love how this one gets thrown to me! Yeah, okay.

I’d say “soon”, but that’s just annoying right?

We want to get our Alpha testers in as soon as possible. These guys are going to help shape the game and make it awesome.

Once we feel the game has enough features, a workable UI and we have our multiplayer infrastructure in place we will be releasing Alpha. We have a rough idea of the date, but until we see how the crowdfunding campaign finishes up, the date could move back 2-3 months.

Ideally we’d release Beta in early 2013, as our currently projected release window is Q1 2013.

We’re planning to be quite transparent, with updates posted to our website, Facebook and Twitter. If you’re keen to see what we’re up to, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. As soon as we have firmer dates, we’ll be sharing them on there.

TSC: Thanks very much for your time guys. I look forward to seeing further updates and the finished product next year.

Is you’re interested in supporting the guys at Membraine Studios with their Indiegogo campaign, go here. And if you want to know more about the guys at Membraine or Steel Crown click on the logos below.

An Interview with James Swallow

They say never meet your heroes because you’ll only be disappointed. To those people I say poppycock and balderdash! I met the sci-fi legend that is James Swallow at Salute and was fortunate enough to have a good old natter with him about, amongst other things, Primarchs having Daddy issues and the Emperor never really being able to replace the adoptive fathers that raised them. It was, for me, an utterly awesome few minutes.

And if that weren’t enough, James being a thoroughly nice chap, kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions for The Shell Case. The mad fool.

TSC: James, thanks for taking the time. Now, you’re quite the sci-fi household name with huge success working across a variety of IPs including 2000AD, Stargate, Doctor Who, the latest instalment of the Deus Ex video game series and you’re the only British writer to have worked on Star Trek, specifically Voyager. So the question I have to ask is; did you get to meet Jeri Ryan?

JS: Nope, although Jeri was very complimentary about one of the stories I wrote for her character (a story called “One”)… I have met a fair few Star Trek actors in my time on the show and hung out on the sets of Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, which was fun. I guess I’ve been pretty lucky to work on IPs from fictional worlds that have given me a lot of enjoyment over the years.

TSC: The temptation to bellow Get off my bridge would be too much for me, I think. As I say, you’ve got a huge number of projects to your name including the all new Blake 7 stuff, the Blood Angels novels, the Horus Heresy, Stargate, Star Trek, what’s been your favourite to work on a why?

JS: I can’t really pick a favourite; I like each of them for different reasons. Each story presents a different set of challenges, each fictional world a different tone and texture to write.

TSC: Fair comment. So, what’s the one project you’ve not worked on yet that you’d love to take a crack at?

JS: If we’re talking about tie-ins, I’d love to do something for Star Wars, Halo or Marvel comics. I’m a big fan of all those universes. Beyond that, maybe write an action movie or a modern-day thriller novel.

TSC: I vote for Halo. Maybe a tie-in between Halo’s 3 & 4. Working with so many different IPs and Universes, do you ever get muddled up? Do you start off on Baal and end up on a Battlestar?

JS: No, the tones of each fictional world are very different. What works in a Star Trek story would not feel right in a Stargate tale, or vice-versa. It’s an important part of the tie-in writer’s job to maintain the correct texture and “feel” of a universe, otherwise what you’re writing doesn’t fit.

TSC: The Blood Angels series is now available in two anthologies. What drew you them to write about over the other Chapters?

JS: They’re cool! At the start, when Black Library asked me to write for the Warhammer 40,000 universe, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do, and I considered all the factions. The Blood Angels stood out to me because they were a first founding chapter that no-one had really written very much about at the time – and they have a great dramatic concept at their core. The thing about the Blood Angels is, their greatest gift – the noble bloodline of Sanguinius – is also their greatest curse. That’s a dynamic spur for character conflict and good drama, and when I saw that I knew that I wanted to write about them.

TSC: Deus Encarmine & Deus Sanguinius were awesome and incredibly bold considering you basically plunged the Blood Angels into a civil war. Aside from being hugely fun to write you must have felt a great deal of responsibility in writing what I think is a very brave story. Were the any anxieties from the Black Library?

JS: Exactly the opposite, actually. Right at the start I pitched two Blood Angel stories; one was a more conventional action story (kinda ‘Black Hawk Down’ with Space Marines) and the other was called ‘Sacred Blood’, the civil war story which eventually became the Deus duology. I honestly thought Black Library would pick the conventional idea, but they went straight for the more contentious one and suggested I make it two books instead of one. It was very rewarding to have that level of trust from the editors, and it seems to have been the right choice, as the Blood Angels books have sold very well and readers keep asking for more!

TSC: They are way cool. I even wrote a prototype army list around the loyalist faction. Flight of the Eisenstein is one of my favourite Horus Heresy novels and introduced us to Nathaniel Garro who is, without question, one of the coolest characters ever made. Possibly even more so than Ravenor (sorry Dan). You’ve had the awesome task of writing the Garro audio books which introduce us to the fledgling days of the Grey Knights. How did you go about tackling such an important story and were there any details you had to be especially careful of?

