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 Post subject: The State of the Mongoose 2012
PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:04 pm 
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It has become a regular feature at the end of every year for us to have a look back at the past twelve months and see how we fared in comparison to what we planned, and also look ahead to the next twelve months. This is an opportunity for our fans to see how Mongoose works within and, of course, get some juicy titbits and hints on what we will be releasing in the near future.

So, after our eleventh year (time flies so quickly!), how have we been doing?

The Past Year

Earlier this year, we made a decision to change the way we approached our release schedule. In a nutshell, we would not announce products until we had the layout complete (for books) or the masters (for miniatures) actually in our hands. In this way, because of the four month cycle distribution requires, we would be in a position to not only hit all our release dates but end up being able to say what day something was going to be released, something we have not been able to do for a few years (in fact, something few manufacturers at all are able to do).

However, making a change like that is not easy and cannot be done overnight. For a start, we found ourselves with effectively two production schedules – the one everyone expected to see releases from, and a second where we are making products ready in advance before announcing them. This is a great deal easier if you have substantial financial resources to double staff, freelancers and materials, but not so easy when you run on just three or four shoestrings.

This change, tied with some setbacks to our planned miniatures releases, led to a few months in 2012 where we released nothing at all. This, of course, has a corresponding effect on cash flow which can very easily end up turning into a vicious circle that can easily take a company down.

With careful management, we managed to avoid that but felt the pinch throughout the year, to the extent that we have not been able to do everything we planned, quite often for no other reason than we could not afford to have thousands of Dollars tied up in stock for one product or another – where once we might have been in a position to ‘throw money’ at some problems, that has simply not been an option in 2012. This in turn led to late releases for some products and meant that while we were able to keep up with the bills, expansion has been difficult.

A second, but no less major issue, at least for RPGs, is that we have changed the way we work with writers. We no longer have half a dozen-odd full-time writers but instead a hand-picked set of freelancers (none of whom we would have been able to tempt away from their Real Life work anyway!) who are absolutely, 100%, completely dedicated to the games they work on – people like Colin Dunn, who is Mr 2300AD, and Don McKinney and Rob Eaglestone who work alongside Mr Miller on Traveller. This means the quality of work we receive for these games is second to none, done by people who want to write this material because they have a real passion for it.

The flip side is that freelancers will never work as fast as full-time writers, as Real Life all too often intrudes. This, in turn, results in slower release schedule; but, we think, better books overall, the effect of which you will already have seen with titles such as Solomani Rim, Deneb Sector, and French Arm Adventures. In those terms, we are satisfied that the books being produced today are every bit as good as those from our Gareth Hanrahan/Lawrence Whitaker days (for my money – and it was – the two best writers in the RPG industry today). There will just be a few less of them.

When all is said and done, if you think of Mongoose as a car, it has been in the workshop this year, with its parts and pieces spread all over the floor. We have been checking and polishing each part up, and are now beginning to put it back together again!

Of RPGs and Miniatures

The current miniatures market appears stable enough, but competition is fierce and the bar is getting raised all the time. However, this is an area of gaming we have a real passion for, and we are looking to do some bar raising ourselves in 2013 – more on that later.

As it stands, though, there is much to enjoy in the miniatures market, whether you are a manufacturer or a gamer. Happily, we are both, and everyone here looks forward to building some seriously large armies over the next year, both with our own miniatures ranges and those from our friends at companies such as Warlord and Mantic.

The current RPG market is miserable. There really is no other word for it. I was talking to the owner of a certain well known RPG company just a little while ago, and he mentioned that he had sold a few hundred of his latest release. We agreed it was a good total in this day and age for the average RPG product (not saying his book was average but… oh, you get the point!). Then he dropped the bombshell; he had reliable information that his book had outsold the latest supplement of a very well known, not to mention market-leading, game.

If the top tier games are selling at these levels, then something is seriously wonky in the market.

That is not to say that good sales are impossible. Publishers can still get into decent four figure ranges on new releases (our own 2300AD is a good example). But it is not the norm. Most RPG books these days are being bought by just a few hundred people, no more. Think on that for a moment…

On the other hand, RPG sales among PDFs, spearheaded by DrivethruRPG.com, are fairly booming. Which, of course, brings us to the inevitable question; is digital taking over?

For our part, we now look at each and every book as it goes through layout, and do a lot of soul-searching as to whether it should be given a full print run. More and more often, the answer is starting to be ‘no.’

Now, before anyone panics, you will always be able to get Mongoose books in a printed edition. Not going for a full print run still means we will do a limited run to supply our mail order customers, and you will be able to get our entire range printed (even books that are officially OOP) via Drivethru – more on that later too. Just to be clear, I’ll repeat: You will always be able to get hold of Mongoose books in a printed format!

