The readers of Dropship Horizon were so heavily involved in the playtesting of 15mm.Co.Uk's latest game: HOF Fire Team. Many of us ordered the game as soon as it was available, and those orders should now be arriving in everyone's mailboxes. To celebrate its release, Gavin Syme agreed to an interview about the concept, development stages, and future of HOF Fire Team.
CK: Hello, Gavin!
GS: Hello Dropship Horizon! Thanks for asking me to do this short interview about the brand new and awesome HOF Fire-Team game.
CK: Down to business then. What is the inspiration behind HOF Fire-Team, and what sets it apart from other 15mm sci-fi games?
GS: The inspiration behind the game came from a desire to present something that did not exist in the expanding 15mm science fiction wagame genre and that was a game which used fairly simple mechanics and grids (or tiles) at a smaller than squad but bigger than single miniature level. There are very few games on tiles in 15mm scale and Bob Minadeo and I thought there was definitely room for this one. We wanted to put a game on tiles that was action packed and able to be used in many ways.
The use of straight forward mechanics and a D6 tied to actions depending on what rolls characters make (primarily 1's and 6's) makes for tension and uncertainty which is not common to many wargames where distances to targets, chances to shoot and so on can be worked out before activation. Bob also included a versatile 'Tech Level' system that not only allows generic settings for the game (from near future to far future) but also acts as a force multiplier in combat. Tech Level increases the range of weapons but it also allows command and control ranges to expand for troops on the tiles. Higher Tech Levels mean better troops. The 'Waypoint' system in the game means that all teams in play have current objectives that drive the game forwards all the time.
HOF Fire-Team makes use of small teams of miniatures, typically four, de-marked into 'Fire','Support','Command' and 'Vehicle' types each with their own role in play. The game book contains not only three universes to operate in but also the full formulas to create any setting you desire. The book gives you the Ion Age, home to the civil war of the Prydian Precinct (where the fellow on the book cover comes from), the Pan Galactic Empire where humanity sits among any number of alien civilisations and lastly the Argo Cities a near future setting of teeming metropolises dangerous tech, cyborgs and angry cults. Off Table Support can be bought and rules are included for Med Evac and snipers along with smoke and gas. Playing on grids means a compact playing area and a fast game. You can play a game with three teams a side for two players in fifteen minutes. HOF Fire-Team is very intense to play as the ranges are often short and if you are caught out in the open without cover...its adios!
All this sets it apart from the crowd.
CK: Does HOF Fire-Team share any similarities (other than the setting) with Alternative Armies' 28mm Firefight 2.0 game?
GS: There is no denying that HOF Fire-Team was inspired by Firefight 2.0 and we would not want to deny it. Both are great and unique wargames. One of the settings is the same, that of the Ion Age, but the others are totally different and the generic aspect is unique to HOFFT. Similarities include the interplay of six sided dice, rolling for successes, the benefit and dangers of high and low rolls. Unlike Firefight the scope of HOFFT is a little wider as instead of one character it is four in a team and there are more squares per tile too. The two games share a kindred spirit of the 'D6 Action Dice' which makes play unpredictable and furiously fast and since they are both set in an urban and closed in environment lethality and the predominance of good cover and luck are foremost for a player.
CK: Dropship Horizon's readers were heavily involved in the Yahoo! playtest group. How much influence did that group have upon the final product?
GS: Mark Hannam (who created and ran DSH at that time) is a friend of mine and he was really keen on the idea of HOF Fire-Team as he liked Firefight and he was involved in the very first discussions where he made it clear that a 15mm team based version would be cool but also that we would like to be in on the testing of the game engine. So the testing was putting together a Yahoo Group, linking it up to the blog and then bringing the readers of the blog over to download a playtest draft and off they went. We ended up with more than four hundred active members, most of them from DSH, and over a few weeks Bob and I were deeply into the commentary and examples of play. Mark was front and centre in this too.
