Does the Theme Fit the Mechanics or Do the Mechanics Fit the Theme?

I’ve played all sorts of games over the years, from the early 80s playing Dungeon and Dragons to contemporary times playing social deduction games like Coup, worker placement games like Lords of Waterdeep, miniature games like Malifaux, Freeblades, and more.

I’ve been toying with game design and have a couple of thoughts and ideas on creating games.

I’m curious, though, what are your thoughts on mechanics and theme?  The argument is that some games have themes that are just tacked on to the rules and mechanics. For example, there is an argument that the worker placement game Lords of Waterdeep, although a great game, doesn’t really have much theme. People suggest that you can add any other theme or setting and the game will still be the same.

A great site, the League of Game Makers, discusses this and probably does a better job explaining it.

I’d like to suggest an experiment. Let’s pretend we are working on a miniature game (tabletop war game), with miniatures that you push across the board. Think if Warhammer 40k, Warmachine, Malifaux, Infinity, Flames of War, and others.

Let’s start with the mechanics. In the game, to attack another model, you roll a number of dice equal to an attack stat and try to beat the target model’s defense stat. Simple enough. However, to do multiple wounds, you can decide to split your dice pool, and you hope each “split” equals or exceeds the target’s defense.

To explain further, let’s pretend model A has an attack value of 4 (roll 4d6 during an attack) and model B has a defense of 7.  Model A swings his sword and the player rolls 4d6 and gets a 5, 2, 4, and 3. That combined roll of 14 easily beats a 7 for one wound. However, the rolling player decides to split his dice after the roll, and combining the roll into two groups with the 5 and 2 together, and the second group with the 4 and 3 together. Both groups equal a 7 for two wounds, as both groups equal or exceeded the defense.

If the theme of a game is applied to mechanics, what setting would fit this type of mechanic?  Fantasy? High fantasy with magic, wizards, clerics, sorcerers and more. Or, does this mechanic fit modern day ninjas? Far future space fights?

What are your thoughts? What settings or themes can you think that might fit this mechanic better?  I’ve got my thoughts and it’s a simple mechanic that I’m playing around with to see what happens.

Ulfsark Games Machined Dice Review

Ulfsark Games is a Danish game accessory company that produces coins, dice, and more, eventually hoping for a new miniature game soon. You can find them on the web and on Facebook. Ulfsark Games’ Alex Atkinson sent along a sample of their metal dice, one of each die type, A D4, D6, D8, D10, D00, D12, and D20, for review. The dice arrived in a padded envelope in a single baggie. I’m not sure what their normal shipments are like when ordering from them, but they did come well protected. However, having one baggie meant that I wasn’t able to identify what each die was called without the included note. The dice belong to a line called Dragon Scales which has a variety of sub-types within it.

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The D4 comes from the Celtic line and is black.

The D6 is pipped and is brass is color. The die is described at only available in the D6 variety and is limited in number. The pips are indented with no coloring.

The D8 comes from the Celtic line of dice and is light green.

The D10 is part of Ulfsark’s Techno line and is gold.

The percentile, or D00 die, belongs to the Elven line and is red.

The D12 is part of the Gearpunk line and is light red.

Lastly, the D20, belonging to the Dwarven line, is dark blue.

The dice felt great in my hand and make a pleasing sound when rolling on a wooden table or desk.

Listen to the dice: D6, D10, D12 and D20, and lastly, all of the dice at once.

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Each model line has a unique theme and the images go well with the theme. For the Celtic line, the dice have chains linked together around the numbers. The Techno line looks like a form of binary surrounding the numbers, while the Elven and Dwarven are consistent with their themes as well, with scrollwork or symbols. The symbols don’t change on each die type, but the patterns do change. Some circle the numbers, while others are above and below the numbers. A good thing about the dice is that the numbers and designs are etched or milled into the sides and inked so that the designs will not rub off or flake away over time. Some abuse may occur if you store them in a bag, but the hardiness and make-up of the aluminum means wear and tear shouldn’t be an issue.

As a gamer, I find that the weight of the dice, as well as the sound they make, are incredible. This is the first time I’ve actually held metal machined dice and rolled them, and I find the weight to be extremely satisfying. One of the current downsides of the D12 and D20 I received, though, is the size of the dice. They are 16mm and when compared to other dice from other companies, they look small in comparison to the well-known 20mm sizes.  However, with the current Kickstarter, the plan is a bump in size from 16mm to 20mm to fit in with other well-known brands of dice.  I look forward to the 20mm size as they will look right at home with my all of my other dice.

