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Mantic Games is a successful miniatures manufacturer based in the UK. They publish the Kings of War, DreadBall, Warpath, Dungeon Saga, and Deadzone line of miniatures games. They have successfully completed eight Kickstarter campaigns and raised a total of almost $5 million ($4,962,989 to be exact) without a single failure. As they have been unusually successful in this regard and they have a new Kickstarter campaign coming later in March, we decided that Mantic would be the optimal choice for this Kickstarting column. We taked to Chris Palmer, Mantic’s Kickstarter and marketing coordinator.

The Escapist: What is the latest Mantic project?

Chris Palmer: The new Kickstarter is Deadzone Infestation. In 2012 we set about creating a project called Deadzone. It was conceived as our second attempt at entering the sci-fi miniatures tabletop market. We’d tried previously back in 2011 with our Warpath game, but we ultimately didn’t spend enough money on it. We were in a lull where we couldn’t afford to do much hard plastic, so for a bit we made kits in PVC until we hit upon Kickstarter. That lit up our Kings of War game with a load of capital and lots of new miniatures kits for the game. That in turn gave us confidence in the system and so we set about creating DreadBall – a tabletop sports game set in the Warpath universe.

So, when we decided it was time to have another crack at a sci-fi miniatures game, our CEO decided that we would do so on a smaller level, for a number of reasons. For one, cost. Second, we could focus on a specific part of the Warpath universe. One of the most common complaints about our games is the lack of background, so rather than trying to create an entire universe in one go, a smaller game like Deadzone would allow us to focus in one story – in this case, a planet on the outer rim of the galaxy experiencing an alien virus breakout.

Third, we wanted to have hard plastic for Warpath. You need lots of core infantry and vehicles in a mass battle game, and the best way to do that is through hard plastic. Resin Plastic doesn’t do infantry well, and would have been unsuitable for vehicles. We needed a lower cost tool-maker to do it justice, one who could do both hard line objects and more organic shapes like faces and hands.

And that’s where the scenery came in. Deadzone is a claustrophobic game set in dense scenery, so we came up with a modular system of tiles to construct buildings. Buildings by there nature can be less detailed than infantry figures, and so sci-fi buildings became the test for hard line vehicles, flyers and armoured infantry units.

The Escapist: What is the initial goal and what will that provide supporters?

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Palmer: The initial funding goal is $100,000. What we’ve recognized since the last campaign is our rulebook is a bit difficult to read and find things in. It’s inaccessible and that makes it very difficult for new players to get involved. With the funding we’ll be revisiting the rulebook, making it easier to read and offer up a gentler learning curve to get into the game. We’ll also take the opportunity to rewrite the campaign section and tweak a few of the things that need clarifying. And since we don’t want to leave out our previous backers, we’ll be providing this new rulebook free as a digital download.

The bulk of the funding will go towards tooling new kits. We’re aiming to add an entirely new faction to Deadzone – the Veer-myn. They will get a hard plastic infantry kit, forming the foundation of their Warpath army. We’re also creating new soldiers for the Enforcers and we’ll be adding to our scenery range. Those that support the project through the main pledge level with get the new rulebook, the new miniatures, the scenery, a newly artworked mat, all of the game aids, and we’re also creating a resin figure exclusive to the Kickstarter in order to say thanks to our backers.

We’ve tried to go for a pledge level value that is affordable and can have lots of stretch goals added to it.

The Escapist: Mantic’s past Kickstarters have all considerably exceeded the campaign’s initial goal. The initial goal is $100,000, but what level of funding are you actually hoping to hit?

Palmer: I just hope to hit the funding goal! Somewhere between $350,000-$500,000 would be nice because that will give us the base to cover everything we want to develop for this project. But we are planning what we call “mad shit” just in case we go past that value.

The Escapist: How does Mantic decide how far apart the stretch goals should be?

Palmer: There isn’t a scientific process to it. In fact, it’s very interesting to look at how other people do it. Look at Zombicide 2 as a great example of stretch goal pricing. The last goals on that campaign are over $100,000 for a single plastic model that sits on a tool with the previous seven miniatures they’ve funded, each at varying degrees of value. And that’s very clever, because they’re not overstretching themselves.

