Over the last three years, Pete Foley, the Book & Box Games Manager, and Robin Cruddace, the lead games designer for Warhammer 40,000, have become faces for Games Workshop, engaging with the community on a regular basis, both online and through events like NOVA. On Saturday at NOVA, roving Goonhammer reporter Jonathan Bernhardt got a chance to sit down with Pete and Robin to talk about the convention, the games, and the experience.
After perhaps the most British exchange this reporter has ever witnessed in person — a brief discussion between Robin, bearing a cup of tea, and Pete, bearing a gin and tonic, about whether four in the afternoon was more appropriately tea time or cocktail hour — and an attack by a roving group of dinosaur mascots in the Hyatt’s roof lounge, Goonhammer got to pick the brains of the duo about their design philosophies, the design process itself, their favorite armies, and more. The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
How are you guys enjoying NOVA so far?
PETE: It’s an absolute blast. [sounds of cartoon violence in background] In fact, while we’re sitting here, there are three inflatable dinosaurs savaging one of the staff on the ground.
You know they stole one of our chairs earlier, too.
PETE: It’s a great big family party, that’s what it feels like. It’s great, everyone’s really friendly; it’s great to come back.
How many NOVAs is this for you guys?
PETE: It’s my third, your…?
So to jump around a bit; you guys have put forth the Black Library line, getting young adults into the game, maybe increasing some of the diversity the line has for a larger fanbase, a new generation let’s say. How has that changed things when it comes to the development process you guys go through with the boxed games? Does it touch that side at all? Or does it stick with mainly the lore side, the fluff side?
PETE: So, you’re talking about Warhammer Adventures; it doesn’t really affect the core parts of the hobby. The target demographic there’s exactly the same, so we’re still focused on making that as possible. Adventures is a way of getting younger audiences invested in the world of Warhammer that’s appropriate for them.
And Adventures is a separate product line with a separate audience.
So would you think there’d be any way in the future [because of the Adventures line] you’d move away from hard-80s satire with the main line games?
PETE: [laughs and shakes his head no]
This question’s for you, Robin. When you’re designing a unit, how much are the rules impacted by the fluff or lore side of things?
ROBIN: The two are done hand-in-hand; it’s not the case that the background is written kind of separately. We always talk to the people who sculpt miniatures, who write the books — they only sit, you know, a meter or so behind me. We’re chatting all the time. We want to make sure that things that we come up with work well together; they are essentially just different lenses, different ways to look at the same kind of IP or whatever it is — character, unit. We want to make sure those things are telling the same story. You can’t do that in isolation.
Building on that, what’s the most interesting interaction you’ve had in your time spent as a designer between the rules and the fluff?
ROBIN: Good grief. It’s a long, long time now. I think one of the more interesting products was probably working on something like Adeptus Mechanicus. You’ve got Jes Goodwin who’s very passionate about designing miniatures, Phil Kelly who’s super passionate about wanting to write the best background for it, and I’m super passionate about trying to come up with the best guns and the best rules for that. And it was just this constant cycle of going, “Oh, I think you could do better, I think you could” — and we all needed the feedback from each other, we’re all like pushing each other to stay on the same page and elevate it and make it better. It was an interesting product just because I got to work with Jes and Phil. They’re two super guys.
Who’s your favorite faction to play?
ROBIN: To play? Well, I’m a Howling Griffons Space Marine player at heart and I have been for many moons. I love Space Marines; with the new Space Marine Codex, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be a Space Marine player. But I’ve got all sorts of armies I have; I’ve got Necrons, I’ve got Sisters of Battle — also a very exciting time — and a few other bits and bobs here. I also play Age of Sigmar a lot, and dabble in Specialist Games as well. It’s never just one thing, but at its core the thing I love and always will do is the Howling Griffons Space Marines.
PETE: Genestealer Cults. And recently I’ve been playing Stormcast Eternals in Age of Sigmar, but Ironjawz are probably where my heart really lies. I love Skavens – they’re my Underworlds warband right now. And I’m going to do the Unmade for Warcry. So I have about ten different favorites.
Speaking of the other games you guys mentioned, are there any games from the past you’d love to bring back?
PETE: There’s lots of games I’d like to see come back and the Specialist studio are kind of working on bringing [some of those] back. Mordheim or [Battlefleet] Gothic are ones that are often quoted at us when we’re over here. And I’m sure that they have plans for all of them; we just have to wait and see.
ROBIN: I think we get as excited as you guys when they bring out Aeronautica Imperialis or anything like that. It’s a different studio; we get little sneak peaks of what the guys are working on, but when it’s released we join in, just like you.
We at Goonhammer love the new Space Marine Chapter supplements. What prompted the team to bring those back from previous editions for the new release?
ROBIN: Ooh. We just really like doing very hard work.
ROBIN: It was an opportunity. Space Marines was the very first Codex to come out alongside the release of 8th Edition; the lore and the background of Space Marines is the richest we have, and there’s so many cool ideas that we’ve got for Raven Guard, for Ultramarines, for White Scars. But you just couldn’t get it all into one book. If you did it would be a weighty tome. So having a separate book to not do lip service to the White Scars and do it all properly, from a background point of view, from an art point of view, and from a rules point of view was quite an exciting opportunity. But being able to write all at the same time, from my point of view working on the rules for it, meant that we could make sure that it was a coherent offer, and that we weren’t doing it dribs and drabs. We could design it all up-front. We’ll have to wait and see what else is coming down the pipeline for it, but yes, apart from the whole game itself it’s probably the biggest project we’ve undertaken, doing the Codex Space Marines and its supplements.
…This isn’t a question, but I’ve been asked to pass along the following: “Please give whoever made the successor rules a raise, because they are the best.”
ROBIN: [points at Pete]
That was Pete?
PETE: Oh no, I didn’t do it. [indicates Robin] He did it, he’s asking me for a raise.
ROBIN: I agree. Thank you, thank you.
Let’s come back to NOVA to wrap it up. We already asked what the best part of attending NOVA was — obviously the dinosaurs — but what’s your take on the current state of 40K as you’ve seen it here? Was this what you had in mind when you wrote the 8th Edition rules?
ROBIN: So much has changed in just a few years since we wrote the latest edition. I’m not sure we wrote it out with ‘And This Is What The Meta Will Be;’ we didn’t know, that’s the very nature of it, and we’ve had so many releases and so many changes that it hasn’t ever really settled down. Having a look around the gaming tables and having a chat to people, it seems all the armies people are taking are very diverse; there doesn’t seem to be any one thing that stands out as being the hotness at the moment. Everything is kind of represented here, which tells me we’re doing a fairly good job. People seem happy; the feedback we’ve had is that the game is the best it’s ever been. It’s gratifying to see. We work in a studio; coming out and seeing however many hundred people playing on table is both humbling and cool. I don’t think we set out to do any one thing; we want it to be a cool, awesome game that people can build cool armies with and have fun with, and that seems to be exactly what we’re doing. How they’re doing it is very different from table to table, but everyone’s having fun, so: great.
PETE: It’s affirming that the narrative event is growing and is as well-represented as the main GT. The Kill Team’s had a really great attendance over the course of the weekend, as well as the Apocalypse game. Chuck and his team have been complaining of being too bored running the event; he isn’t actually having to do anything, which is great news. We started to play Warcry in the back as well, which was cool.
ROBIN: We’re the same with the judging in 40K. There are very few, very very very few, questions — we’re mostly there to help people keep on time, help them find their tables and their opponents and stuff. It’s a blast.