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AICN Tabletop! An Interview With The Designers of PROXY ARMY! DEAD PANIC And SLASH! Kickstarters! And More!

Hello gamers, Abstruse here with this week’s AICN Tabletop! I really tried to find you some really awesome news from the gaming world, but it’s been a completely dead week. The only news stories out there involve long-dead drama about a DUNGEONS & DRAGONS / MAGIC: THE GATHERING crossover that never happened along with several other designers adding their perspectives on a public Facebook thread.

The only other thing worth reporting is that pretty much every American board game company that had something at Essen will be showing it off at Board Game Geek Con as well on Nov 20-24 in Dallas, TX. Z-Man Games will also be demoing the prototype for PANDEMIC: THE CURE, a dice-based version of their insanely popular PANDEMIC board game.

Since the news was so light this week, went and found awesome stuff for you! I’ve got a review for DEAD PANIC, a review of the prototype of a game currently Kickstarting called SLASH: ROMANCE WITHOUT BOUNDARIES, and an interview with the guys behind one of the most amazing Kickstarters I’ve seen since I’ve started doing this column (and one that I personally backed), PROXY ARMY.

Abstruse: So what exactly is Proxy Wars?

Tristan: Proxy War is a 3D printing-based gaming miniatures service that lets any gamer have /fully custom/ tabletop miniatures. We can design and 3D print your character in fine detail, exactly to your specifications, or even make whole custom armies for your favorite wargame. Normally, custom minis are hundreds of dollars, but with 3D printing, we can do it for as little as $7 a mini (including shipping), print the mini in finecast-level detail, and then ship it right to your door.

Abstruse:  How customizable are we talking here?

Tristan: Every detail. Swap limbs, swap gear, change facial expressions, add cybernetic parts, mutations, or new details. You can resize the minis, add things like name patches, bonus equipment, or random addons. All our minis can be reposed to your tastes -- the computer knows where limbs bend, allowing you to repose the mini yourself or select from a number of pre-set poses.

Abstruse: Wow...and color? You mean I don't have to paint them?

Tristan: We print in a few materials. Fine Detail Plastic, Regular Reinforced Plastic, and Colored Sandstone. Colored Sandstone comes printed in full color, and can print with enough detail to get things like symbols or icons on the unit. So if you hate painting, yes, you can color online.

Abstruse: And for the masochists who like painting minis, how well do the minis take paint?

Allan: As well as any other mini on the market.

Tristan: I'm going to let a picture be worth a thousand words in this case:


Allan: That model is 25mm tall, and the individual wood grain isn't just painted on- that's printed into the mask, thinner than a human hair.

Abstruse: What does it look like in the fully-colored Sandstone minis?

Tristan: Oh oh oh. Allen is going to respond to this one and then I get to link a picture.

Allan: The indentations are only invisible in the single-color print; if that were sandstone, they'd be perfectly visible, as would be every subtle change in the color. The sandstone never has to be painted, and can have extremely high resolution in the change from one color to another. I mean, we can put a four letter word into a 4mm space and have it legible. But the resolution and attention to detail is only one advantage to Sandstone.

Tristan: Okay, okay. Now, picture:


Allan: We can print THAT. In full color. That barrel is 14" That's a surface to orbit artillery piece. You put that on your table and you can assault armies in other game stores.

Abstruse: How durable is the material?

Allan: It’s about on par with current box kit models. You won't go slamming it onto the floor, but it won't break in the course of standard tabletop play. Unlike the Sandstone, though, our third standard material is... sturdy. Regular Reinforced is an incredible material. We play catch with our tanks. We spike them in victory.

Tristan: Yup! Just treat sandstone with a little tender loving care (or, you know, a slightly padded case or soft bag) and it'll stay in mint condition through regular play. Regular Reinforced is practically invulnerable though, short of trying to destroy it.

Allan: It's worth noting that I am clumsy, and all my models are sandstone. I've never had a break yet.

Abstruse: Let's back up a fucking amazeballs awesome as the miniatures are, there's a game attached to this Kickstarter. Who designed it and how does it work?

Tristan: Basically, we realized that since you could make any model with us, you could make models that there was no game to play with. For instance, I can make my ninja catgirl army from a mysterious distant star, but they don't have a Warhammer 40k codex, so if my friends all play 40k, that's my bad luck. We fixed that by creating a system where you can generate custom stats for ANY unit you can print, and then put those units in an easy to learn, quick-paced tactical wargame. That way, my catgirl ninjas can fight your steampunk imperialists, and it results in a nuanced, interesting battle. The default setting of Proxy War is a sci-fantasy setting that remembers that The Galaxy is Big. You can rule 99% of the galaxy and there are a million stars you've never visited.

