Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Apple's Wargame - The miniatures...

Yesterday I wrote about the idea of Apple producing a minis game. Not something that will ever happen of course but it's fun to postulate what such a product would be. I've already talked about the wide decisions of the range and now we get to, as I put it before, the meat and potatoes: the minis themselves.

Forces - Despite Apple having huge financial muscle they don't want to jump into the market with a huge, huge range with loads of armies. Questions are asked as to what is the optimum number of forces to initially be available. One is obviously no good and two is the bare minimum to allow for gaming beyond same-force setups. But two is dull and three becomes the realistic minimum; it offers more variety in games and a wider range. It's decided that it should go one step further and there should be four forces. This is the level where variety and choice start to open up without being an overwhelming project as a manufacturer. This leads into...

Product range and size - We enter an area where Apple think rather differently to most companies. Apple do not have large product ranges and like to stick to a small number of items. If you look at their computer ranges they are very small. Apple continue this thought in their miniatures range. They want a small and concise miniatures range and settle upon initially offering two plastic sets per force for a total of eight miniature products. This thought is enough to give many of their workers with experience of the minis market heart attacks due to the lack of product. Apple, as Apple do, have other ideas and are thinking in different ways to most manufacturers.

What are the forces - Apple look to archetypes for their ranges. It's been decided that the game universe will be based on humans and evolutionary offshoots of the species. The four forces are...

The Knights - Humans in Powered Armour. It didn't take much for Apple to note that Space Marines ar 'it' in the minis world and will be making their versions though they go for a different vibe and avoid the superhuman idea favouring an idea more like Iron Man but carrying guns.

The Evolved - Humans who have become ageless and developed their minds and skills (an elf archetype). A fragile force who are all specialists and good at what they do. Small numbers backed up by floating robotic servants.

The Muscle - Barbaric 'roided hulks (an Orc archetype). Lots of hand to hand weapons and limited firepower. Hard to kill and big, chunky figures.

The Workers - High gravity humans (dwarf archetype). No beards... These guys are strong but slow but favour impressive technological weapons. They have a hold back and pound the enemy from a distance vibe.

It's thought these four forces will each play in a significantly different way and form an excellent core for the game.

An Apple Miniatures Range (one force) - As said, each force will have two plastic sets. This seems initially limiting but Apple are approaching in a much more modular fashion. In concept design it's decided that each force will have a tight visual style; a uniform if you will and this means modularity becomes yet easier. The boxes will break down into trooper box and specialist box.

Trooper Box - Rather than a double or tripple sprue with, say, ten troops on Apple go for a single sprue with three multipart troops. Probably body, legs, arms, head, weapon. Multiple weapon options are given though they do not push for three of everything as space is limited and they don't want to waste any with duplicates. Instead the idea is pushed that you get multiple sprues in a box and that the box doesn't get you one unit, it makes several. If a unit is three to five, the box contains five sprues allowing three to five complete units to be built. You can't build all with the same weapons but Apple will push this as promoting variety in your forces and encouraging trading for parts.

Specialist box - Another single sprue with parts to upgrade to several specialist figures. One of each type though they will still be based upon the same component types as the troopers allowing you to use the extra legs, bodies, heads and so on here for extra variety. There will also be a few non-standard bits here. Some floating robots for the Evolved and extra armour to plug onto the Knights for a heavy version. The Muscle get some extra-roided huge torsos. As design has decided that all Muscle weapons are wielded single handed these remain compatible with regular arms. The Workers get an anti-grav bike though torso and heads are still swappable. This box contains a single sprue of the specialist upgrades and two of the trooper sprues for the base parts. A point is made about you ending up with a few spare guns left from the troop sprues which can feed back into your basic units.

Between the two boxes you should easily have enough variety for small opposing forces.