However, the tipping point between digital and print has been reached among RPGs. The days where we automatically printed x thousand copies of all titles are long, long gone.

What is really peculiar is that while a large number of roleplayers have embraced PDF books, wargamers have not – and the difference is staggering, especially when you consider the relative sizes of the two markets. And yet… to my addled mind at least, it makes more sense for miniatures games to be presented in PDF format. Instant updates, errata fully integrated into the core rules, every time; yet it seems miniatures gamers are just not keen on this new-fangled technology! Perhaps Games Workshop’s efforts in this area will have an effect. We’ll be watching closely, in any case.

We do get asked about formats such as Kindle and, indeed, we have a few titles there already. We have been slowly converting our original Slayer’s Guides, prepping them for Kindle and making them system non-specific, and there are a few other titles already available as well, such as the Nexus Files and a clutch of novels (Standing Alone, Sister Devout, and Dragons of Lencia). We will be adding to this list in 2013, with more Slayer’s Guides and the Lone Wolf Multiplayer Gamebook series, as well as expanding to other, similar, formats such as the Nook.

Inside Mongoose
We had some staffing changes this year. In the last State of the Mongoose, I said we were looking to add more production staff for our miniatures manufacturing warehouse in Ohio, a second 3D designer, and a salesman. In the end, we lost our editor, Charlotte (as I took over all editing – now you know exactly whom to blame!), and took on a salesman, Andrew.

Despite setbacks and lack of resources in general during 2012, we have been following (mostly) a ‘Grand Plan’ and the addition of a full-time salesman was a core component of that. A full-time salesman is wasted in the RPG market (unless the product is very different from ‘standard’ RPGs, there will be no new worlds for him to conquer), but the potential for miniatures sales can be huge.

No pressure on him, then…

Given the state of the world economy in general, it is perhaps not surprising that Mongoose has been approached by the local Jobcentre and several charities for internships/work experience programmes, and we have been happy to help out where we can. Some are short-term placements of just a few weeks, while others are coming on board for nearly a year as part of University courses. This year, we said goodbye to John, who came to us from Huddersfield University, and said hello to Amy and Nikki, also from Huddersfield. Nikki is helping with layout and also working on the Grand PDF Cleanup (more on that later), while Amy is here for some illustration experience – and has turned out to be a mean playtester too (anyone coming to the Noble Armada tournament will bear the brunt of the tactics she has been learning!).

In terms of production, I have liked many of the books we came out with in 2012 (I am obviously a lot closer to them now, editing every one), but I am also painfully aware there are several books that people are waiting for, but have not yet seen the light of day – they are coming, we promise!

Some of these were victims of either our new scheduling, or had some unfortunate issues with writers. Others were victims to me doing the editing now – either because I am just one person who also has to run a company while squeezing the editing in, or because I am way less tolerant of certain things from writers, and have been known to send a manuscript back if I do not like it (the problem here is, being a writer myself, I just know when another writer’s attention has wavered or they have taken a shortcut!).

Where’s Me Books Then?
What this all boils down to is that books, overall I think, are better, but there are also fewer of them. However, this is a quick rundown of a few ‘outstanding’ titles, and what has happened/is happening with them.

Battlegroups: This is the first expansion to A Call to Arms: Star Fleet, and is very much the subject of our new approach to the release schedule. Basically, all the new miniatures that will be introduced in this book will be ready, cast, and painted, before we announce a firm release date. We are on course for a late 2013 release for this one.

The Spider God’s Bride:
On our forums recently, I called this book cursed. It has chewed up and spat out four writers and, since it appeared on her desk, seems to have turned the world of the proofreader upside down. The main delay here has been a succession of writers that dropped out of the project, forcing us to restart it over and again. The book now exists, however, has been laid out, edited, and is now being proofed. So long as the proofer does not, you know, die or something, this will be out on PDF before Christmas and in print in the New Year. But we are not sure the curse has completely cleared yet.

Droyne:
A few unavoidable real Life issues crept up on the writer of this one, but he has doggedly promised me the manuscript before Christmas. Once we have it, it will get bumped to the top of the list for editing and layout. Expect it relatively early next year.

Tools for Frontier Living: The first draft manuscript on this one was not brilliant, and the writer was unlucky enough to get me as an editor! After the text went too and fro between us for a while (well, a few months, as it happened), it gradually got knocked into shape, and I am now firmly of the opinion that this is going to be one of the best books we release in 2012 (yes, it is imminent!). Not just for 2300AD players, any Traveller fan should take a look at this one, as it is a superb resource for both general equipment and colony/outpost design.