Abstruse: I'm picturing that line from one of the Hitchhiker's Guide books that talk about the living couch. "If the universe is infinite, then all things that are possible must exist somewhere"

Tristan: Bingo. In this case, while there are great empires who rule huge swaths of the galaxy, the stars are always an unknown. The galaxy is a vast and strange place where starships that get lost and wander off the beaten path can reasonably stumble onto anything. That way, we have a setting that makes sense, has its own continuity, but we can introduce player-generated content freely and gradually.

Abstruse: How many genres are you supporting out of the box on this? Your images are sci-fi, you've mentioned steampunk and catgirls and D&D. What else do you have?

Allan: We'll be supporting five right out of the box: Sci-Fi, High Fantasy, Steampunk, Historical, and Modern. Because of all our mix-and-match, that also supports things like Sci-Fantasy, Cyberpunk, Low Fantasy, etc.

Abstruse: A lot of the stuff we've mentioned so far seems generic genre stuff. Do you have anything officially licensed in the pipeline you can talk about?

Tristan: Why yes! You can also see, THIS:


That's George from The Robotic Age, an awesome Kickstarted RPG whom we are doing the models for. Turns out, when you do cool custom minis, game devs like that too. We also have licensed minis from Erfworld and Schlock Mercenary. Two awesome webcomics whose creators have wanted minis for a while. And now, they have them.

Abstruse: How's fulfillment going to work with something so customizable?

Tristan: We plan to have our online ordering system -- customization software, full database of parts, shipping, etc, all set up before May. As soon as that goes live, everyone who backed will get an account on the store that automatically credits them for the models they backed for (as the special KS discount rates). You can order them all at once then if you like, though you don't have to. All materials are the same price on the Kickstarter. That may not be true for retail orders after.

Abstruse: I remember you saying something in the Q&A over on the RPGnet chatroom about fully-custom minis. Like if I want something beyond the options offered in the creation software. What's the process for that?

Tristan: If you need a mini that is really made ENTIRELY from scratch, we pair you with a three man design team: A character artist, an illustrator, and a 3D modeler. The character artist gets you up to 36 variant sketch designs for your unit until the concept is finalized to your tastes. The illustrator produces final concept art, both for the 3D modeler and for display and the 3D modeler makes the unit. Then we whip up a fine-detail prototype and send it to you. All the parts go into our database and you get a partial percentage [based on the number of your parts used].

Abstruse: How much of an extra fee are we talking about, assuming a full 28mm figure designed from the "Dude, I've got this totally awesome idea of a guy with a bear's body but an owl's head and arms, but the arms have, like, bear claws! Bearowl!" stage to actually getting the mini?

Tristan: $430, which gets you the mini, along with all of the separated parts, and a number of alternate design options (like alternate weapons). If you want to order more than one, or variant designs, that's just regular price since the design is in our database. So a bit more pricy for the first one, but that's why we put it into the database and give a percentage of sales. To make it a bit more affordable.

Abstruse: And the price goes down if it's just one component, like my Ultimate Sword of Ultimateness rather than an entire mini?

Tristan: Quite so.

Abstruse: And, off my Bearowl track, I assume you've got in safeguards in case someone tries to "design" something copyrighted or trademarked they don't have permission for?

Tristan: Yes, we patrol our database vigorously for IP violations. We take full responsibility for everything in our database.

Allan: I personally punish them with punches.

Abstruse: So we’ve talked about 28mm models and you showed a picture of that beast of an artillery gun. Exactly how big can you go?

Tristan: Our largest model (super-titan) is 250% the size of Game's Workshop's largest store minis, and for less money. And it's fully customized. We want gamers to be able to do everything from goblins to giant robots, all rendered to scale. The largest mini we're offering in the Kickstarter right now is 240mm. That's "Titan" class. But we're experimenting with a super-titan class of models up to 450mm (18''). And if we hit enough stretch goals...

Abstruse: The example you have on the Kickstarter is a giant robot mecha thing. Do you have any fantasy models prepared? Like a dragon or a non-IP-infringing-tarrasque-esque thing? (Wow...I actually got to use "tarrasque-esque" in proper context.)

Allan: I'm impressed!

Tristan: Yes. Our current display-ready fantasy models are mostly 28mm stuff, like some Sorcer(er/ess) gear and models, along with a few more humanoid monsters and bits of gear. We'll be putting them up in our Fantasy Update soon.

So there you have it. They’ve got some nice demo videos up showing some of the concept work and how the modeling process goes, and it’s absolutely fascinating. They’ve added some new pledge levels too since this interview, including an optional add-on for professional hand painting of their nigh-indestructible material models if you don’t want to go the still-durable-but-not-quite-as-much sandstone route as well as hinting at options for printable custom terrain as well.

