Friday, 29 January 2016

An interview with the latest member of The Garage Gamers

I am sure you have all seen Heph`s article by now, he did a great series on Star wars Gaming, and his Ridend stuff is excellent.  I am proud to announce him as a member of the Garage Gamers, so have a read below to get to know more about his hobby credentials, and what he will bring to the blog, as it will be some great and even more varied stuff!


1.  How did you get into tabletop gaming?


Way, way back in the day when I was a little nipper I first got introduced to the miniatures hobby by accident really when my father and his father-in-law discovered they had an old hobby in common – good, old, historical, poison-laden lead-based Napoleonic’s. This led to a bit of a revival for both their hobby, with dozens of new, non-poisonous models and reference books making it into the house.


The actual gaming element came later when I got a copy of Rogue Trader through a school buddy, this was somewhere around 90-91. Though back then it really was mostly about playing with some intricate toys and endlessly re-reading the Rogue Trader rulebook. It took till the end of 2nd edition/start of 3rd edition 40K before my tabletop wargaming really took off. The release of the first Tyranids codex in 2nd edition, as well as the awesome Dark Eldar models of the 3rd edition starter set really got me into to building, painting and gaming side of the hobby.

From there things quick expanded into the Fantasy and Specialist Games ranges while becoming part of a small collective of outcast nerds at school. Geekdom, though certainly not as bad as I’ve heard from others who played the first edition of D&D, was certainly not a celebrated thing back then. Save for a short break away from the hobby around my 16th, kids and distractions right, I stayed with the GW brand through the start of uni.

During that period I more and more started enjoying the conversion and painting side of the hobby, partially the result of having limited time to get games in with my old group and the new, local scene pretty much being made up out of solely tournament-style players. Nice guys and gals, just no room for more narrative play, let alone Specialist Games. So my gaming more and more shifted to the hobby side.


This was also the period during which the miniatures market, especially in Europe, was mostly a reactionary business. GW would release a new codex or army and all sorts of smaller, often 1-2 man team companies, would start churning out resin conversion bits and pieces. Privateer Press was pretty much the only real, big alternative in those days, Rackham had sadly enough bitten the dust, boardgaming was only slowly starting to crawl back into the mainstream, GW was still in the business of releasing ‘just for fun / alternative’ armylists, LotR was in full swing, Apocalypse was just around the corner etc.


Having only limited opportunities and time to get any real life hobby or community into my gaming, I turned towards the internet. There we had, and in many places still have, a thriving community of folks from all over the world, quite often also dealing with limited time, gaming opportunities and such hassles as coming back to the hobby after extended periods of time. This especially became the place to share, support and get feedback when GW turned away from their community, dropped support on Specialist Games and shut down their forums completely. This pretty much continued until the release of the first, stand-alone Grey Knights codex, where I quite simply could not take the madness of the rules system and gaming community anymore. The combination of the toxic tournament scene, the only real gaming opportunity I still had, GW turning into a faceless plastic peddler, the embarrassment that was Finecast
and simply a case of grimdark-burnout led to me quit playing GW games.

Save for the incidental, ‘cool model’ purchase, I pretty much stepped away from the GW side of the hobby. Instead looking back at those smaller companies from a few years back that now all of a sudden, thanks to the internet and a more focused design and sales approach, were now able to turn those years of experience and frustration into making their own, unique miniatures and rulesets. Add in the double-edged sword of crowdfunding and all of a sudden I had a dozen smaller, warband-level armies in half a dozen new settings on my hobby desk. These really felt like a breath of fresh air after way too long time spent solely on grimdark.
 

Fast forward another couple years and I now have a miniatures collection that contains models from dozens of smaller companies and games, several of which get to see the tabletop a few times a year. Though for the hobbyist in me it couldn’t be a better time with such a diverse range of models out there, there’s truly something for everybody to be found out there these days!