Club Mongoose and Conventions
This year, as our miniatures lines started to come on line, we made the decision to go to as many conventions as possible. We soon learned that, in the UK, that could mean pretty nigh every weekend can be taken up, so long as you are prepared to travel!

In the end, we went to many, rather than all, from the huge Salute in London to many of the smaller, regional events. We now have a good idea of which conventions are suited to our lines, and you can be sure to see us at those next year (starting with Crusade in Wales – a superb event we would recommend to anyone willing to venture into foreign territory…).

We also started Club Mongoose, opening our doors every second Saturday of each month, to play Mongoose games. Anyone is welcome and it is free to join in. A now long running Traveller campaign has been flourishing, and leagues for Star Fleet are also well under way. This, too, we will be continuing throughout 2013, so if you find yourself at a loose end on one of those Saturdays, swing by – you will be more than welcome!

The Great PDF Roundup
This is something I had wanted to tackle from the start of 2012, and we have finally got round to doing it.

We have been on DrivethruRPG/RPGNow for many years and, throughout that time, many employees of Mongoose have been responsible for uploading PDF files – resulting in many different ways of doing them. This year, we decided to standardise them all, adding bookmarks, making sure the pagination was correct, that art was at the right resolution, and so on and so forth. We are just coming to the end of this now, and will be uploading the results before Christmas. Expect a ton of updates if you have purchased any of our PDFs, and feel assured of consistent quality if you are looking to pick up any more.

We will be continuing this drive in 2013, adding the necessary files so that any of our books on Drivethru will also be available as a physical POD book, from our first Slayer’s Guide to Hobgoblins, to our latest Traveller titles. This will, incidentally, include ‘PDF Only’ titles, such as the Traveller Special Supplements and Cowboys vs. Xenomorphs (a great one-shot adventure, if you have not already seen it), so you will be able to get those in print too!

Roleplaying Games
Last year I said the RPG market had a pulse, but that is about all that could be said for it. I also said that I thought the bottom point had been reached. Ha!

As I said previously, the market for printed books is dire, a pale, pale shadow of what it was ten years ago (from now on, we’ll call 2001 ‘the Golden Age’). On the other hand, electronic sales have never been better. The digital change is a-coming, whether you are ready for it or not!

At this point, however, I will reiterate: You will always be able to get Mongoose books in a printed format, if not from your local store then direct from us or via Drivethru. And no, we are not abandoning local stores or distribution in general – we are just changing what type of games we supply them, in preference for products that will sell in these venues. At the same time, we also want to support those of you who have invested in our games (we still love ‘em and play ‘em ourselves, after all!) by providing new material in whatever format you are most comfortable with. At the end of the day, this has to be the best solution for you, the gamer, while not proceeding on a path that would likely see publisher, distributor and retailer all going out of business.

In the last State of the Mongoose, I also said that it seemed, quote, ‘possible that D&D 5e may be appearing in 2013. Let’s just say certain stars align at that time.’ Okay, so I was one year out (and got the name wrong), but I hope you will forgive that. As to what effect it will have on the RPG market, well, a lot of publishers will have bated breath and we would all love another D20 rush, but I suspect that will not happen.

So, what do we have planned for our own RPGs in 2013?

Traveller
Traveller remains strong and has to be one of the best games we have ever released – you can do so much with just the core rulebook alone, and yet it has endless expandability. In terms of sales, if everything sold like the core book, there would be no talk here of a shrinking RPG market!

Here at Mongoose, we love Traveller. It might sound a bit obvious coming from the publisher, but we truly believe this is one of the best sci-fi RPGs ever written, and we play it ourselves on a regular basis. The rulebook, as has been said by many others on various forums, is one of the most complete out there, and yet there are never-ending possibilities for expansion. Better yet, we have assembled a great team of Traveller writers to make sure you get the very best of Traveller goodness throughout 2013.

Trillion Credit Squadron: Officially, this is Adventure 3 in the current Traveller line. However, this project has become way, way more than that. In a nutshell, this book will allow players to take command of an entire fleet, either within a tournament setting or as part of a set piece campaign (one of which is provided in the book). However, there is a little more to it…

This book can provide a structure for an entire campaign whereby players take the role of ‘higher ups’ in a large military or political organisation, and then take part in a planetary/sector/galaxy-wide war against unimaginable odds. On the one hand, they can take command of entire fleets, handle the resources required to put them in the field (and keep them there) and fight immense, terrible space battles. On the other, they can zero in on specific actions, such as leading a strike force into enemy territory to capture/destroy the ultimate weapon, or head off into unknown space to uncover Ancient knowledge that might bring them final victory.

