State of the Mongoose 2013
We have been crazy, crazy busy over the past few months, and this State of the Mongoose is much delayed. For that I apologise – I was considering skipping it altogether, but I seem to get an email or Facebook message every other day asking for it. Always happy to oblige, this is going to be a somewhat cut-down State of the Mongoose, rather than the usual 10,000+ word epic, but it will at least give you all a sense of what we have been doing and where we are going.
2013 Review (Abbreviated Version)
We had a number of issues in 2013, the biggest of which was that our warehouse and casting facility in Ohio had developed a number of systemic problems that resisted solution over the years. The sheer weight of the Judge Dredd Kickstarter, though managed in the initial months, ended up breaking the processes in place completely. In the end, we were faced with the choice of pouring (more) money in to solve the problem, or closing the place down.
This decision was aided by a change in the way we went about producing miniatures. We had already reached an agreement with the good chaps at Amarillo Design Bureau to pass manufacturing and sale of the A Call to Arms: Star Fleet game and models on to them, leaving us with the design of the miniatures. This, added to a very similar arrangement with Warlord Games for the Judge Dredd range whereby we designed game and miniatures while they handle manufacture and distribution, meant the only miniatures line we had left to produce ourselves was the barely started Victory at Sea range – and that simply was not enough to justify keeping an entire warehouse open.
Not that this did not create problems. The first and most powerful impact was upon the two Kickstarters we had run just a little earlier, for Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper. Moving to third parties for manufacture meant an increase in production costs that blew past the ‘buffer’ zone we had factored in for issues and emergencies, which in turn had an impact on the rest of the company as a proportion of the Kickstarter production now had to be funded from other areas.
Added to that, we had to include the truly monumental task of shipping the manufacture of a large and growing range of Dredd models from the US to the UK – in this, I cannot thank the chaps at Warlord enough, who went way beyond the call of duty to get everything ready as quickly as possible, under conditions and deadlines that were less than ideal.
All of this meant heavy delays on the Kickstarters, especially on Rogue Trooper. We apologise profusely to the backers for that – we did not foresee the circumstances that arose within production after the Kickstarters were complete, and it has taken us quite some time to get everything back under control. We are now just about there, with a great deal of Dredd models flowing out of Warlord’s production facility (as I type, another batch has just arrived), and Rogue Trooper now beginning to follow.
Then there were our RPGs, Traveller and Legend. Without a permanent base in the US, full distribution became more difficult and, for a while, we pulled out of general distribution altogether. That is why, in the US especially, you may have seen less of our books in your local stores of late.
However, we are working with another third party who already have an extensive distribution network set up, and hope to have some good news for you in the next couple of months or so.
With a concentration on design rather than production and, for a few months, digital rather than printed books, we were able to make a great many changes within Mongoose and the way we do things. Sadly, this meant the loss of some staff as our requirements for administration disappeared almost overnight (it seemed), and I made the decision to come back fully into game development, rather than just maintaining oversight of it.
As a company, we are now lean, mean and hungry – it feels like a return to the ‘old’ days!
Anyway, that was 2013. You will all now be wanting to know what is happening in 2014 for your favourite games…
Here at Mongoose, we have a real passion for Traveller. In our regular office games, we normally take pains to play games from other publishers but since Traveller was released, this has been exceedingly difficult as it often gets the vote for a new campaign!
Regrettably, the issues with the US operations did divert our attention away from Traveller a little, but we are just going through a round of commissions for new title, and I made the decision to weigh in with a new book myself, the first RPG book I have designed from start to finish for a good few years – and I am rather enjoying it!
There are actually all sorts of exciting things happening in the wider Traveller universe, but we’ll be letting Mr Miller make those announcements as they become ready. For our part, you can expect to see the following this year and early next, but we are still in the process of commissioning so expect a few surprises along the way!
Alien Modules: Droyne is still in the process of being written, so don’t panic – it has not been forgotten! While we have not yet commissioned Hivers or K’kree, we have a fairly definite plan of how to handle/portray the latter and we are going to make the herbivores seriously cool to play…
Minor Alien Modules: Suerrat is being written right now and while others have not been commissioned yet, we are always on the look out to expand this PDF series. Once we get a few in our pocket, it is likely we will release a printed compilation.
Mercenary Second Edition: About two-thirds written thus far, this is a complete re-write of the previous book. I was never really happy with the first edition and the general consensus from Traveller fans is that it is the weakest of the core books. The new edition is going to change that, with a more focussed approach to mercenaries and mercenary campaigns, rather than a general ‘military’ supplement. We have been previewing this on Planet Mongoose, so please dive in and make comments!
Space Stations: Though we skipped the numbering on this supplement with subsequent releases, we have not forgotten it! Space Stations is going through final design and layout right now, and will be appearing first as a PDF release later in April or May.
