State of the Mongoose ’07: aggressive and hungry

For everyone’s safety, we try to keep tabs on any snake-eating mammals lurking nearby, and come to grips with what Mongoose Publishing plans to unleash on gamers in the year ahead. The traditional State of the Mongoose address was posted today, this time as a temporary forum, and so far, we’ve learned the following:

  • Signs & Portents may be coming back to print form.
  • There are tentative plans to release a D&D 4e compatible RPG setting.
  • Traveller will move closer to being the go-to sci-fi system for Mongoose, receiving Strontium Dog and Starship Troopers books, and likely Babylon 5 and Judge Dredd books as well.
  • RuneQuest may get a new license to power, one “based on the novels of an author known for his historical work”. Books on Ducks, Samurai, Vikings, and the Empire of Wyrm’s Friends will also be forthcoming.
  • Mongoose miniatures “will be returning to pre-paints, though it will not be until the end of 2008 at the earliest, and more likely 2009. We will also likely be doing it in collaboration with another company, but more on that later.”
  • A Call to Arms may get applied to another licensed setting, “one that will feature some awesome space battles, spread across several different fleets. Even though it uses the same rules as the current CTA, this game will play very, very differently.”
  • Victory at Sea will get WW I and American Civil War versions next year, and probably an “age of sail edition”, either Napoleonic era or pirates.
  • Battlefield Evolution will return Q2 ’08 as multiple new games, all compatible with the original. Said games “will all be based on the varied products of our new partner-to-be”, who are only referred to as “a bunch of guys in a far off country”. Most of these will be unpainted metal figures.
  • Starship Troopers miniatures will return Summer ’08, finally out of Hollywood licensing debate limbo.
  • The Lone Wolf gamebook series will finally be completed after all these years, as original author Joe Dever “is due to start work on books 29-32”. Plans for Lone Wolf novels still hover in the wings.

There’s plenty more announcements and hints stirred into the address, so be sure to look for yourself. After a four month break early this year to set up an in-house printing facility, you can bet Mongoose plans to take full advantage of its new capabilities in 2008.

5 comments

  1. Plus new support for PARANOIA, including “The Big Book of Bots” and “The Thin Green Line,” the latter a treatise on the Vulture Squadron soldiers who so heroically guard Alpha Complex.

  2. Yes, absolutely. I’m actually rather intrigued by Thin Green Line, it seems like a great concept. Thanks, Allen.

  3. This is pretty interesting. I think the portion about their printing facility is perhaps the most interesting part, and really is a good example of the spin that is pervasive throughout these 4 distinct messages. There is some ownership of issues, but no outright admission that there is still problems. I wonder if Mongoose knows that pretty much every single hardcover book we have received from them in the past 4 months begins to warp significantly? My guess is yes…as people have told them…

    I am on one hand very pleased to see a manufacturer deliver a message, as soooo many don’t even bother. On the other hand, I would have liked to seen a little less spin.

  4. Does anyone know if more information about Mongoose’s “Holy Grail” for RPGs has been released yet? They talked this up a lot the last two years. Just wondering…

    Peace,

    -Troy

  5. I’ll see if WordPress will let me post all four Mongoose forum announcement posts here, in case they get taken down over there. Here goes…

    Mongoose Publishing forum post 1:

    As the year draws to a close, with Santa bringing prezzies for good children and the turkeys start fearing for their feathers, it has become something of a tradition for us to look back on the past twelve months to see how we have done, and look ahead to what awaits us in the coming year. We also have a look at the way this great hobby is going though, of course, we can only give our perspective on things. Your mileage, and all that.

    Printing Facility
    2007 has been a period of consolidation and reorganisation for Mongoose, not least because of the introduction of our new printing facility. The facility represents the single greatest investment Mongoose has made in one project and though we have only now really started full production, many things are already clear. Things always end up a little more expensive than you plan (obvious), time is required to get all the components working together (again, obvious) and, one day, every publisher our size will be producing books in this way.

    Setting up the facility meant that, for the first four months of 2007, we released no titles at all, relying wholly on our back catalogue sales to support the company as we built up the facility to go into operation – it is a credit to our strong lines that we were able to do this, and there are perhaps only a handful of other companies that could have done the same thing without chopping staff or projects.

    There are a number of other hobby games publishers that have been producing their own books for quite some time (and, in fact, they form their own sub-community within the industry!), but I believe we are the first to be able to do hardbacks, and do them in large quantities. About 50,000 books have been produced by our facility so far, and that number is rising by thousands every month as we bring new titles on line and old out of print titles back into production. Talking of original plans, we had banked on producing about 6,000 books a month through our facility, but with a number of titles taking off pretty much all at once, we are averaging well over 8,000 a month and peaking at nearly 10,000 – and we haven’t brought our back catalogue into play yet!

    The investment in a printing facility like this is huge for a company of our size – over half a million Dollars, once you have factored in all the equipment, materials, the learning process and so on. However, now we have it all up and functioning, everything becomes very modular. If we need to increase the number of books we produce in a week, we simply need to add another staff member and a couple of (relatively) inexpensive machines. If we want to branch out into cards or comics, again, that is just one extra machine needed for either, and so on. Now we have the basics, expansion becomes quite easy.