If you only want one model at up to the 50mm scale, it’s a $25 pledge. At $70, you get a squad of ten 28mm minis or six 50mm minis. At $135, you get eighteen 25mm minis or ten 50mm ones, and so on. You can also mix-and-match the sizes. And if you want to go all-out and get something that’s completely yours, the $350 pledge level gets you a single completely custom designed mini from the ground up, where you tell them what you want in a couple of paragraphs and they’ll design the entire thing from scratch (Note this is an early bird reward and, as of writing, there’s only 20 left before the price jumps to $430). I’ve seen images of the prototypes these guys have made (which I unfortunately can’t share here for various reasons, the greatest is that they ask nicely that I don’t) and I have to say that they’re fucking gorgeous.

Okay, I really need to preface this review. I am not the target audience for this game at all. I played it. I had fun. But not as much fun as I should have had if I were interested in the theme. So don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a BAD game. It’s not even that I don’t like it. It’s fun and funny for the most part. But I am completely not the target audience for this game.

SLASH is a card game in the style of APPLES TO APPLES or CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY. You have a hand of several cards with various pop-culture icons on them (with a description if you don’t immediately know who Naruto or Bellatrix Lestrange is). One player is the judge and plays one card from their hand. Everyone else plays a card that they think would make a funny match in a slash fanfiction for that character. There’s an advanced ruleset for the game where you actually have to create the set-up for how the two characters get together or describing their first dat. Whoever the judge ships the most gets the points.

I am not a fan whatsoever of fanfiction and especially slash fiction or shipping. Because of that, I didn’t enjoy this game nearly as much as if I would have if I did. If you and your friends are fans of that sort of speculation about pop culture, you’ll really enjoy this game. Even saying that, I still had fun playing the game. Because of the vast number of characters from many different genres and mediums used, I was still able to have fun playing this game when someone tried to convince me that obviously Sub-Zero would’ve been a better match for Hiro Protagonist from Snow Crash than Britta Perry from Community or Vamprilla. The version of this game I played is a prototype, so I have no idea what the components will be like in the product. If this theme looks even remotely interesting to you, this is definitely something to look into. The game plays fast and it’s pretty well balanced in the various characters they use. If this seems like something you’d like, the Kickstarter is live and as of writing is around 70% funded with 24 days left to go, with a $20 getting you the physical copy. You can also get the game for free now as a print-and-play game.

Were you a fan of CASTLE PANIC but felt that it needed more depth of gameplay? Or just a crapload of zombies? Well then DEAD PANIC is the game for you. Here’s the overview. Each of the 2-6 players are a survivor of the zombie apocalypse. You’ve all taken refuge inside a cabin, but THEY’RE COMING TO GET YOU, BARBARA! (Seriously, one of the characters is named Barbara). Your goal is to assemble the radio in order to get the van where you need it to be and then get all the characters on board. But be careful, because if you fall to the zombie horde, you’ll become one yourself!

Okay, I laid it on a bit thick there, but this game is a lot of fun. It’s got a steeper learning curve than CASTLE PANIC did, but that’s not saying much since CASTLE PANIC’s learning curve was fucking near a straight line. In fact, I’d wager to say that DEAD PANIC and CASTLE PANIC don’t have all that much in common besides both being basic tower defense. There is a hell of a lot more going on in DEAD PANIC and everything new in the game really changes things. So rather than try to explain this game in its older brother’s shadow, this is the last time I’m going to mention CASTLE PANIC in relation to the rules and gameplay.

To start off, each player chooses one of eight characters, each with their own special ability which is placed inside the cabin by a random die roll. You then place six random zombies in the woods outside the cabin (and outside the range of your weapons for now). You get two player actions (like searching for gear by drawing from the Cabin Deck, playing cards from your hand, repairing cracks in the walls, etc.) After you’ve taken your actions, you draw a card from the Event Deck and follow the instructions by adding zombies to the board and changing positions of both zombies and characters on the board. Next, the zombies move in a pattern toward the nearest survivor they can see, or the one whose made the most noise by firing their gun. Finally, if you’re in the same square as a zombie, it attacks and you each deal damage to one another.

The only complaint I have about this game are the components, and even that’s a nitpick and Fireside has made more improvements over CASTLE PANIC than they’ve caused new problems (I said I’d stop comparing them for rules and gameplay...I said nothing about components!) This game comes with the same high-quality cardboard tokens that CASTLE PANIC did and packaged the same way. NO PUNCHING OUT TOKENS FOR TWO HOURS BEFORE YOU CAN START PLAYING!!!! Seriously, Fireside, I love you guys for that. They also solved a big problem CASTLE PANIC had with the enemy tokens by including a cloth bag to draw out of, rather than forcing you to run all over the house, bar, or coffee shop looking for an unused cup to draw out of. There is a downside, though, and that’s with the stands. CASTLE PANIC had very nice tight-fitting plastic stands for all the components that stood up. DEAD PANIC uses cross-cut cardboard stands that don’t always fit as snugly as you’d like them to. And yes, this is nitpicking. I had no problems with walls or character tokens falling over with the pieces, but I would’ve sacrificed that cloth bag to get some more plastic stands instead.

