Winter closes in, the end of the year beckons… it must be time for another State of the Mongoose!
At the end of every year, it has become a regular feature 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 customers 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.
As we thunder towards Mongoose’s 10th anniversary in 2011, this is a good time to sit back, and take stock of what has been going on.
2010 – A Roller Coaster of a Year
We really cannot talk about 2010 without talking about our departure from the Rebellion group, owners of the 2000AD comic and creators of the recent Aliens vs. Predator computer game.
At the end of March, we formally separated from Rebellion. This is something that had been coming for a few months but when it actually happened, it was fast. The reasons for it are long and winding but we have no wish to have mud thrown around in either direction – the split was perfectly amicable, and we maintain a good relationship with everyone at Rebellion.
There were, however (and obviously) some problems. From our point of view, we found ourselves locked into administrative practices that should have made our life easier and cheaper but, in practice, generated more work and turned out to be very expensive. A greater problem was that we found ourselves tied thoroughly to RPGs at a time when we desperately needed to expand into other areas. From their point of view, we believe Rebellion wanted to see greater revenue from us – that was just impossible as the situation stood.
So, halfway through March, we had a phone call making us an offer we could not refuse, as they say, allowing us to break away from Rebellion. This was not completely unexpected (I had guessed back in December 2009 it would happen and had started making plans accordingly), but that still left us with just two weeks to sort everything out.
This was not a minor task. After eighteen months within Rebellion, our accounts and administrative systems had been almost inextricably linked, and we were faced with the task of pretty much starting a new accounts system from scratch. Now, just that would have been fine, and we would like to stress that the guys at Rebellion did everything they possibly could to make the transition easier.
But none of us reckoned on the banks.
What happened next was a level of incompetence and mismanagement that anyone not going through the same process will find difficult to credit. We did not have any access to our main bank accounts for nearly a month. A month after that, we still did not have full access to our main US bank account. Everything the bank (which will remain nameless but they describe themselves as the ‘world’s local bank’) did seemed to be deliberately designed to make our lives more difficult. We would instruct our ‘relationship manager’ (they used to call them business managers before everything became organised, I swear) in the New York branch to make a transfer to pay our printers. Two weeks later, that transfer would still be sitting on his desk. Hand on my heart, it was quicker to write a cheque and post it to the printers from the UK than it was to do a transfer.
What’s that you say, don’t we do transfers online these days? If only! As I write this, we now have internet access to our accounts – but not on the system that will unify our UK and US accounts and allow us to transfer seamlessly between them. We are told that is coming soon…
And don’t think the UK branches of this bank were any better either. Oh, no. I became so frustrated with our UK relationship manager (just that job title makes me think they are in the wrong business, like they should be talking to couples whose marriages are on the rocks) that I walked into the main branch in my home town with a long list of complaints.
I think they told me, in Bankspeak (in which I am not fluent), to go away and never come back. I’m pretty sure that is what they said. At that point, I left and would have gone to another bank altogether, but I was then invited to a different branch in the same town, given a new manager and, touch wood, everything seems to be settling down now.
So, for the best part of two months, we were running the company on our tertiary US account (which, I am led to believe, is a small ‘family’ type bank sited in Nowheresville in some remote state – they provide much better service though, if their facilities are not quite… 21st Century) and my own personal bank account. Which was fun, as you can imagine.
All that said, we can happily report that during this period we met every invoice that needed paying and, aside from the odd bank snafu on international transfers, none of our suppliers or freelancers were left dangling.
Banks. Who needs them? You would think that after the massive cock-ups they caused across the world recently, they would at least be trying to do things better.
Anyway, rant over.
The RPG Industry
There is a school of thought that says that when a recession comes along, sales of RPGs go up. In the main, that is probably true, and we certainly saw an upsurge in 2009 (indeed, we had some of our best sales months for some time in that period). However, it could not last, and the RPG market overall (with the notable exception of one company – Paizo, with their Pathfinder system) has been rather depressing. The word we would use is ‘challenging.’ Things always go in cycles in the hobby games market, and RPGs are on the low swing at the moment.
It is possible to still knock the ball out of the park with a good release and hit those nice five figure unit sales in the first month or three but sustaining that across the life of a product line is now exceptionally difficult. It would be nice to blame the market leader for this situation – as does the market leader, so goes the market after all but, in truth, RPGs would still be in a downturn right now, even if the latest edition of the favourite game was selling hand over fist. And it isn’t. Sorry, but it just plain isn’t.
For the first time in nine years, I would advise anyone looking to launch a new RPG company to halt their plans, and wait to see what happens in the market next. Now is not a good time to launch a new company.
For existing companies, generally speaking, it means the rockstar lifestyle of an international games publisher (hah!) has been put on hold for a while. Gossip flies around this industry like any other, and it seems that every other week we hear new tales of this company or another not paying its bills (tip: always pay your freelancers first, not your suppliers as the freelancers are the ones who shout the loudest and you don’t want a reputation as a deadbeat, while suppliers are desperate for any business right now – a cruel fact, but a true one). However, we are not really expecting any major companies to go belly up at the moment. So long as everyone manages their costs and does not do anything silly (or, if silly, at least not too costly), then I think you will see all the major companies around right now still about this time next year. Things are tight but manageable.
