Friday, 20 February 2015

Wee Gamers talk Tabletop Towns

Tabletop Towns have so far run 4 successful Kickstarter campaigns the first for Tabletop Towns, for Tabletop Castles and now for our brand-new Cargo Containers (all now available direct via their website). And now they are at it again with Sci-Fi Tiles Phase One. Wee Gamers get to have a chat with the guys behind it all by giving them the 13 Question treatment.

They have another Kickstarter that has been successfully funded with (at the time of writing 13 days to go) this time for Sci-Fi tiles. You can never have too many SciFi tiles.

Mr Julian G Hicks - Owner & Creator
Mortis Logan - Artist

1) So who is ... or ....are.....tabletop towns when they are at home and how did this cottage industry get started ?(see what I did there?)

Julian - Tabletop Towns grew out of a desire to make myself some really good tabletop terrain that took up very little storage space. I was an avid AD&D player and brought and printed out and cut up and glued together lots of great pieces and had collected a lot of very nice but somewhat tricky to store terrain and scenery and as the family grew the available space became less. So I set out to design and build myself some new terrain I spent a huge amount of time yet again with steel ruler cutting mat and scalpel as well as an awful lot of card I used photographs of old buildings and printed them onto card....I was delighted with the results and thought I would make a few for pals of mine...I talked to very experienced print company and was pretty shocked to find out how much printing a few boxes would cost.... kickstarter meanwhile was up and running in the US and i backed a few projects...and saw an opportunity to maybe get my boxes really well stamped printed creased cut and laminated for me....but I was going to need to make thousands and cover the costs of the print runs...So I put together my first Kickstarter for Tabletop Towns...

Mortis - Tabletop Towns is the baby of my good friend Mr Julian G Hicks, who was a big fan of using card terrain for his D&D games (and other RPGs). But he found that all the print, build and play type stuff you can download as PDFs tends to have a very short life on the gaming table. Your traditional card terrain is easy damaged, hard to store and not very good at supporting the weight of larger miniatures - back in 2012 Julian decided it was about time something was done about this and went about applying professional/industrial techniques and materials to card terrain making. The result was and is Tabletop Towns terrain - made from ultra high quality matt laminated card, litho printed, pre-cut and creased by machine, so you don't need to mess around with printing, cutting and gluing. What's more it all designed to fold flat for easy transport and storage. I myself joined Tabletop Towns in 2013 after showing Julian some of my artwork and how it could be used for terrain projects - our first project working together was the Tabletop Castles sets and my artwork has appeared on every printed surface of every TTT product ever since.

2) The pod and pdf market is a pretty busy place these days. What is it that TTT feels it's bringing to.. er ..the table.....that isn't already covered by the existing market? 

Julian – There is some really awesome POD and PDF stuff out there, there was then and its even better now, but not everyone has the time patience and dedication to go through all the steps to turn a pdf into a great piece of terrain and not everyone has a spare room for the hobby with enough shelves to store it all either So we supply finished products that have really high quality standards as well as having a satin laminated surface so you can even use dry wipe markers on them if you want AND you can fold them up and put them away a dozen buildings or more store in a box the size of a DM’s Guide

Mortis - I might have answered this already in the last question - The main thing I'd say that makes us stand out from the PDF market is that we don't sell PDFs for people to print and build themselves. What we make is a professionally finished product using processes and materials that people can't do in their own homes.

3) Now we've seen your pop up fantasy squared buildings last time....round....and the hab cubes. The simple appeal of these is easy to see. Why then opt for what seems to be a somewhat dated accessory in the form of the sci fi floor tile? Surely the day of the space dungeon quest is gone? Isn't it? 

Julian – this latest project grew out of feedback from some of my backers, people asked if I could do interiors, particularly with reference to the Hab Cubes I had use a company to print onto plasticard for the Doors for the Castles the barriers and accessories for the Cargo Containers and even for a landing pad we did as an extra with the cubes project and it just seemed ideal So I sat down and worked out what it was going to cost to make some for those who had asked and yes here we are again running a Kickstarter because the set up costs for this kind of operation are quite expensive... I worked with Mort again as his work on the Containers was outstanding as was the art for the Hab Cubes and we put together a plan for a tile set that would both allow for use with the Hab Cubes to provide interior floor plans and also work as a standalone product the 3” square format again came from the Hab Cubes...

Mortis - Personally I'm big fan of the dungeon-crawl type games and nostalgia is a big thing in RPGs and Wargaming at the moment. Now many people reading this will be fans of Space Crusade, Space Hulk and similar games - a good number of those people will still own copies they've had since childhood or perhaps have more recently picked up a copy second hand. But when you open that good old box of nostalgia you far too often find that the old card tiles are bent, worn out and warped (or even worse torn or damaged by damp) and the stand-up doors are all torn-up and worn from being pushed into their little stands. Our solution to this is to make a set of tiles printed on hard-wearing plastic ... and let me tell you what I mean by hard-wearing, we are using the same material used for credit cards and the like, it's 3 layers of hard laminated plastic. This stuff is practically indestructible, it won't warp, it won't wear out, it doesn't tear and you can spill as many drinks on it as you like - you can even write or draw on it with white-board markers, and remove it later. We've used this material before for the doors and other accessories in the Castle sets and the limited-run landing pad piece that appeared in Hab Cubes sets, but this will be the first project to be entirely printed on plastic. It's not just nostalgia either, while our Sci-fi tiles has been designed to work with your favourite old marines vs aliens board-games they are also intended to be used with many other games - they are great for all kind of Sci-fi RPGs like the Star Wars, Star Trek and Dr Who games out there. They can also be used for building or space-ship interiors for skirmish games like Judge Dredd, Necromunda and Infinity

