Darren J. Gendron on Monster Alphabet, The Commissioned 3v3 and Scurvy Dogs

Darren J. Gendron is the writer half of the Commissioned web comic, as well as the designer of Scurvy Dogs and the Commissioned3v3 card game. He also is the writer of Hello with Cheese and Monster Alphabet, a children’s book with 26 monsters corresponding to each letter of the alphabet.

Monster Alphabet

CG: Let’s start with Monster Alphabet by yourself and Obsidian Abnormal, how did you two go about selecting what each letter’s animal would be?
DJG: It sounds terrible, but initially I used a list from Wikipedia to just verify that there were enough legendary monsters to complete the alphabet. But from there, I picked the ones I liked the most, or had the most fascinating backstory to them. Doppelgänger was one of my favorite words, and I always like Fairies. And then there were a slew of dragons, Aztecan myths, and monsters that had Pokemon based off of them.
CG: Yes, the Aztecs were helpful for X and Q with the Xiuhcoatl and the Quetzalcoatl. Any idea of what you would have done without them?
DJG: Quetzalcoatl was a lock from the beginning. I know with X I was narrowing it down between a couple. I’m checking my notes. It’s just Xiuhcoatl there. I know there was a Chinese one, but I decided that we already had a Chinese legend for Z.
Phillipines Ibong Adarna mythical bird illustration from Monster AlphabetCG: Yeah, I’m struggling to even think of another X. Xorn is an X-Men character.
DJG: It was mostly written in a late-night email to my wife, who was pregnant with our son Franklin Powers Gendron at the time.
CG: Yes, you’re a father yourself. So did you write the book with Franklin in mind?
DJG: It was very much something that I wanted to make so that I could read to Franklin. The book is dedicated to him.
CG: What’s your favorite of the 26? Is it the Doppelgänger?
DJG: The Ibong Adarna. I didn’t know anything about it, and I’m betting a lot of people will be meeting this bird for the first time in the Monster Alphabet too.
CG: I like the petrification powers of its poop. What’s your son’s favorite?
DJG: The Raijū; he refers to it as “kitty”, but he’s 2, so that’s probably OK for now.

The Commissioned 3v3 Card Game

Commissioned 3v3 Card Game Kickstarter promotion promoting fact that it is funding on KickstarterCG: Now what was your card game that you had at Gen Con?
DJG: 3v3: The Commissioned Card Game with Commissioned being the name of the webcomic it gets the source material from and 3v3 being the name of the game mechanic we invented. Technically, “I” invented. I tend to talk in the royal we a lot when talking about our comics, but that was me and my lawyer will probably get annoyed if I don’t keep that part straight.
CG: Yes, so I played through a demo of it. How’d you come up with the two cards on the bottom, one on the top mechanic?
DJG: We knew we wanted to make a fighting game for Commissioned and at the same time, we were working on Scurvy Dogs, our board game. There’s a cargo card in Scurvy Dogs that’s for the Cannons. It’s the only card in the game that is either Cargo or a Cannon So it either gives a +1 Sea, or is stowed away as a 10-gold piece of booty We just made it a double-sided card so we could track the Cargo/Cannon status of it and that idea sort of stuck in my brain. So when we started boiling down the essence of what makes a good combat card game – Magic, Yu-gi-oh, Pokemon, VS – we had those three key ingredients: Attack, Defense and Special Abilities. They each have their own flavors of score keeping and resource management. And I wanted to tear out the resource row. I was playing a lot of Dominion at the time, and I loved the idea of not having long-term hand plans.