Basically, this book will give you the core components you need to play, say, the entire Star Wars Rebellion saga, with the players taking the role of our favourite heroes, both leading fleets and ‘getting involved’ in the action.

This is one to watch out for.

Solo Traveller: Traveller has always had a solo contingent, and we intend this book to be one way where that style of play is formalised. Basically, to allow you to create a Traveller character and go adventuring across the stars without a referee. However, this one has also had Real Life intrude upon the writer, and we are currently awaiting news on when it may be complete.

Pirates of Drinax:
The episodes for this Grand Campaign have been slower this year than we intended but the writer, Gareth Hanrahan, is a busy freelancer now and we have to wait in line with all the other publishers! However, they will be flowing again in 2013, as this campaign is just too good not to complete!

Minor Aliens: Luriani proved very popular, and we will be following it up with a series of PDF-only minor alien releases, each exploring a new facet of the Third Imperium setting.

Sectors: Yes. There will be more. Consider this part of our ten year mission to catalogue all of Charted Space. Our task now is to make sure every sector has its own ‘personality,’ something that I believe we have been successful with thus far, and will continue in the future.

Third Imperium Handbook: It has often been said that there is currently no defined entry point into the Third Imperium setting and that, as a consequence, it can seem quite intimidating. That will change in 2013 with a primer/handbook/introduction (it does not yet have a name!) that will, incidentally, also include Core sector and properly detail the Vilani.

We are also in the process of expanding our Traveller design team, all of whom work directly alongside Mr Miller, so expect Greatness from this line in 2013 and beyond…

2300AD: The principle writer for 2300AD, the very able Colin Dunn, has suffered somewhat this year from me acting as his editor, which has slowed down the releases in this line. However, we are now back on track, so expect 2013 to be a good year for 2300 (if you see what I mean).

The French Arm: This is just being polished off, and will appear early next year, giving you everything you need to follow on from French Arm Adventures and build a long-running campaign.

After the French Arm, we will be working on the Chinese Arm and Chinese Arm Adventures books, detailing the next area of space we are covering in the 2300AD universe. After that, it is on to the American Arm, with possibly a brief stop to look at Planetary Operations, the ground military guide for 2300AD.

Armageddon 2089: Those with long memories may recall this was originally released by us as a new setting for the D20 rules set (actually our first all full-colour book!). We have spoken about bringing this setting over to Traveller for a while now – after all, massive high-tech Warmeks stomping across the world as Europe and the US go to war, complete with rules for taking the fight to the air, into space and even on the moon. What is not to like?

I started working on this conversion myself, but other projects have meant I had to butt out. We are currently looking for a writer/developer for this, someone who can handle a fair bit of work and knows the Traveller rules inside out. We have made offers to a select few individuals and as soon as we get someone signed up, expect to see not only a string of Armageddon 2089 releases, but also spin-offs that will spread into the core Traveller line, such as a title dedicated to bringing Mecha to life in your games.

Legend
Legend is also strong. In fact, it is still in the Top 15 ‘hot lists’ on both Drivethru and RPGNow (currently number 4 on the latter!). That means it has been on these hot lists for a year. A record, perhaps? No idea, but we have been very happy with both its popularity and the way it has been accepted by players.

The one black mark is that we have not been able to put out as many supporting books for it as we would have liked. We have not done badly, by any stretch, and there are currently 7 supplementary books out for it, not including the old RQII titles that remain compatible, such as Deus Vult and Elric of Melnibone. However, I would like to have seen at least one book a month come out for Legend in 2012, so there was always something new and fresh for you to get your teeth into. Unfortunately, the process of converting older titles and creating brand new ones has not been as quick as I would have liked.

As you read this, Samurai of Legend will have just come out though, continuing to build on the ‘historical’ settings available for the system, and I have just finished editing the manuscript for Gladiators of Legend (see below). Very much looking forward to seeing that one come out (should be very early in the New Year, all going well).

Spider God’s Bride should (at last!) be appearing at about the same time. See my notes earlier on the trials and tribulations this book has gone through. When I get a copy in my hands, I will consider it a miracle of no small proportion…

Gladiators of Legend: Being prepped right now, this book covers gladiators of both history and fantasy, and is intended to be used either as a central part of a ‘gladiator’ campaign, or simply as a ‘plug-in’ for campaigns that may feature gladiators for a few sessions. As always, take as much or as little as you want from these books! However, it also includes a mini-game where players can create their own gladiators to form their own stable, train them up, and then do battle to see who is the champion of the arena. Be a lanista and lead your titans to victory!