The group of playtesters had quite an effect on the final game it must be said. They refined the Tech Levels which originally had been too powerful and they tweaked the Waypoints into something that had to be in every game and not optional. They also made suggestions for diagrams, for tiles, for many different settings to put in the fiction of the book. The Pan Galactic Empire and the Argo Cities settings are both distilled from group comments. So without them the game would still have happened but it would not look the way it does and it would not have been as much fun to do.
CK: What was the process in getting HOF Fire-Team from playtest to the final release?
GS: HOF Fire-Team actually had the longest delay between playtesting and release of any game I have ever worked on! The process for most of the titles I work on goes along the same lines with the creation of an idea and the writing of a draft which then goes onto playtesting. In the case of HOFFT at the end of the playtest period I thanked all those who had been involved, took down the draft documents from the yahoo group, before moving onto organising what we would need to get the game to print. I spoke the artwork over with Andy Gorman so that he knew what to draw for the cover and also the excellent internal images that separate each setting for the game. While Andy was doing his thing I spoke to a graphic designer about logos and layouts for the game book so that we knew how much 'space' we had and what font sizing to use too. It was clear soon on that the game was perfect for the smaller A5 format book. Bob Minadeo and I had a few conversations on what diagrams to use and I asked Edward Jackson (the artist who does al the Flintloque artwork for Alternative Armies) to put together some artwork for the tile sets which he did. This pulled together everything we needed and I had gotten to the point of test printings and pro-painted miniatures for use in the book when disaster struck!
I became ill. Not from an infection or disease but rather I lost my eyesight totally for a number of weeks. I do not want to go into detail but it was decided while I recovered to shelf the HOFFT game until I got better. So a year passed and then by the time I had eased myself back to work with the USE ME first few titles I went back to HOFFT. I looked at all the files, reminded everyone who was involved, and carried on. In February 2012 the book was laid out for print and I oversaw the taking of pictures for use in the book and on its covers too. We took some time to finalise the square sizes and designs on the tile sets. By the end of the month it was ready!
Once the print runs arrived with us we went about the web work and review copies needed to get it to the wargaming community. This actually takes a fair amount of time as wargamers now want to know a LOT about a title before they purchase it. Compared to five years ago the web presence is much larger. On final release I oversaw all the pre-ordered copies leaving the building and then began this very interview so here we are!
CK: What are the future plans for HOF Fire-Team?
GS: 15mm.co.uk will be releasing free files for HOF Fire-Team including rosters, scenarios, optional rules, racial stats for those creatures and so on that did not make it into the book. On top of this we do plan more sets of tiles and are open to suggestions on what they should be. So far the top suggestions via email are for tiles that depict a hospital and a starport but there are also requests for special buildings, factories, a zoo and even the deck plans of starships. Several gamers who have already bought the rules said to me at Salute 2012 (where the game premiered) that they would like to see self contained adventures for HOFFT much like the classic Laserburn ones (Tarim Towers Hiest etc) that would have a booklet along with tiles and perhaps even an option to have miniatures to carry out the adventure too. So there is a massive amount of potential and anyone who had an idea and wants to tell me about it please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org , I answer every email sent to me even though it sometimes takes me a week!
CK: Are there plans to expand the HOF figure range - in particular, the Retained, Muster, and Shia Khan? We just had to ask since there is so much variety and character in their 28mm counterparts!
GS: Yes! The HOF 15mm science fiction range continues to expand and produce new miniatures with several more packs this year alone. We base almost all of our choices on what to do on customers’ requests that is why we have the Zidhe and the Octopods along with the Starfighter Crew and other packs. What is coming next was chosen to support USE ME and Alien Squad Leader and was designed at the top of this year. I will not spoil the surprise but these packs feature humans and aliens suitable for a near future and galactic setting. We currently have no plans to expand the part of the HOF range which has the 15mm versions of the Ion Age types Retained, Muster, Shia Khan but that might change with HOFFT. Certainly if we did we would do the Khanate Legion to go with the Drop Troops and Maligs we already have. With enough requests by email... who knows!
CK: Thank you so much, Gavin!