The Tuesday Interview – Mark Walker talks Tiny Battle Publishing
Renowned designer and author Mark Walker comes back through for a chat ~
Brant Guillory, 10 January 2017
Tiny Battle Publishing has churned out about a game a week – or so it seems some days. What was the final headcount, anyways? And were you intending to try and keep pace with Victory Point Games, or was it just accidental that you had that many games to publish over the past year?
LOL, yes it sometimes seems that way. No, we aren’t trying to keep pace with any publisher. We wanted to set a schedule and stick to it. That schedule is two games a month. We’ve fallen a bit behind, but feel like we can get back on pace now that the holidays are behind us. There are just a ton of games that fit our footprint. Interesting titles, be they historical, science fiction, horror or whatever. We want to share those titles with gamers, and maybe make a buck or two doing it. 🙂
Why separate TBP from Flying Pig Games and have the distinction between the two, or whether or not it ends up in an issue of YAAH! Magazine? When someone pitches you a game, how do you decide which side of the fence the game lands on?
Honestly, I have a bit more Tiny Battle on my plate than I need right now. When we started, the intent was to have TBP separated from Flying Pig, with its own head honcho. That hasn’t worked so far, but it’s still my goal. I’ve been so lucky to have a great group of people, from testers and developers, to designers and graphic artists, help me keep the company moving so far.
Tiny Battle… publish folio games, usually with one 11” x 17” map, 88 die cut counters, and about an 8-16-page rule and scenario book
TBP uses a completely different business model than Flying Pig. As many of your readers know, Flying Pig does big boxed games with mounted game boards and large, thick counters. Tiny Battle, (for those who aren’t familiar with us) publish folio games, usually with one 11” x 17” map, 88 die cut counters, and about an 8-16-page rule and scenario book. The counters are smaller, thinner, the maps made from paper. Great games and at a great value, but entirely different from Flying Pig. I want the customers to know that when they order Flying Pig games, they are getting something big, hefty, different from many other wargame companies, and by the same token, when they order Tiny Battle they know they are getting a fun FOLIO game.
As far as submissions, it’s usually not a thing. Certainly TBP and Yaah! Magazine use similar games, but Flying Pig Games are radically different than Tiny Battles. If I think a certain game will work better in Yaah! I talk it over with the designer. If he or she agrees, that’s what we do.
What’s been your favorite TBP game (so far) to play? Which of them has garnered the most public acclaim and grabbed the fans’ attention, and why do you think it has?
Wow, that’s a tough question. I mean, if I didn’t like a game, we never would publish it, right? But I’ll give it a shot. In a rare moment of modesty, I’ll exclude my design, Sticks and Stones, which was the first title in the Platoon Commander series. I really enjoy Herm Luttmann’s Dead Reckoning. It’s different from other zombie games in that it is sort of a grand tactical design. You have squads and platoons of the National Guard fighting mobs and groups of zombies. Uses the same card-based combat system as Yaah! #8’s Race to the Sea. I also love John Gorkowski’s In the Trenches system. Best WWI tactical combat games that I have ever played. Swamp Devils from Blood Bayou is also a hoot! Uses one of the best chit-draw combat systems I’ve ever seen. But if you want to talk unique combat, Brian Train’s Winter Thunder (Battle of the Bulge) has a great system that relies on attacker and defender’s stance and number of units.
Our best seller is Invaders from Dimension X and false modesty aside, Sticks and Stones is the second best. I believe folks like Invaders because it is cool-looking, wacky, and solitaire, but I think they like it the most because it is a Herm Luttmann-designed, Fred Manzo-developed game. They just don’t do bad games.
What’s your secret to zipping these games through the production process? I mean, some companies can’t get one game off the boat in 10 months, and you’re pushing out games in 10 weeks, including printing. How are you maintaining the pace?
