Carillo with a Prototype of Big Angry Monsters at LVCE
One of the unique opportunities the 2013 Las Vegas Comic Expo afforded its attendees was the opportunity to play a brand new board game, long before the public will get a chance to play it. Las Vegas resident Anthony Carillo brought Big Angry Monsters to the Expo on Saturday and has now brought the game to Kickstarter. Big Angry Monsters will be familiar to any kaiju fans: rival monsters rampage through a city, leaving a trail of devastation in their wake. It’s been done before by Privateer Press’s Monsterpocalypse and this new game’s Big Angry Monsters sure have the look and feel of IELLO’s King of Tokyo characters, but Carillo has managed to combine other gaming mechanics and crisp character designs from Jared Moratis of BeastPop Artworks into one cohesive package. The game is fast, furious, tactical, and fun.
Carillo is seeking to raise $20,000 on Kickstarter to fund the game’s manufacturing from Panda Game Manufacturing in China with a deadline of December 16. For $50.00, US backers get a copy of the standard edition of Big Angry Monsters, plus a Kickstarter exclusive monster, the Pollo Mutado, as well as all stretch goals. Several top-tier pledges allow for the creation of new Monsters designed by backers with $1000 to design an exclusive monster and $1500 for a monster that will ship with every copy of the game.
The Big Angry Rules of Big Angry Monsters
Big Angry Monster Dave the Ape, A Former Smog Technician
As for the rules of the game, at its core, Big Angry Monsters is a game of grid-based combat using six or seven dice to resolve movement, attacks, and defense for the cardboard monster standees. The various kaiju battle in a randomized island city and can only regain health by destroying the surrounding environment. Unlike King of Tokyo, the dice in Big Angry Monsters do not allow a monster to heal, but do allow for a drain energy attack on your opponents’ monsters. And also unlike King of Tokyo, there is only one path to victory: a player wins by knocking out all of the opponents’ monsters.
Along the way though monsters gain experience and can actually level up, which unlocks special Super Moves attacks like Suplexes and Throws. With a Suplex, gained at Level 2, your monster can lift up an opponent’s monster and smash it down onto a neighboring building for additional damage. Attaining Level 3 opens up the option of Throwing a rival monster up to 2 squares away. Additionally when a monster maxes out its level, the player then gets an additional d6 to roll.
The Rulebook Prototype and Art Direction
While the rulebook prototype brought to Las Vegas Comic Expo back in late September had a number of typos, it provided a short selection of solid rules. Carillo turned to Erik Pepper to co-author the game’s introduction and Pepper and Carillo have knocked the ball out of the park. The introduction is light, humorous, and will get any players quickly into the spirit of the game. As for the game’s artwork, while the base monsters were designed by Jared Moratis, Anthony Carillo has turned to another monster creator, Squeedgemonster, to fill in the remainder of the game’s artwork including Power Cards and Location Tiles, as well as the Pollo Mutado Kickstarter Exclusive.
All Big Angry Monsters artwork copyright Anthony Carillo and used with permission.
On Monday, April 15 I called and interviewed Kevin Siembieda over the phone about the upcoming Robotech RPG Tactics Kickstarter. While other legendary RPG designers have worked on multiple game systems over the years, Siembieda has spent the last three decades delving deep into his own Palladium rules system producing titles at Palladium Books like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Beyond the Supernatural, Ninjas & Superspies, Heroes Unlimited, and of course, RIFTS and Robotech. As of April 18, the Kickstarter from Ninja Division is LIVE and seeking to raise $70,000 in 32 days, but he had a lot to say on Monday about his playtest experience with Robotech RPG Tactics, the newer post-2005 edition of the Palladium Robotech RPG, his experience wargaming, Kickstarter, and RIFTS.
CG: First off, Minmei or Lisa Hayes? KS: Oh, I’m a Lisa Hayes guy. I like women who are mature. [Laughs] As simple as that. CG: What’s your favorite song that Minmei sings though? KS: “We Will Win”, no question about it. That fight scene was epic. CG: You just had your birthday. How old did you turn? KS: I am 57. I feel like 27, but the white hair says otherwise. CG: You’ve had that for some time, right? KS: Yeah, I started turning grey when I was in my twenties, so yeah, my hair turned silver about ten years ago. It just gets a little whiter, but blondes have more fun, so I’m enjoying being a platinum blond.
Siembieda on Robotech Eras
CG: There seems to be a vocal community of fans desperate for the Masters and New Generation sagas, do you have anything to tide them over? I know you mentioned recently that hopefully you’ll be including them, but any further news on that? KS: There is no “hopefully” including them. I mean, when we started this project, our goal from the very beginning was to do all eras of Robotech. So that has been our plan from day one and that continues to be our plan. It’s easier to tackle them pretty much in order, starting with Macross, so that’s what we’re doing. We plan on banging out pieces for every era of Robotech.
