Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Dracula's America: Shadows of the West Miniature Wargame - Interview with Author Jonathan Haythornthwaite


Today we will be talking about the soon to be released gothic horror old west miniature wargame, Dracula's America: Shadows of the West by Jonathan Haythornthwaite and Osprey Games. Author Jonathan kindly agreed with an interview here on Wargame News and Terrain so prepare to venture into the mind of the author and the dark world of Dracula's America right now!


Which cool movies, games and books have inspired the background of Dracula's America: Shadows of the West and inspired you to create a miniature game set in the gothic horror Old West?

I began gaming at around 8 years old- like many people of my age it was the purchase of the original Heroquest game by GW and MB that set me on the slippery slope! Not long after this I wrote my first ever rules- an expansion for Heroquest, in fact! From there I progressed to Warhammer and Warhammer 40k, and again I ended up writing my own rules, army-lists and Scenario booklets to put my own spin on things. My Grandfather and I spent many weekends playing, with books and plant-pots placed under my Grandmother's best tablecloth to make hills and valleys, and it was these regular games that really got me into the hobby in a big way. 

Now my Grandfather was a huge fan of the Western genre, and my Grandmother would also rent out various horror films from the local library (without my parent's knowledge, I'll add!) for us to watch- so the usual post-game ritual was to either watch a Spaghetti Western or horror film. All these experiences combined meant that the 'Weird West' was always lurking somewhere in my mind! Since then I've sought out and been inspired by so many brilliantly creative works- from Universal Horror to the films of Sergio Leone, Sam Raimi and Tim Burton, to tabletop games such as Mordheim and Necromunda; they are just too numerous to list!

Fast-forward some 26 years, and now I get to see my ideas come to life- my Grandfather would have been over the moon by the whole thing, but unfortunately he passed away some years ago now... I've enjoyed the entire process of watching Dracula's America come to life, but I think the standout moment for me was when I started receiving the artwork that was to go into the book- the artist, RU-MOR, is incredibly talented and seemed to 'get' the feel of the game right from the outset- it's been an absolute joy seeing her bring the characters in my head to life!


Could you tell us some more about the Dracula's America: Shadows of the West universe and what truly makes the setting unique for gaming purposes?

Dracula's America is set in an alternate timeline, where the Civil War dragged on for 9 years and left America a ruined and depopulated land. I hope that people will appreciate the 'historical' grounding to the game (within the context of a world where Dracula and other supernatural beings exist, of course!), and enjoy seeing how characters and events from our real-world timeline fit into this gothic and distorted reality. I certainly enjoyed researching the history and then 'twisting' it! Unlike some other Weird West settings, there is no 'Steampunk' or super-science here- just the terrifying power of the supernatural and a good pair of shooting irons (preferably loaded with silver bullets)!

The game is announced as a skirmish miniature wargame with posse of around a dozen miniatures each, could you give us an idea of the requirements needed to play this game such as table size, dice involved, tokens, amount of scenery needed?

Dracula's America is a narrative-driven skirmish game that will accommodate between 2 and 8 players at a time, on a playing area between 2' x 2' and 4' x 4'. Any amount of terrain is fine, though like many games the more you have the better and more tactical your games will be! Players will need 6, 8 and 10-sided dice, plus a deck of ordinary playing cards each.

Could you give us a short insight in the game mechanics you have designed and integrated in the Dracula's America: Shadows of the West and that make the game play truly unique? And which of the mentioned game mechanics is your personal favorite?

The cards are used to determine the Activation sequence during a Turn, with each player drawing a Hand of cards equal to half the number of models they have in play. They then choose and simultaneously reveal a card from their Hand. The player with the highest value card (black cards are always resolved before red ones!) becomes Active and gets to make an Activation- this can either be a Solo Activation, where a single model Activates and can perform 2 Actions; or a Dual Activation where two models can make 1 Action each. This mechanic is probably my favourite, as it adds a little resource-management and poker-like bluffing to the game- very appropriate for the Old West!