    The advantages can be felt throughout the company, on many different levels. Editors can print a single book out to see how it looks away from the screen (there is something about a monitor screen that hides errors). We can do limited editions as prizes very, very easily (we have already done some personalised books with the owner’s name on the cover!). And we are running an almost completely stockless system – we still have our older titles warehoused at the moment (though we are entering a process of trimming many titles, particularly those with a D20 badge), but all new books and those brought back into print are produced purely to order. Even the paper, card, glues and other materials needed to produce books are ordered on a 24 hour basis, meaning we keep very little in storage. Which keeps the accountant happy!

    The effects of this have already been felt by our customers. No longer trapped in a set pricing matrix by a traditional printing house (we can work quite easily in multiples of 2 pages!), our editors are suddenly free to do what they want with a book, rather than be constrained by page count. Writer got passionate about a book and over-written a few sections? No problem, we will just add a few more pages (see Dragonewts for a good example of this). Just put together the first book of a brand new game line and need to tell a new audience about Signs & Portents? No need to chop back gaming material, we can just add another page.

    We have also brought back into print some books (such as the first Drow War book) that we would never have reprinted through traditional means. Beyond that, we can do lots of exciting things in 2008 – compile the Quintessentials into a mighty tome or two (our page limit is somewhere in the region of 1,000 for standard size books), offer print versions of Signs & Portents, offer limited edition colour versions of black and white books, and so on. Then there is the Grand Project, whereby gamers can ‘build’ their own rulebooks, clicking on a web site to decide exactly what they want to include in their own personalised copy (‘Introductory scenario, check, realistic combat system, check, Late 16th Century equipment list, check. . .’). And then have it delivered to you, looking as if it had been mass produced in a run of thousands. . .

    That is still someway off, but the possibilities are there.

    Flaming Cobra
    We have been deluged by studios and other publishers wanting to have their books printed through our facility though, so far, we have turned most away. The fundamental problem (aside from the heavy workload our book makers currently have, making their way through the backlog caused by not releasing any books for four months) is that it will always be better for us to produce our own books rather than someone else’s, and so it only makes sense if we have spare capacity in the production cycle – at the moment, we do not.

    Except when it comes to Flaming Cobra, of course. Flaming Cobra is a programme we started about a year ago, and we have spent 2007 refining it and gathering new partners. At its core, it is a very simple arrangement; a studio or publisher approaches us with a book ready to go to print. We print, distribute and market that book, all at Mongoose’s own cost – the publisher does not pay so much as a Pound when going through Flaming Cobra. When books are sold, Mongoose recovers its costs and the remainder (the profit) is split between the two parties. Very clean, very easy. And utterly without risk.

    Well, that is not exactly true, of course. The studio must make its own arrangements to pay for its writers, artists and layout guys (though if they have come up through the PDF route, this is likely to have already been paid for). We take a risk by printing and distributing the books. However, we only print to order, and the costs of the facility (beyond the costs of individual books themselves) are carried by the production of our own books.

    Basically, it is a no lose proposition for both sides, so long as both walk into the arrangement with their eyes open. When speccing their books in terms of content and page count, we always advise our Flaming Cobra partners as best we can, based on our experience in the market – our stated aim is to make Flaming Cobra publishers as rich as possible (!). However, the final decisions are always theirs.

    We have had a few titles released through Flaming Cobra so far, but many more are on the way. As I write this, Cthulhutech is being printed, and initial orders have been the highest of any Flaming Cobra book, making it a front runner in our own catalogue. We expect similar things of Spycraft, and we have other lines waiting in the wings for 2008.

    Signs & Portents
    At Mongoose, we have always been a little bemused by Signs & Portents. It started life as a full colour print magazine, and stayed that way for about two years. It rarely sold more than a couple of thousand copies, and we took a little loss on most months, but it was easy to justify – filing the costs under marketing, we were producing something that regained at least most of the outlay, and it gave us something physical to plonk in front of a new customer, retailer, or distributor and say ‘this is us.’

    The time came, though, for us to review this idea – as a marketing effort, it was just a little clumsy, and not targeted at all. When we decided to turn it into an online production (instantly eliminating the biggest cost associated with it – printing) , many said that was a sign of failure.

    In truth, we could have done nothing better for it. We split the magazine into two editions for Roleplayers and Wargamers, both at the same size as the original print edition. Within two months, we were seeing over 12,000 unique downloads. Today, a few years later, we have well over 60,000 unique downloads, and it is rising almost month on month.

    It is a little ironic that, with our printing facility, we are now looking at bringing back a printed edition for those who like to feel paper between their fingers.1

    The biggest change in Signs & Portents over the next year, however, will be a subtle shift in approach. In the past, Signs & Portents has been used to support our older games, and highlight our latest releases. We are going to start taking a far broader view of the magazine over the next few months.

    Which brings us neatly on to. . .

    2008
    If 2007 has been a time of consolidation, reorganisation and planning, 2008 is where everything is set into motion. There have been a lot of changes to the company behind the scenes this year with new faces appearing and solid systems put into place. We have invested in several new areas, and will be looking to capitalise on them come the New Year.

    For example, aside from Signs & Portents and some tortured writings on the Internet (like, well, this one), Mongoose has never done any marketing. Ever. We have always, in effect, let our books sell themselves – which works up to a point, but a glass ceiling is hit with every good seller.

