Crokinole: Played by Flicking Wooden Discs Towards Board’s Center
If you’re familiar with the game of crokinole, then odds are that you’re either a hardcore board gamer or a grey-haired white guy from rural Canada as the documentary Crokinole reveals. The epicenter of the crokinole world would seem to be Tavistock, Canada, and it’s there that much of the 2006 documentary takes place, at the 2004 World Crokinole Championship. But what is crokinole? Crokinole is a board game that involves flicking wooden discs towards the center of a round board and knocking your opponents’ discs out into a gutter akin to shuffleboard or its indoor version, table shuffleboard, occasionally encountered at bars in America. It’s a pleasant enough game, involving skill and coordination, and can be quite satisfying, especially when a 20 is scored, the game’s equivalent to a bullseye. Crokinole is also a rather obscure game, with the game’s name unknown to modern computer spell checkers and college-educated professionals alike, so for it to be the subject of a documentary is fascinating in its own right.
Once you’ve understood the basic flicking mechanic of crokinole, the claims of the documentary to be “THE ONE FLICK YOU MUST SEE” will make more sense and seem a good deal less boastful. Crokinole opens by quoting from the 1897 Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery:
We went over to the party but I can’t say I really enjoyed myself. Alf doesn’t dance – thinks it the unpardonable sin, I believe – and I didn’t like to leave him alone among the strangers with nothing to amuse him. So I didn’t dance much either but played croquinole most of the evening and was bored to the point of tears. I love dancing and I loathe croquinole.
From that high point, the film slowly and pleasantly meanders. Crokinole lacks the narrative punch of other documentaries about competitive pastimes like Spellbound or Word Wars, but like them though, Crokinole is the authoritative documentary on its subject. While slow, the documentarians have covered all of their bases with the film, which captures multiple viewpoints on competitive crokinole. It’s also well-scored by the Earl Jones Trio. The film’s greatest strength though is its excellent tongue-in-cheek marketing, with the back cover stating “Those who have the adequate endurance to remain in a plastic chair for hours will excel, while those who cannot withstand the rigorous demands of a stationary position will falter.” This attitude towards crokinole seems to be widely shared by its Canadian players and the residents of Tavistock who all have a dry humor about the game and its championship tournament. “How could you miss it?” laughs one resident. A World Crokinole Championship referee sheepishly jokes about his neon safety vest, while another resident smiles and says of crokinole, “I wouldn’t say it’s nail-biting action like other sports, but yeah, it’s alright.” Gillies Lake Productions takes it further on the DVD cover and preemptively forewarns the would-be viewer with a quote from Bob Mader that “… It’s a long long grind.” Yes, yes, it is. While that statement isn’t misleading, the cover of the DVD is. On the copy I watched, the cover is dominated by the concentrating sunglassed Paul Stewart, an American player from Texas. It’s a decent image, but Stewart is in less than 2 of the movie’s 79 minutes. Most of the players are a great deal older and it would be more accurate to think of Crokinole as the Grumpy Old Men of gaming movies.
The Demographics of Crokinole
Fortunately for the viewer, the crokinole players that Crokinole introduces are all charming and congenial. They are also a very homogenous group, all white and predominately male. Two middle-aged or older women are also shown as part of the World Crokinole Committee. If Crokinole is sounding more and more like Cocoon, that’s not far off (though to be accurate, younger female players can be seen in the background of the World Championship footage). Brothers Jason and Raymond Bierling from “up country” are notable for both their red-hair and being “quite young” (someone thinks they are in their mid-20s) and while they appear in Crokinole, they are not the focus of the film. Nor is the similarly-aged, long-haired and bearded Birch Kuch from the Yukon who briefly makes an appearance in the championship.
Instead, filmmakers Joshua and Jonathan Steckley focus on four subjects. Farmer Dan Shantz is a previous winner of the 2001 Doubles Crokinole Championship and got a lot of practice as a child when he was ill and housebound, playing each of his fingers against the others. Unfortunately Shantz doesn’t tell us whether his pinky beat out his index finger, but his anecdote speaks volumes about the amount of solo practice championship crokinole requires. Grandfather Bob Mader may or may not be a farmer, but he lives in or near a village, and won $500 for his third place finish in a World Crokinole Championship. Mader played for Canada in the 1962 World Ice Hockey Championships, but sustained a knee injury in the championship game against the USA. The film jacket humorously advises in the rating section that Crokinole contains Canadian accents, but Mader’s speech like many of the others who appear in the film is also quaint and charming. Ringing a bell on his home’s porch, Mader reminisces, “Give it a dingle, that was dinnertime.” Joe Fulop is a part-time teacher, golf enthusiast, and the 2001 & 2002 Crokinole Singles World Champion. Someone says of Fulop, “That’s what he has for breakfast: crokinole. For dinner: crokinole.” It’s probably accurate on some days, because Fulop does play a lot of crokinole against himself. One of the challenges facing Fulop is his escalating Parkinson’s disease. He manages some humor about it. When asked whether it’s the worst disease for a crokinole player, Fulop’s eyes twinkle as he responds, “Well, cancer’s worse.” Al Fuhr is the fourth subject and most athletic, playing on two baseball teams when not fishing or flicking crokinole discs. Comparing himself to the single Fulop, Fuhr points out about himself that he leads an active lifestyle, a lifestyle slightly crimped because of an accident involving a 500-pound shed door which fell on his head.
Besides the four players, the documentary focuses on Wayne Kelly, or as he is more famously known, Mr. Crokinole. Kelly runs crokinole.com and has spent a good deal of time documenting the game’s history, including the origins of the name crokinole, a difficult task given that he consulted “28 to 30″ dictionaries and encyclopedias which lacked any mention of the Canadian board game. As an expert on the subject, Kelly provides the real backbone to the documentary and as one might expect, the documentary is also sold on crokinole.com. His inclusion in the documentary would seem to be mandatory. He authored The Crokinole Book which sold out of its first printing of 5,000 copies within the first year of publishing it in 1988, has had over 3,000 different crokinole and carom boards pass through his hands, and sells 5-8 crokinole boards each day.
The other subject that Crokinole frequently cuts back and forth to is Willard Martin as he constructs a crokinole board out of particle board in his workshop. Despite his hopes (and Mr. Crokinole’s) that various flubs will be edited out, they are instead preserved for the viewer to enjoy. Want to watch Martin clean his urethane brush? Joshua and Jonathan Steckley have also captured that. While most of his moments on camera could have been edited out, Willard Martin’s nostalgia as he recalls listening to the radio with his father as a child is quite touching and well worth including. Besides identifying him as Willard Martin though, the directors fail to point out Martin’s significance to crokinole. A quick Google search reveals that Willard Martin is indeed a second-generation crokinole board maker, selling his WILLARD boards through crokinolegame.ca. So great is his skill at board making that his boards have been used at the World Crokinole Championships.
The World Crokinole Committee
The World Crokinole Championships are hosted and organized by the World Crokinole Committee, as one might expect. It’s here, in showing the committee at work, that some of Crokinole’s most heated and dramatic moments can be found. Watch as a number of crokinole board storage boxes fall over! Listen as the committee discusses the “pro-cess” for paperwork. Board 46 is missing! Someone may have taken one of the boards to get some illegal practice in! Sadly, the investigation into the missing board is stopped once it is located. It’s because of scenes like this, the Canadian accents, and the film’s many other ironies that Crokinole also feels like an extended episode of Kids in the Hall from time to time and occasionally made me wonder whether Crokinole is a mockumentary or not. If it is, the humor is so slight and its treatment of its subjects so gentle that it barely registers as such, besides being non-fictional.
