Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Game Design Inspirations Part 1: Sculpture

"At the risk of sounding pretentious" is a phrase used when someone is about to be just that, so, hopefully, I'll get away with it if I try to be ironic - you can be the judge of this.

I've been asked by lots of people what has been my inspiration for designing games and I realised that the answer is quite broad, so here's a sprawling one in several parts.

Sculpture
As a title, sculpture sounds much more heavyweight than toy soldiers but this all started with me playing around with Airfix kits and soldiers. I'd sit in my bedroom hunched over plastic bits, glue and spirit based paints and wonder why I always seemed to have the sniffles. I was probably a bit spaced out most of the time too, but it would be difficult to differentiate this from youthful gormlessness.

Like many an an adolescent boy, I then became interested in the first release of Dungeons and Dragons spurred on by, yes, you've guessed it, reading Lord of the Rings, plus Michael Moorcock and other fantasy and SF.

Having drifted through school, I ended up managing the Games and Hobby part of the Toytub Shop in Stockbridge in Edinburgh, then moved on to be the general manager of Gamesmaster on Forrest Road, again in Edinburgh. The latter was a subsidiary of Games Workshop, replacing Games Gallery after it went bust. At both places I was involved in buying and selling miniature figures, board games, classic games, computer games and more.

Early Citadel Miniatures from my collection, with a drawing by the ever excellent Russ Nicholson (see his fantastic blog here):


Early Castings of Citadel Fantasy Tribe Gnolls (FTG series), designed by Alan and Michael Perry, Painted by Aly Morrison




I'm sure there's a relation between the two above images...now, if only I could work it out...

UPDATE (13/Oct/2013)

Just had a nice virtual chat with Russ, who remembers getting one blister pack of some figures at some point, but apparently that was it! Here are some more photos of the Fantasy Tribe Gnolls (as they were first called, they became Goblins to help improve sales to the literal of thought), collected together as set on Flickr:


IMG_20130930_100504P1070919IMG_20130930_100651Early Castings of Citadel Fantasy Tribe Gnolls (FTG series), designed by Alan and Michael Perry, Painted by Aly MorrisonP1070921

P1070915
P1070913

Anyway, back to sculpture.

I was given encouragement by family, friends and also by Aly and Trish Morrison (then still based in Edinburgh, before joining Games Workshop) to try sculpting my own miniature figures. I shared a bit of workshop space with Aly, Trish and Yvonne (the silversmith) which I used once a week and tried to learn the craft.

My first attempt:


Note the spindly legs - this is it, never cast.

From there, I created my first design for sale through Gamesmaster, a gruesome hanging man (I was young and it's not anything like the Chaos guts that were to follow from GW and others).


As sold in Gamesmaster, Edinburgh.

I was then asked down to Games Workshop/Citadel by Bryan Ansell for a look around and what was effectively an informal job interview, though I was too naive to realise it. I was offered a job in the casting team, but didn't fancy the move down to the red bricks of Newark, where Citadel were based at the time. But I did meet a whole load of people including Rick Priestley, John Blanche, Tony Ackland and others and came away buzzing with ideas.

Gradually, I improved by sculpting and then took the plunge to go self-employed. I started Acropolis Design to do my own designs for casting and distribution by Bob Fergusson of Scotia Micromodels. I was joined by my pal Colin Hamilton, who was a model maker, and he did some figures too, whilst specialising in vehicles and droids.

Loads of of people contributed - Willie McNie, Justin Crozier, Jonaathan Aspey, Iain Holt and Rod Grant painted figures, Lorne Campbell (from the wilds of Inverness) and Jamie [secondname] did amazing drawings and my father found tiny ball bearings that were ideal for use as rivets, eyeballs and other small round things. Apparently, he counted them on the Rhom Legionary and reckoned there were about over 200 (give or take a few)!

