Sunday 22 October 2017

A weekend away

Last weekend I took a trip to Nottingham for Warlord Games 10th anniversary celebratory bash at their Headquarters. I had wanted to go to their Beyond the Gates of Antares event early in the year but time and other commitments got in the way, so when this event was announced I jumped at the chance.

I had booked my event ticket for Sunday with the plan to travel up on Saturday and come back Monday. I always avoid travelling on a Sunday if I can because the trains are so unreliable. In the end I managed to catch a slightly earlier train than planned which gave me some extra time on Saturday afternoon, so I took quick trip to Warhammer World. The last time I had been there was in 2008 and, at the advice of the person in the Tourist office, had taken the bus, this being in the days before Google Maps on your phone. I hadn't realised that Warhammer World is actually only a thirty minute walk from the town centre, most of which is along the canal which was rather pleasant.

 Just the atrium
One of a great many huge dioramas

The main exhibition space had grown a lot since my last visit, though they now expect you to pay to get in. I think it was worth it, the place is stacked with an enormous and very impressive dioramas most of which were built for the exhibition. But it also had a few classic pieces, such as Mike McVey's Warhammer Quest and Emperor and Horus dioramas. There were also enough classic models to make me go all nostalgic. I spent the better part of an hour getting pictures of just about everything. As Warhammer World stays open until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays, I had ample time to wander around both the main shop and the Forge World shop and still got a bottle of Bugman's XXXXXX in the bar.

Some classic dioramas

Warlord's HQ is also about thirty minutes from the town centre though in a different direction. The walk was a touch less picturesque, but a bit more varied taking in the Nottingham suburbs. The event was structured like a small scale version of Games Workshops old Games Day events. There was a large central hall with plenty of demo games, including Warlord's big name games like Bolt Action and Black Powder, as well as more recent offerings like Test of Honour and Blood Red Skies. Rick Priestly was there demoing "Fantares" his reworking of the Beyond the Gates of Antares rules for fantasy, currently using North Star's plastic dwarfs and gnoll. Studio painters and sculptors had some space and were answering questions. There was also a program of seminars, some special offers in the onsite store and tours of the production facilities. Warlord had invited a few other companies along, including River Horse, North Star, Ainsty casting and Mantic Games who all had stands and a few demo games as well. Plus all attendees got a free miniature of King Arthurs confrontation with the invincible Black Knight.

 Fantares in action

Between the guided tour and the seminars I attended (one with Rick Priestly and Tim Bancroft and on Beyond the Gates of Antares and another with John Stallard and Paul Sawyer on the future of Warlord in general), I picked up a lot of information summarised below.

  • -The building in which Warlord are based used to be the corporate Head Quarters of Raleigh Cycles and incorporated their production facilities. When Raleigh moved production to Vietnam in the 1980s, they moved their HQ down the road. For a while the building was a council office before being rented out to business. Warlord have always been based there, but have slowly taken over more of the site. It is most useful because it has workshops they can use for production which have to be kept separate from ordinary offices for health and safety reasons.
  • Warlord do all their resin and metal casting on site, but their plastic production is done in London. They don't have the space for the plastic casting machines.
  • Metal casting is a two stage process, both involving a silicon mould. An initial mould is made using the masters which will either be 3D prints or physical sculpts. This mould is made from silicon than vulcanises at a lower temperature to avoid damaging the masters. New sculpts will be cast from this and these will be used to create production moulds with silicon that vulcanises at a higher temperature.

Moulds for metal models. The green vulcanises at a lower temperature. 
The colour is added so you can tell them apart

  • Warlord's metal contains trace amounts of lead, which makes it more malleable and easier to work. The exception are their Doctor Who miniatures which must be lead free at the instructions of the BBC.
  • The BBC also dictates why the Doctor Who miniatures are an unusual scale. Their licence precludes "co-mingling" which is to say selling one of their ranges of the back of another. They can't make their historical miniatures mix too easily with the Doctor Who. The slightly larger scale also makes it easier to sculpt "photo-realistic" miniatures which can be necessary as the actors have to sign off on uses of their likeness (which may also explain the odd release schedule for some miniatures).
  • Warlord's casting machines are mostly second hand Games Workshop machines which they sold off when they switched to fine cast.
  • Warlord's resin is a custom mix, they do not use polyester. The intent is to add a slight plasticity so that, in theory, it will bounce rather than shatter if dropped. They also add a grey colouring agent which they think makes it look nicer (I agree).
  • Resin mould's are made from silicon, poured over the masters in liquid form before being allowed to harden. The moulds are good for about 20 - 60 casts depending on the model.

Resin "Hinge" mould, so called because you have to open it remove the model
  • A Beyond the Gates of Antares website will hopefully be launched at the end of the month, it will be called the Nexus. It should feature all the articles from Warlord's website (which Rick Priestly thought was impossible to navigate) as well as living errata and FAQs and the living army lists. It will also incorporate a community section and allow for community material.
  • A new supplement will be released in March or April of next year. This will be focused on an enormous wrecked space ship (a hulk in space, if you like) and will introduce a new faction. This faction are ancient drones that were defeated in the distant past, but have reawakened and are travelling on the ship, dropping off copies of themselves on planets as they go. Both the Concord and the Isorians have boarded the ship looking for the source of the drones. Caught in the middle are a faction of Ghar refugees trying to avoid both the Ghar Imperials and the Rebels. The book will incorporate rules for fighting in confined spaces.
  • Alien mercenaries are on the way. These include a vaguely insect like species and a predatory bounty hunter species who are accompanied by trained animals. These should be out in time for Christmas.

 Soon to be released Antares miniatures.
Isorian Drones, Boromite Hauler, Isorian bikes and prototypes of the new aliens

  • Warlord are working on a game for World War II Torpedo boats. This is very much John Stallard's project and he believes it hasn't been done well before.
  • A new edition of Black Powder is on the way, it is Warlord's most popular game but Paul Sawyer is off the opinion that games need a refresh every five years or so.
  • A Pike and Shot supplement for Samurai is in the works, along with other things. Many of these book are released as and when they are ready as they are written by freelancers who have day jobs.
  • They are not working on anything for the seven years war. Paul Sawyer admitted that most of what they produce is driven by someone in the design studio having an interest in it and, currently, no-one in the studio is much interested in that period.

Overall, it was a fun day that packed in a lot and has may very keen to take a return trip to Nottingham some time next year.