“20 Questions” 2D6.org Interviews – Mantic Games!

Hello and welcome Ronnie and Chris from Mantic Games to 2D6.org’s “20 questions” and answers from the readers segment. Mantic Games was formed in 2009 and already has a stable of great games including Warpath, Dwarf King’s Hold, Project Pandora: Grim Cargo, and the recently released Dreadball! Standing out in the crowded miniatures market can be tough to do but Mantic Games is up to the challenge with some great games and great miniatures.

2D6.org: Could you please take a moment to introduce yourself, tell us how you became involved in the board game industry, and describe where the idea for Mantic Games came from?

R: Sure – I’m Ronnie, CEO of Mantic Games! I became involved in the industry whenI first joined a Wargames club at junior school, starting with Airfix Napoleonics– and my life just went totally wrong from there!

I progressed on to WW2 and then discovered fantasy – GW was just starting (this was before Warhammer!) so dabbled in D&D and others – but once I found Citadel miniatures I was hooked.

I had worked at GW during my university days and as I started looking for a job they had just been taken over and were really starting to do some fun things. I joined as a management trainee – then next thing I knew 15 years had flown by!

I have always believed that this is a hobby and it must be fun, enjoyable and if you genuinely mean to promote big battles it has to be affordable. This has always been a big driver of mine, and as it became clear to achieve this I would need to create a new path – and so Mantic was born!

2D6.orgMantic Games seems set to pick up some of the slack that has been created by Games Workshop’s blind eye towards anything that isn’t 40K. Do you think there is room in the industry for competition in the miniatures market or do you think Games Workshop has a choke hold on table top miniature gaming?

We definitely believe there is room for competition – GW bring in an enormous number of new hobbyists into the hobby but it’s not long before you discover the huge number of other manufacturers out there making quality stuff. Privateer Press and Fantasy Flight have both done tremendous things and created some really quality stuff, and we know we can compete in the same sandpit, and even grow it ourselves.

2D6.orgWarpath is a tabletop miniatures game set in the 28mm scale in a Science Fiction themed futuristic universe. Are you finding it challenging to introduce this new Intellectual Property to such a crowded market? What new mechanics does Warpath bring to the hobby and in what way do you think these changes improve the Miniatures Game hobby?

We know it takes time and we’ve done Warpath in reverse of Kings of War. With our fantasy range we launched four armies and then the ruleset, with Warpath we launched two and the ruleset at the same time, in a beta format. We know it takes four armies – and that’s infantry, vehicles and flyers – to make Warpath work as a sci-fi game. In fact we’ll more than likely be Kickstarter that!

Warpath is currently still in beta development and the community has been fantastic in helping iron out the niggles. We think the alternative activation system is pretty funky, making the game feel more interactive and speeds it up, which is the big difference between Warpath and Kings of War in that there is a lack of regimented troops. Speed, easy of use and the ability to play timed games are all great reasons to try the game out, which is available for free download from our website: http://www.manticgames.com/Hobby/Gaming.html

2D6.orgWarpath is still a young system with room for growth. There are 4 factions released so far what can we look forward to in the future?

Definitely – there’s a whole galaxy to explore! We are firm believers in needing four factions before a game system can become real, it happened with Kings of War, and now that we’ve got the foundations laid we’ll be working on expanding the ranges for them and introducing a couple of new factions. Plague and Rebs are two that we’ve had requests for…

2D6.orgAs someone who spent way too much money in my youth on Warhammer 40K and finally got fed up with the steady power creep, can you tell me what you are doing to avoid this same pitfall? Maybe I am in a minority but I found it frustrating to know that in 3-6 months my chosen faction would be outclassed by the new race and the vicious cycle would start all over again when the “New Codex’s” were eventually released.

Ah power creep! This won’t happen with us because there are no “Mantic Codices” -you’ll only ever need the core rulebook which will feature the army lists for all of the races which will be internally balanced and tested by the community ensuring that the game remains fair and fun.

2D6.org: Kings of War is a fantasy themed table top miniatures game that already seems to be fairly well developed with undead armies, dwarves, elves, and other fantasy races. Are you finding it challenging keeping 2 miniatures games supported and still feeling unique?

Sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough months in the year to be able to release everything we want to but good planning has helped. Kickstarter too has been a blessing and we’ve got an awful lots of miniature kits coming out for Kings of War – the range is getting a massive boost. Provided we keep the new releases coming, the events and demonstrations supported and just keep chatting to the community, then supporting the systems and keeping them unique isn’t a problem.

