Jake Thornton announces intentions to self-publish his games

Jake Thornton has gotten the DreadBall … umm… ball… rolling and has now announced where he’s headed next with publishing.

Well DreadBall is rolling along nicely and all my other freelance work is under control. So what next?

I’ve mentioned self-publishing once or twice in passing, and this is something I’ve been considering for a long while. Now I’m all done considering and am busy trying to implement it.

What I mean by self-publishing is selling my game designs directly as PDFs, with an option for Print On Demand (POD) sites like Lulu to sort people out with hard copies if they want them.

  • wittdooley

    Excellent. I’m really looking forward to Battlestorm Gothica and Mordeville!

    • Vespasian

      During by their GW days I can’t imagine Thornton ever matching Battlefleet Gothic but I’d still take a look at whatever games he produces.

      • Vespasian

        Sorry, I meant to say judging by their GW days

    • Ghost

      Agreed. I’m waiting for him to announce Epicmaster.

      • SirAngry

        I take it neither Wittdooley or Ghost have ever played any of Jake’s games then. Besides if you were going to copy any companies games right now in terms of mechanics, I’m sorry but GW would be right at the bottom of the pile.

        • wittdooley

          You’d take it wrong. See the longer, presumably TL;DR answer below.

  • We really need a good set of space fleet rules that are too heavy or too light, or full of rules issues. I’m immediately thinking of three games here… lol

  • Borzag

    Okay, when the hell did TGN become 4Chan???

    Guys, he’s taking a big step here, and I for one wish him luck on it. Drop the sarcasm okay?

  • Quirkworthy

    Thanks Borzag. I’m used to it though. It’s a natural reaction for people who know me from GW and haven’t played my other games. DreadBall, for example, is often compared to Blood Bowl by those that haven’t played it, but people who’ve had a try themselves never say this. In fact, they usually comment about how differently it plays. BB is the big dog in fictional sports games, and it’s a natural shorthand to compare anything in that genre to it. That doesn’t mean it’s right – it’s just a simple shorthand. Unfortunately people sometimes mistake the shorthand for the reality,

    Because GW has been such a dominant force for so long, it’s natural to use them as a reference point. So if I was describing Warmachine to someone who didn’t know it but was familiar with Warhammer I might use that to give them a starting point. That doesn’t mean that the two games are at all similar in the way they play, but both use toy soldiers on a tabletop.

    BoardGameGeek has about 60,000 games listed IIRC. There’s a vast amount more variety out there than most folk are aware of. Many games I see and which are hailed as innovative or unique aren’t – they’re just reusing old techniques and ideas (consciously or not). people would find loads of cool stuff out there if they took the time to explore further. Anyway…

    Apologies for the long ramble.

    If anyone is interested in what I’m up to (and can cope with long rambles) then pop over and join in the discussion. You’ll be very welcome.

    Jake Thornton


    • SirAngry

      Meh… haters goner hate Jake.

      Not everything you produce is totally awesome, but hey, not everything can be. What I can say about your games that I’ve played, including ToL is that you at the very least try to put your own stamp on things. Lazy comparisons are the by-product of slow minds I was once told by an exceedingly clever chap at university. Seems our hobby has plenty of slow minds in it. 😛

      • Quirkworthy

        @SirAngry – absolutely. I don’t think anyone is totally awesome all the time, me included. At least, I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head. Personally, I’m very often trying to do something a little unusual with my games, and sometimes that works brilliantly, other times less so. Even when I think it’s worked perfectly it might not suit you, and vice versa, which is fine.


        • Well… I know I’m looking forward to whatever you’re coming out with.
          … and not just ’cause I’ve got a quota to fill for news posts in a day. :p

          sits at window, eagerly awaiting DreadBall order

      • wittdooley

        I’ve played Dwarf Kings Hold, Pandora and Last Patrol. I’ve also played a great deal of Necromunda, which I believe Jake worked on as well. I think Dwarf Kings Hold and Pandora are unoriginal and derivitive, and as such the gameplay is uninspiring. Couple that with the fact that, compared to other similiar products, the production values of both are sub par (and yes, I realize that isn’t specifically Mr. Thornton’s fault), neither of which have ever caused me any great want to purchase.

        Lost Patrol is “okay.” The “lost” mechanic that can adversely affect your squad when too many are on the same tile is neat, I guess, but seems a bit contrary to what SHOULD happen. To me the chances of something ‘going wrong’ would seem to increase when there are less folks are on a tile, but that’s just me.