Card art and diagram showing playing style of Commissioned 3v3 card game

In Commissioned 3v3 Each Hand is Arranged to Create an Attack, Defense, and Special Ability

DJG: It made for a really fast game that felt different to anything we’ve played before. Ralph Pripstein, one of my playtesters, was getting obsessed trying to figure out what to say it’s like. People kept asking him during GenCon, and we get that it’s part of the language of pitching a game.
CG: Haha. Right.
DJG: It would be great to say it’s “Checkers meets Arkham Horror,” and let people suss it out in their head, but 3v3 is quirky in its simplicity. It’s like MTG, minus all the key details that make MTG into MTG. Or it’s like War, only there’s layers of strategy.
CG: I think it is a lot closer to Top Trumps. Am I right in thinking that you never play to your opponent in The Commissioned 3v3? You assemble the best hand out of the random one you’re dealt, right? And you don’t really know or can’t plan for what your opponent will pick besides knowing maybe whether he or she favors offense or defense.
DJG: For tournament-style play, we’ll incorporate a small sideboard. But really, we’re opening with 350 different cards, and you only have 30 in your deck. You draw three and you play three. There are no leftover cards, no resource row. Because the game plays so fast and one deck stumble can mean a win or a loss, we tend to play Best of Three. I did see a lot of people wanting to reshuffle and go again, especially since the matches are usually decided by 2-3 points. Rarely do you see a deck stumble so bad that someone wins 10-4 or 10-3.
CG: How do you tend to do yourself?
DJG: No comment. Actually, I should be fairly proud of the fact that I literally wrote every rule, and I tend to lose about two thirds of the time.
CG: Haha. How does one get Commissioned 3v3 and for how much?
DJG: We’re in the Kickstarter phase right now, which means we’re shipping the 250-card starter to your door for $35 (if your door is in the USA, Canada or Mexico). With the first two expansions, it’s $50. And if you want to play it right NOW, we’re starting to release Print-and-Play decks for free. It’s really a game that you need to play before you decide if it’s for you or not. Here’s the first two Print-and-Play decks. The Kickstarter will last until Sept. 18. After that, we’ll be selling it through the online store for CommissionedComic.com.

Scurvy Dogs, Gen Con 2012, and Dragon*Con

Board Game Cover with Pirates and Privateers for Scurvy DogsCG: Great. Now what about Scurvy Dogs?
DJG: Scurvy Dogs will be available in stores this holiday season. We have the shipment of the first printing getting to my warehouse this week, and I’m actually finishing up the distributor paperwork tonight We got a TON of positive feedback on it at GenCon – it looks gorgeous, it plays great for game groups, and again, it’s another game I created that I lose at a lot.
CG: Are all these projects things you’ve done with Obsidian Abnormal?
DJG: O took on all the art duties for Scurvy Dogs’ retail version. there’s three LE card that he didn’t draw, but other than those, we’re talking over 200 unique illustrations done by him. I am biased, but it’s one of the most gorgeous games I’ve ever seen. We actually had a retailer thank us for the box design – that it was so pretty he didn’t think he would have any trouble selling it off the shelf.
CG: That’s great to hear. So speaking of Gen Con, how was it for you? Was it your first year exhibiting?
DJG: That was indeed our first year, and it was amazing. I had to buy a sword just so that I’d have a trophy to remember it by.
CG: What’d you get?
DJG: I got a replica of Mugan’s sword from Samurai Champloo. It was something I’d been promising myself I’d get one day. For games, I had to get D-Day Dice, and Star Wars Minis.
CG: As an exhibitor you’re busy of course during the hours when the Vendors’ Hall is open, but did you play any games after hours?
DJG: Each night my staff busted open a new game, limiting it to whatever we bought that night. First night it was 3v3, though. We needed to sharpen up our decks. Second night was D-Day Dice, then some Infinity (that wasn’t bought that day, but Ralph wanted to show off his models).
CG: Are you into all sorts of gaming then?
DJG: Especially with my gaming group, which is also my playtesting and design staff – we love cracking new games and learning new rules. I can’t remember which game was Friday night, but Saturday was Star Wars. Seriously, what happened to Friday? That was a four day show, right?
CG: Right! I don’t know if your days stretched into the night and 3 AM too?
DJG: We tried to be old men and shut it down around 1 AM. Our hotel was outside the beltway, so it was a 15-minute drive in each day, plus a parking spot hunt. Next year, we’ll switch over to an adjacent hotel and give up on sleep. So I have to ask – during your 3v3 demo, what deck did you have and how did it go?
CG: Gotcha. I think it had Dwarves in it. Maybe my opponent’s did as well. Maybe a Jezebel or a card that referred to a Jezebel?
DJG: Jezebel is one of the characters, yeah.
CG: I think the learning curve was 3-5 minutes, but I could see how it could play fast.
DJG: Dwarf is one of our beefier attacks. Half the joke is that really is his character’s name; he’s Dwarf the Dwarf. There’s also Elf the Elf, and Weretiger.
CG: The Weretiger?
DJG: It’s the comic within the comic. Commissioned is about O’s life and he’s a DM his friends are terrible at naming characters. So it’s The Adventures of Dwarf, Elf and Weretiger. But Dwarf and Elf hate Weretiger, so their cards really don’t mesh with his.
CG: How many of the people that stopped by your booth seemed familiar with Commissioned though?
DJG: We definitely made the game fun if you’d never heard of Commissioned. But for those that do know the comic, it’s every reference they’ll want. Because it’s so gamer-friendly, I don’t know if we’ve ever had as good of a fan turn-out as we’ve had at GenCon. Dragon*Con last year came close – but that was with us flying O in from Colombia.

