The Alternative Armies Christmas Interview 2014
An Interview by Craig Andrews
As has become tradition on Christmas Eve, Gavin Syme at Alternative Armies submits himself to the annual grilling.
Another year has passed and once more it's time for the annual interview with Alternative Armies the company not only behind Flintloque but also many other games and ranges including 15mm.co.uk and the rapidly growing The Ion Age. Our interview is presented in a question and answer format with Gavin Syme (GBS) the creative manager of Alternative Armies, head of 15mm.co.uk and grand vizier of The Ion Age too. Our thanks to him for submitting to the grilling!
So Gavin what is going on just now and what will 2015 bring us all? This year lets go brand by brand for all the news.
The Ion Age
Q: It seems you chose the right time to go into 15mm science fiction with its own website and style as what a year its been for this scale and genre of wargaming. What will 2015 bring to The Ion Age in terms of its rapidly expanding range of miniatures and vehicles?
A: I like to think that I was rather closely involved with 15mm science fiction and its grand emergence as a serious scale and indeed perhaps THE scale of sci-fi wargaming in times to come. After all I created 15mm.co.uk a decade or so ago to highlight the scale in general and working with Alex Self we got Alien Squad Leader onto the market. ASQL got loads of people interested and boosted up the industry which has turned in the last couple of years into a fantastic flood of rule systems, miniatures, vehicles and all manner of things. It all began for me with Laserburn on 15mm.co.uk and that got me thinking that my own setting could be superb and in the end it was called The Ion Age. As you will have seen and indeed look at the various forums and our own Ion Age blog too since we launched the new website we have expanded at a heck of a pace. From 30 to 50 to 80 to 150 miniatures in 15mm scale plus light vehicles and then some medium vehicles and a wide terrain range in a year!
The next year will bring lots more and in several directions of releases too. It is our plan to finish the creation of all of the original 28mm Ion Age miniatures into 15mm scale with the Planetary Militia. This will be a force with its own infantry, its own battlesuits and vehicles suitable not only for our own space opera setting but also near future as it represents the defence forces of a planet rather than galaxy fairing knights. With that achieved we will enter my own goal for the next year which is to take The Ion Age in new directions with miniatures with two new factions entering the fray that are totally new. Each will have its own infantry, vehicles and so on. I can confirm here that the first faction will be far future Chinese style Zin who are traders and explorers. Concept art exists now for this range and its looking really fine with unique ideas and style. Jade Ape Battlesuits anyone? The second faction is not yet finalised but it will not be Human and will be a foil for not only the Prydian Army but also the Khanate Empire too.
Here is a picture of one of the forthcoming Planetary Militia vehicles.
Its called the Colobretta and its a six wheeled armoured transporter. You can see one of the new sculpts for the Planetary Militia standing next to it. Its about 50mm or so long and its coming out early 2015.
Q: You spoke about a full rules system and indeed play tested Patrol Angis nearly a year ago when will this title be released and what is it about?
A: Patrol Angis is a skirmish focused rules set for one platoon or so a side so it can be played in less than an hour. It can go bigger though and the play testing was carried out by more than twenty hard core 15mm science fiction wargamers over six weeks. Its a 15mm scale game and its initial book release will focus on infantry actions with Battlesuit and Portable Weapon support during the Prydian Civil War. That is the Prydian Army against Marcher Barons so you can use all of the core Prydian Army miniatures with it. About twenty miniatures a side and we will be selling complete platoon or lance packs each with a unique miniature in it. Its focus is what happens when one recon force encounters another in open ground. Its a starting place and it mattered to me that my own sons could play it with not much study. Its low intensity and easy to get into. I had hoped to get the first book out already but that has not happened so I estimate first quarter 2015 for it. That will be followed up with more titles for large vehicles and also the Shia Khan Empire too. I want a game system that has not only great and fun rules (which they are, they work really well) but also a damn good read too with a compelling back story and that takes time to do.
Q: What other matter have you been considering and working on with The Ion Age?
A: Well a lot of things. Many of which will not happen in 2015 or perhaps might not happen at all. What I can say is that we have been giving a bit of thought to vehicles and to terrain as well. We had such an epic response to the Habitation Colony range back in November that it out shone the original Hab Dome that kicked it off. It's our plan to move into buildings and such that would be 'small town' as well as our existing outpost or moon base type items. All of this year we have been training up and ramping up our resin production plant and we plan to create more medium and perhaps even heavy vehicles in 2015. Perhaps even things on legs not tracks; you will have to wait and see. If anyone wants to keep up with what we are doing on a week by week basis with The Ion Age I recommend going to where I put all the latest news and that is out blog here: http://theionageblog.blogspot.co.uk/
Q: What will the focus of 15mm.co.uk be now that all of the science fiction is essentially headed on over to The Ion Age?