No Slam Dunks in Crokinole: The Crokinole World Championship
Just like children and beginners getting strikes in bowling, it is quite possible for newbies to get a 20 in crokinole. Scoring a 20 while also knocking your opponent’s piece into the gutter is even fancier, but there’s no equivalent to slam dunking in crokinole. There’s nothing the “masters” of the game can do that a player at home cannot. Because of this much of the World Crokinole Championship is uninspiring to watch. For about five minutes in Crokinole though, the flicking is fast and furious as 20 after 20 is scored by Joe Fulop and Al Fuhr in the semi-finals. It only escalates from there in the championship as stony-faced Joe Fulop battles the much younger Brian Cook. “The third time is the sweetest,” Fulop says after his victory.
While the champion and runner-up certainly exhibit great skill, a different moment in Crokinole had me shaking my head. When asked about Al Fuhr and how his crokinole playing compares to his baseball playing, his baseball coach Tom Myers, says “He’s extremely competitive, regardless of which he’s playing and strategic. I mean, crokinole, he’s thinking three plays ahead and in the ball diamond, he’s the same. He’s thinking two or three batters ahead, where I should be putting it on the plate. So [he's] strategic in both too.” Now unless I’m missing something huge about the game of crokinole, it seems that the goal and strategy never vary: score as many points as you can and prevent your opponent from doing so. Just like picking up a split spare in bowling or playing darts, playing well requires finesse and a lot of practice, but there is no change in strategy.
The Whole Crokinole… Almost
Crokinole Posts Make the Game Harder But No Change in Strategy
Despite the Steckleys’ thoroughness in documenting the many foibles of crokinole and mining the game’s depths for any humor, the directors missed the easy laugh that is “the one-cheek rule”, instead only covering it in the DVD’s special features. According to the one-cheek rule, crokinole players must keep one butt cheek on the chair at all times. This restricts players’ movements while at the same time preventing any tables from getting flipped. As a reaction to the one-cheek rule, crokinole is sometimes played on a rotating Lazy Susan to aid players in getting that perfect shot. The directors do include crokinole played with cue sticks (which is also a part of the World Crokinole Championships), but it would have been interesting to see or hear about any violations of the one-cheek rule or players’ opinions on rotating crokinole boards. They also include such crokinole slang as a “doogie”, which should never be confused with the “dougie” dance. A doogie is a 20 in the regional slang of Tavistock, Ontario. There is more humor as doogie is misidentified as the German word for twenty (zwanzig).
Paizo Publishing’s Publisher Erik Mona at GAMA Trade Show
Erik Mona headed the Paizo Publishing leadership at the Paizo Overview Premier Presentation on March 19 at the GAMA Trade Show, flanked by Pierce Watters and Paizo’s new head of marketing Jenny Bendel. Mona explained that prior to Bendel’s arrival he had handled all of Paizo’s marketing himself, but had recruited Bendel into the company four months previously. Later Mona also explained that Paizo’s name originated with the company’s first publisher Johnny Wilson, who discovered the ancient Greek verb paizo, to play, while in seminary.
Lvl. 20 Marketing Assassin Jenny Bendel and Pierce Watters
Mona began the Paizo presentation with even more history, explaining that the company acquired the licenses to publish Dragon Magazine and Dungeon in 2002. In 2007 Paizo released The Rise of the Runelords, its first in a series of Pathfinder Adventure Paths and has been an RPG powerhouse ever since. Pathfinder has been the #1 selling game in the RPG category since 2010 according to ICv2 with more than 100,000 Core Rulebooks sold worldwide. Paizo also boasts the largest RPG Organized Play program in the industry and produces monthly releases in several product lines. As of the GAMA Trade Show in March, Paizo’s Pathfinder Society program had over 45,000 players in 23 countries and will have 133 available four-hour Pathfinder Society Scenarios for home or in-store play at the end of the current season, Mona shared. Another revelation from Mona: the Pathfinder Beginner Box was tested extensively with Erik Mona and Paizo geniuses watching behind a one-way mirror to better understand and improve players’ experience.
Third Party Licensing and Releases: Diamond Select & SJG
Pathfinder has a “growing metaverse” in licensing and third party releases, Mona said. Sales of Diamond Select goblin plushes have been strong and Paizo had the prototype of a goblin plush backpack from Diamond Select available in their booth. The backpack will be coming out later this year. Zach Oat of Diamond Select provided further, limited details about the backpack. A rough prototype was shown of it at New York Toy Fair in February, but the product is still very much in development, with pricing still to be determined. Pathfinder Mini Mates are also still in development at Diamond Select, but pictures of concept artwork were snapped at New York Toy Fair. Diamond Select is also producing two Granix display plaques for Pathfinder. A Granix piece uses a roughly 7.5 by 5.5 inch slab of rock as the medium to display artwork, with each piece weighing in at over four pounds.
Pathfinder Munchkin is another licensed release for 2013, trading off of both the Pathfinder brand and Steve Jackson Games’ iconic game of treachery and greed. Announced in 2012, Pathfinder Munchkin has been playtested, but is still in development with card art submitted by artist John Kovalic. Steve Jackson Games is aiming for a release this fall and plans on bringing early copies of the game to Gen Con in August.
2013 Key Paizo Releases
While Paizo posts a near-constant stream of updates to its customers via its own website and through Pathfinder Society emails, this was Paizo’s chance to share specific products with retailers.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game
Another new product that Mona introduced was the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game which will be composed of 500 playing cards, dice for 4 players, and be supported by 110-card adventure decks. Each card will feature iconic Pathfinder artwork of characters such as Seoni and Valeros (who are themselves referred to as iconics by Paizo). Mona said that the game would be going to the printer in a week when he spoke to the GTS attendees on March 19. Its release will most likely coincide with Gen Con where it will retail for $49.99. Mona detailed that the Burnt Offerings Adventure Deck features six scenarios from the Burnt Offerings adventure, which was originally the first adventure in the Rise of the Runelords campaign. The mention of the Thistletop setting seemed to spark some recognition among attending retailers, if not cheers of approval. According to Jenny Bezel, two scenarios in the Burnt Offerings deck will involve Thistletop and feature “many classic foes and monsters” pulled from Rise of the Runelords.
Pathfinder RPG Releases
Mona moved through the Pathfinder release schedule at a brisk pace, constrained by the hour-long session, and listed future releases of:
Mythic Adventures: – Specifically designed for players who favor a more epic or demigod experience for Pathfinder, Mythic Adventures will be released in August for $39.99. The product was first announced after Gen Con in 2012 and any would-be Achilles, Theseus, or Gilgamesh can test its mechanics out using the playtest PDF available on Paizo. Mythic Adventures will be supported the releases of Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Mythic Realms, as well as the Pathfinder Player Companion: Mythic Origins.
The Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign Book: For GMs who want to craft the most immersive setting possible, the Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign Book will provide guidance in fleshing out background choices, creating taverns, and building kingdoms. It will retail in June for $39.99.
Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path: With a front cover painted by Wayne Reynolds, the first adventure in the Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path will release in August. Adventure Paths are composed of six interlocking thematic adventures that build upon one another and take players from Level 1 to Levels 15-18, depending upon the AP. Character death is also a distinct possibility in the challenging adventures which form the basis for entire Pathfinder campaigns. The Wrath of the Righteous will be expanded upon in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The Worldwound as well as the fantasy novel Pathfinder Tales: King of Chaos by Dave Gross. GMs will also be able to hand loot cards out to players via the Pathfinder Cards: Wrath of the Righteous Item Cards. The Wrath of the Righteous begins with the destruction of a magical wardstone which has helped to keep the demonic denizens of the Worldwound entrapped and at bay for centuries. It will be up to the PCs to stem the demonic tide and prevent Golarion’s absolute annihilation. After attending the GTS, Jenny Bendel subsequently identified the six adventures making up the AP, as well as their authors:
Pathfinder Adventure Path #73: The Worldwound Incursion by Amber E. Scott
Pathfinder Adventure Path #74: Sword of Valor by Neil Spicer
Pathfinder Adventure Path #75: Demon’s Heresy by Jim Groves
Pathfinder Adventure Path #76: The Midnight Isles by James Jacobs and Greg A. Vaughan
Pathfinder Adventure Path #77: Herald of the Ivory Labyrinth by Wolfgang Baur
Pathfinder Adventure Path #78: City of Locusts by Richard Pett
Skull and Shackles: While the Skull & Shackles Adventure Path debuted last year in April, in Paizo’s experience, it takes up to two years for playgroups to play through an adventure path, so Paizo and WizKids have been supporting the adventure path with pirate-themed Skull and Shackles miniatures.
