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?

Gale Force 9 at Gen Con 2012

Gale Force 9 was exhibiting and selling its flagship line of basing products and gaming accessories at Gen Con, but also showed off several newer ventures, particularly its WotC-licensed Dungeons and Dragons terrain and a board game of Spartacus, based on the popular Starz cable series.

Dungeons and Dragons Caverns of the Underdark and Other GF9 Terrain

One of the most eye-catching tables at Gen Con was definitely Jason Buyaki’s Underdark Cavern board, built with the assistance of sculptress Lizzie Willick. Though Gale Force 9’s website states a month-long construction time for the table, when I spoke with him, Buyaki pegged his and Willick’s time on the board at two weeks. The table also had two denizens on it, a Beholder Eye Tyrant and and a Purple Worm, both of which will be released as part of Gale Force 9’s Dungeons & Dragons Collector’s Series line of premium unpainted resin products. The board separates into two pieces three quarters of the way up from the bottom and will be traveling to Essen later this year to help promote Dungeons & Dragons and Gale Force 9 in Europe.

Miniature underground cavern for the Underdark in 28mm at the Gale Force 9 Booth at Gen Con

The Caverns of the Underdark 3D Set on a GF9 Vinyl Mat

While the impressive Underdark Cavern was not for sale at Gen Con, the Caverns of the Underdark 3D Adventure Sets were. Each 8-piece resin stalagmite set comes fully prepainted and is a licensed product from Wizards of the Coast to Gale Force 9. As Jason Buyaki pointed out himself, the stalagmites are also usable for pulp action games or for science fiction cave settings, in addition to concealing the movement of drow, duergar, and driders through your Dungeons & Dragons games. Gale Force 9 also has a variety of crystals that make for colorful additions to a gamer’s dungeon or cavern, as well as a new vinyl playing mat specifically licensed for Dungeons & Dragons use, featuring a 1-inch grid.

Terrain mastermind Jason Buyaki in Spartacus T-shirt Stands Before Huge Cavernous Dungeon at Gen Con

Terrain Mastermind Jason Buyaki Standing Beside One of His Greatest Gaming Boards

Lizzie Willick has also designed a series of re-imagined hills for the Battlefield in a Box line of prepainted terrain. Willick has answered the question “How do you make a hill that’s not a hill?” with five intriguing collapsed urban structures: the Fallen Angel, the Buried Monument, the Collapsed Corner, the Ruined Fountain, and the Blasted Garden. They will look good in most futuristic urban cityscapes and match Gale Force 9’s existing Gothic range, while helping to block line of sight and offering concealment and cover to nearby troops.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery

Unpainted plastic generic gladiator pieces on arena game board for Spartacus board game at Gen Con

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery at Gen Con 2012

Gale Force 9 CEO John Kovaleski explained GF9’s other exciting venture, the Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery board game. GF9 demoed the game throughout Gen Con at four tables. Players use generic gladiator playing pieces, but can play with named characters from the show such as Spartacus himself, Asher, or Animaeus. The game is also rated 17+, so fans of some of the more vulgar and evocative expressions that really characterize the show have some of them to look forward to. Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery will be available in stores in late September or early October with an expansion to follow. From my video with Kovaleski it also seems quite likely that there may be further games in the Spartacus setting released by GF9.

Gen Con – Privateer Press Dominates, CMON Releases, MBA, and Brushfire

Gen Con. Indianapolis. Two days into the “Best 4 Days in Gaming” and so far I have to agree with the slogan. This is exactly what I have been dreaming about since I first read about Gen Con in Dragon Magazine back in 1990. The Indianapolis Convention Center is VAST. It is a confusing labyrinth of large halls and I only finished exploring them all at 3:30 on Friday morning.

28mm train on tracks on beautiful table layout from Privateer Press at Gen Con

One of Privateer’s Inspiring Tables

Gamers were up late into the night Wednesday and early into the morning playing in all the public places of the downtown convention center area. Mostly they played board games with some CCG/TCG action, but I did spot a game of Warmachine unfolding in one of the hall spaces. Thursday morning was a different story with dozens of games of Warmachine popping up on some of Privateer Press’s wonderful playing tables. While many sported grass gaming mats, there were at least five or six fully-detailed tables festooned with rivets and steamworks. Friday morning at 2:00 AM the action was still going on. In fact, Privateer Press has the distinction of having the largest miniatures presence here at Gen Con, running 64 tables with 128 players playing at a time. From 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM Friday morning, Hordes and Warmachines players were vying for a spot at the Nationals in the Iron Arena tournament. A similar tournament will run tonight as well.

