22 Feb

Close Encounters: An Interview with Alyssa Faden of Torn World, Part 2

Torn Armor
Artwork by Jeff Laubenstein. Yes, that Jeff Laubenstein.

Earlier this week I delved into the Torn World setting and also delved into the mind of its creator, Alyssa Faden. In addition to Torn World’s current Pathfinder Roleplaying Game setting and Center Stage Miniatures line, a flagship project is a tabletop miniatures skirmish game, Torn Armor.

The Torn Armor Kickstarter launches on March 3rd and you want to be ready. If images like the Sisk Skirmisher Golem aren’t enough to make you realize that games need more ballista-toting constructs, then Alyssa Faden and her team’s plans for Torn Armor should still grab your attention… but you should still make every effort to find out what’s wrong with you.

The Origin of Torn Armor

If you don’t know the history of the Torn World, I already spent some time discussing it with Alyssa here. The concept for Torn Armor arose from Alyssa Faden’s and Jack Cull’s interests in board games and miniatures (alongside their RPG interests). Inspired by games like DUST and Descent, the duo saw a means to introduce the Torn World setting –its heroes, villains, history and lore– to the masses in a different way. The goal is uniting “great miniatures, great setting, and fast game-play.” Lofty goals are great, but what did Alyssa think was missing from other miniatures games that Torn World brought to the table?

“Ultimately there are a lot of great games out there –We doubtlessly own some of them!– but what we wanted was a fantasy squad-based skirmish game: affordable entry point, quick set up, quick game play, coffee-table playing area, fantastic looking miniatures, highly customizable play to fit any playing style, and a rich lore.”

Torn Armor Sisk Hoplite
A Sisk Hoplite. Artist: Les Garner.

Alyssa cites Descent, DUST, and Magic: The Gathering, as influences in the game’s design. Magic: The Gathering brought with it the concept of selecting the cards of your units and heroes, along with the magic and equipment that further customizes them. Descent and DUST both brought with them the concepts of fast-paced, quick-to-learn mechanics combined with great miniatures. In fact, they’ve chosen to work with the same production company that produces the DUST figures based on the quality of their sculpting and production. Combined with remarkable artwork that accompanies the stories of Torn, the results are sure to be impressive.

Torn Armor: With Great Growth Comes Great Responsibility

I discovered miniatures gaming years after I had already been an avid RPG player through Games Workshop’s original Space Hulk miniatures board game. As a GW gamer (and veteran of GW employment for more years than I’d care to remember) there’s one question that springs to mind the moment someone tries to sell me on a new miniatures game: What kind of considerations have you taken to avoid power-creep in expansions? I posed that question to Alyssa about Torn Armor, and I was pleased to learn that this was as important to her and the Torn World team as it should be to any miniatures game manufacturer.

“Well, we do not want to release a unit in the future that obsoletes previous units of the same type. Every gamer out there that invests in Torn Armor is more than a customer, they’re a friend and a game-play buddy. It’s not cool to watch them spend good money on the core game and a few expansions, only to release a game-play mechanic, future unit, or a version of the game that will utterly render their collection obsolete.”

Torn Armor Serpentfolk Mage
The reptoids serpentfolk are coming!

With that in mind they are taking those planning steps now to lay a foundation of rules that takes future additions to the game into account. Torn Armor is slated to release with two factions, the Sisk and the Maychians, but the Torn World has a great many more factions to draw from. Those factions, their themes and play-styles, are already a factor in the design of Torn Armor and more than just a crafty twinkle in Alyssa’s eye. Just like the Torn World itself, these factions have lived in her brain for quite some time.

Torn Armor Maychian Elemental Light Golem
At 60mm tall (to the “eyes”), the Maychian answer to the Sisk war golems is part of the Torn Armor Kickstarter’s core set. Go ahead, click the image and make it even bigger!

Rather than recklessly surge forward with unattainable goals Alyssa says, “We’re starting carefully and humbly” and the team has established a “long and safe power curve that we can follow.” Many things that may not appear in the core game already have rules written: expanded spells and heroes, flying creatures and cavalry, and even god-like units. She casually referenced a “Lich King,” and major persona of the Torn World and possible future release, intimating that he could fight an entire army on his own, at a commensurate gold cost during the force drafting process.