Monsters of Legend II & III: Expect these books in 2013, the first fairly soon. Both are larger than the first Monsters of Legend, with a much greater variety of creatures to pit against your players.

Cities of Legend: Our City of Orcs proved popular with many Legend players, so you can be sure we will follow up this title with others. Each will feature a unique city, very much in the fantasy mould (as opposed to an ordinary medieval city with a bit of added magic), that can be placed anywhere in an existing fantasy world where there are a few square miles of suitable terrain…

New Magic Systems/Arcania of Legend: Blood Magic was the first, but we are planning many, many more alternate magic systems for Legend, allowing you to either introduce mysterious baddies to your campaign who have unlocked the secrets to Things Man Was Not Meant to Know, or use the plug-and-play aspect of Legend to swap magic systems around to suit your particular world. These will take the form of classic magic styles such as illusionism and demonology, to more esoteric choices covering ancient magicks that a thousand year old ruler might use to govern his kingdom.

Elric & Corum: We have nothing firmly scheduled for these two settings, but we are talking to a writer about supporting titles for Elric, and a complete new setting for Corum.

Deus Vult:
This setting has proved very popular (fighting nuns and monks set against supernatural nasties in 12th Century Europe – plenty to get your teeth into there!), and we are talking to a couple of writers about extending support for it. The original writer we had lined up for Rouen has dropped out of the race, but we hope to bring at least two new titles for this line in 2013.

As we have done previously, all ‘core’ Legend books (those with the plain black covers) are 100% Open Content – not via a stripped down SRD, but the actual books themselves. We will maintain this policy for all such Legend titles throughout 2013 and beyond.

Paranoia
It has to be admitted, I will say pretty much the same thing now about Paranoia as I did in the last State of the Mongoose. Paranoia core books continue to be strong, month in, month out. The supplements… are not. A continuing conundrum for us.

Now, there is a super-secret idea being bounced about among a couple of Paranoia writers, one we would very much like to try, as we think it is something everyone who has even glanced at Paranoia might be interested in. Got to keep things under the covers for now, but I just wanted to let you all know Paranoia is not being ignored. Far from it.

Lone Wolf
The new writing team for the Lone Wolf Multiplayer Gamebook series has direct and unparalleled access to Mr Dever, ensuring the highest quality and accuracy in future titles – but progress is not fast on this series. That is the trade off; you are getting in-depth Magnamund background straight from the horse’s mouth. However, they are not the quickest writers in the world and, to be fair, English is not their first language (which makes editing this line so interesting!). This line now officially comes under the heading ‘it will be out when it is ready.’ Great stuff in the works, but you will have to wait a little longer for it, I am afraid.

Nevertheless, several titles are being worked on, including the Kai Monastery, Drakkarim, and the manuscript of the second Stornlands book has just been delivered (expect to see that one early in 2013 too).

Everyone is waiting for Book 18. We know, and we apologise profusely. Our problem here is a combination of the issues described above and a valiant (but costly) attempt to keep all previous titles in print. The margins on these books are wafer thin (a new title costs two to three times more to print than your average 256 page hardback RPG book), making it exceedingly difficult for us to tie up financial resources in a print run. The problem is, as a company, we cannot simply ring fence every line on a financial level, so what happens to one line in the company can affect others. In this case, the disappearing RPG market and reduced pace of miniatures releases have both had an unavoidable effect on Lone Wolf.

We have mentioned the possibility of softback versions of these books, which would make things easier, but we have committed to doing the entire series in a hardback format and, come hell or high water, we will be sticking to that.

Book 18 is now at print (and will be landing on the mats of Megadeal and preorder customers early next year), and we are already prepping Book 19. We apologise for the delays – they are not reasonable, and we will be spending a great deal of effort to correct this in 2013. As everything else in the company starts coming together, the pressure will be relieved on this series and titles will start coming out at their original pace.

At the end of the day, we have a lot of passion for Lone Wolf here at Mongoose (these were the gamebooks that got me into gaming when I was very, very young, way before I had even heard of D&D…), and can see there is a huge potential in this setting that reaches far beyond the gamebooks. We have been speaking to Mr Dever about this, and have a couple of projects boiling that we wish to use to expand Lone Wolf and bring it to ‘modern’ gamers. However, first things first – we are concentrating on the solo gamebooks and will bring them to you in regular order before we give much more thought to anything else.

Third Party Books
It is a sign of the times with RPGs, but we are beginning to close down our partnerships with third parties. We can still offer a wider distribution, but when all that means is an additional couple hundred books, both sides have to start questioning whether the process is really worth it.

