Gamer turned miniature games developer, Pawel Zuchowski keeps working to reach his holy grail : the quest of the perfect skirmish game. One-man-band working on many projects, he’s often at the same time project owner, production coordinator and writer of rules for both his own game systems (such as Sapphire Wars and more recently Norsgard) and customers’ (Mission Katharsis). He’s kindly taking some time to answer Gangeek’s questions from his distant Poland. Don’t miss the chance to pledge for Norsgard crowdfunding on : norsgard-miniature-game.
Hello Pawel. >So, can you introduce yourself to us, friend ? Let’s see… I have master of science in experimental physics and now I am starting my PhD in medicine… I am working at university hospital and more or less my job is finding ways to applicate physics in medicine diagnostics. In brief my work is sometimes really complicated, but I have a chance to take part in some really cool projects. Also for scientist I am a little old – 33 years :P… Besides I enjoy sea sailing and diving. Judo is one of my most favourite sports… As you can guess from time to time I also work in game design field, but nowadays it is more hobby (well, still waiting for the day when it will be my first job).
>How did you start collecting miniatures? Did I mentioned that I am a sailor already? Yes, I did … Well, miniature hobby started during my first sailing adventure. One of my friends showed me WFB… and I quickly bought my first plastic Dark Elf Warriors box. However, never played WFB in those times. I was quickly catched by beautiful Paul Bonner arts and began my adventure with Warzone 1st edition. This was my first miniature game.
>Would you define yourself as a gamer, or rather as a miniature collector? Gamer or collector… well, a dragon will be better option :P. I love to play, but I know that I am buying too much miniatures. For example I have 300pts tournament competitive army for each faction but Tohaa for Infinity, but some of them never showed on the battlefield.
I also have a lot of limited miniatures (like beautiful McVey’s Studio sculpts). So, just like a dragon I am collecting all precious miniatures and with some of them I like to play. Few years ago I was really competitive player and still enjoying taking part in tournaments. >What are your favourite games ? Well, this is obvious question. Confrontation 3.5 edition is for sure the best game for me. I played many armies starting from Wolfens, but one army which I love the most are Behemoth Orcs.
To the date is my beloved army. Besides it I really enjoy Infinity. In old times I also played a lot Necromunda and Gorkamorka. I also have good memories with Alkemy, which was a beautiful game.
>What is it to be a gamer in Poland ? How would you define the community of players there ? Ever went to the Polcon event ? I guess this is the same in any other country. We just have smaller gaming community compared to France or Germany. On the other hand you can expect that on each big tournament you will see almost any player from the country. So, some tournaments are in that case hard to win. The only drawback of small community is difficulty to find players for less popular games… For example I knew only 6 Alkemy players in Poland. Lucky for me one of them was living in my city.Due to small community we have much respect for each other. On the other hand this is popular to start so called flame wars on internet forums… but on tournaments atmosphere is always great and most of them end in pub when we comment games and drink beer.
>Many great games (Neuroshima Hex, Kolejka,…) and developers (Corey Konieczka) come from your country. Would you say there is a polish culture of boardgaming? Now you surprised me. I did not expect that you heard about Kolejka… Indeed, there some great companies in Poland. However, it is hard to say that there is something like polish culture of boardgaming. In Poland gaming market is really small and even some polish companies do not care much about our gaming market. What we do not have in numbers we have in dedication. I know that a lot of events in Poland are really world class when our fans organize it.
>More specifically, are there lots of miniatures companies in Poland? Yes, that is for sure. I think that all of you heard about Maxmini, Microart Studio or Hitech Miniatures… and there is a lot of more… >What decided you to create your own range of minis ? (first Sapphire Wars, then Norsgard)
It is weird story. Well, it was the time after Rackham finally went down… I was working on big research project, which was in brief all or nothing for the whole team. So, it was hard and stressfull work. Also very time consuming… during Summer I did not have time for holidays and I used to work to late night hours or on contrary start work around 4 AM… So, in this time came crazy idea.. Let’s make something fun. I used some contacts from the time when I was a Rackham Sentinel and got few emails. The most important one was to Stephane . I decided that I need some new cool miniatures and new skirmish game and making it on my own was great choice and also some much needed breathing room from my work. Sadly, Sapphire Wars was too big project for me and eventually I sold all rights to one company in Poland (yes, there is a big chance that you will see this project sooner or later). Norsgard was something natural after selling Sapphire Wars. Vikings and orcs… for me this is great point for start.
>The team you gathered for the task is a cosmopolitan one, to say the least (Poland, South Afrika, Chile, France … more ?). Now I have also sculptor from Brasil and there was concept artist from Japan and also one sculptor from Australia… I guess I have to find some from Antarctica now.
>Was it deliberate to gather such an international team ? Or just opportunity ? You know when I started my adventure I was never thinking about it as my way to earn money. It is still an adventure for me. So, in such case I wanted to have all artists which I admired in the past. I guess this is the main difference compared to professional company. Here I can work with anybody which I like. There were some few funny things during this process… The most awesome stories are with Genzoman. He is for sure great guy and I love to work with him, but he crossed so many deadlines… also having conversations with him around 3 – 4 AM due to time differences…
There is something which I call Genzoman’s curse… he used to cross so many deadlines, but the same thing did sculptors using his arts as a reference (you know it, right?).
>What were the main difficulties you had to overcome during development?