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We calculate our stretch goal values based on a number of different factors. First, the total cost of everything we want to achieve, the cost of what it takes to fund that particular item, the perceived value to the customer of what we’re funding, and how fast our campaign is running. Ours are intended to be exciting affairs, and so they’re often a little closer together in the middle to build momentum to the end. We spread them out a little at the start and end to cater for the increased speed a typical Kickstarter miniatures game U-Curve dictates. We also have a number of planned routes we can take. We keep a few spare goals we can insert into the plan or shuffle around depending on the speed of the campaign. A lot of it is simply done by feel, experience and intuition.

The Escapist: This will be your ninth Kickstarter campaign. The previous eight have all been successful. The chances of this being luck are one in 15,241. To what do you attribute this reliable success given that only 30 percent of game campaigns succeed? 

Palmer: Okay, we were nervous before, but with those odds… anyhow, we first spend a long time building our community before launching on Kickstarter. We started with a fan base before doing the first campaign. Between Kickstarters, we recruit new players with our newsletter, and with each Kickstarter we are able to reach more people. Our products are geared towards targeting different parts of the market. So far we’ve done fantasy mass battle (twice, doubling the number of backers on the second campaign), a sci-fi sports game (twice), a sci-fi skirmish game and a fantasy dungeon crawler. We’re constantly offering products that both appeal to our existing base and attract new players.

Second, we deliver a quality product and a great experience. We talk to people, we communicate, we treat them like adults, and we offer fun, we offer quality. Those that try our games tend to pick them up and play them. And we never treat success as reliable or predictable. One day we’ll think that and then we’ll get it horribly wrong. And we have made tremendous mistakes before which have cost us, so we can only hope to get better, build on our knowledge base and use our experience to get it a little bit more right each time. Kings of War 2 may not have made the most amount of money, but it was certainly one of the best we’ve run.

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The Escapist: Why does Mantic need to continue to raise funds this way? Has it turned into a sophisticated form of pre-selling Mantic’s products?

Palmer: No. If we were to do that, we’d have the product at the toolmakers, the game ready to go the moment we press the on button, ship it three months later, and then do it all again. We could maybe do this with the base game, but the beauty of Kickstarter is that it allows us to do all the extra bits – boosters, expansions etc – all in one go. It means we can fund the tooling, pay for the sculpting and remove some of the risk of developing new products. Kickstarter, gives us an indication of what we’re doing is what people want. Kickstarter gives us the funds to build the products we really want to make, and we put every penny of it into the product to get it made and shipped.

The Escapist: What are some of the problematic rules issues in original Deadzone that Deadzone Infestation is going to address?

Palmer: We’re basically reviewing everything regarding the rules. Do people like the way they move, the way they fight? Most of the factions need tweaking in some regards to balancing. What is confusing when it comes to scenery, how can we make the game quicker, deeper? We’re specifically targeting the campaign system for improvement because we’ve learned from DreadBall that’s the thing that keeps people playing.

The ultimate outcome is we want a skirmish shooter game that is played in a claustrophobic 3D warzone in fast, rapid-fire games. Then you can use the campaign system to create your strike force and play them in a campaign setting, earning experience and gaining equipment to make them truly yours.

The Escapist: How has Mantic’s transition from sculpting to electronic sculpting affected the miniature making process? What are some of the benefits and disadvantages of electronic sculpting?

Palmer: We use both traditional sculpting and 3D sculpting, depending on the project. Traditional sculpting has its advantages when it comes to organic shapes, while hard-line objects like scenery and armour are easier to do in 3D. 3D’s biggest advantage is that the file can go straight from the computer to the cutter, making plastic tooling easier.

One of the disadvantages is that a lot of 3D sculptors backgrounds lay in video game design, where a lot of the detail is painted on. But it has to be sculpted on the miniatures. Amending figures and creating multi-part kits is easier in 3D, although we have had a few challenges with scale and with casting 3D prints, they can be brittle and break. And if they’re not cleaned up correctly, the 3D texture of where the model has been printed can still be seen.

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Mantic Games’ Deadzone Infestation Kickstarter campaign is expected to launch next week. The Escapist will continue to cover this campaign and track its progress.

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