The Goonhammer Interview: Lewis Clarke from TTCombat

Lupe caught up with Lewis Clarke, the head designer at TTCombat, the company responsible for Carnevale (which we reviewed a while back), Dropzone Commander, Dropfleet Commander, RUMBLESLAM, a range of other miniatures and a vast range of MDF terrain.

You can find out about all their products on their website.

Lupe: First of all, can you introduce yourself and tell me a bit about your background and role at TTCombat?

Lewis: So I’m Lewis Clarke, head designer at TTCombat. We have four main games we work on: Carnevale, RUMBLESLAM, Dropzone Commander, and Dropfleet Commander, and then MDF scenery and all of that sort of stuff. That’s all encompassed within the design team.

I did a degree in graphic design, and then went out and sort of struck up doing a few different graphic design things for a while, trying to make a go of it and then moving down to Cornwall came shortly after that. My wife got a job interview in her chosen field, which is fine arts, down here in Cornwall. And I found a position opening at TTCombat, who I had found out about about three weeks beforehand. Saw a few MDF kits and got them in the post, like, literally a week before I found a job, sent an email, asked them “I really love the MDF kits, can I get a job?”, and apparently that works! 

I started off in the company with a job doing part-time laser design and most of the time, running the laser room downstairs, and that lasted for about two days before the people who were in the design room came to me and said, “Have you got a graphic design degree?” “Yeah, I do.” “Have you got experience using Adobe Suite?” “Yep, I’m very well versed in all of that.” And they’re like, “Cool because we’ve got this game RUMBLESLAM, and we’re sort of 50-60% of the way along, but we’ve got no idea how to turn it into an actual game”. 

They’d got all the rules and the models were getting made and stuff, but as far as graphics and presentation and actually writing things up in a coherent way, they didn’t really know what to do with it. It was the first game they put up on Kickstarter, it was successfully funded, and it was about a year and a half later at the point I joined. So I went upstairs and joined in and sort of took over the design of that and was extremely bossy and very belligerent towards everyone, and sort of pushed everyone out of the way and became head of design eventually after that, as well. 

Lupe: Wow, that’s a heck of an internal rise. 

Lewis: It’s one of the good things about working in a small company. When I started, we had four or five people in the design room, and now we’re up to about 12 people total, and that’s including Dave Lewis, who sculpts remotely. We have an artist, Rei, who works remotely, and a web designer who’s up in Scotland as well. All in all, we’re about 12 people total for the design team, which is relatively small. And again, that includes MDF design as well. So the people actually making the kits, doing all of the 3D printing, all of that stuff.

Lupe: That’s quite a small team to do quite so much output.

Lewis: Yeah, four games, and then the MDF design. It’s quite a lot. It’s nice. 

Lupe: It seems like things have ramped up a bit in the last couple of years, in terms of scale. I mean, just from an outsider’s perspective, it seems like it’s gotten a bit bigger than it was. 

Lewis: Yeah, definitely. When I came in, they had RUMBLESLAM, and they’d just bought the licence for Carnevale, which is from a company called Vesper-On Games. A guy called David Esbri designed the first edition of Carnevale, and he took it as far as he could take it and didn’t have the time, the funds, all of that, to sort of push it into what it needed to be. So he ended up selling it to TTCombat just before I started with the company, so there was a fair amount of stuff that had been worked on before I got there. From there, about a year later, we picked up a game called Relics, which, unfortunately we still haven’t had a chance to do anything with. 

Then immediately after that, we got into talks with Hawk Wargames and ended up picking up Dropzone Commander and Dropfleet Commander, and keeping David, the head designer who works on Dropzone and Dropfleet. Those are two massive games, so they took up quite a lot of our time, coming from there. It’s kind of spiraled quite a lot, quite quickly. We’ve got our CEO Louis. He has a habit of picking up, failing companies probably isn’t the right word, but sort of companies in distress. Companies that aren’t doing well and need some help. He has a habit of collecting them I think is probably the right word 

Lupe: Because Hawk had come off the back of a very successful Kickstarter, hadn’t they, for Dropfleet? But I know it had run into problems with trying to get everything out the door, which I imagine was just a matter of scale rather than thing else?