New Sculpt Unveiled for Robotech RPG Tactics: The VF-1A Battloid Valkyrie
The Newer Edition of the Robotech RPG
CG: For someone like me who played Robotech from Palladium back in the ’90s, what about the newer edition of the game, what are some reasons for someone like me to pick it up and take a look at it? KS: If you’re talking about the current role-playing game, let me just clarify for people who may not be familiar with the game line or haven’t looked at it in a long time: back in 1986 we came out with the Robotech role-playing game that was based on the Harmony Gold anime series and it was hugely popular. And we had that license for like fifteen or seventeen years, I forget what it was, where we let it go after a while because we just kind of thought that we had done everything we could with it and other things were happening.
Then in 2005 we got that license back and one of the big differences is back in the ’80s and ’90s when we originally had the license there was not the wealth of information that we have now. And even Harmony Gold as the licensor didn’t provide us with the kind of information we needed to do what we as fans [saw as] a truly accurate representation of the television series. For example, Southern Cross, we had a bunch of cool animation/artwork/model sheets, but we had no information as to what a lot of that stuff was. You got to remember, this was back in the day before the internet or just as the internet was starting to take off and a lot of this information just was not available. Harmony Gold didn’t have it, we didn’t have it, and I think in the earlier days of Harmony Gold, they were really focusing and looking at Robotech as being their unique extrapolation from original material, which of course, it very much is, but in the advent of the web and the world getting smaller, where everything’s at your fingertips, there’s just a lot more information available about the original material and I think the new generation of creators at Harmony Gold, such as Tommy Yune and a bunch of other guys, sat back and said “Gee, it’d be cool if this stuff was more accurate and was more representative of what you see in the TV series. That’s some of the fun we’ve really been having with the re-tool of this; when we launched Robotech in 2005, we really looked at it as if we had never seen the license before and we gathered all kinds of information. This time Harmony Gold had a wealth of information they could share with us and input and ideas and stats on the various ‘mechs and weapons and characters and things. We dug up even more and so little bits of it are still extrapolations of things.
For example, Southern Cross in particular, there’s just a truckload of new material that people have never seen before. I mean there’s power armor and robots and drones and vehicles and a ton of weapons that are all part of the Army of the Southern Cross and it really makes Southern Cross or the Masters Saga, so much more dynamic and exciting and fun, because there’s just tons and tons of what I call “toys”, like I said, weapons and power armor, all kinds of stuff that you get glimpses of in a TV show, but there’s never really been a lot of information on, so that’s been a blast for us, to do stuff like that. We really just feel like the representation of what we’re doing is so much truer to the TV show than our first run with the series and it’s been a blast doing that. So there’s just a lot of good stuff.
And then when you were talking about Robotech RPG Tactics, that’s even going beyond the strictly roleplaying stuff. With RPG Tactics we’re taking the Robotech environment and the characters and mainly focusing on the mecha and the combat and coming up with an extrapolation on the roleplaying game that enables people to basically play a fast-paced, combat-oriented tabletop game. So you’ll actually have one 1:285th scale plastic figure, what we’re calling game pieces. The detail is just beautiful. You’ll be able to play skirmish games, you’ll be able to scale it up to mass combat. It just brings a whole new dimension and the fact that you’ll now have these beautifully sculpted and detailed figures, that’s wonderful, because obviously in a combat game scenario you really need to see your figures and know where the guy is, where that character is or where that mech is, and where he’s going. We have all these tight, very formal, very crisp playtested-like-crazy set of rules that allow you to really engage in a broad range of combat. It’s just a blast.
Living Legend: Kevin Siembieda at the Palladium Books Booth at Gen Con 2012
And then for Robotech collectors and fans, these figures are gorgeous. As a fan myself, if someone else were producing this product, I’d want to buy it just because I want the damn figures on my shelf! I’ve never really been a tactical combat guy or a wargamer, so that has limited appeal, although I think this game for me personally as a roleplayer and a Robotech fan, this game is so fun that a lot of people regardless of what their orientation is for Robotech can pick it up pretty easy and have a lot of fun.