Acropolis Gallery


IMG_20131001_051151IMG_20131001_051240IMG_20131001_051323IMG_20131001_060652IMG_20131001_051420IMG_20131001_051627
IMG_20131001_051533IMG_20131001_051802IMG_20131001_052129IMG_20131001_05224820091025_5268Acropolis (and briefly Games Workshop) Dwarf Diorama
Acropolis_Rhom_DwarvesAcropolis Maze City People_and_BeastiesAcropolis_People_and_DwarvesAcropolis_People_and_DwarvesAcropolis_SFAcropolis_SF_and_Scout_Car
Acropolis_Th-ugs_squadAcropolis_Th-ugs_squadAcropolis_GoblinsAcropolis_Rhom_DwarvesIMG_20131008_102910IMG_20131008_102949
Acropolis Design miniatures, a set on Flickr.

At this point, I was contacted by Games Workshop, who said they'd be happy to put out some of my Dwarves (8 in total) via their mail order service. I'm sure my old pal Donald Brotchie who was working down there (no longer with us unfortunately - here's to you Donald!) and Aly and Trish must have had an influence.



Sadly, I made only a grand total of £6.00 from sales, not much good when you're trying to earn a living. Thankfully, I retained the rights and they were absorbed into the Acropolis Maze City Range. These were the only designs that I ever did for Games Workshop. Ironically, they're now worth much more and I recently sold what I had of them to Kev at stunties.com.

 I wanted to develop new ranges, so started up ZAP! miniatures to create figures complementary to the resin accessories and buildings created by a local company. This was an ill-fated partnership, from which I was unceremoniously dumped, though my original ideas for Kryomeks and other SF figures were then used without my involvement, ho-hum.

ZAP! Gallery


Acropolis Design SFUnreleased DesignsAcropolis Design SFUnreleased DesignsAcropolis Design SFZAP! Miniatures - Vlad's Mobile Home (minus Vlad)
ZAP! Miniatures - Vlad's Mobile Home (minus Vlad)ZAP! Miniatures - Vlad's Mobile Home (minus Vlad)IMG_20131001_052520IMG_20131001_052454Zap and Paul HenniZAP_SF_range_1
ZAP_Vlad's_Mobile_HomeZAP_SF_rangeZAP_SF_MantisZAP_SFZAP_SF_2ZAP_SF_1_Kryomeks
ZAP_SFZAP_Sand-Dwellers_Master_SculptsZAP_Large_MEAN_DroidZAP_Large_MEAN_Droid_ThreeUpSculpting MastersZAP - Full Range of Miniatures and Vehicles
ZAP! Miniatures, a set on Flickr.

I continued with ZAP!, but my freelance work was not bringing in enough money. I could earn decent amounts from doing 6mm figures, whilst ruining my eyesight, but not from other freelance work. Without the Internet (uh-huh, this was the Eighties), I couldn't market and sell enough.


6mm high (1/300 scale) World War One British Bomber with handgrenades (Master Sculpt) - he's small!
Ironically, just as I started to feel confident in my sculpting and produce my best work I had to make the difficult decision to stop and get a job that paid a regular income. I sold Acropolis and Zap! to Robbie Fergusson of Scotia Micromodels (now Scotia Grendel) and stopped sculpting.

Update 19 October 2013

Spoken to him and the Acropolis and Zap! Ranges were sold by Robbie to Stephen Oates of the Baggage Train, who has most of the moulds and currently sells castings. Also spoken to Stephen, to confirm that he can supply castings, should you want any.


54mm high Charging Highlander
What's this got to do with games? Well, all the skills, experience and knowledge I gained through my previous business has lain dormant only to re-resurface in the last couple of years, inspiring me to start game designing.

More to follow on Game Design Inspirations...

13 comments:

  1. Great post and knowledge filler Paul. The Baggage Train sadly lacks pics of the sculpts.....in fact they have a severe lack of pics across the site.

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  2. Thanks David. I've updated the post in a couple of places as I have now spoken to Robbie (Scotia) and Stephen (Baggage Train). Stephen should have most of the Acropolis and Zap! available.

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  3. Hi Paul. Odd question, but are the Acropolis SF figures compatible in size with your later Zap figures?

