The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that I've posted some rather swanky looking page buttons at the top of the page. Clicking on those page buttons takes you to a bit of background information about me, this Blog... and yeah OK, my bloody cats. Because we all know you only come here for the cats! However, if you've clicked on the about page you'll have noticed that I've listed lot's and lots of different articles that you might not have seen before on these very pages. That's because I haven't really started those article series's yet. Today that's sort of changing, here we have my first ever 'Industry Talk' article, where I'm chatting with Ronnie Renton from Mantic Games. Obviously I've interviewed people in the past, but now I'm aiming to be a bit more structured about it and a bit more regular. So read on and here what Ronnie's got to say for himself...
|Now this is different from Warhammer Fantasy isn't it?|
Frontline Gamer (FLG): Hi Ronnie, firstly thanks for agreeing to answer some questions for my readers and I. Could you start off with the usual blurb about yourself and Mantic Games for those people who have been living in a particularly remote place for the past few years?
Ronie Renton (RR): Certainly – since late 2009 we’ve been on a mission to deliver fun, affordable miniatures for painting and gaming. So far we’ve launched a fantasy and sci-fi mass combat game, a fantasy dungeon crawler series and a Sci-fi board game as well as seven fantasy armies and four sci-fi armies – and that’s just the beginning!
We offer our core rules for free and we try to be accessible, fun, innovative and above all take on-board any and all feedback in creating the games, miniatures and the worlds hobbyists want to be involved in.
FLG: So then, I guess the first thing I need to ask you about is the new Kings of War (KoW) hardback rulebook. It’s been three years in the making essentially, and I’m sure it hasn’t been easy, but do you think it has all been worth it? Are you happy with how it looks to be shaping up?
RR: Totally worth it and we are ecstatic with the way it’s turned out. To be honest, it doesn’t look like anything we had planned, it’s just taken off in such a way with a life of its own and the community have just grabbed hold of it and pushed it forwards. Any new project is hard but with creativity we’re slowly getting the word out that Mantic is a real contender – one which provides affordable, quality miniatures, great games and excellent community support.
FLG: Obviously there have been accusations within the hobby that Mantic are simply producing miniatures in a way that means they’re trying ‘pinch’ customers from Games Workshop. You’ve had to take that on the chin for sometime now, how do you respond to that? And do you find it frustrating?
RR: We don’t find it frustrating – we’ve always been very open in our view that miniatures and gaming should be more accessible and more affordable.
The core rules for our game is free and you can use any of the models you own in it – you don’t need a Mantic army (though you should have at least some of our models!)
In terms of design we’ve gone for the archetypes with Kings of War – our Undead can be used across a multitude of games and genres for instance. We think there are a lot of players disenchanted with fantasy wargaming and what we’re doing is allowing them to come back into the hobby and make the switch and have fun again.
FLG: If there was one thing in terms of how Mantic is viewed or perceived in general that you could change, what would it be? And how do you think you’d go about doing it?
RR: I don’t think there’s any one thing I’d like to change and we think we’re going the right way in disproving any naysayers. Mantic is here to stay and we will continue building our range of high quality affordable miniatures. I think quality is perhaps the biggest thing – just because you can afford the model and it’s not at a premium price, it doesn’t make it poor quality. We’re striking a balance, and getting better all the time, and as we continue to do more work through our videos, our website and the way we interact with social media, we’ll get that message out.
FLG: I guess though that the imminent release of the KoW full colour hardback rulebook will go someway to answering some of those criticisms I’m sure. But, what is it that you hope to achieve with KoW yourself? What are your hopes and dreams for it? And where do you see it fitting into what is becoming a crowded marketplace?
RR: I think it could become the fantasy tournament system of choice for starters. As I said before I think there are a lot of fantasy wargamers disenchanted with the games they used to enjoy and I think Kings of War as a fun, simple wargame is one which a lot of people could fall for and make it their system of choice. We feel that we’ve a lot of different aspects of our miniatures range that appeal to different people – whether they are wargamers, role-players or simply just collectors of great looking toy soldiers.
FLG: On a personal note for me, one of the things I actually find frustrating when talking to fellow gamers about Mantic products is the assumption that cheap means poor quality. I own a Mantic Orc army and I personally think they’re anything but poor. Do you think that sometimes the language you’ve used in the past to convey your message has perhaps hampered you with some people?
