Saturday, 19 January 2013

Wee Gamers interview ... Mick Leach of Eastern Front Miniatures

The great thing about this job, is its not a job, its a pleasure. And no more so than when you talk to someone in the industry for whom the $ hasn't replaced the passion and Sales targets aren't their driving force. 

Mick Leach is just such a man.  He is the one at the helm of Eastern Front Studios, and has a Kickstarter for their Midgard line of miniatures.   

After years of planning and tinkering their dreams are now close to being realised.  So join us now on our own adventure as we explore the mind of Mr Leach and find out what lurks below the surface.....

Migard is a kickstarter that reached its goal of $3,000 on day one and is close to $20,000 with around 40 hours to go.

Q1- So why Midgard Mick? What is it that has made you and your team take up the challenge to make these miniatures?

We had spoken to Wolfgang all the way back in 2010 about doing minis & had actually gotten the first 4 done, The Aboleth, Bone Collective, Necromancer and Gear Mage for him but the finances were just not there to do a continual line each month so when Kickstarter came along it was a lot easier.  So yes it was always a plan all the way back to the Zobeck Book to do miniatures.

Q2-  What's the background for yourself? Is this a dream come true, the end of a journey or the start of something wonderful

Having always been a kid who played with army men and later discovering Heritage Dungeon Dwellers I was hooked on gaming miniatures before I even knew what gaming or D&D was.  I started collecting tons of minis in the 80's and playing AD&D, I eventually started painting minis while in the Army and found I was pretty good at it.  I devoured a Mike McVey 'how to' small pamphlet until it was literally falling apart.  When I eventually left the Army 4 years later after the first Gulf War I returned home and started going to cons down south where I won quite a few contests and my best friends sister was a wife of a ex-TSR vice president who introduced me to Andy Chernak of Grenadier who I first painted for.  Later I would clean sweep a contest at a con in SC where Ral Partha attended and I really got noticed and recognized a professional.  Through the 90's I painted professionally for nearly every game company around then, such as,
  • Ral partha
  • HeartBreaker
  • Grenadier
  • ThunderBolt Mountain
  • Games Workshop
  • Reaper
  • GrimReaper
to name a few.
So after doing that a good while I moved into doing 15mm full time.  Before the internet it was not easy making it then as a freelancer as you had to attend shows, make phone calls or through word of mouth, but I stuck with it.  Low and behold the internet came around and painters were in hot demand, so I continued painting minis and in 2002 got the idea to do miniatures and sure enough in 2003 I had the first miniatures for Eastern Front Studios but again hard times came when minis and metal prices shot through the roof.  To top it off sickness got the better of me, so I had to set EFS on the back burner for about 4 years from 2008 to 2012 (even though in 2010 things had opened up for me again).

Its come full circle for me from loving it as a kid to painting to production for myself and now for even others as Kickstarter has opened even more doors.  Now we are working with multiple talented people from other games and now even producing for them, such as Andy Hopp's Low Life.  

So yeah I live and breath games and miniatures.

Q3 - so what's the relationships at play in the project, how much freedom of choice and design do you have or are their dark robed masters behind the scenes saying how far you can go?

Pretty much.  We have to co-exist with the peeps we work with, like a marriage its a bit of give and take but if its their art they generally have the last say on it if its is close or not.  Some people are a lot more strict , some less so.  I generally try and pick sculptors I know will enjoy certain subjects such as tech  or fantasy etc.  Not everyone likes doing robots for example.

Q4- how much does the written works so far, decide the looks of the miniatures or is there good scope to add your teams own flair and interpretation? 

Well, sometimes the pics don't match the written, oddly enough, as in a case we recently found.  So that's something you definitely have to clear with the people that your doing it for as they might have even overlooked that bit when the writing was done.  one example, I wont say for who or what, but the picture showed a cool monster with lots of hair but you read the description it was hairless lol.  I have worked with sculptors before who refused to use concepts and others who could match it near perfectly or some who were in other fields and just started doing gaming and blew us away so much we gave them free range to design for our own works.  So yeah, that's a sliding scale there.
Drew Williams: Gypsosphinx
Tim Prows: Grisal

Q5- will fans of the RPG be happy, how's the feedback been so far or have you had to defend any aspects of what your doing?

Yes, with Midgard for example on the Kobold Quarterly forums and our own EFS facebook we took in a lot of ideas they wanted to see.  To me Midgard was brand new so the first thing you probably need is characters and low level monsters to start, probably more so on the characters, but on our current kickstarter we even took a poll on minis they wanted to see made first  and even would do options so they could somewhat change the looks with variant hands, so instead of chopping this hand off with a sword it comes already in a assortment of variant weapons.  I figure as a gamer I like options, I know others will also.

Q6- I'm asking this under protest, cause apparently its common in the credits of computer games and films to see 'production babies'! have there been any project babies.....and did they get silly names cause of what daddy is working on? 