2.  What are your top 3 favourite tabletop games and why?......



In no specific order:

A. Mordheim / Necromunda (Games Workshop)

While Rogue Trader and 40K will most likely remain my most influential games, it were Mordheim and Necromunda that truly showed me what you could do with a limited amount of models, a solid, expansive ruleset and a lot of imagination. Great fun, tons of personal, history building, a gaming experience that actually made you feel like you were part of the stories (unlike the unavoidable ludo-narrative dissonance you got in 40K) interesting, yet open worlds and a ton of conversion opportunities.

What’s not to love!  I certainly hope GW does something interesting with the IPs now that they’ve decided let Specialist Games out of the attic again and stop pretending like it’s the unwanted stepchild. Not holding my breath for it, but it would certainly make a lot of people happy and would be a great tool to bring fresh blood into the hobby.

B. ShadowSea / DeepWars (Antimatter Games)

Using a more complex variant of the Song of Blades and Heroes ruleset, this setting brings the Mordheim-formula into modern gaming. The combination of quick core rules, tons and tons of add-on rules options for terrain, campaigns, settings and amazing models have quickly made this my favourite, ‘new’ game. DeepWars, especially has led to some of my all-time favourite models.

This game takes place underwater, so there’s cool stuff there like clunky diving suits, giant angler fish, Atalan, mechanical constructs etc. Certainly not a setting for everybody due to the fairly complex rules and very specific model usage (unlike the land-base ShadowSea that has tons of models perfect for all sorts of fantasy gaming). But boy, oh boy, is it a love letter to a unique setting and how to do dynamic posing and integrated base toppers right:



C. Warmaster (Games Workshop)
The shift in scale from 28mm to the tiny stuff had a huge impact on my painting style. The models were just so much fun, while gaming-wise you could actually get a huge army on the tabletop without needing six+ months to build and paint all of it.


3.  Do you do any other kind of gaming?


A bit of board gaming on the side and way too many hours of video gaming over the last couple of decades,


4. Top 3 board games?


In no specific order:


A. Dreadball (Mantic Games – Jake Thornton)



The combination of a fast-paced, almost basketball-esque, scifi sports game, a more colourful scifi setting, dozens of teams from all sorts of alien backgrounds and the ability to paint up a new team in a week is just amazing. A great mix of hobby and gaming!

B. Space Crusade / StarQuest (GW, Hasbro & MB Games – Stephen Baker) -


Space Crusade, or Starquest as it was called in the Netherlands, Germany and France, is the boardgame that has stayed with me the longest. For most people Space Hulk or Heroquest were THE gateway product, I’d been familiar with the hobby for a bit longer and was still only coming to grips with the building and painting side.

When MB Games, distributing for Citadel, released this game and its expansions Mission Dreadnought & Eldar Attack around mid 1992 it perfectly filled the gaming gap between Rogue Trader and 40K 2nd edition for me. The game focused on Space Marines clearing out a derelict space hulk that was filled with all sorts of aliens, including Orks, Gremlins, Androids, Chaos Warriors and the iconic Genestealer. The rulebook also contained one of my favourite GW pieces of art:


Not only did the game have an overlord player with all sorts of cool models and a hidden deployment system, playing as the good guy gave you five different sides to play with (four Space Marines chapters and an Elder strike force) that really felt different thanks to the equipment cards each ‘faction’ had access to. This only continued through White Dwarf with GW releasing extra rules for using the Advanced Space Crusade models, as well as the broad range of metal Space Orks, in Space Crusade.


 C. Arkham Horror (Fantasy Flight Games – Richard Lanius & Kevin Wilson) / Twilight Imperium (Fantasy Flight Games, Christian Petersen)

Can’t choose between these, what I like to call ‘experience’ games. I’m a big, big Lovecraft and Mythos fan, but both of these games go so much beyond what most people would consider a boardgame. Lengthy, complex, with tons of replay value and a heavy dose of roleplay opportunities lead to games that will stay with you for a long time. Games where 3-6 hours just disappear while you hold on for dear life trying to survive the eldritch madness or the complexities of a scifi 4X.