So, looking back at the last State of the Mongoose, how much was accurate? Well, in terms of our plans, about fifty percent, if we are being generous!
The New Big Thing was to be the all-singing, all-dancing web site which, as you can tell, is still not here.
The problem with the web site is that we specced a nice, tight little design that was fully automated. Unfortunately, it was also supposed to be used as the basis for sites for every company within Rebellion, which meant many people had input on it – and at that point, it became a Christmas tree project, with everyone wanting to hang something off it.
Our departure from Rebellion neatly removed us from all of that, but Mongoose still had a large five figure sum invested in the system. So, last month, we managed to get the web site code into our hands and have passed it on to our own developers who are now cutting out all of the complicated systems we don’t need, leaving us with the lean (and still fully automated) site that we originally specced. We are hoping it will just be a matter of weeks now before the new site goes online – I won’t harp on about the new features, which haven’t changed much since we last announced them, but will instead let the new site do the talking when it finally goes up.
That, at least, we regard as a Win.
A Loss would have been some of the new RPG lines we had planned. Reaver, the new setting for Traveller was the first to go – there was just no room for it in the schedule any more. The same applied to Codename Veil and ABC Warriors.
On the other hand we also have a Win by getting RuneQuest II, Deus Vult, Elric, Reft Sector, Darrians and a host of other titles that were promised, out as planned. With RuneQuest II especially, we have an exceptionally tight system that we can build upon for years to come.
2010 In Brief
So, an ‘interesting’ year for us, in the Chinese sense. It started in January with a revision of our business plan – guessing a departure from Rebellion would come sooner rather than later, we stripped the company down and altered our release schedule to focus on the best-selling products. We entered 2010 with nine full-time staff members on our production team, and it rapidly became apparent that we needed just four. It is always hard losing people, especially when you have been working with them for several years but, whichever way you look at it, nine into four does not fit.
Come April, and our first month as an independent company again, and we were in an administrative nightmare, compounded by a rather unhelpful bank.
This somewhat knocked us for six and our usually tight production schedule took a hammering. Books started appearing late and, in one case (Power Armour), not at all. However, we have a very tight and hardworking team here at Mongoose, and full credit should go to Kelly, Charlotte, Will, Lawrence and Rob who worked their backsides off to get us back on track. And especially to our fans, who supported us through this period and eagerly snapped up our books – when they finally appeared.
As we get to the end of the year our plans, laid out in December last year, begin to come to fruition. While we, as a company, can survive on RPGs alone, we want to prosper and that means looking at other areas of the hobby games market – and for us, that has to mean miniatures (they are in our blood – most of the gamers at Mongoose have been playing miniatures games at least as long as they have been doing RPGs).
The moment we left Rebellion, the Judge Dredd miniatures game was given the green light –after all, we had many of the miniatures already, and they just needed a game to get them going again. However, we also started laying down the groundwork for other, slightly more ambitious projects and they are just about to come to light.
We also started selling ‘out of print’ and superseded books ourselves this year. In the past, we have steadfastly refused to do so, usually pulping old books or remaindering them down some very specific channels. This was because we had always taken the view (born from nearly a decade ago) that once a book is off the catalogue, it should be just about declared non-existent so it does not interfere with newer titles. Still, needs must in these times of economic troubles – and boy, should we have been doing this long ago or what!?
It started with a chance conversation when we were with Rebellion. We heard they were pulping some overstocks of 2000AD graphic novels, which would cost them a few hundred Pounds to do. Instead, we offered to take the books (over 10,000 of them!) off their hands in return for paying the picking and shipping costs, which was about what they would have paid to pulp them.
We made that money back in the first week, and have been selling them on eBay and our own web site ever since. That is what is technically known as a Good Deal.
So, we now run OOP books (and miniatures, such as the few remaining Starship Troopers sets and Battlefield Evolution – the latter enjoying something of a renaissance since we started doing this) through a special section of our web site and via eBay. Together, they combine to roughly the equivalent revenue of two new releases every month without, of course, any of the attendant costs. We will be continuing to do this for the foreseeable future where possible. Recently, we have also made a deal with the local games store to turnaround much of their older stock, a mixture of RPGs and miniatures (mainly second hand Games Workshop, though a few ‘oddities’ turn up now and again). This arrangement has worked out well for both of us and, again, we’ll be continuing this for the foreseeable future as well.
So, as 2010 comes to a close, Mongoose maintains its luxurious office (we have even got a proper drinks machine installed now!) in the UK and we retain our office and warehouse in Ohio. Our full-time staff numbers two chaps handling our affairs in the US, six here in the UK office, and two full-time writers.
Throughout 2010, we have worked with the Swindon Job Centre and various charities to provide work experience for interns (we like to give back to the community, you understand), and we started using freelance writers to plug a few holes in our production schedule. This last is not likely to continue as a rule, though we have developed some good writers that suit our books in this time, so there may be the odd job offer flying about later in 2011!
New Directions, New Attitudes
There are two things that Mongoose has glaringly lacked over the past couple of years. First, we have been effectively trapped within the RPG market alone, and that needs to change promptly. Second, we need a ‘bonanza,’ something flashy that will grab the metaphorical headlines once more. The last hot news we had that served this purpose was Traveller – pretty much three years ago now! That is far too long for any serious company, especially in the current climate.
