Today’s guest is Miles Holmes. Miles is the designer of Road / Kill: Ultimate Car Combat, one of the first Canadian projects to appear on Kickstarter.
GDC: Give us an overview of your game and how it’s played.
Miles: Road/Kill is a table top miniatures war game featuring futuristic car combat. It’s played with N scale miniatures with 2-5 players in about an hour or less. It features anticipation as a primary ingredient, challenging players to set their actions simultaneously at the beginning of the turn so they can see how well they’ve anticipated one another when it plays out.
GDC: What innovative mechanic or creative idea distinguishes your game from others?
Miles: We have two tools we feel innovate. In order to support the anticipation mechanic, you can set your actions for a turn quickly and secretly with a tool we call the Command Box. It is essentially a four windowed pillbox with a D6 in each window. These four dice can quickly set your plans for the turn, then be closed to keep them secret. We innovate in allowing our game to be played without a grid, on any table or terrain surface. All that is required is a tool we call the Maneuver Template. It is clear gridded sheet 6”x6” and is a swiss army knife of sorts, used to facilitate all possible maneuvers allowed in the game, measurement for ranged attacks and also has AOE weapon markers for various attack types.
GDC: Tell us about the spark or inspiration for this game.
Miles: Years ago I enjoyed playing a car combat game called Car Wars. Although it had many good ideas, it was bogged down with too many simulation style rules, lacked miniatures and setting-wise felt rather flat to me. More recently, I became enamored with Warhammer 40,000, with it’s many armies and flavourful setting. It occurred to me that I might try to design a lean car combat game with cool miniatures and characterful factions. Sort of a mix of the best thing from games like these, and even a few others I’ve played over the years.
GDC: Let’s talk about the design process. Tell us a bit about the iterations the game has gone through and the refinements you’ve made along the way.
Miles: The game design really began early in March this year. I have a few highly placed friends in miniatures gaming, and as the idea formed, I bounced it off of them. The encouragement I got led me here. As of July, we had a first draft of the rulebook, which we sent out with pen and paper kits to try playing it with. I’m now working on the second draft based on feedback I’ve received since July, and it will be ready for October 9. It’s my plan to send that to backers if we fund for a two month period of beta testing. The third draft rules will go to print.
GDC: What has been your biggest challenge in designing this game?
Miles: It’s not cheap to make this vision, and I’m just one guy. We set out to make the best car combat miniatures that have ever been made, and partnered with world class sculpting talent and production to do it. Our sculptors have produced some of the finest miniatures available from games like Dystopia Wars, Warmachine and Firestorm Armada. However, it costs to do this, and I’m the little guy amongst bigger players. There are many campaigns on kickstarter run by established brands like Coolminiornot, who are able to front many of the starting costs themselves. This has set up pricing expectations with the Kickstarter crowd I can’t match. Not yet, anyways.
GDC: Let’s shift gears and talk about you. How did you get into game design?
Miles: Well, as a player since I was very young, I suppose. Board games and video games beyond count, over the years they tend to stick in your head. As you play certain games over and over you really begin to break down how they work and how you could improve or change them. Out of school, I took what art talent I had to work in animated TV shows, but within a year I was drawn to working in the video game industry, based on the interests of my childhood. My first job in games was back in 1995, and I’m still going today. I’ve worked on some really memorable projects in that time, including designing a car combat franchise, Full Auto for Sega, then spending time with their Mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog in a DS RPG with Bioware. This then led me to work on Bioware’s Mass Effect franchise, which is an experience I’ll never forget.
GDC: What is your greatest moment as a game designer?
Miles: I remember when we launched the first Full Auto for Xbox 360. While it was never the big seller that Mass Effect was, I pretty much worked my fingers to the bone getting it out the door. It was also the first game I made that you could play multiplayer on Live. When I was playing with other people out there, who had no idea who I was, and heard them laugh shout or taunt over the headset, I think that’s got to be just about the best feeling.
GDC: Tell us a little bit about your life outside of game design and gaming: family? work? other interests?
Miles: I work as a Lead Designer at Gameloft Montreal, my family is all in Ottawa and that’s pretty much where I spend most of my time. I sporadically follow my Hockey team, the Sens and if I’m not playing games or painting miniatures, I’m probably writing books. My first ebook was published this year with Skull Island Expeditions, and I’m currently working on another for them.
GDC: Do you have any works-in-progress or game ideas you would like to share?
Miles: Road/Kill has been designed as the first in a series of expansions into Car Combat, so if it gets funded, it should keep me busy for a few years, but I do indeed have a few different games planned, one being heavily tied to a novel I’ve been writing (and nearly finished now!)
GDC: What games have you been playing lately? What have you liked, what have you disliked, and why?
Miles: I’m regularly playing Warmachine, Warhammer, and a variety of board games. Most recently, I went back to my 3rdedition Space Hulk to finish painting the minis, and I’ve been playing that. I also just got a copy of the Horus Heresy board game, and I’m really looking forward to trying it. As a fan of Twilight Imperium, another big sci fi board game is really a draw for me.
GDC: Share your favorite game you haven’t designed and why?
Miles: So many to choose from, but I’d have to say Warmachine. When I first came to it in 2004, I was heavily into a number of games like Warhammer. It was such a fresh experience and had some really clever mechanics, I was inclined to write to the creator about it. We’ve been friends ever since, and I’ve been very proud to see his success grow each year.
GDC: A word of advice to your fellow game designers?
Miles: Play everything you can, no matter what type of genre or medium you work in. Play some games as deeply as they go. Analyze whatever you play to understand how it works and why it is fun. File it all away, because you need a working library in your head. The better your library, the faster you can derive solutions to design challenges you are faced with.
GDC: Anyone you’d like to give a shout out to? (playtesters, design mentors, your friendly local game store, etc.)
Miles: Well, we wouldn’t be talking now if not for the encouragement of my friend Matt Wilson at the early stages of this game. So I would shout out to him! Greg Bowes has helped with design, playtest and promotion as well, and of course, my sister Jennifer is at the heart of the business and marketing side of this game, so she deserves a big shout out too.
GDC: Tell us how (and where) we can find you (social networks, BGG username, website, cons you plan to attend).