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Interview – Tor Gaming

14 Minute Read
May 14 2011

Hello everyone, I did another interview, this time with Gavin from Tor Gaming. So, if you want to know more about the rising star of Relics, read on!!

Me: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. Let’s start with the basics: Who are you and what do you do at Tor Gaming?

Gavin: My name is Gavin  and I am the Director of Tor Gaming. I am also the one writing the Relics rule set.
Me: You still have a daytime job, is that somehow related to the gaming
industry or something completely different?
Gavin: Not gaming industry related at all. I work for a software development company, but not games related (boo hiss)

Me: When did Tor Gaming start?

Gavin: Tor Gaming, as a games producer, started 14 months ago. The year celebration went by without me actually noticing it fully!!!
Me: Wow, you accomplished quite a bit in that time. How many people are working on Relics?
Gavin: As actual Tor Gaming staff, just me. Including contract concept artists, sculptors, writers and painters and development there are probably 8 or 9.
Me: So basically a one-man-project, that is even more impressive. I guess a lot of people out there are dreaming to start their own gaming company. How long are you already working on Relics?
Gavin: The initial idea for the rules started about 4 years ago. The actual world development started maybe 3 years ago.

Me: I guess it take a lot of time and passion to flesh out a whole world and rules system. Tell us something about the fluff of Relics!
Gavin: The world of Relics is a lot different now to how it used to be before the point that the game enters the time line. The inhabitants of the world are not as they use to be, thanks to a mistake by the Vaettir with a magical spell that results in all living races being changed in one way or another.
Where there were once peaceful people, there are people filled with hatred. Where there was once millions of humans, there are just thousands. Cities are left to decay and fall into ruin; the world is claiming back large areas of settled land whilst the races are more concerned with following their twisted new destinies.
It’s also quiet a fantastical place, where armies are just as likely to have their LOS blocked by floating stone ‘forests’, as they are from actual forests.
In the Relics world, not one faction are the ‘baddies’ or the ‘goodies’ it’s all a case of perspective.

A lot of the inspiration for the world look and feel comes from Guillermo del Toro, but we try to make it not so ‘Guillermo del Toro’. Basically, we want to world to look and feel different to a bog standard ‘Lord of the Rings’ fantasy type world where the Elves wear white, Orcs are green and Humans are, well, just historical humans with Griffons or Dragons.
So, when we start working on a faction, we take a standard racial idea, such as Humans, Elves or Orcs and we look at ways to twist them into something that doesn’t look like it is out a standard fantasy mould.
Me: I think you did that very well. Relics is by far not your “usual fantasy”. You coined the term “Stitch-punk”, which, by the way, I love. So what is that?
Gavin: Well, we have ‘High Fantasy’ style games like Warhammer, we have steam-punk games like Warmachine, so we were looking for somewhere to slot Relics in that fits outside of those genres. We ended up with ‘Stitch-punk’ feel for the Britanan faction because of a friend of mine, Paul Quinn. We were chatting about the world, coming up with ideas and he came up with the voodoo doll idea dressed up in Georgian period clothing for the Humans.
I’d never actually heard of the term ‘Stitch-punk’ until I was interviewed by the Chance of Gaming podcast and they mentioned it as the term all the ‘cool kids’ use. Seemed like a good idea to use it after that. So I can’t claim to have coined it unfortunately…

The ‘Stitch-punk’ idea worked perfectly for our aim to create non standard factions (humans with hardly any humans in…..) and it also fitted in very well with our aim of creating our own niche in the market to sit in.
Me: Very nice and definitely unique. At the moment there are 3 factions in Relics, the Britanans, the VAettir and the Orcnars. Tell us a little bit about them.
Gavin: The Britanans are our ‘Human’ faction. They are also a high model count faction. I think this is probably the faction that stands out the most at this time. They are a force for the player that likes to have model after model on the table, with the ability to take 6 point models….. That’s not to say they are a true swarm faction though, as they have some hard nuts in amongst them. Reasonably good with, they are a faction that is all about support.

The Orcnars are our ‘Orc’ faction. Genetically, a dying race, or so it seems, they are the brute force, muscle and claw force. Forces of the Orcnar are of a reasonable model count, but with a few big things in there. As with all ‘combat’ orientated armies, they suffer from the usual issues of being shot to bits, but their thick hides and ability to shrug off damage means they can generally make into combat, and when they do, bodies tend to fly all over the place. They are very much ‘earth’ bound, with very very little ‘magic’ to speak off, but they do have the ability to deny movement options to the opponents via ‘difficult terrain’ generation and knock down rules.