Mustachioed Darren Gendron at his booth with a comic version of himself drawn by Obsidian Oracle

Scallywag Darren J. Gendron at Gen Con 2012

CG: Speaking of Dragon*Con now, what are your plans for it this year?
DJG: We’ll be at table B-16 in the Comic Alley in the Hyatt (and that’s we as in O and I both) and we’ve got a panel Sunday night at 7, in the Crystal Ballroom of the Hilton.
CG: What’s your panel?
DJG: It’s the Webcomics panel, so it’s also people like Jenny Breeden, sans leaf blower. “A behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to produce a successful web-based comic strip series, given by both new and established webcomic artists.”
CG: Now do you dress up for Dragon*Con?
DJG: Well, I have to wax the mustache. I’d be unrecognizable without that. And the bowler hat is also a must.
CG: I see. I thought that was your everyday dress!
DJG: Generally, I try to dress as fancy as possible: shirt, tie, slacks. Eventually I’ll go back to wearing a vest too. It’s just hard to find a good vest in my size, so I’ve been dropping some weight.

Darren J. Gendron’s Background as a Gamer

CG: How did you get into gaming in the first place?
DJG: The fuzzy early memories stages of my love of board gaming goes way back. My parents are gamers, and still have domino groups and left-right-center games. But I’m also a bit of a power gamer. I’m banned from playing Monopoly with friends and family and just under 10 years ago, I got into Heroclix and Mage Knight. It was there I met Ralph, who also is a power gamer. Alex Chambers I met through mutual friends playing Mordheim and 40K. Between the three of us, we can be miserable to play against, but for making games, it’s a great trait to have.
CG: So what are your main armies?
DJG: 40K, I have a Tau mobile brigade for when I’m shooting to win, and a Kroot horde for when I just want to roll a lot of dice. Mordheim, I have a damn near broken Vampire leading a warband. We haven’t played that in a couple years, mainly out of fear of that vampire.
CG: Haha! Isn’t there a Vampire Hireling you could cheese it out with?
DJG: Her toughness is maxed out, making her nearly unkillable. And if anyone equips holy water, I make an abject lesson of their warband. I do love how that game allows for lower-ranked warbands to rack up better experience for just surviving against way over-leveled group.
CG: Did you ever get into role-playing?
DJG: Occassionally. That’s probably the softest spot in my gaming experience though. I’m usually far more interested in the tactics and dice than the story going around, which is why our group really got into Descent a few years back. That’s actually what we were hate-playing when we started building Scurvy Dogs.
CG: Hate-playing?
DJG: It’s a fun game, but if you don’t get a good start it’s a miserable game for either the adventures or the dungeon lord. And we’d play it over and over, trying to figure out why it was doing that. Descent’s newer rules actually did a good job of fixing that, though, so now we sort of fear and respect that game. If it’s balanced, we could easily lose a month or two of our lives to it. Lately, because of the workload of finishing 3v3, we’ve been avoiding deep games and going for lighter fare. I know that the Mage Knight board game and Fortune and Glory are next up on the docket for us. And we’re starting to build up our next couple Scallywags International games, but they won’t be tangible things until at least 2013, and maybe not until 2014.
CG: Alright. Maybe we could touch base again then! Thanks, Darren!
DJG: Thanks!

