The wargaming post I put up the other day, Why I love the beast, my musings on Games Workshop’s high prices and actually why I don’t really care too much, got so many hits I think I’ll be writing about toy goblins again.
Fortunately, this particular entry will cover both. Last week I finished work on Mantic Journal 05, launching the company’s new SF wargame, Warpath. This system follows their fantasy system Kings of War in most respects (entire units as playing pieces, emphasis on morale, timed turns and so forth), and is also written by Alessio Cavatore. It works very well, I have to say, and the ranges of miniatures they have planned are very nice (especially some of the things you haven’t seen yet – the human range is pretty damn fine).
Overall Mantic make some good models, their Undead and Forge Fathers ranges being my personal favourites. They’ve a number of advantages over some other company’s miniatures. They’re very reasonably priced, for a start. 30 Zombies, for example, will set you back a mere £19.99. They’re easy to put together. Although they don’t have quite the range of variation a GW set might have, they’re very quick to get on the battlefield, with an amount of detail that is just right for mass wargame models as it makes them somewhat swifter to paint. Lastly, they’re pretty generic. They’re not as system specific as the likes of War Machine, so can be used for most games without too much trouble.
That’s where I, and the writing, come in. Besides editing the Mantic Journal (which is shortly to change form, so watch this space), I also write a good deal of the background for Mantic. This is an interesting exercise. For a start, in many cases I’m building on and from what other people have already invented. Not least the model sculptors – who have already decided what kind of weapons and adornment a race uses; or the system designer – Alessio has thought a l ot about their various strategies of war by the time I get to it. And a lot of the early background was written by Ant Reynolds, especially that for the Undead. So I have to stitch this all together and come up with something new.
Now that things are a bit more organised, I’ve been getting a short brief for every race background I write from Alessio. From this I generate 4000 words covering each of the main units that have been made at length, the ones that haven’t somewhat more briefly, an overview (usually adapted and extended from Alessio’s material) and a short story. This is a lot of fun for a writer to do, and proves a fine exercise in the art of worldbuilding. The restrictions on what can be written are quite tight – as I mentioned, the models are generic, so the world has to be. Then there’s everything else I mention above. From one perspective it can look like an exercise in rearranging old cliches, from the other, it’s a tight bit of mental gymnastics putting a fresh spin on things in a small box. And, like a honey badger turning around in its skin to bite you, the results can be surprising. In a good way.
Um, ignore that mustelid-based analogy, it wasn’t very good. Really, most of my writing is better than that.
Point is, there’s plenty of fresh mileage to be had, even in worlds with dwarf/elves/humans/orcs etc. In this case, the trammels I have make it a satisfying writerly challenge to reinvigorate their narratives.