In case you can’t tell, I love this game. CASTLE PANIC is one of my all-time favorite board games and, even though I’m getting a little burnt out on the zombie theme, this is the best presentation of it I’ve seen since LAST NIGHT ON EARTH. When you’re playing, it feels like you’re a character in a Romero zombie movie and the added complexity only enhances the game. I know Halloween is over, but this is a game that should definitely be on your shelves.

Well, I talked about two Kickstarters already, so why not add a few more? This week was the least trouble I’ve ever had in finding Kickstarters to report on because there are a lot of good ones going on right now.

Okay, Nordling, I’m sorry. I know you’ve got kids you need to buy Christmas presents for. I know you’re going to BNAT. So I hate to do this to you pal, but Prodos Games Ltd have an ALIENS VS. PREDATOR MINIATURE GAME they’re Kickstarting. The base set available for £75 (about $120), you get the core game including 23 miniatures with more unlocked by stretch goals. There’s also a ton of add-ons to make your games more intense, whether you play as the Marines, Xenomorphs, or Predators. This game is obviously long post fully funded and smashing through stretch goals until November 28.

We talked about this on the Gamer’s Tavern podcast with Ari Marmell, but I’ve always felt one of the most underrated World of Darkness games was DEMON: THE FALLEN. It got so little love, probably because it debuted not long before White Wolf nuked the old World of Darkness setting. Well, Onyx Path is bringing the concepts behind that game into the New World of Darkness with DEMON: THE DESCENT. In this personal horror game, you play a fallen angel who has chosen to take the side of the humans over that of Heaven, trying to avoid the agents of the Light while you find an existence for yourself on earth, knowing that you can never again return to your old home. I’d go into more detail about this game, but they kind of beat me to the punch by offering a free QuickStart. You can get the PDF of this fully-funded product for $25, a physical copy for $50, or you can choose from a plethora of other rewards which get you access to PDF releases of the original DEMON: THE FALLEN games and sourcebooks. This Kickstarter runs until December 12.

DUNGEON ROLL has been one of the big success stories of Kickstarter games with one of the best reviewed games I haven’t personally played, but you can pick it up on Amazon now and enjoy some fast-paced dice rolling press-your-luck dungeon crawling adventure. They’re building on that with a new expansion, DUNGEON ROLL: WINTER PROMO PACK. And this isn’t just an expansion; this is a thank you to the fans of the game that have made it such a success. The four new heroes and twelve new treasures can be yours with a pay-what-you-want donation of as little as $2 (with a suggested price of $5). If you’re overseas, the minimum is $3. Want more than one? Donate more! There’s even a retailer level of at $20 which gets you ten sets to sell at the MSRP of $5 each. You bet your ass that this is fully funded by a long shot, with this love letter to the fans going on until November 19.

Back in the 3.x days of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, a third-party publisher created the Advanced Bestiary, a monster book that took the concepts from that edition and turned it up to 11. Now, Green Ronin Publishing is Kickstarting a new edition for the PATHFINDER system. This is the book that Paizo said on their Facebook feed about this product, "This is one of our most frequently used sources for templates in-house, and we're thrilled a PFRPG version is in the works!" If you play PATHFINDER, it's not a question of if you'll get this book, but when. At the $20 pledge level, you get a PDF of the book. For $30, you also get the HeroLabs files for the templates and races included. If you move quickly, you can get in on the Early Bird special of $45 for the print and PDF version, but the price goes up to $50 if you wait too long. This project runs until December 10 and, in its first day online, is already halfway to its funding goal. There's several exciting stretch goals for the ADVANCED BESTIARY, so get going!

That’s it for this week. I’m currently poking at a few hornet’s nests on Twitter @Abstruse to get you some news for next week. If you have something you’d like to spill the beans about, email me at and if this wasn’t enough gaming goodness for you, check out the rebranded and reorganized Gamer’s Tavern podcast! Our recent episodes have included Ari Marmell telling us some insider info on the World of Darkness and White Wolf, a discussion of how technology is evolving gaming with Jason Marker, and by the time you read this, our Shadowrun episode with John Dunn and Russell Zimmerman should be live as well. I’m also hosting a live-streamed Q&A panel on Friday at 7PM Central time with the guys from Immersion Studios for AEthercon, the virtual tabletop gaming convention. So until next time, play more games!

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