2D6.orgI have to say I am really impressed with how inexpensive the line of Mantic Games is to get into. The Kings of War Two-Player Battle Set for example is approximately $80 US with 95 miniatures in the box. This seems to be a strong price leader in what is known to be an expensive hobby. Do you feel your low price for entry is a strong selling point for Mantic Games? I hate to keep comparing you to “the other guys” but I know for a fact they are not selling stuff this inexpensively.

One of many! We believe that building an army should be affordable. We’ve all wanted to put down a massive army of the tabletop but price is a limiting factor, so we’ve tried really hard to eliminate that as an issue. Building an army should be an enjoyable experience. We’re deliberately not cheap, we don’t want to make awful looking figures, we want to blend affordability with quality.

2D6.orgMantic recently completed an EXTREMELY successful Kickstarter.com campaign for the hotly anticipated Dreadball- The Futuristic Sports Game! On the surface someone who hasn’t taken the time to look into this game might think it’s simply a re-theme of BloodBowl. A thorough reading of the rulebook tells a very different story though! Where did the idea for Dreadball come from? Bloodbowl is obviously American Football but Dreadball seems like a whole new sport marrying Rugby, Soccer, some Hockey, and maybe Lacrosse to create something entirely new.

DreadBall came from a desire to make a fast, fun and tactical sports game that was easy to play. We’re both sports fans and board games fans, and Jake has created something that blends elements of all of those real-world sports to ground it in reality – this is a game that could be real – and then gave it this clean futuristic aesthetic which appeals to the hobbyist in us. Writing background and coming up with team names and colours schemes is all part of the fun, it’s a board game, a hobby game and it doesn’t feel wrong. The only similarity with BloodBowl is that they are of the same genre, like a first-person shooter video game, or make of sports car.

2D6.orgI am not afraid to admit that BloodBowl is my all time favorite game but you have changed up so many things that I might be looking at a new favorite! Some changes are simple, like changing to a hexagonal game board, while some are major, for example only half as many players on the field, only 5 actions per side, and gameplay that doesn’t reset every time a player scores. Am I correct in saying that your primary goal was to speed up the gameplay while still keeping the feel of a violent sports game? What is your “30 seconds Convention Sales Pitch” about why people need to check out this game?

Heh – you’re quite right! People should check out this game because it’s easy to learn, fast to play and competitive, offering plenty of tactical choice with gorgeous art and best-of-class dynamic models, that will be continually supported by the manufacturer with new releases, events, tournaments and an engaging, passionate community. It’s frantic – games can be dominated by rampaging Marauders or can hinge on your Striker making a last-ditch attempt to score on one dice to save the game. It’s compelling, engrossing and you can play game after game after game and still learn something new and, most importantly, have fun.

You come out of a match and you have a story to tell, anecdote after anecdote, and it’s easy to get over-excited by it because I’ve almost certainly gone over my 30 seconds!

2D6.org: I really like the design decisions that went into Dreadball including the streamlining for ease of learning the game. For example anything that gives a bonus or penalty is taken as a number of dice rolled versus adjusting target numbers which can get cumbersome at times. Might I ask why you went with a D6 system? Did you ever ponder a D10 system or maybe even a D12 system to really allow a wide range of abilities especially for future races?

Yes – the original idea was for a D10 system and it’s something we cut out straight away and changed to D6. There’s something familiar to everyone about a D6 and that’s what we’re trying to attract – we want this to appeal to as board an audience as possible. From the most seasoned BloodBowl player to Jimmy who has played Monopoly, everyone has come into contact with a D6 and it gave us plenty in terms of the variety that we can offer. We can add or subtract the number of dice you can roll, different player types get different bonuses, different races get different bonuses within that and then you add in the MVPs and the Special rules and even team composition and you’ve got so much variety and choice that not having the extra four sides or whatever was never really an issue.

2D6.orgDreadball comes with multiple teams and league play already designed into the game, can you tell us what future plans you have for Dreadball? What can we look forward to in Season 2 and Dreadball Ultimate? Gamers love for our games to be continuously supported what plans do you have for future races and teams? Will there be a Season 4 and beyond? Will the game continue to evolve?

The game is going to receive massive support next thanks in no small part to our amazing Kickstarter crowed. We’ve actually funded two further seasons with a target release date of April and August respectively which will see over 20 new MVPs and 8 new teams – and we’ll even have big multi-hex creatures and a new multiplayer board!

Beyond that we’ve DreadBall: X-treme, an illegal version of the game played out of the fringes of space where fouling and death has far more common, petty criminals fight vile, sadistic aliens who oppose the Co-prosperity sphere, and gangsters run teams fueled with drugs and performance enhancers. We’re really excited by X-treme and one of the most interesting things about it is you can take mixed teams, so you can play with a team made up of robots, veer-myn, Judwan and humans if you want to – it’s going to make up for some really interesting match-ups.