Commissioned 3v3, Scurvy Dogs, and Monster Alphabet artwork copyright Scallywags International, used with permission.

Paper Terrain and Maps at Gen Con 2012

Empty playing tables stretch into the distance at Gen Con on Wednesday night

Row After Row of Streets of Malifaux at Gen Con

Multiple paper terrain vendors were exhibiting at Gen Con. Fat Dragon Games had its line of 3D buildings out for gamers to examine and purchase and though I did not see a World Works Games booth, Wyrd Miniatures had table after table filled with their Streets of Malifaux and Buildings of Malifaux line of paper products developed together with World Works Games. In the realm of the two dimensional though, there was Scrying Eye Games.

Scrying Eye Games

Scrying Eye Games’ products are almost entirely square-inch gridded maps of places that any self-respecting adventurer is likely to explore and encounter. Modularity and reusability are key for James Miller, the head wizard at Scrying Eye, who also designs many of the maps himself. As he puts it, “If you bought a map set and you’ve only used it once, either we’ve failed somewhere or you need to game more.” Miller already has outlined plans for 120 different Topo-Tile map packs. Each of the Topo-Tile packs has a two inch strip at the top that the end user should cut off, creating what Miller refers to as the fiddly bits, areas with extra details that can be used to add visual interest or for playability reasons like wreckage, cargo containers, or dungeon entrances.

As Miller explains in the video we recorded above, he tries to “fill in all the gaps for all the games,” which helps to explain their newest line of steampunk flying airships, as well as fantasy/medieval/pirate sailing vessels. Scrying Eye Games is also not restricted to fantasy; Miller offers a line of modern and zombie horror map sets, including a future highway release. 1.5 inch grids though, which would be useful for Heroclix, are only available as downloadable PDFs via RPGNow.

Traveller Ships

Package cover art for starship map for Traveller spaceship Possibly the coolest Scrying Eye Games designs though are their line of Traveller ship interiors, licensed by Mongoose Publishing. Just as the Millennium Falcon was the setting for much of the action in the original Star Wars films, much of the action in a game of Traveller can revolve around the PCs’ ship. If I were playing Traveller, I would certainly chip in or buy one of Scrying Eye’s maps to represent my party’s ship. Of course, the designs should also be usable in any other futuristic setting, though it would be great to see Scrying Eye Games develop more licensed ship designs.

Traveller package art copyright Scrying Eye Games, used with permission.

Gen Con 2012 Gets Zynvaded!

Even though Zynvaded! has been around for several years, I had never heard of it or seen any of its 1:1 scale miniatures before Gen Con 2012. Think of the “life-size” Zyn resin miniatures as very tiny alien invaders and you’ll begin to get the premise of We Have Issues! Publishing’s game. Since Zynvaded!’s release, WHIP! has also released Don’t Let the Zed-Bugz Bite! and Podz of War, with Don’t Let the Zed-Bugz Bite! pitting Hunters against Zombie Worm Grubz in a survival horror vein and Podz of War taking the action in an arena mech/battlepod direction.

Zynvaded miniatures battle over a video game table featuring the Nintendo Entertainment System at Gen Con

Podz of War Battling at Gen Con 2012 Over a Classic NES and Nintendo Cartridges

Unlike most other wargames, in Zynvaded! the battlefield becomes a regular kitchen table, countertop, or desk with human debris scattered about for the soldiers to battle over. It’s the premise of Toy Soldiers and the Army Men series of video games and the chunky sculpts by John Vogel play off of this theme of battling toys. Another strength of the Zynvaded! games is their Chinese takeaway carton approach to packaging, providing the miniatures, rules, measuring tape, dice, and pencils in a carton for $35 for Zynvaded! and Don’t Let the Zed-Bugz Bite! and a larger carton for $45 for Podz of War, on account of the many bits and weapons that can be attached to each mechanical “pod” suit.