In recent years Arkham Horror has pretty much been replaced with Eldritch Horror for me (Fantasy Flight Games – Corey Konieczka & Nikki Valens), which removes a lot of the extreme complexity. It’s objectively a better, grander game, though it will never fully replace the awesomeness of Arkham Horror for me.



5. Which hobby project is your all-time favourite so far in your hobby career?

My Tyranids, spread over numerous colour schemes, hivefleets and Genestealer Cult insurrections. Though Space Orks and (Chaos) Space Marines really kickstarted my conversion addiction, it were the Tyranids that kept me in the 40K hobby for so long.


They were just so different from everything else in design, hobby and gaming approach. In between iconic models like the Genestealer and Carnifex (well, the Hunger-Killer of course), being the sole organic painting opportunity and my fascination with Starcraft’s Zerg they have stated with me till this day. In fact I’m hoping to pass on most of my leftover 40K bits and bobs over the next couple of months, the Nids and any sprues of models I still have around will be staying though. 


I still have that dream in the back of my head somewhere that one day I’ll get around to making a Genestealer Cult warband just for the hell of it. Haven’t touched those models in over 15 years, should be interesting to see what I could do with them today. Just need to find a suitable limousine model for the Patriarch first ;-)


6. Top 3 favourite Video games of all time?

1. Dark Forces / Jedi Knight series (PC and other, LucasArts & Ravensoft, 1995-2003)


I’m a big Star Wars fan, so when LucasArts announced a first person shooter in ‘94 I was rather excited. And it turned out I had was right in being excited as the game turned out to be something quite special. Even though a lot of people consider it to be just a Doom clone, the game engine and method of level design were entire different due to its DOS / Mac-focused development cycle. In fact it was one of the very first FPS games that created believably designed environments.

Games like Doom and Wolfenstein were a lot of fun to run around in and had tons of very clever level design, but in essence they were little more than mazes populated by enemies and power-ups. Dark Forces on the other hand managed to go beyond that and create military installations and space stations that looked like they had a function and would actually be able to house all those enemies.

The series continued to evolve to a more Force powers and lightbases-centered experience in the later instalments, while expanding Kyle Kattarn’s backstory, introducing post-Return of the Jedi Mara Jade to an entire generation and eventually allowing us to create our own Jedi in Jedi Academy. This is a series I go back to pretty much every year, especially Dark Forces. It’s fun, fast, at times cheesy and a testament to what a creative studio with time and freedom can do with a strong IP.


2. Super Metroid (SNES, Nintendo & Intelligent Systems, 1994)


This is a fantastic, exploration and discovery heavy game that’s a paragon of clever and innovative videogame design. Together with Castlevania is spawned a genre of games that till this days sees new, often indie released, releases to the genre.


That said there are quite a few other games from that period that also fall into this category; Super Mario World, the Donkey Kong Country Series, Secret of Mana, The Legend of Zelda etc. Nintendo and Rare were really on a roll back then when it came to pushing the tech and design of (console) videogames!

Still haven’t forgiven Microsoft for how they destroyed Rare, by effectively forcing them to work solely on Kinect while not allowing them to develop new IP. This is the studio that brought us games like Donkey Kong Country, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Battletoads, Jetforce Gemini Conker’s Bad Fur day etc. Here’s to hoping that Playtonic, made up out of pretty much only old Rare employees, can help bring back some good old 3D platforming in the form of the Kickstarted Yooka-Laylee.

3. System Shock II (PC, Irrational Games & Looking Glass Studios,1999) -


System Shock II is hands down the best horror rpg I have played so far, which is hardly surprizing looking at what other games the guys behind this gem made (Thief series, Deus Ex and later the Bioshock series). Everything from the myriad of play styles, clever environmental storytelling long before other games in the genre did anything of the sort and a very cool, fantastically paced story made this an absolute classic. I am certain that for a lot of people this is the game where they first came face-to-face with a world that was purposely designed with your freedom of action in mind……….as well as some major plot twists and turns that were unheard of for that time in videogame outside the driest of text-based rpgs.

