Interview: Ash Baker of Guerrilla Wargaming

Here’s another in the Interview series.

I talked with one of, IMHO, the best wargaming Youtuber out there. Ash has a great Youtube channel which present honest and to the point Battle report along side great talks about our hobby and indie company spotlight.

It’s worth a check, like and a subscribe.

He also has a Patreon if you want to pitch in and help him finance the whole operation.

Tell us a bit about how you got started with the hobby of wargaming?

I actually discovered tabletop gaming through a printed advert for Citadel Miniatures in the back of a Fighting Fantasy Choose your Own Adventure book called ‘City of Thieves’ in 1988. I’d later learn that the authors (Ian Livingston and Steve Jackson) had founded Games Workshop to distribute Dungeons and Dragons in the UK and then merged with Citadel Miniatures into the Retail/Manufacturing company everyone knows today.

I was mostly self taught. I didn’t really meet a ton of other gamers until 1997 when I attended the first Warhammer 40k Grand Tournament at Victoria Hall in U of Toronto (a very young Games Workshop Canada was putting it on and it was the first one in the country). I haunted the Games Workshop store on Queen Street in Toronto before that and had a friend whose older brother played the game, but in that pre-internet Era I mostly collected models, played the odd game against myself and was connected through my subscription to White Dwarf Magazine.

When did you get ”professionally” involved with it? How did it came about?

I joined Games Workshop as a part-time Hobby Specialist in 2000-1? Sometime in there. I was attending U of Toronto at the time and needed extra cash. I took the train out to Scarborough (a Toronto suburb to the east of the city) for work. I was with Workshop until April of 2014 and was Director of Retail sales for North America, as well as the head of Training.

How did you came up with the idea of the Tabletop media Coop and Guerrilla miniatures?

I had to come up with something. After briefly working for MiniWarGaming right after leaving Workshop and moving back to Canada with my family, I decided I really enjoyed the creative side of making Media to do with Wargaming. I also felt there was a huge focus on only one or two ‘Mainstream’ games online and that there was a vacuum of representation for Indie Game and Miniature creators.

I wanted to do something in my spare time. At the same time, my wife and I had just had our second child and were discussing our working situations. I had decided to run a crowd-fund to purchase recording equipment in order to create more media and it went… well it went far past what I expected it to bring in. With almost $10,000 more than I’d expected to raise and an inbox filled up with questions of ‘So what are you going to do now?!’I needed to figure out a plan. I’d been exposed to Artists CoOps while at school in Toronto and had just done a Machine Shop for MWG about shared club spaces… so the pieces just kind of came together in my head and here we are.

You played lots of different wargames over the years. What are some of your personal favourites and why?

I’m a strong believer that the games you remember the best you actually remember because of the time in your life you played them, not just for the game itself. I VERY fondly remember Confrontation (up to 3.5) because my best friend and I were just working schlubs at the time, played two or three times a week and didn’t have tons of responsibility.

It helps the minis were beautiful and there was nothing like that game on the market at the time. It remains one of my all time favourites.

What are some thing you learned when filming the Battle reports for the Youtube channel?

Don’t worry about winning or losing. Good content isn’t about who wins, it’s about a good time and some memorable moments. Just relax and go with the flow.

When you sit down to record a video for the channel is it all business? How much banter gets cut from what we see?

I’m lucky in that so many of the folks that come to play are life-long friends and fellow hobbyists. Even the new people I’ve met have been incredible, so there’s been a really natural fun in almost every video that’s made which probably comes across on camera.

I won’t lie though, some tilted moments have ended with explosive expletives when the camera is cut.

Do you have some advice for people who would like to record some of their own Battle reports?

More light! Hang Shop-lights with daylight bulbs. You can do a LOT to make a video look great simply by increasing the amount of light you use and blocking out natural light. Take your time and set up your shots. Discuss what you’re going to do off camera then record the action.

