Brent: Anvil Eight Games Interview on Aetherium

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Today’s Terrible Tuesday post is a bit of something special.  I’ve been chatting with Brian Niro, the Blogger behind A Gentleman’s Ones turned Developer behind Aetherium.

What’s Aetherium, you ask?  Only a game you’re going to want to be playing.  Only a Kickstarter that started today.  Only a game that finally brings cyberpunk to the tabletop so you can storm your way across a virtual landscape while you sequence your software!

I mean that last part literally, by the way.  Any other Terrible Tuesday and it would be a crude joke.  Today, however…

  • Remain constantly engaged in an alternating activation sequence that never pauses for conventional turns.
  • Strategically program activation cards in order to anticipate your opponent’s movement, and to sequence your software (!) as you lead your team on a bold run into the Aetherium.
  • Control between 5-25 highly detailed, beautifully sculpted miniatures to represent your unique team of cyber personalities and affiliated programs.
  • Engage in a daring struggle for control of an ever-shifting landscape, set against a backdrop of mind-crushing quantum noise.
  • Struggle for control of the psychological reality itself, while managing your resources to push your collective and to manipulate the terrain to its utmost.

Welcome to the debut game from Anvil Eight Games:  Aetherium.  Did I mention the Kickstarter kickstarted today?

As you can imagine, Brian has been a bit busy, but I ran him down to ask some questions.  After discussing the game, I promptly stole the information above from their website.  Then I asked about the company and their goals for the game.

Brian for Anvil Eight Games:  We’re launching a Kickstarter to roughly coincide with AdeptiCon. Our goals are reasonable. We know that we are a small new upstart in an increasingly competitive world, but we also realize that luck sometimes makes itself.  At AdeptiCon, we will be running non-stop demonstration games the entire weekend. Literally the entire weekend. We are also giving away a free prototype miniature and other goodness throughout. It’s going to be tremendous fun.

We are particularly excited because this is the culmination of two years of very hard, relentless work. The game has been built. We are in Beta playtesting phase, and marching along at a great pace. Just today, I was working with the graphic designer on some layout points with the rulebook. It’s beautiful – 100 pages, full color. We have a range of about 50 miniatures already in the master mold stage. We have two complete factions ready to go, and more.

So let’s take a look at some of the models then!

(Note:  As I was putting this article together, I only had access to painted models from the anarchic Nanomei faction.)

Brian, continued:  In sum, we’re a new company bringing a very nearly completed game to the market with hopes that it be a solid presence in the gaming world. I know many companies have started to use Kickstarter rather cynically, but we are coming at it from the genuine position of opportunity and enthusiasm. We need help to get past the last hurdle.

I hate to stereotype your starting… what? Clans? Guilds? Armies? What are the various groups called and can you give us some details about what we can from the starting set?

Brian from Anvil Eight Games:  The setting is both unique and familiar.  We have taken significant inspiration from William Gibson and folded that into a contemporary sensibility.  Our game world is a virtual world tucked into the fabric of our own.  It is wild and responsive to the human psyche, but dangerous for the unwary.  To begin, we have created two factions, one of governmental control, and one of anarchic resistance.

The starter set includes two factions: the Axiom and the Nanomei.  But I should mention that we are thinking ahead here.  There’s much more to come, but for now…

The Axiom is a massive government bureaucracy that worships with quasi-religious zeal the twin notions of order and control.  The Axiom stared over the precipice at the complete civil collapse, and survived.  Now it is motivated (perhaps brutally so) to maintain social control both inside and outside of the Aetherium.

The Nanomei are a decentralized collective of individuals who are wild, reckless, and free –perhaps dangerously so.  They are one-part anarchist rioters, one-part freedom fighters.  They understand the potential in a system like the Aetherium and resist attempts to limit or curtail the liberties they enjoy there.

We took a decent measure of inspiration from the world around us.  On the one hand these factions are a sci-fi cyberpunk dystopian stretch, on the other hand all of these things are happening here and now.

Ah, factions!  Here’s some of the 3d images they’ve sent over for us.  So the two starting factions are the Axiom and the Nanomei.  I’ve included links to the gallery in the faction names.

Is your game a boxed game, a miniatures war-game, or a hybrid? How do you guys think of it?

Brian from Anvil Eight Games:  Aetherium sits very comfortably between a board game and a tabletop miniatures skirmish game, with the best that both of those forms offer.  The starter box alone comes with everything that players will need to play the basic game and more.  But there are also a ton of options for players to build and customize their faction, to develop their play style, and to find a game-play disposition that suits their own.  We have developed over 50 models, which means that there is a very large space for players to explore.

