Polyversal Kickstarter

Home of Wargamers Report: An Unexpected Journey, part 1 of 2

A Boggit’s tale

The Prologue

Living a quiet, unadventurous life as a Review Scribe, Boggit almost missed the opportunity to go to this annual event simply by not paying attention on the scrying screen, sometimes known as the forums! Far to the East in the distant land of Italy strange things were happening. Brant – the great wizard of Grog had heard news of great treasures, and was determined to send a scout to learn the truth. The first to answer the call was the Bard – Undercovergeek – but he was sidetracked by nubile Norwegian elves. The Paladin – Jarhead – having slain so many dragons, had problems finding a tame silver dragon to cross the Great Sea. At the last moment, when all seemed lost, Boggit from the Shire of Dorset piped up. “I’ll go!” And a great adventure began.

 

Boggit crosses the Alps. Hannibal did it the hard way!

Boggit crosses the Alps. Hannibal did it the hard way!

Leaving the Shire of Dorset, Boggit travelled the Great Road to a place where tame silver dragons could be found. Stopping overnight at an Inn he fell in with another adventurer -Fraser Brown a proud Northern Scribe – with whom he shared a few beers, and learnt of Fraser’s intrepid journeys to places of learning where clever warlocks display their magic arts. The next day the two adventurers left for the Cave of Dragons, finding a friendly one, and rode it to the mysterious land of Italy.

Outside Milan airport, Boggit meets other adventurers in the Party, and some Sages of Slitherine!

Outside Milan airport, Boggit meets other adventurers in the Party, and some Sages of Slitherine!

Arriving in Italy, Boggit met some of the adventuring party, and some of the Sages of Slitherine. After trekking for an hour or so, the newly formed party came to the Castle of Wonders, eagerly anticipating the treasures within.

 

The Castle of Wonders set within the mysterious forest of Elfglade, with the Orc Ridge Mountains in the distance

The Castle of Wonders set within the mysterious forest of Elfglade, with the Orc Ridge Mountains in the distance

 

Day 1 of Home of Wargamers 2014

Having arrived at the Castle of Pavone, in Canavese North Italy, the first thing we did was to meet up at the bar for a drink before lunch. Following lunch we went to King Arduin’s Hall where for two hours we learnt about Slitherine’s successes, and plans for the future. Although it sounds fairly dry, there was a lot of interesting information arising from it, not only in terms of learning where Slitherine got its business, but also where Slitherine sees the future of its business.

The ‘state of the company’ speech broadly covered these points:

  • The historical background to the event location
  • Company history from 2000, noting especially the changes in the company from the traditional publisher/developer model to one where the publisher and developer are closely linked
  • A mention of a new developer – Black Hammer Games to the Slitherine team
  • 45 new releases anticipated this coming year, with emphasis on multi-platform accessibility
  • New titles are to be exclusive to Slitherine
  • Game design emphasis will focus on depth of game, art work, and UI. As Slitherine said, “we want you to fight the battles, not the game”
  • Slitherine outlined the difference between their traditional approach to relationships with developers, and their current policy –

Traditional – Funding to developers essentially operates as an advance loan, which is then paid back out of royalties, which can lead to immediate shortfalls in a developer’s income when a game is released

Slitherine current policy – This is intended as a longer term arrangement, whereby developers earn on royalties from the day of release.  Essentially Slitherine look for a graduated repayment as a percentage of royalties over time.

Additionally, Slitherine say they value add to the business relationship by giving a variety of support. For example in the legal arena, they quoted developer support in the following areas: Intellectual Property, Landlord and Tenant, Contract, Taxation advice etc. The basic idea is that by supporting developers in areas outside their competence, they are freer to concentrate on what they do best – develop games. So has the current policy paid off? Slitherine think so. They say they have got more submissions from new developers since adopting this policy

 

The ‘Men in Black’ discuss the future with Slitherine while CEO JD McNeil puts a call in to the Almighty! ;-)

The ‘Men in Black’ discuss the future with Slitherine while CEO JD McNeil puts a call in to the Almighty! 😉

  • A 38% increase in growth since last year has increased revenues available to support more development projects. This has allowed them to add some of the more quirky titles like Qvadriga, and Espana 1936 from the more traditional style of products
  • Contrary to some independent pundits, market intelligence at Slitherine shows that at least a quarter of purchasers wanting a boxed copy, rather than a download only, and Slitherine are reopening a warehouse in Germany on 19th June 2014 to serve the European market area
  • “Retail” accounted for 25% of revenue growth on a few selected titles, however, with the exception of Germany; Slitherine has noticed a decline in trend for traditional retail sales.

As an outside observer, I wonder if that is not due at least in part to lack of provision at retail outlets, as I rarely see Slitherine games at the retail outlets I frequent, like Game UK, ASDA, Sainsburys, Tesco etc? I’m sure that there are good business reasons for why that might be, but if you don’t put games on the shelves they won’t get sold either.