We will be continuing with our strongest RPG lines as per normal business, never fear, but our attention is now looking at other parts of the hobby games market and beyond. It is now no secret that we are returning to the miniatures market, led with a new version of our space fleet combat game, A Call to Arms. However, we are now extending our view to boardgames and novels/graphic novels. Not everything will appear in 2011, but we are going to be taking some big strides towards them.
Fundamentally though, now we are independent again, we have developed a new attitude at Mongoose. It is my feeling that over the past four or five years we lost some of the essential essence that made us successful in the past. We have been too soft, a little too willing to roll with the punches and go with the market flow (never a good idea when the market is in decline).
This year, that changed. The old spirit is back. We’ll be taking no prisoners and won’t be caught napping when others in the industry (remaining nameless) throw us a curved ball (putting it politely). We are jumping on the table and looking for a fight.
True, as we try new things we will occasionally hit walls – but we’ll be running at them as we do so, leaving a Mongoose-shaped hole. Market shrinking and RPGs in decline? Bring it on. For too long Montgomery has been chained up. Now you will see the Mongoose unleashed!
Signs & Portents
Well, after that declaration, let’s bring things a little more down to Earth.
Signs & Portents continues to be our best marketing tool, with monthly downloads averaging between 40-75,000, depending on content (and, funnily enough, depending on us releasing it on the 1st of each month – being late always hurts the download rate).
Charlotte, with Will in tow, took it upon herself to revitalise the magazine last year, and did a splendid job. This was done with a view to a) make it more attractive, natch, but also b) prepare for a return to print. Print is not on the cards just yet but the magazine is in a position that it could be done with far less work than would have been required previously.
That done, and with ever looming editing tasks in other areas for Charlotte, we handed over the editorship of S&P to Nick, who returned to Mongoose later in the year. Building upon Charlotte’s work, Nick’s mandate is to improve the quality of content in the magazine and streamline the production process. Hopefully, you will start seeing the results of this within just the next month or two.
While we have not yet gone down the route of the all-singing, all-dancing, multimedia/iPad enabled document for S&P (we have only recently implemented hyperlinks within it!), we now at least have the production capacity to do so, when we deem the time right.
Comes the Miniatures
A long time has been spent revising our approach to miniatures, acknowledging the mistakes of the past and fixing them, one-by-one. We will be kicking off with some smaller miniatures games to begin with, looking to build confidence in our lines before doing anything outlandish or ambitious.
At the end of the day, miniatures gaming is in our blood, at least as much (if not more!) as RPGs, so this is a very, very welcome return for us. We are looking forward to the new miniatures games a great deal.
As we will go into more detail a little later on, we have always had something of a problem with Judge Dredd in terms of popularity. Decent enough in the UK, but no one in US has heard of him, and in Europe if they have heard of him, they don’t seem to care!
However, at Mongoose, we love Judge Dredd and, with a bunch of models already in our back catalogue, it was the natural game for us to kick off with. This time round, we planned a different approach to the game than we had for the original Gangs of Mega-City One.
First, the new game would allow players to concentrate on the judges if they wished. That was a ‘miss’ with Gangs, as we allowed ourselves to get diverted by the games’ function (what is the best way to do skirmish combat in Mega-City One) rather than what people might actually want out of such a game.
Second, we would give the rules away for free. To do the game justice, it would have to be done in full colour, and there was no way sales would justify that expense. Also, if anyone was nervous about the game continuing or not, there would be no cost barrier to entry – simply download and enjoy!
Third, the models themselves would only be available directly from Mongoose Mail Order. We would not have expected strong, continued sales of them through distribution so instead we held to the margins we would normally expect, and passed the savings directly on to you, the gamer. Models are an average of just £2 each. Again, no great expenditure required to get going – you can easily start playing for a tenner, plus postage.
We are right in the middle of this process at the moment, and the coming of the new A Call to Arms game has slowed things down more than we had hoped – we still have models from the original range that need new moulds but we simply haven’t had time to turn them around.
That said, we have started making some real progress. S&P editor Nick has taken on the mantle as part-time line developer for Judge Dredd and we have been talking to Shane Hoyle (he was the chap who sculpted the ape gang, one of the favourites of the range) about doing a sustained line of releases for the game.
So, while Judge Dredd will never be a front line game, we are going to make it at least feel like one. The current playtest rules will soon be withdrawn and replaced with a fully laid out, full colour PDF rulebook that will be continually updated as we release new models (ever get the idea that one day all miniatures games will be done that way?), alongside a more ‘printer-friendly’ edition.
In the immediate pipeline are new Sky Surfers, the Holocaust HS/2 Judge (a heavier suit that comes with a Street Cannon as standard!), a brand new Judge Dredd miniature, and some new Citi-Def to round them out into a new force. We will also be doing a line of the famous personalities of the comic strip. Because campaigns of Judge Dredd are easy to scale up using the Mercenary rules, this means you will be able to get your hands on, say, the entire Angel Gang, and play them as part of an existing campaign.