Kevin Siembieda’s Wargaming Experience
CG: You’ve touched on a couple of things I wanted to ask you about. So you said you’re not much of a miniature wargamer yourself? What have you played? KS: For me, I’ve dabbled with a few things. I played a couple of homegrown things with some friends in the past. I’ve played Ironclads a million years ago. I played Battletech. I’m familiar with the market, so I’m familiar with some of the games by Fantasy Flight and of course, the Warhammer 40K stuff, but I’m very much a roleplayer. CG: So yeah, you don’t have a Warhammer army yourself? KS: No, sir! [Laughs] But I have plenty of friends who do and that’s the beauty of this product too. For role-players, the pieces are really nice to have too whether they’re just display pieces or whether they represent your character as you’re playing through the game. It’s nice to be able to position them, so everyone knows where their mech is and what their characters are doing. That’s the beauty of this game. The way we approached it is to try to create a game that would have really broad appeal so that any number of Robotech fans can dive in and find some use and find some pleasure with it.
Robotech RPG Tactics 1:285 Scale
CG: Now why the scale of the 1:285th, is that going back to Battletech and other things, that that’s just the micro armor scale? KS: Yeah, again, we know enough and, of course, the Ninja Division guys know that market inside and out, because they are the guys from Sodapop Miniatures and Cipher Studios. And yeah, they felt that was the best scale, because it coincides with a number of other games and that way you can always mix and match, for those who want to do that. You can mix and match different models and miniatures from other games, especially depending on how far you want to take this stuff. You can have different creatures and mechs and stuff that could be from alien worlds and things, because ultimately all the games you’re only limited by your imagination, so we wanted people to have a wide range of possibilities. Plus, it’s also the scale that most people seem to really want! When we ourselves started to explore this market, we put the question out there and asked the gamers what they really wanted to play and the overwhelming response was the 1:285th scale. So if that’s what players want, then that’s what we’re going to give them. [After the interview, Kevin Siembieda also mentioned the ease of finding terrain in the scale as another contributing factor.]
Palladium Books and Ninja Division: The Robotech RPG Tactics Kickstarter Campaign
CG: Now what is Palladium Books role in Robotech RPG Tactics exactly? Are you in partnership or is one of you the licensor? How is that working? KS: Yeah! Palladium is the licensor. We have the rights to the Robotech property for roleplaying and various other things. We’re also going to be the publisher, so we’re bankrolling all of this. And of course, we’ve had input with game design, because while I may not be a wargamer per se, I certainly know Robotech inside and out, know what feel we need for the game. And game design, the fundamentals of game design, apply to most mediums so you want stuff that’s fast-paced and fun, that creates the television experience. It’s all translation. We’ve been working with Sodapop/Cypher Studios/Ninja Division guys to achieve all that.
CG: Who is actually masterminding the Kickstarter campaign? Are you behind that or is Ninja Division doing that? KS: Well we’re working really closely with the Ninja Division guys, but they are the guys behind the Kickstarter. It’s simply a matter of they have the experience and we don’t. CG: Right. KS: So yeah, we’re deferring to their expertise.
“As a Robotech fan, I mean this is just a product that I would kill for. It’s the kind of thing that I’ve wanted to see for the last 25 years.”
CG: I know you’re just as excited as the fans for the Kickstarter, so what are you personally looking forward to getting your hands on? KS: [Laughs] Oh my gosh! It’s one of these things that’s been killing me! Because Ninja Division doesn’t want us to reveal a lot of what is going to be in the Kickstarter or what’s going to be in this game line. It’s been sort of killing me not to be able to tell people that yes, there’s going to be all the Destroids and yes, the M.A.C. II Monster is freaking gorgeous! And all the figures are gorgeous. As a Robotech fan, I mean this is just a product that I would kill for. It’s the kind of thing that I’ve wanted to see for the last 25 years. So it’s a double kick for us that we get to be the guys who can do this. It’s been very exciting!
The M.A.C. II Monster: Wait for Kickstarter to See the “Freaking Gorgeous” Sculpt
Kevin Siembieda’s Robotech RPG Tactics Playtest Experience
CG: Are you going to be more of a Zentraedi guy or more of the United Earth Defense Forces? KS: When I was playtesting I actually played the Zentraedi, so both sides are fun to play. CG: So you also just answered another question I had. So playtesting: you’ve definitely played the game quite a bit yourself? KS: Oh, heck yeah! For me, it’s been a learning curve. But I think that worked really good, because I asked a lot of the lowest common denominator questions. One of the things I found, for example, is while the game designers were focusing on certain elements of the game, I – as just a Robotech fan with very little war game experience – I stepped in and when I’m playing the war game, I’m like “Well, why can’t I do this?” And “Why can’t I do that?” And “Can my character do this?” And when they didn’t have an answer, I’m like “Well, why not?” [Laughs] CG: Do you think that you have shaped the game a bit or did they just explain more of wargaming terms to you? KS: Oh, well in some cases, it was a matter of “Ok, these are common tropes in this kind of game and this is why we do this.” And in other cases, “Oh yeah, gosh, why can’t we do that?” And “You’re right, it should be faster.” Or “It should be able to do this.” Yeah, I definitely contributed conceptually to what the game should be and my focus is simply to recreate the television experience. If you see it on TV, you should be able to play it. If you couldn’t, it was like, “Well, we need to fix that.” And that’s what the guys who know the rules sat down and did.
