Greetings folks! today I have a little something special, especially if you went to Salute. I have managed to convince Dave from Hawk Wagames to take the time from his manic schedule to answer some questions for me about his new company and upcoming wargame Dropship Commander! His salute stand caused a heck of a stir being the most consistently busy stand! Even Forgeworld died down eventually, once they’d sold out anyway. So without any further prattling…
1. You caused quite a stir at Salute! For those that could not make it please tell all the folks a bit about yourself and your company.
Dave: Hawk Wargames is a brand new company, with the simple aim of producing the finest quality miniatures and games. I’ve pretty much dedicated the last two and a half years of my life to the pursuit of this goal (I’ve seen rather too many 2am’s for anyone’s taste so far!) My ethos is to always work a little beyond the limits of my ability, and to never cut corners. As such I’ve always tried to go the extra mile and to choose the best processes at every stage.
My first taste of miniatures design was as the main sculptor/ designer at Spartan Games in its early years. I designed all the original ships, and most of the new releases up until the Shroud Mages and the Elves (my last two fleets). My time at university also gave me hands on experience at the forefront of rapid manufacturing technology, knowledge I built upon with this project.
Dropzone Commander started with a desire to develop something I could entirely call my own. At the time I decided to take the plunge, I’d just left university and had a lot of options. Figuring that this was likely to be the only chance I’d get to do something like this, I grabbed the opportunity!
2. So far as anyone can tell, you came out of nowhere! The Dropzone Commander stand being one of the consistantly difficult to reach. Were you surprised by the reaction?
Dave: It was a truly intense day at Salute, and one I’ll never forget! After years of working in virtual isolation it was thrilling (if a little overwhelming!) to finally see peoples’ reactions to what I’d created. I’m not sure what I’d expected to be honest, but the level of interest and passion totally blew me away! I went through the whole day on pure adrenaline I think. My team worked their hearts out too, without them I’d have been completely swamped!
3. Tell us about the concept behind Dropzone Commander, the way the game is likely to play, rules, dice used etc.
Dave: Dropzone Commander is an alternate activation based 10mm scale sci-fi game designed for large battles (although it can easily be scaled from titanic clashes to small skirmishes). It primarily uses D6′s, although a few cards will also be involved to inject additional flavour.
The whole project has been built around the central theme/ concept of air mobile forces. Often, speed, rapid reaction and flexibility will bring you victory. While you can play a simple ‘fight to the death’, the game will work best with scenario based gameplay. Tactical operations in modern warfare is rarely a simple battle of attrition.
An example I like to use is a Blackhawk Down/ Battle of Mogadishu situation. Perhaps you need to capture VIP’s from multiple locations, and extract them safely from the combat zone – you might not even have a friendly table edge!
The rules have been written, but are still in the playtesting phase, so this might change a bit. However, we are always working with this goal/ flavour in mind.
4. Why scale it at 10mm?
Dave: A lot people have been asking this, and it’s nice to get the chance to answer this question. There’s a whole set of reasons:
A) The project started with the concept of air mobility. I wanted to give gamers something fresh (very hard to do in the world of Sci-fi, which can be quite ubiquitous). As such, the entire game as well as its models were designed around this central tenet. That way the whole thing could stay pure to its ideal.
In 6mm, the miniatures would have frequently been too small and fiddly to achieve the designs I had in mind for such a game. 15mm scale would certainly have given me that freedom, but would have made the game too unwieldy to play. 15mm scale works fantastically for WWII games, where the largest unit you’re likely to field is a King Tiger Tank, and games tend to revolve around infantry actions, supported by armour. However, DzC is far more focused on vehicles, many of which are very large (e.g. heavy dropships able to deliver nine main battle tanks to the fray!) These would have been very big in 15mm, making the fielding of groups of them unrealistic both in terms of cost to the player and space required. I wanted a 4×4 table to be fine for a normal sized game. Also, buildings (capturing, garrisoning etc.) are central to the way the game plays. These would have been too large to be practical for most gamers (above small houses anyway).
B) I always intended to be as accurate as possible in scale, with as little abstractions as possible. 6mm would have required over-thick gun barrels etc, detracting from the realism. Also, I feel that 6mm infantry usually possess very little character. 10mm I think is the minimum scale to inject some real personality into infantry models (at least of the kind ordinary mortals can see!)
C) Heroic (ish) 28mm scale has proven so popular over the years, because I believe that’s about the ideal size for a miniature (at least for a ‘standard’ sized unit). In 10mm scale, my tanks are around 30-35mm in their largest dimension, closely matching the size of model people seem most happy with. Since you will be fielding mostly units around this size, it makes it familiar and friendly in terms of handling.
D) As Dropzone Commander will be a complete game, with a full range, rules and design ethos, I hope people will buy into this wonderful scale, previously largely overlooked by the mainstream. In terms of scenery availability, we intend to provide a full range. This includes the highly detailed resin modular stuff shown at Salute, but we also have plans for a modern style ‘flatpack’ city, which will be inexpensive. This will allow players to play with a highly portable city, reducing the investment needed to play in urban environments to a small amount. Also (although no one seems to have picked up on this yet), at 1:188 scale 10mm is very close to model railway N scale (1:200), where plenty of affordable scenery is readily available. Of course, 6-15mm natural scenery can easily be used for 10mm games. Sorry for the long justification – it’s just nice to get this out there to end the speculation! (My pleasure! – James)
5. For the fluff junkies out there, tell a little about factions and story line etc.
Dave: There’s plenty of background in the book, since I believe gamers should know when/ where they’re fighting, why they’re fighting and what they’re fighting with. Dropzone Commander will introduce a rich game universe from the outset, giving people plenty of scope for developing scenarios, campaigns and narratives.