Over the years the game has gotten a lot of support from the modding community with everything from texture and model updates to full overhaul and even a post-ending expansion. To make things even better the retro gaming lovers over at Night Dive Studios have, by some sort of cyber magic, managed to free the System Shock IP from the dark water of major publisher buy-ups. So not only have they been able to update System Shock I and II so it runs properly on modern systems (available of Steam GOG and their own website). They’ve managed to get the actual rights to do something with the franchise. So right now they are working on a Unity-based reimagining of System Shock I using a lot of the systems from System Shock II, modern tech and even support from some of the original developers. And then there’s System Shock III that’s under development…………rather excited news!



7. Any miniatures game that you want to try but have not?


I’ve been fascinated by Dark Age for a while now (link). The mix of a competitive, balanced game with rather stunning models is quite alluring. If I was still a gaming focused player this would definitely be a game I’d be checking out. And let’s be honest here, who doesn’t like evil, scifi Aztecs!


Crooked Dice’ 7TV, which combines old school, often British, pulp with a ruleset apparently treating the entire thing like an actual television series. Quite a fascinating premise (link)


8.  Favourite period/style to game? 

Nothing specific really, though I do seem to drift more towards scifi and fantasy settings. Even with historical stuff I prefer a little bit of mythology or weird in there. 


9.  What is your favourite and least favourite part of the hobby?


Building, converting and painting miniatures is definitely where my focus is these days. At the same time I do keep getting distracted way, way too fast by all the numerous, wonderful games and models out there. So the wealth, yet also burden, of choice out there would be my most and least favourite things. Never expected choice overload would leap straight from my behavioural economics textbooks into my hobby experience. Still, it’s not such a bad ‘problem’ to have really. Better to be spoiled for choice, than not have any at all I’d say!


10.  What inspired you to join the Garage Gamers?


Endless badgering ;-) ( can’t deny that - Mart) In all seriousness in the last year and a half I’ve started to really pick up the hobby again. So it’s just great fun to be able to be part of the online community sharing your own stuff and looking at others’ work.


11.  Best hobby moment?


Back in 2003/2004 Games Workshop used White Dwarf for all sorts of errata, extra rules and variant lists, one of the gems of that period was the Kroot Mercenaries list.


Now this list wasn’t the most competitive and was clearly intended for friendly games and the hobby-focused player. There was however one official list that worked perfect against them that virtually saw no use in regular, the Catachan Death World Veterans.

Together with a buddy I converted and painted up a small Kroot force and dusted off our Catachans. And let face it, who in those days didn’t have a few dozen Rambo Guardsman around. These armylists had about zero vehicles in them, while the entire table would be covered by jungle that had a dedicated ruleset. So we ended up with about a dozen games of utter insanity with stick traps, flamers, ravenous plants, camouflaged units and dozens of mini-Rambos blasting the hell out of each other. Most fun I ever had with formal 40K rules!


12. Worst hobby moment?


The steady decline into madness of my local GW group, store and the general 40K community around the time Codex Grey Knights and the deathstar / copy/paste army-concept exploded onto the scene. This was pretty much the moment where I felt the hobby started to fragment, both within the GW brand and outside it. People would stick to their particular setting, claiming it to be the new coming of the Emperor or Sigmar. All while looking down on people who enjoyed a different (style of) game, let alone a completely different IP or company. 40K would be for kiddies, Fantasy would be called a broken slog, Specialist Games was peasants too poor to support the god that is GW (Ebay disagreed), while enjoying games from another company would instantly mean you could no longer say a word about GW products.

Luckily (or hopefully…….) this is most likely just a very, very vocal minority, but it’s still a shame to see such elitism and judgmental interaction in a hobby that really doesn’t need any help to be considered a breeding ground for ‘weird’ people. As a result though we’ve seen various other games crop up over the last five or so years that focus more on specific elements of the gaming experience.