CG: I forget the technical name for this, like the Alpha Missile Strike [Macross Missile Massacre], the thing with all the missiles swirling around in the air, but is there an in-game equivalent to that? KS: Oh yeah, absolutely. Again, at the risk of being a nerd (but that’s what I am)… everything you can see in the television show, we are trying to provide in the gaming experience, so, yes! You can have an Armored Valkyrie or a Super Valkyrie just loaded up with missiles and unleash! You can have missile volleys, you have all kinds of great stuff. Again, everything you can see in the show is pretty much there. There are some exceptions and some modifications and some elements – like a lot of the playtesters have brought up questions about three-dimensional play and… there’s some things of sitting back and saying “You know what? These will be saved for advanced rules.”
CG: Ok. I think even with Ninja Division and the Youtube video, I think they mentioned that one of your characters could be Miriya or play as Roy Fokker, right? KS: Yeah! Well, I don’t know how I can reveal this quite yet, but yeah, there’ll be mechanisms in there where you can actually play specific characters or use the specific characters as part of your squadron and their inclusion gives you and your team bonuses and such. And then, yeah, especially for roleplayers, it’s easy enough for you to just put your own character in there or a specific TV character and “This model represents that character or another character.” Go to town, man! Just have fun!
John Cadice from Ninja Division on Robotech RPG Tactics at GAMA Trade Show
CG: Were you playing with a measuring tape? KS: Yeah, yeah! We were using laser pointers and measuring tapes, yep. CG: So it’s not a hex or grid? You were measuring in inches or centimeters? KS: Right. I believe it was inches?
CG: Is it a game with alternating activation or do you just sit there while your opponent moves all his figures and then you go? KS: That’s one of the things that we’ve been fooling around with and… [Kevin Siembieda later clarified:] The fact of the matter is that Robotech® RPG Tactics™ is most definitely turn based. It uses a fast-paced turn system with players trading off activating squadrons during each turn. This helps ensure that a player never has to sit and wait for long periods of time while his opponent is moving and attacking with his entire army. One of our main goals in the design of this game is to keep the action fast and reflective of the action you see in the anime.
CG: What about M.D.C. [Mega Damage Capacity]? Is there an MDC stat or is pretty much all the damage MDC anyways? KS: Yeah, it’s pretty much all MDC, but yeah, there is an MDC stat. You know, obviously it’s not the same as in the games. [Garbled.] You don’t have to pull out a calculator to do the math, but yeah, it’s basically an MDC equivalent.
CG: Ok. So someone at Ninja Division had to point out all the units to make them equivalent, like one Zentraedi Battle Pod is worth how many ever Destroids? KS: Oh yeah. CG: Did you have any input on that or you left that to them as wargamers? KS: I pretty much left a lot of the real nitty gritty to them as wargamers, although again, it was one of these things where… you know, in the course of all this, because we have been really working on this for- oh God, it’s probably close to six months now, that we fooled around with everything. For example, I think the game started out with a-, in fact, I know the game started out with three Zentraedi to one Earth Defender. And then we adjusted that to two, and then we adjusted it to one and a half, and that was really imbalanced. And then I think we’ve ended up back at what we originally started with, as three Zentraedi to one Earth Defender. CG: Ok. And we’ve seen Rick Hunter do that many times easily. KS: Yeah, exactly! And again, we all rewatched the TV show, we all talked a lot about it amongst ourselves, and then we sent in our input to the various people. We had weekly discussions, telephone conferences with the Ninja Division guys and some of our own guys. A few of the playtesters really know their stuff too. We got some really valuable input from a lot of the playtesters and we had a lot of playtesters, because we really wanted to get a lot of different views. In fact, one of the things we did when we sent stuff out to various playtest people is we tried to do a range from experienced tabletop gamers to guys like me, who have never or rarely picked up a war game, to guys who can quote from twenty different systems and armies of, like you were saying earlier, Warhammer. Here’s my 400 Warhammer figures or whatever game they’re into. So we really did want to get a good range of input and see what people who were experienced and inexperienced thought. People who knew Robotech and who didn’t know Robotech. So it’s been really, really an experience getting all that input.