Way from concept art to final sculpt is easy and gives a lot of fun… the painful part starts with casting. Than suddenly elements start to be to thin… or to big and moulds literally start to burn or someone will put miniature’s part at odd angle and for example mould line will be hard to remove. Casting is most challenging and painful even if you have good team.
>You were lucky to get the cooperation of many talents on your project (Genzoman, Didier Poli, Benoit Cosse, Stéphane Simon to name a few of them). How did you approach them ?
Well, with sculptors it was easy thing. As soon as they saw concept arts they wanted to join the team. Another thing was with concept artists. Here some negotiations were really tough. However, it was always handy to tell them about the sculptors . When they knew that their work will not be wasted than they were more eager to join the project.
>Sapphire wars was a bold project featuring anthropomorphic animals in a futuristic context (for which I am happy to have sculpted many references). What was the reasons behind this choice ? It was just something unusual.. Also I am not a big fan of apocalypse theme time and time again… With those all furry animals you know that the world will not be especially dark and cruel. You know that it will be more ironic and it also opens a door for many fresh ideas and adds something fresh to our hobby. Besides I really like such not very serious theme… I bet that you also have a lot of fun after seeing and sculpting rabbits… Remember how you was surprised during sculpting when you found where rabbits had eyes on concept arts?
>What was people reception to this universe? Reception was really warm. However, during this time with my lack of experience I was not able to keep the project alive.
>What is the game current status ? As I mentioned Sapphire Wars are nowadays under wings of bigger company and I belive that they will make something really nice with it.
>What did you learn from this experience ? The one thing I really learned… If you want to make something really original than it will be hard work to promote your idea. Sadly, for small companies making space knights is always easier and more safer option.
>Then, you decided to switch to a more conventional theme and chose a fantasy miniature game, Norsgard. Is this approach more successful so far ? For sure this one is more successful. I already has some experience from Sapphire Wars. Currently, Norsgard is available in big stores world wide. So, this is a success for me. However, there is still long way before me. I will be happy one I will hear about first tournaments.
>Although you still have miniatures done classically, many of your references will be sculpted digitally. Can you talk to us about this process ? Digital sculpting is great addition to traditional sculpting. Personally I love to see how traditional sculpt is done. It was always great to see another update and I have a lot of respect to traditional sculptors. However, as you know I am running small company and digital sculpting shortens the process of miniature production. Especially when you want additional pose of already sculpted miniature. The only trick here is to avoid making part to small. Seeing sculpt on big screen can really deceiving.
>After releasing Norsgard in a classical fashion, you opted for crowdfunding on the Indiegogo platform. How is this working for you so far ? You classic reales was good idea for me. This gave me time to prepare the whole product in very high quality without any time pressure. Personally I always want to get high quality miniatures and this is what I want to sell. So, trying crowdfunding as the way to release Norsgard was to risky in my humble opinion. Now I have much more experience and now I know that I can estimate all production cost, time production etc. In brief I know that people who will take in campaign will get high quality product.
>A multitasker, you also write yourself the rules of your games, and had a part in many other projects (such as the recent Mission Katharsis). How would you define the systems you elaborate ? Do they share common mechanisms?
Writing rules… this is the part which I really enjoy. I like to sit down with good coffee and write some basic ideas with pen on a paper… yes, I am a little old and still use ink. After that I make some basic math calculations and then ideas try to evolve. Each ruleset is totally different. Creating something new, finding new ways is always exctining.. coping old ideas is not for me, because it is boring. I hope that in this year you will hear about another project for which I already written rules… and for next year I have something really nice. I just started working on really small game and if I am not mistken Stephane will be responsible for making some changes in miniatures… He will reshape digitally sculpted minis, but this is still a secret.
>Any other questions you’d like me to ask ? What about the worrying situation with your russian neighbours ? This good question! I will tell you something about russian neighbours. From time to time there is a tension between our and theirs government. Few years ago we really met heavy storm over the sea. In brief our sails were torn, most of the food on the yacht was swimming in salt water and the same can be told about clothes. However, we survived the storm and were safe in port. During this time we got a lot of help from Russian sailing yacht. They lent us sails and make great dinner for us. Truth to be told I can say bad word about my experience with Russians. Well, for sure we are not worried to much about situation on Ukraine. We have our own problems.
> … about the funny changes of temperature during the year … their consequences on painting, living in general. Haha… first of all in Poland you will not meet polar bears during winter walking down the streets. However, temperature can change from -20C in winter to around +40C in summer. I really like that we have 4 seasons here. It always helps when you are trying to make realistic base for miniature.
>Other interests besides minis ? Already mentioned – sailing, myths, classic rock and books written by classic authors like Asimov or Herbert. besides it… Labrador golden retrievers the best dogs ever (and they even like cats!).
>Sports I think ? Sailing (again??), judo, diving and besides this I like to watch Ice Hockey.
>Many of us are frantic videogame players. Do we share this ? Do you remember Eye of Beholder, Dungeon Master, Blade of Destiny or Final Fantasy VIII, Jagged Alliance 2? Especially last three are my favourite. Wing Commander is another game which I enjoyed. Nowadays I am playing NHL on regular basis and of course Resident Evil.
>Cooking ? Ogorki kiszone – cucumber in salt water with fresh garlic and horse radish. Keep it around month in closed jar… awesome thing for cold winter. Besides I learned from one of the sculptors how to cook Carbonade a la Flamande – this is another great dish for winter.
Thanks for your time !
Don’t miss the chance to pledge for Norsgard crowdfunding on : norsgard-miniature-game