The Dark Judges might require a bit more firepower though…
Looking ahead, there will be new forces, new mercenaries, rules tweaks in response to player feedback, and maybe the odd open day at our office, where you can bring along your own force or use one of ours, and claim your own piece of Mega-City One! We are also looking at adding a resin casting facility to our miniatures production in 2011 for… a few projects that we don’t need to discuss right now. However, if this happens, then we may just get round to fulfilling a long-term wish of mine to produce a scale (well, near scale – a true scale one would be two feet long) Manta Prowl Tank.
That might sort the Dark Judges out!
A Call to Arms: Noble Armada
This came about because of a fortuitous meeting with Chris Wiese of Holistic Design at Gen Con this year. In a nutshell, Chris was looking for a new vehicle for Noble Armada (especially as the 3rd edition of Fading Suns is due for release in 2011 – more on that a little later), while we were looking for a new setting for A Call to Arms.
We had looked at Star Trek, and even developed a working conversion of the rules, but during the licence negotiations we found we were going head to head with Wizkids. And that was never going to go well!
When Noble Armada was suggested to us, however, it just seemed like a perfect fit. Multiple fleets with room to add more, a developed universe to draw upon, and a very different style of ship combat for us to play with. No downsides!
Signs & Portents is currently previewing CTA: Noble Armada, and we would direct you to look at the current issues for more details of this game – it is going to be a good ‘un, so if space fleet combat is your thing, take a peek.
There have been some criticisms about us taking on Noble Armada for A Call to Arms on some forums, and we would like to address those comments. It has been suggested that this combination is not going to be the new wave that spreads across the planet and one poster even used the word ‘fail.’
Guys, you are missing the point. We don’t expect it to rival Warhammer or War Machine. What we are producing is a nice, tight, fleet combat system that we hope fans of A Call to Arms and Noble Armada can both get into on one level or another. The former can look forward to the tightest version of these rules yet with oodles more tactical choices available. The latter will welcome the new ships we are currently developing, filling in the gaps that were in the original range.
January’s issue of Signs & Portents will feature a complete battle report, and we have already started showcasing some of the rules and ships in previous issues. It is worth a look, and a complete fleet (and we mean complete, enough to run an entire campaign) is going to retail for just $29.99. Inexpensive gaming for hard economic times.
We do have another iron in the fire with A Call to Arms but it is not something we are banking on as there are certain… complexities involved. Still, if it happens, you’ll probably hear the jubilant cries from our office, wherever you are in the world…
So called because for a very long time, it was being called The-Game-With-No-Name round the office. I don’t want to say too much about this one, because its release in 2011 is not certain – it may get bumped for a licensed title or two. However, I can say it is a 6mm sci-fi game based on our own IP/setting, following a gaming model that, it seems to us, is extremely ‘obvious’ but no one has yet attempted it with miniatures so far as we can see.
We have started running some generic playtests (the setting descriptions are lagging behind game development at the moment) and we are very much liking what we are seeing. There are a whole host of tactics that can be tried, it plays very quickly, scales up to almost any size without hassle, and looks interesting on the battlefield in a visual sense.
Work has already started in the digital modelling laboratory (otherwise known as the Ohio office) for various units, and we are quite pumped about this game. There are plenty of sci-fi games around, but this one just feels ‘fresh’.
When we have something a little more solid, we’ll run some previews and see what you all think.
Victory at Sea
This is the game that keeps on going, month in, month out! What started as a side, almost vanity project has gained a lot of momentum over the years since release and it has a dedicated following. One supplement has been released for the World War II version, and Age of Dreadnoughts provides support for WWI.
So, what next?
Well, there will be the odd supplement for Age of Dreadnoughts, penned by naval-supremo David Manley, though he is a very busy man, so we have yet to set any release dates!
The original World War II game is quite a different consideration altogether. Earlier this year we were ‘this’ close to buying an entire range of WWII ship miniatures from an existing manufacturer but, for various reasons, ‘twas not to be. If this project had proceeded, we would now be busy beavering away on a second edition for this game, complete with full colour rulebook sprinkled liberally with pictures of pretty painted ships.
It would have been a stunning book, with a full range of models to back it up.
We have not completely dismissed this idea, as it is a project I personally want to do very much. However, right now, our resources are going into other games (oh, to be able to do everything!). Expect to see support for this game throughout the year in Signs & Portents.
Traveller continues to be our top RPG, even in this time of market decline. It has proven itself to be an extremely solid core system
Overall, we have done everything we set out to achieve with this line in 2010, though there have been a few slippages, most notably with Power Armour.
This book just has not gone well for us, going poorly in playtesting and not fitting in well with the rest of the range. We have now decided to pull it completely and utilise the content for a forthcoming book.
In 2010 we released the first of our free-to-download epic campaigns, in the form of Secrets of the Ancients. We are about halfway through already and still going strong. This is a thorough re-imagining of the original (classic) Secret of the Ancients, and has been written by Gareth Hanrahan under the watchful eye of Marc Miller. Rumours of a second and third campaign expanding upon the Secrets of the Ancients to form a trilogy may not be totally untrue, but they will be some time off.