Citizen/Scholar: Likely not the final title of this book, but towards the bottom end of the year citizens and scholars will finally get their career book. It has taken us a while to get to them, but we believe we have finally got a premise for players to get the most out of these characters.
Pirates: A cross between a campaign and career book, this does for pirates what Mercenary Second edition will do for mercs – allow players to create pirate characters (or go pirate with existing characters) and give the referee enough tools to run an extended campaign quickly and easily.
Wild West: We have for some time been looking at ways to expand Traveller to other eras and settings. We experimented with the PDF-only release of Cowboys vs. Xenomorphs, and have finally commissioned a full Wild West book. Expect to see familiar Traveller character creation, patrons and ‘trading’ rules, all adapted for exploring the frontier…
Steampunk/Mechs/Bioshock/Darkest Africa: As you may have worked out, this one has not got a name yet, but writing has already started on a Steampunk-style setting for Traveller, with a few other added components for good measure. We’ll be previewing this one throughout the year.
In Articulo Mortis: Another new setting, this one is slightly more traditional in that it is set among the stars and uses many of the ‘standard’ Traveller tropes. However, it does have an awful lot of zombies in it, plenty of dead worlds and a bunch of religious nutters who currently hold the balance of power over many systems. The players will be stuck between all three. We were planning for this to be a release fairly early this year, but the new Mercenary has grabbed my attention for now. Hope to get back to this very soon, as I think it will be a cracker.
2300AD: We are starting to ramp up proper support on this line, with Ships of the French Arm in art and layout right now, with more French Arm material already being written – and then we will be taking a trip to the Chinese Arm! We have also recently commissioned a brand new re-visiting of Bayern, so long-term 2300AD fans will be keeping an eye out for that.
Epic Campaigns: Albeit slower than originally planned, the Pirates of Drinax (by Gareth Hanrahan, for my money one of the best campaigns written for any RPG, ever – and it is free to download!) continues and we are already looking at the next epic campaign, a possible prequel to Secrets of the Ancients. We are also looking at a campaign, released in quarterly episodes, designed specifically for conventions and demo teams. More news on that a little later this year. Finally, to join the Adventure books, and very much in the style of Beltstrike, we have a campaign based around the recently released Rescue Ops Special Supplement, so if you ever fancied playing a Thunderbirds-style set of games, we will have you covered!
We have oodles more in the pipeline for Traveller (I have not even mentioned the Caribbean Pirates setting book…) so sit back, and enjoy your travels among the stars.
Here is to many, many more years of Traveller-goodness!
Given how many years the comic strip has been going, we have enough source material for new models and ways of playing the Judge Dredd miniatures game for eternity! We still need to polish off deliveries for the Kickstarter backers (the end is in sight though – with the packages going out this month, we will just have the ABC Warriors, biker gangs, Judda and Nero/Assassinator Droids to do for the full sets), and we need to get the vehicles into proper, full production. The latter include the Manta Prowl Tank, which will finally go on general release this Summer, the Pat Wagon (and its variants), Banshee Interceptor, ground car and Mopad (complete with open-top swimming pool!). We also need to gather some more regular sculptors together for the range, as our current sculptors are now splitting their time between Dredd and Rogue Trooper.
That said, we have managed to squeeze in the odd new model and already sculpted and hitting the moulds, among other things, are the Long Walk Judge, Acc-Div Judge, Cadet on a Lawmaster and a new Combat Droid. For full sets, aside from the Kickstarter models listed above, expect to see this year a full Brit-Cit force, Hondo City Judges and, a personal wish of mine, Crocks/Eldsters, ready to teach the young punks of their block a good lesson!
We are also continuing to work on famous characters from the comic strip (all of which will be useable in your games, as usual), such as PJ Maybe, Call-Me-Kenneth, Red Razors, Treasure Steel, Devlin Waugh and many others!
Rogue Trooper has taken the brunt of the delays involved in closing down our US operations, but we have finally started working properly on the models. Already done (and just going through a few tweaks as I type) are the three new Rogues, which should be shipping out to backers in just a few weeks. Work has already started on the Nort and Souther squads, and we look to be on course to tie up the Kickstarter range by Autumn.
Traveller has sucked a great deal of our RPG design time away from Legend, but we are striving to bring continual new releases to the many, many fans this game has. Recently we released a new ‘magic book’ in the form of Elementalism, and this is a line I would like to see greatly extended, with GMs and players using the ‘plug and play’ mature of these books to introduce variant magic systems into their game.
We also re-released the Dark Elf setting of Sheoloth for Legend, and made it a much grimmer and darker place than before (as a city, it is thoroughly nasty…). Darren Pearce has already written the first Cults book for this setting, and he is beavering away on more supplements right now.
