Disruption – 3D Printed Games
In my previous article I talked about 3D Printable Miniatures games. These are games that were designed from the ground up to be 3D printed. The newest contender at the time, was World War Tesla. It went on to sit at the top of the Wargame Vault charts for weeks afterwards (and for good reason). This is one of the first steps forward. These rules include Troops, Terrain, Templates and rules, that are all printable.
Disruption – 3D Printed Troops
Fast forward a few months, and I now have an Anycubic Photon Resin Printer. This printer is able to make phenomenal prints of miniatures, and quite honestly, the quality of the minis is better than miniatures produced by some gaming companies. Hero Forge has been around for a couple of years now (I did back it on Kickstarter), and they are now allowing you to download your creations for $9.99. While this is too high for a rank and file trooper, it is not a bad price for the perfect mini to reflect your character in D&D. It also can be used to flesh out some armies with multiples of a single model, especially for those units that cost $30 or $40 a box. This photo shows 2 prints. One on the Photon, and one on the Ender 3. Either one would look good on a gaming table. The resin version is probably $0.90 in resin. The FDM version probably cost me less than $0.25 in filament.
While there is great stuff being done on Resin printers (and honestly, they do produce higher quality/more detailed prints), and FDM printer can be tuned quite well. Leading that subject, is Daniel Herrero from 3D Printed Tabletop. He’s the reason I purchased an Ender 3. It’s a terrific 3D printer, and VERY inexpensive. It is my go-to recommendation for an entry level 3D printer, and honestly, if you need extras to produce prints. A few modelers have been making figures expressly for 3D printing. The first that comes to mind, is Fat Dragon Games with their 3D Printed Skeletons. If you need an army of skeletons, grab some white filament, and print out a table full over several hours. Fat Dragon Games also has the Turdle Fighters. Ill Gotten Games has their Twonsfolke line (This search has a few free ones on Thingiverse if you want to check out Townsfolke). Lovecraft Design and Manufacture recently completed a kickstarter that has some terrific miniatures with a Roman theme. The miniature to the right is from this Kickstarter, though, I don’t know that an FDM printer could accomplish the details needed for it.
That brings us to another Disruptive force that 3D printing brings.
Disruption – Niche Genres
The All Roads Lead to Rome Kickstarter show that there is interest in more than just Sci-Fi Gothic and Medieval fantasy settings. It let us see a different historical period that would be great for fantasy games giving you a different, and unique look. This Kickstarter has beautiful buildings, as did his previous one. This shows how one person with a passion can find others with similar interests and create something amazing and totally unique. Previously, miniatures games, or miniature makers would create some limited run of some special thematic characters. With 3D printing, you can make your models, and put them up for sale for as long as you are interested in selling them.
Disruption – 3D Printed Terrain
When I think about 3D printing, 3D printed terrain is where my mind goes. It takes up the largest portion of the directory with almost 60 terrain modelers. 3D printed terrain represents amazing savings. Conventional molded terrain can be purchased for a lot of money. I have some resin based rock formation that are ok, and I think they cost me $20. I can print something similar today for less than $0.50 in filament. With a high quality 3D printer costing $200, it does not take long to realize the savings you have when printing games, especially game terrain. It also lets you inexpensively tailor your terrain to whatever game you are playing.
Another awesome part of 3D Printing, is the ability to adjust scale. In the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter photo, I show the same terrain piece. The larger one is scaled to 28mm for miniatures games. The smaller is reduced 30% to work for Gaslands terrain. The ability to scale your prints to the game you want to play is terrific.
Disruption – Distribution and Play – The curious case of Gaslands
In this section, I am going to look at one game, Gaslands. Gaslands is a terrific game that lets you add guns to Hot Wheels cars and run around blasting your friends. I’ve even posted a couple of articles about Gaslands terrain and car upgrades. I think this game, more than any, shows how the disruption can change conventional models. You can buy the rules conventionally, from Osprey games or through Amazon. You can buy them physically, or on Kindle. Once you have the rules, the templates are in the back of the book so you can copy or print them out. You can convert some 6 sided dice with stickers to play the game.
Or… you can purchase the templates and dice from the manufacturer. You don’t have to. As a matter of fact, he has recently announced, that he is ceasing to produce physical items. Instead, he has set up a Patreon where other manufacturers can pay $4 to be a “Friends of Gaslands”. With that, you can make and sell cards, dice, tokens and other gaming accessories. He has a recurring income based on the popularity of the game and the gray market that pops up around some games is gone. It is all legitimate. But wait, there’s more!