Some of John Vogel’s sculpts are remarkably cute, especially the fat Hunter Decoy for Don’t Let the Zed-Bugz Bite that players can deploy to draw the attention of the Zed-Bugz, which are fairly adorable themselves.

1:1 scale miniatures about 30mm tall in glass display case for Zynvaded game at Gen Con

Zynvaded! Resin 1:1 Scale Figures on Display at Gen Con in the We Have Issues! Publishing Booth

Game inventors John Vogel and Justin Nyland take us through each game’s features and also briefly talk about the individual components that are for sale separately:

Hirst Arts at Gen Con 2012

Hirst Arts tan Fieldstone Dungeon and Tower with Conical Roof for 25-28mm miniatures at Gen Con booth

Hirst Arts Fieldstone Dungeon and Fieldstone Tower at Gen Con

Hirst Arts is the gold standard for consistently high quality gaming products matched by informative tutorials and product support. To put it simply, Bruce Hirst really cares about both his products and his customers and it shows on his website and in the quality of the silicone molds customers receive from Hirst Arts. I am a huge fan. Dana McDonald of Custom Kingdoms attributes his start into mold making to Bruce Hirst and Hirst Arts. Whether it’s spotting Hirst Arts bricks in the pages of White Dwarf or seeing how Mike from Terranscapes has used the Hirst Arts molds, the figure of Bruce Hirst looms large in the last decade of miniature terrain-making.

Bruce Hirst Himself

I was positively thrilled then to speak with Bruce Hirst at Gen Con 2012, having watched all of his tutorial videos and read through his website completely multiple times. While he had an additional helper at Gen Con, Hirst normally runs his company with only his wife in Missouri and strives to match his own exacting standards. His current projects are three Tavern Accessory molds, which modelers can expect within the next month. As he reveals in the video below, even Hirst struggles at times to get a project right the first time, casting twice as many bricks as he will need to be able to go back and fix mistakes with his leftover bricks. Hirst also reveals a number of other insights:

Hirst was selling his molds at Gen Con, using the exact same pricing offered at hirstarts.com, which is usually $34 for a standard silicone mold with a 10% discount on orders of 5 molds or more. While this consistent pricing did not induce me to pick up any more Hirst Arts molds at Gen Con and some of the business aspects of the decision are beyond me, by not discounting himself Bruce Hirst has maintained a premium value on his molds and consequently I rarely see any pop up on eBay, much less at any sort of discount.

Science fiction corridor set for 25-28mm miniatures at the Hirst Arts booth at Gen Con

Hirst Arts Science Fiction Corridors: Who Wouldn’t Want to Game on This?

Robo Rally: “The King of Games”

I also ran into a Hirst Arts customer at Gen Con. Patrick Gilliland was running games of RoboRally on his custom-made Hirst Arts floor tiled board. Designed by Richard Garfield, Robo Rally is currently sold by Wizards of the Coast under its Avalon Hill division. In all, the board took Gilliland three months to cast, construct, and paint after a few weeks spent on its design and after testing its possible playability. To make the custom board, Gilliland primarily used the Sci-Fi molds, but also dipped into the Fieldstone and Gothic Floor molds, as well as making his own custom castings. Gilliland has also made replicas of four of the Robo Rally maps out of Hirst Arts floor tiles with his Exchange, Reactor, and Laser Maze maps being mostly flat, while his Coliseum has vertical elements.

Three dimensional 3D Robo Rally board made using Hirst Arts dental plaster blocks and tiles at Gen Con

A View of Patrick Gilliland’s Entire 3D RoboRally Hirst Arts Board

For Gilliland, who is an accountant by day, the Hirst Arts board is a fusion of two of his favorite gaming products. His gaming group has been playing Robo Rally, which he refers to as the “king of games”, for years and he cites the game’s competitive ruthlessness and logic programming as its main attractions. He is equally passionate about Hirst Arts molds, always having had a fascination with miniatures and building things, so he describes his Robo Rally board as “a match made in heaven”.