More Pawns! – Anyone who questions companies releasing overlapping products (such as Reaper selling the same miniature sculpt prepainted, in metal, and in plastic) should take note! Mona said that the Pathfinder Pawns has been the fastest-selling new product launch for Paizo since the Core Rulebook. This is happening at the same time as WizKids is producing the equally popular Pathfinder Battles prepainted miniatures. Pathfinder fans apparently can’t get enough of the double-sided cardboard standees, causing the Bestiary Box to sell-out. Paizo will also be releasing the much-anticipated (and much-delayed) NPC Codex Box set later this year as well as the Bestiary 2 Box. Mona also took note of retailers’ complaints about the Bestiary’s box design, which has the list of included monster pawns on its back. The design makes it difficult for GMs to easily check to see if they have a particular creature when the box is open and still contains pawns, forcing GMs to either raise the box overhead above themselves or crane their necks awkwardly to check the contents. Ideally this helpful list of monsters would be replicated on the box’s sides as well.
And Even More Pawns! Mona went on to add that Paizo has also released collections of its pawns (minus the bases) related to particular Adventure Paths. Joining the existing Rise of the Runelords and Skull & Shackles Pawn Collections will be the:
Reign of Winter Adventure Path Pawn Collection
Shattered Star Adventure Path Pawn Collection
Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path Pawn Collection
Encounter Packs – Mona also revealed that he helps to make the decision of what to put in Pathfinder Battles Encounter Packs from WizKids such as the Champions of Evil Encounter Pack. He said that there will three Encounter Packs released a year going forward. Rather than a random selection of miniatures, each pack has a designated set of miniatures using pre-existing sculpts from the main line of Pathfinder Battles miniatures.
Pathfinder Modules: There will be changes to future Pathfinder Modules as well going forward. Previously they had no spine and were 32 pages in length. Now they will be 64 pages and include a doubled-sided tactical map. Pathfinder Modules are longer than one-shot adventures and are instead intended to be played over multiple gaming sessions.
We Be Goblins, Too!
Paizo gave Pathfinder fans a chance to play as goblins in 2011 in the “We Be Goblins” adventure released for Free RPG Day and gamers’ reactions were so positive that Paizo will release We Be Goblins, Too!, allowing the opportunity to adventure as the demihumans again as a tie-in with Free RPG Day on June 15. WizKids will be releasing the associated Pathfinder Battles Builder Series We Be Goblins set on May 29 to coincide with We Be Goblins, Too! The small range of 12 figures is exclusively goblin-themed and features five news sculpts, while the remainder will be repaints of previously released figures and are all viewable here. The figure boxes are random and will retail for $2.49, with a case going for $75.
Goblin Warchanter: 1 of 12 Sculpts for Pathfinder Battles Builder Series We Be Goblins
Paizo Continuing Releases
The popular Combat Pad, which allows GMs to keep track of player’s initiatives and key stats during combats, has been out of print for some time, but Paizo plans on changing that and will be restocking the item. Initially sold by a licensee, Paizo bought back the rights so the company can sell it themselves. It should be returning to the market early this fall in 2013 according to Jenny Bendel. Mona mentioned another perennial favorite of both Paizo staff and customers, the Critical Hit Deck, which has been reprinted four or five times due to its popularity.
Game Mastery Map Packs -> Pathfinder Map Packs
Mona also announced that going forward Paizo would be retiring the Game Mastery logo on its marketing of the modular map packs and flip maps.
Paizo will instead be using the Pathfinder name, but Mona pointed out that the gridded playing maps will still be usable to track movement for any other fantasy RPG.
Mona did take several questions, with one retailer asking how he is supposed to sell the Pathfinder Core Rulebook for $49.95 when Amazon sells it for $30. Mona conceded, “I think that’s a challenge,” but did not elaborate on how the challenge could best be overcome by retailers. He did point out that when Paizo has its products distributed to hobby stores, the shops receive them on the release date and said that Amazon doesn’t have them until two weeks later.
This would seem to be the case as at the time of this article, April 26, Amazon only has the latest Pathfinder Map Pack, the Army Camp, up for pre-order with an availability date of May 14, whereas customers can already order the 18-card set from Paizo directly.
Paizo Publishing’s Erik Mona and Jenny Bendel Interacting with Attendees in the Exhibitors’ Hall
All product images copyright to their respective owners. Used with permission.
That is, once the reader successfully makes it through the number of glaring spelling errors and typos that riddle Soul Stealing. Perhaps author Carl Trinkle, or as he is known in the SCA, William “Cookie” Barfoot, will be able to edit the multitude of errors out. One early sentence reads, “There are probably thousands deferent types, models and formats of cameras out there.” Another reads, “That lens has limited zoom capabilities and you there is no option for you if you want to improve your lens.” There is the misspelling of the birthplace of the SCA as “Berkley” instead of Berkeley, and then “out” for “our”, “cleaver” for “clever”, “grantee” for “guarantee”, and so on. Not to belabor the point, but, “There is hundreds of photo sharing website out there.” is just one of the many dozens of errors that permeate this 44-page work and speak to the lack of editing. Even the title differs from the Amazon store to within the eBook: Soul Stealing in the Current Middle Ages versus Soul Stealing in the Modern Middle Ages.
Getting past the myriad typos and grammatical errors, Trinkle has a breezy, conversational tone with the occasional humorous aside. For the most part it works, but in reality, the “book” could really better be considered several in-depth blog posts or the sort of how-to that tends to appear pinned to the top of a board in online forums. From what I can see in the 22 photographs accompanying the text, Carl Trinkle is a talented SCA photographer, but the pictures are too tiny (generally around 320 by 200 pixels) and too few in number. The digital medium of Kindle would seem to be perfect for reproducing full color pictures that might be costly to print in a traditional book. There are also no comparisons between two similar pictures diagramming what is good about one picture’s lighting or composition and what is wrong with another. Even at only $2.99 for its 44 pages, this is just too little.
Relative Size of Tiny Pictures to Text in Soul Stealing in the Modern Middle Ages
Sections in Soul Stealing
What Trinkle does include are sections on cameras, light/aperture/ISO, equipment, and etiquette. Trinkle admits to being an anachronism himself because despite owning an iPad and advocating having a smart phone, he still shoots in 35mm and 120mm film. After going over his own cameras (including plastic disposable cameras which Trinkle employs for their ability to occasionally get surprisingly great shots), Trinkle leaps into exposure, f-stops, aperture, and ISO. Here he uses a truly SCAdian analogy to explain “how aperture, shutter speed, and ISO work together” that goes on for pages using terms like “ISO War Band”, “House of Aperture’s shield wall”, and “Autocrat Meter”. I found it bewildering, but his love of the SCA is always apparent.
The Kit: Equipment
The Jas Townsend and Sons Linen Haversack
Trinkle’s section on equipment is where he really shines, though he worries aloud about advertising specific products, writing that he does not “mean to sound like a commercial”. He shoots with a 28mm-75mm zoom lens and a 75mm-300mm telephoto lens. He keeps these lenses, his film, iPad, and snacks in a “natural linen harvest sack” from Jas Townsend and Sons “that passes for a pilgrim’s bag or whatever you want to call it. Yes, it is strictly not period for the SCA timeline, but it is close enough for most people besides Laurels to not take notice.”