        Concerning DreadBall specifically; yes, I still find it derivitive, but at least less so than Mantic’s previous efforts. Mechanics-wise it seems to differ more than DKH or Pandora differ from their derived system. But it’s still a Miniatures Sports game that is going to be compared to everything else out there (Blood Bowl, Elf Ball, etc) and seen, in some respects, as derivitive.

        And here’s the deal, and I don’t mean any untoward disrespect, as you’ve published and worked in the industry, whilst I’ve only been a consumer, but it’s not like Mr. Thornton has any crowning achievement to warrant extra leeway like say, Alessio Cavatore or Rick Priestly or Andy Chambers have with recent games. Based on my experiences with the underproduced Mantic offerings, particularly when doing a like-kind comparison to say, Space Hulk or even a game like Claustrophobia (that has a great deal more innovation than DKH or Pandora), they simply pale in any objective comparison.

        And while I appreciate your presumption, SirAngry, that I must have a slow mind, I do not. I’ll make sure I check your blog to see what your latest freebie hotness is so I can take the time to better articulate my posts regarding them, in the hopes that it will assuage your fears that I am too far below your clearly very high standards.

        • SirAngry

          Derivative in what way with reference to Dreadball? Mechanics or imagery? You some I think you’re confusing the two things. Imagery for DKH, PP and DB are out of Jakes hands as they’re Mantic products and Mantic will put their aesthetic to them.

          Also what is DKH and PP derived systems? I’d be genuinely interested in what you think they copy… mechanically speaking of course, because again Jake didn’t sculpt the mini’s or decide the aesthetic there.

          So Jake hasn’t got any crowning achievement, does that mean you get to act like a prick and try rubbishing somebodies work before it h as even appeared? Honestly think about that for a second, because yes it is lazy and totally unfair.

          As for being too far below my very high standards… that’s your own insecurities talking. As for freebies, I don’t get half as many as you think I do. The vast majority of product I review I buy. Nice attempt at a dig though, although it does smack a bit of jealousy, which goes well with your petty spite.

          • wittdooley

            Not about any insecurities or jealousy. I actually wholeheartedly appreciate your site and what you do; however, I’ve found from reading that you “seem” to be more generous in your reviews for products you were given than ones that were purchased. That’s it. If anything, I’m envious of the time you have to do all the writing; I dont have as much time to do that as I’d like.

            I’ll break down the other points:
            1. DreadBall — Derivitave more in terms of imagry, and you’re right, that’s not up to him, but it does colour my judgement that he’s saddled his horse so many times to a company that (while is admittedly making progress) exists only because of another company and has yet to really branch out to differentiate themselves in terms of the IP (though, again, Dreadball is a great step towards that).

            DKH and PP are clearly inteded to be “Space Hulk” type games, are they not? Maybe I’m over-generalizing, but is there that much difference between them? Sure, the dual action chits in PP are different, and (I believe) there is a light and dark system that does something (honestly, I can’t remember what), but is there that much difference otherwise? Hence, derivitive. Couple that with the fact that the package seems quite underproduced compared to similar products, and you’re left with what is, IMO, a bland imitation. It’s for that same reason that people seem to be less than enthusiastic about Privateer’s Level 7: Escape, which I think has more innovation with the fear meter than anything in DKH or PP: it’s way underproduced when you compare it to the rest of the bunch. Mr. Thornton is right; most things are derivitive in some way, but it’s the package that makes something stand out.

            I mean, look at 40k. Infinity, Warmachine, Dust Warfare are all arguably (IMO definitely) superior systems, but none of them can hold a candle to 40k in terms of volume and popularity. Because the package is lesser. And maybe I’m being too harsh on Mr. Thornton for letting his work (does he have the choice; I dont know?) be underproduced like it was with DKH and PP, and so in that regards, maybe branching out on his own is the best way to get his great ideas into the hands of a company that can package them correctly.

          • SirAngry

            The fear meter in Level 7 is a direct copy of God knows how many HP Lovecraft games I just don’t even know. As for my reviews of product I’ve received for free, that’s your opinion, however you’d be wrong if you added it up and checked the stats.

            On average I’m slightly more generous to product I’ve actually purchased. I did this because I had someone level the exact same criticism at me. But here’s a thought for you, I know many other Blogs and podcasts get stuff for free, but never once mention it to people. I do so you can make the judgements you clearly have. It’s your opinion and that’s fine.

            As for DKH and PP being Space Hulk clones… REALLY?!?!? Honestly I don’t know where you are coming from with that. Both DKH and PP have a resource mechanic in terms of the orders that wasn’t like anything in Space Hulk and that in and of itself made the game a very, very different beast.

            As for Jake having control over his products at Mantic, no he doesn’t. He is a freelance games developer who is commissioned to produce product, like many games developers out there. They are asked to produce things by people within certain boundaries and they do their best. I happen to think Jake has always done a good job when asked to.

          • wittdooley

            What Cthulu game is it copied from? I know that Arkham uses the “fear track” or whatever it’s called, but I wasn’t aware another game used one that had two tracks taht you had to maintain a balance of. Again, I thought this was a pretty unique mechanic.

            I think it’s fantastic that you get stuff to review, if at least because yours always have substance, whereas some coughtbolscough are sometimes lacking. I think you’re incredibly thorough, and from my perspective, you’ve seemed to be more generous with the “freebies” than others. But, you’re right, I’ve never counted.

            So Mr. Thornton is beholden to Mantic, not the other way around. I guess I presumed (incorrectly) that he shopped his design to them then they built the rest around it.

            I just reread your Pandora Review, and you’re right. There are differences. The dice mechanic is completely unique from SH. The action mechanic is different too, in that not every model can/will act on a turn. But that’s more or less the extent of it, right? I don’t know that comparing it to Space Hulk is, as you say, that “lazy.” And, to be honest, I think that’s my biggest issue with your response…well, that and your presumption that I have a “slow mind.”

            Quite frankly, the more I read the thread, the more it becomes clear that my disdain is for Mantic rather than for Mr. Thornton. So, to you Mr. Thornton, I apologize. I hope you have success with other ventures that span beyond Mantic and their brand of product creation. Were DreadBall not a Mantic game, I’d probably be more predisposed to checking it out.

  • TheCapn

    I don’t mean any untoward disrespect, as you’ve published and worked in the industry, whilst I’ve only been a consumer, but it’s not like Mr. Thornton has any crowning achievement to warrant extra leeway…

    Dude, this makes you sound like a total asshat. Seriously.

    • SirAngry

      Agreed TheCapn.

  • surprize

    I think “leeway” is the telling phrase in the comment. It implies a negative outlook from the off. I.E. assuming all new content is rubbish, but being prepared to indulge it should the designer have produced good games in the past. Whereas you could argue it would be an healthier attitude to assume everything is awesome until proven otherwise.

    The saddest thing about the whole issue is we as a gaming community get exactly what we deserve with regards to games. People just don’t go for really ‘out there’ games, they just buy more space marines and become increasingly sickened by their own desire.

    If Jake produced any awesome game with a D8 and D12 based mechanic set inside the spleen of Zeus with robotic battling cats no-one would play it.

    • wittdooley

      Do you think so?

      Do you think Sedition Wars would have performed so well on Kickstarter had Mike McVey’s name not been attached to it? Or CMoN? I’m not so sure it would have, but I think that’s a fair point to have a discussion about. I mean, there’s a reason Adam Sandler still gets the green light on movies like Jack & Jill: he used to be funny.

      With that in mind, I don’t think the comment is unfair. How many people do you think you could say, “it’s a Jake Thornton” game to and have them willing to try it based on that alone? How many people do you think you could get to climb aboard a new Andy Chambers game based on name alone? For me, and perhaps I’m in the minority, a past track record matters and can help to inform the quality of what may come in the future.

      • SirAngry

        Well Andy Chambers has blotted his copy book a bit with Dust Warfare. So perhaps his past track record will be somewhat tarnished. It’s not as good a game as people seem to think it is… and I’m actually a fan of Andy’s work. As for the name Jake Thornton, you’re right. He’s never once been the number one name on many of the products he’s been involved with at GW. However, if you ask those who are in the know back there many of them hold him in the highest regards. He is very fondly remembered for helping put WFB back on track during it’s second golden era during ravening hordes. He is also very fondly remembered for his work on GW’s Specialist Games.

        As for Sedition Wars, I think the biggest draw for that game probably wasn’t Mike McVey’s name as such, because there are plenty of people out there who genuinely have absolutely no idea who the hell the bloke is. In fact a shocking amount of people don’t. However, they’re aware of what his company has produced, and the stunning limited edition miniatures that they provide. That gave him a big boost, but unquestionably the biggest boost was having CMoN run the campaign. They get them ticking over fantastically well and run them like a military operation. But don’t underestimate the amount of work that has gone into that product and it was shown off very well during that campaign, people brought the game mainly it seems for the shiny miniatures.

        • wittdooley

          Well, it would appear that I’m clearly not quite “in the know” enough. The closest to “in the know” I am is having Chris Wraight recognize my name from a book review I did of Battle of the Fang. So….not much.

          And maybe that’s where our perspectives differ significantly. You seem to actually know more of these folks and therefore have a more vested interest in how what you will say will affect that relationship. Or maybe I’m way off. I don’t know Mr. Thornton. I know that I was left wanting with both DKH and PP. To be fair, it’s been quite some time since I’ve played either, so maybe a revisiting will change my perspective. And as a full disclosure, I had no idea that Mr. Thornton had designed both, nor did I know he designed Lost Patrol (which again, I actually do like, but wish the dissapear mechanic was the other way around)

          But I’m looking at it from a totally detached, consumer point of view. Maybe I should mince my words a bit more. I don’t know. I think that difference in perspective accounts for our viewpoint differences to some extent.

          I’m not sure I agree that lots of people don’t know who McVey is, but I absolutely agree (as I intimated before) that CMoNs involvement had a lot to do with its success. Also, as a backer that played the game at GenCon two years ago, I do have some perspective on how much the game has evolved since the outset.

          As for Chambers… I actually am quite fond of Dust Warfare. I think the rules are quite clean. I think the game plays quite fast. And I appreciate the affordablity having an outfit like FFG produce the game allows.

          • SirAngry

            I think the raw mechanics underneath Dust Warfare work really, really well. But all the special rules and how the book is presented, and indeed how some of the core rules interact with the game do mean that at points it fails for me. Lots of good ideas that I don’t think were properly thought out. Again, I’m not too sure whether or not that’s the game designers faults. There will be time constraints not of their making that the guy who pay the money will need them to adhere too. Overall it remains a good product, although they do need that fourth faction already!!! The cost is also a lot better than 40k, which is a bonus. But that’s got feck all to do with Andy Chambers.

            As for pulling my punches because I know people. Maybe, or maybe it’s just that on the whole I’m more of a nice person, possibly too nice. However, I didn’t pull my punches on Dreadfleet, and that was given to me. I have criticised product quite heavily from people who I do know. I’ve had a few fall outs, but generally speaking most of the people who I know who work in the industry are actually mature enough to take criticism on the chin.

          • wittdooley

            I think the easy fix for Dust Warfare is to create Tactics style game cards for your units. I too think the constant need to reference the rulebook is incredibly burdensome. I also find myself mixing rules accidentally between the two systems sometimes, which generates this really delightful, but accidental, hybrid of the two.

            I think it’s easy to criticize Dreadfleet because it’s a GW, but that’s another story :D. I don’t think the game is great, but I don’t think it’s poor. It’s a solid everything-is-here-in-the-box boat game that isn’t nearly as good as Man-O-War but, IMO, it isn’t trying to be. My wife enjoyed Dreadfleet, and the models for it are exquisite. Do I wish I’d have held off and picked one up at the discount prices you can get them for now? Oh, absolutely. I wish it had done better, because despite it’s relatively mediocrity, it was GW doing something “new.”

            Honestly, I don’t think being “nice” should have anything to do with how you review something. I’m incredibly nice, and I think Gav Thorpe, from the few times I’ve spoken with him at conventions is a really good dude, but Deliverance Lost was not a very good novel. I’d happily tell him that over a drink at a bar, and then I’d let him know how much I did enjoy Path of the Seer. IMO, once you let being “nice” enter the equation about a review, you’re no longer being objective. When that happens, I think you do a bit of a disservice to your not-insignificant readership, of which I’m typically a part.

  • I’m glad the discussion came back around to being “civil.”

    Seems recently I”m almost ashamed to be a gamer because of some of the comments on TGN (not necessarily here, in this post, but close).

    I think that Mr. Thornton is doing his best to create unique and fun games that people will enjoy. Before I started comparing his stuff to “other” things, I’d think about game design from his perspective. The main goal would be to break yourself away from that mold and try to create something that can’t really be compared except in generalities such as this one- Tiny soldiers on a tabletop using some mechanic (dice, cards, charts) to reach an outcome on a fake battlefield. Or the quote from Mr. Thornton himself,

    … both use toy soldiers on a tabletop.

    I’d definitely try to break away from being compared and be as creative as possibly while having a rule set that is sleek, fun, fast, and intuitive.