Interview with Rob Lane of Maelstrom Games

I was lucky enough to have a chat with Rob Lane of Maelstrom Games. We discussed the BaneLegions line of resin miniatures, including the massive BaneBeasts.

Chuck Platt: I like to start with a bit of background. How did you end up in the wargaming hobby?
Rob Lane: Well, both Tim and I have been playing wargames for over twenty years, and it was a natural progression that – after having numerous “normal” jobs – we would decide to pursue something to do with wargaming. I began Maelstrom Games back in 2001, after becoming very tired of commuting to an IT job, and I recruited Tim (who I had known for years as part of my local wargaming club, the Dragon Slayers) to be my studio director in 2008, a job he fulfils today after having to make the tea for two years.

CP: So, where do the BaneLegions and BaneBeasts names come from?
RL: I do not like to see names that look as if they are pulled out of a hat or are cobbled together from convenient consonants and vowels, as some fantasy names seem to be. Names mean something, in whatever language they were originally created, and thus I try to ensure that – as far as is possible – each name looks authentic in the language that name was created. Note that I said “looks authentic”; names (and indeed words) have a habit of mutating over time thanks to the influence of other languages and cultures, which gives the fantasist a fair amount of leeway, but I find I have to ensure the name has a root in the language of that miniature’s race; otherwise, it simply looks odd. “Oácyning”, for example, is a bastardised compound word of the Old English for “Oak” and “King”. “Ulmons” is a compound of the latin words for “big” and “one”; Ulmons is, literally, “Big One”, as I imagined the troops that control it would call him.

Most of the time I research each character’s name carefully, firstly deciding what I’d like to call it in English, and then forming a compound name from the language that character would use or, if that language does not exist (such as that for the Khthones), inventing something that sounds like a word that race would say. With a snake, there would be lots of sibilant words, and thus the names of the Gorgonar are sibilant – “Issithill”, “Svrill”. Additionally, sometimes a character (mostly a monster, as many would not speak) would take the name given to it by others, such as “The Terror of Fortriu”, or “Conjunct XIII”, or “Keirioc-cró”.

Sometimes I even use historical names; the Seaxons will be led by Penda the Bloody-Handed, who was a real King of Mercia at that time (although he didn’t have the epithet “Bloody-Handed”). Even so, readers must acknowledge that – for all that we are using history as a basis – our setting is still fantasy, and thus most names will be different to historical names and may not make sense to historians, amateur or professional. I have no doubt the names we use will be something many people will obsess over, as has already happened on some forums, but really there is simply no point in doing so because the majority are fantastical names that are distorted from historic languages.

When creating names I abide by two rules: each name must mean something and each name must not look odd to me. Some names are easy to create, some are more difficult, but all, I hope, suit the character.

CP: Your miniatures are very different aesthetically from any other fantasy line I have seen. What are some of the influences on the BaneLegions look?
RL: Crikey! How long have you got?

Both Tim and I are fairly soaked in the fantasy as depicted in many different comics, books and films – and obviously as complete and utter wargaming geeks we have played many wargames over the years and painted up many of the miniatures used for those wargames – but it would be wrong to say we are directly influenced by one aspect of fantasy over another. Rather, we take inspiration from many different areas: from the creatures that existed in prehistory to those that exist now; from the monsters found in film to those found in comics; from miniatures that look real to those that look crazy yet are impossibly cool.

It is true to say that there are no original ideas out there, only different takes on those ideas; we don’t pretend to be original – just different. All you really have to know is that the rules behind imagining the fantastical creatures and races within BaneLegions are fairly simple – they must look as if they exist (or could have existed) and they must not be silly. What we are creating is a very dark fantasy wargame, a place in which you can act out the deeds of the foulest and most horrible creatures that could ever exist, and if they look comedic or wrong they won’t work. We are very lucky in that we have some excellent artists on board, especially Stefan Kopinski, who just seems to know what’s in our head most of the time. He’s uncanny!

CP: What is the design process for a BaneLegions miniature?
RL: It’s quite a simple process. Tim and I thrash out between ourselves what we want the miniature to be, how we want it to look, what weapons it must have, what pose would be good, and so on; I bring the background of whatever race that miniature belongs to into the discussion, Tim drags out some of the crazy influences he has been under in his sordid past and we both ensure we imagine something that we would want to paint and is, for want of a better word, “cool”. Once we’re satisfied, Tim writes up a brief for the concept artist, who draws what the miniature should look like for us.