He also suggests a note pad to record subjects’ contact information and photographic settings, an 18% grey card to find the right exposure setting, and UV filters to protect the expensive lens in the event of a camera fall. There is the humorous suggestion of a dagger (“What if you are attacked by barbarians or corsairs or a bear or something?”) as well as many other mundane objects like Ziploc bags, duct tape, and a flashlight. He covers the basics, but then suggests possibly bringing the intriguingly-named “slave lights” without explaining just what slave lights are. Trinkle does wax poetic though about the flexible JOBY GorillaPod and points out that “the knock offs of the GorillaPod are not worth wasting your money on.”
Etiquette, Camera Disguises, and More
Trinkle next weighs the merits of the perfect photo versus ruining the moment for others at a event by the use of flash photography. Curiously he doesn’t touch upon blocking other photographers’ shots or the views of the attending populace, but he does point out possible legal issues for some members’ photos being taken including professional performers and those in law enforcement. Trinkle advises, “if you have to take that picture because every photographic fiber in your body says this is the picture of all pictures, I say take it. Then learn how to grovel really fast.”
Trinkle’s Example of the Rule of Thirds
Trinkle briefly mentions that other photographers use disguises for their cameras, but eschews the practice himself. Detailing that some people dress up their cameras and tripod as very skinny women is entertaining, but there is no photographic evidence of the practice and besides suggesting hollowing out a book to use as camouflage, Trinkle disappointingly has little to offer in this area. He moves on to actually taking pictures, making the most of early light near dawn, and gives an example of the Rule of Thirds using some household banners or personal devices. If Soul Stealing stuck closer to such examples, it would be much more useful.
Trinkle rounds out the book with an admonition to practice and experiment, as well as the suggestion that would-be photographers learn the rules of Heavy Combat to be able to take the best pictures (and avoid danger). Rapier combat should not be neglected though, Trinkle warns, as well as Arts and Sciences projects. Night time photography and portrait photography are also touched upon as well as photo-editing software. His parting advice is worth repeating: “Take pictures of all your events, we love to see them. Just remember not to ruin the dream for anyone by your picture taking. Sometimes it is better to miss the picture, but keep the memory.”
Final Thoughts on Soul Stealing
As it stands, Soul Stealing is an incomplete and error-laden work. Actual members of the SCA will benefit more from collegium classes on photography if available or by joining a photographers’ guild than by purchasing Trinkle’s work. Even an experienced photographer with a detachable lens spotted at an event will probably yield just as much valuable information. This is, after all, the SCA; members are generally friendly, courteous, and love to help others. However if none of those resources are available or you are the photographer in a LARP group struggling with how to take better pictures, Soul Stealing may prove to be helpful. At only $2.99, it will be one of the lowest costs you will incur in the SCA (or in LARPing for that matter).
Ultimately the most important question for any informational book or video has to be asked: has Soul Stealing in the Modern Middle Ages increased my understanding or knowledge of photography in the SCA? No, not significantly. It is a $2.99 reminder of what I learned in an hour-long SCA photography class, but it did point me towards several useful pieces of equipment that I might soon acquire.
Photographs and text from Soul Stealing in the Modern Middle Ages are copyright Carl Trinkle and used without permission under Fair Use doctrines of criticism and commentary.
While I didn’t get to see Cool Mini or Not at Adepticon 2013, I certainly saw CMON back at Gen Con in 2012.
Every time I stopped by the stretching Cool Mini or Not booth areas at Gen Con, I found a very packed, interested gaming crowd taking in all of the eye candy CMON had on display. Alongside Privateer Press, CMON seemed to have a tremendously successful Gen Con. Attendees new to miniature gaming could be excused for thinking that they were seeing multiple companies’ booths, but the unifying connection in every one of CMON’s 18 booth areas was the high quality and stunning visual displays.
CMON’s Display and Demo Boards
While the Wrath of Kings’ demo boards CMON had brought were functional and better than a simple flocked board, they were not as spectacular as some of their other offerings, but did put the focus squarely on the expressive sculpts of the miniatures. Players had the opportunity to battle as the thin warriors of House Nasier or the porcine warriors of House Teknes.
Wrath of Kings Desert Demo Board: House Teknes vs. House Nasier
Confrontation Lava Demo Board
Cool Mini or Not kept Confrontation fans’ appetites whetted with a lava demo board of the game. I could have easily missed further Confrontation offerings because there really was so much to take in throughout CMON’s booth space.
There were also demo tables for players to try out Sedition Wars, Relic Knights, and Zombicide, but aside from the two Dark Age boards and Rum and Bones, the most impressive tables were reserved specifically for display purposes.
The Wrath of Kings Display Board
What a sight! The Wrath of Kings Castle was the definition of amazing and probably the envy of rival gaming companies. Designed and built by Rob Hawkins, the table took over 200 hours from start to finish. The Goritsi forces spilling out of the grey stonework buildings really put it over the top. The Goritsi definitely have a darkness to them and are comprised of the lupine Skorza, the female Blood Dancers, and would seem to be led by the red-clad Herald of Blood. Bearing such close resemblance to Confrontation’s Wolfen, the Skorza pose an interesting problem for brand recognition and differentiation, but since they are now released by the same company, the similarities should not matter. The Goritsi also boast the monstrous Ucuzo, which looks like a lab experiment gone awry (or perhaps deliberately concocted).
A Monstruous Ucuzo Defends the Goritsi City Against the Invading Teknes
Arrayed against the onslaught of the Goritsi are the pig warriors of House Teknes. The rank and file of Teknes appear to be the Teknes Union Workers who wield massive swords. The Ironward is the figure reminiscent of Mad Max’s Master Blaster with a slave-driver on top of a pig warrior/Union Worker.
Woodland Scenics Armatures Used as Dead Trees in the Foreground of Hawkins’ Stunning Diorama
In his blog, Rob Hawkins refers to the diorama as a Goritsi City and details its construction in five blog entries, beginning with constructing the hillside foundation followed by the the construction of the buildings’ basic shapes. To enable faster gluing using super glues Hawkins uses Liquid Nails to coat the pink foam in the same way that latex paint is used to protect styrofoam from destructive aerosol spray paint.
Two Tentacled Zalaak Face Off Against Blood Dancers In and Near a Foamcore Building
The city’s buildings are constructed out of pink foam with thick art board used for the roof tiles. Hawkins estimates that over 1,000 separate roof tiles are on the diorama! The one detail that has puzzled me about the diorama since Gen Con is the seemingly unfinished black and white area. This is, in fact, an elemental’s head with white circles for eyes.
The Black Cylinder and Dome is an Elemental’s Head! With White Eyes
Super Dungeon Explore: Von Drakk Manor
Super Details from Rob Hawkins: Von Drakk Manor
Von Drakk Manor was easily in the Top 5 of all terrain pieces throughout Gen Con for sheer quality and artistry. It also highlighted the expansion forces to CMON’s joint venture with Soda Pop Miniatures. The castle is just as stylized as Soda Pop’s distinctive, chibi figures and was also built by terrain genius Rob Hawkins. He has many more pictures of the stunning layout on his website. The fiery monsters were from the Caverns of Roxor expansion that CMON/Soda Pop released in limited quantities to Gen Con attendees, before they went on sale to the public in October.
Von Drakk Manor Plays Home to Caverns of Roxor Denizens at Gen Con 2012
Ron and Bones – Rum and Bones
CMON was also previewing another of its newly-acquired licenses, Rum and Bones. Originally titled Ron and Bones by TaleofWar, the game is a pirate-themed miniatures skirmish game with highly stylized figures. In a booth filled with so many other goodies, the pirate ship did stand out for its quality construction. Little has subsequently been said about Rum and Bones (that I have seen), though Table Top Hell is impressed by the game’s miniatures.