    In 2008, we break that ceiling. We have a number of stated aims – revenue will increase by 40-50% in the first six months of 2008, for example. In 2009, we will be employing roughly twice as many staff as we do now (between 40 and 50 full-time staff, depending on what we call ‘Special Projects’).

    So, what does this mean for you, the gamer? Well, if you have ever wanted a career in hobby gaming, we will be employing! From writers and artists to bookmakers and admin staff, Mongoose already looks to give its staff more than just another job. The difference is, we are now laying down a solid system whereby someone can look at having a serious career in their chosen hobby.

    Roleplaying hobby dying? Don’t know what you are talking about, mate. . .

    You will also be hearing a lot more about Mongoose. This goes from relatively simple things like getting a window on the day-to-day life in the office via the Planet Mongoose blog, to a greater presence in retail stores, via promotional materials and access . This will start in our strongest markets (the UK and Europe) but quickly spread to the US and other territories. You will also see more comprehensive support of our lines, going far beyond the free Signs & Portents.

    These changes reach into other departments as well. For example, we have recently experienced a huge increase in the demand for our miniatures, to the extent where it has rapidly exceeded supply. New systems are being put into place to make current production more efficient, and also make it easier to expand, which will be essential in 2008 with the coming of new miniatures lines. There will be smaller changes too – a new mail order system that does not require our poor Russell handwriting every address, and Amazon-style card wraps to better protect our books in transit. All of this is designed to give you easy and ready access to Mongoose products, wherever you shop, be it in your local games store (still the best place to go!), online retailers or direct through us.

    Exciting times are ahead!
    _________________
    Matthew Sprange

    Mongoose Publishing
    http://www.mongoosepublishing.com

    Post 2:

    Roleplaying
    The roleplaying hobby has had some bad press over the past 2-3 years. People have been talking about D20 gluts, about shrinking markets and retailers closing their doors. Print runs are locked solidly in the hundreds, and anything that passes the thousand mark (let alone the two thousand point) is practically a breakaway hit. The nightmare of the three tier system, the lack of new blood in the hobby.

    As with everything else in this world, some of this is true, some is not. Some publishers have had a very hard time (and some of those have, unfortunately, succumbed) . Others less so – they have adapted to the changing market (it changes all the time, of course), and positioned themselves with new lines, and new ways of doing business.

    For example, the creation of our printing facility was driven, in part, by the knowledge that if Mongoose were ever hit with the shrinking sales we knew some other publishers were suffering, a new way of producing books would be required. POD printers were charging way too much for a sustainable business model in a company of our size (20-odd full-time staff spread across two continents). However, by doing it ourselves, we could theoretically have our sales reduced to just a few hundred books of each title sold, and still retain our current staffing levels for at least the next five years. So, it was as much about security as efficiency.

    Fortunately, we have not had to test that theory – we have been able to prove, consistently, that sales runs of 10,000 units and above are still achievable in the roleplaying market. Now, one publisher in the past accused me of taking the Kool Aid by saying this (whatever that means, being British, I really have no idea), but it all comes down to what titles are being produced. Not every book can hit those levels (I’d be driving an Aston Martin right now if they did!), but you can certainly plan for them. Conan, RuneQuest, Babylon 5 and Paranoia are all extremely good sellers, and all have achieved that elusive term of being ‘evergreen’, that is, having the ability to sell good amounts, month in, month out, rather than hitting the market in a blaze then dying.

    Sometimes though, you are taken by surprise. I’ll give another example, though it is a wargaming one. We released Victory at Sea last year, an easy to play World War II naval battle game – targeted at the smallest of niches. It was done as a fun ‘private’ project on my part, the sort of book you release when you run a gaming company (!) simply because you want to. We figured it would sell a couple of hundred copies, at best, when released, and then dribble maybe a dozen copies a month for the rest of its life.

    Instead, it sold over 2,000 copies in the first six months, and then did another 1,000 in the next six months. Not what you call a barnstorming hit. It made no one rich overnight. But remember; Victory at Sea is a World War II naval game.

    Clearly, you cannot plan for everything. Sometimes, you just hit the right nerve at the right time.

    The big thing in 2008 will, of course, be D&D 4e. I’m not going to go into whether it will bring a new flood of books to the market, whether it will create a resurgence in roleplaying, and so forth. But there are a few things worth inspecting for the smaller publisher.

    First, will we support it under the OGL? Well, it does not look like they will make things easy as things stand. As I write this, we have no idea of whether there will be early copies of the SRD for publishers to release books at the same time as their initial releases (I wouldn’t if I were them), and it looks like there will not be an official D20 logo (for our part, not required). If all else is equal though, yes, there will be support from Mongoose. We have a new setting in the wings that works very well with D&D (because of the relative power levels and influence of magic). I could see us revising the epic Drow War campaign too, which was very popular when released. However, we will not need to make ourselves reliant on the OGL, as we did when we started a little more than six years ago.

    Anyway, enough of the RPG industry at large – let’s take a look at some specific lines Mongoose will be running with throughout 2008.

    Traveller
    We are expecting big things with this game, and it has already gained a great deal of interest. Our initial playtests have blown away everyone in the office, and we are all doffing our caps to designer Gareth Hanrahan. His character creation system retains all the flavour of Classic Traveller, but adds so much more in terms of group dynamics and history. You do not simply roll up a character’s abilities and skills – you get a complete background thrown in for good measure!

