|I thought I'd start with this impressive beast! Krull, Servile Lord of Dis.|
Right well a few weeks back now I did an introduction article for the BaneLegions range, I don't mind admitting it was slightly out of of date, as it had some how got lost in my Blogger draft edits pile. Thankfully though Rob Lane of BaneLegions offered to bring me up to speed on what exactly is going on, and where the product range is heading. What follows is a *ahem* not so *ahem* brief discussion I had with him about a few things. Don't worry I've cut out all the chat about man flu, getting old and what brand of thermal socks are best (it has to be Thinsulate, right?). I've even managed to wrangle a bit of information out of him with regards time scales he's been so reluctant to be pinned down to and three sexy concept sketches I'll be showing you. So read on, there might even be a prize in it for you at the end, but I couldn't say for sure...
Frontline Gamer: Firstly thanks for agreeing to let me badger you with my questions! Before we start on the ‘real’ questions can you tell us all a bit about yourself, your staff and your company, and how you got yourselves into the industry? And why?
Rob Lane: Well, both Tim and I have been playing wargames for over twenty years, and it was a natural progression that – after having numerous “normal” jobs – we would decide to pursue something to do with wargaming. I began Maelstrom Games back in 2001, after becoming very tired of commuting to an IT job, and I recruited Tim (who I had known for years as part of my local wargaming club, the Dragon Slayers) to be my studio director in 2008, a job he fulfils today - which includes looking after sculptors as well as making moulds and casting the miniatures - after having to make the tea for two years. As well as Tim there's our photographer Stuart White, ex-Games Workshop; and Jamie Wright and Niall McWalter, who cast our miniatures along with Tim. Lastly, but certainly not leastly, there's Dan Melia, who cleans up and packs the miniatures into their boxes, amongst other jobs I give him.
FLG: Making the tea is a vitally important role in any company and shouldn't be underestimated! My first real question has to be about the names. I know I’m not the only one out there to have trouble pronouncing them. Where do you get the names from or how do you develop them?
“Oácyning”, for example, is a bastardised compound word of the Old English for “Oak” and “King”. “Ulmons” is a compound of the latin words for “big” and “one”; Ulmons is, literally, “Big One”, as I imagined the auxilia that control him would call him.
Most of the time I research each character’s name carefully, firstly deciding what I’d like to call it in English, and then forming a compound name from the language that character would use. Or if that language does not exist (such as that for the Khthones), inventing something that sounds like a word that race would say. With a snake, there would be lots of sibilant words, and thus the names of the Gorgonar are sibilant – “Issithill”, “Svrill”. Additionally, sometimes a character (mostly a monster, as many would not speak) would take the name given to it by others, such as “The Terror of Fortriu”, or “Conjunct XIII”, or “Keirioc-cró”.
|Is it me or does this 'thing' just look all sorts of wrong?|
When creating names I abide by two rules: each name must mean something and each name must not look odd to me. Some names are easy to create, some are more difficult, but all, I hope, suit the character.
FLG: I'm not too sure I'll obsess over the meaning, but maybe the pronunciation I will. Are you planning on running any pronunciation lessons so we all know how to say them without looking like dimwits in public?
RL: Yes, when the wargame comes along each name will have a pronunciation guide which should make it easy for everybody. It may even intrigue you, because most of the names are pronounced depending on the language, so Welsh names, for example, will give you an entry in how to pronounce the unpronounceable!
FLG: Awesome, thank the lord for that! No doubt I'll still look like a dimwit in public, but not because I can't pronounce their names. Right, I know this might be a difficult one for you to answer, and you might even refuse to given you probably love them all, but do you have a favourite BaneBeast and BaneLord from the range? And if so why?
RL: Kraan is my favourite BaneLord, both in terms of the concept and the finished sculpt. It is simply perfect in every way, which is a great compliment to Stefan Kopinski, Jacques-Alexander Gillois and Sébastien Picque.
As for a BaneBeast, that seems to change every month (particularly when something new arrives) - but I always return to Ophius. His pose, the wrongness of his four-armed snake body, his armour, his four swords, the staggering amount of arrogance in his face - I just love him.
FLG: Yep, I can wholeheartedly concur with you on Kraan, I just think Mr Gillois did a fabulous job on sculpting him and Sébastien Picque painted him perfectly in my opinion. As you can see I’m more than aware of who many of your excellent sculptors and painters are. However, I’m less aware of who some of your concept artists are. I think it’s time they too got their moment of glory, so who are responsible for the concepts and sketches?
