Justus Productions

Edward Bolme, Producer, AEG

In MACE 2012, Alderac Entertainment Group will be attended, demoing a ton of games as well as running some tournaments.  We asked Ed Bolme of AEG a few questions about himself and AEG and he was kind enough to take the time to answer them.

Hello, Ed.  Thanks for taking the time out to answer a few questions.

EB: It’s my pleasure.

First, tell us a little about yourself and what you do for Alderac Entertainment Group.

EB: I am a veteran, nay, dare I say a grognard of the gaming industry. I started out in the 80s writing for Paranoia, Cyberpunk, and other role-playing games, then branched out into TCGs when I joined Five Rings Publishing Group in 1997.

Since then I have also worked at Wizards of the Coast (Dune, Rage, Star Trek Dice, Doomtown, L5R), Interactive Imagination (Magi-Nation), TimeStream (Battle TAGS), BioWare (Dragon Age), and Press Pass (Fullmetal Alchemist, 24 TCG).

Now I am at AEG as a producer, which basically means I take a game from a designed prototype (often using clip art and printed on a laser printer) and turn it into something that you buy at your FLGS. This involves art direction, testing and breaking, and a variety of other less definable skills. In addition, I work with Jeff Quick to ensure that all the AEG rulebooks and printed materials are up to our standards. And Jeff and I have pretty high standards.

How long have you been with AEG? How did you get involved with AEG?

EB: I have been with AEG just over two years now, although my involvement with them started back in 1997 when I was at FRPG. CEO John Zinser knew me pretty well from working with me over the course of three and a half years on L5R and Doomtown. Two years ago, he had a position that needed filling, I needed a job, and everybody won.

AEG has weathered many industry storms including the d20 craze and intense competition in the CCG/TCG. It seems that AEG has survived and evolved with each ebb and flow of the industry and stayed successful.  What do you attribute that success to?

EB: Passion and the willingness to make hard choices.

The passion part shows through in all our games, most especially L5R, which has kept AEG alive and growing in even the worst of markets. But all the folks at AEG truly love our games, and gaming in general.

The hard choices part has, unfortunately, meant letting entire sections of the company go when their lines were failing due to a softening of the market or underperformance of a line. It’s a hard choice, but it keeps the company alive. I think you’ll find the people with the longest history at AEG (John Zinser, Mark Wootton, Todd Rowland, Dave Lepore) all have the passion and the willingness to engage thorny issues head-on.

AEG seems to have shifted its focus to a lot more board and card games recently.  Has that seen a lot of success for AEG?

EB: At AEG, we could happily just focus on L5R for the rest of our days. It’s a great game with a great community. But there are so many other things we also love, so we want to grow and get involved with our other passions.

In the current environment, growth is to be found in expanding our offerings and broadening our base. Given our initial success in card games with Thunderstone, as well as board games with Tomb and Infinite City, we wanted to push further into that market.

How successful will we be? We’re finding out.

Nightfall has done well for us. It’s a consistent seller and has been ported very nicely onto iOS.

Certainly the reception for Smash Up has been remarkable. It was one of the hot games at Gen Con, we have foreign language licenses already signed, and we have people demanding the first expansion… and it hasn’t even officially released yet!

What is coming up for AEG in the near future that you can tell us about?

EB: What I can tell you about is Tempest. Tempest is a series of games all connected in a shared world, a Renaissance-era city-state that sits astride some lucrative trade routes.  We are previewing the first four titles at Essen this year. The artwork and graphic design is lavish, the game designs are unique, the setting is truly engaging, and the games range from Love Letter—a light, fun, 20-minute family game—to Dominare, a 2-3 hour epic slugfest.

What I can’t tell you about is •••••••••, designed by •••••••••••••, which will debut at Essen this year. But it’s fun and very euro, and the •••••••• setting fits nicely with the feel of the game.

What is your favorite AEG game?

EB: Wow, that’s hard.