First off, our games are smaller than something like Hexasim’s Fallen Eagles. Bigger games take longer to get through the production process. A game with simple rules, 88-176 counters, and one to two maps is just easier to do. Also, we print Tiny Battle’s games here in the U.S., that cuts production times also. Finally, a lot of folks announce games that are nowhere near completion. It’s easy to put up a cover pic and some text and start the pre-order process, much harder to put the game out the door. Right now, we just concentrate on putting up a title when it is ready to ship.
I’ve met first-time designers who don’t feel it is their responsibility to test their own designs. They’re wrong.
Are final designs coming to you with the artwork included? What are you doing with the visuals on the TBP games and who are some of the artists you’ve tapped to work with you?
Yes and no. Sometimes I find designs, labors of love, in which the designer has done EVERYTHING… design, testing, proofing, illustrations, layout. Most times, however, we make the game pretty ourselves and have a stable of artists who do so, Ilya, José, Tim, Christian, and others. What we don’t do is extensive development. If a designer can’t give us a completed game, we don’t want it. The role of the developer has become greatly exaggerated in today’s wargaming scene. I’ve met first-time designers who don’t feel it is their responsibility to test their own designs. They’re wrong.
Some of the TBP games have grown entire series of games sharing the same common rules. What are the series that TBP have built on so far, and are there any current stand-alone games that are in danger of expanding into series of games? Any plans to collect some of the series in ‘sets’ like the old SPI quad games?
Yes, we do have some great series. Thanks for saying so. At least I think they are pretty damn good. Gorkowsky’s In the Trenches has done very well and we intend to continue to release In the Trenches modules. Herm’s Invaders series is a blast to play. I’ll publish every one of them that he gives me. Platoon Commander, which started out as Sticks and Stones, has also been a hit with folks. The world needs a simple, platoon-level game. With the release of Platoon Commander: India-Pakistan War ’65 we upped the graphical ante, adding the soldier illustrations that folks have long called for. Within the next few days we will release Platoon Commander: Poland Strikes. It will be an upgrade from the Yaah! Magazine edition, incorporating not only the IP ’65-level graphics, but also version 1.5 of the Platoon Commander rules. The V1.5 rules polish the original set, answering any questions or ambiguities. And then, within the next 45 days, we will introduce Platoon Commander Deluxe: Kursk (PCD:K). All Platoon Commander Deluxe games will be Flying Pig releases. These will be boxed games featuring 1” square counters, large mounted game boards, the works. They will originally be made available through Kickstarter.
How are you handling reprints of games as you run out of stock? Part of the original schtick that I remember seeing was that these were coming out fast-and-furious, but not necessarily going to become a warehousing burden for you. VPG was doing a limited print-on-demand, but you’re using a real printing press that demands larger print runs. If I missed a title, am I going to see it again from TBP, or am I stuck trolling the web for a second-hand copy?
Nope, nothing will ever go out of stock. These games are printed in short runs (less than 100), when we need more, we just have the printer make more. They use digital printing as opposed to offset. That technology has been available for years, what is new are the counters. Now the die-cut counters are also digitally printed. Originally, they were about the thickness of, well, the counters in my World at War: Blood and Bridges game. Now they are thicker, comparable to what you would get from GMT, but not quite as thick as the boxed Flying Pig Games.
What’s up next for TBP and any plans to slow down long enough to catch your breath in 2017?
Nope, I don’t really want to slow down. I love doing this. Well, next up for me is probably the Kickstarter for my second novel in the Dark War series, Retribution. Next up for Tiny Battle is Poland Strikes, which we discussed earlier. Also in the hopper is a WW2 man-to-man solitaire game titled Ardennes Rifles, a pair of Brian Train designs, Chile ’73 and Konarmiya, a game by Bruce Costello, Operation Icarus, a title on the battle for the Donetsk Airport in the Ukraine, an In the Trenches module based on The Lost Generation, another Invaders game, and much more. It’ll be a challenge to get all this stuff out, but one that we are looking forward too. There will be a lot of good gaming to be had in 2017. Happy New Year!
Thanks for stopping by, and happy all-year gaming!