Medium distance view of Robo Rally 3D Hirst Arts block board at Gen Con 2012

Despite being an attendee of Gen Con for over 30 years, this year was the first time that Gilliland ran an event and he “had a wonderful time doing it”. Currently he is working on a long-term dungeon project that will feature three levels and come to a total of 96 square feet of playing surface. When he finishes it, Gilliland plans on bringing it to Gen Con. Usually though, the beneficiaries of Gilliland’s creativity are much closer to home; he has made a number of Hirst Arts dice towers, including one that resembles a Rube Goldberg machine for his daughter, as well as name plaques for his great nieces and nephews. Gilliland has also made four Hirst Arts Robo Rally boards, replicating the original game board’s layout.

Close Up Detail of Hirst Arts Robo Rally Painted Game Board at Gen Con

An Even Closer Look at the Custom Hirst Arts Robo Rally Board at Gen Con

Hirst Arts Vendor: Legendary Realms Terrain

Players get ready to play on Hirst Arts and custom terrain from Legendary Realms at Gen Con gaming table

Gamers Prepare to Play on Legendary Realms Terrain

A number of licensees use Hirst Arts molds for commercial purposes, selling pre-made terrain to customers who do not wish to cast their own bricks or floor tiles. Naloomi’s Workshop offers single casts of many Hirst Arts accessories and Itar’s Workshop features many entire buildings cast out of resin based on Hirst Arts designs. Legendary Realms Terrain was also at Gen Con, where its president and main purveyor Richard Parla was selling painted terrain pieces.

Parla and Legendary Realms Terrain also ran nine events over the course of Gen Con to display and promote their terrain and I caught a portion of one session one night while passing through Gen Con’s largest gaming hall. While the dungeon elements seen above and below are pure Hirst Arts, Legendary Realms Terrain sculptors custom-made the docks and the boats. For the nine events they used the Labyrinth Lord game system from Goblinoid Games, filling each of their paid sessions.

Hirst Arts dungeon for 25-28mm miniatures with miniature boats on water tiles at Gen Con

Custom Legendary Realms Terrain Boats Docked Against Custom Docks Leading Into a HA Dungeon

Legendary Realms Terrain was also successful inside the Vendors’ Area, selling 95% of the dungeon accessories brought and approximately 75% of their entire convention inventory according to Parla. LRT also received a number of new orders for terrain during Gen Con, which the company is now in the process of filling. One service that Legendary Realms Terrain offers is reproducing adventure maps as 3D terrain as well as creating custom accessories based on customer needs, with 20% of Legendary Realms Terrain’s custom products having been created to fulfill customer requests.

Parla is already making bigger plans for Gen Con 2013 including bringing more inventory and purchasing a larger booth space. While Legendary Realms Terrain had dungeon corridor sections for sale, their booth also had at least three bins with painted dungeon accessories like crates, barrels, and chests for sale individually, perfect for a GM who needs only a few obstacles for the PCs to fight over and through.

And More Hirst Arts Fans and Creators

I also encountered Bill Foreman aka Terrainaholic from Youtube at the Hirst Arts booth at Gen Con. Under the Terrainaholic name, Bill Foreman has some 895 videos to his credit on Youtube, including at least a dozen on Gen Con 2012 himself and has 11,000+ subscribers to his channel, which occasionally features videos using Hirst Arts bricks, but almost always features terrain of Foreman’s own making. We spoke briefly on camera and then talked for ten or fifteen minutes longer off camera with Mrs. Foreman joining us, discussing Youtube, Foreman’s day job, and terrain.

Hirst Arts casts were also the main component of this fortress/castle gaming board, which was left unattended one evening at Gen Con in the main gaming hall. It features heavy use of the Fieldstone molds and quite intriguingly seems to use the square Flagstone Floor Mold tiles to construct the walls of the fortress. The three pipes at the base on each side appear to be giant cannons to discourage anyone from besieging the gate and ramparts. If you have any knowledge of this board’s creator, please email brant at cravengames.com so it can be properly attributed to its designer (and so that we might get some details on its construction).

