Today we have a special treat for you. A little while ago we played a test game of the Icarus Project (here) to see how we liked the rules. Overall we were very impressed and intend to keep an eye on all further developments from Icarus Miniatures going forward. Since we found the game so enjoyable Lorenzo and I thought it would be intresting to do our first Q&A for the Daily Dial with Anto the creator of the game. I have reached out to Anto from Icarus Miniatures to discuss his plans for the continuation of the Icarus Project line and how he plans to develop his game further. Click the jump to see our conversation.
G: What is your background in wargaming before starting Icarus Miniatures? Both in terms of games you have played and any other involvement in the industry?
Anto: I started as most gamers do, with Games Workshop products. My first exposure to the industry was via the Strategy Battle Games in Middle Earth LotR magazine by GW/Deongastini in 2002. My mum bought a copy for myself and a friend and I was immediately hooked. I loved the LotR films, so devoured everything in those magazines. After a couple of years I got into 40k which became my main game for the next decade.
From the writing side of things I had been writing stat lines, house rules, and scenarios and campaigns for years; but my first professional gig was editing the English version of the Kensei first edition rulebook by Zenit Miniatures. I’d been working as a freelancer copy writer/editor for a couple years and have had a bit of prose published in anthologies, so I approached Zenit and asked if they needed anyone. Luckily they said yes.
G: What inspired you to start working on the Icarus Project? What led to the formation of Icarus Miniatures?
Anto: I started writing my own rules set because my group of gaming friends and I had become tired of the games that we were playing. We found that we spent too much time in the rulebook during games, and that the games we were playing were needlessly complicated.
Someone mentioned in passing that we should make our own game as a joke one day and I decided to give it a go; and so the game that would become the Icarus Project was born.
G: How did you go about finding artists, sculptors and designers for the Icarus Project?
Anto: For artists I posted a job calling on an art site explaining the job, the universe, and the industry. I received over 400 individual applications, which was totally unexpected, and began whittling them down into potential candidates. The two primary artists we’ve ended up with do exceptional work, and each piece they do is better that the last!
As for sculptors, that was a little more difficult. The first sculptor we worked with did amazing work, but their communication was really not great. It took over 6 months from the first draft for us to get the final product in hand.
To find the sculptors we work with now it was a case of a lot of google searching for different phrases based around 3D sculptor until we found people we thought would work. Our current sculptors are great, and I can’t wait to see what they have for us next.
G: What led to the use of resin over all other materials? Will all further releases be done in resin or are there plans to switch to another material in the future?
The two main factors in choosing resin where cost and quality. For the manufacturing standpoint, metal is a little cheaper to produce than resin, but there are additional costs in postage because of the extra weight. You can also achieve finer details with resin and cleaning is easier.
The downside is that resin is more fragile, but I think the compound that Icarus Miniatures are made of stands up quite nicely to regular play.
G: What led to your decision to take the project to Kickstarter as opposed to more traditional methods of funding? What would you say was the most valuable lesson you learned after your experience with Kickstarter?
Anto: Kickstarter can be a great platform that allows smaller companies to get their product to market much sooner, and to a much wider audience, than traditional methods. It’s hard to sell someone on a new game when there are only a handful of minis available; you need a couple of factions to give people some choice.
The main thing I learned from our Kickstarter is that the platform is not what it was a few years ago. I think it’s much harder for smaller companies to kick-start their products on the platform now than it was in 2012. The platform has become so saturated that you really need a near-finished product to have any hope of succeeding in a meaningful way; which is sort of the opposite of the original goal of the site.
G: After the Kickstarter did not reach funding how difficult was it to continue with the project? Do you eventually intend to go back to Kickstarter?
Anto: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t heartbroken after the Kickstarter failed; how could I not be? There were a couple of weeks, at the end of the campaign and after, where I felt lost. But, I’d been working on the game for 2 years, and the universe for 5, so there was no way I was giving up.
With hindsight, the game just wasn’t ready to go to Kickstarter. The product range was non-existent, and there were a lot of things missing from the campaign. But launching the campaign when we did gave the Icarus community a shot in the arm and exposed us to a lot of people who had never seen us. That means there are more customers to buy the new minis when they come out, and help us build the range faster.
I do plan on going back to kickstarter eventually, but it will be a very different kind of campaign. I’d like to wait until there are 4 starter sets available before returning, offering people 4 faction choices right from the start. Doing this will mean the starting goal will be much lower, and I would also consider locking off pledges once a certain level is reached so that the fulfillment is manageable and people aren’t waiting years for their product.
G: What has been the most rewarding experience so far on your journey to bring the Icarus Project to the table?
Anto: There have been so many moments. Holding the finished Gabriel Cross in my hands for the first time was a seminal moment, and one that made the whole endeavour very real.
The most rewarding thing for me is probably the feedback from the community. I love getting messages from customers saying how much they enjoy their miniatures, or (in some cases) how Icarus Miniatures has even brought them back into the hobby all together. I like to know that we’re making people happy!
G: What would you say is the hallmark or major selling point of the Icarus Project? How do you plan to continue to develop this hallmark as production and testing of the rules continues?
Anto: For me, the hallmark of the Icarus Project is two things;
First – the rules are easy to learn, but then they just get out of the way. Anyone that’s played the game knows that pretty much in your first game you’re able to play the game without referring to the rules every two minutes. I like to say that you play the game, not play the rules.
The core rules are simple, and there’s nothing that’s complicated for the sake of complexity. So there are no needless tables for resolving shooting or combat, for example. All the information you need is in the stat line of your characters.
Secondly – the narrative aspect. I’ll go into more details about this below!
G: The tagline for the Icarus Project is “Narrative Wargaming”. How is this going to be achieved? What exactly does it mean? Can we expect a Campaign Book of some sort in the future?