A: That is an excellent question and its one that one that was discussed and decided upon before the launch of The Ion Age. We had a big year this year for science fiction as we know our focus was going to change on 15mm.co.uk from now really and into 2015 and beyond. While we will still do some codes for HOF such as the popular Galactic Knights and others we will be looking in the main at another genre. That genre is one of my other passions. It is 15mm Fantasy. A lot of people know that our HOT 15mm Fantasy range has grown to near one hundred codes and twenty HOTT 2nd Edition army packs but we have also been re-mastering the Tabletop 15mm Fantasy range too. We will be focusing on ramping up the HOT fantasy range with some twenty new pack codes in 2015. In fact we will be sending out an email survey across all of our customers in January to kick this off. The survey will list the top half dozen or so monsters we have been requested to create and wargamers will be able to vote on it. We will make the top four in 2015! I believe that 15mm fantasy will be a growth area in the next few years and perhaps I can effect that with 15mm.co.uk. Here is a picture of the HOT3 Trolls we released which have driven our desires this autumn and winter.
Q: We saw some brilliant new HOF releases last month and during the year along with the Laserburn re-mastering and resin process being completed. What do you guys have lined up for 2015?
A: Thanks! I was very happy with the Security Force Alpha, Galactic Knights, Post Apocalyptic Warriors, Corporate Ashigaru (about fourteen codes and about fifty new miniatures) we released this year. It was a bumper harvest for scif-fi fans and all from customer requests too. Laserburn is a true classic and while we entered into the re-mastering process to keep it alive I have been amazed by how many people adore it and have kindled their interest in Laserburn. We had to make four sets of new molds for the V101 Flit Car alone! But what will we be doing internally on 15mm.co.uk next year?
As I have stated the focus of 15mm.co.uk will be fantasy miniatures in 2015. We will have some HOF releases for Security Force Alpha and the Galactic Knights and others but our weight will be in fantasy. I hope and aim for two new 'armies' in the HOT range each of them having a command pack, infantry packs, cavalry and artillery and of course monsters and creatures. A lot depends on the January survey as that will see if it will be Undead or Indian Mythology or Evil Sorcerers that takes the lead. It will be one of them for sure. Depending on how far we get we might even get some terrain done too in resin for 15mm fantasy. Details will be on our blog which you can see here if you are interested: http://15mmcouk.blogspot.co.uk/
Q: Are there any more collaborative projects like Grinning Skull or Loud Ninja Games coming up or releases for the SHM range?
A: Well that is a tough one as I don't see them coming very far ahead. Certainly I am open to all approaches if an individual or small business or Kickstarter etc wishes to ask ask about white metal molding and production or the same for resin too. We took Grinning Skull over to Alternative Armies as it sat better there and Will Grundy has several more packs for release there next year. Eli Arndt of Loud Ninja Games has just finished his second successful Kickstarter with his YanDrassi aliens and I know he plans a lot for 2015 in several directions; he is a chap to watch I tell you! I am hopeful of new designs in the SHM range but as it is the 'self help miniatures' range it depends on new designers who want a start to come to me. There are more than seventy miniatures in SHM now and a dozen names attached to them. Actually we want more Prang as those have been really popular in 2014. Here is a picture of the Prang sculpted by Eli Arndt a success story of this year for us that is not often mentioned.
Lets move onto Alternative Armies now and of course our favourite here on Orcs in the Webbe the mighty Flintloque!
Flintloque and Slaughterloo
Q: 55013 Lady Rosafiend and 52014 Heinz der Mead were great surprises for Flintloques fans, do you have any other cracking little single character codes like these planned? Has Flintloque gathered pace again now that you have The Ion Age established?
A: Indeed it has. There is a limit to what any group of talented and hard working people can do in a space of time and now that my baby (read Ion Age, no more actual children for me thank you!) has found its legs my talents have turned back towards the finest game of black powder fantasy in the world. We are working with a number of designers and have lots of plans for 2015 and 2016 in place for Flintloque and by extension Slaughterloo with them beginning really at the time this interview is being published. We plan on the whole for packs and unit codes but there are single miniatures coming too and some of them from the new design talent of Christian Cuello (the chap behind 56131 Ludwig Von Barkhoven from last year). Here is a picture of the master tins from some of his work that is literally just now completed.
My news to the Flintloque players out there....you will love 2015 my friends.
Q: You released a Flintloque resin building last year as one of your first resin models and this year has seen a handful of resin release (mainly the larger miniatures) do you have any others planned? Will we see any more buildings or larger pieces in resin for Flintloque?