Lewis: Pretty much. Their reach exceeded their grasp, I think. They put it on Kickstarter which… we’ve learned a lot about Kickstarter over the years. We’ve done a few now, and looking through their Kickstarter, there’s a lot of stuff on there that probably, with all this experience now, I would not do. There’s a few things that, do you worry that if you do really, really well, this stuff isn’t gonna be easy to fulfill? That sort of thing. We’ve had a few in the past. 

One of things with the Carnevale Kickstarter, we did these metal coins that we made for each of the factions, and that was a really nice idea until we ended up having to make hundreds and hundreds of them. And if the Carnevale kickstarter went the way the Dropfleet one went, I think they made two million total in the end? If it had gone that way, then we’d probably end up with a member of staff working full time, smelting coins out in the garage. 

Because you think that you’ll be able to scale things up fairly appropriately. But it’s extremely difficult, and it’s one of the problems that Hawk, it was ultimately Hawk’s undoing, was that they weren’t able to scale up in the right way 

Lupe: Too successful for their own good, really?

Lewis: Yeah, which is a really strange thing, because if you’d have asked a lot of people at the time when it happened, TTCombat and Hawk, one company’s buying the other? It would not have been the way around that happened, I wouldn’t have thought. 

Lupe: It’s an odd one, isn’t it? I think it just often comes down to those quirks of infrastructure and resilience, and it’s something that I see particularly in the current climate, with shipping being what it is, particularly from China. The fact that TTCombat is set up to do almost all their production, as far as I can tell, in the UK, actually puts you in this enormously beneficial position.

Lewis: Yeah, we’re very lucky in the fact that we’ve got, I’m gonna say four, different companies under one roof in the warehouse. We’ve got Troll Trader, the second-hand Warhammer website; and Troll Trader Cards, which is Magic: The Gathering. We’ve also got Kingsley distribution, who handles our distribution network throughout most of the UK but also the rest of the world, and then TTCombat as well. So between all four of them, the shipping is one of those things that actually we’ve got a pretty good handle on most of it. Brexit has been a whole other thing that we’re still having troubles with. But generally speaking, we’re in a pretty good position. We’ve got that infrastructure in place.

Lupe: Yeah, which can make such a big difference. 

Lewis: We’ve had a few issues with scaling up production in the last few years, and at the moment we’ve got quite a lot of stuff out of stock on the TTCombat website because we’re changing the way we produce things because every few months you hit this limit of, “actually, this method was really good for now, but it doesn’t work for the level we’re at now, so let’s change everything again”. So we’re putting in a new system at the moment, which hopefully is going to last for quite a long time. But it’s sort of expanding that production to be as big as we possibly can and not have too many problems going forward with it. It’s a weird time.

Lupe: Yeah, it’s a weird time, for sure. I mean, it feels certainly that TTCombat’s come out very well out of the back of a lot of chaos, because I know a lot of companies have really struggled. But you’re focusing on putting out a huge amount of stuff and going strength to strength, which is fantastic to see – congratulations! If we can talk about Carnevale for a momen – when did you first start getting involved with that? 

Lewis: So once the RUMBLESLAM Kickstarter was out the door, I had a few months working on RUMBLESLAM specifically, like making sure the social media was up to date and planning a few releases for the future. But at the time, I wasn’t in charge in any way, that was kind of just “No one’s telling me off for doing this, so I’m just going to carry on doing it”. It was around then we launched the Carnevale Kickstarter, the preparation for that, that’s when I really got involved in it. 

They decided before I got there that one of the big things was, going from the first edition to the second edition, they’re remaking all of the models, because the models that we inherited from Vesper-On, they were metal molds that had been run to death basically, so you’re getting characters out with no faces and things like that. So it was at the time, we can invest a lot of money into remaking these old models, or we can do something new with it. But they decided that all of the old models, any characters that you had in the previous edition, were going to be relevant in the edition. They’d already started production on a lot of that stuff, and it was around that time that I came in and said “there was a game and we can make a hopefully better game out of it”, and sort of really focused heavily on the rules to make sure that the models we’re making were all useful in the game and played in a way that was most beneficial for it. 

So we had a big old sit-down meeting of what we wanted to do with the game. And a couple of weeks later, I came in and I was like, “I’ve been working on this thing at home. You might like it. You might not like it. Let’s have a look at how it plays”, and I brought in this whole almost complete rulebook – for the basics anyway – and said, look, this is a slightly different direction to what it was originally. 

