The Devils Run: Route 666 – on the road with Mark Rapson

That Mark Rapson fella, one of the brains behind the recently funded The Devils Run:Route 666 Kickstarter run by Word Forge Games, has kindly taken the Tales From The Mancave interview test.  We chewed the fat about the The Devils Run, Word Forge Games, where the ideas come from and how it feels to be in the final furlong of his Kickstarter.  Plus he rather kindly brought a little sneaky peek at an exclusive render for the Brit Attack Beefeaters which you will see later.  With no further ado I give you that interview in all its unedited glory.
Mark Rapson of Word Forge Games

Mark Rapson of Word Forge Games

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<JM> Today I’m chatting with Mark Rapson, one of the masterminds behind Word Forge Games, part of the team that will shortly be bringing us the successfully completed Kickstarter for The Devils Run:Route 666.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions Mark.  I know you’re entering a very busy time for Word Forge Games and you want to get the Kickstarter delivered so I wont take too much of your time.  I really do appreciate you taking this time out.
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<Mark> No problem Jason! It’s great to talk about the project.
<JM> So shall we begin with a nice easy one?  Would you like to introduce yourself and tell us all a little bit about you and your gaming background?  Where did it all start for you?
<Mark> Well gaming started for me when I was about 13 years old. My best friend’s mum asked my mum whether I liked toy soldiers as he had just been given a load of them and she thought we might like to play. Fortunately my mother said yes and the following weekend Stephen, my friend came round to my house with a boot full of papermache and chicken wire painted boards and lots of lead. This was not what I (or my mother) expected as we were all set for the plastic army men of WW2 grey Germans and green Brits. It all went from there..
<JM> Now Word Forge Games, who exactly are they?  Is there team of people working behind the scenes? How did it come about?  Was it something you had always wanted to pursue or did it fall into place in a very natural “right place, right time” kind of way?
<Mark> Word Forge Games is a group of very creative chaps that I pulled together for WFG’s first project Guardians of Eden (more on this later). Firstly there is our art director, Dominik Kasprzycki. I first met Dom when I was commissioning art for Warzone Resurrection for Prodos games. We work very well together and we generally align very well on a vision, it works really well. Next we have Rich Howkins, who I have now known for probably nearly 10 years. Rich and I work closely on the missions, we often bounce ideas around for hours and many of the unique ideas within DR are down to Rich. Paul Rist i brought in because he has a very complimentary experience to mine when it comes to gaming experience. He is an RPGer, and again for Guardians this is a likely route. Paul also helps us source a lot of the things we need. And finally there’s Matthew Edgeworth. Like Richard, I met him at our local gaming club, he at the time was completing his PhD at Warwick, which gave us something to talk about initially (as I had previously done the same). He was keen to help with Warzone Resurrection when I was developing the HOTSS and Imperial book, So I asked him to write. What I got back was sublime. So there’s the WZR ownership. We obviously have a number of other people helping us, such as Marc Langworthy of RedScar publishing, Paul Summerhayes, Tom Haswell, Kraig Koranda and Przemek Kozłowski, to name but a few, which have all contributed massively.
<JM> Was The Devils Run:Route 666 the first project WFG had tackled collectively or was it one of number of ideas bubbling around at the conception of WFG?
<Mark> See, I said see below! Guardians of Eden was our inception project, and is still in our plans. But when the idea of DR came along, it was so much bigger and had so much more potential, it eclipsed the GoE project. Also importantly, GoE is a big and novel concept, it doesn’t hook with anything else out there, whereas DR does. Hence DR became our first project. We have also licenced a couple of projects, the first of which is from the infamous Youtuber Andy Ransome (Andy 2D6). This will be our next KS. We have a number of other things in the pipeline too. Watch this space.
<JM> So you ran a Kickstarter to fund TDR:R666 launched in May this year and was successfully funded within 16 hours?  You must have been absolutely amazed and delighted with the reception the game received and the support of the backers from the get go?
<Mark> Yes we were. At the point of launch I just wanted to get the game out there, but it has taken a life of its own, and seems to really have captured the imagination of a number of people. I always wanted it to be a community project and it truely has been.
<JM> To finally achieve over £42000 worth of funding which is around 850% and around 500 backers did you ever imagine the game would be as popular as it appears to have been?
<Mark> To be honest no. I was hoping for £20 to 25k. But this is beyond all expectation, we are locking down the pledges now and a significant number of people have up-pledged, meaning we can expand on a number of our initial ideas.
<JM> As someone who has survived the horror of running a Kickstarter looking back did you find any of the pitfalls or mistakes others have made in the past?  What were the biggest dangers to TDR:R666 from a Kickstarter perspective?
<Mark> Well I am actually a veteran of 3 KS. I also handled the Kickstarters for Warzone Resurrection and AvP too. And as you can probably imagine I have learnt a lot from both. But for the first time, with DR, I was in the driving seat for the project, that is daunting. I have tried to learn from my mistakes in the earlier KS and as is often said, the wise man also learns from the mistakes and master-steps of others. I thank the Prodos team for all the post-KS the learning experience.
<JM> Now you’re almost in the final furlong is Kickstarter something you’d use again to run future projects for WFG?
<Mark> Yes we would. Cheekz will be a KS, and our future plans at the moment do not exclude KS involvement.
<JM>  As we both know Kickstarters can be massive successes but they can also be terrible failures.  As such I’m often asked by friends if they should invest in Kickstarter X or Kickstarter Y but my only experience of it as funding medium is at a customer level so my advice is always in the form of a friendly warning “Only invest what you can afford to lose and you can always pledge at the £1 level to get on board and increase it later”.  What advice would you, with you Project Initiator hat on, give to potential Kickstarter backers?
