One of the inspirations behind our Nautical Tabletop Season is the newly released Kings of War Armada from Mantic Games. We chat to Studio Manager and Armada developer Matt Gilbert about Armada and its future plans.
You can find out more about Kings of War in our Kings of War guide.
This article forms part of our Nautical Tabletop Month that's running across all of November. We're going to look at different nautical wargames and board games, as well as interview developers about capturing the sea feel on the tabletop. We'll also look at nautical factions in popular wargames along with tabletop accessories that are available to keep your hobby ship-shape. You can see all the articles here on the hub. So come aboard as we set sail and celebrate all games nautical in nature.
You can buy all the Nautical Tabletop Month products from our tabletop sponsor, Firestorm Games.
TechRaptor: Matt, welcome to Techraptor, it's a pleasure to have you here. What inspired the creation of Kings of War Armada? It’s a different game type from Kings of War and Vanguard.
Matt Gilbert: It’s always been on the list as a genre of game we wanted to do and set in the Kings of War world. With the success of Kings of War 3rd Edition, and the expansion of the world, lore, and player base, we felt the IP was strong enough, and the time was right to finally make it happen.
TR: You’ve used the rules for Warlord’s Black Seas as a base for KoW Armada. Were many changes required to bring them into the fantasy world of KoW?
MG: A few bigger ones (such as reversing the way to-hit numbers work) and some minor things like terminology, bringing it in line with our other games, and the KoW game family. Gabrio (Warlord Games) had created a very solid ruleset so all the core mechanics were already there. I just molded it a bit to fit our games and fantasy world.
TR: Did you explore other nautical rulesets, or was the plan always to use Black Seas?
MG: Ronnie is good friends with everyone at Warlord and knowing the success they already had with Black Seas, it seemed like a good option to approach them and ask nicely if we could borrow their work. So the plan from the start was to adapt the Black Seas rules. Having the groundwork already done gave us a head start and meant we could focus a bit more time on thinking about the models and the product as a whole.
TR: Were you always a fan of nautical wargames? Had you played any before and/or during research for KoW Armada?
MG: I’ve dabbled, but never played any naval games beyond demo games at events or club nights. I’ve played a few spaceship games a lot more than naval ones. Despite growing up with Games Workshop games like many of us did, I never played Man-o-War, so I didn’t even have that to fall back on from memory.
TR: Was it difficult to make each faction's ships feel thematic to that faction? And how was finding balance between the factions?
MG: Actually not too difficult given that there were only 4 to think about to start with. I created a Kingdoms of Men fleet almost directly from the fleet list in Black Seas (boiling it down to the ships I wanted to represent). We chose 4 factions that could have very obvious and easy to implement play-styles and so then each was taken in that direction, from the KoM baseline. Playtesting helped tweak the stats and points and special rules, but I don’t recall there being major changes. I had the playtesters focus on different factions and scenarios each week so that we could concentrate efforts in particular directions.
Obviously, things start to get more interesting as we release more fleets, and other support units, as you have to balance making each new fleet feel unique to play, but not introducing scope creep and becoming unbalanced versus all that came before.
TR: The 2-player starter is the perfect way for players to pick up Kings of War Armada, but if players want to play a different faction outside of the starter set, what will they need to play, and will the rules/accessories be available separately?
MG: Fleets outside the 2-player box will get a starter and booster to help players assemble their fleet. Some ships will be made available individually, whether as retail lines or web-only. The rulebook and tokens/templates are available, along with a neoprene sea mat and a dice set, all as separate products. So we have made it easy to get into the game without buying the 2-player set if you wish. We will also make the Kingdoms of Men fleet cards available as a card pack for players with Black Seas ships that want to give the game a go, or for all the fans of human armies/fleets in the world of Pannithor.
TR: Is the plan to include ships for all of the KoW factions in Armada?
MG: Not all. Some don’t make sense (landlocked nations for example). Some may make an appearance as individual mercenary ships though. Lots more fleets are planned however and there’s lots of exciting stuff coming for Armada all next year.
TR: You’ve previously had great success with Kickstarters, but KoW Armada was a direct produced pre-order. Have Mantic moved away from Kickstarters or may we still see Kickstarters from you again in the future?
We still use Kickstarter for some things. Huge project deliveries, or things with big tooling investments, especially things like licensed products, are likely to continue on Kickstarter. Where we can go direct to retail for ranges and products we will do. But having the ability and flexibility to strategically decide which direction to go, and the understanding funding model required to support the delivery of a product is very important to us.
TR: Which is your favorite faction and ship in Kings of War Armada?
MG: I think (so far, I’ve got new fleets in concepting right now) it is the Empire of Dust. I think they look brilliant. I don’t think I have a favorite within that fleet though.
TR: You’ve just brought out some new rules and a new 2-player starter for Kings of War and with Armada releasing this month, what’s next for Mantic?
MG: We’ve got tons planned for next year. I can already fill the 2022 release schedule too. Lots more Armada (a new book in the works as well as new fleets and “other” things) and KoW planned (4 armies) for next year, as well as a refocusing on sci-fi. I think there may be some leaks in the Christmas blogs.
TR: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us Matt, we look forward to getting our hands on Armada soon.
The first wave of Kings of War Armada is available now, with the 2-player starter set and ships for the Orcs and Basilean fleets.