The first edition with Vesper-On was very… we call Carnevale a narrative miniatures game, it’s somewhere between a role playing game and a skirmish miniatures game, somewhere on the line. And first edition was definitely all the way down the one end of a role playing game. There were dozens and dozens and dozens of different actions you can do, and every single action had a success, failure, and critical fumble state for it. So if you wanted to walk, you can walk. If you wanted to run, you rolled a dice and you looked at the table, and if you wanted to sprint, you rolled a dice and looked at a different table. If you wanted to run along the wall, you rolled a dice and looked at the table. It was very much… you spent most of the time playing the game in the book, and for me personally for a miniatures game, I think I’d rather be on the table rather than be in the book. 

Lupe: That sounds very granular. 

Lewis: Yeah, it was very much a game that if you looked at the core rules, you could think “there’s three players in this game, and one of them is a game master”. And you could play it like that, and it would probably play quite nicely like “I’m running on the wall in the game. Okay, I know that. I’ll look up that. You carry on”. So one of the things I wanted to do was make sure that the game was being played on the table. We sort of evolved from that kind of mentality. 

From…. I can’t remember the exact amount, but we went from around 40 different actions to maybe a dozen different actions. In the game, you can still do the exact same things that you could do in the old version, it’s just the actions are a lot simpler. Like in the original you had I think it was sneaking, walking, sprinting, wall running, climbing up, and climbing down and that was six actions. And now that is “move”, which is one action. I mean, it does the same thing. There’s not really much difference between running along the wall and climbing up. 

Lupe: There’s definitely a streamlining effort.

Lewis: Yeah, there was a lot of that going on at the time. That’s what I came in to do, to start with. 

Lupe: So how much of the setting that’s in second edition was created whole cloth for second edition?

Lewis: It’s probably about 70% original and then 30% new stuff. There were a lot of things in the first edition where the setting is sort of very solid, and it’s good, but there were a few things that sort of sat out in the peripheries that didn’t really mesh with everything else. So we took a good look at everything from scratch. It’s cheesy, but we like to say we built the game from the canal up. Everything was there, but we sort of built on top. But we went and decided what story we really wanted to tell with all the different factions as well. 

One of the factions that went through quite a big change was the Strigoi, the vampires. They were quite high gothic, traditional, I’m not gonna say campy, but kind of campy, vampires. You say, oh, this is the vampire faction, it’s got Dracula in it, and we go, OK, cool. So we took that all the way back to basics and decided that Vlad wasn’t just a vampire and vampires didn’t just exist in the world, and that’s fine. It was all rolled into this one sort of event, the rent in the sky opening up. Everything is linked to that. And although Vlad tapped into this energy before the rent opened up, it’s all the same sort of thing. They had a big rewrite for that. 

Carnevale Strigoi

Then there’s a few other things that got changed too, like the doctors live on an island called San Servolo, where they have an insane asylum where they do horrible research. And that wasn’t San Servolo, first of all, that wasn’t in the first edition. It was a made up island somewhere off Venice. And we’re like, okay, that’s cool, make up an island,whatever. And the more I looked into the history, I was like there was an insane asylum on San Servolo. There’s already one of these, in history, that existed at the time, so let’s use that, let’s try that. Try and make it feel historical.

Lupe: In some ways, it feels a lot like you did the same kind of streamlining process, but narratively.

Lewis: Yeah, that was very much taking, picking out the bits of the story that we wanted to tell. We sat down, we travelled up to Nottingham in a day to sit down with Gav Thorpe, who we managed to get onside to write for it, and it was one of my dreams, honestly. We went to Warhammer World and sat at Bugmans.

He was super into it from the start, which is really good. We spoke to him at a couple events before I met him. He actually backed the Rumble Slam Kickstarter. So that was sort of the door opening, he’s into that sort of over the top. At the time we sent him a message saying “Thanks so much for backing, we’re huge fans”. 

In that meeting we talked about the narrative themes that were interesting to us and narrative things that are interesting to him, and how we really wanted the world to go. And so, like the original rule book was sort of a starting off point, and we made sure that the story we’re telling in that rule book was very much everything you need to know going into the game. This is the setting, and we’ve got a timeline in the events leading up to 1795. 1795 January 1st is where the main rulebook stopped. And that was very much like on purpose. This is the bedrock of the game. And let’s put in all these little things that we want to build on later on as well. Putting little bread crumbs of things for the future. 

Lupe: Speaking of things for the future – there’s an expansion in development at the moment. Can you tell us anything about what’s going to be in the expansion? 