I still love L5R, even though I don’t work on it anymore. Once L5R gets into your blood, it never leaves. It is my favorite TCG, bar none. Even considering all the other ones I have worked on.

Aside from that, wow, I am fortunate to be able to say that my favorite AEG games are the ones I got to spearhead. I love Ninja for its tension and puzzle aspect, I love Dominare for its depth (every game I have played is very different), and I love Love Letter for its sheer elegance.

It’s games like these that are the reason I am so glad to be working at AEG. And there’s not a single game on our front list that I wouldn’t be happy to play at the drop of a hat.

Thanks for your time.  Look forward to seeing you at MACE.

EB: I look forward to MACE myself. And hopefully I will have a surprise or two up my sleeve to show off there.


Shane Lacy Hensley, MACE 2012 Special Guest

MACE 2012 Interview

Hello, Shane!  Thanks for taking the time out to answer a few questions for the MACE newsletter, The Morning Star.

First off, tell us a little about yourself, what you do, and your role at Pinnacle Entertainment Group.

SLH: I’m the president, founder, and owner of Pinnacle. My job is to decide what we’re making, figure what’s cool about it, and oversee its creation. Often times I write it myself, as that’s really my first love. 🙂

I also have a day job in video games where I’m currently the Executive Producer of End of Nations, a massively multiplayer online realtime strategy game (MMO RTS). (Quite a mouthful, huh?)

What was the inspiration to start PEG and publish RPG games?

SLH: Strangely enough, it was to publish a set of miniature rules called “Fields of  Honor.” Then we did a World War II collectible card game called “The Last Crusade.” PEG really started as a way for me and my friends to publish our pet projects, which were historical board games early on. We never set out to make an RPG, but once the idea for Deadlands formed, we just couldn’t seem to stop!

Before there was Savage Worlds, there was just Deadlands, correct?  Savage Worlds originated from Deadlands?

SLH: Sort of. Deadlands begot our miniatures game, “The Great Rail Wars,” which is essentially Savage Worlds with less character options. The wound system was also a bit different–you rolled the victim’s Vigor versus the damage and took the difference in wounds.

What was the primary driving force to take Weird West Deadlands system to a generic house system in Savage Worlds?

SLH: It was with the complexity of Hell on Earth with machine-guns, vehicles, explosives, and tons of magic, that we realized Deadlands Classic–which was designed to simulate “Josey Wales”-style gunfights–was just too detailed and we needed something a little faster. We tried an adventure (Rain o’ Terror) with Great Rail Wars as the engine and it was a blast! That’s when I knew we needed to look into a new system that would allow us to do everything from Hell on Earth to new game ideas we had like Weird Wars or Rippers or Necessary Evil.

What do you think has kept PEG going?

SLH: Bullheaded determination. 😉 In the early days we had such massive success that a couple of young twenty-somethings just didn’t know how to handle it. We grew and expanded too fast, and quickly found ourselves in debt. We had some real growing pains, but we worked through it, and these days Pinnacle has no debt, is very profitable, and is extremely comfortable.

What keeps you going?

SLH: The burning desire to create and share my ideas. I’m very, very fortunate that a fair number of people seem to like them. A good example is Deadlands Noir. It was a real shot in the dark–and it turned out the reaction was fantastic. 🙂

How do you feel when you walk into a con and see a room full of people playing your games?

SLH: It’s incredibly gratifying. When you see someone grinning from ear to ear because they did something cool or had a great time and you had some small role to play in that, you can’t help but join in their enthusiasm.

What is in store for Savage World that most excites you?

SLH: All new settings in new formats that I think people will really get excited about–but that’s a ways off yet. 😉

What is your favorite setting for Savage Worlds?

SLH: Deadlands is my soul mate, I suppose, but 50 Fathoms is a close second. It’s equal parts Sinbad, Pirates of Dark Water, and Pirates of the Carribean, and that’s just an amazing mix to run, play, or write for.