Deus Vult is another setting close to my heart, and the new ‘digest’ format fits it perfectly. It has had a veritable salvo of adventures added to it, and you can expect to see not only a full sourcebook on the city of Rouen this year (likely around June), but also a new direction to take campaigns, with the Witch Hunter Training Guide…
We have been saying for a while now that Paranoia is on a temporary rest and that something big and new and exciting is about to appear. We are currently running a few months behind on this, our apologies, but we are carefully getting all the right people and components into position.
Please continue to be patient, I promise it will be worth it. This is going to be a good ‘un…
Victory at Sea
We have some big, big plans for Victory at Sea, but are also very much aware we are in a chicken and egg situation with the line in many ways. Everyone knows about the Victory at Sea 2.0 rulebook that is currently in development, and everybody tells us they want to see both that and a large range of models released before they start taking it to heart.
We can appreciate that. We’re gamers too.
First the rulebook. The core rules are all done. A decent majority of the fleet lists are complete. Playtesting has been going on, continuously, every week, for more than two years now. Our Official Naval Boffins have been scrutinising every word for historical accuracy. We have even started laying the book out.
And it currently looks like it will be a 400+ page tome. Hardback, full colour throughout, something you would be happy to have on your coffee table as much as your gaming table.
As things stand, we have not made the final decision yet as to whether it will be kept in one volume or, indeed, whether we will publish it or if it will pass to another company, perhaps with the ship models too. All rather academic anyway, as the book still ain’t finished. We need to fill out the fleet lists (and playtest the new entries), add more historical background material, and add way more scenarios.
As we have been telling everyone at shows, this book will be done when it is ready!
The new range of 1/1800 scale ship models we have been releasing, on the other hand, is going strong on the design front – we now have more than 150 different ships modelled in 3D, just waiting for rapid prototyping and production.
Up to now, we have been trickling these models out, and they have only been available at shows or via our own web site’s mail order. At some point, we are going to throw the switch on this range and put it into full distribution – but, of course, we cannot do that until the rulebook is ready and, well, I think you see the problem.
So, the good news is that Victory at Sea is coming on very nicely. The bad news is that we don’t have a schedule set yet. Expect to see more solid news for this line in a few months.
Oh, there is one more thing – Mr David Manley (all you nautical coves should already know this gentleman!) sent us his rules for Ironclads, a set of Victory at Sea-based rules for the American Civil War and related eras. We have found time to update these rules to 2.0 spec, and have started laying out and playtesting this book as well. It may only be a PDF release (again, no decision made there yet), but there is a rumour going round the office that Sandrine has already designed a 1/600 scale Monitor and Virginia…
As a company, I am rather taken with the idea of Mongoose dropping much of the sales and manufacturing it has done in the past (a hard truth is that neither have been our strengths), and concentrating on design, be it miniatures or games (they may or may not be to your own tastes, but we rarely get complaints about the actual games we do – doing good games is very much our strength). Recently, we have been working hard at raising the bar in the rulebooks we produce both in terms of graphical quality (we would quite happily stand the new Judge Dredd rulebook alongside anything else in the market at the moment) and games design (some of the new Traveller books in the works really are very, very good).
This is all in the early stages at the moment, and we still have to gauge how our working relationships with Amarillo Design Bureau (Star Fleet) and Warlord (Dredd) develop. It is possible that we will get to the end of 2014 and discover this is not the road for the future. But, as things stand, things are looking optimistic. We keep an open mind.
To this end, we have been reaching out to several manufacturers with the line ‘hey, you do great stuff – let us do a game for you.’ Again, the response thus far has been positive and we hope to make some agreements over the next few months that we hope will get many of you excited (we certainly are!). Some of these projects may seem a little leftfield for us, such as games rooted solidly in the historical sector – but many of these games are things we have been dying to do over the years; Mongoose just never seemed to have time to attend to their manufacture and, in any case, we tended to shy away from them because Company X had already started producing a range of models we thought were first class anyway.
This method sees the best of both worlds, with us getting to play with other people’s models while getting to write books about them.
I might fairly describe that as heaven, but you might think me rather strange.
We have also taken on some miniatures 3D design work for other manufacturers, starting with a few new designs for 15mm Hammers Slammers, allowing our 3D Designer (Sandrine) to stretch her legs on more than just robots for Dredd and battleships for Victory at Sea.
2014 and Beyond
2013 was a fairly rough year for us in more ways than one but, as a wise man once said, what is important to remember the most is that we are still here! Not being a manufacturer proper is a fundamental shift for us but, at the same time, Mongoose has reinvented itself over the years as the market shifts and changes, and I would hope we can continue to keep up.
Personally, I am looking forward to getting our teeth into lines both old and new, and producing the best games we have released yet.
Exciting times are ahead.