RR: It’s interesting because we’ve only once said the something was “cheap” – we always exclusively use “affordable”. It makes it attainable, like you can actually have it. We are all excited by big armies and a big model collection, and you can actually fulfill that dream with Kings of War. I don’t think therefore that it’s language that suggest something might be poor quality, more perception of what a lower price might bring as well as certain aspects of our presentation, which are markedly improving all the time – just look at the imagery in the new book! The models, the scenes, the descriptions we’ve laid out… Kings of War is a quality product and for the first time we’ve shown it off in a meaningful way. We know our strengths, and we know what our weaknesses have been in the past, and we’re improving all the time.
FLG: It's interesting you pin-point the price as being something that generates this misconception. I hadn't thought of that actually, but you have point. I guess I have to ask about your current, and clearly very successful Kickstarter campaign (Only 5 days left now people), don’t I ? When I looked at your campaign I thought ‘bloody hell they’ve done everything wrong!’ There didn’t seem to be a specific end goal or project in sight and part of me felt it was just like an online store. However, it has been, as I said, very successful so far, how has that made you feel as a company? Has it given you confidence?
RR: The amount of love for Kings of War and the sheer amount of new names that we’ve seen on the project has absolutely blown us away. We thought we might hit $20,000 if we were really lucky. But we never anticipated going over $145,000 (where we are currently at the time of writing *hits f5*).
We had a fair few saying we’d done it wrong or what not, and the project was certainly ambitious. It was about making loads of cool new miniatures for Kings of War and making sure that those who helped support us do it got the very best rewards we could possibly muster. We did our research and looked at fantastic kickstarters like Pebble, Double Fine Adventure and of course Cool mini or not’s excellent Zombicide campaign, and I think whilst we put most of what we saw into practice, we’ve certainly learnt a lot as well!
I think as a result we feel more knowledgeable and it’s validated some of the ideas we’ve had.
FLG: OK then, given you’ve broken some of the conventional crowd funding rules yourselves, and clearly been successful, what is it that you think is key to making a successful Kickstarter or any crowd funding campaign?
RR: Communication and having a desirable product. We pride ourselves on the way we all talk together and we’ve not always been clear immediately (more lessons learned!), talking to people and finding out what they wanted was paramount. There was also a lot of shouting involved – we’ve not stopped talking on forums or posting it on new blogs! I also think it’s because we’re trusted to deliver.
FLG: Indeed, I think it helps any crowd funding campaign if you as a company can demonstrate you've delivered in the past. Where do you think the Kickstarter can eventually go? What do you think is achievable from here on out, and can you give my readers any sneaky hints as to what further stretch goals might look like?
RR: Ah, hints… well we feel we’ve neglected some of our goodly races, so they will be getting some love if we continue down the same path. I have no idea where it will go – as I said before we thought we'd be lucky if we got up to $20,000!
FLG: Well you've certainly exceeded that initial target... and then some! Sticking with the theme of Kickstarter, and perhaps crowd funding more generally, why did you decide to go down the Kickstarter route yourself? What is it that these crowd-funding sites offer to companies that makes it so enticing?
RR: It is a real opportunity for people to help us understand what we should be making and how. Hobbyists vote with their wallets – we knew there was a demand for Werewolves but we didn’t know how successfully the Ogres or the Trolls or the Chariot (or the Mummies and Gargoyles) would be. What Kickstarter has allowed us to do is gauge that demand from an engaged audience, and a new audience as well – I think we’ve really opened up communication with Americans in particular and people all over the world.
FLG: So for you it's more about communicating and listening to consumers, rather than the funding. Is it just a passing fad do you think? Or are we witnessing a real shift in terms of financing projects? Is this the sort of step change that we saw in the 1700’s (obviously we weren't around then, or at least I wasn't *ahem* nearly let on I'm a vampire), with the emergence of investment banking in Northern Europe? Some commentators think it really could be that big.
RR: I think it’s mega – I really don’t know the answer, or if it’s sustainable and will last but I think the creative projects it’s helped create has given traction to what Kickstarter are doing. We certainly look forwards to finding out!
FLG: I suppose I have to ask you, but would you consider using Kickstarter again? I’m not asking for specifics here, just a general feelings as to whether now you’ve tried it you think you’ve got the Kickstarter bug?
