Exclusive: Kevin Siembieda Talks Robotech RPG Tactics On Kickstarter

Last week, Palladium Books launched a project on Kickstarter, Robotech RPG Tactics. It hit its goal of $70,000 in 3 hours and has raised over $350,000 in one week. In Part 1 of our exclusive interview with Palladium’s founder and Chief Game Designer Kevin Siembieda we about how the project got off the ground and the partnerships they made to create the miniatures.

MTV Geek: How did the Robotech RPG Tactics game came about?

Kevin Siembieda: At Palladium Books, we’re all gaming geeks ourselves and the fans are an extended part of the Palladium family. They are always very giving with suggestions and input, and we always try to listen to what they have to say. In the case of Robotech, a thread started on the Palladium Forums about us expanding the Robotech roleplaying game into a tabletop strategy game with tactical rules and miniatures. The thread grew like crazy, but my initial reaction was, “I’d love to see Robotech game pieces myself, but we don’t do tabletop games.”

I didn’t express those thoughts in public, so the discussion kept going. Around the beginning of Spring 2012, it had spread to the Palladium Facebook page. The fans were quite passionate about the idea and one guy named Tom Roache seemed to be spearheading it. What helped this chatter online was that it was all very positive, not negative or nasty. It got me and the Palladium crew to read what they had to say.

The very next day after I started to take a hard look at the online discussion, I’m talking to Tommy Yune at Harmony Gold, the producers of the Robotech anime, on the phone about something unrelated, and he asks me if Palladium has ever thought about doing “game pieces” for the Robotech RPG. He and I talked about the idea for maybe a minute, but it left me wondering if the universe was trying to tell me something.

A few days later, I mention the idea to Palladium Editor, Alex Marciniszyn. He tells me he had an interesting telephone conversation with “some guy” about Robotech a few days ago. That guy was Thomas Roache, who asked that I call him back. Alex liked him. I liked what he had posted online, so I figured, why not?

Tom and I had a passionate conversation about how much fans would love for someone to make Robotech game pieces. Almost as an afterthought, he mentions he has a set of rules if I cared to look at them. I instantly liked Tom, and his passion was contagious. I began to do market research on such a product line and spent the next several weeks thinking about it. The more I thought about expanding Robotech, the more it seemed like a good idea. I spoke with Harmony Gold about it, got the greenlight, and announced Palladium Books would develop a line of game pieces for Robotech. The end result is unfolding on Kickstarter right now.

Geek: How was it decided to do it as a Kickstarter project?

Siembieda: To make this product everything we, as Robotech fans, want it to be, Palladium needs serious capitalization. I mean, I want to make available EVERY mecha, from every era of the Robotech anime series. The box set will have the basics you need to get started, but I also want to release expansion sets of all the Destroids, including the Monster, which is one of my faves, and all the Zentraedi — Battlepods, Zentraedi foot soldiers, male and female power armor, the Gnerl Fighter Pod — all of them as quickly as possible after its release. To get the funding to do all that, Kickstarter seemed like the way to go.

Robotech and Palladium Books both have a dedicated fan following, so it felt right to go to that fan base via Kickstarter. The more successful the Kickstarter, the more we can do. When I found out the guys at Ninja Division had been involved in several successful Kickstarters, as well as being fans of Robotech and Palladium, and would create and manage the Kickstarter for us, I knew we had found the perfect people to make this all a reality.

Geek: Perhaps you can explain more the partnership with Ninja Division.

Siembieda: I’m not a wargamer, myself. Though I’ve played a few over the years, I don’t really know much about wargames. Palladium had dabbled with some Rifts pewter miniatures back in the Nineties, but that was it. While some of the Palladium crew are into wargames and minis, it is not our area of expertise. We figured our learning curve on this project would be a steep one.

I reached out to a number of wargamers I knew to compile a list of companies that might make good manufacturing partners. Tom Roache and one of my writers/game designers, Carmen Bellaire, went wild over the idea. I also planned to talk with my industry contacts. But before I had a chance to make many calls, Tom and Carmen get back to me with 3-4 suggestions. I talk to both for hours. Top on both of their lists is Soda Pop Miniatures.

I had never heard of them, so I call around to my industry contacts. Everyone had only good things to say about the company. Tom volunteered to give a few of the companies a call to see if they might be interested in working with us. They were. But when I spoke with John Cadice, the Creative Director at Soda Pop Miniatures, we immediately hit it off. It turns out he, and many of his crew played the Robotech RPG in the 1990s, and loved the idea of working with us. I spoke with a few other companies, but I really liked what John and his team had to offer. Their vast expertise in the tabletop arena enables Palladium to dramatically expand the scope of what we can do with Robotech. It was the perfect fit.

Geek: And Ninja Division is actually Soda Popa Miniatures?

Siembieda: Ninja Division is a separate and distinct entity that combines the people and talents of Soda Pop Miniatures and Cipher Studios, another outstanding game company. But my first point of reference was Soda Pop Miniatures and John Cadice.

Geek: What’s the division of labor between Palladium and Ninja Division?

Siembieda: Palladium Books is the license holder, publisher, and design partner. We provide creative input, suggestions, and make all the final approvals. Palladium’s team is also contributing to the writing and editing of the rule book, but it is Ninja Division in the trenches making it all come to life: sculpts, art, packaging, rules development, playtesting, etc.

From the start I gave Ninja Division the lead in the creative design and development of Robotech RPG Tactics. Ninja Division’s people are doing all the sculpts, artwork, and most of the development for this product. They have also designed and managed the Kickstarter. Ninja Division will also be managing the manufacturing for us.

Palladium Books’ Carmen Bellaire and Ninja Division’s David Freeman, along with the legendary Alessio Cavatore, are the key game designers behind the game rules. My primary contribution to the rules has been in its direction, conceptualization, and making sure the rules are fast, fun and capture the look and feel of Robotech. As for the big, juicy 40-70mm game pieces? They are gorgeous. If you see the mecha in the TV show, I want them in the game. It’s as simple as that.

When a Ninja Division sculpt comes to Palladium for review, we rake it over the coals to make sure it is accurate and true to Robotech. That means Palladium creating and sending back notes, drawings, diagrams, references, etc., to Ninja Division to get it all right. This process also applies to all the artwork, graphic designs, and rules. We plan to move very quickly to get it all finished and into manufacturing as soon as possible after the Kickstarter.

Return tomorrow for Part 2 of the interview with Kevin Siembieda!