Anto: So the goal for Narrative Wargaming is for every game, no matter who is playing or what the scenario is, to feel like a story. The way we achieve this is through the rules, and through the characters.
The rules have been designed with a cinematic experience in mind, so there are a lot of rules that make for cinematic, narrative, moments. A lot of this comes through the agility rules, and how characters can use them to move across the board in interesting ways, or how they can affect the character (for example; having a grenade explode next to a model and the resulting shock-wave push the model back out of a window to their death.)
On the character side, there’s a lot of named characters in the rules; some of them are powerhouses, but some of them are little more than regular troops. But their special abilities and equipment can totally change how your army plays.
There are a lot of opportunities for themed army lists in the Icarus Project, and building your Strike Force around a theme really helps set the narrative tone of your game.
Because the Icarus Project is a skirmish game, there are fewer models on the table, which means you can get more personally invested in them; something that our campaign system will really emphasize when it is eventually released.
G: The rules for Icarus Project are free to download on your site. How much feedback do you receive from players playing your game? Is there anything not yet in the rules that you intend to add that will drastically change the game?
Anto: The feedback from the community has been both amazing, and crucial. The people playing the game see things that I may have missed, or have views on mechanics that differ to my own.
There’s already been changes made based on community feedback, and there are units in the rules that have been inspired by community ideas too.
The basic rules are pretty solid now, and it’s unlikely there will be any real changes to the core mechanics now. New changes are going to come in the form of more advanced rules such as rules for special terrain, new equipment and special rules, and new characters and units.
G: Can you tell us a little about what lead you to the design of the various factions? Are there more factions waiting in the wings that have not been announced?
Anto: I began writing stories in what would become the Icarus Project universe in 2010, long before I decided to make a wargame in the universe, so the factions have existed for years.
The factions each adopt a particular primary playstyle: The Nexus are very aggressive and combat focused, the Praesidians are very quick, but fragile, the Ji’tar are very tough, but there are not many of them, and the Alliance are all-rounders.
There are currently six factions in the rulebook, and there are four more factions that will eventually come into the game (likely in expansions). The introduction of the new factions will be tied to specific narrative events in the game’s timeline, which will evolve with the game.
G: Once the Alliance and Nexus factions are released which faction do you think will receive models next?
Anto: 2016’s release schedule is to finish the Nexus starter set first, then return to finish off the Alliance starter set. I want there to be two starter sets, with 6-7 miniatures in each, which people can pick up in one box set before we move onto to new models.
After those two are finished, we’ll be moving on to release starter sets for the Ji’tar and Praesidians, based on community feedback on what people want to see. Once there’s a core set of miniatures for the first 4 factions, it will be time to head to kickstarter to expand the ranges, and if funding goes well, begin introducing the other 2 races.
G: What impresses me about the Icarus Project is how new characters are added fairly often. Who is your favorite character so far and why?
Anto: Character writing is my favourite thing to do on the background side of things. I love following a character through their life. I’m the kind of writer that believes the characters tell me the story, I don’t make the decisions, I just write it all down.
My favourite character to write so far has to be Charlie Bishop. Her story is so heartbreaking, it was a joy to uncover as I was writing.
Charlie is important because she’s also the first openly gay character in the background.
My main issue with the wargaming industry is how terrible it is for representation. If you’re not a straight, white man, there are very few characters to identify with, That’s something I want to change with the Icarus Project. I want a cast of characters as diverse as real life, with a mix of genders, ethnicities, and orientations. None of those things have a game-play impact, but they are very important in making sure the person controlling the army has characters that they identify with on the table.
G: Icarus Project recently added rules for bikes to the game. Are there plans to add more vehicles to the game? If so will these also be made from Resin?
Anto: Eventually I would like to add rules for some more light vehicles, but in such a small scale game, vehicles can really unbalance things, so they have to be added slowly and with caution. It’s more likely that vehicles will be mission specific and form part of the narrative for that particular scenario.
As for material, I’d imagine if we made other vehicles that they would be resin, but that depends on where the company is at in its development at the time.
G: Icarus Project is predominantly a skirmish game, are there any plans to release a more large scale mass battle game?
Anto: At the moment there are no solid plans, but it’s something I would love to do in the future. The main limiting factor for mass battle is the material. To do mass battle we would have to do hard plastic kits, and it will be a long time before we’re ready for that.
G: Where do you hope to take the Icarus Project in the coming weeks/months?
Anto: The next steps all revolve around releases. The Feral Nexus will be up next, and I’m hoping to have WIPs to show off in the next few weeks.
For the rules themselves, the next major addition will be an advanced terrain section that provides individual rules for a variety of scenery. Other than that, it will be adding more units and characters.
G: And finally if someone was considering trying to launch their own wargame what advice would you give them?
Anto: My main advice for anyone trying to make their own game is first and foremost; be sure that you want to do it. It’s a difficult process, and realistically not one that will make you rich. So if you’re not absolutely sure it’s what you want, and you’re willing to risk everything on it, do something else.
But once that’s out of the way, the best advice is to build your community early. I started sharing concept art and background months before sharing the rules, and nearly a year before the first miniature was released.
Making sure you get quality art and sculpts is also key. Good concept art isn’t cheap, and paying for quality sculpts is expensive, but in this crowded marketplace, you need world class art and sculpts to even be looked at.
Lastly, have fun! Anyone who runs their own business will tell you how hard it is, but we’re lucky enough to be in a very creative industry, so have fun with it!
The Daily Dial would like to thank Anto for taking the time to enlighten us a little more about his game. Hopefully you will find this interesting and if your curiosity is peaked you can find more information on the Icarus Miniatures website. As for us we are patiently awaiting more miniatures from Anto so we can put together another game and accompanying battle report soon.