Lewis: Well, yeah, so we haven’t given much information away on it yet. We’ve been quite tight lipped because one of the things about it is that it’s a narrative expansion to the game. As I say we finished the rulebook storyline on the 1st of January 1795. Blood on the Water,  which is the new expansion, is taking on all of 1795, so that whole year. It will probably end 1st January 1796, so we’re progressing the story on an entire year, and each faction is doing something a little bit different in that year. Some of it is going to be a massive surprise, and some of it’s going to be, “Yeah, I sort of remember them talking about that in the rulebook”. As I said, there’s breadcrumbs sprinkled throughout the things that we want to do narratively with the setting. 

The monstrous Rashaar, who lurk behind the charitable front of the Church of Dagon – credit Lupe

And we’ve sort of discussed, we talk about it a lot in the office, and then we’ve got long lists of things that are “Carnevale for the next 10 years”. It’s loose guideline stuff… even the stuff that I look back on now from when we first started talking about what we’re doing for the first expansion before it even had a name and I’m like, OK, this all made it through, and this is nonsense and definitely didn’t make it through. And this is never going to see the light of day and stuff like that. So it’s not a strict idea of how things will go.

Lupe: Are we going to see model releases to go with Blood on the Water? 

Lewis: Absolutely. One of the reasons for doing Blood on the Water is that a lot of the characters in the original Carnevale are written about in the rule book. And then there are some in there that we’ve really since that you kind of understand just with the model. So, for example, in the Vatican [faction], the Vatican has a character called the Exorcist, The Exorcist is an anti-magic character who can go in and sort of shut things down. And that’s sort of explained in the rulebook, and that’s fine. And then, since the rulebook was released, we released a character called the Witch Finder, who is sort of a henchman class of the Exorcist who goes around shutting down magic on a much smaller scale. So you’re like, OK, yeah I can see the narrative link between the two. The visual link between the two was obvious, and that all makes a lot of sense. 

But then there’s characters we’re going to do which don’t make sense unless you know what’s going on. And there’s a lot of that. So we’ve actually got 2 to 3 years worth of models planned for Blood on the Water, which is stuff that’s going to be explained in the book. And there’s gonna be some things that are from the Kickstarter that still haven’t been released. Things like the Brachyura is one of the big ones that people have been pining after. And if you read between the lines, you can kind of get a bit more of a feeling of what’s gonna be happening in the Blood on the Water expansion by seeing the models we haven’t released because they’ve got relevance to what the story is doing. But, yeah, there’s loads and loads of stuff. We showed a few of them off for the first time at UK Games Expo recently.  But up until then, we’ve seen nothing at all about it, but yeah, we should have some news soon… We haven’t actually said what they are, so I’m not sure whether I want to spoil too much.

Lupe: Obviously from a self-interested perspective, I’m keen for you to spoil them, but I understand if you don’t want to.

Lewis: It’s a tricky thing because I want to hype it. But at the same time, because I want people to read the story, I don’t want to spoil it. There are sub-factions being released for all of the different factions, some of them are expanded versions from before. So for example, the Patricians are getting extra models for the City Guard sub-faction, because the City Guard play a bit more of an important role in what’s going on. So they’re expanding into those, and that also leads into, I think, two other sub-factions the Patricians are getting. I think they’re getting the most.

Lupe: As a Patricians player, I’m excited. 

Patricians, the monstrous nobility of Venice who prey on the underclasses – credit Lupe

Lewis: As a fellow Patricians player I’m excited too! There’s been a lot of things that we’ve seen in the Facebook groups and things, a few people going “when are the Patricians getting releases?”, and I’m like I play Patricians! I know the feeling! But I also know what’s coming so I’m not mad, we’re actually doing quite well out of it. 

Lupe: Good to know! So is there anything in Blood on the Water you’re particularly excited about that maybe you could tell us about?

Lewis: I think there’s two big things that I’m really excited about at the moment. The first one is we’ve got, without spoiling too much, we’ve got three main chapters in the book. Each of the chapters is helmed by a different person. Gav Thorpe’s written a chapter, I’ve written a chapter, and one of the writers – who wrote a few smaller pieces in the original – David LaPorta, who works with us in the warehouse, he’s written a chapter as well. It’s really nice coming from the main rulebook, which sort of has a section for every faction which introduces them and gives them a reason for existing and gives them a reason to fight everybody else, but doesn’t really hone in on what they’re doing. It’s really exciting to have three chapters that are dedicated to these different factions doing what they do. That’s really exciting for me, being able to see what’s going on and getting a bit more background about the people in the factions. It’s not just nameless doctors with masks on – there’s doctors with names there, there’s rituals, characters that you could represent on your tabletop. That’s really cool.