 

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Above you can see how the size differences look compared to the new 20mm dice. The first photo is a stock photo from Ulfsark Games, while the second (below) is a photo on my dining room table. Again, the most recent Kickstarter is to update the dice size and replenish stock levels.

Here you can see the size of the 16mm VS the 20mm yellow dice.

Here you can see the size of the 16mm VS the 20mm yellow dice.

Ulfsark Games is on their third Kickstarter and you view the current and previous campaigns below.

Current campaign

 

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As it’s hard to tell exactly what the dice are like while rolling in blog post, so I uploaded a couple different videos showing how they roll.dice4

Dice Rolling on Youtube:

Dice Roll 2:

Dice Roll 1:

I want to sincerely thank Alex Atkinson, owner at Ulfsark, for the opportunity to do a review over the sample dice he sent along. I highly recommend these dice from Ulfsark Games, and if you get the chance, grab some from their current Kickstarter.

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Warzone Project

I picked a Mishima starter from the game Warzone: Resurrection and started working on them this past weekend.

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The starter comes with 12 models.  Ten ronin troopers, Hiroko the leader, and a large Meka walker.  The models are made from resin and the models are nice with a few bits of flash that are easily  cleaned.

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I was able to get the models together while watching some Netflix and tonight I finished the bases.

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The bases are made from some cork sheets and glued onto the bases.  I wanted it to be simple, but interesting.

Hopefully I’ll get the models painted over the next few weeks.

How many of my readers have played Warzone?   What do you think of the game and models?

Freeblades

I picked up some Freeblades models by DGS games  in September and I’m making slow progress. I think I”m about done, but I’ll need to add some details to things like pouches, hilts, etc.  This is the Haradelan Questers starter, then with more models added.  They are knightly models on a quest for peace and justice.

 

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I’ve since done quite a bit more painting on these models and even painted the bases black.  I’ll update when they are all done.

Interview with Icarus Miniatures’ Anthony Cerrato, Creator and Designer of the Icarus Project

Icarus Miniatures is a new miniature company with their eyes set on creating a new miniature skirmish game set roughly 800 years in the future.  They are currently several days into their Kickstarter and hoping to reach their goal of $45,509. This makes them similar to many other companies with stars in their eyes hoping for a bright future.  But what makes Icarus Miniatures unique?  I sent along a few questions to Icarus Miniatures’ Anthony Cerrato to find out exactly what is unique about their company, their game, and their passion for the hobby.

IcarusLogo

The people behind Icarus Miniatures

First, can you tell us who is Icarus Miniatures?  

Icarus Miniatures was founded by myself (Anthony). At the moment, I’m the only full-time person in the company.

Who is responsible for the artwork, the sculpting, the designs, and the creation of the Icarus Project?  

The artwork is handled by the freelancers Daniel Comerci and Hokunin, who (I’m sure you’ll agree) do incredible work, and have really set the visual tone for this universe.

Sculpting is done by Questron Studios and Irek Zieliński.

What is your hobby experience like?  What do you enjoy about the hobby? (Painting, playing, etc)?

I got started in hobby in 2001 with the Lord of the Rings battle magazine by GW/Deagostini. I have always been more of a painter and story lover than I was a player, mainly due to not having a good local store to play in when I was young.

I’ve also been really involved with the hobby in general over the years, I was a moderator for the Heresy-Online forum, handling the kickstarter and Miniature Manufacturer forums, and I was a staff writer for Talk Wargaming, doing reviews and news for a time too.

I also have a background in the behind-the-scenes part of the hobby. I worked as part of the editing team for KEnsei by Zenit Miniatures

Can you explain the name of your company, Icarus Miniatures?  We have an allusion to the Myth of Icarus.  Can you elaborate some on your inspiration on the name?

I’ve always loved the Icarus Myth. Not so much the flying too close to the sun part, but the desire to fly and reach for the sky.

I also think Icarus is a cool name and works in both sci-fi and fantasy settings.

What is your favorite model or character in the Icarus Project?

My favorite model (so far) is the Gunslinger, I think he looks perfect as the lawman in space.