Hmm no kids here but I did make a half ogre based on a miniature that started out as a pc.  Korg Slullsplitter, he was a combo of a Heresy Thrud body, a Heartbreaker Ogre head, keg and club and a bunch of GW wolf pelts and a good bit of green stuff.  Yeah I can sculpt a little hair pouches and the like.  So, Korg was the first to launch a new line for our own gaming world of ShadowPort.

Q 7- Okay so Kickstarter is going well for the project, but the significance of KS seems to vary a lot between projects. MG seems very KS dependent,  there's a lot of greens on show and concept art at play unlike some who seem to employ KS as a pre-order facility. How's it working for you and how important is the KS success?

I have done a few Kickstarters from the angle of we have nothing to start with to show and from the angle of we have some to start with as in the case of Midgard.  Six were ready before the kickstarter began.  Did I mention i had about 30 greens still unproduced from when I left off in 2008?  So some are getting filtered in , they are doing no one any good sitting here in green.  It does seem to be a bit easier having things already made ahead of time but that's not always doable for everyone and Kickstarter is still a lot like Ebay.  You are never quite sure what you are going to get until its all said and done.  Kickstarter is definitely a learning experience and I seem to learn a bit more every time we do or support one.  A pal did one the first time and it didn't get funded, it went for 9k and the goal was 20k.  The next month around he took my advice and added minis and added a new twist unique to his board game and it hit 66k!!

Greens of things to come...

Q8 - I have to confess, my knowledge of Midgard as a game is second hand currently, but I know from chatting to other creative types in similar situations that there have been aspects or models they couldn't create. Sometimes pure size, and this cost denies a model, sometimes the inability to do justice, or in some cases a concept so alien it defies definition. Does Midgard offer  up anything to which you guys have had to sit back and go....."no, we just can't do that one"
And as a part two, is there a model that HAD to be made, so central there was no ignoring it?
Even at this stage ......oh my!
Well, to me if I think the monster is not cool I would probably not beat the door down to make it, but scale is definitely not a issue now with resin.  You can do a 1 inch model or a 3 foot tall dragon(in metal it could be another story, as metal needs a vulcanized mold and then it starts getting pricey on multiple molds where say a dragon is 30 parts).  Animation is now a lot more open with resin as is details, compared to say older casting techniques done years ago in metal where most producers wanted minis in one piece.  Its just all costs producers think they can afford and what gamers wanna spend  Also 3d techniques and rapid prototyping have opened up to us.  That stuff is just uncanny.

Q9 - when the creative juices cease to flow, and the ales run dry, where do you turn for inspiration and a good kick up the mental arse?

I usually chat with the sculptors or my best friend.  We can get the ideas going just by getting a back and forth session going.  In another example, Wolfgang wanted a steam mage but the cover of the Zobeck Gazetteer was just not getting it for me as a character(the mage juggling the gears by magic), so myself and one of Wolfgang's artists sat down and did the gear mage design based on what we thought would be cool, Henry the 8th, so we took those rough ideas and with a talented artist we sat down and did up the cool version you now see.

It's all in the planning.

Q10- what's been the high point and low point so far in the project?

Wondering if funding will happen is always stressful, but hitting the goal in 1 day was awesome

Q11- Once the money's in, the models made and the orders shipped, what's next on the horizon is there another project brewing, or is this just the tip of the Midgard iceberg?

Once the Midgard kickstarter is done the Midgard miniature line goes into effect so probably 2 minis at least a month will appear.  The chance to do another Midgard kickstarter is always a thought and, of course, more kickstarters are planned such as the Dungeon Decor.

Q12- In gaming and sculpting circles what floats your boat, what does mick and the team do for their kick back and relax, let's have some fun time.

I do this full time so I'm all day doing chats on Facebook, gaming on xbox, PS3 or painting minis for myself/ebay or gaming about every other weekend with my pals.  My best friend, Delbert, is the touch up guy on every piece that comes through so he gets to eyeball /scrutinize every thing and sometimes fixing peoples mistakes.  We have gamed together since 1983-84, so he's generally over every other weekend for a few days usually fixing something and us working on the world of Shadowport or playing our AD&D campaign that's been running since 85 or some such. 

So yeah i doubt I could work directly for someone else after having done this so long.

The man himself - Mick 1:1 scale
Q13-Your a level two warrior you've just fallen Through a trap door and find yourself in a dank chamber where you quickly dispatch the four goblin spear men ( who seemingly reside there) there is no door, window or grate only the sheer slippery walls that rise up to a small square of light far above. The walls are too far apart to brace against. There are the bodies of the four goblin spear men, a live pig, a small fire a pot of rancid stew ....and the six bags of gold you where sent to recover. How would you escape, with the gold.....

Being a adventurer, I had the luck of having a father who was a alchemist and spoke of how goblin skin was highly adhesive once heated to a boil, so I chuck the 4 goblins in the pot wait for them to boil apply said nastiness to my boots and vertically walk out of the trap packing gold and pig.

Wee Gamers also hang out on 
Facebook | Twitter | G+ | YouTube
Post a Comment