CG: Are there any weird stretch goals for fans like Rick’s civilian plane? Or floating giant fish out in outer space, any weird stuff like that? KS: [Laughs] You know, I don’t really think I’m at liberty to say.
Timeline for Kickstarter
CG: Haha, ok. Any update on when that Kickstarter will be? I’ve heard April 19th at the latest, but I also heard this coming Saturday. Any update on that? KS: Yeah, we are shooting to get that up as soon as possible. The 18th would be ideal. We’ve even been talking about doing it sooner if that would be possible, but it looks like the 18th is probably a solid date, but certainly within there, give or take a day or two. We need to do it right. And right now, the Ninja Division guys are just-, since they’re doing 99% of the work on the Kickstarter itself, I mean they’re just busting their backs right now to get it all up and done. We’ve been going in and mostly pointing, you know, “Change this. Fix that. Tweak that. Here’s a better image. Here’s a suggestion. Here’s a this. Oh yeah, that’s approved.” That sort of thing. And they’re doing all the heavy lifting on this, so whatever they can get done and how quick they can do it and make it look good. Because we don’t just want to crap it out. And, of course, Harmony Gold has to take a look at it and approve it and hopefully that’ll simply be a matter of a quick look and approval, but that could be… some delays if they want us to change something or tweak something, but they’ve been great to work with so far. We’ve been getting good, quick approvals from them. They’re super-excited about this project too. On 04.16.13 Kevin Siembieda emailed that the Kickstarter will be THURSDAY.
Robotech Live Action Movie: No Real News
CG: Of course they should be. So the pressure’s on for me so I need to type this up pretty quickly. Do you know anything about the Live Action movie or is that in development hell? What do you know? KS: Uhhhhh, yeah, I guess I don’t really know anything officially. CG: Ok, so obviously it would benefit everyone involved, but you also have no control over that, right? KS: I have absolutely no control over that and I’ve heard some rumors that it’s in development – and by the way those rumors did NOTcome from Harmony Gold, so … I really don’t know if it’s in development or not.
The 2006 Palladium Plea to Fans and Kickstarter
CG: You made a very public plea years ago in 2006 for funding and support from your fans. So now in conjunction with Ninja Division, you’re going to be Kickstarting; do you see those as any different? KS: I guess yes and no? It’s different in that the circumstances were certainly different, but yeah, ironically we kind of did crowdfunding before we even realized-, well, actually before crowdfunding even existed. In 2006 we were just in those desperate straits of having basically been sabotaged with embezzlement and theft that put us on the verge of bankruptcy. And we were in desperate straits and there was just no way to raise the kind of revenue we needed to stay alive and I came up with the idea of-, gosh, we’d been around at the time for 25 years and what if we went to our fans and said, “Hey, this is what’s going on. We’re in desperate straits. And if you’re planning on buying books, please buy them now.” And “Here’s a bunch of special items, prints and things, T-shirts that we’re making now to fund all this and keep us from going out of business.” The fans were just phenomenal. It was unbelievable. It was nothing short of a miracle. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, which is pretty incredible, because they turned a nightmare situation into something wonderful and beautiful. Because in addition to just the financial support we got all these emails and phone calls and letters, just espousing how much they loved us and the products, you know, “Thank you for doing these.” And “We’re not going to let you go out of business.” Yeah, it was pretty incredible! But obviously this is a much more formalized thing. I think crowdfunding through companies like Kickstarter is fantastic! Especially in the new, sort of global economic environment that we’re in. It’s so hard to find one or two investors willing to pump in X amount of money and it’s great if you can go to the people who actually know your stuff and love your stuff and want to support your stuff and get them to put in the money. It’s a win-win for everyone, because they get cool product and you get the resources you need to do those cool products. Yeah, it’s a great idea.
Siembieda on RIFTS and Possibility of Rifts RPG Tactics
CG: There were RIFTS miniatures in the 1990s produced with RAFM. Any comment this early on on whether we might see a Spider Skull Walker in resin anytime soon? KS: [Laughs] That’s a great question! I don’t know about someday soon, but yeah, we would love to see that. We would love to see a RIFTS tabletop game and yeah, wait till you guys see some of the designs in the Northern Gun books. Oh man! There could be some beautiful, epic RIFTS battles, man. It’d be great, yeah. We’d love to see that. But we’re not counting our chickens before they hatch and we have NO plans. I don’t want to start any rumors. We have no plans to do a RIFTS tactical game at this time. CG: None? Really? Ok. So at least this will give you guys a chance to see how the process works and so on with Kickstarter and everything else. If you did it, it seems like Kickstarter [or crowdfunding] would be involved. KS: Oh yeah, absolutely. If we did do a RIFTS RPG Tactics game line, we would certainly do it as a Kickstarter-funded thing. I’m not saying we’re not going to do it, I’m just saying that we’re trying to stay focused [laughs] on what we have now. Once we launch this, if it’s as successful as everyone seems to think it is- because everyone from the Ninja guys to the gaming base that we are tapped into to our distributors, – everyone seems to think that it’s going to be a big deal. Everyone seems excited about it. So yeah, if this is the success we think it will be, then after we have Robotech in all eras of Robotech in the pipeline to come out as part of this game line, then we’ll think about what we might do with RIFTS. But yeah, I think it’d be a hoot to do it.