Hirst Arts plaster floor tiles and bricks arranged to create a castle or fortress at Gen Con 2012

Unattended Gaming Board from Gen Con 2012: Who Made It?

Gale Force 9 at Gen Con 2012

Gale Force 9 was exhibiting and selling its flagship line of basing products and gaming accessories at Gen Con, but also showed off several newer ventures, particularly its WotC-licensed Dungeons and Dragons terrain and a board game of Spartacus, based on the popular Starz cable series.

Dungeons and Dragons Caverns of the Underdark and Other GF9 Terrain

One of the most eye-catching tables at Gen Con was definitely Jason Buyaki’s Underdark Cavern board, built with the assistance of sculptress Lizzie Willick. Though Gale Force 9’s website states a month-long construction time for the table, when I spoke with him, Buyaki pegged his and Willick’s time on the board at two weeks. The table also had two denizens on it, a Beholder Eye Tyrant and and a Purple Worm, both of which will be released as part of Gale Force 9’s Dungeons & Dragons Collector’s Series line of premium unpainted resin products. The board separates into two pieces three quarters of the way up from the bottom and will be traveling to Essen later this year to help promote Dungeons & Dragons and Gale Force 9 in Europe.

Miniature underground cavern for the Underdark in 28mm at the Gale Force 9 Booth at Gen Con

The Caverns of the Underdark 3D Set on a GF9 Vinyl Mat

While the impressive Underdark Cavern was not for sale at Gen Con, the Caverns of the Underdark 3D Adventure Sets were. Each 8-piece resin stalagmite set comes fully prepainted and is a licensed product from Wizards of the Coast to Gale Force 9. As Jason Buyaki pointed out himself, the stalagmites are also usable for pulp action games or for science fiction cave settings, in addition to concealing the movement of drow, duergar, and driders through your Dungeons & Dragons games. Gale Force 9 also has a variety of crystals that make for colorful additions to a gamer’s dungeon or cavern, as well as a new vinyl playing mat specifically licensed for Dungeons & Dragons use, featuring a 1-inch grid.

Terrain mastermind Jason Buyaki in Spartacus T-shirt Stands Before Huge Cavernous Dungeon at Gen Con

Terrain Mastermind Jason Buyaki Standing Beside One of His Greatest Gaming Boards

Lizzie Willick has also designed a series of re-imagined hills for the Battlefield in a Box line of prepainted terrain. Willick has answered the question “How do you make a hill that’s not a hill?” with five intriguing collapsed urban structures: the Fallen Angel, the Buried Monument, the Collapsed Corner, the Ruined Fountain, and the Blasted Garden. They will look good in most futuristic urban cityscapes and match Gale Force 9’s existing Gothic range, while helping to block line of sight and offering concealment and cover to nearby troops.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery

Unpainted plastic generic gladiator pieces on arena game board for Spartacus board game at Gen Con

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery at Gen Con 2012

Gale Force 9 CEO John Kovaleski explained GF9’s other exciting venture, the Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery board game. GF9 demoed the game throughout Gen Con at four tables. Players use generic gladiator playing pieces, but can play with named characters from the show such as Spartacus himself, Asher, or Animaeus. The game is also rated 17+, so fans of some of the more vulgar and evocative expressions that really characterize the show have some of them to look forward to. Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery will be available in stores in late September or early October with an expansion to follow. From my video with Kovaleski it also seems quite likely that there may be further games in the Spartacus setting released by GF9.

Gen Con – Privateer Press Dominates, CMON Releases, MBA, and Brushfire

Gen Con. Indianapolis. Two days into the “Best 4 Days in Gaming” and so far I have to agree with the slogan. This is exactly what I have been dreaming about since I first read about Gen Con in Dragon Magazine back in 1990. The Indianapolis Convention Center is VAST. It is a confusing labyrinth of large halls and I only finished exploring them all at 3:30 on Friday morning.