    This is good for a generic Traveller game, but for licensed settings, it will quite simply be awesome. In Starship Troopers, for example, you might find your character narrowly avoided death during the Klendathu invasion, or maybe he earned the ire of a Fleet officer during shore leave, or perhaps he was part of the first contact mission with the Skinnies. And all of this before you actually start playing!

    Traveller itself will be split into several lines. The first will cover the ‘core’ books, such as the rulebook and supplements that will be applicable to most, if not all, settings. These will include familiar titles such as Mercenary and High Guard, as well as some new ones detailing Psionics and small ‘tramp’ freighters that can appear in most galaxies. One of my favourites is 760 Patrons (we had to go the whole hog and make it ten times ‘better’ than the original!), which will surely give a Games Master an almost inexhaustible supply of scenarios to work from during a campaign.

    The other lines will concentrate on settings, the first being the Third Imperium, or our first era of the Original Traveller Universe. During 2008, you can also expect to see Strontium Dog and Starship Troopers making an appearance, and a Babylon 5 sourcebook is very likely at some point. Judge Dredd using the Traveller rules system is another game that will certainly happen, though we are currently waiting for a few other things to happen in the Dredd universe before we return to Mega-City One, guns blazing!

    There will be a much tighter integration between Traveller games than there is with, say, RuneQuest spin-offs. A small freighter or hand weapon or alien will be just as applicable to the Third Imperium as it would be to Starship Troopers, meaning you can take advantage of entire universes in your games, no matter what you are playing. The settings themselves will have their own sub-systems and exceptions (no Arachnids in Babylon 5, for example, while new rules will be added for jump gates and instant interstellar communications) that will give them the flavour but at the micro level, a lot of material will be transferable.

    Speaking of Starship Troopers, we have already started sketching out the game, based on Gareth’s current work with the core Traveller rules. Fleet characters will be appearing from the outset, while MI characters can range from the poor Light Armour troopers, to the elite Pathfinders and Exosuit troopers – just don’t expect to go through many terms of service without extensive cybernetics!

    As with all our main roleplaying lines, we will be producing one large campaign every year for Traveller (and its spin-off games), starting with Beltstrike, a ‘generic’ campaign set in an asteroid belt that could be placed in pretty much any setting.

    We have extremely long term plans for Traveller, ranging across the next decade, so expect to see it going strong for many years to come. This will be aided in part by the core mechanics being made Open Content, allowing anyone, from publisher to individual, to produce new rules and settings for the game, allowing you to adventure across many, many different universe.

    RuneQuest
    RuneQuest goes from strength to strength with the recent addition of the Deluxe rulebook, giving gamers a choice of entry points into the game – the basic rulebook for those just looking to run characters or small scale games, the Deluxe for Games Masters or those who simply must have everything! The Spellbook has been an extremely popular addition as well, building on the core rules to allow a variety of styles of play, whether you are a serious Gloranthaphile or more a high fantasy kind of player.

    Glorantha is beginning to be fleshed out, but we have along, long way to go. In 2008, expect to see the continuation of the races fleshed out (Ducks!), a brand new campaign in the shape of Dara Happa Stirs (Blood of Orlanth will be out before the end of the year), and a further exploration of territories. We are also going to start investigating the EWF in detail. . .

    As for the RuneQuest spin-offs, there will be plenty for Eternal Champion players. Corum will likely be held until early 2009 to allow us to better support Hawkmoon and Elric, though the rumoured Multiverse book is likely to make an appearance right at the end of the year.

    We will also continue our ‘historical’ settings, started with Pirates. Land of the Samurai is first up, appearing in early 2008, but we have many others on the cards including, yes, Vikings. If that were not enough, watch out for a new licence we are currently negotiating, based on the novels of an author known for his historical work (and one of my favourite writers to boot). These are going to be well worth waiting for, and I have a feeling that at least two of the ‘settings’ will get many people going dippy!

    Paranoia
    We have a strong love for Paranoia here at Mongoose (I can’t wait to see what new editor Charlotte makes of the first Paranoia book she is given to edit!), and 2008 will see some pretty exciting additions. We are aiming to bring you more scenarios, along with a greater depth of support in Signs & Portents, but I have to mention two books that will be coming out in the first half of 2008; The Big Book of Bots and The Thin Green Line. The first I presume needs little introduction, but whether you are looking for a character somewhat more durable than a Troubleshooter or an evil GM wanting to inflict maximum pain on his players, the Big Book of Bots will present a staple of Alpha Complex in a variety of interesting and lethal styles.

    The Thin Green Line will do for the Vulture Squadrons what HIL Sector Blues did for Int Sec. Expect the very worse moments of Platoon, Saving Private Ryan and Full Metal Jacket, mixed in with hysterical Commies, contradicting orders, and your ever-present friend, the Computer.

    Conan
    We have had many fans ask whether Conan is going ‘4e’. Umm, no. Conan doesn’t ‘do’ 4e. Give him beer and a willing wench, and he is well away. This RPG will remain as Old School as our favourite barbarian himself.

    We’ll be continuing our march across the kingdoms of the Hyborian Age, exploring each in turn – these have always been our most popular books in the Conan range. However, we also want to make actually playing Conan easier too. Ruins of Hyboria was extremely well received, so a number of follow ups have been planned, such as Cities of Hyboria, providing jump-offs and one-shots for the beleaguered Games Master. If you are looking for something with more bite, then Conan will also be getting a new full blown campaign every year, starting with Bryan Steele’s Trial of Blood.