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My favorite character that I’ve written so far is Charlie Bishop, the pilot of the Nimbus, which is a mercenary ship that travels the galaxy saving the day. Her background is so tragic, and she just can’t seem to catch a break. She was a lot of fun to write.

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Overall though, Gabriel Cross is my favorite character. It was him that kicked this all off when I began writing stories for him in University, so he’ll always have a place in my heart!

The Design Process

What was the inspiration in creating a miniature game?

The universe came about in my first year of University when I started writing stories about a bounty hunter named Gabriel Cross. I wrote stories for Gabriel for about 3 years before deciding to use the universe I had made in a tabletop wargame.

My friends and I had become tired with the game we were playing and wanted a new sci-fi game that was simple to play and was really cinematic, so I decided to make my own.

What has been the most difficult part of developing your game?

I think the most difficult thing to begin with was breaking away from the standard unit types you find in other games. A lot of units and characters from the original version have been removed over time because they don’t fit the narrative.

What has been the most enjoyable part about developing the game?

Working with community and listening to their thoughts and feedback has been wonderful. Seeing how excited people are to get the game in their hands is a great feeling!

How do you playtest a project like a miniature game?

To begin with, it was just me and some dice running through situations and scenarios in my head. This moved on to playing games myself to test some of the mechanics that couldn’t be done in my head.

After that, it was grabbing friends to play with and get their feedback.

And now the community is a huge part of the playtesting. We have a group on Facebook where people discuss the game. I try and stand back now and let the community answer each other’s questions where possible to help foster that community.

Why did you choose a D6 for the mechanics in the game?  Some people try to be very creative and use something different than a D6. However, most wargamers prefer to use a D6 in their war games, so this does seem like a logical choice.

What dice to use was never really a question for me. My vision of the Icarus Project is a game that’s incredibly easy to pick up and play. Everyone is familiar with six sided dice, and even if you’ve never played a wargame before, you likely have some D6 in your house.

This makes the game as accessible as possible to new players, and people who’ve never played any wargames before.

Using poly dice can work very well in some games if the mechanics for using them are creative, but I think straight replacing the D6 with a D10/20 but then using it in the same way just to be “different” is pointless.

It seems that you’ve followed a trend of “scoring hits” on attack rolls, then using those hits to roll above an armor, or defense value, in this case, to cause damage.  This makes it easy to get into the game and to pick up.  Was this something you wanted so players felt comfortable playing your game, or did you ever have ideas of doing something a little more foreign and less recognizable by wargamers? Maybe use a D12, for example with a totally new mechanic?

Again, it was a very conscious decision. I’ve played too many games where hitting and damaging are more complicated than they need to be, with tables or having to calculate things. I wanted players to look at a unit profile and instantly identify what they need to roll.

A player’s fondest memory of the game isn’t going to be that they had to roll a poly dice to work out damage, it’s going to be the narrative of that moment, when in the final seconds of the battle their favorite model was able to land their hit, kill their enemy, and win the game.

I’m a firm believer that the rules only exist to facilitate the story that the players are creating on the tabletop, and the rules should as un-intrusive as possible to let players lose themselves to the story.

What is your favorite part of the game design process?

Other than interacting with the community, it has to be the background writing. I come from a writing background, both as a published author, and as a professional writer and marketer, so I love writing stories.

There’s a lot more background written than has been shown so far, and I’ve got a roadmap for another 4 factions, as well as some major universe events.

What is the most challenging part of the design process?

The early stages of art development were quite nerve wracking. Relying on others to translate your ideas and descriptions into art and sculpts is scary. Luckily, the artists and sculptors who have worked on the Icarus Project have all been amazing. I feel really lucky to have found such great talent so early on.

The Icarus Project

What was your inspiration for the different races in your game? We know of humanity, or the Alliance. We know of the Nexus and that they caused two galactic wars, and the introduction of the Praesidians who had been watching humanity. You also describe the Ji’Tar, who live on the outer rims of explored space. But where did that inspiration come from?

Most of the races in the game originally come from the days when I was writing stories in this universe for pleasure.

The Nexus went through a few iterations. They have always been green, but began life as scaly lizards. As time went on and more stories were written, they began to move away from scales, grew a second pair of arms, and became what they are today. As the Nexus are the closest thing to an “antagonist” the game has, their look has developed with what I needed the bad guys to be.