Our internal reorganisation made the Campaign Guide slip its release date into early 2011, but this will be a book I have waited a long time to use myself. The basic premise is for the book to be the perfect referee’s helper, to the extent that it will be possible for him to sit down at the table, with no preparation whatsoever, and run an entire campaign with none of the players being any the wiser – perfect for the lazy/busy referee! This one is due in March, about the same month as the next Alien Module, Zhodani.
Beyond that we have a good mix of core and Third Imperium books on the way – Library Data, Animal Encounters, The Traveller’s Aid Society, a big hardback packed full of new ships and deck plans, the Dynasty book that will allow you to not only run your own world/colony, but set up a great family that may continue to run things for centuries after, a la Dune. We will also be covering the Sword Worlds in more detail, the Deneb Sector is the next to get our treatment, Droyne will appear as an Alien Module, and we are looking at having a serious crack at re-imagining Trillion Credit Squadron, with the possibility of handling tournament play.
And that is but a fraction of what we already have in the works for Traveller in 2011!
One other thing we are wanting to take a look at, though no set title has been devised for this yet, is a new vehicle system for Traveller. The current two vehicle books have suffered from some criticism and, on a personal level, I am really not a fan of the construction system. We are therefore putting some thought into Traveller vehicles 2nd edition, as an obvious area where the rules could use some cleaning up. If this tome appears in 2011 (perhaps as a 200 page hardback that has a complete construction system, plus re-stats every vehicle we have produced for Traveller up to that point) then that will be a little too soon for our liking to the release of the original books – in which case, we will arrange a generous discount scheme for any purchasers of the originals.
This project is not set in stone by any means, but is on the wish list of what I would like to see for Traveller next year.
It is also worth pointing out (again!) that we have absolutely no plans at all for a second edition of the core rulebook. Any updates to the system will take the form of revised supplements (such as the soon-to-be-released 760 Patrons 2nd edition) and maybe, just maybe, a Traveller Companion, which could (just could!) contain revisions and updates to the core system itself. But, again, we have absolutely no plans to do that as of yet. Right now, it is just an idea.
Going Back in Time – 2300AD
At the time of writing this, we have just signed a new licence for 2300AD (once called Traveller 2300AD), the science fiction RPG where man is just reaching the nearby stars for the first time and finding his way about the galaxy. This is a much grittier setting than Traveller/The Third Imperium, with heavy cyberpunk and exploration elements.
The lead writer on this project is Colin Dunn, a man who knows the setting inside out and is primarily responsible for motivating us to get the licence!
The new game will build on the core Traveller rulebook, as usual for our Traveller-based games, with suitable additions and tweaks in its own core book. Look for this one to be released around the third quarter of 2011, along with a healthy supporting run of supplements and sourcebooks. The licence will run concurrently with Traveller itself, so there are a great many years for 2300AD to run.
We have also started to discuss the return of Twilight 2000 (likely with another date in mind for it, for obvious reasons), based on a completely different Third World War. However, this is unlikely to appear in 2011, so check back in a year’s time!
Overall, we believe RuneQuest II to be the best produced RPG we have done to date. The rules are, well, near perfect, Lawrence’s and Pete’s writing precise, and the actual production, in all its leather-bound glory, superb.
We had hoped with this start and the game’s pedigree, that we would have a potential Traveller rival (and thus two leading games), but RuneQuest II has never been quite that – and we find that a real shame because it is such a damn good game. Glorantha is a real Marmite setting, with its devoted followers and more casual gamers who find it difficult to get into, but we have begun opening RuneQuest II up to other areas, such as Elric of Melnibone, and our own Deus Vult.
Throughout 2011, Pete Nash will be taking the lead as main developer of the RuneQuest lines. We are toning down our releases for Glorantha slightly (though it will still enjoy heavy support with the Living Campaign – more on that a little later), but we will be fulfilling our promise to support the Eternal Champion lines far better than we have in the past.
This year saw the release of Cults of the Young Kingdoms, with the first Cities of the Young Kingdoms book just skidding in as a January release. There will be a further Cities book in 2011, and we will also be bringing Hawkmoon back with a scattering of supplements.
Corum, regrettably, will have to wait for another year, as will likely the Multiverse book as well. However, we also hope to bring you a free-to-download epic campaign for Elric, in the same vein as Secrets of the Ancients for Traveller, just as soon as we can find a writer (no, don’t write in – we know who we want to use!).
We will also be releasing new titles in the ‘core’ RuneQuest range, starting with Monster Island. Like Monster Coliseum, this is a monster book but one with an added twist. Whereas Coliseum had arena rules, Island will provide a complete location for you to encounter, oh, weird things! This one will be pretty early in the 2011 line up.
We are also expanding the ‘historical’ range of RuneQuest books, starting with an updated Land of the Samurai, combined with the Price of Honour campaign, giving you everything you need to start playing in mythical Japan. Pete also has a hankering to cover mythical Greece and after his sterling work on Vikings, how could we say no?
Finally, we will also be setting aside some time very early in 2011 to finally fulfil our promise to bring Lankhmar Unleashed up to proper RuneQuest II spec. When Lankhmar Unleashed was being written, it was fully compliant with RuneQuest II – unfortunately, the new rules went through further revision, moving them away from the already published Lankhmar. We have been promising a conversion document for too long now, and for that you have our deepest apologies. Given what has been happening here though, I hope you will understand.
