As I have mentioned in the first article in this series I’ve taken advantage of a trip to England in January 2014 to visit a few wargame companies based in the city of Nottingham, affectuously known as Britain’s “Lead Belt” a clear reference to the many companies in the wargaming business that make the city their home.
You’ve never heard about them? Well, to be honest about it, I didn’t know much about them either, other than that they produced historical wargames, but as historical wargames were never my cup of tea I had never given the company much attention until a recent conversation with my friend Marcos, when he associated the name Warlord Games to a gaming system I had heard a lot of good things spoken about: Bolt Action.
Bolt Action is a set of wargaming rules for games set at World War II which puts you in charge of either one of the Allied armies or as one of the generals from the Axis, but apparently it is also such a versatile system people are using the rule set with a few tweaks in order to play wargames in modern settings (such as the Vietnam War and more recent conflicts in the Middle East). “But I already play a World War II game called Flames of War” some of you might say.
Indeed, the Flames of War game is pretty popular amongst those who play wargames in the WWII era, and while I won’t get into the discussion of which World War II gaming system is the best, as I don’t have much to judge from at this point, I’ll point out that what caught my eye and got me interested in the Bolt Action game was the scale of its miniatures, because while Flames of War utilizes 15mm models (which I agree presents the opportunity for staging truly massive battles on the tabletop), Bolt Action uses bigger miniatures, at the 28mm scale, a scale I’m more accustomed to.
“But you said it yourself about not liking historical wargames!” another of you, readers might complain. Well, yes, I did say they’re not my cup of tea when it comes to wargaming and the reason for that is pretty clear to me, albeit a pretty strange one.
I beg you to let me explain myself. Whenever a wargame is based on something I have strong convictions or feelings about, we can even say something that I consider canon, I think that the possibility of having a different result from what’s true (or at least that which I believe is true) might shatter the fabric of reality, unleashing the gods of chaos and Cthulhu and the old ones amongst us.
Did I make it even more confusing? Seriously now, let me give you an example, the Lord of The Rings wargames for instance, produced by Games Workshop and based on the Peter Jackson movies which are in turn based on the books written by J.R.R. Tolkien, books that are very dear to me for a series of reasons that don’t really matter for this article, sufficing to say I love them. So back when the game was first released it presented us with the opportunity to replay some of the battles seen in the movies and that’s the precise reason they had absolute no appeal to me, as I knew how those battles ended, and a different result in the gaming table (say a Nazgul killed Frodo at the Weathertop), again, would
probably shatter my frail psyque not be so enjoyable to me as a game. Middle Earth exists to me as Tolkien wrote it, and while I’m keen on revisiting it from time to time, I have no desire to be a part of it, or meddle in its affairs.
So summing it up, these wargames that have a foot on what’s real (or something I’m too passionate about) are not so attractive to me because, in a sense, their story has already been told and, to me at least, there would be no point in playing them out again to try a different outcome. The “what if” genre is pretty well covered to me by the Marvel stories from when I was younger.
“So why did you change your mind?” Well, no one is an island, and a few of the friends I regularly play against have expressed the will to dabble in the WWII wargames (and Warlord has even published their own article to help us 40K players dive into WWII) so I started toying with the idea getting used to it (and I must admit having a penchant for liking Weird World War settings and stories). Another reason is that it finally dawned on me that while I do know how the Battle of Stalingrad went (the German lost that one) there are a thousand other battles and skirmishes that were fought at the same time that we know nothing about, unsung heroes whose narratives can still be told on the gaming table without affecting the overall “status quo” of the war. “Saving Private Ryan” is a prime example, being an awesome movie and not portraying any specific combat of note fought during WWII, apart from the D-day disembarking in Normandy (no, the “Battle of Ramelle” only exists in the movie and it’s great exactly because of that).
So if you add to that the curiosity I had to find out more about how a wargaming business works and also about Warlord Games and their games and I had more than enough reasons to pay them a visit. And that’s how I found myself waking up really excited on my third day in Nottingham about the prospect of visiting Warlord’s offices.
Different from Mantic Games and Games Workshop, Warlord Games didn’t have their own huge HQ office. Instead they’re located at a business centre, spreading their offices between a few rooms in the complex. Not knowing where to go I called at the reception desk asking the receptionist to give Warlord a ring letting them know I was there. A few minutes later a nice fellow named Dave Lawrence showed up and for the next hour took me along a great tour around Warlord’s offices.
Witnessing all the crafting process of miniatures was really instructive and a unique experience in itself, however what was most surprising to me during that day was that I finally understood how much human labor goes into each model that gets to our hands and that we play our games with. It is pretty easy, at this day and age, to picture great machines into which plastic or resin is poured on one side and models are churned out from the other end.
Hey, it might even work that way in some cases, but at Warlord each model in their line is the fruit of a lot of work and dedication from people so passionate about games and history as you and me. From the room where miniatures are conceptualized, to the place where molds were made, back to where models were cast and finally at the room in which they were being packaged to be shipped out to wargamers all over the world, there wasn’t a single, big, automated machine. Only people busy about their work and committed to build and produce the best games and models they can to our enjoyment.