Rum & Bones: Skirmish Pirate Game, Palm Trees from Pegasus Hobbies
From all that I could see of Rum and Bones, each model is a unique personality. The character Teruk’te wears a Sharkskin and will appeal to any gamer who has ever wanted a miniature that wears an entire shark as a costume! Tale of War Miniatures still has information in English available on the game including a downloadable PDF that explains the game’s mechanics, as well as displays the entire range of finely detailed miniatures.
The View Below Decks Of the Pirate Ship’s Impressive Armament
One of the neater things about the Rum and Bones demo table is that it has been carefully constructed to match the miniatures’ base size and prevent them from slipping or sliding out of position.
The Savage Teruk’te Alongside Pier Del Mocho in Aft Castle High Above the Sloot Gunner
Dark Age Industrial Shop Board
One of CMON’s original brands is Dark Age, of course. Even though I had seen them at the GAMA Trade Show, I still marveled over both of the Dark Age demo boards. Having played on the board with the rock outcroppings, most of my attention was taken by the industrial garage board. The details really bring the board to life with rigging over the top, bike chains used as industrial belts, vats of liquid, and multiple elevations to play on.
Did I mention the working lighting? By varying the textures on the board, it creates depth and detail and adds a sense of realism. The diamond-plating used on some of the floor panels is particularly effective. It really does look like a place the mutant Skarrd would have taken over or would be in the process of raiding.
Marie-Claude Bourbonnais as Rin Farrah from Relic Knights
Another attraction in the CMON booths was cosplayer and glamor model Marie-Claude Bourbonnais from Canada as Rin Farrah, one of the chief protagonists of Relic Knights. Bourbonnais posed for pictures with fans and gamers in her self-made costume and later explained that it was her first time attending Gen Con, let alone any tabletop gaming convention. For Bourbonnais it was different than comic and anime conventions, but still “a lot of fun” and reminded her of her high school’s tabletop games organization. At Gen Con Bourbonnais only appeared as Rin Farrah, but she has cosplayed as another Relic Knights character, Candy, in the past. As of early October (2012) she still had yet to play Relic Knights herself, but looked forward to receiving her complete game to try it for herself, but did say that she has watched demos of the game.
Two Versions of Relic Knights’ Rin Farrah: Cosplay and Miniature
Watching others game is nothing new to Bourbonnais who spent part of her teenage years watching friends paint armies and play Warhammer 40k. While she never got into the hobby herself, for Relic Knights Bourbonnais will be playing Rin Farrah’s faction. Usually though she is quite busy working on her next costume. As a former fashion designer, she’s been sewing costumes and prom dresses since she was 19. Rin Farrah’s leather outfit was a first for Bourbonnais, who makes all of her costumes and props herself.
MC Bourbonnais as Canadian Superheroine Hornet
On Thursday Marie-Claude Bourbonnais initially appeared as the black-and-yellow spandex-clad Hornet, her character in the Canadian web-series Heroes of the North. Filmed in Bourbonnais’ home city of Montreal, the series is in English, available to view for free online, and follows the adventures of Canadian superheroes. The character of Hornet only appears at the tail end of the first season of the series, but becomes more prominent in its second season, says Bourbonnais. While she came to Gen Con to promote Relic Knights, another company specializing in 3D body scans had also contacted Bourbonnais about capturing her 3D image in the Hornet costume.
Bourbonnais also has the distinction of having modeled for a card in Soda Pop Miniatures’ Tentacle Bento card game and has subsequently cosplayed as that character, essentially doing a cosplay of herself. Bourbonnais was also the basis for one of two promotional pewter miniatures in support of Tentacle Bento’s abortive Kickstarter run.
And the Display Cases
Gamers could have also easily missed all of the wonderfully painted miniatures packed into the glass display cases at the back of the Cool Mini or Not booth areas given all there was to see elsewhere. Here and there though gamers’ faces pressed up against the glass that stretched yard after yard. Sedition Wars, Dark Age, Relic Knights, Wrath of Kings, and Confrontation all vied for visitors’ attention, but were safely locked away, like heroin just out of reach of a junkie. There may have been little puddles of drool on the carpet. As one would expect from the home of cool miniatures on the internet, almost every miniature was beautifully painted. The exceptions were the gray master sculpts on display in the cases.
Anime-Infused Miniatures from Relic Knights with Chibi Power Familiars
On top of the display cases though, within reach of any eager gamer was the impressive winged form of the Titan Dragon for Confrontation. Fashioned out of resin, the figure is a true status symbol among miniature gamers with a hefty price tag of $300.
The Massive Titan Dragon for Confrontation Lives Up To Its Name: Free from a Display Case
While I would have liked to browse CMON’s wares a bit more, all I really had to time to do was to pick up the first three issues of Ravage Magazine. Ravage is an import, translated from French, and plays off of the gorgeous artwork CMON and its affiliates have access to. Like Harbinger Magazine of the early 2000s but with a much stronger visual focus and appeal, Ravage focuses on a wide range of miniatures with Cool Mini’s lines featuring prominently, but there have also been articles on MERCS, Infinity, Privateer Press, and even a look at 6th Edition Warhammer 40k. There are some translation artifacts in the articles that vary from interviews with designers, to game overviews, to painting and terrain tutorials, but despite the language difficulties, the magazine is off to a very strong start and is now in April on Issue 7.
Joann Gain, head of the GAMA Retail Division and owner of Jester’s Playhouse, kicked off the GAMA Trade Show on Monday night, March 18 with a seminar on Customer Service. With Amazon and other internet retailers waiting in the wings with lower prices, retail stores must have the best customer service, Gain exhorted. With excellent customer service Gain has sold Jenga for three times as much as mass market retailers. Her simple advice? Treat customers with a friendly attitude. Leave your baggage at home. “Don’t just sell vanilla ice cream,” she advised. Provide customers with the products that mass market retailers cannot. Have a thorough knowledge of your inventory and what’s available; make sure your employees do as well. On this point, a retailer chimed in and shared that he has a Monday training meeting from 8-10 AM for his staff of nine so they can familiarize one another with new products.
While Gain made several other points, the seminar shifted into more of a roundtable with retailers sharing their problems and eliciting solutions from the other 22 retailers in the room. When the topic of customer reviews on sites like Google and Yelp came up, the general consensus was to ignore the negative reviews, but several retailers spoke up and said that they personally respond in a professional manner to negative reviews. Marcus King, head of Troll and Toad’s retail, responds to everything except Yelp. As someone who might know a thing or two about trolls on the internet, he pointed out that “Yelp is a swamp.” and that “Some people will hate you for absolutely no reason.”
Unfortunately from attending the seminar it would seem that Magic players are hated for some very specific reasons. Joann Gain finally tired of one Magic player who had been a “pain in the butt” for over six years and hasn’t regretted banning him from the Jester’s Playhouse. Another retailer spoke up, describing his partner at his store as “an asshole” and said that his partner hates Magic players and is getting more and more aggressive when booting MTG players out of the store. Keeping it positive, Marcus King suggested “Have you tried to show him what percentage of sales are Magic?” A retailer in the back also keeps it positive in her own way and shared that at her store, she gives employees a paid break when she notices that they are getting too hostile with customers, asking them to take the time to rethink their employment and attitude. John Coviello from Little Shop of Magic revealed that he had to call the police recently to get a patron out of the store for the first time in 19 years. The gamer would not follow directions and became belligerent with store staff, Coviello said, but banning him has been worth it due to an improvement in the store’s atmosphere. Just as in Dave Wallace’s Building a Better Manager seminar, retailers agree that retaining troublesome patrons is seldom worthwhile. Retailers also revealed that NPCs are not necessarily Non Player Characters in game stores, but instead Non-Paying Customers.