Anyway, you can now find Lankhmar Unleashed for less than a fiver in our OOP section, which is where we will also post the PDF conversion document.
We have had some stalls on the Lone Wolf line, as devotees of the solo gamebooks will know. Not all of them were down to us… but we have to raise our hands and say most of them were.
The new Multiplayer Gamebook range did come out as promised, along with a decent amount of support – four books already this year, with another (the Magnamund Bestiary) due to skid in just before Christmas, printers permitting.
This new RPG, stripped down to the same core rules as the solo gamebooks, has been far more popular than we had guessed it would be, and has prompted us to commission a clutch more books for release next year.
Some of these will have a familiar ring for those who played the first D20 version of Lone Wolf, such as the Darklands sourcebook (just has to be done!), and we will be converting and compiling the Corruption of Ikaya adventure, originally printed in S&P, into a mini-campaign for the Multiplayer Gamebook.
However, first to appear next year will be the Book of the Magnakai, expected in February and written by fan-favourite, August Hahn. This book will allow every character class to be expanded beyond the current ten rank system, with new powers and new rules to handle higher powered gaming (the latter being the reason this addition to the game was too large for Heroes of Magnamund – what started as a fairly simple idea ballooned rapidly!).
We also have a sourcebook covering the Stornlands, much in the same style as Sommerlund and the Darklands, and are currently making plans to add more titles for the range in the second half of 2011. This game will build up into a very nice set of books.
The solo gamebooks have been slow this year, but we are aiming to redouble our efforts on them in 2011, starting with Book 15 in early January (again, printers permitting – their Christmas break may knock this onto late January), with a commitment for one book every other month thereafter. The one thing that may trip this up are Books 29-32, the first of which is expected to be with us before the end of the year. We’ll be pushing that one forward through production as soon as we can and, as promised, qualifying Mega-Deal customers will see their copy at least four months before anyone else (the rest of the world will be able to grab their copies sometime in the Summer, most likely).
Finally, we need to talk about the oft-mentioned softback editions of the solo gamebooks. Up to this point, we have been trying to link UK and US markets for joint releases without much success. However, we have now made the decision to stop farting about and actually get these books into print. We are looking to formalise this very early next year (selling to the mainstream book trade is a slower process than the hobby games trade), which will put a potential release date somewhere in Autumn 2011. Don’t hold us to that, as there are many things that can trip us up in this market, but that is what we are now pushing for, and it is an important component of a wider effort on our part, which has bumped up its priority. The first book (at least) will have a brand new cover, and the softbacks will also lose the bonus adventures that the collectors hardbacks have.
We’ll keep you up to date on what is happening with the softbacks, as slow as the process is but, in the meantime, you will see lots of support from us in the way of the hardbacks and the Multiplayer Gamebooks.
This one has been a funny old fish for us. We announced that, as part of Paranoia’s 25th Anniversary, we would be breaking the game into three ‘flavours,’ covering Troubleshooters, Internal Security and High Programmers. The idea was that core books for Paranoia have always done exceptionally well, but the supplements never followed suit. With three core books, Paranoia would naturally become a more frontline product set.
It has so not worked out that way!
Troubleshooters sells as well as a core book for Paranoia ever has, but Internal Security and High Programmers, both complete core books, do about 20% better than an average supplement.
This is very frustrating for us because these two are damn good books – High Programmers especially is a work of art from Gareth Hanrahan, and it deserves far more attention than it has received. After all, allowing players to use Ultraviolet level characters with all the power and resources of Alpha Complex at their disposal – what is not to like? The cover, done by Chris Quilliams, has especially nailed the game. In fact, Paranoia creators Eric Goldberg and Greg Costikyan have said they consider that cover to be among the best of any Paranoia book, published at any time.
And yet gamers are still treating the game as second-fiddle to Troubleshooters…
For 2011, there will four books released for Paranoia, roughly one every quarter. Two will be brand new adventures (likely for Troubleshooters and High Programmers). The other two will be fulfilling a commitment to keep the classic Paranoia adventures in print, and have the titles Flashbacks Redux, and Flashbacks Redux Redux. They won’t have the same content as the original Flashbacks books, and will include not only the earliest Paranoia adventures, but some of the favourites from the XP years as well. The first is due to appear in January and will include Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues and, my personal favourite (and taking centre stage for the cover art, again by Mr Quilliams), Me and My Shadow, Mark IV.
We remain interested in expanding Paranoia to other territories, but the question always comes back asking what we can do with it. We remain fairly convinced that there is a decent Paranoia graphic novel or comic strip in there somewhere but, despite several draft scripts, we still have not found the hook.
We’ll keep plugging away at it though. That is the new Mongoose mandate!
Up to this point, we have had very free and easy access to the 2000AD properties, and that looks set to continue for the foreseeable future. For our part, we enjoy them a great deal, and believe in them a lot.
The trouble is, comparatively few others share these views. 2000AD related gaming publications sell well in the UK, but tend to only appear around the rest of the world in pockets, where 2000AD fanatics seem to cluster together.
This makes the process of actually producing, printing and actually getting our money back somewhat problematic. We have had to take a very critical view of what we do with these properties and how we go about them.