The Vaettir are our ‘Elves’ faction. High magic use, fast, elemental and synergy are their buzz words. Whilst able to handle themselves in combat, their high points cost means they don’t want to go toe to toe  all the time. Their trick is to make good use of magic and their movement rates to deny the enemy the fights he wants and pick the fights they want. This is the faction for people who like to live life on the edge……

Me: Some people say three is the magical number of factions you need to
release a wargame. But I guess that’s not the end of the line for Relics,
are you already planning other races?
Gavin: Do they? I’ve always considered it to be four as the magic number (but three is good too 😉 ). We originally had plans for four factions, but we had trouble casting the initial sculpts of the fourth faction, the Nuem, due to their ‘fatness’. They are going back to the sculptor for further work and should be out in the near future.
So, outside of the four faction, we have plans for two additional factions in the future that we have already planned out. Beyond that, I am sure we will a 7th and 8th faction with out too much trouble.
Me: Sounds like you have a good plan for expansions. Let’s talk a bit about game mechanics: Building an army for Relics uses a quite unique mechanism. Please explain it for us.
Gavin: When I started to work on Relics, I had a number of key points I wanted to achieve with the game. One of these was to avoid the usual restrictive Order of Battles that seem to be in every game.
The way we view it, Relics is a small unit skirmish game and therefore it is entirely possible that a battle at this scale could conceivable consist of just one troop type on one side, so why shouldn’t we allow the player to do this?
So, with this in mind, I set out to find a solution that allows a player to take the models they want to take, and not the models the army list tells them they have to take.
The solution to was to just allow that. The player can take what they want. But to also encourage the players to play a balanced force, we put a sliding scale into place for the points so the more of a profile you take, the more expensive they become.
So, the first 2 units of a profile are at the base cost in the list. The next two units you take are the base cost plus 10%. Unit 5 and 6 will cost you the base cost plus 20% and so on.
We hope this approach encourages players to build rounded forces, but gives them room to build themed forces at a small premium


Me:  Is that actually something you included to balance the game or is it the other way around something that needed a lot of balancing?
Gavin: It turned out to require a little more work on balancing. Generally, I have concluded that using restrictions on an army list is a quick and dirty way to balance a force. If a unit is proving to be difficult to balance right, you can just restrict it to one or two units and that way the impact they have the game is reduced.
By allowing the player to take what they want, we have found that the units balance is more important. I’m sure we will not get 100% of the units 100% balanced 100% of the time, but I think that this approach will help Relics stand out a little from the usual games.

Me: What is the basic mechanism in Relics gameplay?
Doubles…. We use a mechanic where we consider a double result on the dice as a success. The more doubles you roll, the more successes you do.
So, when a model attacks, you roll a number of dice equal to the attacking models combat stat, minus the defenders defence stat. Any doubles rolled are successes and cause that much damage. If the damage is greater than the defenders damage value, the model is removed as a casualty, otherwise place the required number of damage markers on the unit.
There are further rules that modify the dice rolled, such as ‘gang up’ attacks where multiple models can combine their attacks to roll more dice in one go.
Me: This is a mechanism that makes Relics quite unique, isn’t it?
Gavin: Well, I’ve not seen many games that use doubles… Can’t think of any actually, but I am sure there must be some. We have also made the mechanic fast. So, when in combat, only the active unit rolls to attack and the whole attack is rolled up in a single dice roll, although some profiles, such as the Eotans, have a attribute that allows them to try and ignore damage.
So, we have a very fast core mechanic that makes use of doubles for successes.
In addition to that, we have taken a route of trying to achieve a ‘command and control’ structure into the game that we’re hoping removes some of the ‘God Like’ abilities a player has to control units all over the table as if they are in constant communication. It’s not been as easy as we initially thought and what we have ended up with is not as full as we had originally aimed for, but it’s looking interesting.
Me At the moment only the quick start rules are available, right?
Gavin: At the time of this interview, the quick start rules are available. However, by the time this interview goes out, it’s possible that the QSR will have been removed to be updated and, even better, the Alpha rules will be available.

Me: That sounds like a big step forward! Tell us something about the Alpha rules release.
Gavin: Well, when this goes out, the rules should be out for the Alpha testing phase. This will be the full rules, including the full morale and magic rules. In addition, there will be force lists for the Britanan, Orcnar and Vaettir. Each list will contain about 12 profiles. During the Alpha testing, we will be holding a ‘design a profile’ competition too!
The point of the Alpha test phase is similar to an Alpha release in the software industry. We are releasing the rules knowing there may well still be issues with in them. Profiles may not be 100% refined, points costs may still need adjustments, core rules may still need some rewording and tightening up. These are the sort of issues that we can find internally, but it may take us another 3 or 4 months of internal testing to find them all.
Instead, much like in the software development lifecycle, we are releasing the rules as a Alpha release to help us find these issues faster and is a great oppertunity for the community to really get involved in some playtesting beyond the usual ‘proof reading’ beta programs that are offered.
Me: That is a very user friendly approach and a good way to get a clue about what might need adjustment.
The Alpha rules will include 12 profiles for each for the factions. What is your schedule for release? How long do you think will it take to have them all available?
Gavin: We are trying our hardest to get our release schedule to a monthly cycle with 2 releases. We’ve not managed it yet, but we have managed  to get it to 1 release a month, so almost there….. We’re not sure how long it would take to get all 12 of each profile out. And the additional profiles of the ‘design a profile’ competition…
But long before all 12 profiles of the three forces are out, we will be releasing the first models of the fourth force, the Nuems. As stated previously, we consider four factions to be the minimum number for a game to have a chance of succeeding.

