So Much Eye Candy: Cool Mini or Not at Gen Con 2012

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.

Piglike Teknes miniatures for Wrath of Kings battle against thin Nasier on desert demo board

Wrath of Kings Desert Demo Board: House Teknes vs. House Nasier

Realistic 28mm scale orange lava flowing over miniature terrain board for Confrontation at 2012 Gen Con

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).

Pig warriors Union Workers miniatures from Wrath of Kings battle Skorza lupines and monster Ucuzo

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.

Beautiful stunning diorama of 32mm Wrath of Kings miniatures clashing at a castle or village

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.

Tentacled octopus Zalaak miniatures battles slender female Blood Dancers in Wrath of Kings diorama

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.

Wrath of Kings miniatures fight over a superb Goritsi city at Gen Con 2012 in front of stone buildings with red tiled roofs

The Black Cylinder and Dome is an Elemental’s Head! With White Eyes

Super Dungeon Explore: Von Drakk Manor

Soda Pop Miniatures Chibi Super Dungeon Explore miniatures display castle at Cool Mini or Not Booth

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.

Three Cartoonish Dungeon Explorer Miniatures in Cool Mini's Super Dungeon Explore castle with fire elementals at gen con 2012

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.

Gorgeous miniature 28mm pirate ship for Rum and Bones at Gen Con 2012 in the Cool Mini or Not Booth

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.

Inside a miniature pirate ship for Ron and Bones at Cool Mini or Not booth at Gen Con with cannons

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.

Top down view of miniature model pirate ship for skirmish wargame Rum and Bones at Gen Con 2012

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.

Post-Apocalyptic futuristic miniature game Dark Age industrial garage terrain at Gen Con 2012

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.

Closer look at industrial garage Dark Age demo board for miniatures at Gen Con 2012

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.

Busty Cosplayer Marie-Claude Bourbonnais at Gen Con playing Rin Farrah with miniature her costume is based on

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.

Yellow tinted glasses and yellow and black spandex on busty Hornet played by Marie-Claude Bourbonnais at Gen Con 2012

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.

Blonde busty anime woman in green swimsuit on Pool location for card game Tentacle BentoBourbonnais 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-influenced miniatures for the Relic Knights game with power familiars on display at the 2012 Gen Con

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.

Red, black, grey, and white massive Titan Dragon miniature for Confrontation at Gen Con 2012

The Massive Titan Dragon for Confrontation Lives Up To Its Name: Free from a Display Case

Ravage Magazine

Cover of Ravage Issue 7 Advertising Zombicide Toxic City MallWhile 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.

DVD: The Dungeon Masters (2008)

Blue skinned cartoon drow on cover of 2008 DVD Jacket of The Dungeon MastersThe Dungeon Masters is a depressing documentary from 2008 about the depressing lives of three gamers. In form and style, The Dungeon Masters is everything a documentary should be. The visuals are excellent, with good establishing shots, steady camerawork, and zero confusion in transitions. As far as content and its subject matter, The Dungeon Masters is deceptively titled, especially for existing gamers who would imagine that the movie might actually capture what the role of being a Dungeon Master or Game Master is all about. The movie doesn’t go there. There aren’t topics like “Dealing with Problem Players” or “How I Became a DM”. Even if “Dungeon Master” is taken to be about being a master of Dungeons & Dragons, the title is way off and sure to arouse the ire of even casual D&D players.

The only parts of The Dungeon Masters I can recommend are the opening Gen Con sequence and the filming at a LARP in Mississippi for four minutes. Otherwise the movie has little to do with gaming and too much to do with the dysfunctional lives of its three subjects. Even though it is only an hour and 27 minutes, The Dungeon Masters has the emotional impact of Sam and Frodo’s trek through Mordor and seems like a much longer film. At the same time, director Keven McAlester and editor Christine Khalafian vary the shots and cut between the subjects enough that the despair and loneliness never get tedious. Just when you think that you have a handle on each GM’s life and problems, there’s another horrible revelation or another misfortune waiting in the wings. Having seen it multiple times now, I would rather watch Precious or The Human Centipede again before I shoulder the burden of another viewing of The Dungeon Masters. Comic relief is sparse, unless you are laughing at gamers’ expense. By comic relief, I mean that I chuckled when I saw that some school children were following the costumed Scott Corum along outside his son’s school, obviously fascinated by his strange outfit.

Keven McAlester’s film is so unflattering to its subjects and gaming as a whole that I give credence to claims that McAlester may have approached and edited the film with an agenda other than portraying the truth, but that is a subject for another day.

Gen Con

The first 13 minutes of Dungeon Masters is a captivating look at the three GMs in the context of the 2006 Gen Con and manages to capture as much of Gen Con in that brief time as Hobocon does in its entirety. The gloom of the rest of the movie is also absent in the Shangri-La that is Gen Con. Besides introducing the three DMs, there are interviews with many other gamers, gamers who do not appear later in the movie. For the most part, it’s also the most colorful and action-packed part of The Dungeon Masters, as the camera focuses on costumed attendee after costumed attendee, Gen Con’s opening balloons, and Cardhalla in an accurate encapsulation of the Best 4 Days of Gaming.

The LARP Segment

“When you played Cops and Robbers, you were LARPing. When you were playing dress up with your mom’s clothes, you were LARPing. When you were hiding them from your mom after you were done, you were LARPing and learning how to lie, which is a great LARP skill.”

– Jeffrey Ingram

The LARP segment is much briefer at only four minutes or so, but also embodies the sights and sounds of a LARP. Based on the reference to a Celestial column of magic and the called damage, the Live Action Role-Playing sequence seemed like a NERO LARP or an offshoot, which in fact it is. The LARP is Cerroneth, which is part of the SOLAR rules system. LARPer Jeffrey Ingram describes LARPing inclusively: “When you played Cops and Robbers, you were LARPing. When you were playing dress up with your mom’s clothes, you were LARPing. When you were hiding them from your mom after you were done, you were LARPing and learning how to lie, which is a great LARP skill.” In particular, I love how the camera captures the PCs spilling out of the tavern, surging forward as they do battle with the four undead who have come to harass the town. The drow of The Dungeon Masters, Elizabeth Reesman abandons playing her character to serve as a Monster Marshall; it would have been great if she had been asked to compare GMing tabletop games with GMing a LARP, but the closest the movie comes is Reesman’s love interest Jack Penton’s praise for her devotion as a DM.

