State of the Mongoose 2014
The State of the Mongoose is our yearly review of what has been happening behind the scenes at Mongoose, and a look ahead for our plans for the next twelve months. We have always tried to be as open with our fans as possible, and we know some of you are keen readers of this address!
You are welcome to make any comments or ask any questions regarding this address here on our forums.
Review of 2014
After the issues of 2013, we had a major change in the way we did business, and we started implementing a new approach to manufacturing games. This was instigated by the closure of our US-based facilities where miniatures were manufactured and our main warehouse was located.
From this point, miniatures games would effectively be designed for production by other companies, such as Judge Dredd produced by our friends at Warlord Games. Roleplaying games, for the greater part of this transition, would be ebook only but we were always looking for a partner who would be willing to print, sell and distribute our RPGs in a similar fashion to the arrangements we had for our miniatures games.
This would be a big change from the ‘do it all ourselves’ approach but it led to two main structural differences; first, it greatly reduced our monthly expenditure by an order of magnitude (at least) which in turn made Mongoose a far more stable company, able to weather the worst the global economy could throw at it. Second, these reduced infrastructure costs now meant the greater part of our expenditure could now be applied directly to the games we were producing – this meant more time could be spent on books, the best sculptors hired and production values (including artwork) could be placed front and centre.
A third difference was lower in priority but we knew it would leverage great benefits – in the past, we have traditionally gone to other companies (be they other games companies or big film studios) and paid them to produce games based on their material. Where possible, we would reverse this and engineer deals where other companies would come to us and pay for the privilege to use our material.
In all, it took us about 18 months to enact all these changes and the final pieces are still falling into place. However, it is all looking very good thus far.
As an aside, a variety of staff changes mean that, aside from myself, in 2014 Mongoose became an all female company. Which is nice for me.
Roleplaying Games 2014
We found a suitable partner to pass the production and distribution of our RPGs to in the latter half of 2014 – Studio 2 Publishing, under the leadership of Jim Searcy. Jim is very much one of the good guys in the RPG industry, as all the recommendations we received about him attested to. By going through Studio 2, we completely cut out any aspect of distribution and trade sales, greatly reducing our costs and administration overheads.
It also meant an end to our ebook only approach to RPGs – while ebooks are becoming ever more popular in this part of the hobby, we always knew revenue was being left on the table while we were not in the full printed market. Studio 2 fulfilled this completely and our books can now be found on the shelves of all good games stores, including many of those that were originally available only as ebooks.
The other big event for RPGs in 2014 was, of course, the Paranoia Kickstarter. It took us over a year to get the wheels turning on this one as all our ducks slowly waddled into a line, but it was clearly worth it – blowing way past the expectations of everyone involved. Well over 4,000 of you rallied to support this project which was somewhat humbling! More on Paranoia a little later but the success of this project meant we could take an approach to Paranoia that will ensure this is the best edition of the game yet.
Miniatures Games 2014
We continued with the release of new models for the Judge Dredd miniatures game (via Warlord Games) throughout 2014, culminating in the first supplement for the game, Blood on the Streets.
It was our intention to polish off the last models promised during the Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper Kickstarters, and came so very, very close to accomplishing that. We now have only a handful of sets to do for each range, and are looking to complete them around March-ish.
And yes, if we ever do another miniatures-based Kickstarter we will indeed be taking a very different approach…
Beyond that, all our work on miniatures games was behind the scenes as we worked on the development of new titles for Warlord and other companies.
Compared to 2012, where things looked a little bleak and 2013, where we started to rally, the end of 2014 sees Mongoose roaring out of the gate and much, much more confident. This will translate into better games, better books and better miniatures, with more support for all of them.
So, what will this mean for 2015 and beyond?
Via Studio 2, we are still in the process of releasing books in print that were previously only available as ebooks, with titles such as Cosmopolite, the career book covering Citizens and Scholars, being among the big hitters. However, we have not been idle during this period and we already have a number of new books waiting in the wings or just reaching completion.