The Dredd core book released last year (one of the best looking books we have ever printed, and superbly written by Lawrence Whitaker) did well enough, but we quickly switched to black and white interiors for the supplements, as we knew that sales level would not be sustained for them. The same thinking applied to Strontium Dog, which had a black and white hardback core book and just one supplement – the further we move away from Dredd himself, the thinner the ground gets.
We tried a break out product, intended for a wider audience, in the form of the Mega-City One Archives. The idea here, born from our experience with Babylon 5 and Starship Troopers, was that there were many people who were interested in the information we placed in our gaming books based on licensed properties, but who were at the same time put off by the notion of a gamebook (it was no accident that several Babylon 5 titles bore the legend ‘Fact Book’).
The only property that really does this to any serious degree at the moment is Star Wars, with technical manuals on just about every aspect of the setting. So, we thought, why not try the same thing for other properties?
This is something that has been on our minds for several years, leading up to the aborted Babylon 5 Encyclopaedia. Having joined Rebellion, however, it made perfect sense to do the same thing for Mega-City One – after all, we had the licence, in-depth knowledge of the universe, and access to all the resources we needed, even the same distribution network as the 2000AD graphic novels.
Overall, the Archives did okay. About the same as a mid-level 2000AD graphic novel (they were never going to come near to the Case Files compilations which are, frankly, phenomenal in sales). However, even with a boost from the hobby games trade, that was not enough to sustain the series which was being done as full colour hardbacks (remember, when drawing a comparison with graphic novels, that the latter have their strips paid for by the 2000AD comic, not the graphic novels sales themselves – whereas the Archives were being done mostly from scratch).
Part of this was our fault. Our graphical genius, Will Chapman, only came on board for the third volume, so the critical first two were very colourful (probably too much so), but less than spectacular in the visual department. The third was much better, but came in too late to save the day. The other issue is, again, there is not enough world-wide support for a Dredd series of this nature, when we need better than average sales to support the format. It is something we could risk while with Rebellion, but not now we are on our own. So, regrettably, we have had to close the book on this series.
As covered earlier, we will be continuing with the Dredd miniatures game, and giving it the full treatment, bar printing the rulebook and going into full distribution with the miniatures – mostly because we like it and it is a very good game. For the RPGs, we have no solid plans to release any books in 2011, though it is possible that a core book for one of the other 2000AD lines (such as Nemesis, ABC Warriors, Rogue Trooper, etc) could appear if a gap appears in the production schedule. If such books do appear, they will likely be single releases with everything contained in the core book, and no supplements to follow.
That does not mean all support is drying up though. We would very much like to release a free-to-download epic campaign for Dredd and potentially for Strontium Dog as well, and these have every possibility of appearing in 2011. Personally speaking, I would very much like to release the aforementioned Nemesis the Warlock RPG, but that would likely be a vanity project with little or no expectation of a decent return, and so remains on the back burner for now (does not mean it will never appear though – we have done plenty of such projects in the past!).
Needless to say, we are going to be watching the new movie with avid interest, and seeing what the rest of the world makes of it too. Dredd could be in for a global renaissance, you never know.
Third Party Publishers
Via our Flaming Cobra programme, Mongoose also works with various third party publishers to bring the very best of indie gaming to your tables. As always, our partners have been busy bees, and have a range of new titles waiting in the wings for you in 2011.
RedBrick have a number of game releases in the pipeline for 2011. New supplements for Earthdawn Third Edition, including the campaign guide for the Cathay setting, will continue to appear throughout the year.
Also, the long-awaited Third Editions of Fading Suns and Blue Planet are on schedule for a 2011 release. RedBrick Germany continue to work on their popular Pro-Indie game lines, along with development of the highly-anticipated future fantasy game, Equinox. More details on RedBrick’s game lines and plans for 2011 can be found in their 2010 ‘State of the Brick’ article at http://redbrick-limited.com
Corporation continues to tick over, with Brutal Games releasing a steady stream of supplements for the over-the-top cyberpunk RPG. The Mind Unbound has already been delivered to us (indeed, those who attended our last Corporation Day were able to grab advance copies!) and is set for a February release, and will be followed in 2011 by Cities of Gold (the Eurasian Inc sourcebook), and Gate 22 part one – hopefully part two as well, all going well!
Brutal have also told us that they plan to step up their support of Corporation in Signs & Portents next year.
As you will likely have heard already, Dragon Warriors is changing homes. We have spoken to the new publishers but, as yet, have no better idea than anyone else as to what is happening with the Dragon Warriors line!
However, there will be one last swan song from Magnum Opus. We are hereby announcing the release of a revised rulebook that has various tweaks and incorporated errata. Nothing drastic has changed, but if you want the very latest in Dragon Warrior rules sets, you will be wanting this book. It is being printed right now, and will be available from around Christmas onwards.
We also have some new titles coming up for the Pathfinder RPG, kicking off with Campaign Overlay: Fantasy Firearms, released in conjunction with Skortched Urf’ Studios. This will appear in February and mark the start of our support for this game.
As well as a handful of third parties producing material for Pathfinder, we are also looking at the return of some of our more popular D20 books, revised and refurbished for today’s Pathfinding gamer. Favourites for this treatment are a compiled equipment book, the 30-level Drow War campaign, and selected Slayer’s Guides and Encyclopaedia Arcanes.