The Dungeon Masters Themselves

GMing and role-playing are deeply personal and criticisms of one’s RP can be devastating. Players’ creative and intellectual reputations can be on the line. With that said, I have to imagine that any tabletop gamer watching The Dungeon Masters has had more meaningful and entertaining roleplay than the scant bit the film portrays. These are not masters of their craft. I think they would say as much themselves, despite their vanity. Role-playing is ultimately about FUN. D&D didn’t sell millions of copies without being fun, yet none of that is apparent watching the film’s three GMs at work.

Richard Meeks

Seattle-based Richard Meeks has what appears to be the most stable home life, working a 9 to 5 in the King County Waste Water Treatment Division and serving as a US Air Force reservist one weekend a month. His second wife doesn’t share his interest in gaming, much less seem interested by it. Meeks ranges from eccentricity to downright villainy. What will viewers remember him for? His nudist lifestyle, the emotional abandonment of his stepchildren from his first marriage, or for being a self-important party-killing DM? Meeks describes his party’s encounter with a Sphere of Annihilation as, “somebody got stupid and just decided to run through a door.” This is punishment from the DM though because Meeks “was just really mad that they were being so greedy” and therefore put an end to 7 real life years of adventuring for his Florida players. The camera catches Meeks’ journey out to Florida years later as he makes amends with a final game, letting his former players save the world of Greyhawk. Later though he sends a pissy email to his Washington players ending his campaign with them.

“You do not play Dungeons & Dragons to win or lose it in the Monopoly sense… You play the game for the experiences that you’re going to go through, not where it’s going to end up.”

– Scott Corum

I have only encountered Meeks’ brand of GMing once and it came as a shock. For most role-players, Scott Corum’s description of RPGs is accurate: “You do not play Dungeons & Dragons to win or lose it in the Monopoly sense… You play the game for the experiences that you’re going to go through, not where it’s going to end up.” Despite what Meeks says to the contrary about a GM not flaunting his power, for Meeks it is about winning or losing. His gamer friend questions whether he’s going to kill the party as Meeks reviews a Greyhawk module on public transit; he smirks in response. “Because If I don’t kill you by midnight then I haven’t done my job,” Meeks threatens his Washington players. While player death is a great motivator, for Meeks it seems to go much deeper psychologically. “But if I really wanted to, I could kill any of you and I know that,” he has to point out to his players, who admittedly seemed to be enjoying themselves. One of his Florida players finds this style to be fun, saying “Richard is a very entertaining Game Master. He has a real knack for making the player characters feel that they’ve accomplished something in some way.” In character taunts are one thing, but most players I know would have nothing to do with a GM who taunts them out of character.

Scott Corum

Scott Corum overlaps with Richard Meeks in his own grandiosity. The creative and charming Corum is shown working on his modern day fantasy adventure book manuscript throughout the film. He also pursues his own program on the local cable access show in Torrance, CA. Besides a Strategicon DM t-shirt, Corum also has plenty of stories, divulging his teenage nickname “Sherlock”, his $50,000 in educational loan debt, and a background in puppetry. McAlester captures moments of domestic strife between Scott Corum and his more down-to-earth wife. When they’re not disagreeing with each other on camera, Corum has to ask whether the family can afford $20 so he can get new shoes at Payless. This trouble is compounded by his close attachment to one of his player’s wives, which comes to a head on camera when the player confronts his wife about something involving her “best friend” Corum. Corum is vague about what the exact trouble is. These unflattering moments could be studied in a psychology or sociology class and the term “emotional affair” might be used.

Corum is full of hopes and literary dreams, shedding tears when literary agent Denise Dumars telling him that she fell out of her chair after her professional reader read seven page’s of Corum’s book and told her “Buy it! The people who love The Da Vinci Code will love it.” Dumas continues to blow smoke up Corum’s ass, praising the first hundred pages of With a Single Wish Forever as “really, really good.” She goes on to relate a meeting she’s supposedly had with a Del Rey acquisitions editor who is looking for a series of books to buy and how she was thinking “Three book deal!” Consequently Corum praises her as the best agent in the world. In true Dungeon Masters fashion though, she calls and informs Corum that she hates his book. How she couldn’t have realized that from the first 100 pages, if she’d actually read them, is beyond me.

Elizabeth Reesman

It’s easy to forget that Elizabeth Reesman is a Dungeon Master, since only two minutes of her DMing are ever shown in the documentary. Instead McAlester focuses on her drow alter ego and her pillows stained with her black makeup. Living on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Reesman is recovering from Hurricane Katrina and there’s many shots of her environment to remind us of how far from cleaned up the region was in 2006. Why does Reesman play World of Warcraft in her full drow makeup in a motel room, the viewer may wonder as she does just that on screen. It’s one of the more puzzling scenes in the movie that hints at a fuller untold story. Almost every segment featuring Reesman, in fact, seems to center around her costuming and her putting her makeup on. Despite two boyfriends’ praise of Reesman’s gaming skills, she is never treated as Meeks’ or Corum’s gaming equal, though she shares in their cup of misery. Reesman’s ex-husband was violently abusive and she had a miscarriage the day after her wedding. She also fends off her employer’s sexual harassment and has trouble finding new employment.

The Mirror of The Dungeon Masters

Don’t we all know some fellow gamers like the three in The Dungeon Masters? If your pool of acquaintances is large enough, Meeks, Corum, and Reesman should be vaguely familiar. These are all people I would game with, even PK-happy Meeks. I have questioned when exactly it is that some gamer friends see their wives or children or have been startled to learn that they actually have them in the first place. I’m open to the idea that one of the reasons I might dislike The Dungeon Masters and find it so disheartening is that it hits fairly close to home. Meeks and Corum are both self-important and vain; I share in their egotism. I have ended a D&D campaign angrily, frustrated by competing distractions and I have to admit that in his aspirations, Scott Corum is a kindred spirit. Hell, I love UHF and have even dreamed of my own horrible public access TV shows over the years. Fortunately I just don’t have a documentary film crew capturing me at my worst (I leave that to my own writing).

In the end, I would rather escape and laugh along as fictional characters’ lives fall to pieces in movies like Observe and Report, Super, and Foot Fist Way than watch reality play out on screen as it does in McAlester’s film. The Dungeon Masters is worth visiting once, but then belongs safely below ground, locked away like the Tomb of Horrors that it is.