Me: More factions are always good in my book! What is the main feature of the Nuems?
Gavin: As with all of our factions, we take a core racial idea from standard fantasy and twist it. The Nuem are out take on Dwarves.
But, unlike other Dwarves, they are not the short models!! If I was to describe the Nuem in one sentence, it would be ‘Sadomasochistic Dwarves encased in magically powered clockwork armourded fighting suits’. This means the models are not small and are a mix of mechanical and suffering flesh.
The suits they wear cause suffereing on the Nuem to allow them to win back their Gods favour through suffering. Repentance in other words.
In game, they will be a low model count faction. Each model with have a higher survivability than the other factions and won’t be lacking in the ‘punch’ area either.
Me: When will we see a shiny rulebook, and what will be inside?
Gavin: We don’t plan on doing a printed version of the book until we are 110% sure that the game is right. This does not mean we will be keeping them to ourselves however.
As I said, by the time this interview is released, the full rules will be available for download as a PDF in a ‘Alpha’ format for testing.
This will continue until we are sure that the players are happy with the game. At that point, we will look to do a printed version.
We hope, by doing it this way, the game will have much more testing done that we could hope to achieve in house and in addition, we feel it will help to avoid the issue of a new version being released within a year to fix issues that have been found and therefore the players don’t need to buy a new book so soon.
It’s looking like it will contain all the rules plus lists for the first four factions, each with 12-13 profiles each. In addition we would like to include the background history to the world and each faction.

Me: What are you doing to promote your games? Do you attend to Cons?
Gavin: At the moment, I’m pretty much full time working on the rules and all the other things which need attention. So promotion has been limited to online effort only. We have had a few demos run at some UK shows, but this hasn’t had a great impact yet.
The plan going forward for shows is for us to attend the larger of the UK shows next year (Salute, Colours, Triples etc) with a display table, demo tables etc.
In addition to that, we are working on the framework of a demo program and will be recruiting people to join that program shortly. In this, we will hope to spread the words of Relics to local stores and clubs directly as well as at the shows we can’t make it ourselves. All that will require hard work, so it’s only fair that we reward the program members with such goodies as limited edition models, great discounts or a points system and merchandise.
So, anyone who may be interested in joining the demo program can email us now and we will get back to them when we have the framework in place.
Me: How many people are playing Relics at the moment (just a rough guess) and where are the hot spots?
Gavin: To be honest, I have no idea. The QSR have been downloaded over 500 times so far. Not sure how many of those are playing, but the figure sales would reflect a number close to that.
As for hotspots. it’s been pretty spread out across the UK, US, Canada and France with a few going to Holland. This spread is good news for us. Whilst we are a UK based company, and the UK will always be our home market and therefore important to us, we realise that it’s not the largest market in the world and to succeed, you need to aim high.
So, interest in the EU and North America is just as important for Tor Gamings growth than the UK market.
We have recently signed a distributor for the UK,, and we hope this will help grow the UK player base as the models start to show up in the local stores, coupled with the Alpha release of the rules.

Me: If someone’s interested in Relics, what is the best way to get started?

Gavin: First of all, join our forum. There, you can get all your questions answered on Relics. Plus this is great way to stay upto date as we post all the latest news on there. Additionally, you can follow us on Facebook and twitter.
To get started in the game, there is no better way that to throw some models on a table and start playing. So, get involved in the Alpha testing and send us your findings on our forum. you don’t even need official Relics models for this, proxies are fine.
Model wise, obviously, the starter sets are a great way to get into the game, at a great price. You can get these through our online store, but we urge everyone out there to start pestering their FLGS for the range.
We strongly believe in the local gaming store and believe it should be supported at all cost. So, we have built our business plan around local distribution to enable players to walk into their FLGS and pick up the models they need off a hanger. No need to wait for them to be delivered (or, God forbide, lost in the mail…..). This ties in with our plans for the demo program and local promotion of the game.
So, for anyone interested in getting more involved in Relics than just playing, the demo program may be for them. just send us an email with your interest and we will get back to you when the framework is in place.
Me: Where do you see Relics in five years time?
Gavin: In every store, every players figure case and being played at every club out there….. We not too ambitious. 😉

Me: Well, thanks again for your time. I’ll keep a close eye on Tor Gaming and wish you the best for the future! 

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