<Mark> I think the first thing to remember is that there are 2 types of KS. Firstly the big boys, the serial KS companies that may often make $M a time. There you are basically pre-ordering. The entire KS is preplanned, its gonna happen, the extras were preplanned etc. Then there is the KS where the community is being asked ‘Do you want this game to exist? And if so please help.’ DR would not be a thing if it wasn’t for KS. And a lot of these other games wouldn’t be either. As a gamer, if I want to see a game happen, I will pledge, but I will pledge for that reason, not because I want a crap-tonne of freebies. Pledging at a £1/$1 for these sort of games, doesn’t drive them to succeed. One also has to remember with these sort of games, that the individuals behind them are often new to the entire manufacturing process and or they may be let down. They often don’t benefit from the economy of scales. So they will often massively under-estimate the time to finished product. Add to that that some will overperform. Remember it difficult to predict the timescales for a small project that does X, but if it does X+50% or +1000%, then the pressure is on and the timelines can be well off.
But to conclude, my advice is if you want a game to happen pledge what you can to make it be so. Consider it a donation, but hope for the rewards you have been offered.
<JM> So for those less familiar with TDR:R666 and those who havent been following other posts I’ve made about it via my Blog “Tales From The Mancave” and on The Hairy Gamers Facebook page about it would you care to explain exactly what TDR:R666 actually is?
<Mark> Devil’s Run is a vehicular battle game involving Bikes, Trikes, Buggies and Cars. Set in a very near future post-apocalyptic America. The basic game is a pick up and play board game which is expanded significantly via an advanced rule set to a campaign based game with many more types of vehicles. People have said it reminds them of The Xwing miniature game crossed with Dark Future and Thunder Road with a big dollop of Necromunda/GorkaMorka.
<JM> 20mm eh?  After getting involved with this game I joined a number of groups on Facebook and found a plethora of games using all sorts of scales.  Did you ever consider going with a more popular scale in terms of the hobby or availability such as 28mm or even 1:32 (to use Scalextric cars and components)?  What was the driving rationale behind that decision?
<Mark> Economy of size was one reason. If we had moved to 28mm or above the models would have increased in cost (and hence price) significantly. (we also wouldn’t have been able to do Warrigs or big trukks). The second was that we really wanted to allow people to convert and use their toy cars. I’m a converter at heart and there is nothing better from my point of view than taking a model and converting it to something new. Its the nearest I am gonna get to being a sculptor.
<JM> So really whilst the game itself has beautiful components not actually having every miniature or any at all is not a limiting factor as you can easily use Matchbox or Hot Wheels toy cars and mod them?
<Mark> Thats it!
<JM> I’ve personally struggled to find reliable sources of 20mm scale weapons for my cars and even more so with people, passengers and gang members, especially outside of the US.  Thankfully, WFG are creating some add-on packs that contain a decent number of correctly scaled parts to add to your gangs vehicles.  Was it always you plan to go with the modding and model making side of things over a full and all encompassing range of miniatures?
<Mark> Yes. I think both is very important and hence we will support both forms of model creation for as long as we exist.
<JM> Maybe we think too alike but I recall divulging all my secrets to you about making a Brit Gang at UKGE 2015, then it got unlocked!  Yes I’m still looking for that Double Decker London Bus War-rig!  You’ve been really receptive towards fan-made fiction and models.  Some of the modded cars backers have been making have even made it into the game.  Thats a nice touch……was it always your intention to give the backers so much influence over content and look?
<Mark> Yes in one extent. We included a peldge level where people could get a model made (and art etc). But what we didn’t expect was that people would really get into it. A large chunk of these backers clubbed together to start their own faction (the Hunters) and then others really added a great back story which we in turn incorporated into the bigger picture. We then have a team of volunteer writers which with us have produced over a 100,000 words of prose. For a board game this is unheard of. But it just goes to show that when one hits a vein of creation it can affect a lot of people.
I remember our discussion well. As you were talking I remember ticking off in my head all of our ideas as you said then yourself. The only one we hadn’t thought of was the white van driver, and to be honest I wasn’t to keen on that idea at first. Then when Marc was writing up our ideas for the BritAttack he said…I’ve had an idea and added ‘The Chalkies’, based on the white van driver. Just goes to show you can’t keep a good idea down! When we release the fluff for the BritAttack you should really read that bit, there is a little in there for you!
<JM> I’m completely biased but I think the Brit Attack and the Hunters are the best minis in this game.  Of all the models currently rendered or produced which really stand out for you in terms of evoking the feeling you wanted to give in TDR:R666?  Whats your favourite so far?
<Mark> Great question..when it comes to envoking the core feel of the game it has to be the Haul’s Angel car and the Law Buggy. They represent the first two factions so well. As far as favourite model it does change almost as frequently as a render is completed, but I think Cadence and the Skinners Trukk. Both of these are so specific to DR. Ive not seen anything like them else where and both initiated their faction.
<JM> Which gang will be the gang you take to the road with when the time comes?  No fence-sitting now!  Back a dog in the fight!  Who’re your go-to guys?
<Mark> BritAttack, I really love their aesthetic and background.
<JM> Its the same for me!  I love the way they’re put together and the nods to the 60’s and the Mod’s and The Italian Job (in the Muggy’s).  Speaking of which you’ve brought me and the rest of the TDR:R666 community a lovely little exclusive.  We have the final render for the Brit Attack Beefeater revealed.  Where we only had card art previously we can now see the render for the model in all its glory.  Ready Mark?  Dum-da-da-dum-da-da-daaaaaaaaa! *insert fanfare*
Beefeater Render Reveal