Mongoose Living Campaigns
We launched the Mongoose Living Campaigns earlier this year, covering both Traveller and Glorantha (RuneQuest II).
We have had some slips with Glorantha, as we lost the original campaign co-ordinator, but a new one has been appointed, and will be getting back to grips with new scenarios within the next week or two.
Traveller has had a relatively steady release of adventures (though we would always like to do more!), and it has been quite gratifying to hear of games being run in conventions that we do not attend – word of this campaign is slowly getting out, and we will be continuing both campaigns throughout 2011.
We are also looking at incorporating other adventures into these campaigns. For example, there is no real reason why a home-run campaign should not use the Secrets of the Ancients adventures with their Living characters or, for that matter, the recently revised Death Station in Signs & Portents 87. More news on this as it comes.
The Holy Grail
For those looking for news on Mongoose’s alleged ‘Holy Grail’ of RPGs, unfortunately it has to be said that we are not even thinking about it right now. Got more than enough on our plate as it is! It also has to be acknowledged that there is perhaps no Holy Grail for any RPG product in the current market.
So, can we just put this one to bed now?
We are still looking for our new ‘bonanza’ product line, and have several irons in the fire with potential licensors for games that will fulfil this requirement. Most are miniatures-based licences (though several of those would also come with RPG rights as well), and we will be making announcements as and when we can throughout 2011.
We have recently revealed that this was indeed A Call to Arms: Noble Armada.
This is an interesting one. A multi-property licence, all fully negotiated and ready to sign, before being torpedoed. A shame, but we know who you are and you can be sure we will take the time to thank you properly for your good efforts, when we get the chance.
Plenty of other fish in the sea though.
Other Markets, New IP
We are very keen to begin producing new settings/IP (Intellectual Properties), and develop those we already have in our stable. However, our traditional way of doing this via RPGs does not appear to be viable any more, at least to the extent we wish to push them.
An RPG of a new IP is a valuable thing, as it effectively becomes a super-detailed ‘setting bible’ that is far more complete than most IPs have. However, from a commercial point of view, it is now a risky prospect – a new setting done as an RPG could well be a hit. However, there is every chance that it will merely do ‘okay’ and take resources away from other lines. When added to the fact that an RPG is near useless when presenting IPs to potential third parties (such as movie producers, though you must never count on those deals), we obviously need to seek other methods.
In 2011 we will therefore be adding more strings to the bows of our favourite IPs, and taking a similar approach to new ones. For example, we are looking into both novels and graphic novels based on Deus Vult, as well as novels and boardgames based on Armageddon 2089 (a miniatures game for the latter is possible as well, though serious work is unlikely to commence until late 2011 at best – we have enough fish to fry in the short term!).
We have no delusions of grandeur with these properties, or the others that are in production. We are not expecting a swanky movie deal for any of them. However, we will be ensuring that each new approach is profitable in its own right (thus justifying its existence) and taking the view that, so long as products are out there and being played or read, then who knows what might happen?
This one is a boardgame and something we are quite excited about. It introduces a new setting to our range (think very ‘clean’ and high-tech sci-fi). Featuring a card-based system, it allows competitive and co-operative play, as well as solo play – in fact, it was going to be a solo only game until talks with various distributors convinced us otherwise. There are some rather obvious expansions that can be built for Project Eon quite easily (as well as free downloadable cards in Signs & Portents), allowing us to give it a proper level of support, and the entire game is designed to place the player right in the heart of the action. Literally in the hotseat.
We are currently aiming for a Summer-ish release for this one, though we will be previewing it much earlier.
Mongoose has taken some knocks over the past few years but the important thing is that, to quote Morpehus, we are still here. Not dead yet.
Not all of our peers can say the same thing.
The biggest change we have had in 2010 is a much needed internal attitude adjustment. We are not going to allow ourselves to be led by the nose, and we won’t take attacks upon us lying down. Our product lines will not simply trundle along under their own steam, but will be targeted like a laser-guided bomb.
Much of this is internal to Mongoose and won’t be immediately apparent, especially as we have only had a few (fraught!) months with which to begin preparing the new projects. So, what is left for you to be excited about?
If you are a fan of our RPGs, then there is plenty of Good Stuff coming your way, with new titles for Traveller, RuneQuest and the Lone Wolf games, along with support for our other lines. The Living Campaigns will continue throughout 2011, and we hope to add more free-to-download epic campaigns for our main lines. Signs & Portents will also be increasing the quality of its content, again as a free resource.
If you are a fan of our miniatures games, we will be starting slowly in 2011 but gaining pace quickly. Our games systems tend to be well regarded and, building upon that, we have spent a long time looking at criticisms of our actual miniatures and finding ways to resolve those issues. We are now confident that we can build solid games lines and support them indefinitely.
Beyond that, it is our hope that our reaches into other markets with different products will meet with your approval, and hopefully tempt you into at least giving them a try.
Above all though, we would like to thank our customers from around the world who have supported us throughout this year and taken the time to let us know when we have done good, and when we have done bad. All your comments are appreciated and let us know that you have a vested interest in our games.
We wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We literally could not do any of this without you.