Airing the Dirty Laundry: Body Odor
What happens when two dozen retailers come together? They complain about their customers’ body odor! Amazingly game store owners confirmed the gamer stereotype shared in every online discussion about what to bring to a gaming convention: deodorant. It’s such an issue that one game store owner keeps both his and hers spray deodorant (and has to replace them on a regular basis because they are being used). Another owner spoke up and said that she keeps Febreeze around for such cases, while a third owner said that he takes such smelly customers aside, out of anyone’s else’s hearing, and explains the odor problem to them. He reports that these conversations have never been disastrous and that the offending customers get the hint.
Customer Service for Customers’ Transactions
Talk switched back to a less odiferous conundrum: customers buying, selling, and trading within game stores. In general, the consensus seemed to be that most owners ban such transactions, with many of them moving to the parking lot instead. Other stores take a more proactive stance such as Little Shop of Magic. LSoM regularly hosts well-attended flea markets where customers can trade through the store with Little Shop taking three to four percent to cover credit card costs. Sellers receive a gift certificate for store credit for the agreed-upon price of the game or miniatures sold to another customer. At Troll and Toad, Marcus King does something similar, using gift coins instead of gift certificates, specially crafted by Reaper Miniatures. It’s a win-win situation with both retailers and their customers benefitting.
On Monday, April 15 I called and interviewed Kevin Siembieda over the phone about the upcoming Robotech RPG Tactics Kickstarter. While other legendary RPG designers have worked on multiple game systems over the years, Siembieda has spent the last three decades delving deep into his own Palladium rules system producing titles at Palladium Books like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Beyond the Supernatural, Ninjas & Superspies, Heroes Unlimited, and of course, RIFTS and Robotech. As of April 18, the Kickstarter from Ninja Division is LIVE and seeking to raise $70,000 in 32 days, but he had a lot to say on Monday about his playtest experience with Robotech RPG Tactics, the newer post-2005 edition of the Palladium Robotech RPG, his experience wargaming, Kickstarter, and RIFTS.
CG: First off, Minmei or Lisa Hayes? KS: Oh, I’m a Lisa Hayes guy. I like women who are mature. [Laughs] As simple as that. CG: What’s your favorite song that Minmei sings though? KS: “We Will Win”, no question about it. That fight scene was epic. CG: You just had your birthday. How old did you turn? KS: I am 57. I feel like 27, but the white hair says otherwise. CG: You’ve had that for some time, right? KS: Yeah, I started turning grey when I was in my twenties, so yeah, my hair turned silver about ten years ago. It just gets a little whiter, but blondes have more fun, so I’m enjoying being a platinum blond.
Siembieda on Robotech Eras
CG: There seems to be a vocal community of fans desperate for the Masters and New Generation sagas, do you have anything to tide them over? I know you mentioned recently that hopefully you’ll be including them, but any further news on that? KS: There is no “hopefully” including them. I mean, when we started this project, our goal from the very beginning was to do all eras of Robotech. So that has been our plan from day one and that continues to be our plan. It’s easier to tackle them pretty much in order, starting with Macross, so that’s what we’re doing. We plan on banging out pieces for every era of Robotech.
New Sculpt Unveiled for Robotech RPG Tactics: The VF-1A Battloid Valkyrie
The Newer Edition of the Robotech RPG
CG: For someone like me who played Robotech from Palladium back in the ’90s, what about the newer edition of the game, what are some reasons for someone like me to pick it up and take a look at it? KS: If you’re talking about the current role-playing game, let me just clarify for people who may not be familiar with the game line or haven’t looked at it in a long time: back in 1986 we came out with the Robotech role-playing game that was based on the Harmony Gold anime series and it was hugely popular. And we had that license for like fifteen or seventeen years, I forget what it was, where we let it go after a while because we just kind of thought that we had done everything we could with it and other things were happening.
Then in 2005 we got that license back and one of the big differences is back in the ’80s and ’90s when we originally had the license there was not the wealth of information that we have now. And even Harmony Gold as the licensor didn’t provide us with the kind of information we needed to do what we as fans [saw as] a truly accurate representation of the television series. For example, Southern Cross, we had a bunch of cool animation/artwork/model sheets, but we had no information as to what a lot of that stuff was. You got to remember, this was back in the day before the internet or just as the internet was starting to take off and a lot of this information just was not available. Harmony Gold didn’t have it, we didn’t have it, and I think in the earlier days of Harmony Gold, they were really focusing and looking at Robotech as being their unique extrapolation from original material, which of course, it very much is, but in the advent of the web and the world getting smaller, where everything’s at your fingertips, there’s just a lot more information available about the original material and I think the new generation of creators at Harmony Gold, such as Tommy Yune and a bunch of other guys, sat back and said “Gee, it’d be cool if this stuff was more accurate and was more representative of what you see in the TV series. That’s some of the fun we’ve really been having with the re-tool of this; when we launched Robotech in 2005, we really looked at it as if we had never seen the license before and we gathered all kinds of information. This time Harmony Gold had a wealth of information they could share with us and input and ideas and stats on the various ‘mechs and weapons and characters and things. We dug up even more and so little bits of it are still extrapolations of things.
For example, Southern Cross in particular, there’s just a truckload of new material that people have never seen before. I mean there’s power armor and robots and drones and vehicles and a ton of weapons that are all part of the Army of the Southern Cross and it really makes Southern Cross or the Masters Saga, so much more dynamic and exciting and fun, because there’s just tons and tons of what I call “toys”, like I said, weapons and power armor, all kinds of stuff that you get glimpses of in a TV show, but there’s never really been a lot of information on, so that’s been a blast for us, to do stuff like that. We really just feel like the representation of what we’re doing is so much truer to the TV show than our first run with the series and it’s been a blast doing that. So there’s just a lot of good stuff.
And then when you were talking about Robotech RPG Tactics, that’s even going beyond the strictly roleplaying stuff. With RPG Tactics we’re taking the Robotech environment and the characters and mainly focusing on the mecha and the combat and coming up with an extrapolation on the roleplaying game that enables people to basically play a fast-paced, combat-oriented tabletop game. So you’ll actually have one 1:285th scale plastic figure, what we’re calling game pieces. The detail is just beautiful. You’ll be able to play skirmish games, you’ll be able to scale it up to mass combat. It just brings a whole new dimension and the fact that you’ll now have these beautifully sculpted and detailed figures, that’s wonderful, because obviously in a combat game scenario you really need to see your figures and know where the guy is, where that character is or where that mech is, and where he’s going. We have all these tight, very formal, very crisp playtested-like-crazy set of rules that allow you to really engage in a broad range of combat. It’s just a blast.
Living Legend: Kevin Siembieda at the Palladium Books Booth at Gen Con 2012
And then for Robotech collectors and fans, these figures are gorgeous. As a fan myself, if someone else were producing this product, I’d want to buy it just because I want the damn figures on my shelf! I’ve never really been a tactical combat guy or a wargamer, so that has limited appeal, although I think this game for me personally as a roleplayer and a Robotech fan, this game is so fun that a lot of people regardless of what their orientation is for Robotech can pick it up pretty easy and have a lot of fun.
Kevin Siembieda’s Wargaming Experience
CG: You’ve touched on a couple of things I wanted to ask you about. So you said you’re not much of a miniature wargamer yourself? What have you played? KS: For me, I’ve dabbled with a few things. I played a couple of homegrown things with some friends in the past. I’ve played Ironclads a million years ago. I played Battletech. I’m familiar with the market, so I’m familiar with some of the games by Fantasy Flight and of course, the Warhammer 40K stuff, but I’m very much a roleplayer. CG: So yeah, you don’t have a Warhammer army yourself? KS: No, sir! [Laughs] But I have plenty of friends who do and that’s the beauty of this product too. For role-players, the pieces are really nice to have too whether they’re just display pieces or whether they represent your character as you’re playing through the game. It’s nice to be able to position them, so everyone knows where their mech is and what their characters are doing. That’s the beauty of this game. The way we approached it is to try to create a game that would have really broad appeal so that any number of Robotech fans can dive in and find some use and find some pleasure with it.