4) 24 backers in three quarters of the funding in the bag and 15 days to go. What other temptations have you to throw in the faces of would be backers...its okay we won't tell a soul honest it's just our secret.......

Julian – I am always aware that I make niche products for a niche market, I work out the target prices by running everything through a spreadsheet, years working in the computer games industry had certainly honed my estimating and project planning skills. As always my take on stretch goals is a little different to some Kickstarters...I want stretch goals to unlock extra stuff for all the backers...not just allow them to pledge extra for some more and we have several additional tiles we want to add to the sets, as the order value goes up the price falls, economies of scale etc so as well as those we also have add on products which mortis is working on the art right now...extension sets doors and so on.... and for those who have not backed me before I really do go to almost any lengths to make sure every single backer is really happy

Mortis - Well … I just finished working on some artwork for the doors and at the moment I'm working on the art for some extra different sized corridor pieces which will add a huge variety of options to the basic set making all kinds of complicated layouts possible. (How about I throw in some pre-view for your readers?) Then there's the stretch-goals which will be some different shaped room pieces including an Airlock/ Docking Point (very useful for boarding-action missions), what we're calling the 'Radiation Room' and few other pieces I'm not really allowed to talk about yet, but I will hint at by calling them 'objectives' and 'signs of alien infestation' The more eagle eyed among you will have noticed this project is called Phase One - but if we get enough funding we're actually going to throw Phase Two into action early and include it in this Kick Starter. Our ever-popular Cargo Containers are also available as a little extra too

5) So you're sitting in the park feeding the ducks some GM free bread and get chatting to the old lady beside you. Conversation comes round to work. And she bluntly asks you 'what is the relevance or role for POD PDF terrain in modern gaming given the access to later cut and plastic terrain kits'?(clearly the old dear stays up to date via one of the many news groups or hobby publications) 

Julian – Again there is some really fantastic stuff available and i think laser cut mdf or 3 to 6mm ply are fantastic material as are some of the plastics, but again these are great for the experienced model maker as well as those who have the time skill and inclination to paint all their own stuff, not everyone does and again storage space makes a difference here, Tabletop Towns stuff really does take up very little space once folded down

Mortis - That's a good question, old lady, who I suspect is more than she appears … I think the now very established age of the internet has changed table-top gaming forever, giving gamers a wider market awareness and choice than ever before. While in the past you were very much limited to what was popular and what your local gaming store was willing to stock (which for the most part had people playing Warhammer 40,000 and nothing else), now you can go online and look for a product that does exactly what you want it to. Which means that different companies now cater to different tastes - while some people want something pre-made and pre-painted they can use out of the box, others want something to put together and paint, and others again might want something in between. Printing your own terrain is great for filling out a gaming table quickly at only the cost of your printer ink, paper and a little glue, but lacks quality - while plastic kits take time to assemble and paint, but reward the effort you put in. Then there's pre-painted resin terrain which is ready to use as soon as you unpack it, but proves rather expensive. We at TableTop Towns cater for those who are looking for affordable terrain that is quick and simple to assemble, but also high quality

6) So when TTT isn't tabletop town terraining, what is it you folks get up to, you know....For a life and such forth?

Julian – Well, I’m a Single Dad and a Roleplayer as well as a school governor and a gamer in every way, I love board games and computer games and it seems I am a compulsive Kickstarter fan I have backed over 100 projects as well as run a few

Mortis - Mostly gaming and gaming-related activities - I enjoy painting miniatures when I've got the time and Julian does a few LARP weekends. Aside from Tabletop Towns I also do artwork for other small gaming companies and in non-gaming-related 'real life' I just got engaged to my girlfriend

7) What games are your current favorites and getting played when you have some down time? 

Julian – RPG wise I still play AD&D once a week and looking to get a Traveller session going too, current board game favourites included Stoneage, Settlers, and Carcassonne and 7 Wonders and computer game wise at the moment its just Elite Dangerous (after a 30 year wait)

Mortis - My gaming habits may appear a little weird to some people as I tend to collect whatever miniatures take my fancy and then try to find a game to use them in later. My Monday night D&D group just finished up a D20 modern/future campaign involving a mixture of a post-apocalypse setting and meca-type vehicles with zombies thrown in for good measure in which I played a mad scientist and now we're moving on to a fantasy game using the Dungeon-World system in which I'm playing a Goblin Jester. About once a month I GM my own home-brew dungeon-crawler games that my players call 'MortiS-Quest' - it's very much what I call an eye-candy game, played out on fully-modelled 3D dungeon terrain that I've build, converted and painted over the years. I hope one day to get enough of the rules written down to see about publishing them under the title 'EnDungeoned' Me and few friends also have an irregular board-games night, current favourites to play are 'Tsuro of the Seas' and 'Lords of Waterdeep' Since I'm a 2000 AD fan I've been dying to play Judge Dredd miniatures game for a while now, but haven’t yet found the time and I'm also building up quite a collection of Dalek models at the moment which I'm looking to use in one game or another

8) What's the next big thing on the horizon for TTT once the current project is completed and fulfilled? 

