Modiphius & The Future!

Modiphius founder Chris Birch talks about his vision of the future of gaming

A Bit of Background

Since it’s founding in 2012 Modiphius Entertainment Ltd has become a powerhouse on the gaming scene. Acting as creator, publisher and distributor Modiphius has a huge presence on UK Gaming scene. Modiphius supports over 20 systems, most of which are supported by beautiful miniatures, it’s worth checking them out here.

With the Elder Scrolls – A Call to Arms due for imminent release as well as a DUNE RPG forth-coming Modiphus is definitely worth keeping a close eye on. I’ll be publishing a review of the RPG tie-in to their massively successful Fallout Wasteland Warfare range soon. If you want to find out more about the Fallout range you can check our article here.

At the UK Games Expo this year I was lucky enough to get five minutes with Modiphius founder Chris Birch. At that point Elder Scrolls – A Call to Arms was the big focus. You can read that interview in full here. Chris gave us some great insight into what was coming for Elder Scrolls. However during the interview Chris made a passing comment about the future of gaming. Specifically how he saw co-operative game play as being the future of the gaming industry. I’ve been able to go back to Chris since then and ask him to elaborate on his vision

In what way do you feel that co-operative game play is the future of gaming?

You can see how co-op boardgames have become such a big hit on Kickstarter, and in retail, games like Pandemic introduced the notion of co-operative gameplay to an even wider audience. Classically boardgames, for most families, come with the threat of falling out or sibling arguments and I think this new wave of co-op design helps address and intrigue a wider audience – just the idea of not competing is very attractive, let alone for a more hardened ‘tabletop’ gaming audience. I think it’s a real breath of fresh air and not everyone enjoys the adversarial nature of many games. 
Jon, our wargaming dept head has the running joke that in miniature games two people go to play a battle and one walks away happy…
Co-op by it’s nature also promises solo play and that also appears to a very large and growing demographic. The tabletop audience is massively expanding – remember you have gamers from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 20’s – if they didn’t have families already, the younger players have been getting them and that typically comes with reduced time for gaming, or moving away from usual gaming groups. All this means it’s harder to get a game on a table with a bunch of friends. So the promise of well designed solo gameplay means you can still get that fix when you need it. 
At the same time the younger demographic is seeing such a wide range of gaming experiences, many of which are co-op and you only have to look at the number of kickstarters that end up adding solo or co-op rules by demand. It’s a huge movement. 
Now add in the growth of app supported games like Lord of the Rings, Imperial Assault, Descent and Mansions of Madness from FFG which further support co-op play with big brand releases and CMON’s recent partnership with Xplored promising all manner of app supported game content and you can see this is going to be a big growth area. 

Do you feel that competitive game play limits the hobby or systems in any way?

Competitive play is never going to go away – the big titles like Settlers of Catan, X-Wing, and all the big tournament games from 40k to Warmachine etc show that there’s consistently lots of demand for people being able to prove their creds on the battlefield for sometimes huge prizes.
However competitive play demands strictly clear and rigid rules. There’s little room for true narrative or storyline. So whilst I don’t see it’s limiting the hobby, it’s very much servicing a demand, many companies are so driven by servicing the competitive tournament market that they’re missing the growth in the audience that wants to tell a story and not play for points, but play together and win or lose against the game. 
One of the key things about Pandemic is you’ll likely lose several games, but you’ll have a great time doing it and be left thinking damn if only I’d done X or Y maybe we’d have won, let’s try again! I think miniature games are now going to see a renaissance in thinking about how stories are told on the tabletop where winning isn’t the only way to enjoy the experience. 

A co-operative gaming style means that either one player has to be the “baddy” or players have to work against some form of AI ruleset.  Modiphius has already created the AI Handbook to allow players in the Fallout:Wasteland Warfare Game to work together against an AI opponent.  Does Modiphius have plans to further enhance this ruleset for Elder Scrolls: A Call to Arms and any future games/licences Modiphius may be working on?

Yes we’ve introduced a simplified version of the Fallout: Wasteland Warfare AI system for the Elder Scrolls:  Call to Arms core box- and plan to expand on this to flesh it out in to a more rich and in depth system in a forthcoming campaign box. The AI system is actually a great tool box and we’re already planning to roll this out for other games we have, but also to release other generic versions for use with any game system. It’s the first stage of our AI development and we plan to keeping working on it to constantly push the boundaries of what’s possible on the table with elegant mechanics, without creating a hugely complex series of rules. 

The initial press release for Elder Scrolls: A Call to Arms mentions narrative game play and in your recent community survey narrative game play is mentioned as one of the options for players to choose when opting for preferred game play styles.  Do you have any plans to create an AI ruleset that will grow with players outside of the tabletop gaming element e.g. when building a fort or community will there be increased chance of raiders/bandits/random events etc. ?

Yes it’s not just about AI rules though, part of the fun of the co-operative experience (or solo) is the story unfolding in front of you, and being able to grow your characters and followers. We’re working on campaign expansions for both Fallout and Elder Scrolls – specifically with Elder Scrolls it will see on-going quests linked from game to game that help tell your story and unlock really great in game moments and bonuses, the development of your settlement or fort and events  around  it which might include you and me teaming up with our Stormcloaks to defend my fort against an Imperial assault, or something more sinister. Maybe we’d play a joint campaign building a settlement together or I might elect to play on my own and see various events happen to my characters and settlement before our next game together. We might play a vs game where the results of my experiences possibly affects what I can or can’t bring to the table but we’re still playing to the same points totals. Alternatively we might next elect to join forces to hunt down a particularly dangerous set of creatures and a mystery that’s threatening one of our heroes. The possibilities are endless and I’m a big believer in telling a story through miniatures games. Co-op games allows you to do just that – you can focus on what would be really cool, what would drive the story, and less on the points or balance. What would leave you discuss the game and the crazy things that happened for days to come? Or challenge you to play again and try a different strategy? 
We’re constantly developing new scenarios for Fallout and Elder Scrolls will be no different, I  think a lot of miniatures games miss the point on this and just have those generic battle missions that are fine if you’re just playing for points. Historical games have been playing more narrative battles for years – they re-create famous battles that weren’t balanced, to see if X could win this time instead. I love the idea of challenging players to work together – to fight for that narrative climax that is so memorable. A battle should be a tool to tell a story, not the focus. 

Will we see complete narrative “campaigns” released for Elder Scrolls: A Call to Arms?

I think I’ve partly answered that above but yes – we’re planning  a series of releases that will be encompassing storylines through a series of missions. 

So there you have it, Modiphius goes from strength to strength and definitely has a lot to offer us in the coming years.

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