Monday, August 23, 2010

Battles of Westeros Gencon Interview with Rob Kouba

The Hopeless Gamer owes a lot to the Fantasy Flight Game Battles of Westeros (BoW). Of course our love affair with George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire goes way, way back to the very earliest of our Gencon's (we got FFG's Game of Thrones CCG back in Milwaukee at our first or second Gencon). With BoW, we were extremely proud to break the news and provide coverage at the announcement of the game during the opening celebration of the FFG Event Center. Rob Kouba, the designer of BoW, is no stranger to THG readers either. If you want to read our first interview Rob, click no further.

So when it came to planning our Gencon 2010 coverage and trying to work on interview prep, there was one guy I knew I just had to talk to and get an update from. I was able to get early admittance to the hall Thursday morning of the convention and made a line straight for Mr. Kouba and the gigantic FFG booth. Rob was setting up his demo table for what was sure to be a long and fun weekend. Luckily Rob's a talented guy and was able to talk to us while he got his board set up. Without further ado, Keep Reading to bring on the questions!
The Hopeless Gamer (THG): This is the Hopeless Gamer, it’s the first day of Gencon 2010 and I’m with Rob Kouba, designer of Battles of Westeros and other FFG games. So Rob, it’s the first day, how do you think Battles of Westeros is going to do at Gencon?

Rob Kouba (RK): I think it will do pretty good, since we have the first little shipment of Wardens of the West and everything. I think that people will be coming out for that as far as fans of the game already. And then other people that may be on the fence or whatever will come and see how awesome it is and I’ll persuade them that it is the best game ever.
THG: You know, I can testify to that as true. It is, in fact, the best game ever. So, you’ve got Wardens of the West, and that’s the Lannister expansion, right?
RK: It is.
THG: It is, okay. And then, I can’t remember, is there a Stark expansion announced quite yet?
RK: Oh, there could be… you’ll have to keep an eye on the website for any for-sure comments of that. Although I do believe that has already been announced.
THG: Okay. So possibly.
RK: The next one has been announced already, I believe. So you can check out for more information on that.
THG: Alright, that sounds really good. So we’ve got the two main armies expanded. You know the next question is going to be, when are we going to see Baratheon? Or Targaryen?
RK: You know… we don’t know for sure what the next year might hold. Different things are getting shuffled around, but there is definitely a lot more to come and we have a full schedule for supporting the game in a very aggressive way.
THG: Aggressively supporting the game! Alright, that sounds good. So how’s it been so far? How has the release been? Has it been as big of a hit as you were hoping for?
RK: Yeah, I actually was very pleased, because I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew that I liked it –
THG: As did we!
RK: ::laughs:: Yeah, but I didn’t know – besides us two – who all was going to be in what camp. And all the reviews seem overwhelmingly positive, although people nitpick about things here or there. You know, “ooh, production” or whatever. At least everybody seems to think that the game play is solid, and that’s really what we’re looking for.
THG: The scenarios are working and everything like that.
RK: Yup. Or that’s what I’m looking for.
THG: I’m sure.
RK: I would also challenge people as far as the different production things – I think our production is awesome. There are some things we had to do, obviously, so that we could fit it into this lovely $80 box instead of raising the price on everybody, but I think that it turned out amazing and I think there’s more to come that everybody will be excited at. Wardens of the West is only $30, so run out and pick that up immediately while you still can!
THG: Brand new!
RK: Yes, brand new, and I’ll probably – whoever’s doing the Play with Designer thing, I’ll probably be playing that with them on Saturday.
THG: Okay.
RK: Assuming I can get a copy of my own game!
THG: Well good luck with that! I saw, too, speaking of Battlelore, that there’s a goblin army, correct?
RK: Yes, for classic Battlelore, which is sort of how we refer to it now, we released Horrific Horde the same day, I believe, that Battles of Westeros came out. And it is the first army pack that sort of brings back some of the troop types from core sets and different expansions, as well as two new figures, which are the Goblin Halberdiers and the Ogres. It’s like a band of beasts, so it’s not just a single creature; it’s instead a unit that sort of has the special abilities of a creature.
THG: Cool, cool. So you guys are kind of expanding on what was done before. Any hints at what might be coming for classic Battlelore? Post-goblins?
RK: Ehhh… not really. Another watch-the-website type thing.
THG: Is there intent for more?
RK: Oh yeah, we’re definitely supporting that. It has to do with, like – those come out a little bit slower, just because it’s not all in-house stuff, because [Richard] Borg still designs those, so we always run stuff past him and everything as far as approvals and that. So that’s the reason why the releases for that are a little slower than, say, Westeros or something.
THG: So how do you guys feel at FFG? You’ve got Battles of Westeros, you’ve got the LCG for Game of Thrones, you’ve got the board game – are you worried about saturation?
RK: Too much Thrones is never enough!
THG: ::laughs:: Too much Jaime Lannister’s not a thing.
RK: I think it comes at a good time where the HBO series is going to take off next year, so I think setting up – you know, we already have the foundation in when the LCG used to be a CCG and in the board game, and those were there when I first came on board and those were two of my favorite games. So it was like, “Yes, I want to be part of your company so I can play Thrones more!” So the fact that I get to do this game that’s also Thrones, it’s like, “Yes! I get to be part of the legacy!”
THG: Well it seems like you guys established yourselves as THE strategy board game, I guess, for Game of Thrones.
RK: Yeah, it’s true – I really enjoy that we have been expanding that license. I still probably would have been disappointed if we had just stopped with those two games. So I’m glad that we’re taking advantage of the relationship that we have. ::laughs:: Taking advantage – “I’m glad that we’re exploiting!” No, I’m glad that we have such a good relationship with George R. R. Martin and that we can do games that he is pleased with. You can read his blog and he always seems to give us positive feedback on stuff. And you’ve got to love Days of Ice and Fire coming out in November with honored guest George R. R. Martin – you can check out our website for that too, if you guys want to come out and see him and play Battles of Westeros. Woo-hoo! Try to take me down.
THG: TRY, yes. So I’m going to go a little bit out of your comfort zone – I can’t remember if it was last year or the year before, we were seeing a very early prototype adventure game for Game of Thrones.
RK: Mm-hmm.
THG: … is there any update on that? Do we know anything about that?
RK: Uh… no, we don’t know anything about that ::laughs:: Boy, that’s really impressive.
THG: ::laughs:: Anything you’d like to share?
RK: At the time, at least, that was a freelancer’s project. And we don’t know where that’s going to fall on the schedule. Our schedule is so jam-packed that what happens is, if something sort of falls off, then we have to re-shuffle it back in somewhere. And then after that –we didn’t pick up Battlelore until after that. And that sort of like – okay, we have this; we need to do something with THIS thing. And so I would still look for that, but I can’t give any timeframe at all or anything like that.
But it’s also one of those things where I’m sort of speculating here, because I have no idea, I wasn’t part of the design of that or anything like that. So… yes, I knew it was available then. Because we started it, I hope we’re going to finish it. That’s pretty much all I know. ::laughs::
THG: Sure, sure. ::laughs:: That’s enough. Well, and it seems, too – you said with the schedule being something that’s very rigid, and I understand that you guys have a lot of games you need to be supporting. So it’s probably going to be a while before we see another Game of Thrones game, it sounds like. This one’s fresh new, so we have to wait a little bit.
RK: Oh, for like, a new line or something?
THG: A new Game of Thrones… yeah.
RK: Uhh… yeah, I mean, you can always look on the [site] as far as our upcoming stuff, and there isn’t one on there, so beyond that…