A: Ah the 59007 Goblin Cryptmass House we certainly did as a festive treat last year. We currently have no plans for more buildings as we are focusing on Trolka, Trolkin and Dwarves as we enter this new year but that might change as we sold a good number of Cryptmass Houses and have been asked for a 'normal' version of it be released too. As far as larger pieces go we are about complete on the 'resinification' (I am sure that is not a real word!) of the Trolka for Flintloque. These hulking brutes in metal weigh in at near 100 grams each and to keep them reasonably priced we have moved them to resin. No changes in the designs or codes but upon re-release they will actually get cheaper! How often does that happen? We have moved the production of the riding Pig mounts for Dwarves to resin with great success already. That plus the Muskox for the Trolkin (here is a picture of the 57818 Trolkin Artillery Crew which uses two of them as limber beasts) into resin established the principle and practise for us. But then we are going to need a lot more riding pigs with what is coming up next...
Q: You've recently announced the Von Rotte Legion Dwarves expansion. Can you expand on what you've told us already? Will there be a booklet released to accompany the new miniatures?
A: What a tale there is to tell here! You need to refer to our blog to see what has already come on this subject and what is going to happen. Go here: http://alternative-armies.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/dwarves-of-von-rotte-legion-for-2015.html. The whole Von Rotte Legion begins with a promotion from the 24th to the 26th of December where you can pre-order the 52517 Von Rotte Command Set, here is a picture, saving twenty percent off its release price in early January 2015.
Then in January we will continue with the Von Rotte. This is going to be literally the whole Legion so its infantry, command, cavalry, casualties, personalities, artillery and specials too. While the work is not anywhere near complete it means about forty new 28mm miniature designs will come at you in 2015 for this force in the pay of the Ferach Empire. Fans of Flintloque will be able to build their legion month by month and as well as that we will be offering some free resources. A showcase of the artwork for the Von Rotte drawn by Valonian artist Edward Jackson along with a booklet similar to the Troll Lands one for the Trolka and Trolkin. This will have fiction, unit profiles, statistics, pictures, art and more and it will be free to download.
The Von Rotte are the first big project for Flintloque in 2015 and they will not be the only one.
Q: Are there any other Flintloque and Slaughterloo releases planned for 2015?
A: If you are a fan of Dwarves that next year will be golden for you. There are other releases planned but nothing concrete at this point as we work only a quarter ahead and that next quarter is all Von Rotte. I can say that there are further expansions for the Trolkin coming with the eventual aim of a whole Slaughterloo Divisional Army Pack (DAP) and that we will be making more personalities too. There will be another large miniature project across the summer of 2015 for Flintloque and it may well some something Dogman related. Players of Flintloque will see their interest rewarded with the surge that is coming.
Q: Are their more books coming for Flintloque in 2015? Retreat to Kooruna perhaps?
A: I have set aside time in the spring of 2015 for a new title in the canon of Flintloque 3rd edition. It will most likely be the first campaign book and that would be 'Retreat to Kooruna'. A lot of material exists for it including a half dozen play tested scenarios with solo options and a good number of new pieces of artwork by Edward Jackson. Those who have the books for Flintloque know their quality and depth. This takes time and indeed as the first of its kind the feedback on Kooruna I got suggested that fans wanted even more in its pages. I will begin the process towards a new book with a blog post outlining it, what it will contain and what it plans to achieve. Look for this next year but for now here is a mock up of the cover to look at. Enjoy!
Alternative Armies Fantasy – Project Darkhelm
Q: The remastering of the classic Alternative Armies Fantasy releases seems to be going really well. VNT5 Demonic Tree for instance. What's lined up for release next and what is the plan for the next year for Project Darkhelm?
A: Don't you just love that Demonic Tree. Check out the picture of it here.
A code that is twenty years old now back in force on the Alternative Armies website. That sums up what we wanted to achieve with 'Project Darkhelm'. Being a classic does not mean you are not worthy of modern mention in fact to me the fact that some of the biggest sculpting names of the 1990's created our fantasy range makes it even more worthwhile. I adore the styling of classic fantasy before the splintering of style that is what the market is now. An Elf looks like an Elf and an Orc like an Orc, Dwarves love gold and the Undead clatter as they walk. There is a great demand for this that you might call 'Oldhammer' but I think its more than that. Weighty metal miniatures, easily recognised races, heroic goals and settings. It's what people desire when they look at The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Elric the Eternal Champion, Krull or numerous other sources.
Our plan for Project Darkhelm for this coming year is actually to increase its speed firstly. We will not be painting up all the re-masterings and instead will be showing them in the raw metal. We hope to get the whole massive range out in a year this way. Its also our plan to add to the range with new miniatures and monsters in a fitting style and medium to the existing codes. There will be details on our blog when we get to this. Up next though is VNT3 Orrid Ogres one of the earliest fantasy codes in our catalogue.
Q: Will you be releasing any rules to go with the miniatures anywhere? I'm sure plenty of folk would love to see statistics and scenarios to accompany the releases?