We said a very fond farewell to Redbrick and Earthdawn this year (now starting up as a reborn FASA), and the hardback Stars Without Number was allowed to lapse out of print. The Wayfarers line, however, is still in print (with some new titles in the works for this line), though we are no longer actively looking for new partners to work with in this field.

Miniatures
We accomplished a great deal with our miniatures ranges in 2012 though inevitably, not as much as we wanted.

The first big change we made was switching back from resin to metal for main production. We now have a great deal of experience with resin production and know which models are easy to do with a consistent high level of quality… and which ones are not.

We now use resin for two main types of model – larger designs which would be difficult or impossible to do in metal (often becoming hybrid models with mixed metal and resin parts, as with our Star Fleet dreadnoughts) and models specifically designed to be cast in resin from the outset.

The latter include the new Victory at Sea models, from which we have had superb casting results. Because of their design, they are very quick for our guys to cast, and have a quality success rate well in excess of 99%. The problems we faced with the Star Fleet range is that none were designed specifically for resin (to be fair, many were designed in the 60’s, if you think about it, when no one was thinking about a miniatures game) and so most are multipart and of very odd shapes, which makes extended production runs problematic. As we found out.

However, that issue solved, we were able to spend 2012 getting back on track, not just with the first wave of Star Fleet releases, but also with new models for Judge Dredd, Noble Armada and a brand new Victory at Sea line.

A new focus on miniatures games also meant a revision to our Mongoose Infantry demo team programme. We have appointed a new administrator (Al Beddow) to help revise and revitalise the programme, and anyone interested in getting Mongoose games out in to the wider world is encouraged to apply, as I believe we have some generous incentives for those of you prepared to go down your local store or convention and get people playing the games you enjoy anyway.

Last year, we had planned to fully integrate the demo team system with the web site, giving members greater freedom and automation in cashing in their credits, but we have yet to get to that. However, with Al in place, expect more momentum among the demo team structure overall.

A Call to Arms: Star Fleet
We spent a lot of time in 2012 playing catch up to our original release schedule and we have finally got there with the last of the civilian ships being made available before Christmas.

However, our design team has not been idle either, and we have already started work on the first expansion to the game which will take the form of a new hardback entitled Battlegroups, and a second wave of miniatures.

We are expecting Battlegroups to be ready around the bottom end of 2013 but, in the run up to that, we will be releasing the second wave of models with playtest rules, so you can get to grips with them as soon as possible without having to wait for the book.

As for its contents, we have not locked down everything we are planning to add, but I can tell you the following with a degree of certainty;

Orions and Lyrans will definitely be in, along with the Tholians, for whom we are looking at some funky ways to represent their webs on the table. I would like to get the Hydrans in too, but the first three fleets are being worked on first (you will see the Orions appear fairly early in the year with a playtest fleet list to get your teeth into). All the existing fleets will also get new toys to play with, some of which have already appeared, such as the Federation Battleship, Heavy Command Cruiser and Light Raiding Dreadnought.

We have also started talking to our friends at Amarillo Design Bureau regarding a new Star Fleet project codenamed Maelstrom. Some very exciting ideas have been thrown about for this, and we are seeing where all the pieces fall. We are just waiting to see what comes out of this, and it is likely you will first hear something solid on ADB’s web site.

A Call to Arms: Noble Armada
We caught up on our releases for this game too with the release of the first supplement, Fleets of Fading Suns alongside the last fleets, the Church and the Vau. So, what is next for Noble Armada?

Well, at Gen Con this year, I had a great meeting with Chris of Holistic (owners of Fading Suns), and we finally cracked something that we had been fiddling with ever since we started this game. You see, we have been wanting to introduce the Empire (the most powerful force in Known Space) as a useable fleet in the game – but we did not want it to simply be a Hawkwood-Plus force. It had to be special, have something different, while at the same time not invalidating existing Hawkwood fleets.

Talking to Chris, we finally hit upon how to approach them. Now we just need to figure out how to do it! This will take more discussions with Holistic, but we have a direction to move in now.

In the meantime, the next fleet to appear will be the League, followed by the Symbiotes. Both will be released with playtest fleet lists, allowing you to start playing them immediately.

Victory at Sea
From our perspective, Victory at Sea is the game that just keeps on going. Several years on, thousands of copies sold, and it shows few signs of slowing down. This year, we have been preparing a new line of ship models, all 3D-designed by Sandrine, in 1/1800 scale. The first (the four ships involved in the Battle of the River Plate) are already out, and they will be quickly followed by a veritable armada of World War II ships throughout 2013. We have recently seen the first battleships (Bismarck, Hood and King George V) in this range, and they look exquisite!