RL: Our very first concept artist was Alex Huntley, the lovely lad that has created Warploque Miniatures, who provided the art for his sculpts; but once we decided to hire renowned artists to draw our concepts we have - so far - asked Stefan Kopinski, Christophe Madura, Danny Cruz and Des Hanley to help out, who are all awesomely talented. You have probably heard of Stefan and Des before, as they have worked for Games Workshop (among other companies) and are quite well known in wargaming circles. Christophe is ex-Rackham, which tells its own story, and Danny has done a lot of work for Kingdom Death - he is responsible for the frankly bizarre Wet Nurse. There are other artists that have drawn our concepts, but those concepts are not out there as yet!
|Blunt-Claw, Vras Warlord - Stefan Kopinski (first of those concepts)|
FLG: Well I'm glad I asked as it was about time the concept artists got a bit of love, and that's quite a roster of talent you have amassed there! The quality of their designs really shines through in the final products. Speaking of quality, I said in an article I wrote about your miniatures range that the quality of your casts are highly impressive. How important was it to you to get this right from the start and are you happy with what you’ve achieved so far?
RL: Very, very important. We are very conscious of the fact that our miniatures are sculpted to a very high degree of quality by some of the best sculptors in the world, and from the very beginning we decided to manufacture our miniatures in high quality resin to reflect those superb sculpts. Metal is cheap (far cheaper than some would have you believe), but shrinks and loses quality from the sculpt, and plastic is - frankly - way too expensive, and far too inferior in quality, to even think about at the moment. Resin is possibly the most labour-intensive (not to mention costly) method of producing our miniatures, but we are all about quality, not quantity.
Having said that, we are not foolish enough to restrict ourselves to one medium should another come along that provides what we want to offer, but at the moment resin is the only way we can do justice to the sculpts that we commission. Whether we will continue to pursue the “lost wax” method or move into spin casting is something that only the future knows.
RL: I don't think that's a question I should answer. I try not to think about “competitors”, especially in terms of the miniatures they produce, because if I do so, I'm not thinking about BaneLegions.
FLG: OK then, forgetting them as competitors are there any specific miniatures out there right now that you like the look of just as a hobbyist?
RL: Sure, there's certainly one or two miniatures out there that I like, and ranges too. I'm a big fan of Kingdom Death's Flower Knight; I think it's a fantastic concept and miniature, and wish I'd thought of it first! As well as that, I really love Red Box Games' recent work and Allan Carrasco's Rhinotaur (which I managed to get hold of, amazingly). There's a few more of course but you've put me on the spot and now I can't think of any ;o)
FLG: Oh yes the Flower Knight is splendid, I'm so happy I got him / her / it... well you never know with Kindom Death exactly what they are. Good choices though. I know this might make me sound like a complete nerd, luckily though I was outed as a super-nerd many years ago now, but for many hobbyists I guess you’re living the ‘dream’. You are creating your own miniatures range and game to go with it. Surely it’s not all gaming sessions and gorgeously painted miniatures dripping off of your shelves is it?
RL: Haha... I wish. To be honest, I spend a lot of time doing quite menial jobs - a Managing Director's work is never done - and, as our staff will tell you, sometimes it really is bloody hard work to do what we do. What makes it worthwhile is when that new sculpt comes in, or people respond well to a new release, or we get a superb paintjob to geek over. As for gaming sessions, well - they're not in full swing yet, but they will be, which is something all of us are looking forward to.
But yes, you're right: I am 'living the dream', because creating my own wargame and associated miniatures has been what I have wanted to do since I first picked up a miniature and began to game with it.
RL: I guess that the hardest thing - at least for myself - has been to have two hats; my Maelstrom Games hat, where I manage a large retail and events business that takes up a lot of my time, and my BaneLegions hat. I want to spend more time with my BaneLegions hat on, but a lot of things have to be put into place before I can do so.
FLG: I suppose that juggling act must be difficult to balance at times. When you first decided to start up producing BaneLegion’s miniatures though, did you have an ultimate goal in mind? Specifically did you always intend to release a game as well? Or was it something that developed at a later date?
RL: Indeed so. The wargame has been in my mind from the very beginning, but all new wargames suffer from 'chicken and egg' syndrome: which comes first, the miniatures or the wargame? The wargame or the miniatures? We realised very early on that the miniatures, or at least some of them, had to come first, because whilst a book would look very pretty no-one would play if there weren't any miniatures. Luckily, the wargaming hobby is such that people are crying out for cool miniatures, and we're happy to provide them.