Julian – I want to continue to develop and expand the brand we have 4 products already out and other on the way so we will be looking to add to those existing ranges, for example more fantasy buildings as well as adding steampunk, post apocalypse and maybe western too.

Mortis -I think we'll be looking at going back to doing some medieval fantasy stuff next, perhaps some town buildings utilising the modular system we used for the Hab Cubes or some dungeon tiles. If your readers have any suggestions of what they'd like to see next we'd like to hear them too

9) If you had the chance to do a total overhaul of any classic old game board or components which one would you go for and what is it you'd try and do to breath life into the old thing?

Julian – As a kid I had a toy tank that fired Matchsticks my brother and I would spend hours shooting down lines of toy soldiers...I wonder if there is a way to get that in a box

Mortis - That's an interesting one - HeroQuest is an obvious choice, but I think enough people have done or are doing that already. With my mind currently engulfed in the Sci-fi tiles I'm going to say Space Crusade - it's a simple game that has a lot of potential for expansion, as well as the tiles and doors I'd want to include some different player races, not just Space Marines, but also Space Dwarfs, Space Elves and Rat-men with each race having different troop types and tactics. Of course I'd add more monster types too. Replacing the square card blips with rounded plastic ones would be nice as would replacing all card components with printed plastic, imagine being able to keep track of hit-points on a reference card with a dry erase marker. Anything that's bound to suffer wear and tear being pushed into a plastic stand will benefit greatly from being plastic rather than card - hell I'd go all the way and print even the order cards and event cards plastic too, make the whole game drink-proof!

Some of the AddOns you can get through the Kickstarter

10) Would TTT consider it's own games systems for your terrain in the future or is that an area you would rather steer clear of? 

Julian – well yes of course I have several ideas in various stages of development from a skirmish Castle assault game to a more open fast skirmish rule set, but we are also keen to find a company or two to collaborate with bringing our terrain to their product ranges.

Mortis - We like to keep our options open, we do from time to time talk about releasing a complete game, but we like to keep things open ended, so as a rule anything we make for our own games will have to be useful outside of that game too.

11) What games was it that inspired your youth and gave you, do you think, the interest to work in areas of the hobby industry today? 

Julian – Played AD&D since my teens and have worked almost all my life in the computer games industry but gaming round a table with friend is the best of all

Mortis - For me I think it all started with the old classic HeroQuest and the Fighting Fantasy book series, the black and white illustrations fuelled my interest in being an artist while the dice, miniatures and rules got me hooked on gaming.

12) For TTT how have you found the experience of working with crowd funding? Is there a slice of advice you would offer to anyone else out there considering crowd funding as an avenue to developing their dreams? 

Julian – Crowdfunding is really great but – you have to know what you want to make and really know what its going to cost to do it...and how long each and every step is going to take...once you know those things and have done all your homework places like Kickstarter are a great way of finding out if there are others who share your vision. If you decide to take the plunge don’t make the mistake of thinking Kickstarter is a marketing tool – you will have to work your friends and social media to find almost every single backer you will end up with.

Mortis - While we have a few successfully funded projects under our belts, we have yet to have one that has gone wildly into the millions (but maybe this one will, you never know). The main thing I think we've learned is that people are fickle creatures, not everyone who shows interest in a project will necessarily back it and some will only back a project after it's reached it's funding goal - which is something I've never quite understood, as you've nothing to loose if a Kickstarter project you back isn't funded and you increase the chances of it getting funded by backing it. The main thing with crowd funding is having new and original ideas to offer people, try to stand out of crowd and to make sure as many people hear about it as possible. Also avoid zombies - it's an over-done genre. Our last question is always for fun.unless you've proved to be a scary sensible person who does not Strike us as the happy imaginative type...

13) So the team are cast into the realm of a tabletop game board to live out all eternity, or until it ends up in a charity shop to be bought by Kevin a compulsive collector who buys obscure games and stores them all in zip lock bags in his mum's spare room.....anyways!!! To what game would you see yourselves cast into, as what characters and why? (Seriously there's folk want to know this kind of thing. ......Kevin for one!) 

Julian – I guess it would maybe be the same as always, I play a cleric and spend more time making sure everyone is all right and that everyone is as happy as can be smiles someone who tries to smooth out problems and pour oil on troubled water.

Mortis - The trouble with this that most of my favourite games are set in rather horrible dark worlds with lots of wars, monsters and conflict so it's rather hard to find one I'd actually choose to exist in as a character. I own quite a few games set in the Dr Who universe and I don't think I'd object to being a Time Lord travelling around in a Tardis with an attractive female companion.

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