As I near the 50,000 pageviews milestone, I want to add a few interesting posts to the blog, breaking from my usual battle reports and mini-reviews. Today, as you can tell, I am posting a short interview with Wargames Factory's Director of Product Development, Research, and Design, Lonnie Mullins. In full disclosure, Lonnie was my boss, for a time, when we both worked at a very well known miniature and game manufacturer which happens to be based out of the UK.
Wargames Factory (WF) has had a bit of drama in the few short years it has been around, but out of courtesy, I have avoided those prying questions which, although tantalizing to some, really do nothing to enhance one's enjoyment of wargaming and miniature collecting.
JP: Without prying too deeply, what has the overall effect been as a result of the several partnerships that WF has entered into with game producers? Is this an area where we can expect WF to further expand or are you content how things stand at the moment?
LM: Entering into partnerships with other game producers has helped us raise some cash as well as allowing us to showcase what we can do as a company to the rest of the world. We do intend to continue to produce not only our own product ranges and to work with other vendors on their projects provided there is no conflict of interest.
JP: How effective has WF been in breaking into the European market? With the already established competitors such as Perry Miniatures and Renedra, have you created a foothold amongst their diehard loyalists or are you fighting an increasingly uphill battle against an entrenched client base?
LM: We've been pretty effective we think, of course, like any other company, we'd like to make bigger inroads. We're not really concerned with anyone else's so called "client base", we're more concerned with making great models with quality that will blow any competition away.
JP: Was the release of WF AWI figures a happy accident or were you planning to release your new range of models at nearly the exact same time as the Perrys? I ask because there has been some chatter about the coincidence of the timing of releases.
LM: We aren't really concerned with what other companies are releasing and we know we have a superior product besides. The reason for our AWI releases is we had a business opportunity present itself in the form of a mutual friend writing a set of rules for the AWI, FIW and 1812 conflicts. He asked if we'd be interested in making a complete range for AWI which he would promote in his rules Land of the Free (which should release this October if all goes well) and after a little debate we thought it would be a good idea.
JP: The quality of figures released after the time of troubles, ie the change of ownership drama, has markedly improved, even if not everyone can agree as to the extent. Are you planning on revisiting some of the earlier lines to either correct egregious errors of design (the upside down infantry sword in the WSS infantry box, for example) or improve the quality at all?
LM: We (the design team) have spoken at length about this issue. We feel that some of the kits are "good enough", others need a redo and we will address them at some point. Much depends on how well a kit or range sells. If we're selling 200-boxes a month and feel that we could be selling 400 with a redo then we might go ahead with a redo. If we feel that we'd only sell an additional 10 per month the cost vs. benefit just isn't there.
JP: There was some talk, and even some videos of examples, of pre-painted 15mm WWII figures from just over a year ago. Is this something WF has chosen not to pursue after all or is there more to the story?
LM: This might be something that we pursue but isn't a decision that the design team would make.
JP: Without jumping the gun, can you hint at what we can expect to see following the AWI releases? Is there another line you are looking at adding or are you going to expand one or more current ranges? With the success of SAGA, and your own partnership with War & Conquest, there appears to be a ready market for more Dark Age plastic figure ranges, are you waiting on customer requests or are you actively looking at what can be done with it?
LM: I can't really comment on what's in the future for us. We'll continue to work the Dark Futures/Apocalypse range. We've been talking about doing military vehicles and expanding our ranges to round them out and make, more or less, complete ranges out of them so our customers have a "one stop shop" for purchasing their army needs. As to customer requests, well more often than not those usually turn out to be for someone's pet project which isn't what we do. We do listen to our customers and compile info, watch for trends, etc. If a major trend looks to be emerging then we'll act on it.
JP: You've done WWII infantry, can we look forward to vehicles and artillery or are you sticking with the groundpounders?
LM: We do have plans for military as well as civilian vehicles.
JP: Any plans on adding resin or metal miniatures/terrain to the line or are you sticking solely with plastics?
LM: We don't do metal or resin and have no plans to get into those mediums in the future. Terrain has been discussed and we may enter into some sort of terrain manufacturing at a later date.
JP: What is your favorite period and what have you played recently?
LM: My favorite periods are Ancient Rome (Early Empire) and modern (WWII to near future). Recently I've played Land of the Free and Gods and Mortals.
JP: Kallistra puts out a very nice range of terrain hexagons, but they are prohibitively expensive to ship to the US and the rest of the world. Have you considered approaching them for a license to manufacture their products for a US and OZ/Asia distribution?
LM: As far as I know we have not. But I'm not privy to everything that goes on in China, which is where such deals are made.
JP: Is there something that you'd like to share, but I have not asked about?
LM: We have a lot of projects planned for the future but I can't really make any comment.
Thank you, Lonnie. I appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions.
Note: I happen to know Joe Krone, the author of the upcoming Land of the Free, as we both worked at that same well known miniature and games company as I already mentioned. While I cannot say we were close friends (I mostly kept to myself as I was married and had a pack of children at home), I can only ever remember Joe as being a nice guy, passionate about wargaming. So, I expect to pick up a copy of his rules when they release.