Ronnie Renton is the hard working genius behind Mantic, a Nottingham based games company who are rapidly becoming a major player in the world of wargames and boardgames. Their latest product, Mars Attacks - The Miniatures Game, is based on the popular Topps franchise and reached its Kickstarter goal in under 15 minutes of launch.
Starburst: Tell us a bit about Mantic.
Ronnie Renton: We set up Mantic about five years ago with two objectives; we’re a company that supplies hobbyists, so we wanted to make sure our customers were having fun whilst enjoying ourselves as we share the same hobby, and the second thing is value for money for the games and the toy soldiers you’re buying. There’s high quality stuff out there at very high prices, what Mantic brings is excellent stuff at excellent prices. We got in there and started making plastic toy soldiers at prices which means you can have lots of models at not much cost. With Mantic, you don’t have to remortgage your house to play war games.
Why Mars Attacks?
We’re doing Warpath and Kings of War, and they’re our massive intellectual properties that will take years to develop into a full world with a complete wargaming system and full background, with complete model armies all tooled in plastic, and with those two, we’re only just getting started.
We have games like Dreadball and Project Pandora to get people into the hobby, but we didn’t have a mass market, obvious title. So when we were doing Dreadball , the Mars Attacks people came up to us and said, “We love what you’re doing, will you come to us?” and of course we said yes. We got on very, very well. The more I found out about what they were doing with the IP, the more obvious it became what they wanted is the sort of thing we love to do. The Mars Attacks aliens are the sort of creatures that come from the very origins of sci-fi. They’ve been around since 1963 and lots of things have spawned from that. There have been moments when we’ve been doing stuff and you can see there were various other things that reference the original Mars Attacks.
It’s goodies versus baddies; US Marines versus Aliens, and we knew we could make a fun product out of that which would be more accessible to a wider market than our own IP.
Where do you start with an IP like Mars Attacks?
That was one of the challenges we faced when we took on the project. What really cemented our core was the new card set that is just about to hit, which takes the basic story and starts from the beginning. The art is fantastic, with plenty of nods back to the early card set, but in essence it is its own thing. When you then read the comics, they tie-in very interestingly.
The comics have been cleverly woven to be a heavily character based story set within the Martian invasion. So what we did was start running our storyline within that sequence of events, with the Martians invading Earth and Earth being in big trouble. We’ve taken what the cards and the comics have done, added some of our own stuff to it and created one huge, rolling storyline.
I think the crossover stuff is kind of fun, we plan to do a Judge Dredd Martian, because it’s a figure that just has to be made. Largely, our game is about heroes versus Martians, set within an ongoing story.
What should people expect gameplay to be like?
Unlike our larger games like Kings of War, where a unit is ten models, in Mars Attacks a unit is a single model on 2X2 or 4X4 board. Movement and shooting is calculated in squares, so it’s all about positioning, getting the right line of sight, getting your sniper into cover. The game will be familiar but also new. Whereas Deadzone is very hardcore and tactical, Mars Attacks is wacky, crazy and fun. We have a card deck for it, which means you can get stomped by robots through to off-world flying saucers zapping the marines. Both sides have cards, and can block each other’s plans by playing the right card. It’s a mega-violent game in a comedy sort of way.
Do you have any non-miniatures related projects planned?
Novels are something we’ve been talking about for about 12 months now. There’s an opportunity to expand our worlds there. In our Deadzone Kickstarter we launched an anthology all about the Nexus Psi Campaign. What was wonderful about that is that we got to work with about twelve authors, each one writing from a particular perspective including the alien races. If that gets a warm response, it’s something we’d want to get more into. It’s certainly on the radar.
Are we going to see any more Project Pandora?
Yes, and more Dwarf Kings Hold as well. We like things with tails; things that people want to keep collecting so we can bid it up on Kickstarter. I think those two games are very much the sort of boardgame we want to do.
What is your dream project?
I would make Warpath the movie. Also to make Warpath and Kings of War the best franchises the world has ever seen, on every level, be it games, movies or novels.
If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one book for company, what would that book be?
The Lord of The Rings, because I’d have lots of time to get through it. My favourite book is The Magician by Raymond E Feist.
Warriors or Wizards?
The Simpsons or Futurama?
Starships Troopers or Space Marines?
Truth or Beauty?