The Success of RIFTS
CG: RIFTS, compared to Robotech… RIFTS of course came out later, but it seems to be the flagship product for Palladium Books, right? KS: Yeah! Oh yeah, in fact our first big hit game was Ninja Turtles. Our next big hit game was Robotech and then our – chronologically – our third big hit game was RIFTS. But RIFTS eclipsed both of those. Yeah, it was just a mega-hit. People love the thing. It’s been around for twenty-some years now and still going strong. CG: Any figures on number of books published for RIFTS? KS: Oh god! [Laughs] Including sourcebooks and things? Millions. I think the- Oh gosh! I should have those numbers at my fingertips. I think RIFTS Core Rulebooks alone- I should say the RPG and the RIFTS Ultimate Edition, you know, the two versions of the core rules have sold something in the neighborhood of 350,000 copies. So yeah, it’s pretty strong. There’s got to be a dozen source books for Rifts – World Books – that have sold 100,000 copies all by themselves. But a lot of that goes back to the heyday of the ’90s when RIFTS was kicking and roleplaying was just hot. The first six Rifts titles all hit 100,000 or more. So, yeah. It was big! When we came out with RIFTS we printed 10,000 copies and thought, “This is a three month supply if the game is as hot as we think it will be.” And we sold out in three weeks and we were like “Holy crap!” And we pressed 20,000 the next time around and that sold out in like two months. Yeah, we knew we had something special at that point. CG: Well, I wish you the greatest of success in a similar way with Robotech RPG Tactics then! KS: Thank you, Brant. I appreciate that.
After Dave Doust from Cool Mini or Not spoke, we still had a number of other presenters to hear from at the GAMA Trade Show Press Conference, beginning with the brains behind Gen Du, followed by the creators of Bin’fa, Let’s Have Church, and Major Me Baseball. Scott D’Augustino and Jerome Gonyeau also spoke from Wizkids, but what they had to say will be included in a later article on the Wizkids Premier Presentation.
Gen Du: The Gentleman’s Duel
Eytan Benichay introduced us to the concept behind Gen Du, the Gentleman’s Duel. Most of the cards are player-created with two blank cards coming in each starter deck of 50 cards. Players create both mechanics and art for new cards, submit them online, and the best cards enter play with the next set. It’s an intriguing marketing strategy that could result in players buying more cards to get duplicates of the card that they designed themselves. So far Gen Du is on its Beta set of 136 cards, with 136 cards released in the Alpha set at an anime convention in August, 2012. With a current total of 272 cards in print, Gen Du is available in local stores in the Miami area and at the Gen Du website. While at the GAMA Trade Show, Benichay also secured distribution with Mad Al Distributors and Magazine Exchange. Starter decks sell for $10, while boosters of 15 cards are $4.
Gen Du Co-Creator Eytan Benichay in the 2013 GAMA Trade Show Exhibitors’ Hall
Gen Du in the Exhibitors’ Hall
Miami resident Eytan Benichay had more to explain about Gen Du at the tail end of exhibiting on Thursday. In his own words, Gen Du “is a perfect hybrid between card games, board games, and table top war games. Both players build dungeons and then try to conquer each other, which makes for an intense experience.” Despite being called the Gentleman’s Duel, Gen Du is a game of deceit and destruction, with players’ dungeon room cards being concealed. For Benichay, Gen Du’s innovative approach to card creation is a major focus. As he puts it, “Never has there been a game where card creation and game play can be so heavily impacted by the players.”
Stay tuned for a review of Gen Du on cravengames.com, as well as news of Gen Du’s third card set, which could feature YOUR player-created card. With any luck and skill, it will also include one from Craven Games.