From the outset, we were keen to develop a game that was both straightforward, accessible in the way boardgames are, but with both the evolving depth found in the best strategy games, as well as the visual appeal and dynamic play of miniature wargames.  It’s been an interesting and delicate bit of gamesmanship, but we have found a really nice balance here.

We have compiled a series of story driven scenarios to take you through the game itself, but the unique structure ensures that no two experiences, no two games, can ever be the same.

I’m excited about the board! Like many war gamers, I’ve pushed my share of minis on a grid map, so tiles make sense… but you’ve turned that versatility into something integral to the game. Tell us more.

Brian from Anvil Eight Games:  Aetherium is a tabletop miniatures board game played on customized battle map and schematic tile system that responds directly to the will of the players during the game.  When we developed this movement mechanism, we immediately loved it. The ability to shift the board in play opened up an incredibly fun strategic avenue that we haven’t really found anywhere else.

But maybe I should back up a second.  Aetherium is played on large (30×30 inch) game mat that we call the server.  This represents the raw quantum noise, and it can be dangerous.  On that quantum server sit several schema tiles that represent the psychologically “inhabitable” areas.  Players generate resources in the game and are able to use resources to move the board at will.  This makes strategic planning far more complex and compelling than one might expect.  It is, without doubt, one of our favorite elements in the game.

Can you share some details about how the ‘one dice’ mechanic you’ve described works?

Brian from Anvil Eight Games:  From the very beginning, we wanted a highly visual game. I’m not much of a math guy, so I’ve never adored charts. We wrestled with this one for a very, very long time. I think we may have gone through four or five iterations before resolving the system that we’ve created, but we developed a “one roll” system in which players look to roll target symbols. The target symbols shift on each character profile, to reflect general ability, and these targets also open up different thresholds… so even with a one roll system, a headshot can still do what headshots do.

Likewise, rather than have defensive roll, each character also has a safeguard that keeps both players in the game at all times. It’s a fast system that keeps the focus on the table and on the characters represented there.

One of the things that fascinated me, and I know will interest the BoLS Faithful, is your comment about some companies using Kickstarter cynically. I’d very much like you to expand on that, and why it makes sense for you at Anvil Eight Games.

Brian from Anvil Eight Games:  That’s a tough one to answer without stirring a kettle of fish.  Let me say simply that, for us, the decision to launch a Kickstarter did not come easily.

Kickstarter is a wonderful boon.  It has accelerated the prospects for small companies like ours and is, I believe, chiefly responsible for opening that “golden age in gaming” that people discuss here and there.  For companies like us, Kickstarter answers two questions in sequence: 1) Is there an audience for this game?  And 2) can we direct that enthusiasm to help with the practical impediments of building a new world?

I, for one, am sincere when I said that we are in that golden age.  There are so many tremendous games out now, so many cool worlds to explore, so many raw ideas getting genuine attention in a way that would not have been possible just 10 years ago.  It’s a brilliant opportunity to get the idea to the tabletop in short order.

Kickstarter helps the enthusiasts contribute in a meaningful way.  We genuinely need our supporters to help us get this to your FLGS and on to your table, and that is a very cool feeling to be part of.  I have contributed to a number of Kickstarters in which I really tremendously enjoyed watching the excitement build and participating in the realization of a game.

That’s what we hope to accomplish, and this is what makes Kickstarter a good fit for us. I suppose that I simply want to see Kickstarter used in the way it was intended.

Okay, let’s close this out. The hobby market is tough. Money just doesn’t go as far as it used to in this industry. Sell us a bit; why should they either get involved in your Kickstarter or give your game a chance down the road?

Brian from Anvil Eight Games:  We have ambition. We have already created a very, very cool new game. We have worked with incredibly talented artists to realize a wonderful new world. We have over 50 miniatures in the production phase. We are knee-deep in beta testing and it’s coming along swimmingly.  In each level of this, we have worked very hard (for over two years now) to ensure that everything we produce is top tier.  As gamers, we want to do this thing right.

Brian, continued:  We have engaged Kickstarter in the spirit that it was intended… to get us on our feet for the first grand production run. We can’t do that on our own, and we need the community’s help to take those last few steps to the realization of this amazing dream.

You’ve convinced me.  Best of luck, Brian, to all of you at Anvil Eight Games on the Aetherium Kickstarter.  I’m looking forwarding to this one!  And there is WAY MORE content to read and enjoy on A Gentleman’s Ones!  Check it out.  Plus, did I mention the KICKSTARTER?

That’s it again, BoLS Faithful!  Pipe in, or better yet follow the Kickstarter and grab an early pledge!  Hugs and gropings all around!

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