Triple Ace Games at Gen Con and Iceblade Keep

3D Miniature Terrain Piece of Giant Tower on Rock Outcropping Called Iceblade Keep for Hellfrost at Gen Con

Iceblade Keep in the Triple Ace Games Booth

Back in August at Gen Con, I saw a lot of fabulous terrain on display (and for sale). While most of the best terrain I saw was being used to display miniatures, Triple Ace Games had a stunning display piece in the form of Iceblade Keep. Triple Ace Games is based out of the United Kingdom, but their core fan base is “definitely” American says Robin Elliott, the keep’s builder and Triple Ace’s Production Designer, who also brought the impressive model out to Indianapolis in August.

Hellfrost Savage Worlds

Using the Savage Worlds rules, Triple Ace Games has developed its own game and campaign setting, Hellfrost. Hellfrost is a fantasy setting featuring a society recovering from a 500 year long winter. Set in the land of Rassilon, Hellfrost provides a number of PC classes, races, spells, and new Edges for its players and is built around three core books, the Hellfrost: Players Guide, the Hellfrost: Bestiary, and the Hellfrost: Gazetteer. In order to play one would need a copy of the Savage Worlds rules from Pinnacle Entertainment Group. The model of Iceblade Keep does an excellent job of reinforcing Hellfrost’s themes of desolation, dread, and despair, as well as served as something of a light house to draw curious players into Triple Ace’s booth space.

Iceblade Keep

Iceblade Keep took Robin Elliot three months of evenings and weekends to constuct, all for a one off promotional piece for them to demo Hellfrost on. Elliott designed the keep to break into separate rooms, which also helped in dismantling it for transportation to Gen Con in a large cardboard crate. The structure of the tower is 3mm foamboard with smaller sections held together with dressmaking pins until the PVA glue could dry. For the base, Elliott used a mixture of foamboard and home insulation polystyrene blocks to form the rocks. He then coated the polystyrene with an acrylic medium followed by household emulsion and acrylic paints to achieve his splendid result.

Iceblade Keep rises out of a snowy terrain board. Colossal tower with miniatures on the table

Triple Ace Games’ Iceblade Keep Represents the Forlorn Nature of Hellfrost at Gen Con 2012

Within the fantasy setting of Hellfrost, Iceblade Keep is a “long-abandoned travel tower.” As Elliott explains, “Travel towers are built and usually maintained by an informal organisation devoted to keeping road travellers safe called Roadwardens. They originally used the tower as a base for their patrols but the route on which the tower was built became little used and the tower has now been overun by orcs and ice goblins.”

Triple Ace Games

As an RPG publisher though, Triple Ace’s real focus is on gaming books and they brought quite a selection with them. If you’ve ever wanted rules and ideas for role-playing your own journey through the Looking Glass, Triple Ace Games offers Wonderland No More, their Alice in Wonderland game and setting. If that’s not your cup of tea, there is the futuristic gothic Necropolis 2350 which had me doing a double-take. Necropolis 2350 is a setting highly reminiscent of Dune, Fading Suns, and GW’s Warhammer 40,000. PCs take on the roles of knights in the Sacred Orders and basically serve as inquisitors of the Holy Mother Church, fighting its battles and carrying out investigations. Another Triple Ace Games title on offer was Sundered Skies which has steampunk fantasy elements of floating airships and pistol combat in the vein of Spelljammer (just not in space) or Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. The UK company’s latest addition Savage Worlds All For One: Régime Diabolique was also on sale with a small paper sign in Triple Ace’s booth advertising “Savage All For One is Here!” As its title might hint at, All For One features a Three Musketeers setting which is actually 1636 France.

Roleplaying game manuals at Triple Ace Games booth at Gen Con 2012

Triple Ace Games RPGs at Gen Con: Wonderland No More, Necropolis 2350, & Sundered Skies

GameChurch’s Mike Bridges Talks Gaming and Jesus For the Win

One of the things I picked up back at Gen Con was a small, free, 132+ page book “about a guy named Jesus, his Guild, and his ultimate quest to save a land known as Earth.” Jesus For the Win! is a publication from GameChurch and basically contains the Gospel of John from the Bible with commentary about gaming and life changes. Mike Bridges is the founder and president of GameChurch and we chatted after Gen Con about his mission.

Depiction of Jesus Christ playing console video game for Gamechurch.comCG: So, Jesus For the Win!, I have to imagine that while some gamers may not get it, maybe more Christians might be bothered by what you guys are doing? What’s the response been?
MB: The response has been pretty positive. I think that is because of our delivery. We still have a few problems with the far left and the far right. They both don’t seem to like us much.
CG: Now why the far left?
MB: We have plenty that come up to the booth and immediately want to argue about the ‘big ticket’ items. Gay marriage, abortion, etc. They get a little frazzled when we explain to them that we are just there to tell them that Jesus loves them and that’s it. Kinda funny because both far left and far right run out of steam pretty fast because of the simplicity of what we do.
CG: I don’t even recall anyone even saying that at Gen Con, but of course, I also wasn’t full of steam. Now at the Armory, where you guys play a lot of video games, do you guys do tabletop games as well?
MB: We actually had a pretty mellow time at Gen Con. We mainly get hit by atheists in more liberal areas. Seattle, Los Angeles, etc. Yes, the Armory is our gaming facility and we do have table top nights in our lounge. We are trying to do more and expand that.
CG: Ok, so Gen Con was kind of a fit for you, but do you guys mostly promote at video game events?
MB: Not necessarily. We do anime, comic, video game, table top and other ‘nerd culture’ events.
CG: Is this full time for you and do you consider it a ministry?
MB: This is just one of the things I am involved with but yes, it is a full time job. I do consider it a ministry but I have a hard time with ‘Christianese” words because of what Christianity has done to those types of words.
CG: So is GameChurch a non-profit with churches or church members contributing towards it?
MB: It’s a non profit, but we are funded by one private source. Not a church. GameChurch is also not a church in the “four walled” sense of the word.
CG: I also imagine you guys are non-denominational and even those in the LA area may go to different churches from each other, right?
MB: Exactly.
CG: Going back to the Armory in Ventura, CA, who is the owner and how did things originate with Game Church and the Armory?
MB: Well, because we are a non profit, there is no ‘owner’. I am the President, and Director for that as well as GameChurch. I have been doing weird stuff like the Armory and GameChurch for a long time. The Armory was birthed in a music venue I had created. We had a small room at the venue that we put 12 PC’s in and people started to come and play video games. We expanded that and a few years later we got rid of the music venue and we are now exclusively gaming.
CG: You still game yourself though?
MB: Yeah, but I am more of a lone wolf type. I like RPG’s on the 360. Fallout, Bioshock, Skyrim, Mass Effect.
CG: What did you think of the Bright Brotherhood guys?
MB: Not familiar.
CG: The glowing ghouls in the RepConn facility in New Vegas? No?
MB: Haha! I am familiar. I loved every minute of New Vegas except for two of the DLC’s.
CG: Increasingly some of the console RPGs give us more and more moral choices. Do you find yourself being a “good” guy when you play?
MB: For the most part, I am a good guy with a dark streak. That goes for most games.
CG: What I’ve found is that when I need to be evil to unlock an achievement, oftentimes I’ll disgust myself a bit, but also that I will start to feel contempt for my victims. Any thoughts?
MB: Depends on the situation, or I get bored or I have done all I can do and want to play the game more so unlocking other questlines requires a bit of foul play.
CG: I saw Playing Columbine, a documentary on an RPG video game made about the Columbine Massacre, but what I started thinking of was how cool would it be to do a Rock Star-style/GTA more open-ended game, but that you would be a random normal person on each level helping other people out. I see some liability issues for actually making the gamer think “Maybe I could do this myself.” for real life emergencies, but what do you think?
MB: We actually discuss things like that on our forums and in our articles. It’s an interesting premise. I’d like to see it done right, without being boring.

