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An Interview with Hunted Cow Games

As you can imagine, the emergence of a wargames shop that’s built on the Apple Mac/iOS platform set hearts aflutter (OK, maybe just one heart, but it’s mine, so it counts!) here at GrogHeads.  So welcome Hunted Cow Games and let’s get to know these fine Scotsmen

Interview by Brant Guillory, 27 August 2014

huntedcow_previewFirst things first – what cow are we hunting?

That most glorious, most stately and above all hirsute example of the bovine race: the Highland cow.

What happens when the cow gets caught?

Sadly, the cow has thus far eluded our grasp. However, when we do finally get our hands on it, it will end up the way most food does in Scotland – coated in batter and deep-fried.

Why a cow and not, say a Vietnamese water buffalo?

The Highland cow is the most famous beast of the Highlands of Scotland, and given that we’ve always been based here, it seemed like a good fit for us. We did actually consider flying a water buffalo over to Scotland, but the cost was ridiculous. It also seemed a little cruel.

For our readers that might not know who you are (bastards!) what’s the ‘TV commercial’ pitch for Hunted Cow Studios.

We are a team of 30 zealot gamers. Based in Elgin in the Highlands of Scotland. Most of the games are a co-operative between the guys at HexWar (who are just a few miles away) and Hunted Cow. We focus on making great games that are aimed at the wider gaming community. Most of our games are pitched at entry-level prices where we think we have managed to get to a lot more players than any other wargames company.

What’s the wargaming background for your design team?

Are the old-school hex-and-counter tabletop grogs? Or are the more-recently-minted digital wargamers? What are the games they love? What do they look to for inspiration?

The guys from HexWar are the old school. One of them was a play tester at SPI UK in the 1970’s and published his first computer wargame in 1981. The main influence has to be 1970’s board wargames and more modern Euro-games. In both sets of games the games are not too hard to learn but take a fair amount of application to master. Miniatures probably dominate through the team with a good mix of players of Field of Glory Ancients, Flames of War, Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40k.

Most of our audience are PC gamers, and one of the frequent criticisms of the Mac platform is that it lacks a serious stable of hardcore wargames. Why tackle wargaming on the Mac? Was it an outgrowth of iOS development? Was it an attempt to capture an underserved market? Or are you guys just as in love with Macs as I am?

Before we started developing for iPhone we were all PC users. Our business plan was to supply the best wargames on iPhone and iPad. From there it was a natural step to develop wargames for the Mac. We have not ignored PC or Android, they were just not our priority and we wanted to stay focused and keep to the plan! By the time you read this our first wargame for PC and Android, Russian Front, should be on sale. We have other PC games at an advanced stage of development and a project to convert all our existing games to PC and Android is well under way, but the first release is likely to be around Easter 2015. Now we are almost all Mac zealots!

How did you guys decide which historical eras to tackle? Was it a personal preference, or a market decision? Given the dearth of wargames for the Mac platform, it seems like almost any historical matchup would be ‘new’ for Mac wargamers.

A mixture of marketing and Flames of War! When we started, the Flames of War audience seemed to be growing at a rate of knots. Also it’s generally understood that Tanks outsell Ancients and Ancients outsells Napoleonic. We started the American Civil War games on nothing but intuition, it seemed like a good idea at the time … and it was!

What are some of the challenges you’ve run into building wargames for the iOS platform? I imagine the user interface would be one of the toughest nuts to crack. How have you been able to overcome some of the technical challenges?

The team have developed over 40 wargames for the PC platform. Comparing the relative effort to develop a good game for PC vs. Mac the Mac wins hands down. We will face more challenges ahead, as most of our new games are being designed to work on PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone and Android from day one. The toughest challenge is designing a robust user interface the will work across so many different platforms.

A couple of fill-in-the-blank questions for you:

If you love Squad Leader, you’re going to love our games

Our closest competitor in the marketplace is Slitherine/Matrix Games. Our aspiration is to be as big as D-Day. How do you answer this one? We definitely want to be bigger, but not to the point that it stops being fun.

 

The perfect wargame would blend Squad Leader and Lightning War Midway (DVG/Decision Games). A game you can completely immerse yourself in but doing not have to read a massive tome to get playing and have fun.

If Apple Macs drive you nuts, you might be better off looking at someone else’s games.

When someone sits down to play one of our games, we want the hassle free play to be the biggest takeaway.

 My biggest headache in the wargaming industry is the price of everything! Board wargames, computer wargames, card games, they all seem to cost a fortune and this restrict growth of the hobby. We think it’s the entry price that keeps the hobby small(ish!). Our free version of Tank Battle: 1944 has had over half a million downloads. Our paid version of Civil War: 1863 almost 200,000. The user feedback we get tells us we get lots of old players back into wargames and tens of thousands of new younger players.

 

So, what should we have asked you, if we knew what to ask you?

While Hunted Cow is mainly a co-op business with the guys at HexWar, we develop almost everything together and publish as Hunted Cow. We must be doing something right as we are up to 30 staff and looking to hire a lot more. Making entry-level wargames has been very good for us but we do more!

Many will have noticed we have signed up deals with Victory Point Games, Decision Games and Dan Verssan Games. We hope to have Rebels and Redcoats, from Decision Games, out on iPad and Mac before Christmas.

We also have a very handly line in MMORPG’s! Our latest game Eldevin would be a welcome diversion for any wargamer.

Most of all, we love making games.

We do a lot of work with other smaller developers. If there are any developers or board game companies out there who wish to work with us email us on: andrew – at – hunted cow – dot – com.

We would also be interested in hearing from anyone who would like to develop extra missions for our existing games. We do not rely on volunteers for this. This is real work! We have some great tools that make this relatively easy to do but you would need a Mac, and a basic knowledge of HTML or a scripting language such as Macro’s in Microsoft Excel.


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