Tell us a bit about the Guerrilla miniature 2016 Hobby Resolutions Facebook group and why you decided to start it?

It was actually created as part of an episode of ‘The Machine Shop’ on MiniWargaming. It was so successful the first year that it has just kept going since then. There’s almost 200 really creative people in there keeping each other honest and on-track. It’s a bit like an AA meeting for miniature painters. 🙂

What’s in store for Guerrilla miniature and the Tabletop Coop for 2016?

A lot of new games. I made part of my resolution to play 10 games I’d never tried before in 2016. I won’t be surprised if we double that by the end of the year.

Other than that, we’re just going to keep trying to improve the studio space and add more assets for filming. We’ve already got a vast amount of resources for playing surfaces and terrain, but there will be even more by the end of the year.

How can people support your different projects?

Tons of ways. It was really important to me that GMG wasn’t ‘mainstream’, so we don’t do a subscription service. A lot like NPR or TVO/TVQ, we rely on public support to keep going. Financially, the biggest way is Patreon. Even that isn’t set up as a flat monthly donation however, it’s a per-creation pledge. If I don’t make stuff, no money comes in. I never wanted ANYONE to put in money if nothing was being made. If you pay a monthly subscription but there’s no guarantee the content you like actually gets made, well… you likely won’t be happy with your purchase. I’ve held to a consistent ‘type’ of scheduling for almost 9 months now and I’m much more comfortable with people only ever putting up Cash if they’re getting something.

Other, no less important, ways are by helping bring in new games and just helping with promotion. A lot of the former us being done by gaming companies themselves. Indie developers have been really open and supportive of us being willing to help anyone, for free, with exposure. We’ve helped launch This is Not a Test, Road/Kill, Frostgrave and lots of other games these past nine months and each and every designer has been really happy with the results. I think the CoOp attracts a very particular, open-minded and easy going type of viewer for the most part and those are the people that love seeing new things. Other games (especially older, OOP ones) have been helped to get on the channel by really generous viewers helping out with things like Terrain, old models, etc. that we just wouldn’t be able to find otherwise. That’s been truly amazing. We’re working on several OOP mini games right now for 2016 that I’m so stoked we’ll be able to bring in because of viewer support.

The exposure stuff is the last bit. It sounds silly, but it’s how YouTube and Facebook work. Liking, commenting and sharing stuff aggregates the content and puts it in front of more people who may or may not have seen it yet. That helps the Indie Developers. It helps us. It makes everything grow.

What should we be looking for in 2016? Any new releases you are particularly excited about?

We’re working on some really cool new games to bring in. I don’t want to ruin it too much, but there’s even some unreleased Kickstaters and classic games that will get featured in the next few months that people have been asking for since we started. It hasn’t even been a year and Between the three of us we have a YouTube footprint of almost 25000 viewers (with GMG accounting for 15,000 of those). A bit insane for not even a year old.

We’ll see where it ends up.

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Interview: Ash Baker of Guerrilla Wargaming

Interview: Joseph A McCullough Frostgrave Author

In January I did a serie of interviews for our local wargaming forum (Wargaming Montreal). Here’s one I did the author of what was one of the best new wargame of 2015: Frostgrave.

You can follow Joseph blog for all the update on his game at The Renaissance Troll

You can acquire Frostgrave from more and more FLGS or on North Star miniature website

Thanks again to Joe for the time and the great answers

Can you give us a bit of background on how you started in the hobby?

It all began with Dungeons and Dragons. I picked up my first red box edition when I was about 8, and although I couldn’t really understand it, I knew it was for me. For most of my youth and through college, I was mainly a role-player, and I spent a lot of time at it. I dabbled in wargames here and there, but it was always a secondary part of the hobby. After I left college, and my gaming group behind, I spent more time painting miniatures. I used wargaming as a way to role-play solo. A lot of what is Frostgrave grows out of that.

When did you decide to write your own game and why?

