War of the Nine Realms is a tactical skirmish style board game, set in the rich setting of norse mythology, but it did not start out that way...
At the end summer 2014, I was enjoying a fine Kentish ale in a beer garden when the phone rings.
I answer to find Graeme (a man that churns out great game ideas like a popcorn machine) excitingly saying "I've got an idea for a game!" and the rest is... well, I'll get to that.
There was a rumbling:
A few days before the above phone call, we had been discussing the price of games. Whilst most board games are well deserving of their price tags, miniatures games, due to their nature were very unlikely to make it into our *ever growing* game collections. This was highlighted when we played a starter box for a new miniatures game, it had just enough in it to get going and we had a loads of fun playing it! The rules allowed you to create a true city turf tussle amazingly well, but it soon became apparent, like with most *all?* miniature games, that we'd need to invest quite a bit more cash be able to build up the "armies" that would allow us to really get into what the game could offer.
A simple idea:
The phone call I mentioned previously went along the lines of...
"How about we make a miniatures game based on chess pieces? That way people can use any miniatures they like as long as it's obvious which one is the King, Rook etc..."
The conversation was inspiring, it's all I could think! Rooks would be the tanks, Bishops would be healers, Knights would be the muscle, Queens would be sorceress's, Kings would be badass (but also the crux) and Pawns would be the fodder. Give each army different abilities and you had a game that was easy to get into without the big miniatures expense!
It turned out creating mechanics that allow for a varied yet balanced combat system is not as straight forward as first imagined o.O For every ability we came up with for a unit, we had to ensure that it wasn't under / over powered, whilst making sure that each army had a unique style and was ultimately, fun to play.
The beginning - V1.0 - V1.6
Our first idea was very much a miniatures game. Rulers for movement and a to and fro dice combat system. The armies were fairly classic - Humans, Orcs, Dwarves, Undead etc and with help from the wonderful wordsmith Dominic McCarthy we fashioned a land for them to occupy with a rich history to tap into. We felt fairly good about what we had achieved, and being the visual thinker that I am, I took great lengths to make the prototype look interesting.
(Examples of early bishop characters and the range ruler, the character artwork was used as flavour and is not owned)
Originally each unit had it's own card that identified to a chess piece, it displayed you all you needed to know about that character - movement, attacks, abilities, defence, health etc. We were playing a lot of Call of Cthulhu at the time, so cards were a natural choice. It wasn't long before we got a group of friends together for some play testing. Boy what a learning curve! Overall the feedback was positive, but the gameplay was sluggish, somewhat overly complicated and very unbalanced.
As the saying goes; One step forwards, two steps back. Needless to say, we didn't give up. I felt we could make it work despite it's (now) obvious short comings, so I knuckled down to address the issues, rework the abilities, created an alternative unit system and ultimately, listened to what our play testers were saying. With each update the game became a little better, we felt the end was close, which is was in a way. We finally reached a point where we realised the game needed to change in order to get better.
And so finally, after some drastic overhauling, V2.0 appeared... to be continued.
Ani (my wonderful wife) and I were totally stoked when our friend Stuart Turner, asked us to be in one of his music videos.
• Firstly, Stuart Turner and the flat earth society are amazing, they played at our wedding - which went down a storm - and they have the most fantastic sound!
• Secondly, we'd never done anything like this before. Ani is used to performing on stage, but in front of a camera is completely different. It was all very exciting and the "crew" made the experience a joy
• Thirdly, it was our bumps first foray into the lime light! Yes, Ani was starting to show by this point, which meant certain scenes had to have careful consideration
Well.... not quite powered by laser, but certainly made with a laser
When I started a new role last summer, I was encouraged by my new boss to get to know the equipment I would be operating for the students come the new term. So when it came to the laser cutter, I had to think long and hard about what exercise I could do, that I could use to familiarise myself with this alien hardware.
With some appropriate (for a change) web surfing I came across someone that made an 8bit styled Violin, and thought to myself "That is freaking awesome!" So I got to work designing myself an 8bit Ukulele :D
I must stress that I have no prior knowledge of the inner wizardry of musical instruments, I just went with what I thought looked cool, and if it happened to make sounds that where not too painful, then I'd chalk it up as a win.
After a fair amount of initial head scratching, I ended up using a combination of 4mm & 6mm Ply, partly to keep is strong whilst light and partly because it looks cool ;) To keep it simple I didn't use any fancy joins (my first time using this tech remember) which meant the building process required many G clamps to hold pieces in place whilst the glue set.
Within the design I wanted to keep things as simple as possible, which meant coming up with a solution for the frets, which I got around by simply tilting each fret a few degrees (as Ukes are not high tension instruments, I thought this would be enough) the effect is really nice... at least, I think it is :)
The end result!
I am very proud of how it turned out... aesthetically at least :D Sound wise is another story. Sadly, the tension pegs I used are not sufficient enough to keep the strings in tune for more than a few minutes, but for a first time effort, I'm very pleased!
Here's Phil giving it a whirl, as you can tell, it's far from perfect, but still darn awesome :D
Some samples of a shoot for Jewellery designer, Nicola McLean, with Iona Levy as our model. Taken a while back now, but only just realised I never actually posted them. Quite enjoyed playing with the lighting on this shoot, far too often I get asked for the 'look book' effect, which whilst is nice, doesn't get me that excited. As ever, thanks for stopping by :)
A friend of mine from New London has started up his own brand called 'Trywork Trading Co' he's a talented artists and a keen pipe smoker - he's awesome. When he produced a T-shirt of a pipe smoking whale, I was keen to get myself one. After no pause he suggested a swap, I get one of his, if he could have one of mine, specifically my'He-Man' design.
So the transatlantic exchange went ahead, and just a short 2 weeks later it arrives, giving me an excuse (like I needed one) to jump infront of the camera for a self portrait... and I think my smile is really coming along, what do you think?