If you have a 3D printer, you can just print everything you need. From the terrain, to Hotwheels upgrades, to the templates, and even the dice. Everything is 3D printable. While most people have dice, this takes things even further, where everything you need to play can be delivered virtually. Previously, I looked at games that are released as a virtual product. With Gaslands, it seems that it was released as a conventional product, and now because of laser cutting and 3D printing the market has totally changed. This is the disruption in action.
With Gaslands, since you convert Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars, you are looking at about $1.00 per model. I don’t know of any other conventional miniatures game with that low of a buy-in. With 4 cars, you have plenty for your side in a game. Well, one issue I have seen, is sourcing motorcycles. It is difficult to find Hot Wheels “scale” motorcycles, especially with riders. Someone mentioned you could make your own custom motorcycles on Hero Forge. I’ve since printed up 2 different sets of motorcycles to use. This allows you to come up with a custom model that looks the way you want, for your miniatures game. It may not be as economical because of the initial model, but if you print enough, the price per print comes down. I’ve also recently started looking at cars and other vehicles that could be scaled down and printed for Gaslands.
In all honesty, I have mainly been talking about the company and the game, but there is more. If you are interested in learning more about Gaslands Terrain and car upgrades, I recommend looking at the post I did this weekend.
Disruption – Going forward
I don’t think the true disruption is here yet. Wargames, Miniatures Games, and Board Games are still pretty niche markets. 3D printers are even more so of a niche. If I was a miniatures game maker, I would be implementing steps to future-proof my company. For one, I would be making a back catalog of all of my miniatures (or at least as many as possible). For the cost of hosting a file, you can sell it and bring your back catalog to be usable today. Generally speaking, making molds, and casting miniatures takes time and lots of money. This is very low-cost. This is also a terrific way for some companies to tap into that nostalgia vein and sell older rule sets and everything needed to go along with it. They could even partner with 3D printers, much the way Gaslands has and get a small amount of money for having someone else actually produce the parts. For WYSIWYG games, you could create a customization engine much like Hero Forge to build models ready to print. You could also go for a hybrid with the main body being conventionally cast, and being able to purchase printable parts to glue on. I do think that Hero Forge has shown us how well this model works. I could even see a walled garden where the custom miniatures are sold at a store level, and printed at a store printer. I don’t know how well this model would work, but it is another idea as a way to establish a market. An example of this is Oregon Trail Games. He started out with a single 3D printer churning out terrain for his store and locals. He now has 6 total 3D printers and is licensed to sell a number of products from a diverse group of terrain makers via his Terrain Foundry spin-off.
I don’t think this will happen soon. I think we’ll see a gradual decay of the pre-made 3D printing market as more and more 3D printers come into the community. Eventually, they will reach a critical mass that will drive out smaller miniature companies that do not have contingency plans. I think you will see more of an impact in 5 years. I’d say in 10-15 years we’ll see a deeper change in the market.
There are ample opportunities to come. I am finding it interesting, having been a wargaming fan for years, to see how the industry is reacting to. I have heard from others (so take it with a grain of salt) that some miniatures makers are worried about the coming 3D printer evolution of our games. If I were making these games, I would definately want to get out ahead of the ball… instead of being run over by it. Disruptions represent opportunities to the agile, and destruction for those stuck in the old rut.
It’s like Blockbuster videos all over again. What we have is the commercial power moving to the creators we seems like it’s a good thing. Giants like Games Workshop are going to have to move with the times, their place in this should perhaps be some form of co-ordination, maybe like a niche shapeways for the gaming market. I love the idea of resurrecting the back catalogue although I guess there are probably legal headaches with this, I think the nostalgia market would be huge. Then of course the bottom falls out of the collector market!
Interesting article Kevin, thank you.
When I talk about resurrecting back catalogues I am more talking about companies that own their models. Like, Robotech Tactics recently went down in flames. Too many hands in that, and getting the rights would probably be nearly impossible. But, then you have Spartan Games’s fantasy ship-based game. I’d imagine those assets and rights could be purchased. But, really, when I was writing that, I was thinking about the back catalog from Reaper minis, or Games Workshop.