For example, two new career books are currently being worked on, which was a nice surprise for us – after all, Cosmopolite marked the end of expansion for the careers in the core rulebook. Where could we go from there?
Well, first up is Pirate, a book that takes the core mechanics of the Pirates of Drinax campaign and opens them right up to any campaign. A full campaign system is included in this book allowing players to legitimately (?) do what many Traveller players really want to do during games anyway! This time round, though, the mechanics are there to support them, allowing players to create safe ports and build up contacts that will point the way to nice, fat traders, while the referee has all the tools he will need to set bounty hunters and Navy squadrons on their tails…
The next ‘career’ book that will appear is Alien, a title that allows players (and referees!) to create minor alien races from scratch as part of the character creation process. Whether you are after Narn or Klingon variants or want to create your own bizarre furry creatures from Alpha Centuri, Alien will be the book for you.
Speaking of the Pirates of Drinax, we have made an agreement with the writer, Gareth Hanrahan, to complete the entire campaign within the next few months. If you have not yet taken a look at the Pirates of Drinax, I implore you to now – as a gamer, I would say this is turning out to possibly be the very best campaign written for any RPG. It is an open sandbox campaign with a nicely defined main story arc that could be completed in maybe 6 months – or go on for years. We know of some groups that have played for a year and only gone through the first two adventures.
Best of all, Pirates of Drinax (like Secrets of the Ancients) is completely free for download, though once complete we will go back through it, do some revisions, and release it as a bona fide hardback.
You can also look forward to a brand new ‘ships’ book in the first quarter of 2015 and yes, we believe Droyne will appear in 2015!
Beyond all of this, there are some major projects being worked on for Traveller which, we hope, will prove to be major hammer blows for the game. Those of you who keep an eye on our Facebook page will have seen some experiments we have been doing in the presentation of deck plans (full 3D) but this is the merest tip of the iceberg in our plans. The overall aim is to vastly improve both the presentation and playability of Traveller, switching from doing 2-3 ebooks every month to producing one printed book every 2-3 months. This will be accompanied by a major change (and improvement!) to the artwork and graphical design of Traveller, the area we have received the most calls for change.
This will take most 2015 to accomplish, but you will see the first fruits of our endeavours in the summer – for many years we have had calls from Traveller fans to do an ‘intro to the Third Imperium’ book and this summer will see that book finally appear, presented as a tour across the Imperium, featuring many different worlds in a variety of sectors. Each stopover will allow us to burrow down into the way the Imperium functions, from the most vicious of smugglers to the highest of nobility (you will have a chance to attend a function in the Imperial Palace!)
The key development will be the presentation of this book, and we are aiming to make it truly special, whatever flavour of Traveller you currently enjoy. Written by Traveller-favourite Martin Dougherty, this (so far unnamed) Third Imperium introduction will be a full colour hardback, with gorgeous subsector and planetary maps, Imperial uniforms, merchant company ship colours and oodles of other material never yet seen – we are very much aiming for this book to be the best looking Traveller book released so far. We will then be aiming to beat it with every subsequent Traveller release.
The 2300AD setting is almost as popular as the Third Imperium and its fans are every bit as passionate about their space adventures as those who like to dwell in the Marches.
In 2014 we finally did what we should have done long before, and appointed Colin Dunn as the official Line Developer for 2300AD. This puts all the creative development for the setting under one hat and ensures continuity will remain firm.
You will have already seen the fruits of this as other writers started working directly with Colin, with the release of titles such as Libreville and the recently appeared Liberty, and a completely revised Bayern coming very soon now. We also finally got Ships of the French Arm out of the door which we believe is the very best Traveller ‘ships’ book we have released for any setting and is a glorious hardback full of 3D generated ships and their deck plans.
