Ivan Santurio, one of the funders of BIG CHILD Creatives, designers for Rum&Bones, talks with us about from where they came, their collaboration with CoolMiniOrNot and even unveils part of the future of his great company
( from Spain! ) devoted to the art, graphics as well as miniatures, in the boardgames.


 

Like many others, we got to know you when we noticed Rum&Bones, but since we’ve been involved with miniatures for a while (quite a lot, let’s just say that), we started to see familiar names while reading about you. For those who have just started, what is your experience previous to Big Child?

Phew! It would be hard to list all the companies we have worked with previously.
At Big Child we are a group of more or less experienced artists in the world of miniatures. We don’t have as much experience in the world of board games, but we do with regards to the artistic side of them.

We have worked in various companies and different art director positions, both as freelance workers and crew members: Andrea Miniatures, Ares Mythologic, Knight Models, Figone, TaleofWar

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We could show each of our resumes here, but it would take too long, there are too many of us… Let’s just say that we are veterans in this circles, both at the management and the modelling contests levels, but up until the creation of Big Child, we had not been as involved in the world of games.

We all agree that Spain is not quite the best country for entrepreneurs. What was the motivation in your case?

Big Child was created in the first place by Jose Manuel Palomares and me. Prior to that we had participated in the creation of the company TaleofWar and the first edition of the game Ron&Bones (the current Rum&Bones). Due to differences in opinions regarding management and direction among the four partners, we decided to sell the company. Jose and I, except in rare occasions, we usually shared the same opinion in ToW, we had very clear objectives and an idea on how to accomplish them, but we couldn’t do it.

(Big Child continued modelling, painting and manufacturing miniatures for the new owners of their previous project Tale of War)

(The initial design that later will become Captain Albrork in Rum&Bones and his 54mm alternative already came from the times of the first Ron&Bones)

So, after selling ToW, many conversations, several setbacks and with very clear objectives, we decided to create Big Child. We had the experience on how to manage a company, an extended curriculum in the world of miniatures, great artists to work with and we were very familiar with the miniature manufacturing process. The most important thing, however, was that we saw an incredible gap in the market with games on Kickstarter.

Numerous campaigns were being launched for board games, but there were no art studios specialized in managing the whole process. That is to say, they had to hire different freelance artists and coordinate their work. If any of them is late, they hold everyone else up. That’s without saying that if you are working with different artists, each one of them has their own style, their own scale, they are more or less familiar with the manufacturing processes. If you add to all this the shipping times between sculptors, manufacturing companies, etc., it is very hard to control the schedules and quality standards, and even more so in the case of games, which normally include big amounts of miniatures. Big Child’s main goal was to fix this, and to offer a complete service, from the initial design until the final production, supervising everything in order to guarantee high artistic quality within quick delivery times.

A few months after we started this path, Hugo Gómez Briones and Rubén Martínez joined us in this "business madness".

Your first project, the series of 54mm figures “Black Sailors” which you currently still distribute from your own online store, already had as the main theme piracy within a fantasy atmosphere. Is this due to anything in particular?

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like pirates! Orcs have a lot of fans as well… the combination of both was a safe bet. Furthermore, by having them scaled at 54mm we could give them a greater level of detail and elaborate more on the designs than when we create figures for a game, which normally have to be one solid piece in plastic. It was also a good way to unleash all the artistic potential that couldn’t go into R&B, due to the limitations of the scale and the plastic.

(Some samples of Black Sailors 54mm series)

Additionally, the world of piracy is very large. If you add to that a touch of fantasy, you can add almost anything you want to the crew of pirates. In fact, we are currently working on new designs and we are sure we will see things other than orcs… Besides, Jose and I met precisely while working for the initial Ron&Bones; maybe the nostalgia took over us.

We suppose Black Sailors set the grounds for Rum&Bones. Where did the idea of bringing MOBA over to our tables come from?

Before the current Rum&Bones, we commercialized Ron&Bones with ToW. It’s been already a lot of years and back then, there weren’t as many board games. Jose showed up with the pirates’ project already under development and with an established working group. He already had in mind the cartoon style, rendering a small tribute to Monkey Island, and with a clear idea for a wild game that went along with the aesthetics. In addition, movies like Pirates of the Caribbean were peaking in popularity, and we noticed that pirate figures from other companies were normally among their best sold products.

Once you started hearing about the project, ideas would start to arise. We started out very strong, but we didn’t have the capability or the experience that we now have. When we finally sold ToW, CoolMiniOrNot bought the game’s license and they entrusted us with the art: creating new crews, retouching old figures, repainting them, completing the crews that we already had, creating the boards, the design of the boxes, cards…

On the one hand, having to sell the game was a shame, but on the other hand, we think it has come to be the great game we wanted to create in the first place but we couldn’t. Back then, the boom of crowdfunding campaigns that we are seeing now did not exist.

Collaborating with CoolMiniOrNot is for sure a great opportunity and many people’s dream but, what is it like in reality to work with a giant like them?

The truth is that thanks to CMON we are where we are now. We started out working on the Rum&Bones project and once they saw the ability to work that we had, they started to assign other projects to us, like Dark Age.

We currently have various new interesting ongoing projects with them, and we are looking forward to showing what we have been working on in the last year and a half!