Dark Age and Warmachine/Hordes, for example, seem mostly focused on the competitive, tournament type player. Other games like Malifaux, DeepWars and Deadzone, while still having solid foundations and the opportunity for highly competitive play, allow for more space in the rules and community for the players to decide how they want their gaming experience to play out. While a game like Mars Attacks! is a great starting point for new, younger players, while Malifaux’ setting seems to have had a much broader draw than the usual, male-centric audience GW products seem to draw in. This in turn has, despite GW naturally still being the gateway product, led to a more varied group of people enjoying the hobby.



13.  What hobby projects are on the horizon for the future you will be sharing on the blog?


Depends a bit on where my motivation takes me, but several things will most definitely show up:

I. Look at articles, in which I go over the models and/or rules of some of the lesser known producers and games out there. These will follow the format I’ve been using on my own blog, so lots pics and game background (link).

II. Hobby projects. Trying to get a more focused hobby rhythm going, which goes rather hand-in-hand with the blogging format where you can get an update out every 1-2 week.  The first of these will focus on my Ridend for Tor Gaming’s Relics. Other things that may pass by as well are World of Twilight, Norsgard, Arcworlde, Pulp City and a full re-write of the rules mess that was GW’s Dreadfleet (the last one is quite a ways off, but definitely in the cards for somewhere this year).


14.  Do you think Kickstarter is a good thing for the hobby or not?

Kickstarter is an odd beast. When done right and properly managed it can lead to amazing product lines and games. At the same time though, the process is also extremely open to abuse, glorified pre-ordering and downright abuse.

That said though, despite some juggernaut / flagship companies out there like GW, Fantasy Flight Games, Wizkids, Z-man Games and Days of Wonder,
both boardgaming and miniature tabletop gaming are filled to the brim with people working out of their spare room and garden shed. So even though we see some companies, often in the (hybrid) boardgame segment of the hobby, going into the grey when it comes to the spirit of crowdfunding, most of the tabletop skirmish games out there are truly small endeavours.

A lot of the games and models I absolutely love right now would not have been possible without crowdfunding. Or, in the most positive case, they’d be on their third faction after using 2-3 years of single model releases to fund the production of the next product while also working fulltime jobs (a.k.a. being forced to release your game in a boardgame or boardgame with options format – quoted from Second Class Elitst). A lot of the people I’ve gotten to known that work in the industry and gamers that have kept in the hobby due to having smaller alternatives to the big gateway IPs would not be able to have done that without the products that have come out thanks to crowdfunding..

There is of course the question just how much staying power a lot of these smaller games and companies have and we do definitely see our fair share of problems (Alien Dungeon, Torn Armor etc.) out there, as well as people actively out to abuse the trust of a community like Defiance Games. That however is not actually a problem for the potential customer and gamer out there. We still see plenty of Mordheim models out there, Confrontation pieces of art still find their way onto the tabletop and the fantasy football scene has thrived despite zero support from the big name in the genre. Models will find a use and gamers will want to bring their models, if necessary with their own custom rules, to the tabletop.

In the end I think it does more good than harm, promoting diversity in gaming experiences and models. One thing though, potential crowdfunding project starters out there for plastic/resincrack sake…….please, please, please do your homework and think about how you’re setting up your project and financial plans. We want to see you guys and gals succeed and thrive in the industry, but in addition to passion and talent management, communication, spellchecking and industry, production and even simple layout research skills are just as important. Take your time, think things through properly and ask for feedback. The little guys, in particular, both benefit and depend greatly on having a community.


15.  Any favourite Articles lurking around the blog?


I really like how diverse the articles are. There is a little bit in there for everybody, from boardgames, to pre-painted Star Trek models all the way to classical experience like WWII models and Frostgrave.


……………….and well, it’s rather fun to see Olivia turning into a tactical mastermind who sweeps all opposition aside!