The final touches are being done to the Atlas of the French Arm, whereupon work will switch to the Chinese Arm with books appearing for that later in the year. Before they appear though, expect to see the Aerospace Engineer’s Handbook, a rules-based book that is jam-packed with all sorts of space ship design mechanics that really get into the detail of craft design in 2300AD.
In the 2013 State of the Mongoose, we mentioned three new settings for Traveller – the Wild West, In Articulo Mortis and an as yet unnamed Steampunk/Mechs/Bioshock/Darkest Africa blend. These are still all very much in the works but looking at what else is happening with Traveller it will be the bottom end of 2015 at best before you see any of them and a 2016 release is not out of the question. We’ll keep you up to speed with them, however, and release previews (likely on Facebook) as we go.
Traveller continues to suck a great deal of our RPG design time away from Legend, but we recognise how popular this system has become and are rallying the troops to support it properly.
To our great joy, a lot of the titles that had been ebook only for Legend have now appeared in print, including Elementalism and Citadel Beyond the North Wind. As I type this, Deus Vult is having the rulebooks and all major supplements printed, and Sheoloth has just appeared in print.
In 2015, Sheoloth will be getting more printed support, as will Deus Vult, a favourite setting of ours. I had intended to do the Witch Hunter’s Training Guide in 2014, opening the setting up to a new style of play, but with everything else going on I may have to hand this to another writer. Beyond that, I would very much like to see an Inquisitor’s Training Guide, but one thing at a time.
For the core line, we have a number of titles in the works, including Arms of Legend II, providing more equipment choices for campaigns which will, of course, be released as completely Open Content. A similar book suited to Deus Vult is also planned.
In the last State of the Mongoose, I mentioned that something big was on the horizon for Paranoia, and now it is fairly obvious that was the new edition, spearheaded by games design supreme, James Wallis.
From the start, we wanted to take a new approach to Paranoia, focussing on what makes Paranoia great rather than bending the ‘normal’ RPG design process to the setting – and the first reports we are getting from the playtest pack received by the Kickstarter backers all point to us getting it right!
The new game cuts through the rules bloat that developed in previous editions and presents a core that is aimed at getting to play quickly, with the emphasis on fun, relegating a lot of what was previously presented as long tables by card decks. Need a funky new item from R&D? Draw from the equipment deck. Want to quickly dish out mutant powers to the players? Got a card deck for that. And so on.
However, the cards themselves are only used as play aids, either presenting rules in a quick to reference fashion or allowing players to keep certain things hidden (by keeping cards face down) during play. The original RPG style of play is still very much there, just quicker, easier and with more doubleplus mandatory fun!
All of our efforts for Paranoia are now going into getting the box set designed and produced, with James and his team handling the rules design while here at Mongoose we are busy beavering away on the art and graphical design. We project the Kickstarter backers will be getting their box sets and additional materials around June-ish (if not before, all going well), with a retail release in the summer.
This will be quickly followed by the first supplements, of which the lucky Kickstarter backers will already have in their hands, starting with the GM’s screen (with its very special – and no doubt ‘helpful’ – players side) and the Mutant Explosion expansion deck. The Kickstarter also funded other card decks and new adventures, which will all eventually find their place on retail shelves, and talk has already begun on a brand new Paranoia expansion box set which, if the green light is given, will give many, many new ways to tease, tickle and torment players.
More on that at a later date…
The big news, however, is that after the summer retail release, Paranoia will be grown into a fully supported line. Should be easy on your wallet too!
Judge Dredd Miniatures Game
The recent release of Blood on the Streets introduced some brand new forces to the game, including the Judda and Klegg Invasion Force (a personal favourite!) which have also been released. The ABC Warriors will be joining them in the first quarter of next year, followed by the biker gangs (a street gang, apes, zombies and robots, all on bikes!), and a Brit-Cit Justice Department set which will be accompanied with a separate Brit-Cit Judge on bike release.