JS: Everyone assumes there is a connection between Garro and the Grey Knights, but I have to say it’s not as clear-cut as people think it is! Things are not exactly as they appear; but we’ll reveal more as the Horus Heresy saga goes on. Garro is a great character, and I really enjoy writing him. I’m pleased people have latched on to him; after I wrote Flight I didn’t intend to return to him for a while, but the reader response was so strong I couldn’t let him fade away! Obviously, ever story we tell in the Heresy era is important to a greater or lesser extent – even those that may not seem important right now may take on greater meaning as the series continues. Garro is cool because he is a viewpoint figure, someone who had his own story but who can also observe other major events in the Heresy era. We have a strong arc for him across the whole of the narrative that will play out as things progress. How that may or may not connect to the origins of the Grey Knights…I can’t say.

TSC: Ooh you tease! Am I right in saying there’s another Garro instalment out at the end of the year? What are you able to tell us about the plot?

JS: The next Garro story is an audio drama – a two-disc tale this time – called Sword of Truth. Originally, my idea for the story was to make it a prose tale for a future Horus Heresy anthology, but Black Library wanted to make it an audio instead. Sword of Truth takes place between the events of Oath of Moment and Legion of One and it shows the introduction of the character of Macer Varren to Garro’s band of brothers. And there are plans for more Garro stories beyond those.

TSC: Sounds awesome. I’ll be getting it, that’s for sure. Now, Nemesis made it into the New York Times bestseller list, which is an incredible achievement. It was a real change of pace compared to some of the other Horus Heresy novels. How did you go about constructing, what I think is, a very elegant and atypical 40k novel whilst still keeping it, well, 40k?

JS: The concept for Nemesis came from a couple of places. The core idea spun out of one of our regular Horus Heresy writer meetings, when Dan Abnett, Graham McNeill and I were discussing the Thousand Sons/Prospero Burns books. The subject of assassins came up and I immediately knew it would be a cool area of story to examine. Once I decided to write it, I realised that Nemesis could be a vehicle to show that the Heresy isn’t all about Space Marines – ordinary people and different factions are also affected by it. I really liked the idea of being able to show how a normal person  – someone like you or I – would be affected by living on a world under the shadow of Horus’s rebellion. I wanted Nemesis to be a Robert Ludlum-style thriller in the 30K era, and I feel like I hit that mark. It’s also an interesting story, because it shows how one small event could have totally changed the course of the Heresy, if things had gone a different way.

TSC: I think you did it very well. Like Legion, by Dan, it was a very clever story that forced you to look beyond the war, and, as you say, the Space Marines knocking seven bells out of each other. Fear to Tread, out in September, is a Horus Heresy novel, surprisingly, about the Blood Angels. What can you tell us about it without giving the game away?

JS: The short answer is: the Blood Angels go to the Signus Cluster, and all hell (quite literally) breaks loose. As part of his plan to rebel against the Emperor, Horus sends Sanguinius and his legion to a remote star system on a fake mission – but it’s actually a trap for the Blood Angels. A huge army of daemonic creatures is waiting to destroy them. Of course, Chaos being Chaos, there are plans within plans and internal conflicts on both sides. By the end of the story, the Blood Angels will be changed by their experiences and set on the road toward the Siege of Terra and that final reckoning between Sanguinius and Horus. Fear to Tread is the biggest book I’ve ever written for Black Library, and there’s a lot going on in there. It’s been very challenging, but I feel it’s all up there on the page.

TSC: The buzz on the interwebs surrounding the novel has been very positive and excited so far so I think you may have another hit on your hands. And, finally, because I ask this of all the writers I’ve interviewed; what advice would you give to those budding writers, be they novelists or script writers?

JS: The advice I always give is two words: Finish It. Lots of budding writers start and stop, dropping out of a project when things get tough or when a better idea comes along – but that never advances your craft and your skills. I’ve lost count of the number of wannabes who say “I have great ideas but I can never finish writing them”; those people will never be writers. You have to stick with it and finish the job. It’s important to be able to see a piece of work through to the end, because no matter what you think of it when you are done, you will have become a better writer for it and earned yourself some XP.

TSC: James it’s a been a real pleasure, thank you very much and I look forward to all the new releases.

The War More Shell Case Cast

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Those lovely chaps over at War and More have done a Shell Case Cast starring, well, me. Although there’s a couple of honourable mentions. It’s not all about me y’know.

So, if you think you can stand to listen to me droning on for an hour then click here. Or alternatively, War More an be downloaded from iTunes. I’m about 23 minutes in.

An Interview with Ichiban Painting

Not so long ago a chap popped up on my Twitter timeline with increasing regularity. A an eager hobby mentalist called Hugo, the man behind Ichiban Painting. Always one to promote all aspects of the wargaming community I thought I’d have a little chat with him…

TSC: For those that haven’t heard of Ichiban Painting tells us a bit about what you do and the motivation behind starting the business.