Retail in less traditional models has been receptive to Slitherine, and we should be seeing 3 titles arriving each month on Steam.

 

The rooms at the event are not boring and bland, but are comfortable, and full of charm

The rooms at the event are not boring and bland, but are comfortable, and full of charm

 

  • Despite the apparent decline of the traditional retail model there is a growing audience for the sort of games Slitherine publish. While interest in strategy gaming has been traditionally high in the UK and the USA, a big rise in interest has been noticed particularly in from France, Spain, Italy, and Germany. 2% of sales are now coming from Russia, China (amazingly – when you consider the apparent levels of software piracy in those two countries), and Japan. Strategy gaming is not dying as some folks will have us believe. It’s actually growing.
  • Many games will now be going cross platform, or developed on that basis to meet the growing apps market for tablets, iPads, and smart phones
  • Although Slitherine has been criticised in the past for their pricing policy, they believe it remains justified by the strong increase in sales. With the attention on further penetrating the tablet market, they observe that deep discounting of apps will not help developers, given that in real terms unit prices for apps are very cheap anyway
  • Slitherine started with 4 staff, and now have 30. They have successfully merged with Matrix, and will gradually unify their websites under one login. They have an extensive network of associate developers, and a strong internal development team in the UK, Canada, the US, and with AGEOD France.

All in all Slitherine feels very positive about the future.

After the ‘state of the company’ speech there followed a question and answer session in the style of BBC television’s question time. It was a pretty solid discussion covering a variety of topics, including the impact of early access game development. The session lasts just under two hours, and was broadcast on Twitch TV. You can follow proceedings blow by blow here.

Day 1 then wrapped up with a tour around the castle, a “very civilised” medieval dinner followed by drinks to round off.

 

Day 2 of Home of Wargamers 2014

Day 2 was where the meat of Home of Wargamers was to be found – the Games. The day was organised around four group presentations of several games in the rather dramatically named Bishops, Peacock, Crusader, and Cuirasses Hall. It was an intense day with a lot to see. It was great!

Bishops Hall

Here we saw

  • Sovereignty

Sovereignty is a turned based fantasy strategy game for the PC. Apart from being very nice to look at, it struck me as quite a deep game, with individual nations having their own ‘personalities’ – read strengths and weaknesses that affect gameplay. Whilst the game overall is strategic, there is a very nice tactical battle sub-game that enhances the overall game experience. It plays both single, and multiplayer.

Produced by the Lordz Game Studios, it’s due out Q3/4 2014. Potentially a nice Christmas present!

 

  • Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager (BASPM)

BASPM is set in the 1950’s and is all about the space race to the moon between the United States, and the Soviet Union. You have a limited budget and must carefully allocate this to personnel, R&D, training astronauts, and launching missions to test, and improve your capabilities. The game also comes with a Sandbox mode where you can also play the Global Space Agency, which has more political dimensions to it. BASPM plays both solo and multiplayer. DLC will add future campaigns like the Race to Mars.

Produced by Polar Motion, BASPM is in early access at the moment. It’s for the PC, Mac, and iPad with a version 1 release expected sometime Q2 2014. It’s different, has space ships, and technology. What’s not to like?

Not only does BASPM have depth, it has great graphics too

Not only does BASPM have depth, it has great graphics too

 

 

  • Warhammer 40K Armageddon

Featuring a unique alien world of volcanoes, lava rivers, desert, jungle, Hive cities, and weather with acid rain an lava storms – you will be tested! Warhammer 40K Armageddon will have more than 300 unit types, each with 20 or more stats, and up to 4 weapon types per unit! Passive and active abilities including Psyker spells, Warhammer 40K fans are in for a treat. The first release takes things from the Human and Space Ork perspective with later DLC adding new expansions for different campaigns and races.

Produced by the Lordz Game Studio, and Flashback Games, beta testing is imminent with release due earliest around Q3 2014.

 

  • Commander – The Great War

This Slitherine classic is being released for the Mac, and iPad, and is expected to be released Q2 2014. It will feature both single and multiplayer.

WW1 meets the Mac and iPad. ‘Travelling games’ were never like this when I was a kid!

WW1 meets the Mac and iPad. ‘Travelling games’ were never like this when I was a kid!

 

  • Panzer Corps – Soviet Corps

This is the latest addition to the Panzer Corps family of games, this time from the perspective of the Soviet Army. It covers the entire Eastern Front to the fall of Berlin, 1941-45. As well as units seen in the earlier German perspective of the Eastern Front there are also some new units to have fun with.

Featuring both single and multiplayer, Soviet Corps releases on the PC, and iPad sometime Q3 2014.

 

Stay tuned for part 2!

 


Discuss this article in our forums >>