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.

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

The State of 2016

I have been away from this blog for a while now and I thought I would take the time and chime in as to why it’s the case.

You probably figured as it’s often the case with our wonderful hobby, life got in the way.

It did… but in a good way.

In December, as Christmas was looming in, I got in kind of a painter’s rot. None of the model on my paint table screamed at me to be painted. Alternatively, my ever growing kids required more and more playtime from Daddy with bedtime stretching to 7:30-8am at night.

Then the main culprit crept back into my life. That insidious, additive, cardboard crack that is Magic the Gathering.

magic-logo

I started playing a while ago (restarting with Khans of Tarkir) when I discovered along with a bunch of colleague at work that the pay to win game of days yonder was now an elaborate balanced entity with many new format to master. I mostly played Commander when I got back into it. They we started to play Standard with sub-par decks which incidentally ensure we got our ass kicked whenever we would show up at any competitive events.

Then I discovered the holy grail which fits my play style (Aggro), Atarka Red!

Go Aggro, Beat face, your creature become Immense and you win. What’s not to love.

khans-of-tarkir-art

So yeah, I haven’t been here much talking about miniature gaming because the cardboard crack took over for a while.

But I got good news for you guys: My best friend (Which I’ve known since I was 3-years old) finally manage to accomplish our teenage dream and opened up a gaming store in early 2016!

This means, I have whole lot more minis on the painting table and many many gaming sessions planned for the future.

And if you don’t mind, I might talk from time to time about my second love, MTG.

Here’s what on the list of things to come down the pipeline:

-Getting back into Warhammer 40K (wish me luck)

-Bloodbowl with some league talk

-Malifaux since I have all those great metal figures just gathering dust

-Same thing with Warmachine and my Cygnar Army

-My experience drafting at FNM

-Maybe some Computer gaming (I have been enjoying some great Indie games lately)

-And last but not least my forray back into GMing some RPGs

Cheers!

The State of 2016

A grave of Frost 2

We (Korto and me) played our second trial game of Frostgrave tonight in an attempt to figure the rules and strategies of it.

This time around we were more relaxed and we have two books to sift through when we had a rule question.

We played the mausoleum (renamed the Summoning circle due to the terrain piece used) since I found my box of shitty skeletons from days yonder.

Even though it added an entire new creature phase to the game we didn’t have to deal with last time, it was pretty easy to manage and the creature ”A.I.” rules were easy to apply.

We also found out that we had done melee wrong and realized that it’s not always safe to initialize melee with another fighter since when you lose the dice off your the one getting hit by the defender. That makes for a deadlier battleground.

Again the game was without any stakes since it’s not a campaign game so we were maybe a bit more brash. I ended up killing both of Korto’s  wizard and apprentice.

The game ended in a ”tie” since we both got 3 treasure off the table or in possession when my opponent decided to run away as per our campaign rules.

Strategy wise, I figured out that having your henchmen working in a two men team is good. I like pairing a Treasure hunter and a Thief together as they run fast and one can protect the other when he his lugging the treasure around. Also Thugs and Zombies are great to attract monsters and to keep your MVP from getting bugged down in a fight. I need to pay more attention to movement as it’s quite important to keep your Wizard and Apprentice near other soldiers to get them to move earlier in the turn.

Here’s a bunch pictures from the game:

(Please keep in mind we are currently using proxies to represent models since we are still awaiting our orders from Redbox and from Northstar)

All is quiet in the city block of Felstad before the wizard disturb the summoning circle.

20151027_183743 20151027_192055 20151027_192105 20151027_192113 20151027_192123 20151027_192136

Then all hell broke loose and skeletons shimmied around!

Korto's crossbowman vantage point a top the cemetery outcrop.
Korto’s crossbowman vantage point a top the cemetery outcrop.
 Krongar will protect you little thief! Look out for this Zombie fighting a skeleton!
Krongar will protect you little thief! Look out for this Zombie fighting a skeleton!
Clusterf**k near the summoning circle.
Clusterf**k near the summoning circle.
Well organized advance from Korto's warband.
Well organized advance from Korto’s warband.
A grave of Frost 2

A grave of Frost.

Tonight was our first time actually trying out a game of Frostgrave. It was a trial run for the upcoming campaign. So my good friend Korto and I came with a bunch of proxies, made our list on Battlescribe which has a decent warband building setup and went to our FLGS (L’Abyss). We took most (if not all) of the Fantasy terrains they had and created a mess of ruins to play within and decide to play just a straight game without any particular scenario since it was the game played.

Here are some shot of the ruins:

20151022_191412 20151022_191424 20151022_191434 20151022_191438 20151022_191441 20151022_191446

The game was great. Like in all new wargames, we forgot a couple things at first (adding weapon bonus to the damage, damage for spell failed, etc.) but we adjusted as we went along and by the end we were pretty at ease with all aspect of the game. I didn’t think of taking pictures while the game was in process since we were concentrating in playing it and I was too busy rolling an insane amount of good rolls. I guess bringing my ”PC slayer gamemastering dice” helped ;).  Of course, this being a one-shot sample game, we were a bit careless with our models (i.e.: I killed my apprentice empowering a leap spell so one of my guy could leave the table with a treasure in hand).

