Relicblade Vanguard and Kickstarter Plans

Metal King Studio, as you may know, is a 100% independent miniatures and illustration studio run by me, Sean Sutter. You are probably also aware that it is a brave new world for creators. With tools like the Internet and Kickstarter it is possible to Shia LaBeouf your dreams. 

  Do it, just do it! Don’t let your dreams be dreams. Yesterday you said tomorrow. So just do it! Make your dreams come true. Just do it...

Do it, just do it! Don’t let your dreams be dreams. Yesterday you said tomorrow. So just do it! Make your dreams come true. Just do it...

I wanted to make a miniatures game, because I love miniatures games. I was staring down a long list of challenges, but I reminded myself that those challenges are gatekeepers that the artist I want to become has to pass through. I don't want to go into too much detail about my adventures so far since that can wait for another time. I want to talk to you about Relicblade Vanguard.

Relicblade Vanguard, is going to be a pre-Kickstarter release of Relicblade: Adventure Battle Game. I planted the wheat, I harvested the wheat, I milled the four, I baked the bread, and I want to share my bread with a few good friends before I open my bakery on Kickstarter. When you buy the Relicblade Vanguard set you are like a Kickstarter backer that gets the goods day one. If you buy the game now, I will make sure you have access to purchasing rewards and stretch goals that we hopefully unlock.

I've done everything I can to balance my dreams for Relicblade with my extremely limited budget. The initial game only has eleven miniatures, and the good guys only field 3 characters in a standard game! The miniatures are only part of the expenses that go into making something like this. The game needs rules, cards, and tokens too. Without money from Kickstarter backers I can't afford to print those elements.

I have always planned on offering the rules as a PDF. I think the market is going that way for rule sets. Some games offer beautiful lavishly illustrated hard-bound volumes that are amazing. But I don't consider that part of Relicblades MVP (minimum viable product). Maybe 2nd edition will have hard plastic miniatures and a lush hardback dream-book with short stories and every good thing.

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The cards are an element that I've agonized over. I made 41 unique illustrations for the wave 1 deck, and I probably shouldn't give those away for free if I value my work. I really want to print those, but that is hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars I don't have! You see the dilemma I'm facing. So here's the plan: I will offer all of the cards as a PDF download that you will have to print and cut out, but when I get enough money to print them I will offer a premium deck.

Basically, you can expect a Relicblade Kickstarter in early 2016. But if you're ready to play an awesome indie game with your little brother this Christmas, sign up to fight in the van'!


Your Friend,

Sean Sutter

World Building: Relicblade Terrain

 Ancient Aqueducts 

Ancient Aqueducts 

Relicblade: Adventure Battle Game offers two unique qualities that make building terrain extra fun. First, as a small scale skirmish game it can be played on areas as small as 2'x2'. Second, the game puts an emphasis on adventure. Instead of needing vast battle fields for armies to traverse, characters run around in ancient tombs and ruined castles.

In tabletop battle games there has always been a conflict between dynamic terrain features and playability. Players find that forests are better without trees, buildings are a waste of space, and even simple hills are cause for cursing. Some Warmachine players have recently transitioned into using completely 2d terrain for these very reasons.

I have always wanted an excuse to build extremely dynamic terrain, but filling a 6'x4' table and having friends opt out of playing with those features have been major barriers. Relicblade terrain doesn't need to accommodate whole regiments of soldiers, so stairs, battlements, and bridges are all fair game. Mordheim terrain should work really well too. Mordheim has to be one of my all-time favorite games. (I bet if you're interested in Relicblade you probably loved it too) Enough Talk! Let's build some terrain.

To start you should probably do some sketches of the build you have in mind. In Relicblade players deploy in opposite corners, and the player that deploys first can choose from any of the four corners. Take a moment to consider how characters will get around, and how battles could play out. If you've played video games with "deathmatch" maps you can probably imagine what I'm talking about. Consider how infinite games of Team-Fortress, Halo, or League of Legends can play out different ways on the same map. There should be more than one exciting choke point to keep things fresh. I'm sure there is a ton of theory behind level design you can look up on ye olde internets.

You'll also need to buy some Foamular along with materials for the board. I won't go into extreme detail about the exact material you should buy, suffice to say I made six or more trips to the hardware store to build the table I'm showing here. Get a hot glue gun, snap blade, paints, glue, sand, et cetera!

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First, I used a 2'x3' piece of poplar plywood with some 1x2 pine. You can easily use hardboard for the top but you should add extra supports to prevent warping. I had poplar on hand. There are great tutorials online about building cradled panels. A cradled panel will be a lot lighter weight than most Gaming Tables I've seen, plus you can hang it on your wall as art and for storage. Also, I'm using a 2'x3' board to make a 2'x2' play area with 6" of space on each end so players have space for their cards, dice, beer, and tokens. 