For the Praesidians, I wanted a visual link to the classic “Greys”, so large heads and eyes, but I didn’t want diminutive creatures, so chose to make them much taller than humans. This also helps strengthen the look of grace that they have in their culture.

The Ji’tar have clear Cthulhu influences, and their appearance really fit with their background of being a particularly ruthless race.


The Icarus Project is a miniature war game.  To distinguish it from other sci-fi games, can you describe two or three unique aspects to make it stand out? Why will players choose your game over the others?

The main thing that separates the Icarus Project from other games is the focus on the narrative and cinematic. If throwing a grenade into a building and watching the explosive force throw your enemies out the windows to their doom, or shooting an enemy of their motorbike only for the bike to continue moving and flatten one of your models before hitting the wall and exploding, or disarming a bomb seconds before detonation to secure victory sound like things you’d enjoy, the Icarus Project is for you!

All the units available are also narrative driven, so have strengths and weaknesses in line with the background of their character. I want people to build armies based on what they like, not on what is widely accepted as the “best list”. The army lists are balanced, which means the game is ideal for the competitive environment, but it’s in the narrative games that you’ll get the most out of it.

You have several scenarios in the current version of the rules.  This is something I’ve seen left out of miniatures games in the past.  Can you describe your thoughts behind including them?

Including scenarios seemed like the obvious choice. How are people supposed to begin forging their own narrative in the universe without some examples given by us?

I think perhaps one of the reasons some games don’t include pre-set scenarios from the beginning is they are scared they won’t be balanced. Balance in the game is very important, but fun is more important. The best games I’ve ever played haven’t been balanced, they’ve been the hero squad in a last stand against an endless horde, the small team infiltrating an enemy base to assassinate the leader.

Some of the scenarios included in the book are intentionally un-balanced, such as the Last Stand or Breakthrough missions. But it’s not the win or loss that matters, it’s the story the players create while playing the game.

Can you explain how to build a Strike Force, or army, for The Icarus Project, and maybe any unique or different rules in doing so?

If you’ve played a wargame, you’ll be familiar with how to build a strike force. You begin by selecting the army you want to use, then select a group of characters and models from that army up to the agreed points limit.

You have a lot of artwork available, and it really makes your world stand out.  Can describe your vision of the world of the Icarus Project?  What are some of your favorite images?  What image do you think represents your world or game the best?

The universe of the Icarus Project is quite realistic and gritty, but not grim dark. There are a variety of worlds throughout the galaxy, ranging from glistening technologically advanced worlds in the core, to desert slums on the fringe.

Throughout most of the galaxy, people just want to get along. They’re not concerned with wars on the other side of the galaxy, or mega-corporations taking over huge areas of their public services. They only care about what directly affects them and their families.

Kickstarter Questions

Why and How did you decide to use Kickstarter to get your game funded?

Kickstarter allows creators to connect with a lot of people they never would otherwise, it also allows companies to bring more products to market in a shorter amount of time than they otherwise would have been able to.

At this point, you are three-fourths of the way through your Kickstarter. What are some lessons that you’ve learned in this short amount of time?

I think that Kickstarter for the tabletop industry has changed a lot in the last few years. When it first started, smaller companies were using it to get their projects off the ground and to market. I think these days, a lot of the projects being crowd funded are basically pre-orders.

What advice could you give people that are interested in doing something similar through Kickstarter?

I think it’s harder on Kickstarter for smaller companies now. You need to be able to go to Kickstarter either with an existing track record, or a practically complete product, which means people need to invest more in the lead-up to Kickstarter.

That being said, the community KS creates is amazing, and even if you fail to fund on your first go, you’ll have gained a whole host of new fans to follow you back on your next attempt.

You’ve kept your factions in the game to two as a start for the Kickstarter project but have four in the rulebook.  It seems like a good idea to stay focused and limited. Were you tempted to add more faction models into the Kickstarter?

The rulebook actually has 6 full factions; The Alliance, Nexus, Praesidians, Ji’tar, Mercenaries, and the URC.

I would love to have gone to KS with more faction models, but we need the money to make those factions!

Luckily, all of the factions have at least one piece of art to give people a visual idea of what they will be like.

Miscellaneous

How do you anticipate keeping the community interested and going strong a year after your game is released? This seems to be the hard part for a lot of companies- Keeping the players going strong and community thriving.