The things I really liked in no particular order:

  • Vertical movement is relevant and a strategic option as all structures are climbable.
  • Conflict (shooting/fighting) and spell casting resolution is simple and easy to learn.
  • Yet the level of strategy is deep as you have many relevant options with each characters.
  • Campaign play will create an interesting narrative which will in turn fuel the envy to play the game.

So playing the damn thing confirms what I had suspected by watching battle reports, Frostgrave is a really fun casually competitive game to play with a bunch of friends/fellow wargamers.

Now if my Redbox minis and my Frostgrave soldiers box can arrive so I can fill these bases I completed yesterday with my dudes:

20151022_215450

PS. Korto bought the new Batman miniature game rulebook so It’s possible you will see some of this also in the near future… So many wargames, so little time.

A grave of Frost.

Varushska’s caravan

Storytales from the Frostgrave:

A young maiden once mourned the lost of her stillborn child so much than she made a doll that resemble the fetus. She soaked the stitching in the blood of the decease infant. Imploring pagan gypsy gods to numb the pain and to come to her help so she would never loose a child again. Little did she knew, the pagan gods answered her prayers and the doll the maiden had made came to life filled with the corrupted soul of the never born children.

Varushska was that young maiden and she’s now the old mother of many many neverborn children. She heard that within the ruins of Frostgrave exist flesh mannequins of porcelain complexion who were used as vessel for the aging souls of old decrepit wizards. So she roams the ruin, stretching her old frozen bones, dreaming of porcelain skin.

My Warband will consist of:

Varushska Zhdanova from the school of Enchanting

Magda the young her apprentice

and her caravan of gypsy brigands including at the start:

2x Thugs

2x Thieves

2x Treasure Hunters

and 1 Crossbowman

This make a total of 9 models which will allow me to attempt to animate a medium construct before the first game to complete the warband.

Here are the spells I decided to go with and a bit about why I chose them:

From the Enchanter school I took:

  • Animate Construct (It’s the main driving force behind this Wizard, I intend on slowly replacing most of my soldiers with more docile puppets)
  • Grenade (which is my main offensive spell. I picture Varushska throwing small voodoo dolls filled with bad juju which explode on contact)
  • Telekinesis (For Treasure moving shenanigans)

 From my three aligned schools (Witch, Sigilist, Elementalist):

  • Familiar (giving me some much needed extra HP. I figure my Familiar will be represented by the different dolls that surround Varushska at all times)
  • Explosive runes (Another offensive Grenade type spell to ward off opposing warbands)
  • Elemental shield (for added protection)

And from the neutral schools:

  • Leap (so I can send my henchmen to pick treasure in hard to reach places)
  • Raise Zombie (for extra deadman power)

So that’s my Frostgrave Warband in a nutshell. I hope that my thematic choices will also provide me some strategic advantage in this upcoming campaign.

Here a WIP shot of Varushska herself with frostbitten skin. I still need to do all the clothes and to add three little voodoo critter to her base:

20151020_213728

You can see them lurking in the background here are two of her construct (Medium size) with appropriately epic poses now that they are glued to the bases:

20151020_213747

And here’s a little Top down group shot to show you how the base look with the minis on them:

20151020_213800

Finally a sneak peek at my next painting task:

20151020_205702

It’s gonna be all about that base when they finish drying.

Varushska’s caravan

Frosty frost frost!

Unless you have been living under a ”wargaming” rock lately, you probably heard of Frostgrave. It’s the brand new fantasy skirmish campaign wargame writen by Joseph A. McCullough and publish by Osprey publishing.

In Frostgrave you play a Wizard and his apprentice who assemble a small warband (10 figurines or so) in order to explore the recently rediscovered frozen ruins of the city of Felstad who was, a long time ago, ruled by powerful wizard who dabbled in dangerous magic.

In a nutshell, the objective of the game is to pick up more treasures than your opponent in order to further advance in experience your Wizard and his warband.

The cool thing is that, although North Star Military Figures makes some great miniatures for it, the game is pretty much miniature-agnostic which means you get to recycle minis that were gathering dust and not seeing much play from other games.

I have been avidly reading the rules in the last couple of weeks, wondering what I could play. At first the Necromancer seemed sweet and I was thinking of using a Games Workshop Vampire counts mini for it. But then as I was looking at my unused minis, I found the Old Zoraida sculpt from Malifaux (which I played about twice before deciding the game was not really to my liking).

WYR4009_2

(Obviously not my paint job here but it give you an idea what the miniature looks like)

Then the concept of my old crone Enchantress who creates Golems out of creepy dolls and puppets was born.

I also looked at my Warmachine stuff and found some bases I had done with greenstuff, sand and little bits of cork that were originally suppose to be swamp/trench type bases for my Cygnar Trencher.

Here two to show you what they look like before painting:

20151013_221343 20151013_221358

So tonight I decide to do a test and paint the base to see what they would look like if the greenstuff was some kind of ancient perpetually frozen ice surface.

Here’s how they turn out:

20151013_221114 20151013_221134 20151013_221108

Overall I’m quite happy with the effect. I might add some snow flock on the rock/dirt patches once I have glue my minis to the bases.

Here’s also a sneak peek at some of the construct I retouched from my previous paint job back in the Malifaux times:

20151013_221226

More to come soon from a frozen ruin near you!

Frosty frost frost!