Besides that “human factor” behind all steps of production I also found it very nice to see that Warlord has close ties to many other companies in the wargaming and hobby businesses; partnering with companies like Osprey Publishing (that signs a lot of Warlords books and boxes with them and is famous for their historic war books), The Army Painter (which produces the accurate paint kits for each army’s color scheme and assorted hobby products), Pegasus Hobbies, 4Ground, Renedra, Italeri and Sarissa Precision (these produce scenery kits in the same 28mm scale the company uses in its games), working together to deliver good quality products again for our entertainment.
“Bla, Bla, Bla… All that is nice, but what about the games?” you might ask me at this point into the article. Well, they do produce a LOT of stuff and you’d be sorely pressed for cash if you decided to collect everything they have. Covering pretty much every single period in mankind’s history, they have a wide offer of wargaming systems to cater for all tastes. There’s “Hail Cesar” for the 3000 BC-1500 AD period; “Pike & Shotte” for the 1500–1700 period; “Black Powder” for the 1700-1900 period and, of course, “Bolt Action” for the 1939-1945 period, which again is what really got my attention.
As I’ve already mentioned the scale of it is a lot more pleasing to my sense of aesthetics, and the rules for it (written by Alessio Cavatore and Rick Priestley) seemed pretty solid while at the same time simple and innovative with their dice order mechanic (I’ll speak more about it soon in another article here on the blog). I liked it so much that I ended up purchasing one of the starter sets available for the game called “Assault on Normandy”. I also took an interest in something I hadn’t known they published, a Judge Dredd wargame!
If you have no idea who I’m talking about, Judge Dredd is a character from British comic books born at the pages of the 2.000 AD magazine that lives in a lot of people’s minds immortalized in Sylvester Stallone’s form since the actor played the Judge in the now infamous, if albeit slightly cult, 1995 movie (Karl Urban did the character a lot more justice in the recent Dredd movie). This very same character from the distopic future has gained an adaptation to the wargaming universe by the hands of Warlord Games in yet another partnership, this time with Mongoose Publishing.
I was really tempted into purchasing the starter set of this game as well, but not only did I lack the necessary funds, but I also was sorely pressed for space in my suitcase. Alas, a man must choose and so, with pain in my heart, I went with Bolt Action (but I still want to take my chances at the streets of Mega City one).
Finally I MUST mention here the fantastic models I got to see for the Beyond the Gates of Antares game. If you follow the crowdfunding campaigns for games on Kickstarter you might recall the name from its original campaign there. the BTGoA (or simply GoA) is a game created by none other than Rick Priestley. This is the second time I mention him in this article and if you still haven’t connected the name to the fame he’s the same Rick Priestley that figures as one of the creators of GW’s Warhammer and Warhammer 40.000. Yes, THAT Rick Priestley.
Promising an open world, ongoing collaborative background with the input of gamers and backers, perhaps the original project was too ambitious, ahead of its time, or even asked for too much cash. I don’t know. Despite the reason the campaign fared poorly and ended up being cancelled after a while with a promise that the game would return in a new home.
Well, it seems to me Beyond the Gates of Antares has found a home in Warlord Games where I got to see firsthand quite a few models for that game being painted in their studio and I can vouch they’re nothing short of espetacular, a fresh take on the sci-fi genre that has left me anxious to explore what lies beyong the gates of Antares (and I got a Hansa Nairoba miniature, sculpted by Kev White, as a gift during my visit).
Instead of simply believing me, you can believe your own eyes after seeing these figures from the line:
And it was still really excited about all their stuff and the opportunity they had given me that I got to say goodbye to all the nice folks at Warlord Games, I’d like to thank deeply Dave Lawrence, which was really patient with all my questioning and accompanied me during my visit, Steve Yates (from the trades department) who was also pretty nice and welcoming (and allowed me to use some of the pictures that illustrate this article) and everyone else who took some time to answer my questions and tolerated my invasion to their workspaces. Thank you guys, honestly you were brilliant and I couldn’t be happier about the whole experience.
Before parting ways I recorded a little footage during my visit I’d like to share:
And I think that’s what I had to share with you guys about my visit to Warlord Games. I hope you’re as enthused to find out more about them as I was when I left Brazil back in January 2014(to that end do visit their website if you haven’t done so yet, and also follow their Facebook profile), and that when you do find out more, you’ll be as much as a fan as I am now.
Over and out.
Percebi que sempre faço um introito em inglês nos artigos em português, mas sempre me esquecia de dar uma satisfação aos leitores que não leem a língua inglesa quando um artigo saia primeiro só nessa língua. Me redimo a partir de hoje.
Este artigo é um relato sobre a visita que fiz a empresa de jogos de estratégia chamada Warlord Games em janeiro de 2014, parte da série de artigos “Visiting Britain’s Lead Belt” (na qual já publicamos nossa visita à Mantic Games). Se você não lê inglês amanhã sai a versão em português do artigo aqui no blog.
Se você lê a língua de Shakespeare já pode ir aproveitando o artigo desde já.
Grande abraço e até amanhã!