Gaining early admittance at 9:00 AM on Thursday to the Vendors’ Hall which opened to the public at 10:00, I was surprised to see a line already wrapping around Privateer Press’s booth as Gen Con’s VIGs (Very Important Guests) queued up, PP products in hand. Elsewhere gamers’ interests were harder to measure as the thin crowd trickled this way and that. At 10:00 AM, of course, a flood of gamers rushed in, with Privateer Press selling out of its new 2d6 version of its Iron Kingdoms RPG on Thursday.

Cool Mini or Not

Miniature castle from Cool Mini or Not's miniatures booth

Amazing Wrath of Kings Castle Table from CMON

One place they flocked to was Cool Mini or Not’s impressive 18-booth floor space. CMON is exhibiting two games developed with Sodapop Miniatures, Super Dungeon Explore and Relic Knights. CMON was also showing off some new figures for Dark Age as well as sculpts and demos for Confrontation: Age of Ragnarok amd Wrath of Kings. CMON’s booth space also included a whole host of basing products, tutorial DVDs, and the first three issues of of the miniature gaming magazine “Ravage”.

Zombicide

Cool Mini or Not also had Zombicide, released publicly at Gen Con for $90 after a successful $780,000+ Kickstarter funding run. Looking the plastic miniatures over, they do come pretty close to the resin prototypes I saw back in March at the GAMA Trade Show and with 70 of them, the game packs in a lot of value. Elsewhere in CMON’s stretching booth space Mike McVey was promoting Sedition Wars.

Boxes stacked head high at Cool Mini or Not's Gen Con Booth of Zombicide

Zombicide Making a Killing at the Cool Mini or Not Booth

Four players at Gen Con enjoying the zombie horror board game Zombicide

David Bullard and Friends Enjoying Some Zombicide

Late Thursday night or early Friday morning I encountered some Zombicide fans playing the zombie horror game at a table in a convention hallway. David Bullard of Mount Vernon, Illinois had pledged $100 towards the Zombicide Kickstarter campaign and received the game days before Gen Con. Nevertheless he had already played it four times when I met him, saying that he was “quite pleased” with the game, enjoying both the mechanics and the miniatures. Bullard’s friends were also enthusiastic about Zombicide and its merits, so it would seem that Guillotine Games and CMON have a definite winner.

Miniature Building Authority

Miniature 28mm town with barracks and castle walls at Gen Con from Miniature Building Authority

Miniature Building Authority 25-28mm European City

If you’ve read many of my posts, it should be no surprise that I went to check out Dwarven Forge’s line of prepainted terrain as well as Miniature Building Authority’s prepainted buildings. I had seen several Youtube videos featuring MBA’s whole collection at Gen Con before, but this year, their European 28mm Town seemed to be brimming over with hundreds of miniatures from over a hundred different miniature companies according to Kirk Stevens.

Kirk introduces some of their newer products on camera and sculptor Jim Elmore also talks about MBA’s impressive product line.

On the Lamb: Brushfire Miniatures and Historia Rodentia

I also saw a familiar face in the form of Emily Fontaine from On the Lamb Games. Their line of anthropomorphic Brushfire historical miniatures has been expanding since the GAMA Trade Show. She had several new miniatures to show off along with her concept artist, including figures specifically for Historia Rodentia, the RPG setting published by Mongoose Publishing.

Combat Con 2012: Luke Lafontaine’s Role in Role Models

Western Martial Artist Luke Lafontaine with a Sword in Hand in Vendors' Hall at Combat Con

Luke Lafontaine at Combat Con

One person I met Friday night at Combat Con 2012 back in July was Luke Lafontaine. He had my attention when he mentioned his first on-screen performance as a martial artist in the original Karate Kid (1984), in which he was originally scripted to fight against Ralph Macchio’s Daniel. An intervention from a social worker because Lafontaine was 16 at the time delayed his involvement and resulted in his scheduled fight going to another actor. However what really caught my attention was Lafontaine’s role in 2008’s Role Models which is easily the most widely-seen example of LARPing captured on film.