28mm train on tracks on beautiful table layout from Privateer Press at Gen Con

One of Privateer’s Inspiring Tables

Gamers were up late into the night Wednesday and early into the morning playing in all the public places of the downtown convention center area. Mostly they played board games with some CCG/TCG action, but I did spot a game of Warmachine unfolding in one of the hall spaces. Thursday morning was a different story with dozens of games of Warmachine popping up on some of Privateer Press’s wonderful playing tables. While many sported grass gaming mats, there were at least five or six fully-detailed tables festooned with rivets and steamworks. Friday morning at 2:00 AM the action was still going on. In fact, Privateer Press has the distinction of having the largest miniatures presence here at Gen Con, running 64 tables with 128 players playing at a time. From 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM Friday morning, Hordes and Warmachines players were vying for a spot at the Nationals in the Iron Arena tournament. A similar tournament will run tonight as well.

Gaining early admittance at 9:00 AM on Thursday to the Vendors’ Hall which opened to the public at 10:00, I was surprised to see a line already wrapping around Privateer Press’s booth as Gen Con’s VIGs (Very Important Guests) queued up, PP products in hand. Elsewhere gamers’ interests were harder to measure as the thin crowd trickled this way and that. At 10:00 AM, of course, a flood of gamers rushed in, with Privateer Press selling out of its new 2d6 version of its Iron Kingdoms RPG on Thursday.

Cool Mini or Not

Miniature castle from Cool Mini or Not's miniatures booth

Amazing Wrath of Kings Castle Table from CMON

One place they flocked to was Cool Mini or Not’s impressive 18-booth floor space. CMON is exhibiting two games developed with Sodapop Miniatures, Super Dungeon Explore and Relic Knights. CMON was also showing off some new figures for Dark Age as well as sculpts and demos for Confrontation: Age of Ragnarok amd Wrath of Kings. CMON’s booth space also included a whole host of basing products, tutorial DVDs, and the first three issues of of the miniature gaming magazine “Ravage”.


Cool Mini or Not also had Zombicide, released publicly at Gen Con for $90 after a successful $780,000+ Kickstarter funding run. Looking the plastic miniatures over, they do come pretty close to the resin prototypes I saw back in March at the GAMA Trade Show and with 70 of them, the game packs in a lot of value. Elsewhere in CMON’s stretching booth space Mike McVey was promoting Sedition Wars.

Boxes stacked head high at Cool Mini or Not's Gen Con Booth of Zombicide

Zombicide Making a Killing at the Cool Mini or Not Booth

Four players at Gen Con enjoying the zombie horror board game Zombicide

David Bullard and Friends Enjoying Some Zombicide

Late Thursday night or early Friday morning I encountered some Zombicide fans playing the zombie horror game at a table in a convention hallway. David Bullard of Mount Vernon, Illinois had pledged $100 towards the Zombicide Kickstarter campaign and received the game days before Gen Con. Nevertheless he had already played it four times when I met him, saying that he was “quite pleased” with the game, enjoying both the mechanics and the miniatures. Bullard’s friends were also enthusiastic about Zombicide and its merits, so it would seem that Guillotine Games and CMON have a definite winner.

Miniature Building Authority

Miniature 28mm town with barracks and castle walls at Gen Con from Miniature Building Authority

Miniature Building Authority 25-28mm European City

If you’ve read many of my posts, it should be no surprise that I went to check out Dwarven Forge’s line of prepainted terrain as well as Miniature Building Authority’s prepainted buildings. I had seen several Youtube videos featuring MBA’s whole collection at Gen Con before, but this year, their European 28mm Town seemed to be brimming over with hundreds of miniatures from over a hundred different miniature companies according to Kirk Stevens.

Kirk introduces some of their newer products on camera and sculptor Jim Elmore also talks about MBA’s impressive product line.

On the Lamb: Brushfire Miniatures and Historia Rodentia

I also saw a familiar face in the form of Emily Fontaine from On the Lamb Games. Their line of anthropomorphic Brushfire historical miniatures has been expanding since the GAMA Trade Show. She had several new miniatures to show off along with her concept artist, including figures specifically for Historia Rodentia, the RPG setting published by Mongoose Publishing.