We have wide-ranging plans for this line, with full fleets being made available in 2013 (Royal Navy, Kriegsmarine, US Navy, Imperial Japanese Navy, Regia Marina, and Marine Nationale), along with coastal craft, aircraft, terrain, land invasion forces, and much more, all to scale, all designed with the same addiction to detail.

The use of 3D design and rapid prototyping techniques for this range has allowed us to do some funky things. For one, variants and sister ships are incredibly easy to do. We are not, for example, simply doing a Leander-class cruiser, and leaving it at that – there are separate models for the Leander, Ajax, Achilles, Orion, and Neptune. But, we can go further than that. We have a model of the French battleship Richelieu as it appeared in 1940, as it appeared after refits in 1944, and a third model of its sister ship, the Jean Bart, as it would have appeared had it taken action.

We will be doing individual ships like this right down to cruiser level, each with its own integrated base with sculpted wakes, putting a ‘professional’ finish within the reach of any painter with the least amount of fuss and invested time.

To back these models up, we have been working on Victory at Sea 2.0, a brand new set of rules. Again, we are really looking to push out the boat (sorry) on this one – we are currently looking at 300-odd pages, hardback, full colour throughout, detailing every theatre and, we are going to try, every warship that ever floated during the war (and quite a few that did not).

We will be previewing bits and pieces from the rulebook soon, but it is going to look stunning, as we unleash Will’s creative talent and go full steam ahead (sorry) on the design and layout. Ruleswise, it still plays as smooth and quickly as you know the current mechanics to be, but the presence of our Official Naval Boffins (the ONB, a group of nautical coves) is ensuring everything is as accurate as we can possibly make it.

Up to now, we have not set a release date for this book yet, simply saying it will be ready when it is done. We are tentatively looking at a Salute release, maybe, but don’t hold your breath. This one is well worth waiting for, but it really will be ready when it is done.

Until then, you have an ever-growing fleet of stunningly detailed ships to collect!

Judge Dredd Miniatures Games
Well, the big thing for the Dredd miniatures game this year (aside from a certain film) was the Kickstarter. It exceeded anything we were expecting and achieved several things for the game;

1. It got word of the game out and about – this was one of our main goals of the Kickstarter, as we knew that web site could reach places we could not. We brought a lot of people on board with the models and game, people who had not heard of it before, and that bodes well for the game’s future.

2. Speaking of which, the Kickstarter also allowed us to double the size of the Dredd miniatures line, add all sorts of models people were really after, and to finally bring vehicles into the game.

3. And the vehicles are not just simple bikes, oh no. Ground cars, mo-pads, Pat Wagons (in four varieties), a Banshee Interceptor and the massive (a foot long!) Manta Prowl Tank have all been designed and are starting the prototyping stage as I type. The Manta already has a physical form and we are hoping we can get the first of these into the hands of Kickstarter backers before Christmas.

In a stroke, the Kickstarter allowed us to greatly expand the game and put it on the gamer’s map, as it were. A perfect combination.

So, what next for Dredd? Well, our first priority is getting all the goodies promised to the Kickstarter backers into their hands. We are well on our way to doing this and the vast majority will be out the door before Christmas (just shy, I think, of our planned 95% of everything sent, but pretty darn close). There will be a handful of models still to be sculpted (such as the biker gangs) and, depending on our rapid prototypers, the odd vehicle to be made a physical reality. These will be getting into backer’s hands throughout January.

Beyond that, there are all sorts of directions we can take the game, and we have a long list of ‘wish models’ proposed by Kickstarter backers that we did not get round to. A variant Manta Prowl Tank is a possibility, and we never got round to the eldster/crock gang I always wanted, elderly citizens of Mega-City One on their mobility frames and chairs that refuse to be intimidated by the young juves and punks! I must confess, I am also quite taken with the idea that several backers are intending to refight the Apocalypse War with their collections, so maybe they will be getting some rules and more models to support their battles…

Quite clearly, Kickstarter is a system that works to not only bring a game to fruition, but get the word of it out to a large number of gamers. So, it will be worth doing again…

Thus, we are happy to announce that by the time the last Dredd models will be getting into backer’s hands, the Rogue Trooper miniatures game will be appearing on Kickstarter, likely in the last week of January.

Based on another 2000AD comic strip, Rogue Trooper is the story of a Genetically-engineered Infantryman (GI) fighting on Nu Earth, a war-blasted but strategically vital world torn apart by the Southers and the Norts (who will you side with?). Battlefields are wreathed in the poison gas unleashed by millions of chemical weapons, while the high commands of both the Southers and the Norts engineer ever more devastating and vile secret weapons – the latter will very much be a feature of this game.

