Lasting Tales is an upcoming cooperative tabletop miniatures game designed by Mark Latham, the designer of The Walking Dead All Out War and Elder Scrolls: Call To Arms. Lasting Tales comes to Kickstarter alongside the second series of Blacklist Games very successful Fantasy Series 1, which is a collection of awesome fantasy miniatures. In this article, we talk to Mark Latham about Lasting Tales and take a look at the miniatures from Fantasy Series 1.
TechRaptor: Mark, welcome back to TechRaptor, it’s always a pleasure to hear from you. For those who aren’t aware of your work, could you give us a brief introduction?
Mark Latham: I think a lot of people know me from White Dwarf magazine, where I was editor until 2009. After that, I went on to be the editor of Games Workshop’s games development team, before going freelance in 2012. In the past nine years, I’ve worked on a crazy number of projects either as designer, editor, background writer, or creative consultant (or sometimes all four). Mostly tabletop skirmish games, but also board games and RPGs. I’ve been lucky to work on some big licenses, taking lead design credits on The Walking Dead: All Out War from Mantic Games, and The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms from Modiphius, as well as working in various roles on the Harry Potter Miniatures Adventure Game, and The Batman Miniature Game, and a whole host of other stuff. All that, and somehow I still found time to write six novels
TR: Lasting Tales has just been announced by Blacklist Games, with you as the designer. Could you give us a quick introduction to it?
ML: Lasting Tales is an unabashed old-skool fantasy game, which is basically a mash-up between a traditional dungeon crawler and a small-scale heroic skirmish game. It’s designed to be played solo or co-op, with each player controlling one or two fully customizable heroes. It can be used to play scenario-driven pick-up games, but where it’ll really shine is in the campaign system, so you guide your hero on an epic quest, or ‘Tale’, from level 1 to level 10 in true RPG style. Anyone who’s familiar with the madcap random campaign systems of Warhammer Quest, Necromunda, or my own Legends of the Old West, will immediately understand the flavor of this game
TR: Where did the idea/design for Lasting Tales come from? Was it a dream project for you, or did Blacklist Games approach you?
ML: The Sadler brothers approached me, as I’ve sort of carved out a niche for this kind of game, not just from my Games Workshop days, but also with games like the Elder Scrolls. They wanted something that felt nostalgic, like the GW games of old but with a modern spin, and something that could be played solo, like The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms. When they set up a call, I don’t think they were ready for quite how much I was into their vision. We had Warhammer Quest and Mordheim in common as two of our favorite games of all time, so we were immediately on the same page. I think we spent most of that first call just geeking out about the possibilities for the project.
TR: Having worked with you before on a tabletop project, I know how passionate about designing you are. How much creative freedom did you have with Lasting Tales during the design process?
ML: Adam and Brady came at the project with a flexible brief, and a few ideas for mechanics, but they were clear from the start that I could change whatever I wanted. Because we were totally on the same page, every time we exchange notes it feels like we’re reading each other’s minds. They’ve basically given me free reign, which is kinda dangerous because I’m so used to working on big licenses where there are baked-in restrictions.
TR: What were the must-have mechanics/elements in the project brief and has the system/product changed much during development?
ML: We’ve been through a few iterations, and no doubt we’ll go through a few more before testing is done, but it’s been a great, collaborative process. The only thing the Sadlers were adamant about was that it should be a D6 system, to conjure those nostalgic feelings and that most everything you need should be in a book, rather than printed on character and equipment cards. I’ve worked on so many custom-die systems lately, it was refreshing to get my teeth into an old-skool D6 system again after all these years, although to be honest, I haven’t missed all the maths involved. I just think there’s something reassuring about picking up a rulebook, and knowing that the regular dice you have lying around the house are all you really need to play.
TR: A cooperative miniatures game suggests the inclusion of AI in the rules. You’ve done some great work with the Walking Dead: All Out War and Elder Scrolls: A Call To Arms AI. What can you tell us about the AI in Lasting Tales?
ML: It’s funny because I never used to like solo wargames, but I’ve ended up working on some solo and co-op-heavy games over the last few years.
I think with The Elder Scrolls, which is loosely based on the Fallout: Wasteland Warfare system, we really pushed the limits of AI, to make an enemy force feel as unpredictable as possible while staying true to the character of each faction. It feels like there’s a human player controlling the enemies, most of the time. Literally, every model in the game behaves in its own AI-controlled pattern. However, that nuance comes at the cost of complexity and time, and really it’s best employed in a warband skirmish game, you choose your own force, and then use AI to control the enemies. Compare that to the solo mode in the Walking Dead: All Out War, which is basically zombies shambling directly towards you, and is super-simple, but is really effective because there’s only one type of enemy, and the playing area is really small.
In Lasting Tales, I’ve gone for something in between, erring on the side of simplicity to speed up play. Adversaries come in two broad types, ranged and melee, and they behave differently, with a really simple flowchart to determine what they do. But the neat tricks come from the way these behaviors get modified. Enemy characters have special actions, which fire when they activate, this can make them behave in a specific way, or boost the models around them, or cast a spell, etc. Then the scenarios often have special rules that modify behaviors too, sending enemies to capture objectives, or burn down buildings, or snatch loot and carry it off, etc.