Tattooed smiling Mike Bridges at GameChurch Booth at Gen Con 2012

GameChurch Founder and Christian gamer Mike Bridges at Gen Con 2012

CG: I may be unaware on this, but to me, it seems that there’s very few positive depictions of Christian heroes in movies and films, at least ones that are outspoken. I’m not aware of any in a video game, but Mos Def’s recent role on Dexter was actually a positive one: are there any in video games I’ve missed?
MB: Probably not. I have yet to see it as well. I agree with the Dexter reference. Loved that. Unfortunately when Christians have made games, they have sucked. I’d love to see that change.
CG: How do you see that happening?
MB: It will have to come in the way of a complete Church culture change. I don’t see much coming from the Church that is culturally relevant. We make movies for Christians. We make music for Christians. We make games for Christians. Until we make those things for the general public, we won’t see anything good. The Church has always had its head in the sand. Sad part is that it takes so long for us to catch up that we cannot be relevant. And unless we become relevant, there will be no Christian heroes.

CG: And are you familiar at all with the Christian tabletop RPGs, DragonRaid or Holy Lands?
MB: Yes, we have heard of them but we just started to get into tabletop gaming and we have stacks of games we are trying to get through. We do a tabletop night two times a month at our Armory facility in Ventura.

CG: Does GameChurch ever tackle gaming addiction? I saw in JFTW that there was the story of Jaz who felt she could be doing something more “constructive” with her time than playing WoW.
MB: Yes. Parents bring it up to us a lot. I think it has more to do with parenting than anything. Good parenting equals setting boundaries for gaming time for kids. The addiction part of it stems from the escape component. Kids or adults playing too long are escaping form something. Just as we escape with shopping, TV, drugs, eating, alcohol, et cetera. Everything in moderation. But because of the consumerist culture we live in in America, I think much of these things are overlooked. It is definitely something to be looked at.
CG: Getting back to the tabletop gaming night at the Armory, what games are being played? Do you play yourself?
MB: Yes, I do play. We have been playing Shadows over Camelot, Last Night on Earth, and Chaostle.

CG: What has the response been to your help @gamechurch.com email address? Do you get many people looking for help or someone to talk to?
MB: Not a lot there but we do get into some deeper discussions on our forums. We have made a lot of friends there and are continuing to build that family.

On a Collision Course with Ian Douglass

At Gen Con 2012, I took the opportunity to play the miniature skirmish game Collision against its creator, Ian Douglass. Douglass, who heads New World Gaming Company, managed a close victory with a frustratingly-effective archer. We caught up on September 8 about Collision, which is available for free download on Douglass’s site.

Overview of Collision

Ian Douglass at Gen Con 2012 in Indianapolis, Designer of Collision

Collision Game Designer Ian Douglass

CG: How long has Collision been in development?
ID: In its current form about three years. It has been kind of a long slog since I have been doing it in my free time.
CG: And by current form you mean as a miniature game and not a D&D setting?
ID: Yes. Collision started out as a D&D setting, and eventually I tried to develop a simplified version of the combat system for larger battles. Through revision it departed more and more from D&D, and after a while I decided that it could be its own game.
CG: So the campaign events at Gen Con? Did those go off? What were they like?
ID: They did go off, and they were a run of a basic campaign in where each battle is tied to the next. However there were fewer battles than I had first planned for because each battle took so long
CG: Who were the players? Had they played Collision before?
ID: Some of the players were friends of mine, some were first-time players, but most had played in one of the intro battles and wanted to play larger battles. I was worried that I wouldn’t actually have enough players to run them, but it turned out to be a great few events.
CG: Yeah, I know from some other game designers, that some of the planned events don’t really happen as intended. Now do you play Collision yourself in this series of campaign games and what sort of things developed for the Gen Con players?
ID: I only participated in a couple of the battles myself. The basic story was that the Necromancer Virgil had suffered a major defeat and was attempting to re-take his captured bodyguard.
CG: And did he?
ID: When I had designed the forces and the scenarios I was worried that Virgil and his forces would be over-powered. The players also felt that the forces were un-balanced, but he was sorely defeated at every turn. Instead of a ride to conquest and re-capture, the campaign turned into the story of Virgil’s death.
CG: Awesome.
ID: I had intended for him to die, but not this soon. He will be coming back though, he’s a Necromancer after all.