Bin’fa, the Tao of War
Ken Hodkinson and Erika Bird with Bin’Fa, Tao of War
Another presenter was brimming with both character and personality. Kenneth Hodkinson is the creator of Bin’fa, the Tao of War, which began in 1971, when he was working in a Massachusetts factory on a Davenport machine. He got to thinking and devised a strategy game with furious cavalry charges, promising that once a Bin’Fa game begins, “soon there’s blood on the floor.” Hodkinson got some friends to invest and had 500 copies of the game produced, submitting one to Avalon Hill after the creator of Mastermind, Roddy Sampson, said he loved the game. While it was initially rejected, Avalon Hill later picked the game up, releasing it as Hexagony, so-called because of the hexagonal nature of the playing board, and perhaps for the agonizing deliberation that confronts the game’s generals during gameplay.
Endless Variety: Bin’fa’s 6 Playing Surfaces Can Easily Be Reconfigured in Multiple Ways
Hodkinson provided an even richer, and more in-depth history of what would become Bin’fa, the Tao of War via a five-page handout passed out to the attending press. Fast forwarding to the present, the game is now played on six board tiles that can be arranged and re-arranged into a near-endless series of combinations. No game need ever be the same. Bin’fa has the look and feel of a classic abstract strategy game like Chess or Go, but also includes mechanics for supplies/logistics, terrain, and a general. In another modern twist, Bin’fa can also be played with vortex markers, allowing an army unit to teleport across the battlefield, further adding to its complexity.
Let’s Have Church
Randolph Myers from Gotta Have Games was similarly charismatic and bubbling over with enthusiasm for Let’s Have Church. Let’s Have Church originated back in 2008, but launched in 2011, and has since sold over 2,000 units. Developed by husband and wife team Randolph and Nichole Myers the game is already available in seven retail stores in the Detroit area, as well as in Atlanta. The game has three main parts, with the first two including the performance round, during which players act out, draw, or describe scenes or passages from the Bible. Another round poses multiple-choice questions, such as “Which name is NOT found in the Bible? A. Joanna, B. Lydia, C. Eunice, or D. Shaniqua ” In the third round, a statement is read and then the following question is asked, “Church folks or Bible phrase?” Let’s Have Church is so great, Randy Myers says, because its content is non-offensive. Myers has played it with “literally 100 people” split into teams of fifty and the game is also played at youth retreats and marriage retreats.
Nichole Myers of Gotta Have Games Raising the Roof for Let’s Have Church at GTS 2013
While the game box puts the player age at 13 and up, Myers says 16 to mid-forties is their sweet spot. Personally he likes to say the game is for anyone, 8 to 88, but he’s had a 92 year old tell him, “I like it too.” Randolph and Nichole Myers plan on at least two expansions and say that this is just the beginning for Let’s Have Church. His presentation came to an end when, as he put it, he began “getting the Chuck Woolery sign.” Later, Myers was able to tell me that four retail stores picked up Let’s Have Church at the GTS. Gotta Have Games also signed up with a smaller distributor and is thinking of switching manufacturers, all because of attending the GAMA Trade Show.
Major Me Baseball
Keith Raymond Pitches Major Me Baseball
Keith Raymond was similarly energetic when he outlined Major Me Baseball’s selling points, boiling the game down to movement. He promised that “anyone can figure this out in two innings,” because the game’s playing cards are self-explanatory. Raymond calls the game three games in one because it has variations for Major League, Little League, and Home Run Derby play. The game uses dice for offensive and defensive plays. In describing a runner approaching first base, Raymond detailed that one die has four sides with “Safe”, one side “Pick Off”, and one side, “Take a Base”. This is because it is very rare for a defensive player to throw the ball to first and pick off the runner, according to Raymond. But since it does happen in a game of baseball, he has incorporated it into Major Me Baseball. As for stealing a base, the die has three sides “Out” and three sides “Safe”, reflecting only a 50% likelihood of stealing a base. In the Major League version of the game every play is included in the game’s cards from a Triple down to a Balk. Raymond’s Home Run Derby is played by the hitter rolling three dice with each die split between an equal number of Outs and Home Runs. Each variant of Major Me Baseball only takes 10-12 minutes to play.
Keith Raymond’s Major Me Baseball competed with another gentleman’s baseball game, Homerun Baseball, in the Exhibitors’ Hall. From this, as well as a presentation on an Olympics board game and the designers of the football game Yards: The Game of Inches attending last year, it would seem that sports games make a perennial appearance at the GAMA Trade Show, if not retailers’ shelves.
