Mantic have always been keen on community involvement, and their love of it is second only to their love of free labour! For that reason, they created the various Rules Committees for their different games. Groups of volunteers who would work on the rules with the main designers, who would answer rules queries from the public, write FAQs and generally promote the game by serving as a direct link between fans and Mantic. We’re not employed by Mantic though much the community see’s us as representatives.
I’m a member of the Kings of War Rules Committee along with:
- Dan King – current leader, multiple Clash of Kings winner and veteran from the very first publication of the game.
- Chris Morris – Long haired dude, obsessed with coming up with more and more unique special rules.
- Sami Mahmood – Previous unknown, now buggered off to Australia.
- Jason Moorman – The latest addition to the team and our only American so far.
Previously we had Matt Gilbert as part of the team who now works for Mantic, 2nd in command to Ronnie.
We also have a group of playtesters which we call the Cabal. These help us refine our rules, provide feedback and detailed testing reports. The members are invited from the community, usually by demonstrating that they can provide feedback with cool heads and aren’t prone to hyperbole. Public testing and feedback is great, but often we need honest feedback that doesn’t bounce between the two extremes of “OH MY GOD THIS IS BROKEN AND UNUSABLE” and “OH MY GOD THIS IS BROKEN AND OVERPOWERED.” Luckily none of the Cabal engage in toy-pram throwing. If there’s a negative reaction to something in the Cabal then we know it’s a genuine issue.
Do not deny the power of the RC
So how much power and influence does the RC have over Kings of War?
Quite a lot as it seems. Early on we were very subservient to Alessio Cavatore. His word was final, even if the majority or even all of the RC disagreed. As we steadily began to prove ourselves at writing rules, Mantic began trusting us more and more.
Since the overwhelmingly positive reception of the entirely RC penned expansion, Uncharted Empires, Mantic started to operate a nearly entirely hands off approach to us. They started trusting us to answer all rules queries, to have final say on all Kings of War rules and we’re often consulted about the future of KoW. If there’s errata to be issued, we’re trusted to write it. If there’s a loophole then we’re trusted to fix it.
How we work
Mantic will usually contact us via email to ask us to provide feedback or guidance on projects, and then eventually give us a brief outline of what they want us to help on.
Our main team communication method is via Facebook chat. We have an ongoing group chat and if there are fewer than 400 messages in a 24 hour period then it’s been a very quiet day! If there’s something going on in the KoW community then we’re going to be discussing it. Even if not, the chances are that Chris has made a brain dump of his latest ideas and we’re discussing them.
I remember a small French forum being surprised when we turned up in person to answer their questions – albeit with the help of google translate!
We have a “Master Spreadsheet” where we have a tab for each and every army list, each and every expansion, lists of playtesters for inclusion in credits and even a tab for our 3rd edition plans (many years away still, but if we have an idea then we will add it to the list). When we’re in the initial stages of writing an expansion, we will jot ideas down in this spreadsheet, including proposed statlines, special rules etc. We’ll be discussing these ideas on an ongoing basis in the Facebook chat.
When it comes time to start finalising rules, either for testing or making amendments following testing, we’ll have a group Skype call to dissect and discuss everything. Not all of us will make it onto each one, but there’s almost always at least 3 people on it (so that if two people disagree, a third one can make a judgement call). These used to be much easier to arrange when all RC members were based in the UK, but we’re now spread across three wildly different timezones. We still manage to find semi-convenient times to get together, though some of us turn up having just gotten out of bed while others are about to go to bed!
We’ll then pass on the decisions made on these calls to The Cabal for help with testing, refinement and feedback.
How we became RC members
When Mantic first announced the formation of the rules committees, they wanted people to apply to join. For Kings of War, the task was to write a short narrative campaign with 2-4 scenarios, a 2000 word limit but otherwise we were allowed to do what we wanted. They would be judging us on things like clarity of writing, quality of the rules presented, ability to stick to the games design concepts etc.
Of those apply, myself, Dan King and Matt Gilbert all had a bit of a leg up. We’d already worked extensively with Mantic on the previous Kings of War supplements and, in their minds, we had already proven ourselves capable.
