I recently interviewed Robert Ferguson of Scotia Grendel for AetherCon VI. Check out more cool interviews in the AetherCon VI Convention Magazine when it is released Halloween Day here: www.aethercon.com
JAMES: You have miniatures from everything from science fiction to fantasy. What genre is your favorite to design and why do you enjoy providing such a variety?
ROBERT: Personally I like designing and researching information for the 1/300th scale landing craft and small naval ships. I just love the clean lines and variety of designs, not to mention the large variation between pictures of the class of landing craft type as used in the real world. I’m not sure I enjoy providing such a range of designs and variety of models, I just like designing the models which cause the large ranges to happen! I`m also really fascinated by some of the more obscure “what if” designs that either never made it into production as they were impractical or the war ended before production got underway (particularly with regards to the late WWII jet projects).
JAMES: You have a lot of miniature skirmish games. When you design a miniature do you think about how it fits into the game first, or do you make something that looks great and figure out its mechanics later?
ROBERT: The design usually comes first and from some weird idea or concept that one of us has come up with. It is very difficult to come up with original ideas nowadays as there are so many great designs and concepts out there. Once the models have been designed we then add rules and mechanics to the appropriate faction within the game. In the case of the historical models we produce this is less relevant as the models can be used in multiple games that use that particular scale of model. Scenery is often not specific to any one game but will go through a similar design process, and usually require no specific rules to be written.
JAMES: If someone wants to jump into miniature skirmish games, which of your games do you recommend they start with?
ROBERT: Personally I like the Urban War version, but the others prefer the Warheads. I suppose its down to your own personal preference. I’m as more into the design side of things. The game mechanics and playing are handled by Sebastian. The main advantage of Urban War is that a game can be played with as few as six figures a side, it does not require large gaming area, and it makes good use of terrain, something I feel is lacking in some skirmish games.
JAMES: I love miniatures but I HATE to paint. What options are there for someone like me who wants to collect and play, but doesn’t want to paint?
ROBERT: Easy – get someone else to paint them for you (preferably your wife or, in my case, you daughter, who is now a way better painter than me). I like to paint scenery and “make” the bases. I have been know to barter painted scenics for painted figures or even sell some painted scenery to pay some one else to paint figures for me.
JAMES: Your miniatures are so well-crafted, are their folks who buy them for reasons other than skirmishing games?
ROBERT: Quite a few sales are to collectors (historical or otherwise). There are also quite a few people who just buy to paint/make dioramas, and there are a lot of sales to gamers who are looking for alternatives that are cheaper than some other named brands. I’d say the bulk of historical sales are to gamers creating various armies, and of course there are a lot of sales to gamers who want the figures for a particular game that we market. The scenery ranges appeal to a wide variety of markets as quite a few of them can be used in multiple gaming periods and game types. A pile of wooden crates is a pile of wooden crates and good for science fiction, fantasy, historical skirmish, or larger battles.
JAMES: Take me through making a miniature from concept to getting it on the shelf.
ROBERT: It all starts with either a whacked out idea (for fantasy and science fiction stuff), or for historical models an addition to the existing ranges, or a new item of equipment is produced (for the modern period), or a type model is currently unavailable. We then move onto research for historical stuff, or a design concept for the fantasy/science fiction stuff. After this point it is off to the sculptor (depending on the type of model we use different sculptors). I do most of the 1/300th and straight line stuff. We will often put up pictures of greens in process on the Facebook page just to show what is up and coming. Once it’s designed, we’ll make a master mould. This can be nit-rile rubber moulds for centrifugal casting or silicone moulds for resin casting. Sometimes we make a combination of moulds for complex models or models that require both resin and metal components. Once the moulds have been tested and any faults corrected, we then cast enough models to make production moulds. At this point sample production castings will be sent of for all the IT work: photographing the model for adding to the website, weighing it so we can add the correct shipping weight to the shopping cart, sending samples off for review, posting previews on Facebook, and preparing the months newsletter with the new releases for that month and any other items of information, as well as any special offers to newsletter subscribers.
JAMES: What’s coming up in the future for Scotia Grendel?
ROBERT: We are working on a couple of projects: more undead orcs (another 20 or so designs which will be being previewed in a month or so time), more WWII landing craft, and a mixed bag of 1/300th aircraft. In the xyston 15mm range, currently being released and expanded are the 15mm early Achaemenid Persians.
JAMES: What’s one thing you want the people of AetherCon to know about making miniatures you haven’t mentioned yet.
ROBERT: The hardest thing to know (perhaps impossible to judge) is how popular a model or range of models will be when its actually available for sale. It is often a surprise to us about what is and is not popular. One of the things that still gives us the biggest buzz at work is the “birth” of a new model. This is when the master mould is first made and the very first castings of the model are produced there is always a thrill seeing something you have worked on become real for the first time.