Konstantin Krivenko from Zvezda on Samurai Battles and Barbarossa 1941

Konstantin Krivenko is the Managing Director of Zvezda. He is very much Russian and you can imagine his words with a Russian accent. I sadly did not ask him about my theory that Rocky IV helped end the Cold War, but he did endure some questions from me about the KGB, GRU, and Russian crime which I have left out of the brief interview below. I did play a few of the Sirius Games Krivenko brought with him to the GAMA Trade Show on game night. My favorite was Jabba Dabba Du, an odd caveman hunting game with an interesting secret bidding mechanic from Reiner Knizia.

Samurai Battles

Cover for Samurai Battles from Zvezda from Richard Borg and Konstantin Krivenko

Samurai Battles cover courtesy Zvezda

ZVEZDA: Konstantin Krivenko. I’m Managing Director of Zvezda, company from Russia.
CG: Your company in Russia makes a whole lot of models, right?
ZVEZDA: Yeah, we are making general model kits, airplanes, military tanks, trucks, ships, soldiers.
CG: In what scales?
ZVEZDA: 1/72nd, 1/48th, 1/35ths, and ships different scales: 1/350, 1/72nd.
CG: Now your Samurai Battles game has two different games in it that you can play with the same figures, right?
ZVEZDA: Yes, exactly. There is one game system is Command and Colors from Richard Borg and another is Art of Tactic from myself. We have also other tactic game about World War II, Barbarossa 1941. For Samurai Battles you can use the same miniatures, same game board, the difference would be just dice, cards, and of course, the rules and scenarios.
CG: Is there as much interest in Japan in Russia as you think maybe there is in America?
ZVEZDA: Uh…
CG: Ninja and samurai…
ZVEZDA: As far as I know, the biggest market for all wargames is United States and England, of course. Japan, I don’t know. We will see. We have a distributor in Japan. It’s a model kit distributor, not a game distributor.
CG: Which came first? The miniatures and the rules to support them? Or the rules and then some figures?
ZVEZDA: It’s the, the idea came to us after the success of World War II game. So when we were making project for the miniatures we were having in mind the different rules for two game systems, so in the construction of game, you see there is for each figure a possibility to be used for Command and Colors…and also you see there is movement trays for Art of Tactic game system, so it was-, we use this making the project. Because we had in mind that these miniatures would be used for two game systems.

Samura Cavalry miniatures for Zvezda's Samurai Battles

Samurai Cavalry image courtesy Zvezda

CG: The banners look really good. Who designed or sculpted the figures?
ZVEZDA: It’s a company in Russia who specialize on sculpting, digital sculpting. They are a very small private company, there are a few people. They generally working for us and also for TV advertising.
CG: Now there’s Richard Borg’s name in here for Command & Colors and obviously your game, have you played Richard’s game?
ZVEZDA: Yes, of course!
CG: And you enjoy that just as much?
ZVEZDA: Yes, yes, yes, yeah. The game style is so different from each other that you can have fun playing with one, you can have fun playing with the other. So that’s a big advantage for each consumer because in other case, you could buy two different games for about the same price, because here you can buy two games in one box [from Zvezda].
CG: Now Alliance has in Game Trade Magazine, they have you guys on the cover? It’s a pretty big deal?
ZVEZDA: It’s their initiative. You can never buy the first [front] cover from Alliance. They print whatever they want on the cover.
CG: It’s an honor.
ZVEZDA: Yeah, yeah, that’s a great honor for us! And it shows that they quite confident in us, with Zvezda as a good partner for future. We have with Alliance very good, very nice connection. By the way, the main idea of the game and the connection between Zvezda and Richard Borg was done by Mike Webb. He create this idea that Zvezda can make the samurai game with Richard Borg. He connect us to each other.

Art of Tactic WWII

World War 2 Art of Tactic Barbarossa box art

Plastic Zvezda 1/72nd miniature British Infantry WWII soldiers.

Images courtesy of Zvezda

CG: How has your World War II game done in America? How has it sold?
ZVEZDA: It’s quite good, considering that we don’t have a lot of PR and advertising. So we just start doing this job because previously we didn’t do this because of lack of experience. Now it’s, hopefully, we do better.
CG: You’ve sold ten times as many in Russia as you have here in the U.S., right?
ZVEZDA: Yeah, so far. In Russia it’s very popular and also it’s, the subject is very popular and how do you say? The subject is supported by the government. With all this history it contains. And also on the local level it’s also supported in some clubs by local governments.
CG: And you’re from Moscow?
ZVEZDA: I’m from Moscow, yeah.
CG: Have you been to Stalingrad?
ZVEZDA: Now it’s Volgograd, yeah, very shortly once.
CG: For a gamer and a World War II enthusiast is it worth visiting? Is there anything to see there?
ZVEZDA: Yes, of course. There is a museum, but I visited in my childhood, so I don’t know what’s all there.

Next Products From Zvezda and Trade Show Talk

Zvezda Battle of the Danube Expansion for Art of TacticCG: Who distributes your models in the United States for you?
ZVEZDA: The models are distributed by Dragon Models U.S.A. and the games also the mini-kits distributed by Alliance.

1/72nd scale plastic miniature British soldiers and mortar from Zvezda.

Images courtesy of Zvezda

CG: What new things are going to come out in the next year or so for you?
ZVEZDA: In games? Today or tomorrow the first expansion for the World War II is out in America, it’s the Battle for Danube. There is some unique miniatures which are not available as a mini-kit. Then we will have for Gen Con the Blitzkrieg 1940 Starter where Germans versus English, so English stuff will come. We will see how will be successful English subject and I hope to start this year also American.
CG: Now switching companies, what about games like Flames of War, is that popular in Russia?
ZVEZDA: It’s popular in very small society of enthusiasts. You cannot find on the market. Just internet, very small , the price is…. outstanding, outstanding.
CG: Is this your first year at GAMA Trade Show?
ZVEZDA: No, first time we been there in 2002, I think. We participate twice. We have the distributor of Military Model Distributors. They’re from Texas. And we had at that time, the fantasy game Ring of Rule. As our distributors, they showed our stuff to GAMA and they invite me to also participate there.
CG: How important to you is GAMA, the trade show-
ZVEZDA: I don’t know yet. We will see. Hopefully it will create more business. According to suggestions so far from distributors, it’s the most important in America for us.
CG: And do you go to Germany, to Essen?
ZVEZDA: Yeah, we participate in Essen in Nuremberg. We have to do it. If we don’t participate in these shows, it’s all “Something has happened to Zvezda!” So we must.