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.

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

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

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?