In essence, the game is about hope and vengeance (not the usual dark drudgery!) Mankind has previously suffered a horrendous defeat at the hands of the Scourge. The greatest planets in mankind’s former hegemony (including Earth itself) are all in enemy hands. Humanity has had to build a new culture from the ashes, based around the previously unglamorous and marginalised frontier colonies – the United Colonies of Mankind.
The opening of Dropzone Commander sees a resurgent mankind launching an epic invasion to wrest its lost heartlands from the hands of the Scourge, one planet at a time. This gives scope for battles both on the colonies and on Scourge occupied worlds.
The other two races play a crucial (albeit a supporting) role in the overall tale. The Shaltari are a highly advanced alien race, based in tribes. These tribes are often capricious, frequently violent and often unpredictable. Their motives and attitudes can be wildly different, and always challenging for humans to comprehend. As such, their role can vary hugely – giving the player plenty of scope.
The Post-Human Republic (PHR) are the once human descendants of those who fled the central planets before the Scourge invasion. They have developed entirely separately form the rest of humanity, and have recently emerged from isolation a changed species. They are greatly enhanced cybernetically, and no longer think of themselves as human. They have achieved this advancement (as well as their timely escape in the past) with the aid of mysterious council…
As expansions are released the timeline will actually progress, giving players new insights into the story, as well as an ever increasing range of battles to fight.
6. Tell us about the miniatures. These were the cleanest sculpts I have ever seen, how was this achieved?
Dave: The majority of the models were computer developed, and rapid prototyped into masters using the most advanced high detail processes currently available. I worked to the very limits of detail this technology could provide, giving discernible features as small as 0.1mm in size, as well as smooth curved surfaces, completely devoid of stepping. This was quite an investment (both in time and money!), but I believe the results speak for themselves.
I hand sculpted the infantry, since I believe that traditionally sculpted biologicals always feel more ‘alive’ somehow than digitally produced ones. I certainly don’t believe that sculpting is dead, it’s just a case of horses for courses!
The commitment to quality extended to preparation of the thousands of sub-master parts, all of which I meticulously prepared myself. It was by far the most gruelling and least enjoyable aspect of the project (imagine months of nothing but cleaning up metal parts – talk about RSI!) However, this way I could be sure that the detail and quality was maintained.
Almost all the models you saw at Salute were actual production models. We’re using state of the art casting techniques to deliver this level of quality at a large and affordable scale.
Every single ground unit (except those of the Shaltari, who use portals) is physically dropship mobile. This means they will physically fit into their parent transports. While this isn’t required in game terms, the fact that it’s possible heightens the realism and gives plenty of scope for all sorts of hobby projects.
7. What difficulties have you faced with designing your miniature range?
Dave: Aside from the myriad and solvable technical issues, the major difficulty I found was working in isolation. It’s hard to push yourself every single day with no one around to raise your morale and share the pain. At uni we always carried each other through the hard times, with an ‘all in the same boat’ sort of camaraderie. Also, it’s hard to tell what people will think of the models when you’re trying to keep it quiet, so it’s hard to keep doubt from your mind. That’s why it’s so refreshing to finally be able to talk to people openly!
8. What can we expect to see in the coming months leading to the release date?
Dave: I’ll be trying my best to release a promo image on twitter (@hawkwargames) (Followed!-James) and facebook (Don’t like facebook-James) every day until June 1st, when the full website (www.hawkwargames.com) (Bookmarked!-James) goes fully live. At that point we’ll be announcing the prices and you’ll be able to pre-order, for shipping on July 16th. The only thing at Salute that won’t be released at that point will be the buildings, since we’re focusing on the models for now (there’s only so much a body can do at once!) They will certainly be coming well before the end of the year though.
9. There were a large number of attractive young ladies at your Salute stand, speaking as a Geek thats just about snagged one woman and married her to keep her around, how?
Dave: Lol! Well I frequently wonder why Bex (my ever supportive girlfriend) has stuck with me though all this – I honestly couldn’t say! She was wonderful at Salute. My friends and family were also there to help throughout the day, and I thank them all for their hard work and patience! Without their tireless support I could never have had a hope of producing this game.
10. Are there any other games in future of Hawk Wargames?
Dave: Oh yes, plenty. I have plans to extend the Sci-fi universe I’m weaving around Dropzone Commander to other games, as well as branching out into previously untouched territory. I won’t say any more for now, but if this project goes well I have at least a decade’s worth of plans in the making! Expect to see many expansions and new releases for DzC as well.
And there you have it! from the horses mouth to my pixels. My pixels to your eyes. What is seen cannot be unseen. Please follow Dave (@HawkWargames) on Twitter to get up to date pictures for all your eye candy based needs and to support him on this new endevour! and keep an eye for the website to go live!
My eternal thanks go to Dave for taking the time out to answer my nonsense, and to his entire team for their efforts at Salute and the production of this game!
Cheerio for now!