Once the concept is drawn to our satisfaction we choose the sculptor for the project. We have a good range of sculptors who can sculpt virtually anything perfectly, but some are suited to monsters and some to man-sized miniatures. Additionally, we try to “reserve” one sculptor for one particular race, thus ensuring continuity. That’s not always possible, because most sculptors are very busy, but most of the time we can do so thanks to our long lead times.

As an aside, we’re always looking for good artists, sculptors and painters, so if anybody reading this fancies helping us out (and earning some money!) with BaneLegions then feel free to drop us a
with a portfolio of your work. We don’t bite!

CP: Where do you see BaneLegions heading in the coming months? Years?
RL: We’ve posted something to that effect on our website, explaining where we’re going, which I hope most of those reading this have read; but in short you can expect lots more miniatures and, most importantly for us, the background and the wargame that ties it all together.

A wargame is nothing without the background that explains it all – otherwise you may as well play chess – and you can expect a rich background for our wargame that everybody can believe in and is easy to understand.

CP: You mentioned a BaneLegions wargame. Is there anything you can tell us about it or has Three-Face sworn you to silence?
RL: I’m afraid not – it is still formulating and it would be unwise to say anything about it…!

CP: When looking at your website, it is hard not to notice how amazing the painted miniatures look. Who paints them?
RL: Well, you can see exactly who paints them on our release artwork; we always mention the sculptor and the painter. Even so, it’s fair to say that we mainly use two painters – Ben Komets, a German with an impossibly cool name who has won many Golden Demon awards around Europe and Sébastien Picque, a Frenchman who worked for Rackham for many years before turning freelance and painting for Smart Max and ourselves, amongst other companies. We’ve also used Raffaele Picca and Matt Cexwish, Golden Demon winners both who live in Germany and Mark Tait, ex-‘Eavy Metal.

We’re always looking for good painters (and artists, and sculptors), too, so if you think you can do the job, feel free to contact us!

CP: Any plans to have painting articles on your site? I love Conjunct XIII (he was the reason I contacted you to begin with, actually), but I am terrified of trying to paint him.
RL: Not right now – we have enough on producing the models themselves – but that’s a possibility in the future, although it would of course be those over-worked painters who wrote such articles.

CP: The BaneLords are physically imposing models. What scale is the BaneLegions line?
RL: BaneLegions miniatures are all 30mm scale – that is, 30mm to the eye for a six foot tall human. I hesitate to say “30mm heroic scale” because we’ve never really set out to do that, but fantasy miniatures always tend to over-emphasize certain anatomical parts (hands, weapons, etc.) so you wouldn’t be far wrong if you did say that our miniatures are indeed a “heroic” scale. We do include scale shots of our monstrous creatures against a human BaneLord, Guillaume le Pèlerin, to show how big they are, too!

CP: Where can American gamers purchase your miniatures?
RL: At the moment, directly from the Maelstrom Games website. That’s the only place you can buy them from until we branch out into offering retailers the chance to stock our products, but that will be well into 2012.

CP: The world of BaneLegions feels very different from other fantasy wargaming settings. Are there any plans for fiction set in the BaneLegions universe?
RL: Yes, but that would be a long way down the line.

CP: Conjunct XIII give me nightmares. Are you sponsored by the sleeping pill manufacturers?
RL: Hahah! Um… nope – but there will be many more nightmare-inducing miniatures from us in the future. Conjunct XIII is one of many conjuncts – in fact, Conjunct XIX is being worked on as we speak – and there are some truly terrifying creatures around the corner. Just you wait and see… ;o)

CP: I like to offer the floor to the interviewee and let them give a sales pitch. Pitch away!
RL: Wow. Thanks very much! BaneLegions are a collection of high quality miniatures created from the finest materials available and intended for the discerning fantasy wargamer and hobbyist. We seek to use the best artists, sculptors and painters to create our miniatures and we feel we have succeeded in creating some unique and superb fantastical creatures and characters to paint and use as part of your armies. Within the next couple of years many of these superb miniatures will become a part of our forthcoming skirmish wargame, so rest assured – if you can’t find a use for our miniature now, except as a hobby project of course, there certainly will be in the future!







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