You may have noticed that here at Geeking Out, we like playing with our toys – and there’s few things so satisfying as playing with toy cars in a bit of post-apocalyptic mayhem.
Spurred on by Osprey Publishing’s hit game Gaslands, we were lucky enough to sit down with the game’s creator, Mike Hutchinson, for a chat about the game and its new iteration, Gaslands Refuelled.
BIG COMIC PAGE: Hi Mike, thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
MIKE HUTCHINSON: My pleasure!
BCP: So. Gaslands! First up, can you tell us what your primary influences as a game designer are?
MIKE: Gaslands really comes out of my love of car racing and combat video games. I played the h*ck out of F-Zero X and Rush 2033 on the N64, POD and Interstate ‘76 on our family PC, the first (top-down) Grand Theft Auto and Micro-Machines on the Gameboy, and of course Mario Kart! I tried to pour everything I loved about those games into Gaslands.
It’s one of a couple of reasons Gaslands feels the way it does, the other being that I’m much more concerned with maximum fun over maximum realism.
It’s obvious from the game, of course, that I like very highly of the core system in X-Wing: The Miniatures Game. That game, along with Malifaux, really inspired me. Both really push the “technology” of tabletop gaming forward, attempting to create very new experiences by leaving behind some accepted assumptions about wargame rule systems.
BCP: For more experienced gamers, what kind of mechanical similarities and differences can they look for with other gaming experiences (skirmish and/or board)?
MIKE: Gaslands is unique in a few ways, and hopefully very familiar in others.
The game is particularly excited about the death racing game mode, which gives each game a few clear and exciting objective. I suppose you could say that puts it in the “sports” bucket with Bloodbowl and Guildball, but it really feels nothing like that.
The movement system will feel familiar to anyone that has played X-Wing, but also very different. Thanks, in most part, to the skid dice mechanics, Gaslands is a much less geometrically pure game than X-Wing, vehicles can end up all over the place, facing in any direction. I guess if X-wing is chess, Gaslands is more like tiddlewinks!
BCP: If you had to pick one thing, what would be your favourite mechanic in the game overall?
MIKE: The skid dice. Hands down. That part of the game took so many iterations to get right, but once I’d hit on the idea that the skid dice were a pool of things that you had to resolve ALL of, it immediately transformed into a push-your-luck mechanic that just perfectly captured the uncertainty I wanted in the driving system.
I think the skid dice are often the first time new players have a “oh, there is a GAME here” moment with Gaslands, because it forces such interesting choices and can create such funny moments.
BCP: The game seems to have really caught the wider imagination and has a vibrant community. Why do you think its proving so popular?
MIKE: Hum. It’s tough to say, but I have a few hypotheses. The first is that car combat was just a weirdly underserved niche. This isn’t enough to explain it though, as there have been a smattering of car combat games over the years, and none quite hit like Gaslands.
My second hypothesis is that we did a good job with the community building around the game. From the open beta, to a regular design blog, to the Friends of Gaslands scheme, to the community involvement in the Time Extended free downloadable expansions, the community has always been at the absolute heart of making this game work.
The third reason might be the low barrier of entry and the multiplayer aspect. It’s an easy game to introduce people to. The investment needed is super-low, and it’s a great game to have in your arsenal when you have an odd number of players or want to play a “lighter” or more raucous game than other systems.
I like to think it’s also the strength of the game. It’s really build from the ground up to maximise fun. I really don’t care about anything else. Anything not fun enough was either made fun or cut.
However, the most likely reason is that we leant hard into the Hot Wheels angle, and that really caught peoples’ imagination. Folks are just really exciting to raid their old toy box (or their kids’) and take a chance on kitbashing and painting a Gaslands car. Even if you mess it up, it’s so cheap just to start again it really promotes just getting stuck in.
BCP: Can you tell us a bit about how Time Extended (TX) fits into all of this?
MIKE: Ha. Well, Time Extended started because we had this War Rig narrative campaign (because Mad Max 2 and Fury Road) and it wouldn’t fit into the rulebook. I wanted to release it, and we had enough stuff that had either been cut for simplicity or yet to be developed, so I created a schedule of expansions!
My absolute favourite aspect of the TX series actually came out of my lack of time. In between being a new dad, working on Gaslands, working on new games and running all the Gaslands community elements, I barely have time to hobby at the moment. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do the miniatures justice to ensure the TX expansions were visually exciting, so I threw the challenge out to the community.
