Saturday, February 23, 2013

Torn Armor -- a new boardgame -- pre-kickstarter

Right now it is in the kickstarter period.

But it has modeling by Sixus1/Les Garner (

But for now, the interview:

Interview Questions: Torn World (Alyssa Faden, Jack Cull)

Torn Armor

·         Did you start out saying, “We want to make a miniatures game!” or did Torn Armor spin off of other ideas?
o   Torn Armor spun off the core “Torn World,” a fantasy setting that has been the evolutions of decades of playing, multiple groups, and even a transatlantic history as it followed me from England.
o   Initially – like many others-  our inclination was to release a RPG setting for it, and while this is still on the cards we really wanted to introduce the world, its people, creatures, heroes, anti-heroes, lore and history in a different way.
o   We could have selected a book, a computer game, and a host of other viable options out there, but Jack and I are avid board gamers, huge miniatures fanatics, and it seemed logical to combine the two.
o   Games such as DUST and Descent inspired us to therefore introduce Torn to the avid gamers out there in a similar way: great miniatures, great setting, and fast game-play. The board gamer will be happy, the miniature enthusiast will be happy, and table-top players will be intrigued by what they read (and the fantastic artwork and miniatures we have!)
·         What did you think was missing from other miniatures games that you wanted to bring to the table with Torn Armor?
o   Great question. Ultimately there are a lot of great games out there – we doubtlessly own some of them! – but what we wanted was a fantasy squad-based skirmish game: affordable entry point, quick set up, quick game play, coffee-table playing area, fantastic looking miniatures, highly customizable play to fit any playing style, and a rich lore. Torn Armor combines all of these things and so as a package we believe that it is unique and interesting.
·         What miniatures wargames (or other games) influenced the mechanics for Torn Armor, both in the sense of what you liked and also what you didn’t like about them?
o   Three games stand to the forefront here. “Magic the Gathering”, “Descent” (either edition), and Fantasy Flight’s “Dust.” In many ways Torn Armor has taken the best-of these games.
o   For “MtG”it was the card aspect.
o   The concept of “building your deck” translates into selecting a battle scenario, receiving your in-game allocation of funds, and then buying the unit-cards that will make up your side for that conflict. You might select a balanced side of missile and melee units, or sacrifice in one area in order to add a magic user, or perhaps forgo several smaller units to play a large war golem. This type of “build your hand” enables every game to be very different than the previous ones, players to play according to their style and strengths, and allows for enormous flexibility.
o   This same concept we took one stage further: what if there were spell and magical equipment cards that you could use to further customize your squads and heros? Want to broaden the spell-book of a magic user unit, or add magical spears to your hoplites? Pick out the equipment and spell cards, pay for them during game set-up and voila, instant customization!
o   From “Descent” it was the story-board aspect, the great miniatures, fast-paced play, and character cards. The fact that each character has their own equipment, abilities, statistics … we wanted to bring that into Torn Armor.
o   And then from “Dust” we found inspiration in the game-play mechanics, how quickly everything moved, how simple it was to understand, and the fantastic miniatures. Seriously, they are the best I’ve ever seen. The quality of sculpt and the quality of production are top-notch. Is it any wonder that we are working with the same production company for Torn Armor? =D
o   But those are the things that inspired us, what about the things that we didn’t like? Well we do not want to release a unit in the future that obsoletes previous units of the same type. Every gamer out there that invests in Torn Armor is more than a customer, they’re a friend and a game-play buddy. It’s not cool to watch them spend good money on the core game and a few expansions, only to release a game play mechanic, future unit, or a version of the game that will utterly render their collection obsolete. That will never happen. Everything they buy will always be playable in Torn Armor, no matter how many expansions and new factions we release.
o   The only other aspect that we’re endeavoring to minimize lies in predicting the future and understanding where Torn Armor could go. I’m not going to single out any of these individual games, but sometimes as new expansions have arrived to market so previous rules have had to be re-written, or new rules have ended up being spread across many books, or perhaps a unit/character card has become complex to look at and comprehend. What we took from this is that there is a very real risk of expanding a game beyond the foundation on which it was designed, so we have taken great efforts to predict what we will be releasing in the future and accommodating for it now. For example I created “The Lich King” as a playable until the other day, just to understand how bad-ass something could get in the game. This has allowed us to design unit cards and rules that will expand up to one of the toughest avatar-like units in the world.
·         Do you already have factions (and accompanying mechanics) in mind beyond the Sisk and Maychian forces? What kind of considerations have you taken to avoid the inevitable power-creep of expansions?
o   Ah! I answered this, lol. =D But actually, I can add more to that subject.