FLG: Well it has to be the egg surely? Dinosaur eggs were around before chickens, and chickens evolved from dinosaurs, right? Just don't ask me if dinosaurs or eggs came first or I'll be screwed! OK, so thinking of the game, I know you don’t want to talk about specifics yet, but why did you decide to do a fantasy based skirmish game above all the other viable genres out there?
RL: Fantasy is where my heart lies, to be honest. I grew up with Tolkien, Moorcock, Gemmell and Rohan to name but four - and then there's the wargaming side of things, of course. Whilst I love a good science-fiction story, I'm far more comfortable in fantastical worlds.
|Now that's what a Troll should look like. Ugly as f...|
FLG: Wow you grew up with Tolkien, you must be old! Only kidding, I know what you mean, Fantasy has a big space in my heart too. Although I guess, given I grew up having Jules Verne and H.G. Wells read to me, I might lean slightly more towards science fiction. I’ve often talked on my Blog about how we’re currently experiencing something of a Golden Age of wargaming, would you agree with this assessment? And if you do, what problems, if any, does it pose having so many strong competitors out there for you developing your own game?
RL: I agree that we might well be in a golden age of wargaming in general, but - in my opinion - we're not in a golden age of fantasy wargaming. I do think there is an opportunity for a strictly fantasy wargame at the moment, with Rackham gone.
FLG: Ah yes, the sad demise of Rackham and Confrontation in particular. You're right though, not many are attempting fantasy games right now. I guess one of the key things you’ll need to do in the crowded marketplace is differentiate your product, despite the fact that fantasy doesn't appear to be over subscribed right now. With this in mind you’ve gone for a very different sort fantasy background to your game. Could you tell us a bit about the background and setting, and why you’ve chosen to go the way you have?
|A truly fabulous sculpt and arguably even better paint job!|
However, I am not inventing a world to house our myths and legends like he and many others have done because, for me, there has been too much of that over the years. I am simply returning to our myths and legends in their simplest forms, keeping most historical elements, adding fantastical creatures and mixing timelines and motivations somewhat.
It's not like I have to do much to make it understandable. I don't need to tell you what a Roman is, where the Vikings came from, what the Celts were doing. It's ingrained in our psyche already, from a myriad of influences and media, which is a big advantage; although there is an inherent danger in that, too, because many people have their own ideas about what a certain beast or race should look like.
FLG: You're right, our own continents myths and legends are actually quite fertile ground for creating a universe for a game to reside in. So sticking with the background to the game for a little while longer, you’ve told me you’re going with a fantasy theme but decided to eschew the stereotypical fantasy races such as Elves and Dwarfs and suchlike. What was the thinking behind that?
RL: Very simple, really - Elves, Dwarfs and Orcs have been done to death. There are too many lazy, run of the mill fantasy settings that contain Elves and Dwarfs as races, as if they are what makes fantasy intriguing.
|Yeah Big One sounds about right to me!|
Flippancy aside, the main reason for not including them is that the Anglo-Saxons and other Germanic and Celtic cultures believed that such beings were always in the shadows, unseen, working to harm or protect us as they will. They believed they existed, but in ways that the average fantasy setting does not reflect. Thus, our wargame treats them in the same way, unseen and shadowy, as Gods and Goddesses are believed in but are not seen. I am simply trying to reflect the world of northwest Europe in the dark ages and their belief systems.
FLG: The final question of the whole background malarkey now, given we won't get pointy eared elves and fat beer swilling Dwarfs could you give us a rundown of the factions that are going to be in the game, where they’re from, and what we can expect of them?
RL: Of course. It should be noted here that each “race” has a number of “factions”, all of which will appear in the wargame, but upon first release only one “faction” from each “race” will be playable. (I'm inserting them in quotation marks because they won't be called such in the game, but it's inevitable that that's what people will call them). For example, the Anglian peoples also included the Northumbrians and the East Angles, but they are reserved for future productions, along with the Saxons, the Franks, the Dál Riatans, the Frisians... I could go on.
|Penda the Bloody-Handed, Warrior-King of Mercia - Stefan Kopinski (second of those concepts I promised)|
Anglians (Mercia) - residing in central Angle-land, the Mercians are led by their pagan king Penda the Bloody-Handed, who still believes in the old gods where other Anglians and Saxons believe in the new God, brought to them by the missionaries of Ilkolmkill. The power of Woden runs through the Mercians, and you can expect lots of wolves, bears and boars along with the Wild Hunt and the shape-shifters.