Beyond that, you will also see a Hondo-Cit Judge force, Eldsters and proper Mobster and Zombie Horde sets. There are also a slew of new single miniatures on the way, such as Max Normal (already previewed on Facebook), Dog Vultures, Med and Tek Judges on modified Lawmasters, Troggies, Treasure Steel and oodles more!
A great deal of focus, however, will be put upon the vehicles of Mega-City One. The Manta has just started full production at Warlord and in the first two quarters will be joined by the Pat Wagons (four variants – standard, riot, fire and grav), the Ground Car and the (frankly massive!) Mo-Pad. These, with the four biker gangs, will really get the Judge Dredd miniatures game on the road. And yes, we are looking into ways of providing you with real MC-1 roads for your tabletop! All going well, this will culminate with Death on the Megway, the second supplement for the game, which is slated to be released at the bottom end of 2015. This will include really funky rules for using vehicles at 200+ mph, as well as tying up all the rules for the models released in 2015.
Also expect to see the Rogue Trooper range formerly released in 2015, soon after the Kickstarter backers have received their armies.
Victory at Sea
We have been saying for a couple of years now that big things are in the pipeline for Victory at Sea – 2015 is the year all those plans finally become reality!
The current edition of Victory at Sea went out of print just before Christmas. It will not be coming back.
Instead, September of 2015 will see the release of the full colour hardback Victory at Sea 2.0, in conjunction with Warlord Games. This book and its range of miniatures have been at every stage designed to be the best possible World War II naval wargaming experience. The rules themselves have been in continual playtest for more than three years now and have been rigorously reviewed by our team of Official Naval Boffins, headed by one David Manley, a name that should be very familiar in naval wargaming circles.
The rulebook itself will contain all variants and refits of all warships of all the major naval powers (for reasons of space we have had to drop, for example, the Soviet fleet list, but it will reappear in the future), along with all the rules needed to cover night fighting, bad weather, the use of radar, sub-hunting and coastal invasions (the latter two of which are effectively sub-games using the Victory at Sea mechanics).
This magnificent rulebook will be accompanied by a full and diverse miniatures range. If you have been watching the Victory at Sea range develop, you have already seen the exquisite detail we have put into these 3D-designed 1/1800 scale ships, with vessels such as the Tirpitz and Nelson being some of the finest.
Our intention is to release 1/1800 miniatures of just about everything that ever floated or flew in World War II, and we have already produced aircraft, submarines and motor torpedo boats. These will be joined by every warship we can get hold of deck plans for (we import deck plans directly into our 3D software and build up the models from there to ensure the greatest level of accuracy possible) as well as landing craft, coastal batteries, coast invasion targets, harbour pieces and much, much more.
That will all take time – several years, we are projecting! However, right from the release of the core book there will be complete fleet sets available, allowing you to get straight into the action.
This release of Victory at Sea is a very, very big deal for us. A lot of man (and woman!) years have already been put into its development and our partnership with Warlord Games to bring this new edition to you probably makes this the largest miniatures project we have done yet, bar none.
However, it does not stop there…
Last year saw the release of the Victory at Sea video game on the PC, courtesy of our friends at Evil Twin Artworks. It took about two years to get this particular ball rolling and everyone involved thought it would be an interesting game for a niche market with some potential. The game ended up being far more popular than any of us guessed!
While not exactly Call of Duty (though for a short while it beat sales of Skyrim on Steam!), Victory at Sea began to garner a lot of interest and a retail released is set for early this year, the artwork for which we previewed on our Facebook page, along with release on mobile platforms (both Android and iOS). Then it went and won the Tiga Award for its category!
All of this means you can expect to see a lot more of Victory at Sea on your computer (and phone/tablet!) screen. The WWII version is undergoing continual development, with a whole bunch of new features already added since launch. Meanwhile, we are already discussing new games covering different periods.