IP: I’m Hugo! I’m a miniature painter to keep it simple. I started modeling at a really young age and I was big into the military diorama scene. After many years I started to get bored with doing browns an OD greens  (That’s khaki to us Brits – TSC) and what not… But I wasn’t really interested in doing cars and aeroplanes, not really my cup of tea. One day a friend asked me if I could come with him to a hobby shop. A Games Workshop, as it turned out. It was the turning point in my hobby life. The models where really cool and along the lines of models I would like to do. Sure enough I returned to the shop the next day and bought loads of paints and some models. And that was the start. Since then I kept on painting and went to as many contests as I could. Doing so landed me my first commissions. Back then I was living in Canada so it was fairly easy to get commissions and paint. Life brought me to Japan, that’s where I did hit a wall. The Warhammer and 40k games are played here but it’s not as big as in the UK, Canada or the rest of the world. Finding work was harder, my reputation had to be rebuilt and I was struggling. For a couple of years I was just doing models for me and some old clients. Then I said why not go live on the web and see where it brings me! So in January 2012 I started what you guys know now as the Ichiban Painting Studio.

TSC: Having taken a stab at commission work myself I found painting other people’s models really killed my motivation to paint my own. What tips can you give fellow hobbyists to stay motivated on projects be it their own for painting for others?

IP: Man that’s a really hard question. It kills my motivation too. Normally when I’m deep in a project I need to take breaks. So that is when I go and paint a model for me. So I always plan my painting schedule so I have one or two days a week to do my stuff. That way I’m not hardcore on only one project. I think that’s a good way to change. But I still love doing it. Come on! I paint every single day.

TSC: Are you influenced by other people’s styles or techniques or do you develop and experiment with techniques on your own?

IP: Good question! (Thanks! – TSC) Actually I’ve learnt tonnes of techniques in modeling clubs when I was younger. Then starting in the GW world I tried to read all books I could find. I’m always looking for new technique and new ways to do things. I use other painters tricks and also experiment on my own. It’s really important to evolve as a painter and also modeller. I love going to Demonwinner, a site that has all the Golden Demon winner entries. That’s a good motivation to get better. I am currently learning and experimenting with molding and sculpting.

Best advice is if you think your skills are good don’t just stay there at that level; always try to evolve and get better.

TSC: Needless to say, you’re a big 40k fan; what attracted you to the universe and who is your army of choice, and why?

IP: I guess I ended up on the 40k side of things pretty quickly. My first GW model was a high elf model but I went to 40k right after. I was attracted by the coolness of the models and also the fact that it’s still along the lines of what I used to do in military dioramas. Over the years I fell in love with the whole universe with the books and art. I do want to try and do Warmachine but I guess I’m popular at painting 40k stuff so I get clients wanting those models painted. I’ve done my fair share of Warhammer Fantasy models but not since I went live on the web.

Army of choice…hmm…To paint I think all armies have good and bad points so I can’t say, I do a lot of Space Marines but I think my top 3 would be Space Marines, Grey knights and Eldar…or Tyranids. You see I can’t even decided that!

To play is another story. I only started to play about a year ago, I know the rules, universe, armies, weapons very very well but never had the chance to play before that. Now I play from time to time but I’m still busy with painting. My army is a Space Marine chapter. In French there’s an expression that goes like this ‘cordonnier mal chaussé’ it means that even if I’m a painter I don’t have painted minis.

TSC: What’s been your favourite project to date, either your own or someone else’s?

IP: I’ll say recently it would have been the Voltron themed dreadknight for @r3con on twitter. He won a contest of mine that I ran in February. Then he told me he wanted a themed dreadknight! So this project was nice because of the conversion, building/sculpting the base and the cool painting scheme.

TSC: What’s the one project you’d love to work on but haven’t yet had the chance?

IP: A Titan! (Word! – TSC) And guess what I ordered one last week? Ultimately I want to do the Eldar Phantom Titan but that bad boy with weapons is so expensive! So the next best thing was the Eldar Revenant. I would love to do an Imperial Titan too one day (I’ve done a couple. They’re awesome – TSC). Big models are such a challenge, building wise with the magnetization and also pining the model then you have a good base where you can do a crazy diorama. Painting them is also challenging since you can’t make mistake since its so big, if you do it will be so apparent.

TSC: For those that might like to hire you, on what basis to you accept commissions and how do they reach you?

IP: For commissions I always try to give good prices that people can afford but still offer a really high quality piece. I mostly take any type of projects. Of course I’m not the best at everything paint wise and I always let my customers know if I’m not comfortable with a project. As of now March 23rd 2012 I’m heavily booked but I could still do smaller side projects.

People can reach me via email at ichiban.painting@gmail.com. They can also come and talk to me on twitter @ichibanpainting, and lastly I post pictures of my work on Flickr and my website.

TSC: Hugo, it’s been a pleasure. Good luck with the Titan and I hope to see some pictures soon.