We did think about compiling the “successful” applications into a PDF download, but that has sadly never really happened. I know for certain that my copy has been lost along the way and I’m sure others have lost theirs as well.
Since Mantic chose the five members of the Rules Committee, we’ve only had the one addition to the group; Jason. When Matt joined Mantic as a full time employee, it was clear that he would no longer have time to devote to the group or the game.
There wasn’t an application process for Jason to join. He was one of our playtesters in the Cabal and had demonstrated excellent reasoning and testing skills. We were also keen to introduce someone to the RC who wasn’t part of the same national community to avoid hive mind thinking, so someone from the USA was nearly a given. We discussed the potential candidates amongst the RC and put forward our list to Mantic with our reasons for selecting each candidate. In the end, Mantic agreed with our preference of Jason and he happily agreed when we approached him.
Now Jason spends his time answering rules queries and being told that the questioner would rather wait for a member of the RC to answer!
The skills we look for in RC candidates or Cabal members are those who are big fans of the game and have great knowledge of the rules and their design. Understanding of how the meta is currently shaping the community is a massive plus but overall it needs to be someone who can present their arguments and ideas in a logical and mature manner.
On a personal level
Being a member of the RC has been a rather interesting personal experience, to say the least! There have been some great times and some less than great times.
With the explosion in popularity of Kings of War, we’ve found ourselves become minor celebrities within a very large community. We’re regularly inundated with queries and conversations – nothing that we didn’t anticipate but they can be overwhelming at busy moments. Our words and opinions can be dissected. Something we mention off-hand can be brought up again many months later and quoted back to us.
The great side of this micro celebrity status is the travel. Quite early on main US tournament organisers extended an open invitation to any of the Rules Committee. Get to an airport in the same state as a tournament and they’ll arrange everything else – transport to/from the airport, a bed to bunk down in and we’d be inundated with beer the moment we arrive. Dan was the first to take up this offer and flew out to Texas for Lonewolf 2016.
Having seen how much he enjoyed his trip, I decided to get my first adult passport and soon flew to Minnesota for the Lady of the Lake GT, where TO Kris Kapsner decided to one up every single American hospitality stereotype. Putting me up for a full week and driving all over the state, including a 4 hour trek up to Canada and back just so I could get a Canada stamp on my passport! I was utterly amazed that a group of guys from Texas drove for 18 hours up to Minnesota just because I was going to that event!
In December I took a much shorter trip out to Brno, Czech Republic, for another Kings of War tournament. The Czechs and Poles there were all fantastic guys and girls and I had an incredible time (though Brno castle exhibits were a tad underwhelming…).
Has it all been good? Nope. Some of the others adjusted to this status much better than I. I’m often stubborn, can be grumpy and people often confuse my straightforward talking for rudeness. I didn’t do myself any favours early on by getting into silly arguments on the forums with people who hadn’t played the game but just insisted that what we needed to do, less than a month after sending the rulebook to print, was introduce random charges, individual casualty removal and overwhelmingly powerful spells.
It can also hurt to read what people are saying in what they assume is anonymity on the internet. From the criticisms of your hard work (done for free and at great time expense for yourself), to players making direct insults of you in another language (assuming you aren’t aware of the forums and don’t have google translate). The nickname “Autistic Nick” was not a high point of the last few years.
When I first started working with Alessio, I couldn’t understand why he was so reluctant to engage with the internet. Now I completely understand.
These things all come with the territory, of course. I do not regret being a member of the Rules Committee at all. We’ve done some fantastic work that we’re all very proud of. We’ve all played a significant role in shaping a game that we’re incredibly enthusiastic about. Travel has been a fantastic bonus as well and I really enjoy the friendships made. Hell, as I write this I’ve got less than a month until I’m a published author with the release of the Clash of Kings book – an opportunity I most certainly would not have had without RC membership.
Will I be an RC member forever? Not likely. The work is demanding at times. During the development of the CoK book, I rarely got to bed before midnight and had to juggle writing the book with ever decreasing deadlines with my day job. My country is also poised on the precipice of falling to fascism, my career is on the line, and in the near future I may be busy emigrating elsewhere. For now, I am pleased and proud to be a member of the team and hope to enjoy it for many years to come.