New Eras for Victory at Sea
We are now in a funny situation where computer games are driving tabletop games, rather than merely being developed from them. Simply put, before a computerised version of Victory at Sea can be released, we have to do the tabletop version.
The first to appear are likely Victory at Sea: Ironclad (covering the American Civil War and, likely, related eras) and Victory at Sea: Age of Dreadnoughts (WWI, updated to the new Victory at Sea 2.0 mechanics). And for those of you familiar with David Manley’s works there is a chance, no promises, of Victory at Sea: Cod Wars appearing!
In each of these cases, Mongoose will produce the rulebook which will likely first appear as an ebook edition. The computer game will be based on this and, as time and production allows, Warlord Games will later release an updated hardback edition with a full range of ships.
That is the plan, at any rate; Mongoose, Warlord and Evil Twin are all dedicated to make Victory at Sea a comprehensive platform that will cover all eras of naval wargaming, from Ancients to Modern and everything in between. This is not a plan for 2015 by any means – it is a plan for the next decade and beyond.
However, we are well on the way. The World War II edition of Victory at Sea is paving the way, and we are already at an advanced state with Ironclad (the core rules are all done and playtested, as has at least half the Union fleet), and we even have 3D models of the Monitor and Virginia complete.
If you have any interest in naval wargaming, keep an eye on this space – big things are happening. If you have not tried naval wargaming yet, then we would beg you to take a look and allow us to prove that rolling dice and watching the Bismarck disappear beneath the waves is at least as cool as blowing away space marines with plasma fire!
Partnership with Victrix
We mentioned in the last State of the Mongoose that we had been talking to several other companies with regards to designing new miniatures games. Principal among these was Victrix, a company whose miniatures I have personally been collecting and painting for a few years now.
What caught our eye was their announcement of a new range of 1/100 scale WWII aircraft with adjustable flight stands.
This was just what we had been waiting for someone to do.
Way, way back in Mongoose’s past, we had pre-painted ultramodern miniatures game called Battlefield Evolution (which has since been developed into, among other things, the Judge Dredd miniatures game). What we never told anyone was that we had also developed Battlefield Evolution 3D, a WWII game that used plastic aircraft on, yes you have guessed it, adjustable flight stands.
A confession first. I am a complete prophead. As a child, I drooled over every book on aircraft I could get my hands on. I played just about every flight simulator ever released for hour upon hour. When I was older, I took flying lessons on real aircraft. When I could not fly for real, I was heavily into radio-controlled aircraft (recently picked up a twin-engine A-26 Invader!). And my Airfix collection could sink a full-size carrier.
In short, I know more about aviation than I do about Star Wars. And that is saying something.
When it came to the tabletop, however, despite playing just about everything released, I never found anything that properly represented dogfights. The mechanics had to be simple and, most importantly, fast. You had to be able to move and attack with a plane in seconds, and anyone passing the table should be able to see the aircraft climbing and turning, watching the dogfight unfold between them.
Now, for all sorts of reasons, we had issues with production and, especially, the design of the flight stands. To hear someone had cracked that side of the problem was interesting to say the release…
So, we dropped a quick line to Victrix to see if they had any desire to see a well-produced full colour hardback rulebook to support these new models. And that is where the avalanche started.
It turned out that the guys at Victrix were interested in producing games for all their miniatures lines…
Warriors of Antiquity
By this time, the Victrix aircraft, while announced, were still some ways from actual release (the first have just come out!). However, they had plenty of other miniatures lines that needed supporting.
So, planned for a grand launch at Salute in 2015 is Warriors of Antiquity: Warbands of the Ancient World.
The original design brief for this game was to take the current Judge Dredd rules (themselves a development of Starship Troopers and Battlefield Evolution) and turn them into a set of rules based in the Ancient world.
As it turns out, the saying that a plan never survives contact with the enemy was apt here.