Gridded Game Board for Miniature Game Collision at Gen Con 2012

A Game of Collision in Progress on a Rocky Gridded Game Board

The World of Collision

Photograph of game card for Collision for Attendant of the 5 Dragons

The Stat Card for the Attendant of the 5 Dragons

CG: So when we played at Gen Con, I used a Noble Duelist and an Attendant of the 5 Dragons, do these instantly ring a bell with you and you can picture what they look like in the land of Gea automatically?
ID: Yes, the Noble Duelist is a bodyguard of the court of Deadholm, the northern city-state where Virgil is from. The duelist was a red elf and a formidable one at that. The Attendant of the 5 Dragons is a mage from Deadholm who serves Chimeras (essentially dragons), but the 5 oldest Chimeras in particular. The Attendants study magical disciplines that mimic the capabilities of those 5 Chimeras, mainly death, fire, corrosion, frost, and electricity.
CG: Which is why you thought I might have a special power for one of those elements or damage types, I guess.
ID: Yes, that Attendant in particular mastered Corrosive magic.
CG: Going back, what era and edition of D&D did Collision begin as a campaign in?
ID: 3.5 Edition D&D, and my first campaign in Gea as a setting was in 2005.
CG: So a Red Elf, when it was a D&D campaign, are they just regular elves or something a bit different?
ID: For Gea I developed two Elven sub-races: White Elves and Red Elves. Red Elves were more like Wild Elves as far as their stats were concerned, high strength and dexterity. In personality they are impulsive, prone to anger, and make great fighters and soldiers, whereas the White Elves were more frail but magically potent. They are calm and detached and make for powerful wizards or clerics. Naturally they are mortal enemies.
CG: Excellent, I see. And these named characters, Virgil and Rhona, were any of these PCs or NPCs?
ID: Virgil existed as a PC during one campaign years ago, and moved to an NPC role when that particular campaign game to a close. Rhona on the other hand was a PC more recently. Virgil is one of my old characters, whereas Rhona was one of my sister’s characters.
CG: Even better, because I was just about to ask if all of the artwork on your website was Alexandra Douglass’. So she’s your sister?
ID: Yes, though she goes by Lexxy. Apart from the world map which was illustrated by Sarah Williams, all of the art in Collision is drawn by Lexxy at the moment.
CG: How much direction have you given her as to what your world looks like and how much are things that she has come up with?
ID: In this project I have given a lot of direction, providing written description, sketches, tone. Since Lexxy is my sister, her ability to bring my visions to life is unparalleled. There is another project I am developing which I just gave her rough descriptions of monsters and she produced perfect sketches of what I had in mind.
CG: Is she your twin? Who’s older?
ID: She is 4 years older than me, but we grew up with very similar interests. We both grew up with D&D from a young age, so we are both heavily influenced by games. She was inspired to illustrate with the intention of creating art for games, and I was inspired to design games.
CG: As close as the two of you are, what’s it like to share world-building with another person? Is it quite different from being the all-powerful DM?
ID: I never took the DM role with an iron fist. I always liked to involve my players in the creative process, and bouncing ideas back and forth with other people is often how the best things come up.
CG: Gotcha.

Getting Physical with Collision: Mechanics and Crunch

CG: One of the abilities or mechanics that stands out in a unit’s stat card for Collision is the Tarot. What’s the story there?
ID: In its earlier stages, the game had nothing to do with Tarot. In its place characters had a class and a level, but I wanted to separate Collision from D&D more. I dabble in tarot reading, so I came to the realization that there were 4 suits in the minor arcana, and 4 classes in Collision. Plus, the major arcana such as the Tower, and Strength allowed me to create special circumstances for named characters. So in essence a character’s tarot is both who they are and their destiny. However minor arcana characters can change their destinies, but major arcana characters can’t.
CG: What little I know of Tarot comes from the anime series Escaflowne, which features tarot heavily. So for you, since tarot wasn’t initially part of Collision, has it been about digging into your own fluff and really boiling down a character or unit to a tarot card and finding focus there?
ID: Actually the decision to include tarot led to an expansion of fluff rather than a refining of it. As much as a would alter a character to suit a card, I found myself coming up with new ideas because of the tarot. I had to find a place for the characters I already had, but there was so much room. For example who is Death? who is the Devil? who is the Sun? These are all questions I now have to answer, and it will help me grow the game and the content.
CG: Well, what are Virgil and Rhona’s Tarot?
ID: Virgil is the Tower. The short story “The Fall of Virgil” illustrates that Virgil is a character defined by tragedy. Rhona is Strength, and it isn’t just because she is physically powerful either. I am working on her next story to include in the Campaign Battles beta.
CG: What about the underlying points values for building your own units: how much time has that aspect taken to balance and playtest and tweak?
ID: There were a few big overhauls of the character creation system over the years. In its first iteration I was more or less assigning points values based on gut instinct. That system had enough problems that I did a basic analysis of the value of each of the stats starting with a stat line that was meant to be the average weak character. I then came about giving points values to individual stat increases, and assigned costs to more abstract things such as abilities or effects through gut instinct. Then years of testing and tweaking and testing and tweaking. It was hard enough to balance characters, and even harder to balance a system used to create characters.
CG: Yeah, I can’t really imagine. It’s very daunting. But you’re still revising the character creation, right?
ID: Yes, though the newest system will be easier for me to test. I’m not sure there will ever be a time when the character creation system is really balanced, but the point isn’t to create a game meant for competitive play and perfect builds. I believe that I will settle on point costs for this batch of material by the end of 2012 or in early 2013, but I will be adding more options that will need testing, and I will be trying to create and balance the major arcana characters throughout the process. The goal is to have a set of three books, the Core Rulebook, Character Creation Guide, and Campaign Battles, all finished by Gen Con 2013, and funded by a Kickstarter.
CG: Ok, great. I suppose that the dimensions of a game of Collision are not really set. You just need a playing grid, right? I see you suggest 28-30mm miniatures with a 1.5 inch grid, but anything could work really. 15mm or Legos or big Playmobil fantasy figures if that’s your thing.
ID: Sure! also, 1.25″ squares work quite well printed out on 8.5″x11″ sheets of paper, so potentially the game could be played with pogs and graph paper.
CG: But a hex map is too much of a stretch and doesn’t match the mechanics?
ID: Not in this iteration of the rules, but assuming things go well for collision in the coming year, I will be working on variations for collision that can be played on a hex map, or even without a grid entirely.