Brythons (Gwynedd) - from the north of Wales, the Kingdom of Gwynedd is ruled by Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon, the famous “Red Dragon” who boasted that he would kill every Saxon man, woman and child. Uneasy allies of the Mercians, especially since Cadwallon's death, Cadwaladr must protect his people from the marauding Northumbrians as well as the Fomorians and the Norse and his cousins the Ysians.
|I own him, and he's so good I'm scared to paint him!|
Albainn (Fortriu) - these guys are, essentially, the Picts, although they will only be known as such by the Byzantii. The north of what we call Scotland is their home and they revere the Oghu stones that power the earth and the sky, so much so that they carry them to battle. These guys are wild and savage, woad warriors that constantly defend their lands against pretty much everybody else.
Érainn (Uí Neíll) - the Irish, at least those Irish that oppose the advance of the Fomorians directly in a bloody conflict that could lead to their extermination or subjugation. Distracted by the sea devils, the Uí Neíll are also under attack from the Norse, the Brythons and the Atalantes, and many amongst them are shunning the cross and returning to the old ways of Eriu, the ways of the Fianna and the Earth Goddess.
|I love this miniature, except he's not so 'mini'|
Fomorians (Baalor) - the Fomorians are a declining, decaying race of sea creatures that subjugate humans and beasts alike to keep their flesh alive. Led by Baalor, the Eye in the Ice, from his island fortress at Toraigh in the northwest of Eriu, the Fomorians use fog and ice and snow as harbingers of their advance and delight in turning earth-bound men and beasts against their kin. Their aim is simple: to destroy the world above the water.
|Now that's a longaxe, and a shiny helmet! Double entendre unintended.|
Norse (Scylfings) - you will know them as the Vikings of Scandinavia, and whilst it may seem a stretch to bring their raids forward a hundred and fifty years it actually isn't, for the Vikings did not suddenly explode upon the coast of northwest Europe; they were known of for hundreds of years beforehand. Composed of savage, wild warriors and the Jötnar (the Giants) who find themselves in an uneasy alliance, they are beginning to harass and raid the coasts of northwest Europe in their longships.
|Apparently this is decadent? I can't think why?|
Ysians (Ker-Ys) - the Ysians are a degenerate, decadent race of Celts occupying what was known by the Romans as Armorica and Dumnonia - Brittany and Cornwall. In our setting, the city of Ker-Ys was built by the Cornish as they fled from the advance of the Saxons, but it has quickly become - under the Queen of Ker-Ys, Euryalia and her Drunes - a despicable place that worships the Horned God Kernunnos and creates all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures to extend their holdings in Frankia and beyond.
|Come on, who wouldn't want a giant metal Colossal fighting for them?|
Byzantii (Legio II Var) - the immortal Emperor Constantine III of Byzantia (the eastern Roman Empire) covets the power and glory of his western ancestors and will stop at nothing to recover the lands and the strength the barbarians took from them. He believes that the Romanii were eclipsed because of their new found faith in the one God, and has allied himself with an even more powerful pantheon opposed to Him. Thus, the legionaries and demi-daemons and auxilia are marching north and west with nothing but conquest on their mind.
Atalantes (Ilioses) - The Atalantes reside on Atalantia, a land slowly crumbling into the sea around the northern Bay of Biscay in the Atlantic Ocean. The Atalantes are an ancient race of sea-farers and raiders with a long history of trade and war but they, like their lands, are crumbling and devolving and may soon return to where they originated; those still with their wits about them employ forbidden magic from the stars and unearthly weapons to keep their culture alive, but many believe their race is doomed - at least, upon Gæa.
|Yeah Ophius does look a little bit arrogant. It's probably the wing, most snakes don't have them.|
Khthones (Gorgones) - The Khthones were once the slaves of the Atalantes (indeed, some still are) and they have taken their opportunity to revolt against their cruel masters in a fight for survival that can only end in destruction. A myriad of anthropomorphs created by the Atalantes from the abundant reptiles of Atalantia, the Khthones include the Gorgonars (man-snakes) led by the Gorgon known as Ophius, the Krokodars (man-crocodiles) and the Sávrars (man-lizards), among others.
FLG: Thanks for that, hopefully it'll give people an idea as to where the game is heading, and I'm sure it's more than comprehensive enough... for now! I know you’ve said that you’re not willing to put a time frame on when the game will be ready to ship, or indeed when you’ll be willing to show any of it to the public. But surely you have at the very least a rough idea in your head as to when you’d like to see various things fall into place?
