Friday, 17 March 2017

Some Touch of Madness: An interview with Mike Thorp, Creator of Anyaral: The World of Twilight

Hi, I'm Paul, and welcome to The Asylum.

Today I bring you the latest instalment in our continuing feature, Some Touch of Madness. Focusing on the creative geniuses behind our favourite games and miniatures, Some Touch of Madness gives us a rare and exciting insight into the minds that create all this cool stuff we're obsessed with.

Today's evil genius is Mike Thorp, creator of Anyaral: The World of Twilight.

Hello and thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. Perhaps you’d like to begin by introducing both yourself and Anyaral?

Hi, I’m Mike Thorp. I’m a dad, a space underwriter, and the creator of Anyaral, the World of Twilight.

Anyaral is an alternative fantasy world that doesn’t have any elves, dwarves or humans, but is instead populated by unusual races such as the Fubarnii and the Devanu.

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The first thing that struck me when I discovered Anyaral was its originality; I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and it certainly boasts a variety of unique miniatures. Could you tell us something about the origin of these concepts, such as any influences and evolutions?

It’s scary to think I’ve been working on Twilight for almost eighteen years now. Back in the 90s wargames were far less numerous than they are now, and nearly all of them were firmly rooted in Tolkien’s mythology and revolved around humans, elves, dwarves and orcs. I wanted to create something unique, so I started sketching out funny,

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heavily-armoured little characters with long snouts and big hooves. Those creatures rapidly evolved into the main protagonists of Twilight, the Fubarnii. Their arch-enemies, the Devanu, took a little longer to evolve. As alpha predators I knew they should feel and act like the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park, but it took a few years to finally get them looking right!

At the time I wanted to create something truly original, but in retrospect it is easy to see I was influenced by the likes of The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and Dinotopia, as well as books like [Dougal Dixon's] After Man.

At what point did you decide you wished to transfer these ideas and influences into miniature form?

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I’ve played tabletop and boardgames for as long as I can remember and from the outset I wanted to turn these characters into miniatures.

I wove those characters together into the world of Anyaral and the first thing I wanted to do was play games with them. I have sketchpads from those early years filled with ideas for the world, sketches of characters and creatures and notes on game mechanics.

What challenges did this process present?

The first challenge was the miniatures themselves.

Games workshop had just started selling Green Stuff, which I was very excited about! I’d previously used paperclips and Milliput so Green Stuff was a huge change. I had a proper go at sculpting. I was entirely self-taught, and the sculpts were very crude, but I managed to make them recognisable. I then discovered that it was possible to cast figures at home. I’m not sure my mum’s hob was ever the same, but soon enough I had my own little armies of metal Fubarnii and Devanu. Now I could bully my friends into
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playing games of Twilight with me!

The models were fun, but not really good enough to sell! Twilight then spent a few years on the backburners while I took the time to teach myself to sculpt properly. I received some great sculpting advice and support from Andy at Heresy Miniatures, and did a bunch of random Fantasy Football sculpts until a few years later I finally decided to revisit the world of Anyaral.

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So we’ve touched upon the challenges that come with creating a line of miniatures, but what about those inherent with the creation of a ruleset?

I’ve always been fascinated by games and rulesets, so I really enjoyed the challenge of creating Anyaral. I invented a little combat system which involved special combat stones (two sided ‘dice’ with symbols scribed into them). That raised the logistical challenge of producing stones.

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I sculpted the first stones in clay, but that wasn’t very practical. Neither was suggesting that people use different coloured smarties... I eventually managed to have them produced in metal and resin, both of which add something to the overall feel of the game so I’m glad I persisted.

I’m pleased with how the rules have turned out: it’s a fun game rather than one of deeply competitive strategy, and that meshes well with the quirkiness of the setting.

Like many creators and companies in today’s industry, you chose to advance Anyaral through Kickstarter. What challenges did this present, and conversely, what benefits did it bring?

I originally released Twilight with the help of Hasslefree miniatures. They produced the miniatures and I focused on sculpting and getting the rules into print. As Twilight grew, I set up on my own and built up a good community of players and collectors. When I was working on the third book in the series I figured I would give Kickstarter a try, with the modest aim of getting the book published with a few new figures. The response was amazing and I got somewhat carried away with Pledges and Add-Ons during the month-long campaign…

Regardless, the Kickstarter was a fantastic way to gain more exposure and it gave me

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the encouragement to really grow the game. Having been so ambitious with pledges and what-not, delivery was definitely a challenge, but I got there in the end!

A couple of years later I ventured into the world of Kickstarter again to get a new culture, the Casanii, into production. That was another great success, although I was a little more careful not to overstretch that time!

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How has Anyaral been received now it’s on general release?

Twilight ticks along nicely, with regular players adding to their collections and new players bringing a new perspective, which is always inspiring. With so many fantastic games around it’s a challenge to convince people to stick to one game, so it’s best to try and have events that catch customers’ imaginations. Kickstarter is a great way to do that, as is going to shows like Salute. Both help to build a community, which a game like Twilight truly needs. There are plenty of Twilight miniatures—and even cultures—that would never have been sculpted were I not inspired by that community!

Sculpting new miniatures by hand is always a slow and steady process, but it’s also one that gives me time to give every character and unit real depth and history. Occasionally I do get help with the sculpting; Mark Craggs has sculpted a lot of the models in the range, like the Nobleguard and the Herders. Most recently he has sculpted the Yartain, a big hairy yeti-like creatures that accompany the Dhogu! This have just been released and I'm working on their rules as we speak...

The mighty Yartain!

And finally, what can we look forward to in the world of Twilight?

I always wonder where things will go next! The great thing with a world like Anyaral is that I can choose where I want to explore, sometimes on a whim and sometimes as part of a larger plan. With the release of the Casanii last year I have finally fleshed out all the main cultures that I originally sketched out! I do feel that the bat-like Kedashi swarms have been a little under-served so far so they’ll be getting some more attention, with their ancient Kedashi queens, terrifying beasts of the forests, and more of the Trebarnii followers.

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After that I really want to start moving the story of the Delgon invasion along… I’ve sculpted two of their gods, the Enarii so far, but there are several more of them that I would love to sculpt. But it all depends... In spite of my careful plans in the last couple of weeks I got distracted and I've been having fun sculpting a few random little beasties and some new cavalry for the Nobleguard! After that I really want to start moving the story of the Delgon invasion along.

And here endeth the sermon, Inmates! Please take a moment to thank Mike for not only his time, but for the bold and singular vision that is Anyaral.  I for one wish him—and Anyaral—all the best for the future.


Anyaral: The World of Twilight is available on our webstore. Fill thy boots

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