Interview – David Freeman, Cipher Studios

I recently had a chance to talk with Dave Freeman of Cipher Studio. Cipher picked up Hell Dorado and has begun releasing it in English.

TE – For those that don't know what's your role with Cipher Studios? Could you provide some background on the company and your own experience in game development?

DF – I am the COO and Design/Development Manager at Cipher Studios. I spend most of my time doing scheduling, management of remote freelancers, editing, co-ordination of translation, and development of games/rules. I have also done our web design so far, meager as it is. Cipher Studios was founded in January of 2006 with Anima Tactics as its first product. I joined up in 2009 and we have been working to bring great gaming entertainment to the public since. As to my experience in game development, I worked at Sabertooth Games, a division of Games Workshop, for about five years. While there I managed organized play, was the lead developer on the Lord of the Rings Tradeable miniatures game, was the lead designer/developer on the Ultimate Fighting System CCG, made card sets for WarCry, the warhammer fantasy CCG, and the Horus Heresy and Dark Millennium incarnations of the Warhammer 40k CCG, as well as working on other unreleased game products. I have been a gamer since I was in grade school and have played most types of hobby games from RPG's to chit based strategy games. My favorite genre's are CCG's and table top war games.

TE – Hell Dorado seems to be picking up steam, do you have any updates as to when the rules will be released in the US?

DF – The finished layout files for the English book have been sent to the printer in the last few days. I hesitate to name any concrete date that we will have printed copies at this point, but it is off being printed right now!

TE – I've never played the French version of the game, but have oogled the minis for a long time. Are there going to be any significant changes to the ruleset? How comprehensive are the quick start rules, they seem to be a solid starting point for the game?

DF – We haven't made any significant changes to the rules system. The system that was in place is quite good, and I saw no reason to reinvent the wheel. The quick start rules are pretty comprehensive they give the basics of how combat and abilities work, anything that was missing is technical clarification and more complicated special rules. The special abilities section was written to only cover the figures that are in the starters for the game. The quick start rules have worked so far at teaching players the basics of the game, which was their goal. I am planning on making a PDF out of the complete English rules and scenarios sections and posting it at some point so players can easily refer to it as well.

TE – It seems as though the minis are slowly being released with the starter boxes and a few blisters available at the moment. Are there plans to ramp up the release of models, do you have a tentative release schedule?

DF – We are planning to do 5 releases a month for the foreseeable future. We have gotten a little backed up due to technical difficulties and getting some materials printed, but we seem to have most of that straightened out at this point. In the rest of this month and April you should see these figures hitting distribution ...

• Great Damned On of Wrath
• Saurav-Geet
• Blessed Warriors (2 in a blister)

• Sara Zingaresce (With 2 lemures)
• Blade Master, Hybrid
• Infernal Ambassador
• Retiarius
• Thirty Coins
• Dibbukim (2 in a blister)

• Lemure Pack B (3 in a blister)
• Husaym al Din
• Blades for Hire (2 in a blister)
• Damned Rank and File (3 in a blister)
• Arquebusers (2 in a blister)
• Succubus
• Jaws of the Deep
• Pillar of the Faith, Halberd

This is to catch up on the back up that I talked about earlier.

TE – What games do you currently play? How have they influenced your design?

DF – Well of course I play Anima Tactics and Hell Dorado quite a bit. I also play Warhammer 40,000, Space Hulk, Dominion, Dust Tactics, and Acquire fairly regularly. I own lots of games and it can be a challenge to play them all with any kind of regularity. On the professional note, I try and determine what makes any game I play fun, not necessarily just for me, so that I can bring things of that nature into my own work.

TE – What's your favorite model in the Hell Dorado range? Anima Tactics?

DF – Currently my favorite figures are Vincenzo Maculano de Fiorenzuola for Hell Dorado, and Marchosias for Anima Tactics.

TE – Cipher seems to be a fairly small company, do you think that makes thing more challenging or do you feel a leaner company keeps things running smoother?

DF – It really depends. In some situations being small allows you the agility to adapt and address issues. In others it means you only have limited resources and must make and execute realistic and achievable plans.

TE – How much of the original art from the French version of Hell Dorado will be in the new book? Is there much new material?

DF – For the most part we have kept the book almost exactly the same. It hasn't seemed to be a huge priority to develop brand new art when many players have not seen everything that was in the original book. We have started new asset development, but those are to be used in new releases and later books.

TE – Does Cipher have big plans for GenCon this year, if so can you share any details?

DF – We are currently discussing what we will be doing at Gen Con this year, unfortunately our plans aren't concrete yet so I can't share them.

TE – Is there anything else you'd like to share?

DF – Thank you for the opportunity to talk to you and your interest. I hope you, and all of the miniatures enthusiasts out there, enjoy Hell Dorado as much as I have!