RL: Yes, but I'm not going to tell you that until I'm much further along the line.
FLG: Not even if I ask really, really nicely? You know putting sugar on top and everything? Go on you will!
RL: I'd like it to be ready for Salute 2013. Will that do?
|Blood-Maw, Vore - Christophe Madura (the final concept, hmm wrong!)|
RL: No, play testing will be closed for the rules. Such open testing is fine for an established game - you only have to look at how Privateer Press did so well with the Hordes & Warmachine second editions - but I am a big believer in autocracy and have enough confidence in myself (and enough experience in wargaming) to believe that I will only need a few playtesters who I can keep close. In the future, perhaps when our wargame is more established and would only need tweaking for further editions, we would have open playtesting; but I think initially it would create a lot more problems than it would solve.
FLG: OK, that seems reasonable to me, although I'd like to request a spot on the games testing team please! Moving away from your own products for a while. I know this might be a difficult question to answer but are there currently any wargames out there that you wished you had written yourself? Or maybe there’s a wargame you’d like to have the chance to re-write? If so what are they?
RL: Yes. Warhammer, although the game is too far gone now to change as to how I'd want to change it. The wargaming public would revolt!
RL: Crikey, where do I start? The easiest change would be simply to make it a tighter rules set. Having played Hordes and Warmachine a fair bit and inevitably comparing it to Warhammer, there are hardly any rules disputes in Hordes and Warmachine games because there are very few grey areas. Warhammer's rules are ambiguous, almost deliberately so, which is mystifying because that serves no purpose whatsoever except in order to be bloody-minded. There are some parts of Hordes and Warmachine's rules I don't like, because they make no sense, but at least they are tight. I always liken Hordes and Warmachine to a collectible card game in miniature form, and whilst I do want our wargame's rules to be tight I do not want it to become too far from reality.
The biggest change I would make would be to the background, because a lot of it is very silly and unnecessary and it needs to be darker, more like Warhammer 40,000; but that is what would make people revolt, I am sure. Warhammer's setting is really too entrenched in people's minds to change now, even the daft parts.
FLG: I think I hear you on the rules tightening for Warhammer, I also agree on the wargame versus pure game point you make about Warmachine, with it being more like a card game. But as you say at least it's internally consistent, which currently can not be said for Warhammer. I think that’s it for now though, I'm all out of witty and interesting questions. Is there anything else you’d like to add before I go and write this lot up?
RL: Yes. Buy some BaneLegions - and have a look at the BaneLegions Bits side of things too!
FLG: Indeed I can heartily recommend them as a range, and for those of you who like coverting and kit bashing stff the new 'bits' will be a Godsend I'm sure. Well I'd just like to say thank you to Rob for taking the time to answer my questions, and for letting us all take a sneaky peak at some of the new concepts for the BaneLegions range. My bank balance is already regretting asking to have a look at concept sketches now! Oh yeah, I mentioned something about a prize give away didn't I? Well you know that sexy picture I showed you right at the top of this article of Krull, Servile Lord of Dis? Well Rob has kindly given me one of them to give away in a prize draw to one of you lot who follow my Blog. Yep that's right £99.99 of awesome miniature for one of my Followers, so I'd better say thanks to Rob for that as well! So erm... thanks. As with my previous giveaway I will randomly select somebody from my followers list using a state of the art shopping bag and raffle tickets! Here's some more pictures of Krull and Ben Komets truly awesome paint job on this splendid miniature.
|Seriously would you 'Dis' him... OK that was a poor joke.|
|OK no jokes this time, just look at the amazing paint job!|
|Look at the profile of him, and those huge wings. Awesome.|
|Just look at the armour and axe, Ben has done a splendid job he really has.|
|Just look at the leathery tones on those wings. Plus this is arguably the safest place to attack Krull.|
|A second profile shot, this time showing the wicked looking punching blade thing|
|And finally we have this picture that shows of the shape of Krulls head properly.|
Hopefully you've all forgiven me my indulgence with all this fabulous pictures of Ben Komets finished Krull paint job. I just think it's and utterly stunning piece of brush work and artistry of the highest order. But, then again anything less would've been an insult to Daniel Cockersell's fabulous sculpting, all round the effect is very impressive I'm sure you'll agree... and an unpainted version of Krull could be yours! Sorry I couldn't convince Rob to give me the painted version, I will draw a winner from the list of my followers on the 13/4/2012... yeah I know that's Friday the 13th, what could possibly go wrong? Peace out!