    Cheers,
    Another Paul

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  4. Hi Other Paul.The Acropolis Marines and Strike Troops were about 25-28mm scale, but the Houses and Rebels were slightly bigger and chunkier. The Zap! SF were compatible with the former and could go with the latter if you accept that they are different 'people', I suppose. I don't have any figures left to compare this for you...

    You might get an idea from the photos?

    Cheers,

    Paul

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  5. Cheers for that Main Paul, much appreciated info! I did have some from each range many moons ago and my fuzzy memory was that the Marines were a little smaller and that the Zap! stuff was more in line with modern figure sizes. If the House range is chunkier, that's great, because those are the ones I'm most interested in.

    Many thanks,
    Sham Paul

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  6. The ZAP sci-fi models are awesome!!! Where can they be found on the Baggage Train page? There is no photos and I don't know how to guide myself through the page :)

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  7. Why thank-you. If only we'd had the internet back then...

    Probably best emailing the Baggage Train guy - he runs the business in his spare time. Here's the set of photos on Flickr which you could use as a reference: http://www.flickr.com/photos/knicksen/sets/72157636328131354/

    I've sold my collection to 'Squebb', who is selling parts of it on eBay, including Zap! SF - have a look here: http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_from=&_ipg=25&_ssn=squebb&_sop=1

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    Replies
    1. I am watching those auctions already actually :) Those were what lead me to search for ZAP miniatures through google and eventually led me here (again).

      I have previously been visiting your blog and was drooling over the great pictures.

      Also, last year at some point I was watching an unknown miniature on Ebay, which I now think is part of this line. I tried posting it on my blog back then and on several fora, but no one could help me.

      http://deathworldadventures.blogspot.dk/2013/05/help-me-identify-this-miniature.html

      I am still not completely sure who this guy is in the line?

      Well, I will deffinately try and obtain some of these miniatures and paint them up for my blog and gaming. Was there any rules or background material for the range too?

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    2. Mantis Droids - see http://www.flickr.com/photos/knicksen/10103687405/in/set-72157636328131354

      We never got round to rules, just ideas!

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    3. I recently purchased some of your collection from Squebb and I am interested in finding out more about them.

      http://goo.gl/tSJA24
      http://goo.gl/Ff1NWv

      Here are my questions,

      1) There are some greens in the first image, I would like to know more about them, model names, what they were made for, year they were made and general info on them.
      2) Anybody seen a missing crutch to the disabled pipe smoker?
      3) Anybody got a spare hand for the Mantis Droids?
      4) The second image is an Ali Morris model? again what year was it and was it made for anything in particular?

      Thanks in advance.

      P.S. The hired sword green is awesome, I want to paint it, but I can't.

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    4. Hi Digsy,

      Some quick answers...

      1) The Sell Sword and the bloke leaning on his sword with pipe (sword got destroyed when the master was removed rom the mould) were inspired by the Rodney Mathews poster of The Rolling Stones as fantasy warriors see http://romantic-ruins.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/post-apocalyptic-rolling-stones.html. These two and the police car were cast by Tabletop Games of Nottingham back in the early 80's.

      The other smaller green was for a commission that didn't work out.

      And finally the large dog / wolf was an unused commission for a nursery rhyme - the dog was considered too scary.

      2) See above.

      3) Squebb has got all the bits I had - you could email him.

      4) Ali Morrison did some practice work prior to joining Citadel / Games Workshop. This was an early goblin done in Milliput that was never cast / released so is unique. As far as I remember he also did a dwarf using Milliput and Green Stuff which ended up being released in one of the general dwarf ranges.

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  8. Thank you so very much for the speedy response, this information is really appreciated.

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  9. All great info thanks! We could with pics to update the Lost Minis WIKI and also a complete listing for ZAP!

    http://www.miniatures-workshop.com/lostminiswiki/index.php?title=Category:Acropolis

    I had a bunch of pics on my laptop that just died and hadn't backed it up for about 6 months.....grrrrrrr.

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