Okay, so the second thing that I’m excited about is the rules. There’s new rules for Blood on the Water; there’s updates to the current rules in the rulebook; there’s a section on what I would loosely call items, which is stuff to help expand your gang; and then the final one is scenery. 

The scenery rules are fairly expansive. We’ve got a section called Advanced Acrobatics within the scenery rules. Which is just cool stuff like zip lines, counterweight lifts, swinging platforms, stuff like that. It’s just really fun. Scott and I were play-testing in the office a couple of weeks ago, and we had a game where my Capodecina was trying to get across the tightrope, which is a brand new type of scenery, and the tightrope was too long for him to make it in one go. So my plan was to walk halfway and then jump a few times to try and make the rest of the distance. And I rolled a Critical Success to get across the tightrope and on a critical on the tightrope, you automatically go from one side to the other. So suddenly I was right up into Scott’s deployment zone after, like one action! There’s  some really cool stuff to make Venice really a main part of the game, which is really interesting. 

There’s really cool stuff coming – the equipment that we’re doing,the extra items. There’s a few different categories of it. We’ve talked about a few of them briefly, sort of a little bit in the past, but as a bit of an exclusive, we’ve got a new item type called Ill Tides, which is based on an idea that actually came to us from one of the community groups. Sometimes when you’re building a list, you end up 1 or 2 ducats over. Because we play fairly small games, it’s quite easy to go over ducats a little bit, And rather than going okay, “well, I’ll take out an entire character and just take a gondola instead” – that’s kind of rubbish – we’ve got this thing called Ill Tides, where if you’re up to, I think it’s up to five ducats over, your opponent gets to draw an Ill Tide at the start of the game and they keep it secret. It’s like a trap card, basically. When your opponent does something very specific, you go “Actually, I’m afraid to say there’s an Ill Tide in play at that point”. So, there’s one,which is a loose roof tile. So once you make a chain jump, your second chain jump unfortunately automatically fails, so it’s just a little bit of a penalty for taking a couple of ducats over, and it’s none of them are game-changers on their own, but used in the right situation you can really mess with your opponent’s plans, and that’s what they get for taking a couple of ducats over! They’re really good fun. We’ve been playing a few games with them and we’ve been purposefully going over ducats just so we can use them more, which is always a good sign. 

The Guild of Thieves, who run the criminal underworld of Venice – credit Lupe

Lupe: That sounds fantastic. You’ve covered so much about Carnevale, thank you so much. I was interested to ask what games you play yourself, other than the games you make?

Lewis: I always feel a bit guilty playing other games. It’s one of the problems of working in the hobby. I’ve been painting a copy of Dread Fleet, which is a bit of a throwback. It’s been sat in my cupboard since it came out, and I haven’t painted it 

Lupe: You and everyone else I think!

Lewis: Yeah, but like the ships in there are fantastic, they’re really, really nice sculpts, but every time I sit down to paint, I’m a little bit guilty that I’m not expanding my RUMBLESLAM team or painting my Dropfleet Resistance fleet or whatever. 

I really enjoy Warhammer Underworlds, that’s good fun. I don’t keep up with it as much I should do. I’ve got a bunch of warbands that still haven’t been built, which is really sad, but over COVID, it’s hard to play anyone anyway. I’m starting a new Blood Bowl team at the moment. I’m thinking about getting into Blood Bowl 7s, the smaller version they released recently, which is my jam. I like small games, they’re really good. I bought an Indomitus box set which I really shouldn’t have done, and most of it is still assembled and not painted, but I was like, “Yeah, I’ll play that and we’ll get gaming in soon because games clubs are about to open again”, and here we are over a year later and yeahhhh…

Lupe: Yeah that’s familiar. I think one of the things that’s nice about Carnevale and the TTCombat games in general is that it’s been a lot easier to find people to play with because I go, hey, I’ve got a couple of factions. Do you want to play a game? And there’s that wow factor of the scenery and stuff. So in some ways that seems to have kept it alive and being played more, certainly in my circles.