Boy, am I glad it did! What they threw back at me was just mind-blowing. There’s just so much talent out there. I’m so proud that the TX series is now a showcase of the awesome creativity of the Gaslands community, as well as more ways to play, as I haven’t seen that very often and I think it cements the idea that Gaslands is a “community-first” game.
BCP: Tell us more about September’s big release – Gaslands Refuelled. What motivated the changes in the new edition, and what sort of things might we see (we’ve heard trailers mentioned on the forums, for example)?
MIKE: Gaslands Refuelled is the exact same game, just revised and expanded. Nothing in the core rules is changing, just lots of stuff clarified and reworded. More like Gaslands 1.5 if you like!
Gaslands was my first wargame, and while I had a ton of fantastic input from the initial beta group prior to launch, I’ve learnt a ton more from having the game out in the wild and having tens of thousands of people playing it. Gaslands Refuelled is a chance to fold all that learning back into the game and give players something easier to understand and clearer at the table.
It’s also a chance to get the TX stuff into print, and, as you might have heard, get some new stuff into the game. I’ll not say too much about the new content, but the current Gaslands Beta group has been doing an incredible job of ensuring that we pack as much fun into the Refuelled edition as possible. Expect more ways to play, more ways to build teams and tons of new hobby opportunities!
BCP: And where do you can see Gaslands going from here?
MIKE: You’d think I’d have a plan, wouldn’t you! :D
To a degree, I’m currently limited by the fact that I’m just one dude, (with a group of extremely generous mates around me), with a day job and a family. I’m not able to take Gaslands fulltime and I also want to continue to work on new games.
I guarantee they’ll be more issues of TX after Gaslands Refuelled comes out, as (without a miniatures line) that’s my best way to keep the game fresh and front of mind for folks.
BCP: New games? Do you have something else in the pipeline then?
MIKE: I do! With the success of Gaslands, I took my opportunity to pitch a second game to Osprey, and excitingly they said yes!
A Billion Suns is an interstellar fleet combat game that will be released sometime in 2020 as part of the Osprey Wargames “blue book” series.
Like all the blue book games, A Billion Suns is going to be agnostic about what spaceship miniatures you use, and how you base them. Like Gaslands, it’s a game that I hope will surprise and delight players with how many bonkers ideas it is packed with.
You can learn more about it on my design blog for the game (http://abillionsuns.space/category/design-blog/) but to give you a sense, the game is striving to be very much a “science-fiction” game, not a reskinned naval game.
The result of this is that, for one, there are no army lists up front. You simply jump in the ships that you need, turn by turn, as the tactical situation evolves. While this theoretically gives you infinite reinforcements, the resources you pay to jump ships in are the same resources that determine victory. Overspend, and you go into debt. Underdeliver on the mission and you might not make that money back! It’s an exciting and very unique dynamic on the tabletop.
Speaking of unique dynamics, the other bonkers thing about A Billion Suns is that games can take place over multiple tables! You can play with one system on the kitchen table and another on the kitchen counter, and a third on that bench! Using the jump points, fleets can both deploy across the multiple tables as well as hop between them, creating an utterly new wargaming experience. As you can tell, I’m very excited about where the design for A Billion Suns is heading at the moment!
Playtesting is currently open for A Billion Suns, so if people want to get involved, head on over to http://abillionsuns.space/playtesting
BCP: Thinking more widely, do you think there’s a move in the industry towards hybrid miniature-board games?
MIKE: Not really, no. I grew up playing HeroQuest, Space Crusade, Warhammer Quest, Bloodbowl. hybrid miniature-board games have been a core part of my board game collection for 25 years. There are certainly more of them now, from many more makers, but then there’s more of every kind of tabletop game right now. It’s such an exciting time to be in the hobby!
BCP: I always ask this: what other games are on your shelf just now?
MIKE: Well, I am a fan of hybrid miniature-board games, so Conan and Kingdom Death have seen some table time recently, and I have Deep Madness ready to hit the painting table.
As far as other stuff, I’m playing SSO (by Gaslands lead developer Glenn Ford) which is a super tense sci-fi survival horror card game that can be played solitaire, and trying to find time to get through all the new released for Arkham Horror The Card Game (spoiler: I’m failing!).
BCP: Thanks for your time!
Whilst you’re chewing over that, a reminder that the winner of our Gaslands gizmo contest was… Gareth D!
Shoot us a message with your details, Gareth, and we’ll send you some shooty goodness in the post!