Joey Vigour from Mirror Box Games presented Chaosmos. While still in development, Chaosmos is a science fiction board game wherein the 2-4 players search for the mysterious singularity, the Ovoid, in a “cosmic treasure hunt.” The game is still so new that brothers Joey and Danny Vigour are still deciding on its final components, but have a rough estimate of a $40-50 price. What’s clear to the Brothers Vigour and their two co-designers is that Chaosmos’s play style is “emergent”, with no particular path to victory. Whoever holds the Ovoid at the end of the game will be the victor. Players who have good memories and deductive powers though will be rewarded because the game has a Clue-like element with an envelope on each of the game’s 10 planets. Players have a maximum 7-card hand, but can trade out cards on the planets. The Pheromonic Harpoon is a potent weapon card in Chaosmos, but a player with the Pheromonic Recoiler card can resist its devastating effects. Keeping track of where the two device cards are is part of the challenge of the game, but the focus of Chaosmos isn’t really battles, says Vigour. Instead, battles are just a further way of obtaining information.
Brothers Joey and Danny Vigour (center and left) Demo Chaosmos at the Mirror Box Games Booth
In addition to the 10 planets, there are also 10 aliens, each with its own unique powerful racial ability. These racial abilities combined with players’ hands of cards makes “every player begin to start thinking they’re invincible,” according to elder brother Joey Vigour. For example, the alien Drusu the Scryer can look at other players’ hands and into the planetary envelopes with his Scrying ability. A powerful ability, but the Scryer can also tip off his opponents by his probable knowledge of the Ovoid’s location, so discretion is advised. Mirror Box Games’ efforts at demoing the game at Game Night and in the Exhibitors’ Hall elicited interest from attending distributors and game publishers, with at least one prominent company making the brothers a serious offer at the show. Mirror Box Games has not rushed to a decision about how Chaosmos will be produced and released, but their experience goes to show just how powerful the connections made at the GAMA Trade Show can be.
Danny Vigour Points to Alien Playing Piece on One of Chaosmos’s Ten Planets
Roberto Di Maglio briefly touched upon Ares Games’ past releases, Wings of Glory, Lord of Middle-earth, Aztlán, and Micro Monsters. The Italian native explained that Ares Games released World War I and World War II lines of pre-assembled and prepainted miniature planes “realistic enough for simulationists” for Wings of Glory in 2012. The game’s mechanic of a maneuver deck of cards to move the planes around has been a hit and Ares Games adapted the mechanic for their Age of Sail game, Sails of Glory. The first Kickstarter attempt for Ares Games, Sails of Glory is currently funded, but still open for backers. The game is set in the Napoleonic era. Kickstarter has also doubled the hits to Ares Games’ website, Di Maglio revealed.
Plastic Sci-Fi Miniatures from The Galaxy Defenders from Ares Games
Two other games Ares Games will be launching later this year are The Galaxy Defenders and Inkognito. The Galaxy Defenders is a cooperative game using sci-fi miniatures with the players taking the part of the Terrans and battling against the AI aliens. Di Maglio expects an August or September release for the game. Inkognito will remain close to the spirit of the classic game released by Milton Bradley in 1988.
The Stylized Playing Pieces of Inkognito Which Ares Games Will Release Later This Year
North Star Games: Clubs
Luke Warren from North Star Games kept his talk quite brief, focusing on the company’s newest release, Clubs. Clubs marks North Star Games’ entry into the light strategy market with the trick-taking game for 2-6 players, which takes 30 minutes to play. Retailing for only $14, it releases in April and may appear in Barnes & Noble stores. Expect a review of Clubs on Craven Games in the near future. Warren also noted that Wits and Wagers – Party will be replacing the regular version of Wits and Wagers in mass markets.
Cool Mini or Not
CMON Director Dave Doust
David Doust introduced himself as a director at Cool Mini or Not, then provided a little overview of CMON’s 11-year history, describing the CMON of the past as a place where he used to sell boutique miniatures and users would upload their own miniatures for rating. Now CMON has many partners and Doust referenced Rivet Wars as an example of the company’s success with Kickstarter and multiple brands, with CMON releasing 6-8 titles a year. Rivet Wars is also exclusively distributed by ACD, Doust noted. He then turned to another huge release, Zombicide, and pointed out that alpha gamer Kickstarter backers who receive the game tend to become salesmen for the game for retailers.
Cool Mini or Not in the Exhibitors’ Hall
CMON had a much more modest booth compared to their 2012 GTS booth or their sprawling 2012 Gen Con complex. The two glass display cases they brought though were packed with miniatures and they had a recognizable face backing up Sedition Wars in the form of Mike McVey.
Miniature Gaming and Painting Legend Mike McVey at the CMON GTS Booth
Some of the Zombicide miniatures on display were brand new, a CMON booth worker pointed out. He also showed the new mechanic whereby the survivors turn into zombies themselves by flipping over Amy’s character card, as well as the new survivor Derek, before slowly thumbing through the Toxic City Mall rulebook.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Vendors and Licensees
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.
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.
Relic Board Game from Fantasy Flight Games at Gen Con 2012
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.
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.