Victrix was not after a set of mass battle rules for Ancients line. Rather, they wanted a focus on small scale skirmishes – the countless battles that took place throughout history but were never reported. All those fights along the border, the cattle raids, ambushes and sneak attacks.
However, as we worked on Warriors of Antiquity, pretty much throughout 2014, the setting started having an impact on the mechanics (as it always does) to the extent that while its roots in the Battlefield Evolution rules are still recognisable (four action system, traits and Talents, for example) it plays very differently, with more of an emphasis on heroes leading small units (5-30 models in size).
The real joy for me is that we have succeeded in having more models on the table than in Judge Dredd (a starting warband has about 40-50 models, depending on what you take) but an average game between players who know the rules still takes about 20-30 minutes. With the full campaign system included in the rulebook, this means you can get several games done during an evening and watch your warband grow and your heroes develop!
If you have any interest in the Ancient world, this is one to watch our for. The rulebook is a glorious full colour hardback which contains more than 30 different scenarios (many designed for specific warbands, so they will fight on the tabletop as they did in history) and a wide choice of warbands, from the Athenians, Spartans and Thebans, to Republican Rome, Carthage and the ‘barbarian tribes’ (separate warband lists are provided for Britons, Gauls, the Germanic tribes and Iberians).
Warriors of Antiquity will continue to be supported as Victrix release more of their miniatures, and we hope to have a free PDF available bringing an entirely new (but very familiar!) warband to the game soon after launch!
More Games From Victrix
I mentioned that WWII dogfighting game earlier – this is Fight for the Skies, currently scheduled for a summer release when a few more aircraft have appeared. We have already taken the old Battlefield Evolution 3D rules and updated them to be a more modern design that utilises the specific design of Victrix’s flight stands and have been engaging in some furious dogfights in the office! We are now working on rules for bombers, ground attack, aces and campaigns to make this a fully-fledged game.
With a release date yet to be set, we are also due to start work on March of Eagles, a Napoleonics-based battle level game that will get you playing with potentially huge armies yet doing so with very quick and easy to learn rules. More news on this as it develops.
There are also several long-ranged projects that we have been discussing with Victrix but they are not realistic for 2015 and, as it stands, we have enough to be getting on with on this front!
It is the nature of the beast, but there are some things that have been left out of this State of the Mongoose, mostly due to a lack of firm ground or the need to get several ducks properly in line before we can move ahead. There is much that has been left unsaid about Traveller, certainly, and we could fill an entire address with all the plans, large and small, we have for this game. Traveller remains very firmly as one of our most favourite of games, and you can be sure we will be ploughing much of our time, energy and (above all) passion into this one.
Beyond that, we have the manuscript of a novel based on one of our properties on the desk of a major US publisher right now – maybe something will come of that, maybe it won’t. Last year we produced a TV pilot script based on one of our games. I really don’t think anything will come of that, but you never know!
We are also courting a proposal for a new computer game that is not based on Victory at Sea, one that has some serious names behind it, a seven-figure development budget and a direct targeting of both PC and consoles. Putting my finger in the air, I do think something will come of this, but I also believe it will be a couple of years at best before anything solid can be presented. It is in the nature of these things to take time.
2015 and Beyond
The past couple of years have not been the most awesome in Mongoose’s history, it has to be admitted, but 2014 saw a real turnaround and we are fairly exploding into 2015, eager, willing, and full of energy to produce the best games we can. Everyone at Mongoose has rededicated themselves to raising the bar in terms of both development and production quality for all our games, across the board.
As always seems to be the case, some of these new directions will take a year or more to bear fruit. Others you will see fairly quickly. However, we have a new development and scheduling system in place and will be in a position to provide you with a lot more feedback on what is happening and when behind the scenes.
So, as we head into a new year, it just remains for me to thank each and every one of our fans. Your faith and support has sustained us through the years of global recession, and we are looking forward to providing you with some of the best gaming experiences possible in 2015, both in roleplaying and miniatures games.
See you all at the gaming table!