It always comes back to the narrative, the story. As long as people are engaged with the story of the game, and keep making their own stories through playing games, the community will thrive.

I plan on keeping people engaged with new narrative scenarios, more short stories, new models and art, and encouraging the community to feedback their ideas and stories.

Besides Kickstarter, how can people get involved in helping the world expand or making sure the rules are playable and tight?

The best place to go is to our Facebook playtest group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/624446314350222/

There you can ask any questions you have, give feedback, and I show the playtesters sneak peeks regularly too.

If you had the funds available, what would you do as an initial release for the Icarus Project? More factions, more models? What would be different if money wasn’t an object?

In an ideal world, I’d like to be able to go to Kickstarter with the starter sets for the Alliance, Nexus, Praesidians, and Ji’tar factions sculpted, printed, and painted. That gives a good amount of choice and variety to players.

Finally, since I’ve asked you a lot of questions, is there anything you’d like to talk about, discuss, or explain?  You have free reign to do so. An open mic so to speak.

I just want to thank everyone who has supported us so far, and encourage everyone to take a look at the kickstarter and give the rules a try!

And I’d love for people to get involved in the community, share their stories and ideas, and join us on this journey!

Icarus Miniatures Kickstarter project will close on Sunday, October 4, 2015.  However, you can currently order one of their miniatures, Gabriel Cross, of the Mercenary faction on their website here:

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The image looks stunning and I look forward to holding not only that miniature, but others, from Icarus Miniatures in the future.

Icarus Miniatures has a philosophy that I admire and one I think we should all try to follow. From their website:

Our Company Culture

Icarus Miniatures is being built from the ground up with a very specific culture, one that we feel will really help us to stand out. Company values sound very corporate, but they are crucial to making sure everyone involved with the company is on the same page and knows what we are all about.

Our five company values are:

Fun

Family

Thinking Differently

Transparency

Doing Good

Icarus Miniatures can be found and contacted below:

Website: http://icarusminiatures.com/

Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/icarusminiatures/the-icarus-project-a-new-sci-fi-skirmish-wargame

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IcarusMiniatures?fref=ts

Contact Icarus Miniatures: http://icarusminiatures.com/about-icarus-miniatures/

Email: info@icarusminiatures.com

Marrow Productions’ Journey: Wrath of Demons Unboxing

I received my basic pledge from the Journey: Wrath of Demons Kickstarter today. The box was fairly heavy, and thick, to protect the single box contents. First, let’s discuss what’s included with the basic box plus the boxed game upgrade from the Kickstarter. Then, at the end, I will include images taken when I pulled open the box on the dining room table.

Here is a quick video of Kei Lun, Heavenly Creature:

I bought into the Single Journey Early Bird Special which included the “Boxed Game Upgrade” stuff from the Kickstarter bonus, including all this found here:

• 4 Pilgrims: The Monkey King, Tripitaka, Cho Hakkai, Monk Sha

• 3 Demon Lords: Koorogg the Bull Demon King, Yazuiji the Empress Iron Fan, Kogaiji (Koorogg’s son)

• 2 Borrack Bull Generals

• 3 Boof Bullserkers

• 5 Bharhaz Bull Archers

• 15 Berrok Bull Warriors (1 pose but two weapons)

• 1 Kei Lun Heavenly Creature

The above is from the basic game, found on game shelves once it hits retail. My KS copy includes the following extras:

  • 33 + 15 highly detailed plastic miniatures including:
  • 4 Original Pilgrims (all different) + 1 Dragon Princess Xiao Yan
  • 3 different Boss Demons
  • 1 huge Heavenly Creature
  • 25 + 9 Bull Demons in 4 different types and poses
  • + 2 Bone Warriors
  • + 3 Independent Demons (Zing Yau x 1, Jing Yau x 2)
  • 9 large doubled-sided color map tiles and other scenery tiles
  • 6 custom dice + 6 KS Exclusive dice
  • Full color rules and scenario book
  • Over 100 cards from the core game
  • + 4 KS Exclusive Skill Cards, +20 KS Exclusive Fortune/Misfortune Cards,+15 KS Exclusive Nightmare Deck Cards, + 15 KS Exclusive Nightmare Cards
  • + 4 Plastic Initiative Tokens

Journey Base Extras

Here is the image of all the contents:

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Finally, here are the images as I pulled them from the box: