Battle Systems, makers of fine card terrain pieces, including the rather impressive Battle Bunker set were kind enough to participate in the second in our new line of interviews here at TGN with the people that make the games and gaming products you see here. A big thanks to Colin and Wayne for their time. Anyway, on with the interview...
TGN: First off, tell us a little bit about yourselves. Who are the minds behind Battle Systems?
Battle Systems: Well, Battle Systems started (as all businesses do) as an idea years ago. I have been fascinated by miniature figures ever since I received a Bat Mobile toy car when I was 5 years old. It had small painted figures of the Capped Crusader and Boy Wonder and I popped them out with a knife. On such a small scale you could create a huge world in just your bedroom and the scope of this hooked me. When I was 13 a friend lent me a copy of Rogue Trader (the GW rule book) and the rest is history. I’m now 38 and over the years I’ve been building terrain and I found that I was spending more time building and painting terrain and the figures than gaming. So I started to make paper terrain. I would spend some time drawing and colouring, then copy the drawing on a colour scanner/copier then mounting on card and so on. After a while I bought a pen display (a draw-on graphics tablet) and started to draw the terrain directly onto the PC, I got better at it and eventually realized that there may be a market for this and after researching I saw there was. So I started to design and build the products we sell today. As I neared the completion of my first product, I quickly realized that I would need a pretty good website. A good friend of mine Wayne Abela (wadesigns) who I have known for over 20 years has basically covered this for me. Wayne has watched the development of battle systems over the last few years and I would bounce ideas with him as I developed the system. As a designer himself he has been a great help with photoshop and other aspects and so he came on board as the web man. He has designed the website from scratch and we worked closely on the logo and how the site should look. He’s been good as I have very strong opinions of how things should look. He has also help with Facebook, twitter and general tech stuff all along the way, Thanks Wayne. We launched in March 2011 and have just released our new bunker set on May 14th. We are basically geeks who love sci-fi and fantasy and love what we do.
TGN: Card terrain can sometimes be a finicky item. How does Battle Systems stand out? What misconceptions about this sort of terrain do you want to dispell with Battle Systems products?
Battle: I have felt very strongly about how our card terrain should look right from the start and what I wanted was super detail and a real 3D feel, but also something flexible to keep games fresh. Card terrain can look very thin and papery (as you can expect as it is paper), but the way I see it, a space ship wall would be thick and full of pipes and wires and plasma and... well you get the idea. I wanted the terrain to convey this and so i have tried to make every part feel solid. Not just a flat card wall, but a real bulkhead feel. If you walk down a spaceship gantry or corridor it should envelope you and so the pod design was born. Not only does this design give the right look, but it also makes the finished build a sturdy solid product. Each pod has a thick mount board/mat board base, side walls and internal supports and this gives strength and durability as well as the aesthetic look. Paper terrain can be seen as a cheap alternate to a solid resin product, but the advantages are multiple, from low cost, no need to paint, print as much as you like, lightweight and our design is easy to store and can be set up with a different layout every time you game.
TGN: You've got some great tutorials on your website for building the pieces and it looks pretty simple... but really, does one need to be an origami master to make the pieces?
Battle: One thing that sets Battle Systems apart is that our products are harder to build than the normal paper terrain. I have always been torn between the look verses the ease of the build. Every step I took towards an easier building process, took something from the look. So I decided not to compromise and decided early on that I would provide tutorial videos directly embedded into the website for each and every pod. No more fat manuals and deciphering instructions. You can watch me build every pod in HD detail. Many of our customers have built pods with no prior modeling experience and the tutorials build your skill as you work through them in order. There is an ‘essential how to guide’ that shows you the basics and all these are free to watch at any time before and after you buy any set from us. I don’t have any ‘super steady’ powers or magic fingers, just a few basic skills and some practice will get you great results.
TGN: Gaming terrain can tend to get beaten up. We've all seen foam hills with giant chunks taken out of them, trees with all the flocking gone and other such. How well does Battle Systems hold up?
Battle: As far as sturdiness is concerned the sets we design and build are fine. Like I mentioned earlier, they are all reinforced with internal supports and as they are photo paper and 1.5mm card they are very light. Drop a resin or expanded foam model and watch it dent, chip or crack. Drop a wall pod and it holds up well, there is less mass and so less force. I have dropped pods many times and the worst I have had is a little crease if a pod lands right on a corner. All the pods we show on the website and videos are originals and many are two years old or more. Just keep them in a box when not in use and they will be fine. Of course if you did destroy one then you can just print another and build again, you only have to buy the files once and you can print as many as you like.
TGN: Your Battle Bunker set is very impressive. How long is something like that in development and do you plan on topping it anytime soon?
Battle: The Battle Bunker adds a new level to the original set. It allows the battle system to be used as a complete ‘on table’ space station or bunker or anything you fancy. The design underwent a few changes in the early stages. Again I wanted the bunker to have real depth and look, like you would have to bring out the big guns to breach it. Also it has to work flawlessly and integrate fully with the pod system. I make a quick test model in graph paper to test the shapes when I’m happy with the design. Once done, most of the time is then spent drawing on the computer. Colours, textures, details and the angles of shapes drawn so that all the parts fit together when assembled, all take time. When finished I print and do a final test build. There are normally a few corrections needed to make the fit just right and then a final test build. I normally film this final test build and use that as the tutorial video to save time. Time scale for all this depends on the model, but 6 months is not bad guess. The bunker took about this amount of time. Will we top the bunker set?, well we’re pretty happy with it. We have some more room packs to do and then we have plans for something special... and that’s all I’m saying.
TGN: You've got a couple more sci-fi sets scheduled to come out. Any chance we might see some fantasy-style terrain in the future?
Battle: We do have have some ideas for fantasy terrain and we would love to do this. Right now we are focused on sci-fi. It’s what we love and we still have plenty to bring to the table. There are so many ideas it’s frustrating. If I could clone myself, well that would be just cool. We are looking at (and love) many sci-fi styles ranging from steampunk to down right dirty/industrial terrain and everything in between.
TGN: Anything else you'd like to mention about the system or anything you'd like to ask our readers?
Battle: I’d like to thank everyone out there for their support. In the two months since we launched we have had nothing, but positive feedback. Many people have said that they “can’t believe it’s paper terrain” and that is the greatest compliment of all. Others have said they are enjoying the building and constructing of the sets a lot more than they expected and have been inspired to make more. All I would say is, let us know how you're getting on. Your feedback is most important, good or bad. We really want to know what you would like to see in the future, what gaming systems you’re using with our sets too. Send us photos and generally keep in touch. We will be planning on visiting some more gaming clubs when we can and we have been very welcomed at gaming shops and would like to thank all involved.... and that goes out to TGN in particular for helping to spread the word of a new business and for generally being jolly nice people. Thanks a million. :o)
Many thanks again to Colin and Wayne for the interview and we look forward to many more updates from Battle Systems in the future.