Monday, 22 May 2017

Countdown to ChillCon: an Interview with Gav Thorpe

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

It's the run-up to ChillCon '17, Asylum Wargaming's debut wargames show. To commemorate I'm bringing you a week of interviews with various ChillCon '17 traders, sponsors and other illuminati, including the likes of Daruma Productions' Mark WallaceWarploque Miniatures' Alex Huntley, and Mark Rapson of Word Forge Games.

First and foremost, however, I present an interview with Gav Thorpe. An author and games designer, Gav boasts an illustrious career with Games Workshop, including a stellar contribution to the lore of both Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, and a host of novels for Black Library. He has recently left Games Workshop to pursue a fulltime career as a writer. He will also be at ChillCon '17 showing off his pet project, Big Stompy Robots.

Gav, please will you take a moment to introduce yourself?

Gav Thorpe. He has all his own teeth.
I'm Gav Thorpe, author and games designer. Most folks will know me either from my days as a games developer for Games Workshop, or as a writer for the Black Library, or both. I've worked on several editions of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, and created the Inquisitor game, as well as contributing to the likes of Battlefleet Gothic, Titan Legions, Gorkamorka! My other games design work includes Cutlass! for Black Scorpion Miniatures. I've also freelanced for the video games industry, most recently as World Creation Consultant for Ubisoft Montreal on the For Honor title. I'm middle-aged, a little overweight, have all my own teeth, and I live with a very understanding partner called Kez and an amazing three-year old called Sammy.

Impressive, especially the possession of all your own teeth. If you had to choose a top three, however, what would they be, and why? 
Top of the list would be Inquisitor, simply because we got to explore so much crazy stuff. Not only were we able to steer the game in a dark direction, but we also revisited one of the staples of 40K that had been ignored for a while: the Inquisitors. The legacy of that work continues today, a lot of it thanks to projects like Inq28 and John Blanche's continuing involvement as a creative and hobbyist through Blanchitsu and so on.

Battlefleet Gothic was also a great project because of my long time love for all things Napoleonic and naval. Writing the history of the Gothic War and working on the characters and background of the Imperial Navy was very fulfilling. Also I was able to come up with something a bit different for the campaign system—the subsector maps and the like—which was very satisfying. And the game is great to play, so a winner all round.

I think my other proudest achievement isn't a single project, per se, but my tenure as Warhammer Loremaster. Not only did I get to work on some cool books in that time—Dwarfs, Beasts of Chaos, for instance—but I also got a real buzz helping the creative team evolve the imagery of armies like Lizardmen, revitalise the Bretonnians and Wood Elves, create the Ogre Kingdoms, and bring events like Storm of Chaos to life. Oh, and we got a plastic giant too!

That's a list you can be justifiably proud of. But can you go back a little and tell us how you came to write for Games Workshop? 
I was fortunate enough to contact Games Workshop when they were hiring Assistant Games Developers. I showed some Blood Bowl rules to designer Jervis Johnson at Games Day '93. He suggested that I send them to him at GW, so I did, along with a cover  letter asking for a job. I went to Nottingham, talked to Rick Priestley, and started a week later. 
The Assistant Games Developer contract was two years, the second of which was spent on White Dwarf magazine. I had another year as a Dwarfer and then—armed with that experience—went back into the Games Design department.

White Dwarf issue 127
So, and this is the last Games Workshop question before we take a look at Big Stompy Robots, what are your favourite 40K and WFB armies, and why?
My number one love for 40K are the Eldar. As I recently celebrated on my blog, the update of the Eldar back in White Dwarf issue 127 was a formative moment for me. 

In Warhammer I I'm drawn to the dwarfs. I love their background, and the playstyle of rock hard, dependable infantry and lethal war machines suits me well. 

I'm lucky that I've been able to work on both factions in my time at GW and as a Black Library author. 

A pair of Gav's Big Stompy Robots
And so onto Big Stompy Robots. As someone unaware of the game, can you bring me up to speed?

Recently I've embarked on an ambitious hobby/games design project. Last year I was approached by the organiser of Nottingham's ROBIN wargames show to conduct a short seminar. Feeling enthused, I  offered to also run a participation game during the event.

I had about six weeks to create a 10mm scale mech-fighting game. This included designing the rules system, creating the board, and assembling the mechs themselves. I managed to get the game ready in time, and I dubbed it Big Stompy Robots. For the moment my only goal is to have some fun games. However, should it go well I’ll continue developing the game with a more commercial goal in mind.

I’ve been kicking around various games ideas for years, obviously, but I ended up going with something new for Big Stompy Robot (although drawing from other ideas I’ve had over the last couple of years).The main point is that the player is a pilot of a single mech rather than commanding a force. It gives the feel of being in control of a complex fighting system, monitoring power levels, the pilot 
More Big Stompy Robots!
interface and the physical positioning of the mech on the field of battle. The player distributes power through the control system of the mech via dice on a series of cards that represent the mech’s systems. These dice determine the activations of the mech, and when it takes an action those dice are then used to resolve that action. Damage is represented by negative damage dice getting introduced into the system, reducing the effectiveness of the systems as they accrue.

I've blogged about it on my website, and folks can check out a growing number of gameplay videos on YouTube.

Thank you, Gav, a pleasure to chat with you.

You can enjoy Gav's Big Stompy Robots game—and a host of others—at ChillCon '17 on Saturday 27th May. That's this Saturday. Yes, this Saturday. Better get your tickets fast...

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