Gridded Game Board for Collision Miniature Board Game at Gen Con 2012

The Rocky Playing Board for Collision

CG: Besides the rocky boards we played on at Gen Con, I also see that you have a board made with Hirst Arts floor tiles, but that you’re also making your own tiles. How’s that coming along?
ID: I haven’t been able to make too much progress on that front in the past couple of months because of Gen Con, but I will be refining the rocky tiles, in addition to other tile sets to be cast in resin. I will also be experimenting with casting large elevation terrain with the tile designs built-in out of expanding foam resin. I have plans for ruins tiles, dirt, desert, wasteland, marsh/beaches, and water tiles. And there will even be a couple styles of dungeon or interior building tiles for battles that take place in buildings, dungeons, and caves.
CG: So I have to ask: besides selling any tiles, how do you plan on making money with Collision if you can use other companies’ miniatures and can download the rules for free? Or is it more about having the experience and having Collision under your belt for future work?
ID: I intend to produce tiles and terrain to sell, and printed versions of the rulebook for people who prefer to have a nice looking copy of the rules. Beyond that I am considering designing campaign supplements that are not free. I am also interested in creating starter sets for Collision that include miniatures, which would be a good base-line for if someone doesn’t already have a collection. The bottom line was always that Collision wasn’t meant to make money. I want to write games, and the only way to get a job writing games is to write games. Also, I’m a college student, and as much as I love miniatures, I can’t drop a couple hundred dollars every time I want to play a new miniature game. I wanted to design the game I wished existed, so I did.

How Ian Douglass Got Into Gaming: Jeff Grub’s Influence and Family Gaming

CG: Yes, before we get to your college major, who got you and Lexxy into D&D?
ID: My dad Matthew Douglass, who played D&D in college with Jeff Grubb.
CG: Wow, the Jeff Grubb.
ID: Yep, they were college buddies. A couple of years ago I got in touch with Jeff Grubb and told him that I was Matt Douglass’s son and that I wanted to design games, and he gave me some great advice.
CG: Let’s hear it!
ID: Well the part I remember most was that he told me don’t do it.
CG: Haha.
ID: He told me just don’t and that it was hard and dissapointing, not rewarding, and ultimately sucked the fun out of games. Then he waited for my response and I told him that I have to do it, that I couldn’t help myself, and that I wouldn’t be satisfied not writing games. That if I weren’t getting payed to do it I would be doing it for free in my free time. His response was great, because if being told not to write games by Jeff Grubb didn’t discourage me then I had enough drive to do it. He told me some of what he said was true, that it was hard and discouraging, but that if its what you love to do, and you are prepared to have a day job some of the time to do it, then I’m on the right track. I haven’t contacted him in a while, and I think I will to let him know how far I’ve gotten since then.
CG: Should be interesting! Was your father your first DM and how old were you?
ID: I was 6 or 7, and he was my first DM. He ran a campaign that used a mix of 1st and 2nd edition rules, and Lexxy and I each played two characters occasionally joined by Mom’s character. I remember that campaign very well, better than anything else from when I was that age.
CG: What was the setting or what went on?
ID: The setting was very basic. We started in a small city, went to the tavern, and overheard that that there was adventure to be had in Dungeon-01 just outside the city. So we bought supplies and went. He wrote the dungeon in college and it was pretty huge. I remember it being the ruins of a castle that had mostly collapsed, that there were stairs carved in the stone leading to an iron gate that was bent out of shape and Lexxy’s paladin, George, who had a pathetically low Dex score, fell down the stairs.
CG: So it was a real dungeon delve typical of first edition.
ID: Totally. But there were features in that dungeon that heavily influenced me as a DM. I remember finding a chainsaw, and none of our characters had ever seen one before. Finding a single running shoe in a room that was a small jungle. Finding the Holy Hand Grenade from Monty Python’s Holy Grail and having a 20 miniute discussion with a mimic.
CG: I can begin to imagine. So were there ever any threats growing up of no more D&D if you didn’t behave or do chores?
ID: Not that I remembered. D&D was what we would do on Friday nights. We got to stay up late and have root beer and popcorn. I lived for those nights, and I probably could have been convinced to do anything to keep it that way.
CG: Have you turned the tables and been your father’s DM in the world of Gea and Collision?
ID: Only for a couple of sessions. Once I got a bit older and started having adventures of my own, Dad didn’t really have enough time to keep playing, so I took on the DM role and taught my friends to play. Every once in a while I create a module and have Dad and Lexxy, and my younger brother Logan play, since Logan wasn’t around at the time of the family campaigns. Logan is only 10, so I’m a good 12 years older than him.
CG: So Logan is 10, but when you were 10 you developed a card game. What was it?
ID: It was Mythica: Battle of the Greek Gods. Of course it never got further than a paper prototype, It was a basic card game with 3 decks: Hades, Zeus, and Poseidon. Each deck had a character card to represent the Greek god, it had monsters and spells true to their legends, and it was fairly easy to play too. I played with the friends in my new neighborhood when we moved from Ohio to Indiana.
CG: Interesting. Did you pick the brothers for a reason and did you ever think “Hmmn, why not add Hermes or Apollo?” or is it because they each have their realm, earth, sky, oceans?
ID: Well I had the intention to expand it to include other gods as well, but I figured Zeus and Hades disputed often enough to make them good and evil, and Poseidon I thought of as more neutral. In my mind they made points of a triangle and thus were perfect for a rock, paper, scissors type of mechanic. Even then I was worried about balance. But I lost interest after a few playtests; I was more interested in Lego at the time, and just starting to get curious about Warhammer.
CG: Perfect segue, so what miniature games have you played in your background?
ID: Warhammer, Warhammer 40k, Confrontation, Mage Knight, Hero Clix, Ronin, Chainmail, Warmachine, D&D Minis, Pirates of the Spanish Main, Battletech, Battlefleet Gothic, Anima Tactics, and a few others that don’t quite come to mind.
CG: What do you still play today?
ID: I still have my Warhammer and Warhammer 40k armies, but I haven’t played in some time. I don’t really play any of them today. I play D&D, Magic: the Gathering, and board games for the most part. The rest of my time is spent designing and testing my own games.
CG: Collision: board game or miniature game? Or is it just semantics?
ID: I conisder all miniature games to be board games, but not all board games to be miniature games. Collision is at least a miniature game I would say.
CG: More of a board game than a true war game though?
ID: No, I would call it a skirmish war game. Mostly because players bring their own components.
CG: Even though Heroscape has some of the same elements, Collision to me, at least visually with your boards, kind of has more of a chess/Shuuro/Go feel to it.
ID: I could see that, and I do lean heavily on chess motifs in the design and feel of the game. Others have compared it to Final Fantasy Tactics.
CG: Yes, yes, visually, Final Fantasy Tactics and some various Xbox Live Arcade games as well.