Lafontaine was brought onto Role Models by its stunt coordinator Jeff Imada. The battle scenes at the end of the movie were filmed at Disney Ranch and Lafontaine worked on the film for two weeks. Working with foam weapons was a change for Lafontaine, who grew up surrounded by ancient and medieval weapons through his father’s work for the Met in New York City. As for his own role models, Lafontaine ranks the stunt work of Vic Armstrong, Bob Anderson, and Terry Leonard quite highly. Like many of the other WMA enthusiasts I spoke to before Combat Con, Lafontaine was also fond of The Duellists as far as cinematic duels, pointing to the small sword duel at the beginning of the film as his favorite onscreen duel.

Lafontaine took the time to explain some of the basics of the business side of Hollywood stuntwork to me, specifically how a stunt coordinator can subcontract out stuntwork to other coordinators who might in turn train actors or other stuntmen to choreograph a fight. Watching Deadliest Warrior after Combat Con 2012, I was pleasantly surprised to see Lafontaine appear on the French Musketeer team in the Musketeer vs. Ming Warrior episode, firing the flintlock musket and wielding the rapier and main gauche combination. Speaking about the French Musketeer Lafontaine boasts, “There’s a lot of lace, a lot of velvet, and feathers in your hats. You think rock stars get a lot of women? You have no idea the Musketeers’ reputation for pulling in the ladies and being badasses.” As Deadliest Warrior’s Property/Weapons Foreman David Baker had mentioned before Combat Con, he knows many of the specialists on the show from the world of Western Martial Arts and tries to bring on experienced and knowledgeable experts, but sometimes an “expert” is cast because he happens to be the right ethnicity. In the case of Lafontaine though, despite his French roots being spot on, he is the real deal. Lafontaine’s credits include Iron Man, Beowulf, Green Hornet, and The Adventures of Tintin.

Lafontaine heads War Studios and took the time for me to get some of his thoughts on Role Models, Karate Kid, and LARPing on camera. David Baker makes a special guest appearance at the beginning as well.

Privateer Press at SDCC 2012: Will Shick Talks Level 7, Gen Con, and More

28mm Warmachine Retribution figures in a glass case at Comic-Con 2012

Retribution of Scyrah Warmachine Miniatures at Comic-Con 2012

Privateer Press has become something of a mainstay at Comic-Con. Games Workshop has not been seen since 2004 at the latest, though Will Wheaton notably noticed GW’s presence back in 2000 or 2001 when they were promoting their Lord of the Rings miniatures game. This year at Comic-Con I couldn’t even find a WizKids booth promoting HeroClix, so Privateer Press was it in terms of any kind of miniatures company.

Human-sized statue of Ironclad Warjack from Privateer Press at Comic-Con 2012

“Big Blue” the Ironclad Defends the PP Booth

With them they brought their Cygnar Ironclad statue, which is not quite life-size, but which they refer to as “Big Blue”. Big Blue debuted in 2011, but still gets some gearheads quite steamy, but Privateer Press also delivered the goods for fans of Huge bases, showing off the company’s newish Colossal figures in the glass display cases lining the booth. Inside games of Heap and Warmachine were being demoed. One of the big advantages of visiting Privateer Press at Comic-Con is access to prerelease miniatures before the general gaming public can get them. Another is the opportunity to actually meet most of the creative forces within the Bellevue, WA-based company. Company owner and Chief Creative Officer Matt Wilson can oftentimes be found in the booth along with a handful of creative underlings, as well as another handful of Pressgangers recruited to demo games. You also don’t have to feel rushed: 99% of the Comic-Con population isn’t there for Warmachine, Hordes, or Monsterpocalypse. I imagine at Gen Con that it’s a different story.

Modular playing tiles for Privateer Press's Level 7 Escape Board Game in a glass display case at Comic-Con 2012

Survival-Horror Board Game Level 7 Escape on Display at the Privateer Press Booth

Level 7 Escape, Privateer Press’s new board game and part of its new Level 7 intellectual property, will be available at Gen Con in Indianapolis as a pre-release. The science fiction game was also on display in the glass case though I don’t think it was being demoed. The game uses cardboard standees to represent the players as they flee a facility. theco-operatives.com has a lot of great information on Level 7 from an interview they did with Will Shick, Director of Business and Brands for Privateer Press.

I also recorded an interview with Will Shick myself. He highlighted the upcoming Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy RPG, which uses a 2d6 mechanic just as Hordes and Warmachine do. He also said that at Gen Con, Privateer Press will “have plenty to see, plenty to do, and a lot of surprises.” He answers questions in the video below about his background with Privateer Press, the statues of the Ironclad and the Iron Lich, his own armies, and how Warmachine compares to Hordes in terms of popularity, as well as explaining how the armies and forces for the Warmachine Two Player Starter set were chosen.