    Hyborian Empires is something we have talked about for a while, allowing players to actually manage a nation (the rulers of the kingdoms tend to change on a regular basis in the Conan stories, especially when our hero arrives in town!), and this project still has the green light. However, we have something a little similar planned for RuneQuest, so we might delay it until 2009. Don’t worry, this will be one worth waiting for.

    Babylon 5
    The space station that changed the destiny of an entire galaxy will continue to feature in our line up and, with most of the ‘core’ books done, we can now start examining the setting in greater detail. We will be looking at the criminal elements of the setting, including a book on those wanting to try smuggling illegal items through Babylon 5’s customs (and elsewhere), and we will be expanding the galaxy to cover those areas of the galactic map we have yet to fully touch upon. As well as the promised ‘one big campaign a year,’ we are also looking into the possibility of an alternative timeline for Babylon 5 that will be presented as a small range of books, plunging the galaxy into its deepest nightmares!

    New Games
    Understandably, we have rather a lot on our plate at the moment – curse Traveller and RuneQuest being so easy to adapt to new settings! We are unlikely to be bringing out any new RPGs in 2008, but that does not stop us tweaking with future projects (a games designer’s disease).

    Most interesting is Project Hyperion, a new approach to starship-based games. Currently set in the Babylon 5 universe, the current theory is that this game is based around the bridge crew. So far, so standard. However, we are looking at new ways of actually getting players to feel that they actually are their characters, at least in terms of knowledge. You know that part in science fiction TV where the Chief Engineer suddenly cries out ‘But Captain if we overload the fusion dampers, we’ll blow the Transmatrix!’

    We want to get the players actually talking like that and, more to the point, actually understand what they mean when they say it – so, the Chief Engineer will be fully aware of all the systems on his ship, for example, and what limits they can be pushed to. The Tactical Officer will know the capabilities of his fighter controllers and how far he can push the pulse cannon before their performance starts eroding. This is all to be achieved, of course, without requiring players to attend eight years of study at Fleet Academy.

    Still working on that part. . .
    _________________
    Matthew Sprange

    Mongoose Publishing
    http://www.mongoosepublishing.com

    Post 3:

    Miniatures
    We have had a problem with miniatures, and it is one we recognised quite some time ago. Mongoose is a publishing company that does miniatures. Compare this to, say, Games Workshop, who have always said they are a miniatures company that does games. The difference in approach is much greater than the semantics suggests.

    Overall, we produce very good miniatures games. A Call to Arms has a tendency to snag anyone who tries it, and that is a trait shared by Mighty Armies, Starship Troopers and Victory at Sea. We target our game systems at ‘post-GW’ gamers, as we call them, those who have been brought into miniatures gaming by the Big G, but have since left that side to find something with an ounce more complication and strategy. Just an ounce, mind – simplicity is still a watchword in our mechanics. In this regard, we are quite happy to stack our games against of their rivals.

    The issue we have had in the past, though, is that, as a publisher, we focus on the game – not necessarily the miniatures. We have plenty of miniatures gamers working at Mongoose, but the number with any decent artistic talent, or even just an artistic eye, can be counted on one hand. Add to that, in the past, their influence on miniatures has been marginalized, for one reason or another. That is now changing.

    We now have new techniques involved in the sculpting process (all our Call to Arms ships, for example, are now designed by computer rather than physically sculpted), and we are looking to introduce rapid-prototyping into several new areas – this is actually a very exciting field, with new technology entering the market all the time. It will not be long before Adrian can design a new model, and then ‘print’ it out at his desk. We also (now) know which of the traditional sculptors can walk the walk. In short, we have gained a vast amount of experience, mostly from doing what you should never do! Still, they say that is the best way to learn. . .

    It will be part way through 2008 before we have a fully-fledged miniatures department in Mongoose that runs as smoothly and efficiently as our publishing arm, but the groundwork is already being laid, with revised systems for creating a new miniatures line, greater input from our artistic staff, and tighter integration between game design and the miniatures that run alongside it.

    Which brings us on to pre-painted miniatures. In one way or another, I still believe they are a significant part of the future of the miniatures hobby and, watching what other companies are bringing out, I am by no means alone. However, having gone through the baptism of fire in pre-paints thoroughly, I am also convinced that no one has got it strictly ‘right’ at the moment.

    We all know a well targeted collectible (that is, random pack) miniatures game can work. It can also go disastrously wrong, but the basic model is sound, and it is one we have looked at for some projects. However, the goal (for us) has always been to produce a battle (not skirmish) level game ‘replacement’ that uses pre-paints throughout its range that offers everything a ‘traditional’ wargame does, minus the modelling and painting – and that is what no one has yet cracked.

    Such a game has got to go beyond small skirmish level, and it must feature models that are of better quality than anything that has been mass-produced thus far, there must be a far greater range in poses, and the models must be cheaper. These last points are fundamental ones. If there is going to be a large movement towards pre-paints, they cannot just match the current bare metal/plastic ranges – they must beat them, in both quality and price. Only then will the ball start rolling.

    Now, we know we can produce the right kind of game. The trick at the moment is fulfilling the quality and variation criteria without impacting on price. In a way it is the old argument with a slight twist; quality, variation, price – pick two.