Game Studies at Indiana University

CG: Now what is your major all about at Indiana University?
ID: My major is actually Philosophy. I’m finishing up my last year, and I’m adding a certificate in Game Studies through the Telecom department as well.
CG: Yes, so Game Studies is what I’m after. What do you do for that?
ID: I do three things in abundance: play games, write stories, and create games. More of the latter two. In one class we play and discuss board games and mechanics and design games, and in another class the class of 12 or so students all work as a team to design a video game in a semester. I also pick up HTML, some basic programming, and a ton of writing and production skills.
CG: So this video game design class? Is that over? Current?
ID: Current. I’m the producer, and the game we are working on is called Doppelganger.
CG: Realistically, what can your expectations be? Is it just a class project to be forgotten or do you think you’ll have something enjoyable for others to play?
ID: We plan to publish it through the Xbox Live Arcade, and if we can get enough Kickstarter funding we plan to try to port it to mobile devices. A previous class completed a game called Warp Shooter which is on Xbox Live Arcade now actually. It’ll be fun, people will want to play it, and people will be able to buy it. or we fail.
CG: What were the format restrictions, if any? Is it more about your fellow students picking something of mutual interest?
ID: As a group we have to decide what is feasible, and the professor occasionally vetos ideas that are too ambitious, but the group is called Hoosier Games, and there is also a club that follows the same format as the class that I participate in as well.
CG: What’s an example of something that was too ambitious for past groups?
ID: There was a project where students tried to create an RPG that was choked by feature creep.
CG: What perspective?
ID: I’m actually not sure, I didn’t have a hand in it myself, so I’ve only heard people talk about it. I think it was a mobile game where you train a monster, play mini-games, and battle with and interact with other mobile users. But I’ve worked as a level designer for the iOs game Melodus which may be worked on more this year as well.
CG: What percent of your fellow Game Studies’ students would you say want to do something novel and innovative versus some who just want to play games and make a WoW/Modern Warfare/Settlers of Catan clone?
ID: Actually no one seems to want to do something overdone. Each person is invested in designing something familiar, but with mechanics or twists that make it something new and unusual. I’m sure there are Game Studies students that disagree, but a vast majority, 85% or more probably, are innovators, but not just doing something different for the sake of it.
CG: So that must be a stimulating environment. So how has your Game Studies program impacted Collision?
ID: In one of the classes I have an opportunity to earn points for an independent initiative style project. I proposed to set up a Kickstarter for Collision and document the process, and it will be worth almost a third of my grade. But more importantly it has pushed me to work on new ideas as well. I have two other games I’ll be working on this year to playtest at Gen Con 2013, and a basic pub game that I designed in 10 minutes for a class assignment that I may actually publish.
CG: And by pub game, does that mean beer and pretzels?
ID: Yes, and it adapts easily to be a drinking game.
CG: But were you being quite literal and that it was designed to be played in a bar or pub?
ID: Yes, one of my objectives was to create a game that could be played easily at the Ram, since I found myself there a few times this year with friends and I kept thinking, “I need to design a pub game.”
CG: That’s the bar in Indianapolis frequented by many gamers during Gen Con?
ID: It sure is! I’ve already had some excellent playtesting, so I may be trying to build a more polished prototype of it soon.

Game of skirmish miniature game Collision at Gen Con in 2012

A Different Game of Collision at Gen Con Featuring Necromancy

The Future of Collision

CG: Moving back to Collision’s future, I scanned through the current 87-page rulebook and can see that the game is very much in development. I also saw that you’re soliciting feedback on the game. When do you think you’ll have a more finalized version of the core rulebook? I know Gen Con 2012 is your goal for three books, but when would the core have to be pretty finalized by?
ID: I have a stack of edits to make to the core rules, and I will be making some minor adjustments beyond that. It will likely be finished by the end of December 2012 if not sooner, with the character creation and campaign battle rules in the summer of 2013.
CG: Will the end rules be more like a Warhammer or Warmachine rule book and you’ll need three that size? Do you have an ideal page count goal?
ID: Actually the core rulebook likely won’t exceed 100 pages at its current dimensions, and given that the character creation and campaign battles books are both optional material, they should need just the one book to play. As it stands the rulebook should be hardly bigger than it is, and the other two books roughly the same length but it’s hard to tell. The complexity in Collision is limited to the special abilities and effects of the characters, not the core rules, so the rulebook will remain quite small.
CG: Now where will your created characters be found, like Virgil or the Attendant of the 5 Dragons.
ID: I’ll be working on a batch of characters today and tomorrow, and they will get their own post on my blog. In the future I plan to have sample characters available on the site, as well as decks of pre-build characters based around the different values and factions for those players who want high quality cards. When the Character Creation Guide is complete, I will also include a section of pre-made characters with illustrations and flavor text. Also, we may be working on a character creator app soon, so players can select options for characters which automatically generates a card for the character, and a character manager for storing, printing, and sharing characters.
CG: Thanks, Ian.
ID: Excellent! Thanks for the interview!

Games Workshop at Gen Con 2012

Games Workshop had something of a phantom presence at Gen Con. To be sure, you could spot a Games Workshop banner hanging overhead in the Vendors’ Hall, but the floor space beneath it was being used for its subsidiaries, Forge World and the Black Library. The vast main gaming hall comprised of Halls C, E, F, and G had hundreds of tables seating thousands of gamers (which may be quite an understatement), so it was surprising to only spot a handful of Warhammer 40K games as I passed through day and night and no games of Warhammer Fantasy.

Warhammer 40k Apocalypse game unfolding with alien Tyranids versus valiant Dark Angels

A Horde of Tyranids Have Breached the Imperial Defenses in a Game of Apocalypse

One evening I did spy a game of Apocalypse unfolding with a Forge World Imperial Fortress attempting to hold the line against the teeming hordes of Tyranids which had managed to infiltrate into the landing pad area fashioned out of sytrofoam.