THG: Alright. So, thank you very much – I don’t know if I have any other questions right now, you kind of answered all my questions. Any parting comments?
RK: Um, no, not really. Come out and see us at the Event Center if you’re ever in the neighborhood, I’ll be glad to throw down with you or whatever. I hope everybody’s enjoying Battles of Westeros. I think that the majority of people that I do, as well as me, like it. Hopefully everybody feels that it’s as true as a game can be to the books, although we do take liberties, but we say that we do. You know, this COULD have happened between this time period, or that kind of thing. But that’s just the nature of the business, in that Thrones isn’t like, “Oh, this is a word-for-word description of every single battle in here,” it’s more of a political type thing where a lot of things are just referred to. Like, “Oh, there was a battle over here, blahblahblah won, how can I turn this into a scenario?”
THG: I would imagine, much like the HBO series, you’ve got to take some liberties to make it work for the format that you’re doing.
RK: Yeah, oh yeah. It just has to do with, like, opponent limitations and stuff like that. So it’s like, well, you know, we want to include this guy –he’s already dead. We’ll put him in there anyway and just say, “What IF this happened?”
THG: It’s like the old Marvel comics – What if?
RK: Right.
THG: What if Iron Man was in Battles of Westeros?
RK: That’s right. So one thing for people to look out for, especially people at Gencon, especially if you run by the booth, come by and say hi – we’re under the big Westeros banner. But also they’re going to have – Gametrade Magazine, I believe, has a – they have a booth here –and they have an additional scenario that you can’t get in the book. It’s like a promo scenario in there. So be sure to pick that up if you already have the game. I think it’s one that you’ll enjoy. It has some people that aren’t used in the core set people have been clamoring about, so that’s something that people are going to want to pick up and enjoy on their own time.
THG: So if you want to get the scoop, get Gametrade.
RK: That’s right.
THG: Alright.
RK: It’ll probably go up on our website, too, so if you guys can’t make it to Gencon, don’t feel like you’re going to get hosed or anything.
THG: Alright, well thanks a bunch and I’ll talk to you soon!

A very hearty thanks goes to Rob for his time and all the work he's put into Battles of Westeros! (also thanks goes to the Gamer Wife for all the time she put into transcribing the audio!).

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