RR: We’d love to do another campaign and there’s been a big demand for a Warpath one so we’re considering our options.
FLG: Moving onto Warpath, you seem to be going through a similar sort of process with that game as you did with KoW. Is there anything you’ve learned from the KoW process that has made you approach Warpath in a different way? If so what?
RR: The thing we knew from Kings of War was we needed four armies for Warpath to gain traction, and we’ve now got that with the Corporation and Veer-myn. We also know there’s no fast-forwards button – Kings of War has taken three years to develop into something very special, and Warpath will need the same time. There’s no magic button. It’s been a different experience for certain because we’re creating miniature to fit a game and background, whereas with Kings of War we could do pretty much what ever we wanted!
FLG: I’ve often spoken about the duty gamers have in responding to requests for feedback from companies. Could you perhaps explain how seriously you guys take it at Mantic, because I know you do take it seriously, and also just how important it has been to your products?
RR: Feedback is essential – we get feedback about us, about shipping, about packaging, about sculpts, about rules, about paintjobs… and the trick is being able to see what’s appropriate and how you then act on that feedback. Alessio has just done a piece of feedback in our latest Podcast, which really shows how important it is. We try and read everything, respond to customer messages as quickly as possible and rely on the guys in the office to let us know when something is vastly wrong. We also like it when they send the messages of goodwill around!
FLG: As you know I recently got a chance to view your Corporation and Veer-myn miniatures up close and personal. I have to say that both ranges really impressed me, do you think you’re really starting to hit your stride now with your plastic miniatures?
RR: Absolutely, the contrast between now and before, and not only in terms of sculpting but also with the painting and the photography, is so much better. We’ve got a great creative team, so yes – but it’s only the beginning!
FLG: I personally think you’ve been quite shrewd in how you’ve used your plastic miniature spru’s across multiple products. I am of course talking about the Dwarf Kings Hold games and Project Pandora. Was this always part of the plan? To use in effect the same components across multiple ranges to recoup costs and spread risk? And if so can we expect more of it from you?
RR: Both Dwarf King’s Hold and Pandora were both games that came from – wow, we’ve got some cool stuff, what else can we go with them? Jake (Thornton) came to us with some ideas for games about how we could make any miniatures work in other systems, and it’s really paid off, because both series have been successes. It is something we’ll continue to do.
FLG: As I’m sure you know I’m a bit of a fan of the DKH games (review of Ancient Grudge finally on the way), and my cats eve approved of Dead Rising, are there currently any plans to expand the range beyond what there already is?
RR: Jake has plenty of ideas! We felt we came out a bit quickly with Green Menace, so we want to give the system time to breath before we go back and have another look. Pandora will also get a follow-up, it’s just when.
FLG: I think it’s clear to me, and indeed many of my readers, and gamers that I just meet out and about, that board games are becoming increasingly popular again. Firstly would you agree with that assessment, and if so why do you think that is?
RR: I think the appeal of a self-contained game is enormous – they are often quick to set up and play, and you get everything you need in a box, which is appealing if you’ve not got the money to invest in the hobby like you used too. It’s a bit more cost effective and the quality coming out from companies like Fantasy Flight never ceases to amaze us. The great thing about Dwarf King’s Hold and Project Pandora is that you’ve also got the start of a wargaming force as well, so a quick trip to our website to download the Kings of War or Warpath rules and you’ve got yourself another game.
FLG: Is this an important market for Mantic, board games I mean? If so can we expect to see more board games from you guys, and if so would you be willing to come back and chat about them when you are ready to reveal what they are?
RR: It wasn’t planned, but our games have been very successful so we will continue to do more. In fact, there’s another game due before Christmas so for sure, we’ll be back!
FLG: And finally, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, it’s much appreciated.
RR: Thank you very much for talking to us!
I'd just like to say thanks to Ronnie Renton for taking the time to answer my questions, especially given how busy everyone at Mantic is right now with the imminent release of Kings of War rulebook and the Kickstarter campaign. I'd also like to thank Chris Palmer at Mantic for arranging this interview for me, and helping make it happen. So what do you all think of Ronnie's answers? Have any of you funded their Kickstarter campaign or are thinking of funding it? Peace out!