Lewis: I think Carnevale’s had a real push recently. People have been really picking up with it and I think one of the big things of it is because it’s a narrative game. One of the things I like, if your readers don’t know if they haven’t read the book, is that the main rule book has 49 different scenarios in it. So if you play a game every week for a year taking a bit of time off for Christmas, then maybe you’ll get through them all. There’s a sort core set of scenarios that are very well balanced, but there’s scenarios for every single faction which are horrendously balanced, I’ll tell you now. On purpose, very much on purpose. They’ve got completely asymmetric winning conditions.

Lupe: And they sort of have a narrative campaign associated with them don’t they?

Lewis: Yeah, there’s ways that you can win this first scenario, but the second scenario has the other one winning most of the time. And we know that’s the case. We recommend in the rule book that some of these scenarios aren’t entirely balanced. But if you feel like you have more fun playing the other side once you finished, swap sides and play again the next week at the same scenario, but with opposite forces and see if you fare better. If you’re playing a really asymmetric scenario and the same person wins twice with two different forces, then you know that they’re probably better at it, not just the scenario. But yeah, I think because it’s a narrative game, people are able to tell their stories, and that’s one of the things that we’ve had so many people in community going “Oh, I managed to convince my partner to play a game with me, and they fall in love with it because we did this really cool thing”.

Lupe: My husband is not at all interested in any of this, but it is the closest I think he’s been to getting involved because of the aesthetic of it. It’s just so unusual and so striking, and I think it’s something that’s really appealing. 

So before we wrap up, is there anything you want to hype from TTCombat that’s coming out soon? Other than Blood on the Water, obviously. 

Lewis: As far as, like, progress on Blood on the Water goes, I’ve been laying out the book at the moment. We’ve got scenarios to playtest now, more asymmetric scenarios to do. We’ve got quite a lot of them to put in. I think it’s gonna be about 15 to 20 new scenarios in the new book, which is quite exciting. Yeah, that’s one of the last big pushes that we’ve got to do. We’ve been putting out the rules to our TT Agents. The TT Agent programme is something that we started early 2020, and then the world ended, which really put a stop to it. TT Agents is a sort of a global network of players who want to be representing TTCombat, playing the games, and basically showcasing. A few other companies do a similar sort of thing. Representing a company around the world, and that was really exciting to start with… and then everything got shut down, which is unfortunate. So they’ve been existing on scraps that I’ve been feeding them on the Discord. It’s really great to get feedback from them because they’re so much better at every game that we make than I am.

Lupe: I think there is a golden rule with game designers that you’re not allowed to be good at your own game. I’m always terrible at anything that I design. I absolutely understand. Is there anything else that TTCombat’s bringing out soon that you want to shout about? 

Lewis: The Resistance Dreadnought is coming out shortly, and it is the stupidest kit we’ve ever made. Honestly, we hyped up the Resistance Fleet when they came out a couple of years ago, they were the most modular spaceships that you could ever make. It’s a big plastic sprue where you can make I think it was 10 billion different combinations of spaceship. It was ridiculous. I did the maths on it and went down this crazy rabbit hole of numbers that I didn’t understand very much. So yeah, we did that a few years ago. And Dave Lewis, the designer, decided that 10 billion wasn’t enough. So he made the Resistance Dreadnought – all of the other factions have Dreadnoughts but the Resistance faction was sort of trailing behind them a bit. Their Dreadnought is like Lego. I was gonna say Lego for grown ups, but Lego is for grownups [both laugh]. We all know it is.

The Resistance Dreadnought kit still under construction, courtesy TTCombat

Yeah, it’s honestly a spaceship Lego. Each piece is probably an inch big, and then you can add a bunch of them together to make your dreadnought however you want. There’s three different sizes of dreadnought you can make from the kit. I’m not doing the maths on how many variations you can because it’s basically infinite at this point. There’s so many different things you can make and we’ve been having fun playing with them in the office, like making different builds.

Lupe: Could you combine two sets to make even bigger ones? 

Lewis: You could, but your flight stand might give out halfway. If you add all the bits together [from one kit], you’re gonna end up with something that’s like the size of a small pizza. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing that, just buy a pizza.

Lupe: That’s really cool.