Specialist Games

On the other hand, GW games that have been relegated to Specialist Games status like Space Hulk, Warmaster, and Mordheim actually seemed to be more prevalent. Several Mordheim Warband leaders competed against one another across three to four tables bedecked with Miniature Building Authority buildings and other pieces of terrain.

Small skirmish Mordheim warbands battle through ruined city streets in 28mm scale

An Undead Warband Battles Against an Imperial Faction in Mordheim

The beautifully painted Warmaster armies below ironically belong to two Privateer Press employees who were marshaling them one evening. Besides the actual lettered halls like D, E, and F, Gen Con has large hallways which make taking pictures of cosplayers pretty easy and prevent congestion. They are also used after hours for impromptu games like Warmaster, but more frequently for social games like Are You a Werewolf? or card and board games.

Warmaster-scale Dragon and Eagles for High Elves army at Gen Con

A High Elves Army for Warmaster Boasting a Dragon and Giant Eagles

This was actually the first time in over 20 years of gaming I had ever seen any Warmaster being played, much less seen any fully painted forces in person. While it’s quite possible the two generals of the armies see one another more frequently than at Gen Con, for many gamers Gen Con provides the rare opportunity to get in a game or two of a favorite niche game system with a different opponent than normal or simply to play a favorite game at all.

High Elves versus Undead in Warmaster Game at Gen Con in tiny scale

A Tiny Battle Unfolding Pitting High Elves vs. the Undead in Warmaster

Space Hulk was also going on in the main gaming hall. Outside of Warhammer 40K, Warhammer Fantasy, and Lord of the Rings, Space Hulk does seem to get the most playtime of Games Workshop’s smaller titles. The fairly recent rerelease of the game has also captured new gamers’ interest as well. While I didn’t see any Dread Fleet games at Gen Con, on my flight to Indianapolis, an employee of a different gaming company was touting the virtues of Dread Fleet’s ancestor, Man O’War, the epic-scale fleet action game set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe which was released in the 1990s. I am positive that the gamer on the plane would have loved to get some games of Man O’War in at Gen Con if he were given the chance.

Gamers enjoy the Space Hulk board game from Games Workshop at Gen Con 2012

A Whole Swarm of Genestealers Waits Off the Space Hulk Board to Assault Unwary Terminators

The Omnipresent Emperor is Watching

Even outside the gaming halls, Games Workshop maintained a presence. In Cardhalla, builders can come and make anything they desire with the donated playing cards. The resulting structures are then knocked down on Saturday evening at 10:30 with change and coins wrapped in dollar bills. The money collected is given to a charity, the STARS Youth Foundation, with the honor of throwing the first donation going to the winner of a special auction.

Games Workshop trademark Double-Headed Aquila made of cards at 2012 Gen Con

Initially the GW Aquila was blue when I stopped by Cardhalla on Thursday night. Nearby I was pleased to recognize an Inquisitorial emblem, also from Warhammer 40K. While I may have just gently nudged some of the cards behind me, the pile of Austin Powers cards at my feet in the photo below was not my doing, though I do appreciate Dr. Evil’s trademark pinky smirk on one of the cards at my feet. I also appreciate that the double-headed Games Workshop Aquila and the Inquisitorial emblem are made out of Star Trek and Star Wars cards respectively, with some Magic: TG cards laying the foundation of the Aquila. I have to imagine that the creator was very aware that GW’s emblem is trademarked and fiercely protected and that he appreciated his own irony.

Cardhalla Thursday night at Gen Con with an Inquisitor symbol from Warhammer 40k made out of playing cards

By Saturday though the Aquila had undergone a face lift and was now using the red Austin Powers cards in place of the Star Trek CCG cards.

Games Workshop Aquila Symbol Made of Red Austin Powers cards at Gen Con 2012 Cardhalla

The red Aquila wasn’t the only change. The forces of Chaos had put an end to the Inquisitorial reign at Cardhalla. While it’s quite possible that it was stepped on and sloppily repaired, I have to suspect that a servant of Tzeentch took offense to the emblem and corrupted it for his own purpose.

Games Workshop Inquisitor Emblem Tainted by the Forces of Chaos on Saturday in Cardhalla at Gen Con

Vendors and Licensees

Painted Ork Warlord warboss Ghazghkull Thraka for $22 at Gen Con

A Painted Ghazghkull Thraka for $22 is a Steal

One of the strongest Games Workshop presences I saw actually was a shopkeeper in the form of Darryl Dean from the Game Room in Toledo, Ohio. Within the world of Adepticon and Gen Con though, Darryl is known as the “Bits Guy” for the huge quanitty of storage containers full of plastic and metal bits that he brings to the shows. He also was selling completely intact and painted miniatures with low prices like $5 for a Brettonian or Empire knight. Around the painted miniatures Dean had team upon team of painted Blood Bowl miniatures for about $80 a team. He also had a selection of Imperial Guard and Space Marine vehicles.

Ghazghkull Thraka for $22 with a pretty good paint job caught my eye (and helped empty my wallet). I also picked up a Looted Leman Russ battle tank to join my growing Waaagh!, as well as various Witch Hunter and Daemonhunter Inquisitorial servants, including an interesting conversion featuring Necron parts with a plasma cannon.

Painted rack of Space Marine tanks on sale at Gen Con for around $30

Darryl Dean tends to pick up the armies which he then resells en masse, when a group of players switch from one system to another, such as Warhammer Fantasy Battles to Warhammer 40K. Sometimes he buys 10 armies at once. Dean is leery of eBay, only selling at the Game Room and at shows like Gen Con and Chicago’s Adepticon, but is thinking of expanding to Rock-Con in Rockford, Illinois and WinterCon in Rochester, Michigan.

Another aspect of Games Workshop’s phantom yet pervasive presence at Gen Con came through Fantasy Flight Games. Fantasy Flight Games has held Games Workshop licenses for quite some time and the company was showing off Relic at Gen Con, offering attendees the chance to play the Warhammer 40K-themed board game for the first time. Relic draws heavily from Talisman, but pits its 2-4 players against one another in a race to vanquish as many foes of the Imperium as possible.

Board game Relic from Fantasy Flight Games at Gen Con based on Warhammer 40K universe

Relic Board Game from Fantasy Flight Games at Gen Con 2012