o   Faction-wise we actually have a whole lot more than the Sisk and the Maychian forces. It was easy to boil it down to those two for the core set, because they are so distinctive in so many ways. A faction HAS to have personality, and it HAS to have a certain play-style – and all of them in Torn do – but these guys are right up there, making the biggest noise, over the biggest war, and – let’s face it – they started the bloody thing.
o   But there’s a whole world out there and a long time ago Jack and I sat down and hammered out the personality of every region, determining if they were a minor force, a major faction, or something in between. We have orcs in their millions (with accompanying ogres, trolls, goblins and everything else you would expect), stalwart knights and armored dwarves, an Arabian-like desert region with some really wonderful personality to it, samurai elves, and – of course – the Valley of the Lich King.
o   One of the earliest factions we will expand into will be The Mercenaries. A concept of forces not being tied to a faction and being for hire (purchase at the start of the game) by any faction. Some mercenary units may have restrictions on who they will work alongside (good will not work with an evil unit, for example), but otherwise they are a faction that either player can tap into and bolster his/her forces with them.
o   And in our back pocket as one of the later factions is the whole concept behind the other world which has crashed into this world, each coming to rest touching each other across a meta-physical level. So while the forces of Torn are scrapping to get to the artifacts and riches of that other world, what exactly is there waiting for them? *smiles*
o   For power-creep in expansions. This is a great topic that I briefly touched on earlier and it’s something we’re very cognizant of. To begin with we’re starting carefully and ‘humbly.’ Let’s set a good solid foundation here and not go crazy. Secondly, we’re already created a lot of the abilities and structure to expand into, it may not be in the core boxed set, but we have written the rules for it: more powerful spells, equipment, units, heroes, avatars have all been created upfront so we can test them now and ensure that we have a nice sliding scale between the two. Flying creatures, cavalry, god-like units, and a whole slew of unit abilities have been created, tested, and tweaked so I feel confident that we have a long and safe power-curve that we can follow.
o   Additionally, the mechanic of “gold cost” is tied to a formula we have developed. The more powerful the unit, equipment or spell, then the more it costs. Could the Lich King fight an entire army on his own? Yes, yes he probably could. But his cost is the equivalent of an entire army! So as and when power-levels rise, in-game costs for those items will as well and this will help keep the sides evenly matched.
o   And lastly, while this has not taken place yet it is something I consider to be an important part of the process: public play testing and feedback is part of our release-cycle and this will enable us to tap into those crazily wonderful minds of the gamers and root out any unforeseen balance issues. And we’ll do this before releasing any Torn Armor product.
·         Are any of those expansions possible stretch goals for the upcoming Kickstarter campaign?
o   Oooooh, are there expansions and stretch goals! *rubs hands together*
o   I do now want to position the Kickstarter as one long stretch goal whack-a-mole, *BUT* unlocking stretch goals is fun and we do have great plans for that.
o   The core boxed set will come with at least 36 miniatures (likely more) ranging from 22m in height through to over 60mm. Color rule book, scenario book, 4 double-sided color battle posters, spell cards, equipment cards, unit cards, and 25 dice in 5 different colors. It’s quite the package and it’s great value.
o   But we’re also going to offer (for a slightly higher pledge level) a limited edition unit that will only be available through the kickstarter. This will be our first mercenary unit so either faction can use it. A competition prior to the kickstarter will determine WHAT unit this will be; we’re going to offer a choice of two.
o   There will also be an add-on. A really, really, really special add-on. I’m talking something that stands 120mm tall on the battlefield. It’s going to be crazy. I can’t reveal what it is yet, but imagine behemoth-like creatures with guys hanging off the back firing bows and ballista and you won’t be far off the mark. There will be TWO of them, one for each faction. I’ll share more information on this as we get closer!!!
o   Stretch-goal wise we’ve already calculated how much additional funding would be needed and what we could offer at each level. Each stretch goal will introduce a major influx of miniatures, I’m talking 2 units of 8-10 minis, a mercenary unit with a hero, or two beautiful looking war golems, siege weaponry, the whole nine-yards. And every one will come with new spell, equipment and unit cards, of course!
o   If we can really push this thing to some nice levels we have plans to bring in a whole new faction as well … and maybe the backers can select which one that will be from the options available!
o   And on this note, there will also be a pledge level that gets you the core game, the limited edition unit, and every other pledge level attained. That’s going to be some incredible bang-for-buck.
·         Do you have plans to get Torn Armor into retail outlets, through or after the Kickstarter?
o   Yes, absolutely. The kickstarter is to raise funds to put this into production and effectively get all of the backers a pre-release of the boxed core game (and limited edition units) later this year.
o   There will be brick-and-mortar pledge levels to obtain multiple copies of the game at a reduced cost, but we also have plans to distribute any remaining copies worldwide. Several languages are under consideration for the translated books.