After that the world’s our oyster! Events and tournaments are a big deal and the game will certainly evolve over time. We can’t wait to see what the future holds.

2D6.org: Are there any plans to incorporate any new MVP’s, teams, 3-hex mechs or beasties that were not included in the Kickstarter at a later date for the game? Will the Forge Father team get a 3 hex mech for season 3?

For sure, we have ideas that didn’t quite make the Kickstarter or we’ve had since. We’ve got so much to produce at the moment that we’ll probably stick with what we’ve got for the time being but never say never, there’s always a potential Season 5!

The great thing about the multi-hex creatures is that Jake see’s them working kind of like MVPs, so rather than race specific variations, anyone can take them (most of the time anyway – I can’t see a Nameless Spawn playing alongside the Zees, they’d probably bug him too much!)

2D6.orgWhich MVP’s will be shipping with the first Kickstarter packs? Will the Season 2 Judwan team have a Skill 3+? Can you have more than one “Keeper” upgraded Guard on a team? Any hints on team 13 or Mega-Mini #5?

Oo cripes! 8 MVPs will be shipping with the first Kickstarter shipment – Gorim Ironstone, Lucky Logan, Slippery Joe, Reek Rolat, John Doe, Number 88, The Enforcers and Wildcard. Buzzcut who is in the book will ship slightly later, and Wildcard will be getting downloadable rules ahead of the release of the Season 2 book.

Season 2 is currently being written at the moment so it’s all subject to change. The Judwan are looking pretty cool though!

Yes, you can have more than one Keeper upgraded Guard on a team – provided you’ve got Guards who get the required experience and roll well 😉

Erm… well, an idea for an X-treme team might revolve around the prison system… As for multi-hex number 5 – you’ll have to wait and see!

2D6.orgDreadball was a fantastic deal for those who backed it on Kickstarter.com, for my $150 I know I am going to be getting more than my moneys worth in fun and enjoyment. For retail customers though do you have a price point and what they will be getting in the retail box determined yet? Have you set up a way for retail customers to get some of the extras available to Kickstarter backers such as premium game boards, full teams, and MVP’s?

Yep – the core game is £49.99 and $74.99 and again thanks to the Kickstarter we’ve been able to improve the core box by adding in plastic hex bases, a plastic ref bot and 4 players to the already considerable contents inside – rulebook, game board, 16 players, 13 counters, roster pad, 54 cards and 18 dice. MVPs and individual team boxes are all available for our retailers to pick up and those stores in our partnership program get access to some of the more… different items, like the Premium game boards.

Kickstarter has really allowed us to improve our offering to retail as well, and whilst we came in for a little bit of flak from those who thought we were sucking up sales for our retailers, we’ve actually increase the pull-through that those stores will have, because of the excitement and buzz that surrounds the game, and the improvements we’ve made.

2D6.org: Will you continue to engage the Kickstarter community for feedback or any new ideas for Dreadball like when the Kickstarter was going?

Absolutely. With new greens, expanded range of concept art and new game ideas, we want to involve those people that made it happen as much as possible. In fact our DreadBall Forum has already gone live and there’s actually DreadBall blogs and Facebook pages springing up, so the channels in which we can have those discussions are also opening up.

2D6.org: Kickstarter projects are notorious for being long in the development tooth, prone to delays, and occasionally a slight let down, yet Mantic Games has promised to go from Kickstarter funding date to delivery in approximately 2 and a half months {Editors Note: Mantic DID make their delivery deadline}. When some projects take up to a year to ship you guys are doing the impossible for the second time, what is your secret?

Preparation and experience. We knew what was feasible and what wasn’t. We carefully built in extra shipping dates in knowledge of our limitations and we’d lined up some incredible artists and sculptors who knocked the briefs straight out of the park at the first time of asking. DreadBall has three shipping dates, because we don’t people to wait until August to get their game, but similarly we can’t produce that many sculpts and that much tooling in 2 months, so careful management and planning was required.

And that’s what’s great about our team – there’s two guys on the Kickstarter project itself, but behind the scenes they’re supported by a dedicated group of operational-type people who got the ball rolling immediately so we could not only meet but exceed the expectations we’ve laid our for ourselves.

2D6.org: Kickstarter.com love it or hate it is becoming a strong force in the board game market. Mantic Games seems to have success using both retail outlets and Kickstarter.com, can you tell us the advantages and disadvantages of using each outlet?

Sure – Kickstarter is great for many reasons. My personal favourite is the buzz it generates around the game, the community gets excited and that “infects” other people and draws them, and the whole feeling goes viral. We received emails telling us it was the best Kickstart they’d ever been a part of, that it was really fun, and everyone misses it when it’s over, that journey. This has led to there being a community from day one, which means you’ll be able to find an opponent, you’ll be able to go online and there will be people with the game ready to talk tactics or relive their last game with you. It’s an immense marketing tool. The other thing of course is that it funds the development so you can make the expansion quicker – we’ve got the funds to pay for two whole expansions and all of the tooling.