Beefeater Render Reveal

<JM> The miniatures themselves really are stunning, who have WFG been using to produce them?  Drop some names for all those talented sculptors, renderers and casting houses that are bringing us this world.  Where else may we have seen the work of these guys and girls?  Why did you go with them over other options out there in the industry?
<Mark> We have 3 groups. Firstly the amazing Irek (who people will know as the man behind a lot of the Prodos miniatures), then the Clockwork Goblins guys, who are behind nearly everything good coming out of the UK gaming industry and finally a new team to the industry, which our Dom discovered.
<JM> We’ve all heard scare stories about or even been involved with Kickstarters that have suffered issues when it came to time to ship and distribute.  Was this in the back of your mind when building your Kickstarter?  Do you have contingency plans in place to ensure backers receive their goodies in a timely fashion?  Who do WFG use for all their shipping?
<Mark> When it comes to the actual shipping we have a logistics company in plan AND we will have offered a pick up for free option. But one of the key things we did was ensure that the postage was collected after the Kickstarter, which meant we couldn’t spend it up front, but also so it could reflect better the cost (as the KS couldn’t take a cut from it).
<JM> So once the Kickstarter is fully fulfilled are there any plans to keep expanding the range for TDR:R666?  What does the future of the game hold?
<Mark> Yes we have big plans for expansion with new factions, starting with the Jets. We are also in various stages with connected games, but I think its fair to say, if one really wants to immerse themself in a post-apocalyptic world then Devil’s Run will be the way to do it!
<JM> And retail?  Will you expect this game to be available via webstores and FLGS after the Kickstarter?  What kind of interest have WFG had from the wider industry about stocking and distributing this game?
,Mark> We have been focusing on our KS pledgers to date. But yes FLGS and our own website will all be pushed.
<JM> That covers the future of TDR:R666 but what next for WFG?  Do you have other irons in the fire?  What other ideas are you currently discussing at WFG HQ and what can we expect to see in the future?
<Mark> We teaser trailer-ed very recently ‘Cheekz’, a cheeky little game from Andy Ransome, where hamster battle to win the coveted ‘Roundest Cheeks’ trophy…its a lot of fun!
<JM> Thanks again Mark for all your time today.  In the final stages of a kickstarter you must be tearing your hair out chasing up people for their locked pledges.  I know I’ve had people messaging me asking what they should get…..its like I’m some kind of TDR:R666 Pledge Puppet Master or something.  I wont keep you much longer I promise…..do you have a final message for all the TDR:R666 backers out there?
<Mark> Well just thank you! And we hope the end result really exceeds everyone’s expectation…because that’s the aim!
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