Interview by Joe G. Kushner
Black Orc Games made its "big screen" debut at
GenCon last week. As a guy who loves miniatures but hates miniature rules, I was
blown away by BlackOrc and their new line, 100 Kingdoms. The first sets are
fantastic to behold and make an excellent addition to any gamer's table. As
far as the company itself goes, I managed to snag some quick time with one of the
founders and managers of the company in an effort to determine why they're bringing us
"filthy apes" in Roman armor.
How about an introduction to Black Orc Games and what you're about?
A few years ago, I tried to teach my wife to play Warhammer. After one look of the several hundred pages of light reading she would need to do, she kindly told me that she was not interested. I myself had noticed when playing with my friends that I did nothing but constantly look over the rule books every time I wanted to take a turn. This to me was not a way to test my strategy of war gaming or to even have fun. So I embarked on a journey to create a tabletop war game that would be simple enough for anyone to learn in a short period of time but yet had tons of replay ability. You need to remember that the number one strategy war game of all time is not Warhammer, its chess. Chess has been around for so long because anyone can learn how to play. After a long period of time of working on the rules we finally realized that we would need some miniatures to go along with the game. This is where the fun really started. We decided that since our game was so different from anything out on the market, we would do the same for our miniatures. We ended up creating very unique miniatures for a very unique game.
I'm not knowledgeable about the finances of a miniature game company, but with several folding up and reopening up, and the American economy in a downturn at the moment, do you think this is the right time for 100 Kingdoms?
A little bit of my background on myself would probably help answer this question. I currently am Executive Vice President of a computer electronics company that employs several hundred people. The market that we are in is extremely competitive and the only way you survive is by providing a high quality product and superior service to your customer. So, I am bringing this philosophy along with a strong business background to our company. Instead of being a gamer who wants to go into business, I am a businessman who wants to play games. I will always strive my best to provide a great quality and fairly priced product to the consumer. Regardless of the economy, I think that people will enjoy this refreshing approach.
What's your own favorite army and why?
It is very difficult for me to say which Kingdom I like the best. I designed them all, so it's like asking me which one of my children I like better. I would have to say overall that the Simian Empire is my favorite. Something about massive apes in roman armor just appeals to me. Of course, some of the best armies are the ones not yet released.
What's the hardest part about 100 Kingdoms? Designing the miniatures? Painting 'em? Demos?
I would say that designing the rules was the most difficult part. I tried to take some very complex war gaming ideas and simplify it into the product you see today. Keeping the game simple to learn while still trying to cover all the different aspects of war gaming is very difficult.
Are there any plans for crossover products? For example, your Gorilla armies look like they'd be perfect for the role playing game, Terra Primate. Another example would be AEG's Clan War.
We did not create the armies with the initial idea of cross selling them, but it just turned out that many of our armies could easily be marketed as such. Many companies at GenCon contacted me about this possibility for each of the current five armies. I would be more than happy to not only sell our current line in such a manner, but to also develop new miniatures that would support both systems.
The 100 Kingdoms website has a lot going on. Is it hard to maintain and update to insure that people know what's new and newsworthy?
The website took almost 8 months to create. The reason for this is that I spent an enormous amount of time on the Administration portion of it. Because of this extra work that was put into it up front, it ends up being extremely easy to update. All current news is posted on our front page right as people enter the site so that they can see the latest and greatest happenings of the Hundred Kingdoms product line. We will be adding new features to our current website as time goes on.
What's a starting person's best bet for getting into 100 Kingdoms?
The best bet to get into the vast world of the Hundred Kingdoms is to purchase the Boxed Set. It is by far the best deal we have. For just $60 the boxed set includes 42 Pewter (Not plastic) miniatures, five dice, and the rulebook. That ends up being about $1.40 per miniature!
A stupid question, but why a Kingdom of Avalon? I know it's a standard with knights and kings, but, and this is just my opinion, all the other miniatures have so much more flavor and character than the knights. The Winged Avenger and Golden Dragon are fantastic but the others look, well, like knights and standard medieval characters. The other armies are unique and truly inspiring.
We wanted a human base army that people could relate to for the starting army. It allows people to put themselves in the place of King Thomas Killian surrounded on all sides by opposing armies of horrific creatures. This Kingdom as well as the others will be expanded in the future to include more fantastic creatures and characters.
How was Gen Con? What are your thoughts about it moving? Will it have any effect on your business there?
GenCon was exceptional for us since it was our first convention right after our release and we had sales exceeding all of our expectations. It was also very convenient since our manufacturing facility was only 30 minutes away. Even though we brought thousands of units of packaged products, we still ran out of several items. I was able to send workers back to the shop twice in order to restock. Obviously we will have to plan to bring more stock when it is in Indianapolis next year. Although, I appreciate the proximity of the Milwaukee location, I understand the reason why they needed to relocate. The Midwest Express Center is just too small for GenCon.
What is the plan for future releases? Right now we have five armies? Will there be a full 100? What about fleshing out the ranks? It looks like right now, each army has, for example, one monster.
We currently have three new Kingdoms in development. At GenCon we gave a sneak peak of the monster for the sixth army. Although I will not divulge what those Kingdoms are, they will be sculpted by Sandra Garrity, Jason Weibe, and Bill Roth. We are also planning several releases of future miniatures that will fill out the ranks of the current kingdoms. Many of the ideas for these new miniatures come from the members at our official website http://www.100Kingdoms.com
Do you think you'll do most of your sales to miniature war gamers or good old role players looking for some of the unique offerings you bring?
Difficult to say. At GenCon, I believe the mix was 50% war gamers and 50% RPG players. We do offer quite a product selection that will appeal to both.
Any final thoughts?
We feel we have a great product offering with our fast paced game, unique miniatures, and reasonable prices. We will always do our utmost to provide the hobbyist, gamer, painter, and general consumer with a high level of customer service, a great quality product, and a fun as hell game to play.