    There are ways round this, and we will be returning to pre-paints, though it will not be until the end of 2008 at the earliest, and more likely 2009. We will also likely be doing it in collaboration with another company, but more on that later.

    So, where does that leave our current lines? Well, Mighty Armies left the Mongoose stable in a move to Rebel Miniatures this year, and it went with mixed feelings on my part. The game was always a good one, and had a great deal of potential (always fancied doing an Ancients version of it), but other projects always seemed to take precedence. At least with Rebel, fans of the game will continue getting the support they craved.

    A Call to Arms
    The second edition of A Call to Arms has proved exceptionally popular, building on the successes of the first. A year in playtesting was well spent, and the current rules set offers greater options for players, while bringing play balance into a very narrow and tightly defined line. In short, it is a game we can really build upon.

    We will be releasing just one rules book for B5: A Call to Arms every year, usually around summer, with the first being Powers & Principalities. We are still working out the contents of this tome, but you can expect to see new ships (such as the Omicron light cruiser for EA Crusade fleets and the Vorlon Frigate), new fleets (we already have draft lists for the Hyach and Ipsha), as well as a wealth of new rules such as fighting in hyperspace, maybe a new rules sub-system for fielding massive fleets, and a few other bits and pieces we have had in the works for a while. . .

    You can expect to see new models from Powers & Principalities begin appearing in Signs & Portents throughout the first half of the year.

    Other books will be added to the range but, in keeping with our promise, none will be required to keep up with the latest rules. The first is the B5: A Call to Arms Painting Guide, written by Adrian and featuring some of his superb models. This will be an absolutely stunning book filled with gorgeous models, and lots of handy tips – whether you want to paint like Adrian or put together an entire fleet on Saturday morning so you can play in the afternoon. This treat will be appearing in March.

    The next phase for this game is to ‘deprovincialise’ it, by introducing two new, different settings. We have already proved that the basic game system works in other genres (such as Victory at Sea), and there is plenty more we can do with space combat outside of Babylon 5. The first, provisionally entitled Emergence, charts Mankind’s first manned explorations into the Solar System, where the supernations of the Earth compete for territory and resources. It is a great deal lower tech than Babylon 5, and we are working hard to give each nation a distinctive ‘look’ with some really nice miniatures. We are aiming to make the fleet lists compatible with those in Babylon 5, allowing you to switch between the two settings at will.

    We have also just started negotiations on another licensed setting for A Call to Arms, one that will feature some awesome space battles, spread across several different fleets. Even though it uses the same rules as the current CTA, this game will play very, very differently. The technology in this setting is. . . different to that in B5!

    This is something we spotted when ‘messing around’ with WotC’s Star Wars spacecraft, converting them for the CTA rules. Even though many of the rules stayed the same (fighters, shields, Double Damage, and so on), the different emphasis they had on the game made for a very different experience. Rebel fighters were the craft delivering the knockout blows, for example. while their capital ships ground away at Star Destroyers. Imperial fighters were there simply to stop the Rebels craft, while their big ships were the ones that caused the main destruction – all very different from Babylon 5, and these experiments are what made us realise how much ground the core rules could cover.

    And no, Star Wars: A Call to Arms is not something that you will find in the shops. However, if you come to one of our open days, you might just see a very limited run, not-for-sale hardback floating around the office. Another benefit of having your own printing facility.

    Emergence has no solid release date planned, though we are currently looking at the end of 2008 – that said, it could easily be leapfrogged by the ‘other’ setting, which I think some gamers will be prepared to kill for. . .

    Victory at Sea
    The surprise hit of 2006 became the continued surprise throughout 2007, with gamers snatching up the core rulebook with glee, eager to re-fight the sea battles of WWII. By the time you read this, the first supplement (Order of Battle) will just be shipping, which completely revises aircraft, adds new rules for coastlines and shore batteries, and gives you more ships than you can shake a dead turbot at.

    That is not all we have planned for the system, however. There are already working drafts of World War I and American Civil War versions, both of which will see print throughout 2008, and there are the beginnings of an age of sail edition, though there are currently arguments raging as to whether it should support the Napoleonic era or feature pirates! We could do both, of course – but then which one comes first?

    Victory at Sea has already sealed itself as one of our second tier games, receiving regular support in the form of both supplements and articles in Signs & Portents, and it looks set to continue as such for a good few years yet. We have, at this time, no plans to do miniatures for any of the Victory at Sea games ourselves as, with the likes of Navwar, there are already huge ranges of good quality miniatures available.

    Battlefield Evolution
    Oh, you long suffering fans of Battlefield Evolution. Truly you know pain!

    Anyone who has stuck with this game through thick and thin knows what it has to offer. Quick and easy play, fast and lethal firefights, plus scalability that allows the game to span infantry, armour and aircraft. With this base, we are not going to let the game slip from our fingers. However, there were certain issues that had to be addressed, most of which are tied into the pre-paint problems I listed above.

    So, what can you expect?

    Well, we got a phone call shortly after wave 3 had been released. A bunch of guys in a far off country had seen the Battlefield Evolution range and liked them so much, they told their marketing guys that they just had to get us on board to do games and models based on the projects they were working on.

