Monday, 7 March 2011

Apple descend upon the miniatures world...

Welcome to an alternate universe. It's rather like our own except that in a giant boardroom, out in California, the corporate juggernaut that is Apple have decided to enter the miniatures market with their own miniatures and associated wargame and accessories. Now, what would that be like?

Truth be told I'm something of an Apple junkie. I'm not going to defend the company as being perfect but I like their products and am writing this on my trusty iMac. Anyway, the point of this article is that Apple are THE company success story in the world these days. Theirs are the must-have products and Apple have a rather singular way of doing things. My personal life ethos boils down to 'elegance through simplicity' and this is a description that could be applied to Apple as well (might explain why I'm so fond of their products). Apple have a very specific thought process, design style and way of doing business. We'll ignore the internal politics and practices regarding competition as it's not the point of this article. Here I will simply run with the idea of wondering what the Apple product would be...

Pre painted or paintable model kit? - The first thing that would come up is the idea of pre-painted minis. It's quickly thrown out as Apple are always trying to be cutting edge and there's currently not a system in place to allow pre-painted miniatures that are beautiful. It falls back on 'if we can't do it amazingly then we don't do it'.

Genre - I think it's safe to say that Apple would end up on the side of releasing a Science Fiction game rather than fantasy or real-world. Real-world is difficult to defend IP so other companies would easily offer support product. Not so good for world-conquering plans. Then it's just fantasy or sci fi. Sci fi fits the design aesthetic for Apple and they would also look at the largest success stories of the market: 40K and Warmachine. Both are fantasy tinged Sci Fi games (it's certainly guns and technology). Apple would go a little more purely sci fi as it both plays to their company image and differentiates them from the main competition without losing the ability to tap into the same marketplace. So, it's Sci-fi.

Style - As said, this would be a more pure sci-fi so in actuality closer to Infinity than 40K but Apple wouldn't take the Anime influence and would go for a more western vibe (that's 'the' west not the old west). The visual design would be always considered towards clean lines and carefully thought-out design where there's a level of plausibility though not at the expense of a more fun aspect.

Miniatures design style - Realistic versus exaggerated? This would take some thought on their part but Apple's strength has always been in asking the right questions. They would quickly realise that they are designing gaming pieces and that a level of exaggeration in styles makes the figures more durable and practical for game usage. Concept artists are briefed that their designs should take this into account and avoid areas that would be fragile on a finished mini. There's an immediate thought that the illustrations should reflect the miniatures and so a future without 'fiddly bits' is designed.

Production - Say hello to injection moulded plastic. Apple are designing from the ground up and have a decent budget. A clear way to start is to say that everything will be plastic. Unlike other companies the business model is not to use metal, resin or any other materials. Injection moulded plastic or nothing.

Game type - Looking at this as a start up the decision is made to make the game more of a skirmish level game of small unit actions. Something of the scale of early Warmachine or the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game designed around 20-30 models per side. Scaleable in either direction though not really designed for mass combat. As the range develops, the average game size is pushed upwards with an optimum level of around 50 models per side.

The rules - We return to elegance through simplicity. There's an immediate push towards a very lean rules set. Easy to learn and with a lot of tactical depth. Thoughts turn to a rulebook less than 50 pages long and still with enough fluff and visual falir to be beautiful. This would be a culture shock to some but one of Apple's strengths is the ability to take something that appears to be a downside and rebrand it as 'this is a better way to do things'. The rules are available in print form and the concise nature of the rules means an app version of the rules for iPad and iPhone is very useful. A few thoughts are vented towards using a computer to run the mechanics of the game but are shot down in favour of dice and physical interaction being the appropriate 'user interface'. In the actual writing of the rules Apple poach Jervis Johnson from Games Workshop. Jervis is a master of lean rules and tactical depth. Thoughts turn to his system Epic 40,000 and the legend of his turning up at the GW studio with the first version of the rules on something like five pages. And apparently it worked very well...

So, there we have the first part of my 'Apple does miniatures' article. Right now I have plans for a couple more that should arrive in the next day or two. Next up I get to the meat and potatoes of this idea: the miniatures range! That's an interesting one. Then I'll move onto other accessories.

One little point before I sign off. I know any discussion that involves Apple tend to turn into an argument on whether they're saints or the second coming of Satan. Please don't let us get into that. This is purely an exercise in applying their design ethos towards minis rather than computers and media devices.


  1. well their designer is english - jony ives - i know jes has an appreciation of his clean lines etc - i also work via I-mac plus i would not be without mi -I-pod - tam tam would have us downloading miniatures into home printers im sure - look forward to seeing where you go with this - I-minis ?????

  2. Not only is Mr Ives english, but a fellow essex boy. Possibly one of the most influential designers on the planet and a good reason to rank 'design' alongside 'art' rather than it being considered the poor relation.

  3. I'm an enthusiastic iStuff consumer but it wasn't until I got my first Mac Book Pro less than a year ago. You can't but wonder how they (Apple) have invented some of the fanciest yet simplest ways to control your devices.

    What comes to the aesthetic attributes, well, some of their stuff are a bit awkward and maybe too artistic (for example Apple JBL Creature set) for most of the homes and not my kind of stuff. Most of the stuff is still in all their simplicities very beautiful.

    Nokia laughed to Apple when they introduced their first version of the iPhone, but look at it now! Now Nokia and Microsoft (two very different kind of companies) are banding together to (try) take down that feared beast that's reshaping mobile phone markets for real.

    All in all, it could be very interesting to see how mr. Jobs (and the group behind him) would re-invent and polish some of the basic tabletop gaming mechanics. Could they really challenge the big ones?

  4. It's the attention to detail which makes Apple as good as they are, and that includes the wonderful packaging...always remember opening my first iMac around 13 years ago...agog at the way everything was put in the box. Even though the packaging has slimmed a little bit (god bless recycling), it is still without equal in design and that care. Think thke closest equivalent I've seen in the mini world is Adam Poots and Kingdom Death - very stylish. Completely uneccessary, but I guarantee it's a part of his success.