The rules themselves will be based on the popular Battlefield Evolution/Starship Troopers system, allowing you to fight anything from squad skirmishes (or just a single model, if you take Rogue himself), to platoon and company level clashes with battlefields filled with boobytraps, tanks and secret weapons.

This will be a truly vicious war, utterly appalling to those who fight it, on par with the worst of World War I trenches, but with the mobility of World War II, mixed with the technology of the far future. Thankfully, safely insulated from the terror and despair by our models and tabletop, you will be able to launch cunning strikes with elite infantry, bear the brunt of the enemy assault with the rest of your forces, and launch the deadliest secret weapons in a bid for final victory over Nu Earth!

Rattenkrieg
This is very much one of my ‘wish list’ games.

A couple of years ago at Gen Con, I walked past a stand with loads of great models on it of bulldogs dressed as British soldiers, ferrets as Napoleonic French, and many others. The game they were for was Brushfire, and the company behind them, On the Lamb Games.

We got chatting, and started discussing distribution and joint projects. This culminated this year with the release of Historia Rodentia, a seriously cool setting for the Legend RPG. However, both we and on the Lamb wanted to do a wide-ranging miniatures game. A draft manuscript was drawn up (using the Battlefield Evolution/Starship Troopers rules), and duly waited for the people in both companies to do something about it…

Winding on to Gen Con this year, we had another meeting with On the Lamb and, during the course of our chats, someone piped up with ‘wouldn’t it be whiz-o-whiz if we advanced the timeline from the Napoleonic era to World War II!’

Something clicked on both sides of the table. It just felt right. ‘American’ Racoons parachuting into occupied territory. ‘German’ Gerbils crewing tanks and machine gun nests. ‘British’ dogs performing bayonet charges. ‘French’ marmots joining La Resistance!

This is a game we feel just has to be made, and we are going to work very, very hard in 2013 to make sure it does not get buried by other projects. Watch this space.

Miniatures and Games in Development
Some games mentioned in the last State of the Mongoose had to be put on backburner, though development continued, and there are always new ideas for new games. For a quick run through them, for those following the development of any one title…

Reality Tech Storm: A 6mm sci-fi game, with a rather unique game mechanic that we still have not revealed. This is something we want to get to sooner rather than later, but a few steps (and other games) are required first.
Blue Shift (Vx Racing): Vx Racing was our sci-fi game of high-octane racing in super-fast ‘skimmers.’ In a very strange twist, this has mutated itself into Blue Shift, a game of mercenary squadrons piloting deadly craft in the depths of space. We are intending this to be part of the Reality Tech Storm universe, and have put Blue Shift under further development to allow, among other things, a full fighter construction system for players. Expect to see this towards the end of 2013 (we have already done many of the fighter miniatures!).
Battlefield Evolution Vietnam: Now this is something I really want to tackle, but it got bumped by Victory at Sea. In a nutshell, what we are doing with Victory at Sea is what I want to do with 28mm Vietnam, but we can only handle one project like that at a time (it is pretty intense, as far as writing and research go). You may see some test sculpts for this in 2013, but the rulebook for Victory at Sea has to come out before anything of substance appears for this one.

2013 Strategy
It has to be said, weak RPG market aside, the storms we braved this year have mostly been of our own doing as we bend the company to conform to the changing markets and the new approach to the release schedule. However, one by one, the pieces of the Grand Plan have been falling into place. This includes the arrival of a dedicated salesman (important because there is so much breadth possible in the miniatures market), the presence of Victory at Sea (for once, a major line that does not have any kind of license attached to it to drain revenue into someone else’s pockets), and there have been many internal tweaks and changes to the company that have made it more efficient and cheaper to run.

With all that preparation now behind us, we are looking forward to delivering what we say we are going to deliver, when we say we are going to deliver it, in 2013. The new approach to the release schedule is a core component of that but, behind it, the mechanism of nearly everything Mongoose does has had to change. That has made things fraught at times in 2012, but will hopefully pay us back next year. Grand Plan, and all that. At the same time, we’ll be constantly searching for new ways to support our games, be it through new products, events, funky miniatures, great games, free downloads and anything else we can think of.

It is just left for me to say thank you one and all for your continued support.

We literally could not do this without you, and we are looking for all sorts of ways to reward your devotion and kind support throughout 2013. Our grateful thanks for sticking with us, and please know we are dedicating ourselves to paying that back with the best gaming experiences we can devise.

Hope to see you all again in 2013. Merry Christmas, and have the best of New Years.

_________________
Matthew Sprange

Mongoose Publishing
http://www.mongoosepublishing.com


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