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.
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.
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”.
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.
Hirst Arts Vendor: 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.
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).