After a conversation between myself and Phil Smith, the Games Manager at Osprey Publishing. I was complaining about how I could not find my perfect fantasy wargame, and he challenged me to write it. If it was good enough, he said he would publish it. Up to that point, I had no real intention of writing a game.

Was Frostgrave your first attempt at writing a wargame ruleset? Was there some other game you had to ditch early in the design process?

I’ve always been a big fan of house rules and modifying systems, and I did once write a very simple set of rules for an Alternate Napoleonic setting, but this was my first real attempt at writing a game from the ground up with an eye to possible publication. By the time I came to write Frostgrave, I think most of the game already existed in my head, so it really just flowed out. I don’t think the core mechanics have changed much at all from the first draft of the rules.

What are some of the challenges you faced when writing the game? Was it something you expected?

I thought the biggest challenge would be working out the combat system, but that actually came together pretty quickly. The hardest part was writing the spells. I originally wanted to have 100, but the challenge of creating that many spells that were all unique, interesting, and attractive to players proved too great. Thus the basic game only has 80. Now that my brain has had a bit more time, there are new spells coming, so it might eventually get up to 100!

How did you relationship with Osprey developed? Why did you decide to publish the game with them instead of self-publish or to go the Crowd-funding way?

I’ve worked for Osprey for over 9 years. In that time, I’ve done just about everything in the company. I started in production, switched to marketing, and have spent the last several years working in editorial, heading up Osprey Adventures. In that time, I’ve written a number of books for Osprey, but this was my first shot at a game. In truth, when I wrote the game, I never imagined it would achieve the popularity it has. I’m extremely lucky that so many talented people have gotten involved in the project. Phil as editor, Dmitry Burmak the illustrator, the gang over at North Star who have handled the miniature production, and the big name sculptors who lent a hand. It all snow-balled very quickly. Up to this point, I’ve never considered myself a ‘game designer’ so self-publishing or crowd- funding never even entered my head.

Since the game encourage people to use any miniatures they like, do you have some particular favorite figs or companies you would recommend?

I have always been a fan of Reaper. I watched them grow from a tiny company to one of the dominate players in the market. Even after I quit role-playing, I still bought their figures. They really do have a figure for just about anything you can imagine. Really though, I wanted to make a game that could let people use whatever they want. For me, the whole point of a fantasy world was the freedom to tell the stories I wanted to tell. There are so many companies producing cool miniatures these days – I say use them all!

Do you have a favorite anecdote from one of your game of Frostgrave?

The first two games I played in the Osprey offices both featured my wizard dying to a critical hit from an enemy archer. I’m not saying that is why critical hits are an optional rule…

What is you favorite Wizard type/Spell/Strategy when you play?

As a wargamer, I’m not terribly aggressive! Perhaps not the best trait in a wargamer, but there you go. I really like the Illusionist. I think it is a generally under-rated wizard, with some extremely powerful spells. If I can grab some loot without risking combat, why not? Hopefully though, people have found there are a lot of viable strategies and spell combinations.

What are you working on now? What can we expect in the future for Frostgrave?

I have just turned in the finished manuscript for Into the Breeding Pits, the second print supplement due out in July. I’m already working on the one after that, Forgotten Pacts, as well as a couple of smaller e-supplements. After that, I have plans for something bigger in 2017, but I’m not allowed to say anything about it yet!

Any advice for someone who would like to create his own wargame?

Mainly, write the game that you want to play. At the end of the day the only thing you can really control is your own satisfaction with what you have created. The market is a fickle beast, and many worthy games end up ignored. There is a lot of luck in it. Otherwise, I would just keep one thing in mind. The biggest difference between the successful games of today and those of the past is the level of player involvement. Gone are the days of strict IGOUGO. Players don’t want to sit around for long stretches of time doing nothing. The joy of a game is in the back and forth nature, and the more of that your game has, the more likely people are going to enjoy playing it.

Interview: Joseph A McCullough Frostgrave Author