A: We have no current plans to do so. But you can use all of the range and pretty much any high fantasy miniatures with the Alternative Armies rule system DarkeStorme if you want to do warband level skirmish with magic and monsters in it. Orcs in the Webbe has a good deal of DarkeStorme content including new material in the 2014 Advent Calendar. In the future we might do a set of battle level rules but this would be after the range is entirely re-mastered and re-released as time would not permit if beforehand. Keep looking to our blog for the latest on this of course.
Q: If a set of battle level 28mm high fantasy wargame rules would have to await your time what about hiring an outside rules writer or two for a project like this?
A: We don't work normally with outsourcing rules and fiction writers but that does not mean we would not consider it. In fact if anyone reading this thinks they can do a battle level fantasy system with all the faire to be included and mechanics that make it fun, fast and a bit different then contact Alternative Armies and we will have a chat about it. I am all about giving people chances.
Wargaming and Life Questions
Q: It was great to see you again at this year's Salute wargames show and we spoke about how the show was changing from what it used to be. Will you be at Salute 2015 with Alternative Armies? Are you going to attend any other shows in the next year?
A: I don't think its that big a secret that the industry has radically changed in the last five or seven years. After all the rise of e-commerce combined with Paypal has made international trade so much easier that it follows the beginning of Ebooks and Kickstarter would also have an effect. Salute is a great show but interestingly for Alternative Armies its always been more about shaking hands and playing games than selling miniatures on the day. Don't get me wrong it is a selling show; people go to buy. But with us it was the icing on the cake as we always do a run up to the show special event and releases and so on. The majority of the customers who took us up on these offers had never and would never attend the show in London. But the show has changed. I will not go into details but for us it's time to save the thousand mile round trip and do things a bit differently in spring 2015 using the effort that Salute took. Alternative Armies will not be attending Salute 2015 and instead will be doing our normal month of offers and releases with perhaps even some specials! More will be said nearer the time of course. We will attend other conventions and shows through our agents and these will be published nearer the time. I may even go as a wargamer!
Q: Having started the tradition in a previous interview, what was your personal favourite release from across the ranges this year?
A: What a question! Can I round it down to one choice. Likely not. I will tell you my favourites one from each of the websites. 56131 Ludwig Von Barkhoven was my favourite Alternative Armies miniature of the year. Not only is it a cracking personality miniature but we had to make a full production mold of it to get enough of them out during the Salute season offer. On 15mm.co.uk I have to choose our first big resin project HOF28 Charger APC vehicle kit. Its a great kit but its the memory of the spring and the fun we all had packing them up. For The Ion Age, well where can I begin. With a hundred new miniatures, twenty vehicles and fifteen odd terrain pieces in twelve months its tough but I would say IAF041 Corbal Deployable Hardpoint. That kit is unique and caused quite a stir when it was released with one customer even adding legs to it to make it a walking tower!
Q: Outside of your own products and wargaming what computer or board games, books, have taken up your 2014 free time? Be Honest, they all count!
A: Its nice you assume I have some free time what with this job I love and three children I adore too. Honestly I just want a beer and bed most nights; well ok a gin on the weekends. When I have had free time I have two primary things I have done with it. I read some books and I play with my eldest son on computer games. We have been multi-playing an Xbox game called Terraria which looks like the old 8 bit consoles but its really addictive digging holes and finding gold (I might be a closet Dwarf eh!). We also play Risk with a classic Napoleonic looking set. I have a Kindle and have enjoyed new novelists such as Marko Kloos this year. I tried out the Fantasty Flight Games roleplay starter set for Star Wars as well with my good lady. I only get to be the Storm Troopers :-(
And Now For Bedlum..
Q: Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without my annual question, you already know what it's going to be... What of Bedlum? (For newer readers, it's the street level gang warfare game set in Flintloque's infamous city of Londinium). The last year has seen the release and/or expansion of quite a few games by other companies that seem to fill the niche that Bedlum hinted at (Empire of the Dead, Carnevale, Wolsung to name but three). Is it Dead or Undead?
A: Ah, Craig you do know how to make a threat my friend. After all you have threatened to publish my non-answer if I did not give you a response! But I am an honest guy and always have been so here is my answer. I asked around here. Bedlam will happen I have been told by on high by the Dark Czar himself! During 2015 there will be more miniatures and also movement on a rules system as well. The cobbles of Londinium will be seen! Why this change; well it's the favourite idea of the Dark Czar! I am sure you will be collecting the miniatures and playing at the head of the queue Craig.
I would like to say thanks once again for this chance to speak to the audience of Orcs in the Webbe and I would like to wish all of them a happy, healthy, prosperous and of course Alternative Armies filled 2015!
Gavin Syme (GBS)
An Orcs in the Webbe Exclusive!
The above interview was first published on Christmas Eve 2014.