    Now, those of you who have been following Battlefield Evolution’s progress on our forums will know we have been placed under an NDA with regards to this new phase in the game’s development. . . and that NDA is still under effect. We had hoped that this situation would finally be resolved by the time the State of the Mongoose went out, but ‘twas not to be. There are, unfortunately, still some legal wranglings to iron out. However, we’ll tell you what we can now.

    Battlefield Evolution will meld into a series of new games, all compatible with one another and the original Battlefield Evolution. They will all be based on the varied products of our new partner-to-be. We are currently looking to kick off with the first in the second quarter of 2008, featuring extremely high-tech armies waging war, but we are already talking about adding other related titles that will be appearing in the near future.

    What this means is that you will have a variety of ‘settings’ (or perhaps ‘theatres’ is more appropriate) that you will be able to keep ‘pure’ by using the units featured in each game, or you can begin mixing them. For example, you might find that terrorists in [insert major American city here] are proving a bit much for the unit normally assigned to deal with them – so, take a squad from one of the other games, and see how the terrorists fare against a frontline military unit. Or perhaps the terrorists are getting beaten on a regular basis, so swap them out for a unit from an army of the future.

    Each game will be completely compatible with the others, and units will be able to move freely between them (they will also include everything you need to use your current Battlefield Evolution units, thus giving current players a healthy head start in each game). However, we will also be taking the opportunity to tweak the system to reflect the scale of warfare being played out. For example, the game that features larger armies will play a lot like Battlefield Evolution does now. Those concentrating on smaller actions, on the other hand, will have a slightly more sophisticated firing and damage system – however, both games will include all the rules you need to use units from one in the other.

    In conjunction with our partner-to-be, we have a two phase plan for these games. The first is to produce games strictly for the hobby games market – the majority of the miniatures will be bare metal, you will be building your own terrain, and the rules will have plenty of ‘bite’ for veteran gamers. In short, ‘traditional’ wargames. Phase two will leverage the strengths of our partner-to-be to produce a mass market pre-paint series of games, complete with starter sets and booster packs of new units – everything we envisioned for Battlefield Evolution, but with a far, far wider reach. That will come later.

    In the meantime, prepare yourself for some absolutely vicious firefights.

    There. Think we have managed to avoid violating any NDAs. You know have all the details except the ‘flavouring’ which, sorry to say, is the one thing we cannot reveal yet. Still, keep checking back, as we are hoping to be able to fill in the blanks very soon.

    Starship Troopers
    We have always said that Starship Troopers and Battlefield Evolution were tied – what happened to one would happen to the other. It made sense, as the pre-paints from one game would lead on to pre-paints for the other. This decision was made all the easier by an interruption in the licence (a debate over the licence erupted up in Hollywood – nothing to do with us, though Mongoose got caught up in it) that effectively closed the door on any new development for over a year – this was why releases suddenly stopped, though we could not say anything about it at the time (though if you do some digging about, it is now a matter of public record)!

    A while ago, when the licence issues were finally resolved by the lawyers (and we got a few more years bolted on to the licence in compensation), we decided to break the chain between the games, and let Starship Troopers fly on its own – as it always deserved to do.

    The game will be re-released this summer, fitter, leaner, and with at least 75% more bug-kicking action! It will not be the Evolution rules set we have already previewed, but something much closer to the first edition, with a couple of Evo ideas thrown in for good measure. For example, we have had a lot of success with the ‘one reaction’ rule, and that looks like it could stay. We will be swinging completely the other way in terms of background information, however, with far more setting detail planned for the new game. There will be a return to army lists, rather than unit cards.

    Starship Troopers will be taking advantage of the new systems we have laid down for the development of miniatures, outlined earlier, and we have drafted a long term fan of the game who has proven a critical eye – David Wiggins, known as ScipioAmericanus on our forums – to lend a hand on development of the new game. Alongside the regular commentary we will keep on our forums, Starship Troopers will become much like A Call to Arms has – a game truly for the fans and by the fans.

    Most important, of course, will be the miniatures. Some of the old range will stay, such as the Warrior Bugs, Marauders and Exosuits. Others, such as many of the Skinnies, will be completely revised – added to these will be a new Brain Bug (no longer made of metal) and an absolutely stonking new Tanker Bug! Others will disappear altogether, to be replaced with all new units. And flying models, led by the Skyhook and TAC Fighter, will be released as close to the new rulebook as possible – the MI have waited too long for them! Fans have been wanting the airborne units since the game was first released, and so we have made them a top priority this time round. They will be the first of the new models to be prepped after the Brain Bug. The Viking, in particular, is a model to absolutely die for, and will dominate the battlefield with its massive size!

    Keep an eye out on Signs & Portents throughout the first half of 2008, as we preview the new models and rules of Starship Troopers, and also for ties to the Starship Troopers RPG, now powered by the Traveller rules set.

    There is one other thing lurking on the periphery of the Starship Troopers universe. A dig through Adrian’s desk turned up some prototypes he had been working on – 6mm scale LAMI, Exosuits and Tanker Bug. Now, we have no solid plans for such a mass battle game but the models. . . do look good. Something to watch for, perhaps in 2009 or 2010. We’ll preview the first sculpts on Planet Mongoose once they had had a lick of paint, and we’ll see what you all think.