Robotech RPG Tactics 1:285 Scale
CG: Now why the scale of the 1:285th, is that going back to Battletech and other things, that that’s just the micro armor scale? KS: Yeah, again, we know enough and, of course, the Ninja Division guys know that market inside and out, because they are the guys from Sodapop Miniatures and Cipher Studios. And yeah, they felt that was the best scale, because it coincides with a number of other games and that way you can always mix and match, for those who want to do that. You can mix and match different models and miniatures from other games, especially depending on how far you want to take this stuff. You can have different creatures and mechs and stuff that could be from alien worlds and things, because ultimately all the games you’re only limited by your imagination, so we wanted people to have a wide range of possibilities. Plus, it’s also the scale that most people seem to really want! When we ourselves started to explore this market, we put the question out there and asked the gamers what they really wanted to play and the overwhelming response was the 1:285th scale. So if that’s what players want, then that’s what we’re going to give them. [After the interview, Kevin Siembieda also mentioned the ease of finding terrain in the scale as another contributing factor.]
Palladium Books and Ninja Division: The Robotech RPG Tactics Kickstarter Campaign
CG: Now what is Palladium Books role in Robotech RPG Tactics exactly? Are you in partnership or is one of you the licensor? How is that working? KS: Yeah! Palladium is the licensor. We have the rights to the Robotech property for roleplaying and various other things. We’re also going to be the publisher, so we’re bankrolling all of this. And of course, we’ve had input with game design, because while I may not be a wargamer per se, I certainly know Robotech inside and out, know what feel we need for the game. And game design, the fundamentals of game design, apply to most mediums so you want stuff that’s fast-paced and fun, that creates the television experience. It’s all translation. We’ve been working with Sodapop/Cypher Studios/Ninja Division guys to achieve all that.
CG: Who is actually masterminding the Kickstarter campaign? Are you behind that or is Ninja Division doing that? KS: Well we’re working really closely with the Ninja Division guys, but they are the guys behind the Kickstarter. It’s simply a matter of they have the experience and we don’t. CG: Right. KS: So yeah, we’re deferring to their expertise.
“As a Robotech fan, I mean this is just a product that I would kill for. It’s the kind of thing that I’ve wanted to see for the last 25 years.”
CG: I know you’re just as excited as the fans for the Kickstarter, so what are you personally looking forward to getting your hands on? KS: [Laughs] Oh my gosh! It’s one of these things that’s been killing me! Because Ninja Division doesn’t want us to reveal a lot of what is going to be in the Kickstarter or what’s going to be in this game line. It’s been sort of killing me not to be able to tell people that yes, there’s going to be all the Destroids and yes, the M.A.C. II Monster is freaking gorgeous! And all the figures are gorgeous. As a Robotech fan, I mean this is just a product that I would kill for. It’s the kind of thing that I’ve wanted to see for the last 25 years. So it’s a double kick for us that we get to be the guys who can do this. It’s been very exciting!
The M.A.C. II Monster: Wait for Kickstarter to See the “Freaking Gorgeous” Sculpt
Kevin Siembieda’s Robotech RPG Tactics Playtest Experience
CG: Are you going to be more of a Zentraedi guy or more of the United Earth Defense Forces? KS: When I was playtesting I actually played the Zentraedi, so both sides are fun to play. CG: So you also just answered another question I had. So playtesting: you’ve definitely played the game quite a bit yourself? KS: Oh, heck yeah! For me, it’s been a learning curve. But I think that worked really good, because I asked a lot of the lowest common denominator questions. One of the things I found, for example, is while the game designers were focusing on certain elements of the game, I – as just a Robotech fan with very little war game experience – I stepped in and when I’m playing the war game, I’m like “Well, why can’t I do this?” And “Why can’t I do that?” And “Can my character do this?” And when they didn’t have an answer, I’m like “Well, why not?” [Laughs] CG: Do you think that you have shaped the game a bit or did they just explain more of wargaming terms to you? KS: Oh, well in some cases, it was a matter of “Ok, these are common tropes in this kind of game and this is why we do this.” And in other cases, “Oh yeah, gosh, why can’t we do that?” And “You’re right, it should be faster.” Or “It should be able to do this.” Yeah, I definitely contributed conceptually to what the game should be and my focus is simply to recreate the television experience. If you see it on TV, you should be able to play it. If you couldn’t, it was like, “Well, we need to fix that.” And that’s what the guys who know the rules sat down and did.
CG: I forget the technical name for this, like the Alpha Missile Strike [Macross Missile Massacre], the thing with all the missiles swirling around in the air, but is there an in-game equivalent to that? KS: Oh yeah, absolutely. Again, at the risk of being a nerd (but that’s what I am)… everything you can see in the television show, we are trying to provide in the gaming experience, so, yes! You can have an Armored Valkyrie or a Super Valkyrie just loaded up with missiles and unleash! You can have missile volleys, you have all kinds of great stuff. Again, everything you can see in the show is pretty much there. There are some exceptions and some modifications and some elements – like a lot of the playtesters have brought up questions about three-dimensional play and… there’s some things of sitting back and saying “You know what? These will be saved for advanced rules.”
CG: Ok. I think even with Ninja Division and the Youtube video, I think they mentioned that one of your characters could be Miriya or play as Roy Fokker, right? KS: Yeah! Well, I don’t know how I can reveal this quite yet, but yeah, there’ll be mechanisms in there where you can actually play specific characters or use the specific characters as part of your squadron and their inclusion gives you and your team bonuses and such. And then, yeah, especially for roleplayers, it’s easy enough for you to just put your own character in there or a specific TV character and “This model represents that character or another character.” Go to town, man! Just have fun!
John Cadice from Ninja Division on Robotech RPG Tactics at GAMA Trade Show
CG: Were you playing with a measuring tape? KS: Yeah, yeah! We were using laser pointers and measuring tapes, yep. CG: So it’s not a hex or grid? You were measuring in inches or centimeters? KS: Right. I believe it was inches?
CG: Is it a game with alternating activation or do you just sit there while your opponent moves all his figures and then you go? KS: That’s one of the things that we’ve been fooling around with and… [Kevin Siembieda later clarified:] The fact of the matter is that Robotech® RPG Tactics™ is most definitely turn based. It uses a fast-paced turn system with players trading off activating squadrons during each turn. This helps ensure that a player never has to sit and wait for long periods of time while his opponent is moving and attacking with his entire army. One of our main goals in the design of this game is to keep the action fast and reflective of the action you see in the anime.
CG: What about M.D.C. [Mega Damage Capacity]? Is there an MDC stat or is pretty much all the damage MDC anyways? KS: Yeah, it’s pretty much all MDC, but yeah, there is an MDC stat. You know, obviously it’s not the same as in the games. [Garbled.] You don’t have to pull out a calculator to do the math, but yeah, it’s basically an MDC equivalent.
