A TGN Interview with Ronnie Renton from Mantic Games about Mars Attacks

By Polar_Bear
In Crowdfunding
Oct 21st, 2013
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Mars Attacks, from Mantic, is racking up some pretty good numbers over on Kickstarter. Originally looking for $50k, they’ve made it to over $440k with still 20 days to go.

Mantic CEO, Ronnie Renton, was kind enough to answer some questions we sent him about the campaign.

So grab your ray gun and fishbowl helmet, it’s time for the return of the long-lost TGN Interview.

TGN: So, why Mars Attacks? What made you feel the setting would make a good minis game?

Mr. Renton: Well, we were approached with the opportunity to do the license and thought “hmm, interesting”… there was dark humor, over the top violence and iconic imagery… so we said, “count us in!”

As a small company we’re always on the lookout for ways to grow our audience and awareness, we had a step change with DreadBall, another step change with Deadzone, LOKA is allowing us to talk to new customers and then Mars Attacks came along and boom, we had opportunity to get the Mantic name in front of card collectors, comic book readers and a new fresh fun game with a more light hearted tone. It’s the closest to a board game we’ve done whilst still being a wargame and when there are flying saucers, giant robots, mutant bugs and some rather boldly colored aliens, it was too good an opportunity to miss out on!

TGN: Do you have any personal history with the setting (reading the comics, collecting the cards, etc)?

RR: I think being a brit means I have the same exposure to the IP as a lot of other people, and that’s the movie. Our license isn’t for the movie, and so we had a little bit of “well, what else is there?” – and don’t we feel silly for thinking that!

A bit of google-fu and we discovered whole reams of background – cards (both heritage and the new Invasion cards), a popular comic series from IDW and then Adam Levine from Topps sent us the Mars Attacks IP Bible… wow, boy was it in-depth.

We are totally hooked and then Adam sent us the art…

If you haven’t already, we thoroughly recommend downloading the comics from Comixology.

TGN: How do you transfer the sort of humorist, tongue-in-cheek setting to the minis game? Was it hard to straddle that line of humor and gore (since some of the Mars Attacks pieces can be pretty graphic)?

RR: Well, firstly we put the first brick in place, the foundation of the game, and that was it needed to appeal to a more mass market, so the gameplay needed to be easy to learn. There aren’t a lot of modifiers, and the dice mechanics and statlines are really easy to understand. We wanted things to die really easily, so figures aren’t very resilient. Once that base was in place and things were neatly balanced, we then looked at colour – the humour, the tongue-in-check you mentioned.

We do this using the cards which have random events like a herd of Burning Cattle stampeding across the board, or a car being thrown and landing on the board – everything from giant bug attacks to capturing frightened – often curvy – civilians are featured in the event cards, as you can see from the downloadable Playtest Rules PDF we made available. Thanks to the Kickstarter each of these cards will feature some nice art which lends itself to the MA visual style.

And that visual style is very important, so the other way we get that humor in is via the models, which are really humorous caricatures with a slight comic-book twist.

TGN: In particular in regards to the humor of the setting, how do the mechanics of the game reflect it?

RR: Ah – randomness is a big part of it. Just where will that flying car land? Where will the herd of Burning Cattle go? Is that counter you’re about to land on going to be a Critter or Alien Tech?

Then there’s other aspects – your opponent is busy collecting cards to launch an artillery strike, but what happens if I play this mind control card and fire it for them? And of course, there’s traditional combat… what happens if I run up to a Martian with baseball bat and clobber him?

All of these little random moments amount to lots of cinematic action – though of course blend it with skill and tactics and you can put the odds in your favour, so there’s strategy there too for more seasoned gamers as well as how to use the “Buff” cards. It’s a game that will appeal to new hobbyists and those with experience playing tabletop games.

TGN: When working within an IP such as this, how much freedom is there when making new characters and coming up with game mechanics? This is sort of Mantic’s first foray into a pre-generated world. Is it much different than when creating models for Kings of War or DreadBall?

RR: Well, a Martian has to look like a Martian, but Adam said to us “we want you to make some stuff up and help build the IP,” so we had opportunity to add some of our characters in. Tor is a great example. He’s a Martian General and carries a staff weapon mentioned in the IP Bible but never actually seen before, he also wears a cloak which is unusual (with the exception of Zar in the IDW comics) for a Martian because they have a very set way of dressing.

Having a lot of art assets was a massive relief actually, and we had a lot of stuff to base models on which meant we could concentrate on the sculpting but the guys in the office aren’t short of ideas so it’s a nice blend. It isn’t actually that different than DreadBall or Kings of War.

TGN: The Kickstarter has done very well, already well over 8x its initial goal. Mantic’s Kickstarters are seen as “a way to do things” when it comes to such campaigns. Without giving away any sort of trade secrets, what do you feel is the key to the success of your Kickstarter campaigns?

RR: I think it’s about community building and having a product that appeals to them. People who pledged on Kings of War didn’t necessary pledge on DreadBall who didn’t necessary pledge on Deadzone – but a large majority did, and we’ve grown our community with these new systems.

I think we’ve been lucky with the way that our Kickstarters have gone – we weren’t sure what would happen when we launched Kings of War, but we did our research, asked about what our guys wanted and did it.

Communication is the key I think.

TGN: There’ve been whispers of a Martian team for DreadBall. Any further word on that?

RR: Maybe 😉

Deadzone would be interesting too…

TGN: We saw that you were apparently thrilled to get your burning cattle. Is there anything else you’re really looking forward to seeing for Mars Attacks?

RR: Dead figures, I love them. Trying to get the DreadBall prone figures past the guys in the office was pretty traumatic, and then they ended up being the top seller on the Kickstarter (HA!) so the guys already had them on the list when I went to suggest them for Mars Attacks.

Besides the staple Mars Attacks things – Robots, Bugs – I’m also trying to get some more scenery in there and I’d like to do some retro soldiers.

Oh, and zombies – the Science Division like to experiment on humans and turn them back on us, so maybe there will be some mutants…

TGN: Thanks for your time with answering our questions.

And there we have it. Go check out the Mars Attacks Kickstarter and be sure to check out TGN for more updates about this awesome game as it develops.
Again, our thanks to Mr. Renton and also to Chris Palmer for setting up the interview.

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  • wormwoode

    Nice interview. I like the angle they have on working with a liscenced property. Knowing what kinds of models Ronnie would like to see released is interesting, too. He mentioned Retro-style Soldiers, but I think a lot of supporters are waiting for Reto-style Civilians. Curious to see what the final model line up will look like.