All models have a Grit Rank, corresponding to one of the 3 dice types- Novices use a D6 while a Hero uses a D10. All dice rolls are made using a 'pool' of the appropriate dice, with situational modifiers adding or subtracting dice from the model's pool. The dice are then rolled, with each one scoring 5+ being a Success. This system is very intuitive, and rewards good positioning of your models!

The core rules will include six factions: Red Hand Coven Vampires, Twilight order Vampire Hunters, Native Skin walker Tribes, The Vodou Congregation The Diabolical Crossroad Cult and the Dark Confederacy, which of these factions is your personal favorite and for which reason?

Of the initial 6 Factions, my favourite keeps changing! Right now, and after seeing the brilliant models for them, my favourite is the Dark Confederacy with their thoroughly miserable-looking Confederate Revenants- but I'll always have a place in my heart for the giant were-beasts of the Skinwalker Tribes, and their fight to preserve the balance of nature against encroaching 'civillisation' and the corruption it brings!

Will there be rules for mounted miniatures, trains, stagecoaches and larger creatures in the core rules of Dracula's America: Shadows of the West or will these be covered in upcoming supplements?

Mounted models, dynamite, innocent bystanders and supernatural creatures of all kinds are in the book, with plans for stagecoach and train-based Scenarios in the future- possibly online or in magazines.

Will you be able to play game without any of the gothic horror influences as a straight forward wild west miniature wargame and if so will the rules be balanced used that way?

The game was designed to be modular, so if you wish you can play a straight-up Old West game or campaign without all the weirdness! In fact, I designed those rules first and then let them inform the weirder rules, rather than just adding them as an afterthought!

Which cool miniatures can we expect from the official Dracula's America: Shadows of the West miniature range by Northstar Miniatures and will each of the six starter factions receive official miniatures? 

The figure range accompanying the book is made by North Star, and uses the existing Artizan Designs range of Old West figures as it's 'core'. Each Faction will get it's own unique models however (such as the vampiric Broodkin of the Red Hand Covens), as well as the various creatures that can show up during a game (either as neutral NPCs or as Summoned creatures that can join a Posse) and Hired Guns such as the body-snatching Stitch-Doctor- I certainly haven't seen them all at this point (though I have seen a rather extensive list of planned models!), but I'm especially looking forward to the Jackalope! 

I have seen that a supplement named Dracula's America: Shadows of the West: Hunting Grounds is already been mentioned online, could you share some more information about the content and additional features the supplement will offer players?

The first supplement (if all goes well, this will be a trilogy!) for Dracula's America- Hunting Grounds- will focus in on the Indian Territory and the Mid-West. It will include expanded background that advances the timeline a year or two and an associated narrative campaign, along with spirit-creatures, new weapons (Gatling Guns!) and gear, new Spiritualism powers and two new Posses- the sinister Shadow Dragon Tong and the Forsaken- ragged remnants of the 7th Cavalry cursed with Lycanthropy during the Battle of Little Big Horn! Most exciting is the ability for models to pass between the physical realm and the spirit world (hence the title) during a game- making for some very interesting tactics!


If the launch of the Dracula's America: Shadows of the West and Dracula's America: Shadows of the West: Hunting Grounds is a huge success, have you already been thinking about new supplements and if so which extra factions and rules would they bring to the game?

I can't say too much at this point, but suffice to say that book 3 will follow a similar format to Hunting Grounds- I've actually been working on all three books simultaneously, to ensure the new background and rules all mesh together as smoothly as possible! 

Is there something more you would like to tell the readers of Wargame News and Terrain about Dracula's America: Shadows of the West or something else?

If Dracula's America is a success, then who knows what the future might hold (though I do have a few ideas- and other games!- still up my sleeve)...

Also looking forward in hearing and reading more about Dracula's America: Shadows of the West Miniature Wargame? Make sure to check The Lead Adventure Forum Thread with Jonathan here

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