CG: Ok. So someone at Ninja Division had to point out all the units to make them equivalent, like one Zentraedi Battle Pod is worth how many ever Destroids? KS: Oh yeah. CG: Did you have any input on that or you left that to them as wargamers? KS: I pretty much left a lot of the real nitty gritty to them as wargamers, although again, it was one of these things where… you know, in the course of all this, because we have been really working on this for- oh God, it’s probably close to six months now, that we fooled around with everything. For example, I think the game started out with a-, in fact, I know the game started out with three Zentraedi to one Earth Defender. And then we adjusted that to two, and then we adjusted it to one and a half, and that was really imbalanced. And then I think we’ve ended up back at what we originally started with, as three Zentraedi to one Earth Defender. CG: Ok. And we’ve seen Rick Hunter do that many times easily. KS: Yeah, exactly! And again, we all rewatched the TV show, we all talked a lot about it amongst ourselves, and then we sent in our input to the various people. We had weekly discussions, telephone conferences with the Ninja Division guys and some of our own guys. A few of the playtesters really know their stuff too. We got some really valuable input from a lot of the playtesters and we had a lot of playtesters, because we really wanted to get a lot of different views. In fact, one of the things we did when we sent stuff out to various playtest people is we tried to do a range from experienced tabletop gamers to guys like me, who have never or rarely picked up a war game, to guys who can quote from twenty different systems and armies of, like you were saying earlier, Warhammer. Here’s my 400 Warhammer figures or whatever game they’re into. So we really did want to get a good range of input and see what people who were experienced and inexperienced thought. People who knew Robotech and who didn’t know Robotech. So it’s been really, really an experience getting all that input.
CG: Are there any weird stretch goals for fans like Rick’s civilian plane? Or floating giant fish out in outer space, any weird stuff like that? KS: [Laughs] You know, I don’t really think I’m at liberty to say.
Timeline for Kickstarter
CG: Haha, ok. Any update on when that Kickstarter will be? I’ve heard April 19th at the latest, but I also heard this coming Saturday. Any update on that? KS: Yeah, we are shooting to get that up as soon as possible. The 18th would be ideal. We’ve even been talking about doing it sooner if that would be possible, but it looks like the 18th is probably a solid date, but certainly within there, give or take a day or two. We need to do it right. And right now, the Ninja Division guys are just-, since they’re doing 99% of the work on the Kickstarter itself, I mean they’re just busting their backs right now to get it all up and done. We’ve been going in and mostly pointing, you know, “Change this. Fix that. Tweak that. Here’s a better image. Here’s a suggestion. Here’s a this. Oh yeah, that’s approved.” That sort of thing. And they’re doing all the heavy lifting on this, so whatever they can get done and how quick they can do it and make it look good. Because we don’t just want to crap it out. And, of course, Harmony Gold has to take a look at it and approve it and hopefully that’ll simply be a matter of a quick look and approval, but that could be… some delays if they want us to change something or tweak something, but they’ve been great to work with so far. We’ve been getting good, quick approvals from them. They’re super-excited about this project too. On 04.16.13 Kevin Siembieda emailed that the Kickstarter will be THURSDAY.
Robotech Live Action Movie: No Real News
CG: Of course they should be. So the pressure’s on for me so I need to type this up pretty quickly. Do you know anything about the Live Action movie or is that in development hell? What do you know? KS: Uhhhhh, yeah, I guess I don’t really know anything officially. CG: Ok, so obviously it would benefit everyone involved, but you also have no control over that, right? KS: I have absolutely no control over that and I’ve heard some rumors that it’s in development – and by the way those rumors did NOTcome from Harmony Gold, so … I really don’t know if it’s in development or not.
The 2006 Palladium Plea to Fans and Kickstarter
CG: You made a very public plea years ago in 2006 for funding and support from your fans. So now in conjunction with Ninja Division, you’re going to be Kickstarting; do you see those as any different? KS: I guess yes and no? It’s different in that the circumstances were certainly different, but yeah, ironically we kind of did crowdfunding before we even realized-, well, actually before crowdfunding even existed. In 2006 we were just in those desperate straits of having basically been sabotaged with embezzlement and theft that put us on the verge of bankruptcy. And we were in desperate straits and there was just no way to raise the kind of revenue we needed to stay alive and I came up with the idea of-, gosh, we’d been around at the time for 25 years and what if we went to our fans and said, “Hey, this is what’s going on. We’re in desperate straits. And if you’re planning on buying books, please buy them now.” And “Here’s a bunch of special items, prints and things, T-shirts that we’re making now to fund all this and keep us from going out of business.” The fans were just phenomenal. It was unbelievable. It was nothing short of a miracle. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, which is pretty incredible, because they turned a nightmare situation into something wonderful and beautiful. Because in addition to just the financial support we got all these emails and phone calls and letters, just espousing how much they loved us and the products, you know, “Thank you for doing these.” And “We’re not going to let you go out of business.” Yeah, it was pretty incredible! But obviously this is a much more formalized thing. I think crowdfunding through companies like Kickstarter is fantastic! Especially in the new, sort of global economic environment that we’re in. It’s so hard to find one or two investors willing to pump in X amount of money and it’s great if you can go to the people who actually know your stuff and love your stuff and want to support your stuff and get them to put in the money. It’s a win-win for everyone, because they get cool product and you get the resources you need to do those cool products. Yeah, it’s a great idea.
Siembieda on RIFTS and Possibility of Rifts RPG Tactics
CG: There were RIFTS miniatures in the 1990s produced with RAFM. Any comment this early on on whether we might see a Spider Skull Walker in resin anytime soon? KS: [Laughs] That’s a great question! I don’t know about someday soon, but yeah, we would love to see that. We would love to see a RIFTS tabletop game and yeah, wait till you guys see some of the designs in the Northern Gun books. Oh man! There could be some beautiful, epic RIFTS battles, man. It’d be great, yeah. We’d love to see that. But we’re not counting our chickens before they hatch and we have NO plans. I don’t want to start any rumors. We have no plans to do a RIFTS tactical game at this time. CG: None? Really? Ok. So at least this will give you guys a chance to see how the process works and so on with Kickstarter and everything else. If you did it, it seems like Kickstarter [or crowdfunding] would be involved. KS: Oh yeah, absolutely. If we did do a RIFTS RPG Tactics game line, we would certainly do it as a Kickstarter-funded thing. I’m not saying we’re not going to do it, I’m just saying that we’re trying to stay focused [laughs] on what we have now. Once we launch this, if it’s as successful as everyone seems to think it is- because everyone from the Ninja guys to the gaming base that we are tapped into to our distributors, – everyone seems to think that it’s going to be a big deal. Everyone seems excited about it. So yeah, if this is the success we think it will be, then after we have Robotech in all eras of Robotech in the pipeline to come out as part of this game line, then we’ll think about what we might do with RIFTS. But yeah, I think it’d be a hoot to do it.
The Success of RIFTS
CG: RIFTS, compared to Robotech… RIFTS of course came out later, but it seems to be the flagship product for Palladium Books, right? KS: Yeah! Oh yeah, in fact our first big hit game was Ninja Turtles. Our next big hit game was Robotech and then our – chronologically – our third big hit game was RIFTS. But RIFTS eclipsed both of those. Yeah, it was just a mega-hit. People love the thing. It’s been around for twenty-some years now and still going strong. CG: Any figures on number of books published for RIFTS? KS: Oh god! [Laughs] Including sourcebooks and things? Millions. I think the- Oh gosh! I should have those numbers at my fingertips. I think RIFTS Core Rulebooks alone- I should say the RPG and the RIFTS Ultimate Edition, you know, the two versions of the core rules have sold something in the neighborhood of 350,000 copies. So yeah, it’s pretty strong. There’s got to be a dozen source books for Rifts – World Books – that have sold 100,000 copies all by themselves. But a lot of that goes back to the heyday of the ’90s when RIFTS was kicking and roleplaying was just hot. The first six Rifts titles all hit 100,000 or more. So, yeah. It was big! When we came out with RIFTS we printed 10,000 copies and thought, “This is a three month supply if the game is as hot as we think it will be.” And we sold out in three weeks and we were like “Holy crap!” And we pressed 20,000 the next time around and that sold out in like two months. Yeah, we knew we had something special at that point. CG: Well, I wish you the greatest of success in a similar way with Robotech RPG Tactics then! KS: Thank you, Brant. I appreciate that.