Interview With Jon Paulson: Part Two

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Well here we go with the second half of Jon Paulson’s interview.  Check out the first half if you need to catch up.

Ron: Do you plan on just offering mecha, with standardized rules for conventional modern units regularly obtained in scale through other companies?

Jon: Combined arms will be present in the rules. The Mecha are specialized units deployed primarily in urban zones where traditional armor has difficulty operating. The focus of the game of course will be on mecha but a good array of mechanized combat will be represented. Tanks, Infantry, APC, and VTOL units will all be present and can compose up to 30% of your force in a standard game.

There are a number of really good companies already producing models for those types of units so Non-mecha units are a low priority for me at the moment. I eventually plan on making my own models for them but only once the mecha are up and running. I only have so many resources I can devote and I don’t see much sense in making models that are already widely available. The mecha are the focus of the game and there are very few suitable options in the 15mm scale so that’s what I’m concentrated on.

While it may seem odd to established 28mm player, mixing ranges of models is pretty common place for both 6mm and 15mm games. As the 15mm market is supported primarily by “cottage industry” ie small companies, they are generally much more supportive of each other.

The Raptor, along with upcoming models in the Mecha Front series.

The Raptor, along with upcoming models in the Mecha Front series.

Ron: I can see you kitbashing some N scale HUMMHV figures with some rocket pods from your own shop. On 10/11 you asked on your Facebook page the possibility of a plastic-based 285 scale Mecha Front line. Could you elaborate a bit on that, along with why it’s so much more expensive than simple resin production?

Jon: Doing the Mecha Front models at a 15mm scale is a bit of a gamble. I personally love the size and detail of the models but the reasons large mecha don’t appear often in the scale due to costs. The production costs of the models are higher, it complicates material options, and impacts space requirement players need in order to game. That’s why most mecha games kept at a 6mm or 10mm scale, like BattleTech or Heavy Gear.

Ron: I can think of quite a few Skunkwerks gurus that would love to spawn prototype ‘Mechs from your models.

Jon: I’ve considered doing a secondary line of models in the smaller 6mm scale as a way attracting gamers to the setting who might prefer smaller and less expensive models. It would also allow people to use them alongside whatever other lines they wish. It’d allow for people to have larger battles without needing a huge amount of table space.

Resin has a low startup cost, however the individual models are much more time demanding to make than metal or plastic. The molds also wear out much faster and need to be replaced after getting between 25-50 copies made. The molds for metal or plastic miniatures are good for thousands of casts. As a result resin products tend to cost more than if they were done in either of the other materials.

Plastic models are very cheap to make individually, however there is a very large set up cost involved as the molds need to be done out of machine aluminum. When you average that cost out over thousands of miniatures it’s affordable but the initial investment is very high so it is not an affordable option for small runs of miniatures.  In order to support plastic injection you need to have a line that you expect to move high volumes of product to justify the costs.

As a result most startup companies work in resin or metal until they are able to support enough demand to justify upgrading to using plastics. With advancements made in 3d modeling it’s possible to get high quality plastic models made much cheaper than it was 5-10 years ago but it’s still an expensive process.

If I were to produce a 6mm model, the size of a BattleTech figure it might cost me around $200-$300 to get production molds created for metal. The same model would run $3k-$5k to be done in plastic. Meanwhile I can invest as little $15-$20 to make a mold for resin.

Ron: That sounds like a no-brainer.

Jon: The downside is that each resin mold takes 30 minutes to get one pull. (or set of casts) Where metal models can be done at a rate of 20-30 pulls an hour. Material choices come down to what type of production capacity you need, costs, and most of all available finances.

Ron: So it’s a trade-off based on how much you’re prepared to initially invest. Where do you see Mecha Front going from here?

Jon: The current focus is to get all 12 of the initial mechs into production so that all 3 main factions are covered. (Neo-Bloc, NorAm and Blackfrost) After that I’ll be expanding to include other factions that would include countries from Europe South America, Asia etc. At my current rate I expect it to take me 6-8 months before I have the base set of mecha fully completed. (Possibly as long as a year)

We’ve had some early play testing through the Yahoo Groups server which has helped shape the current version of the rules. I’m doing a few final edits and I’ll have the 1.5 version of the rules up on my website shortly. That way people can give the game a test run and see if they like it before picking up the models.

I’ve built Mecha Front to have all the elements I thought were missing from other games. It’s been a long exhausting process, but also an enjoyable one. I hope other people get as much enjoyment from it as I have.

Ron: What sort of missing elements?

Jon: Faster paced game play, skirmish scale forces, integrated turns, visually unified and distinct designs for each faction, pilot skills, removal of the bell curve probability occurring from a 2d6 system, destructible terrain, simplified damage trees. Just to name a few.

There’s a lot of elements that make it play very differently than older style ‘Mech games. I wanted a more cinematic feel to the action so it’d emulate some of the fast paced combat we see in videos games and movies. Older ‘Mech games like BattleTech tend to focus more on a simulator style of play which IMO is fine but it feels somewhat dated and the amount of record keeping slows the game play down. The Mecha Front system has a number of influences from CCGs and there are also a number of influences from other popular wargames that have been refined and re-imagined for use in a mecha themed setting.

Everything from the mecha designs to the game mechanics have been structured so gives it a streamlined near future feel. Which in my opinion sets it very much apart from older classic games like BattleTech.

Ron: That sounds great! Keep us up to date on further developments.  Hopefully we’ll see Mecha Front next to Alpha Strike, Robotech Tactics, and other high speed low drag games on virtual shelves.

Well bargained, and done.

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