The risk of course is that it’s unknown – retailers are tried and test, and Kickstarter relies on the goodwill of the backer. It’ll only take one or two people trying to take advantage and mess it up to threaten the platform, so there’s always the risk that it’s not sustainable – what happens if someone doesn’t deliver.

Retail partners are great because they talk to people we can’t and are reliable and enthusiastic and push it. The disadvantage of using them is they could have 10, 20 or 100 different ranges to sell, so we have to make sure we’re generating the exposure and a compelling enough product to pull customers in and persuade them to buy.

2D6.org: Kickstarter is a great opportunity for game designers new and old to get projects up and running. From a customers perspective there is concern about a distinct lack of play testing and polish, do you feel this is a valid concern? I realize publishers can create lackluster games but there is a perception that publishers have a vested financial incentive to see a games success and are less likely to release a sub par property. Do you think Kickstarter.com for lack of better wording has shifted the risk onto the consumer?

There is an inherent risk of putting money up front for a game that is untried – there’s a risk to the games designers reputation if the game is a flop. There’s a risk of something going utterly bananas and it going all wrong and threatening Kickstarter as a viable platform, so there’s plenty of risk involved, which the consumer will bear the brunt of if they’ve pledged. Project creators need to be realistic with their aims, expectations and clear about what they are delivering.

We made a conscious effort to put forward our reputation and knock over any boundaries we thought would hold people back from pledging. We posted the rules online, we posted gameplay videos, concept art, greens, figures, figures from our ranges, testimonials and screens from our play test days so that our backers knew they were getting in on something that was tested, something quality.

I think consumers are savvy and vocal, the best Kickstarters will be those that look quality and with a proven track record in my opinion, and those thinking about backing are able to tell to an extent if something sounds like it’s going to be good or bad.

2D6.org: What can you tell us about the business and financial side of publishing games? How much easier did the successful Kickstarter campaign make it for you to get Dreadball created? Do you think that the $150 price tag would have scared off consumers at the retail level even though it seemed to “Fly off the Shelves” as a Kickstarter supporter level?

The DreadBall Kickstarter has given us two expansions, 20 MVPS and 8 teams that would never have made it onto the 2013 release schedule – it’s really moved us onto the next level. Tooling and sculpting a brand new game like that is expensive, we got the game to a point and then backers not only finished it but grew it exponentially, and that couldn’t have been done with the resources we had otherwise.

The $150 package was designed with the backer in mind so that we could give them an absolute tonne of stuff – something that both Reaper and Sedition Wars did very very well. That was the bad thing about going last, Reaper has set an expectations of what you could get for a miniatures Kickstarter, and so it had to look a good deal in comparison.

We believe the $150 tag did in fact scare some people off backing because it’s a heck of a lot of money for a board game, despite the fact that after adding on the extras, the average spend was over double that, which is absolutely incredible. The game is not cheap, and neither do we want it to be – rather it’s affordable and quality, and that was really what we were trying to push.

Kings of War did the $100 tag very well too, in fact it went a bit mental but we were expected the final rush we got!

2D6.org: Mantic Games seems to have created a fairly well thought out mythos with multiple games hailing from that mythos including Warpath, Dreadball, and Project Pandora. Can we look forward to any novels in this futuristic universe?

Novels, comics and more games – we’re in the entertainment business and we can’t wait to start expanding the universe through other media.

2D6.org: Speaking of Project Pandora, what can you tell us about it? What plans do you have for the future? Is it a standalone game or can we expect expansions? What gameplay mechanics do you think stand out as the most unique or well rounded?

Project Pandora is a fantastic little standalone game and we’d very much like to do a second one and an expansion, similar to Dwarf King’s Hold. It’s something we’ll come back to at some point, it’s a game we’re pleased with. It terms of the mechanics we’re most pleased with, I think the different way the action tokens work when compared to Dwarf King’s Hold, the exploding canisters and the differing way the two forces work.

2D6.org: Do you have any closing comments for our readers, possible future project hints, or any other surprises we can look forward to?

Thanks for watching Mantic Games and keep watching – we’re only just getting started and the future holds very exciting things indeed (oh, and don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter and like us on Facebook to keep up to date with the exciting going-ons)! {Link}

We at 2D6.org would like to thank the team at MANTIC GAMES for taking the time out of their very busy schedule for this interview. With the release of Dreadball I know their hands are going to be very full for quite a while! We look forward to what the future brings from Mantic Games and their talented staff!


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