TR: The use of AI in games has been a blessing during the last year as gamers have had to socially distance themselves, was AI always planned for Lasting Tales?
ML: Yeah, as a solo play game it had to be. And because we were first and foremost inspired by dungeon-crawl boardgames, the challenge immediately was getting bad guys to act like dungeon denizens, but with free scope to move around a three-dimensional skirmish board. It made me realize just how much easier it is to design AI when all the monsters do is appear on a specific game tile, only move orthogonally, target a hero within 3 spaces, etc.
The other thing that dungeon crawlers do that isn’t so easy in a skirmish game is random board generation, with monsters appearing the more you explore. To represent this, we have a lot of randomization is precisely where monsters set up, along with a spawn mechanic so that some enemies pop up during play. Then we have unexpected events and Wandering Monsters who can really spoil your day.
TR: Lasting Tales includes the rules for hero creation. How detailed are the heroes going to be? Are you looking at a full RPG character sheet or as simple as a wargame stat line?
ML: Again, it’s kind of a hybrid. There will be character sheets. You’ll create your character with dice, a pencil, and an eraser, just like an RPG. The in-game stats will largely be wargame-like, but the amount of customization you’ll get is above and beyond the typical wargame. Again, this is an advantage of working on an original property. With all those licensed games I mentioned earlier, you’re limited to characters and likenesses within someone else’s world, and licensors don’t tend to like people making up their own characters and stories. With Lasting Tales, you can create your character from a really broad suite of options, and because you’re not restricted in the miniatures you use, you can literally go out and find any model you like that represents the hero you just created.
TR: How many class types are there going to be for characters? Can you give us any spoilers for character classes?
ML: We’re launching with five races and ten classes, with no restrictions on race and class combos. Anyone who’s played D&D or Pathfinder will be absolutely familiar with the archetypes we’re trying to create here. We already have plans to add a couple of extra races or maybe sub-types in a future expansion, and possibly even introducing multi-classing in the future. We have to hold some stuff back because I’m putting so much content into the campaigns section that the book is threatening to be physically enormous.
TR: We know that the system uses D6’s, what is the test system mechanic going to be? Can you give us an example of a test with a stat/skill?
ML: I’ve gone for something really simple as a core mechanic, that you can push and pull in all sorts of directions as you layer on special rules. So, the basic Test system is 2D6 + a specified characteristic. Let’s say you want to jump over a gap. Roll 2D6 and add your Agility. If the total is 10 or more, you pass.
When you get into a combat or spellcasting situation, you also add an extra D6 of a different color to the roll, this is a Critical die. If you succeed and the crit die scores a 6, something really good happens. If you fail and the crit die scores a 1, something bad happens, but the hero becomes so determined to compensate for their failure that they gain a bonus on their next test.
TR: Lasting Tales is an agnostic-miniatures system so that players can use any miniatures from their own collection, but it is releasing alongside Fantasy Series 2 from Blacklist Games, and we’re previewing Fantasy Series 1 alongside this interview. Will all the heroes/monsters from the Fantasy series’ be represented in Lasting Tales?
ML: The short answer is yes. Or as many as we can physically fit into the book anyway. The Fantasy Series covers off just about every possible character, monster, and NPC you can think of, so I think you’ll be hard-pressed to look at a model in your collection that there are no rules for. Add to that the possibility of a Bestiary expansion every time the guys release a new Fantasy Series, and I think we’ll have all your dungeoneering needs covered.
TR: Lasting Tales hasn’t been released yet, but we have to ask. What’s next for Lasting Tales? How many supplements do you have planned?
ML: I’ve mentioned ideas for expansions above, but honestly at this stage we don’t know. We’ve kicked around ideas for narrative campaigns, called ‘Tales’. There’s one in the core rulebook, but as Brady (Sadler) writes more lore for the setting of Aetha, I think we’ll be able to create more of these epic, story-based quests. Then we’ll almost certainly need new monsters and hero classes, do these go in the same book? Or are they part of a separate companion? Who knows at this point. I’ve even mentioned, in hushed tones, that we could make a competitive gameplay mode, most likely a games-mastered game, rather than a true PvP, but even that’s not off the table at this stage. I just think because we’re making a big book full of rules for so many eventualities, the system has lots of places to go in the future.
TR: Thank you very much for your time, Mark. We're looking forward to getting into Lasting Tales.
Lasting Tales and Fantasy Series 2 will be available on Kickstarter on 30 March 2021 from Blacklist Games. Fantasy Series 1 and the Stretch Goals will be available during the Kickstarter if you missed out the first time, and might not be available again, so grab them while you can.
Fantasy Series 1 includes 70 awesome fantasy miniatures, and the Fantasy Series 1 Stretch Goals box has over 130 miniatures, including the large enemies totalling over 200 miniatures. Those, plus Fantasy Series 2 gives you an incredible amount of miniatures, and a huge variety of heroes to use during games of Lasting Tales, or any fantasy system.
The copies of the Fantasy Series 1 miniatures used to produce this article were provided by Blacklist Games.