    Other Games
    Our R&D guys always have new projects in the works, of course. Ian Barstow has been leading World at War (working title) as a private project of sorts. 28mm based, this game brings the Battlefield Evolution rules to the battlefields of World War II – as with Victory at Sea, no miniatures are planned for this line, but we will be very interested in seeing how people take to this game. A great deal of work has already gone into this project, so expect to see it sometime around May.

    For my part, I have been tinkering with something provisionally titled V-Max Racing, which may make an appearance in Signs & Portents as a free game before we give it the full green light (much as Victory at Sea did). Think of high speed hover vehicles loaded with armour and weapons, somewhere near the end of the current Century. Now put them on a race track in a wide range of defined leagues, thundering along at 400 mph through twisting circuits, dodging obstacles, while shells explode around them. Each skimmer can be heavily modified, with launch control systems, new weapons, reactor upgrades, military-spec targeting systems. . . the list is almost endless – and yes, many of these mods will be reflected on the actual models, with players able to get hold of ‘booster’ packs from specialist modification firms.

    Adrian has been playing around with some concepts for these skimmers, taking basic design features, and then adjusting them to fit the style of specific manufacturers. So, for example, a skimmer from Italian manufacturer De Lucca will all have some common elements that mark them as the finest skimmers money can buy; long, sleek, agile. Those from British company Aston Greaves will be more like shire horses with Merlin engines, big brutes yet still highly desirable. Germany is represented by Kleinvogel and Japan by Fujimoto, while the US has both Bell and Universal Dynamics producing some extremely powerful machines. We even have Malaysian and Swedish manufacturers sketched out, though we’ll have to see if they make the final grade when the game is released.

    We are aiming to make the models as visually appealing as possible, so this is one to look out for. All you need to play will be one skimmer and the rulebook, or you can dive right in and create an entire team and run it through a whole season of racing. We even have Jeremy Needall from the Top Thrust news channel giving his own special in-depth reviews on each skimmer (though that idea may not make it into the finished draft!).

    At the moment we are still playing around with the designs of the skimmers, though the core rules are pretty much laid out. Look for this one later in 2008, unless Adrian suddenly has a spurt of inspiration!

    Finally, there is Gangs of Mega-City One, a game that found its niche among both Dredd fans and those interested in skirmish games of gang warfare. We will still be publishing the occasional article in Signs & Portents for this game, but our eyes are currently looking at other events in Dredd land. As with the roleplaying game, once these come to light, we will be going at a Dredd miniatures line full bore, likely with a revised game that places more emphasis on the Judges themselves.
    _________________
    Matthew Sprange

    Mongoose Publishing
    http://www.mongoosepublishing.com

    Post 4:

    Special Projects
    This is the catchall for projects that do not fit our traditional roleplaying and miniatures games. Chief among them at the moment are the Lone Wolf gamebooks, currently enjoying their re-release as collector’s hardbacks, with mainstream softbacks to appear in book shops in 2008. They will be joined by some brand new novels set in the world of Magnamund, and this is something we will be watching very carefully, as we have always had an interest in entering the novel market – we have a set of Armageddon 2089 novels already waiting in the wings, and plenty more ideas we would like to pursue. It is far too early to speculate on where we will go next, and it will likely be 2009 before we take a serious swing at novels. Look out for them in the next State of the Mongoose!

    Speaking of Lone Wolf, Mr Dever is due to start work on books 29-32, finally completing the series. Those who have scooped the Magnamund Mega-Deal will be the first to read these new books (several months before anyone else gets the chance), though they will be waiting a little while yet – Magnamund was not built in a day!

    We have been discussing other projects with Mr Dever, including replica Sommerswerds. We have decided not to take a ‘cheap’ approach here, but instead commission the highest quality blades from a top swordsmith. So, they will not be inexpensive, as they say – we are currently predicting a four figure price tag, but these blades will be things of absolute beauty; real stones in the hilt, intricate carvings along the blade, your own unique Kai name inscribed, marking it as your own. . . Probably not for everyone, but we had the chance to pursue this project, and just had to go for it! The swordsmith is currently researching how to produce a realistic golden blade (real gold-plating is an option – quite stunning on something as large as a bastard sword!), so stay tuned for updates. We are not expecting massive demand, but there will still be a waiting list, as we are currently looking at six months for each to be crafted. If you want the ultimate in fantasy collectibles, step forward. . .

    Finally, we have also been looking at doing incredibly detailed multi-volume encyclopaedias for some time now, creating ‘definitive’ works based on various settings. A decent amount of writing time needs to be sectioned off for these projects, but we have already discussed the possibility of both Mega-City One and Glorantha for encyclopaedic treatment (can you imagine what a collected Gloranthan library might look like???). Anyway, something for the future. Not necessarily 2008, but sometime.

    Summary
    And that concludes the State of the Mongoose 2007. This year has been an interesting one, as the Chinese say, but as a whole, the company has been gearing itself up to reach for the next level. In order to do so, we have had to trim a few things down and change the way we do others, sometimes in quite fundamental ways. This process is now nearly complete, and we are very excited at the possibilities 2008 will bring, in terms of both roleplaying and miniatures.

    We are not batting down the hatches and preparing to ride the storm of a shrinking market – far from it. Mongoose is looking to expand, and enjoy the rich and diverse industry in which we belong.
    _________________
    Matthew Sprange

    Mongoose Publishing
    http://www.mongoosepublishing.com

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