The Torn World

·         Where did the Torn World start? How long has it been in your imaginations?
o   Strictly speaking I can trace the Torn World back to a Bushido game I was running back in the early 80’s. It wasn’t “Torn” then, but a player’s action essentially ended the game in a cataclysmic way.
o   I picked up with a D&D game a little while later and decided to place it in the same world, this time post-apocalypse, and from this the seeds of the Torn World were formed.
o   After many years of writing and running games for various groups, all in Torn, I grew somewhat jaded and really wanted to branch out into something very new and very unique. I developed a concept for a world and really hammered on it, only to conclude that it was too alien for players to have fun in, so I abandoned the idea and went back to Torn.
o   But now I was full of god-like zeal and so I smashed the whole thing, wrote in a massive cataclysmic event (two worlds smashing into each other), and redrew all the part of the world that didn’t like. The modern Torn World in its current iteration was born.
o   So Torn has been the product of many decades, two countries, half a dozen different gaming groups, and multiple gaming system!
o   The “other” world - the one I abandoned due to its alien nature – that has not gone away. The world that crashed into Torn will be visited one day, right?
·         Are your home games (of Pathfinder, I assume) set in the Torn World? Have any PCs made it into the Torn World lore/canon?
o   Yes, since I started GMing back in ‘81 (something like that) I’ve always written my own material. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with pre-written material and the Paizo products are outstanding, I just like the creative process of developing my own ideas, you know?
o   We currently play Pathfinder rules, but we own man other systems and have played a lot of them. We alternate between some form of d20-esque campaign that will typically last a year or more, then switch to something different (Shadowrun, Earthdawn, Call of Cthulhu, etc) to reset our brains before the next d20 game.
o   PCs have made it into the lore: how could I ignore that foolish samurai in the Bushido game that started the whole thing? There are also several key names in the lore and setting that were original PCs, typically from when I was in England and we were playing under a very different ruleset. I wouldn’t rule out current PCs making it into the lore either at some point; systems that do this always make me smile.
·         What led to the idea that you should bring this setting to the masses?
o   Because it kicks ass, will make you popular with the lady-folk, and can make a mean barbecued burger.
o   *smiles*
o   In all seriousness I’m actually somewhat of a humble person, quite polite and not at all egotistical (some of my facebook posts may argue against this, but I swear it’s true!) So I never really thought of this for mass release, until the third playing group in a second country said that I should! It was about that point that I started thinking, “Hmmm, maybe there is something to be shared here.”
o   Modern technology has made it easier to share, but also to show things like concept artwork, a miniature sculpt, share a little of a characters background, and receive immediate response from complete strangers. Those responses have always been positive, sometimes very much so, which was another catalyst for sharing on a broader and ‘more official’ scale.
·         I know you haven’t even launched the Torn Armor Kickstarter yet, but what should people expect from the Torn World on the RPG front? Pathfinder-based material, the setting presented through another open-license rule set, or something of your own making?
o   This is a great question and I don’t mind answering it at all. I’d say “Pathfinder,” but part of me wants to be able to hit two systems if we can. There’s merit to focusing just on Pathfinder, but I also feel that it then ignores the other gamers out there who would look at the materials and adopt the world if it was made available to them. So I’m keeping this open right now pending a few decisions and meetings with the team, but I can say “at least Pathfinder will be supported,”
o   I don’t know if the world really needs another ruleset to play with, but I wouldn’t rule it out if something solid and enjoyable was put in front of me.

Bonus Round

[These questions are driven by my own curiosity. The answers are off the record unless you give your explicit permission to reference them.]
Alyssa: You can reference any of these. J

·         Are you still doing cartography freelance or are your efforts exclusively going towards the Torn World setting?
o   Both, lol. It’s quite the juggle and I am not happy about my time being dragged away from the mapping work. I’m meeting all mapping deadlines, endeavoring to juggle my responsibilities and commitments, but I am not taking on new commissions – not until we get to the other side of the kickstarter.
·         Do you guys have “day jobs” or are you pursuing all of this full-time?
o   Day jobs at the moment. I am fortunate enough to have a very good income and it has enabled me to pile a great deal of financial clout into Torn Armor (it’s that or a bank loan, right?) It would have been silly for me to quit the job to concentrate on Torn Armor while it provides such a solid income method. Jack will quit his job post kickstarter to run Torn Armor fulltime and keep everything on track as we go through production. Unless we have an AMAZING result (hey guys and gals, I don’t mind, really!) I will continue my day job probably through to the boxed sets being ready to ship out to the backers.
·         Are you in any way affiliated with
o   Funny you should mentioned that, because it was pointed out to me only last night. I actually knew of them a couple of years ago and it seems to be a consortium of talented writers and artists creating a wonderful story in – ironically – a world of the same name. But there is no affiliation between us.
·         George St. Pierre vs. Nick Diaz at UFC 157, your prediction?
o   Hey, you knew I loved UFC? =D
o   Pierre. I love the guy. I’m not saying stylistically he is fun to watch, and I think that his current camp have made him potentially boring to watch in many ways, but he delivers and he controls the octagon. I respect that. He is also a gentleman, respectful, and a true face for the UFC in general. He never acts out. Diaz? I don’t have anything good to say about him. I’m not saying that the guy doesn’t have talent, but his antics are just not what it’s about. It reminds me too much of guys mad-dogging each other in a bar. I much prefer the silent guy that just knows his s**t and gets it done with no bad mouthing.
o   Now, if Pierre and Silva ever meet … that one I would have a hard time with.
·         Do you need writers? (Because I totally know a guy…)
o   The answer is “yes,” but our ability to focus on that will be somewhat after the kickstarter. I have a great writer on the team – Ross Isaacs – and several freelancers. When we have our product release schedule in place for Torn World RPG materials I will have a better understanding of who and what else we need (and when we’ll need it!)