Monday, May 12, 2014

An Interview with Warfare Miniatures

Continuing the celebration of this humble blog meeting a significant milestone, here is another interview, this time with Barry Hilton, author of Beneath the Lily Banners, and owner of Warfare Miniatures.

Barry, I appreciate your participating in this interview. I have long been a fan of your work, so this is a bit of a thrill for me.

JP: You've got three rule sets out now, what else might we see in the future as far as publishing goes?

BH: They are stacking up actually. We have a Crimean supplement to Republic to Empire(Four Empires). It is finished and 90% formatted. It was coming out before Donnybrook but we just lost the momentum to finish it and jumped onto the other book. There is an ACW rule set based on Republic to Empire (Rally to the Colors!), It is finished in written form but not laid out. We hope to publish the very long in coming Ireland supplement to Beneath the Lily Banners. There is Donnybrook Dark which is an occult focused supplement to Donnybrook. That will come out in pdf. There is a new project which will jump up the queue rapidly to support the imminent release of the new GNW figure range but I’ll not say too much about that right now. So, quite a few pieces of work in the pipe.

JP: What caused you to start up Warfare Miniatures, since there are already several good manufacturers of figures for the period? Was it more due to a perceived lack of particular figures that were missing from the available ranges or was this more of an object of passion for you? By the way, the figures you've released thus far are very, very good!

BH: My involvement was not exactly accidental but driven by evolving circumstances. The guy who started everything had been inspired by Beneath the Lily Banners to fill a perceived gap in the market. He asked me for technical input regarding equipment and uniforms. I provided this and was kept in touch with progress. After a year of planning and sculpting he asked me to take a financial stake. I did not want to be involved in the day to day running of the range. As my financial stake increased and the range still did not get to market I felt it was time to get in there and lend a hand. This coincided with the other chap becoming seriously then terminally ill. I bought him out and inherited the baby. I had to run with what had been planned for the first 18 months but once I got more experience of what it was all about I started to make more constructive and influential choices about the way things would go. I must say that after 2 years Warfare is profitable and has ambitious plans to keep the range expanding. We currently have over 100 codes/packs available and this will certainly increase by 50% during 2014-15.

One of the strengths of what we have is a strong link between rules, figures, flags and gaming tools. By choosing to focus on one period we have followed through in a way some ranges never achieve particularly when the initial decision is speculative and not driven by any great love of the period.

JP: How did you personally get involved in miniature wargaming?

BH: The same route as most kids of the 50s and 60s. Airfix kits and figures, TV, Commando books,comics such as The Victor, The Hotspur and movies. From my childhood I most remember The Longships with Richard Widmark, The Vikings with Kirk and Tony, Zulu, Sink the Bismarck! and Combat with Vic Morrow. My Dad and maternal grandfather fought in the war so I had a direct connection. How could I not be tempted to play with toy soldiers, tanks and planes? I gave it up for rock n roll at 15 but returned at 25 through a stress related illness which required that I find something calming to occupy my mind. I have been back ever since and actually found I had some talent for the whole thing around about 1987 when I learned to paint properly. My work started to appear in magazines in 1994. Since then I have maintained a fairly constant presence on the web and in the hobby press.

JP: What is your favorite period and what game(s) have you most recently been playing as a participant, as opposed to being an umpire?

BH: That is a very difficult question to answer. I have broad interests but have been driven down some narrow paths because I believe if you are going to do something you should focus and do it well. Having too broad a spectrum of interest can dilute that focus meaning; you dabble in everything and complete nothing. That is not my way. I am interested in certain periods of Ancient warfare, The Dark Ages, Samurai warfare, the pike and shot era, Napoleonics, The Crimea, ACW and WW2. One of my abiding passions which I rarely if ever game is naval warfare. I just love ships of any period but the last time I gamed with them was at high school. The most recent game I played was a Beneath the Lily Banners scenario for The Battle of Aughrim July 12th 1691. We did it at my home on a 10 x 6 table with 4 players. It took us 21 hours to finish over three sessions which amounted to over 40 turns. We used about 1,600 models and played to a very exciting conclusion. My blog writing on the game amounted to a 16 part epic.

JP: Is there a period or range of figure that you wish existed, but are too specialized to be profitable for a company?

BH: If you visit TMP on occasion you can see the tortuous lengths people will go too in order to stimulate interest in obscurity. Is there anything the Board fan-boys have not discussed there? I don’t know the answer to that Justin. If you had asked the question 15 years ago I may have come up with something fairly quickly but now you can get practically everything you might want(and lots of things I definitely don’t want). which I must say is good!

JP: As you may have read from my own comments on the League of Augsburg forums, campaigns and campaign rules are something I (and numerous others) are interested in, do you have plans to address such down the road or are you open to outside suggestions for a campaign supplement?

BH: I have always loved running campaigns. I ran a WW2 Eastern Front campaign for over 3 years and wrote the entire thing up move by move. That was a lot of work because it covered Operation Bagration both paper based and with table action including all of the logistics. I really did that all for me. I enjoyed that more than any other wargaming activity I’ve ever done. I get a real kick out of the writing perhaps even more than the playing itself.

I ran a modern naval campaign at school, have run ECW campaigns and still have all of the collateral. I love the narrative and interaction between participants. I would consider suggestions and input for anything. We may publish something in the future it is all a matter of available time which is my biggest challenge.

JP: With Donnybrook's recent release, there is a noticeable change in layout from your previous rules. Is this a trend we can expect to see more of, or is it more due to the difference between skirmish rules and rules for mass battles?

BH: Let me answer the second question first. It may appear to be the difference between a skirmish v mass battles but it was actually more to do with the first part of your question.. making a change. We liked the idea of comic book elements. Clarence is a comic book artist as well as a gamer. I suggested running the example game in pictures with speech bubbles and captions and he made it happen. I took the shots to order and wrote the narrative. We’ve had great feedback about the style of the book (as well as the playability of the rules). You can expect to see more innovation from us. I don’t know if it is true(success has many fathers whilst failure is invariably orphaned) but many have credited Clarence and I with the trend in rule book style after the release of Beneath the Lily Banners 1st edition way back in 2008. BLB1 was new, colourful and fresh at that time. I am not saying we were the first to do the colour picture, eye candy style but a lot of ‘in the style of’ publications came out after that. If people want to lay that accolade at our door.. I’ll take it!

JP: Do you foresee Warfare Miniatures expanding into ranges of plastic miniatures, similar to Warlord and Perry, or are you content with keeping to metal figures? Again, the pictures of Warfare Miniatures' releases really do look great and I look forward to purchasing some in the future.

BH: Warfare Miniatures is one person. I don’t have the headcount of these other organizations. I also don’t do this full time, Warfare is a leisure activity(although it does not feel like it most of time frankly speaking). I have a very demanding job which requires me to travel outside of the UK every month and for prolonged periods. For me to expand on the scale of Victrix, Perry or Warlord I would have to hand the business over to someone to run for me. Whether that would work I don’t know. Financially the directions you mention are viable but I am not sure where it will all go. I can be certain that the metals, books, flags and ancillary products will continue to appear. Ask me again in a year I might have a different answer!

JP: Is there something you are passionate about, that you would like to make a statement?

BH: I am passionate about many things but whether they would be of the slightest interest to anyone I have no idea! I am passionately against missed opportunity and glass half empty attitudes. I try and stay away from people who drain my own energy as much as possible. If you have an idea don’t talk about it, get on with it, there never going to be enough time you know!

Thank you, Barry, for the informative interview. I wish you, Clarence Harrison, and your business ventures the best of success!

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