Price point - Apple consider that they always produce premium product and never worry about being the cheapest. Games Workshop are the current premium product that has most in common with what they are doing and prices are set accordingly. All boxes are set at $40


Stage one - Oddly enough, Apple produce a blister range. They call these Bolt-Ons. Each Bolt-On blister contains a small plastic sprue with extra parts on it. Sometimes they are a single new figure (using the same modular system) and sometimes they are upgrade parts such as extra guns. After a few complaints about basic weaponry being at a premium a basic weapons sprue is made available for the armies and one is dropped into the basic trooper box. It's also available as a Bolt-On. Apple start to introduce character parts to upgrade models and the game begins to evolve into a more traditional wargame. Bolt-Ons are $7

Stage two - Taking a nod from War Machine, each race gets a new plastic kit for a larger specialist war machine or similar. The Knights get a Walker, the Evolved get a flying Hunter-Killer, the Muscle get an Uber-Mutant strain and the Workers get a Gun Emplacement. Each kit comes with multiple build options.

Stage three - Invasion. A big thing has been made of the human-centric universe of the game so a big thing is made when they introduce another army. Either an alien race or some kind of extra-dimensional 'beyond space' threat...

I'm getting vaguer and vaguer as I go on and further from initial product. I think you get the idea. So, this is a rough version of what I think the Apple miniatures range would be. To be fair, I'm sure their process would have been a lot longer than my brainstorming over the last 36 hours and making a lot of it up while I'm writing but hopefully I'm thinking in a somewhat Applesque way. I kind of like that the above product range would be quite extensive in possibility but would work very well with a basic rack system for a retailer. By the end of stage two you have three plastic boxes per force, a rulebook and a small number of blisters. Quite easy to plan a rack system for. Of course tomorrow I'll put the cat amongst the pigeons and talk about what else would come alongside this stuff...

And a final note here. I'm pretty sure the designers would come up with better force names than Knights, Evolved, Muscle and Workers. They'd probably come up with a nice name for the game as well. I think my brain is too busy with ideas for the physical nature of the product line to think about decent names...


  1. you should be doing such steve - not in plastic i think because of costs - put your ideas into practice ......

  2. You know I genuinely think that metal costs have risen so much that it's largely impractical for gaming figures now.

  3. I am interested to see how the Mcvey's do with their miniature range and game system - Section Wars.Their range is in metal but the basic core range plan and the look and feel of the system is similar to what you have outlined.

    You mention that producing metal figures for gaming is now largely impractical due to the material costs involved pushing the prices up. At the moment it seems that premium plastic models (GW,and PP) are not too dissimilar to the price of metal figures that are produced.

  4. I have read the two blogs and found them quite amusing I'm wondering where they will aim their annual updates. I mean we're now on the Iphone 4 and they seem to upgrade it every year so my question is do they update the i-mini's each year or do they update the i-wargame?

    Another point I'd like to make is about plastic mini's in general and this stems from a thread that Undave started on WAMP about Wargames Factory designing Mini sprues (http://www.wamp-forum.com/VB4/showthread.php?6467-The-latest-quot-great-idea-quot-from-Wargames-Factory...). I know that material PP use can be ground down and used again. If a huge company like Apple got involved would we see the invent of an even more environmentaly friendly material?

  5. It did occur, during my writing these posts, that the choice of subject was rather similar to Sedition Wars. Tis true about plastics that they are often nearly metal cost but it depends on the product in hand. The big kits are much more practical in plastic. Plus, with metal prices doing what they are right now I think price rises will be everywhere again soon and the trend has not ended.

    Apple do seem to care a great deal about green products (whether that be due to actual concern or just PR isn't a major issue). I think there could be a technology push towards plastic moulding that automatically removes components and recycles the sprue material immediately making for much smaller packaging. The theory is sound for this to work but in practice is another issue of course.

  6. Oh, and there's the yearly update of game thing. There's no real reason to update rules in the same way as iphones and the like. They are updated to stay in line with state of the art technology whereas rules are rules. GW update on a roughly four year cycle and I think much of it is about offering new and exciting minis in a box rather than updating the rules (though it's a good excuse to give them a spit an polish).