Lewis: We’ve got new sets coming out for Dropzone Commander, the battlegroup boxes, which is something we haven’t released before. One of the big things when we took over Dropzone from Hawk was that it seems really hard to stock for retailers because you get a starter army, and then you get dozens and dozens of blister packs and people get to pick what they want. Which is fine, but it has this very steep learning curve. If you come in and buy a starter army you’re like cool, I get this. And then you get “what do I buy next?”. Well, you know, there’s thousands of possibilities, you have to decide.

Lupe: You are actually describing my experience with Dropzone. 

Lewis: Oh ho! So we’re releasing battle group boxes in I think it’s just over a month now. Which is going to be if you bought your starter army, here’s what you buy next. In the box is a bunch of different models for a really good price, with some new models in there as well, for good measure. That’s our first push to really get Dropzone into stores and make it store-accessible, as retail friendly as we possibly can. 

Carnevale I think we’ve got one or two more releases this year. And here’s an exclusive for you: The next release for Carnevale is going to be the Flame that Burns Underwater and the Sirenas, which are models from the Kickstarter that hadn’t been released. Uh, they’ve had a few changes. I’ll say that now. 

Lupe: What kind of changes? 

Lewis: Well there are two Sirenas coming. One of them was the Kickstarter version. There’s a second one coming, which is really, really cool. She’s fast becoming one of my favourite models. And the Flame that Burns Underwater is one of those ones that was done before me and the current design team started working in Carnevale. One of the reasons we changed it, was it doesn’t fit in the box, which is a problem. So we were like, OK, we’re sending it to a new sculptor to make it fit… while we’re at it should we make it cooler?  Yeah, yeah, let’s make it cooler. So we got some new art made up. She’s really special now. She’s just landed on Fin’s paint desk, actually, so she’ll be painted up in the next week. 

What else is there coming up? Rumble Slam has just had the Triassic Five released.

T-Flex and friends, courtesy of TTCombat

Lupe: You would not believe the hype that the Goonhammer crew have had over that. I have never seen a group of people buy in instantly to a game on the basis of a single axlotl.

Lewis: We often get people coming up at shows and asking something like “how do you design the games? How do you come up with things that you come up with?” For the Triassic Five, there’s one word for the entire team, and that’s T-Flex. Someone came up with the name T-Flex and we were like, cool, that’s a team. 

They were really fun. They were a really fun team to design. So, yeah, they’ve just come out. We’ve got a new team coming out towards the end of this year, which we haven’t said it’s coming out yet, but we have previewed it, which is a team of cat people, Which we’ve had cries for for a long time. I think we’re really looking at probably end of Q3 start of Q4 for them, so don’t hold your breath yet, but you’ve got plenty of dinosaurs to play with in the meantime. 

We’ve got MDF coming out every single week. Our Wild West range launches shortly.

Lupe: Yeah, I saw that. It’s honestly hard to keep up with the number of MDF kits that come out.

Lewis: So we’ve got three full-time MDF designers in the office and then three more of us are MDF designers, but part time. So one of them is most of the time a photographer, one is most of the time a rules designer. And then there’s me as well. Actually, earlier today I’ve been working on some more streets of Venice scenery, which is really, really naughty. I probably should be doing other things, but I get carried away. I’ve got this crazy idea to complete the entirety of San Marco Plaza. Um, but we’ll see how that goes along. So I’ve just laid out some of the buildings and it looks like it’s going to cost a couple of thousand pounds. Just thought it was a bit much, but you know, if you can’t do it working for the company, then when can you do it? 

The Wild West launch is a really big thing. It’s one of those weird ranges that you look at and you go well, what can you really do with the Wild West town? It’s like it’s a thing that says Bank on the front, and there’s a little walkway on the front, who cares? But the designers, like they’ve been given pretty much free rein. Each of the three designers had a separate project to do within it. So one of them had the sort of frontier town setting, and another one’s had the ranch house, and then there’s one that had south of the border kind of style kits. We said you need it to look like Wild West, but games are mobile and exciting and you shouldn’t just have a four wall building, That’s not very exciting. One of them recently did an undertaker’s which is an undertaker’s on the front, which is great. And it’s got a bunch of different pieces coming out the back on different heights and different angles so you can climb up really easily and get to the top, which is something I think a lot of Wild West ranges at the moment, sort of ignore that kind of thing because they just want the front looking good. But the actual playability of it is really interesting.

A render of the upcoming Wild West scenery town range, courtesy of TTCombat

Lupe: Thank you so much for your time. This has been really fascinating.

Lewis: I’m glad we managed to find time to do it.

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