Torn Armor, Appearing 3/3/13 on a Kickstarter Near You!

The meat of the matter, what does the core boxed set come with?

    • at least 36 miniatures (from 22mm all the way up to 60mm)
    • color rule book
    • scenario book
    • 4 double-sided, color battle poster maps
    • unit, equipment, and spell cards
    • 25 dice (in 5 colors)
Torn World Maychian Mu Slinger
In the world of miniature wargames, there aren’t enough fury, cute things trying to stone their enemies to death. Torn Armor addresses this deficiency with the Mu slinger.

To some people it’s not a Kickstarter without stretch goals, especially when it comes to games and miniatures. I’ll admit that I was happy to hear Alyssa say, “I do not want to position the Kickstarter as one long stretch goal Whack-a-Mole.” At its heart, the Torn Armor core game stands alone and can carry the weight of the whole concept which I can appreciate. But Alyssa also confesses that unlocking stretch goals is fun and that there are certainly some great plans for that.

A slightly higher pledge level will add a limited edition mercenary unit (available to either core faction). Another pledge level gets you the core game, the limited edition unit, and every other stretch goal attained. It sounds as though she and her team have done some serious number crunching to ensure they don’t overreach themselves, and they have set their stretch goals with those numbers in mind. Each stretch goal can unlock two units of approximately 8-10 miniatures. If the Kickstarter reaches its upper limits, there’s a chance of getting a third faction in the mix (possibly selected by the backers). And there’s one more thing that I want to quote Alyssa on directly as I’m more than a little interested myself, despite the vagueness:

“There will also be an add-on. A really, really, really special add-on. I’m talking something that stands 120mm tall on the battlefield. It’s going to be crazy. I can’t reveal what it is yet, but imagine behemoth-like creatures with guys hanging off the back firing bows and ballista and you won’t be far off the mark. There will be TWO of them, one for each faction. I’ll share more information on this as we get closer!!!”

Those are her three exclamation points at the end, but there’s no better way to drive the point home that this entire Kickstarter is a labor of love as well as a well-researched foray into the business of games. I often talk about how the “Fun of Games” gets confused with the “Business of Games,” and how that confusion is frequently to the detriment of someone who thinks of the equation as: Making Games = Making Money. Hearing what Alyssa has to say about her plans, it’s apparent that she and her team have done their research and have a clear plan of attack to turn their vision into a reality that other gamers can share.

Torn Armor Sisk Units

Kickstarter and Fighting the Good Fight

When I interview people (or when I’m just talking to strangers) I sometimes ask some unusual questions. They’re usually to satisfy my own curiosity. The answers remain “off the record,” unless the interviewee doesn’t mind me sharing. Alyssa was more than happy to indulge me as and allow me to share whatever I pleased. In my opinion, those questions always lend a little insight into a person, even if they never see print. Among the answers to my string of off-topic questions, one in particular stood out to me and warranted sharing.

I asked Alyssa for her prediction for the title fight of UFC 158. George St. Pierre or Nick Diaz? If you don’t know the athletes, or even follow the sport, it’s OK. Alyssa sums it up well:

“Pierre. I love the guy. I’m not saying stylistically he is fun to watch… but he delivers… I respect that. He is also a gentleman, respectful, and a true face for the UFC in general… Diaz? I don’t have anything good to say about him. I’m not saying that the guy doesn’t have talent, but his antics are just not what it’s about. It reminds me too much of guys mad-dogging each other in a bar. I much prefer the silent guy that just knows his s**t and gets it done with no bad mouthing.”

Kickstarter is a gamble. It’s about handing your money to someone and putting your faith them. When I back a Kickstarter, or even just decide to promote one, it’s as much about the people behind it as it is about the project. I respect someone who respects character.

And I’m not just saying all of that because Alyssa and I both have George St. Pierre picked to win.

Torn Armor Maychian Units

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