This stage is really exciting and frustrating! You need to take your imagination and give it shape. Start by blocking in the main forms like hills, cliffs, and walls. Before you glue it down make sure things make some sense. For this table I'm going to fill the moat with lava, so it's really important that all four table corners can get into the castle without being forced to risk falling in lave. For this map specifically you can take the long way into the castle, or risk jumping from rock to rock to get there faster. Once you feel ok, just start gluing stuff together. You can also start using a dull pencil to draw details like stonework into the foam. Use your knife collection to cut, break, and shape the foam into your image. It's a good idea to keep some figures on hand to make sure bases fit on walkways and can stand on stairs. 

Since I'm making a lava moat I used latex caulk to create a textured layer. I looked at photos of lava to imitate the way magma flows a little bit. Once the build was complete I primed the board. NOTE: DON'T SPRAY PAINT YOUR FOAM CREATION! The aerosol will melt the foam. Once I covered all the foam in a primer I was able to spray paint it.

Next I used Utrecht heavy body acrylic paints to start adding color to the terrain. I used Payne's Gray for the lava rock and scorched castle. Payne's Gray has a blue hue to it, so I like to use it more than a black. The blue hue is a complimentary color to the orange of the lave, so the choice is obvious. Right!?

Painting the lava was the most advanced part. I started with a white base then worked my way into redder hues. I just tried to imitate lava a bit. Real lava doesn't settle into castle moats, so there is a bit of imagination in there too.

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I put some eyelet screws and a wire on the back of the panel so I can hang it on my wall. I stuck it up in my studio between an original Hannah Jacobs painting and a unicorn by my daughter.

The opportunity to create small 2'x2' game boards in any fantasy setting is pretty exciting to me. I haven't decided for sure, but I think I want to make an underground board next. I'll experiment with a central tomb or ritual area with tunnels and doors throughout. Who knows! Anything is possible.

As always, Thanks for checking this out. I hope Relicblade inspires you to make the board you've always dreamt about, but never got around to.

Your Friend,

Sean Sutter

Card Design

I, for one, really like having cards available to reference rules. Back in my day we spent 8+ hours on a single game of Warhammer, and at least half that time was spent flipping through massive rulebooks. The other half was spent arguing and high-fiveing. I miss those days.

In Relicblade: adventure battle game Characters, Upgrades, and Relics have cards that describe their various attributes. This past couple of weeks I've been working on the rule-book, but in a game that uses cards only the core rules are in the book while the rest live on the cards. Yesterday and today I've had the pleasure of working on the card designs. I'm going for an evocative hand drawn style on these cards even though all the individual assets are actually clean vector graphics.

I'm a big fan of simplicity, so getting everything on the character cards was a balancing act. That said, I feel pretty good about the outcome. Design is kind of like a game. You have information that you need to convey, and at the same time you have specific constraints. It's a bunch of fun.

The Upgrade Cards are pretty much always used in conjunction with a character card. So making sure the design works well with the character card was the main consideration. I decided to stick the action bar at the bottom so It could easily stack under the Character Cards.

In the game, Relics are upgrades the characters can pick up over the course of the battle. Because Relics are unique and powerful I didn't want them to be hidden away beneath a character card. Your opponent should be aware of which character is running around with a reality altering device, and what said device does! You can see how the cards work together below.

The last step was to create a key to reading the cards. Creating a million-billion layers in photoshop I was able to put together the Card Anatomy illustration. These components are still in beta, but I'm proud to give you this little insight into Relicblade!

Be Safe Friends,

Sean Sutter

A time to write rules


Greetings Friends!

 Notes and edits.  

Notes and edits.  

I've been working on the Relicblade rules booklet this week. Role-playing and Miniatures games have a proud history of lavishly illustrated volumes. And one day it would be nice to produce something like that, but for now a concise little booklet will serve. 


 Rough draft movement example  

Rough draft movement example  

As a one-man studio, any time I'm working on one thing I'm neglecting the other. Wave 1 of Relicblade will be out soon, but the game needs Wave 2, and those figures aren't going to sculpt themselves!


 Pigmin skull. I love this kinda stuff.  

Pigmin skull. I love this kinda stuff.  

Rest assured, friends. I did decide to do a bunch of little decorative illustrations to sprinkle throughout the booklet. I can't pass up that opportunity. Those weird little corner illuminations were always my favorite part of those old Warhammer books. And of course as an overly visual person, example illustrations are a must. 

As always, thanks for your support!

Sean Sutter

Metal King Studio

(any rules pages shown are rough drafts)