Like you said, it is a great opportunity. They have really helped us and we have become, to my understanding, good professionals in the sector due to their demanding standards both in the amount of work and quality. Sometimes it is hard, because there are many projects, and there is a lot of work and multiple unexpected events, so you cannot get distracted or you miss the deadlines. But up to now, we have to say that everything is flowing and we are very comfortable collaborating with them.

You also participated in the B-Sieged project, and the miniatures have a cartoon aesthetic again which is, from own point of view, a good choice as a way to differentiate the product. Is it something you look for, was it imposed by the projects, or is it just a consequence of the style and strong creative personality from one of you?

In B-Sieged, we didn’t decide on the design of the characters or the aesthetic. In this case, Enrique Fernández created the concepts for B-Sieged and determined the style. Big Child was in charge of sculpting the figures and tokens, preparing them for production in plastic and painting them for their presentation.

It is normally the client who already has an aesthetic in mind, and we conform to it. If they simply have an idea, we advise them and create a style guide.

bsiegedminis

The good thing about us in Big Child is that there are many artists and we can manage many different styles. Just to give an example, in my case, I am mostly specialized in the cartoon style, while Hugo handles more realistic styles better, so either one of us can supervise the sculpturing process of different projects depending on our style. This applies to various fields: concept art, painting, etc.

You are also in Grimlord Games project: Endure the Stars (to which we already dedicated a review previously), but for this one, you got involved during the post campaign phase, when it had already been funded. Is that a problem or an advantage, not being able to start working from zero and having to continue previous works?

In the case of Grimlord Games, it was similar to what happened with B-Sieged. They had already created the art and the style guide. They also had modelled some figures that ended up being discarded. In this case, the style was much more realistic than in the previous projects.

(Concept and initial miniature. To the right, redesign of the miniature by Big Child)

Not starting from zero has its advantages and inconveniencies. By not starting from zero, we skipped departments. That is to say, in this case we already had the style guide and the Concepts, so we went straight into the sculpturing/carving. The problems in these cases are whether the art they give you, or the style, are transferable to a figure for playing. We are specialized in this and so we create the concepts thinking that they can be produced, that the level of detail and proportions can be transferred to the plastic, metal or resin without getting lost, that they can be in one-piece, that the molds will last as long as possible, etc.

There are many and very good designers, sculptors, etc., but not all of them are familiar with the production processes or specialized in figures, so a project can flow without any kind of problem when you don’t start from zero, or it can be a complete headache.

For example, in this particular case, the figure that they had already modelled adhered 100% to the concepts, but if they had been printed exactly like that, on a 32mm size, the detail was so fine and small that it would have gotten lost, and it wouldn’t have come out in plastic, or they would have broken very easily. However, those very same sculptures printed in a much bigger size would look perfectly fine.

Lots of games with fantastic miniatures are coming up soon, all of them of great quality, which was not so normal not so long ago in a board game. What do you think is the reason for this boom?

It’s all due to the crowdfunding boom. At the beginning there were very few projects, and more or less big. Once the creation of games through Kickstarter was consolidated, more and more projects started to come out. It’s really crazy; every day there’s a new board game. You have to present your project, and it has to be eye-catching. The level of competition is very high, and not everything is valid, it has to be something amazing. Products are becoming even better, of greater quality, with more miniatures…

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(Estadistics from Kickstarter: the games categoty is the most funded, with incredible high values)

There are so many games that people can’t fund multiple projects at the same time, so if you launch a game, you cannot afford to have low quality, or have it coincide in time with a project of greater quality that will take backers away from you.

Therefore, the art quality of the game has to be very high. If you add to that all the advances in modelling and 3d printing, the current quality of production in plastic, etc., the result is a bunch of games filled with awesome figures.

In relation to this, as part of your services, you manufacture miniatures in resin with a system you have developed and meant for big print runs. Do you think we are close to having games that include miniatures in this material, with the quality that comes with it, and for a reasonable price?

We have developed a production system in resin, very fast, which allows us to obtain big amounts of parts of very high quality. Even though the plastic that is used nowadays is very good, resin keeps all the details even better, and takes up the paint in a better way. Besides, the type of resin that we use is resistant to drops (which is very important for games). Currently, we are able to produce in resin games with lots of figures at a great price. Also, we are still trying to improve the system and it looks very promising.

The main problem with plastic is that the molds are very expensive. The cost of each piece is ridiculous, but in order to be able to pay off the mold, the print run has to be gigantic in order for it to compensate. With our resin system this doesn’t happen. The initial print run doesn’t need to be as big as the one for plastic. With a much lower volume of sales, we can compete perfectly well. Therefore, producing a board game with our resin system is possible, but if the volume of sales is going to be as huge as it’s been in some of the projects we see in Kickstarter, plastic still has no rival in terms of price for print runs with over 2000 copies per mold.

In summary, if you have a project for a game, and you are a company with a reasonable volume of sales, we can offer competitive production in resin without any problem.

We’ve already mentioned how excited we are to see the 75mm figures you will be launching soon. We know that the first one was a version of ‘Barracuda’. Could you give us any additional clues about future developments from this or other series?

So for the last few months we have basically been working on various characters in 75mm and on the busts from Rum&Bones. CMON gave us permission to use the license to make figures for painters and collectors. We’ll start releasing the most charismatic characters from the game little by little.

Besides, we are currently working on expanding the series from Marauders (our characters from Black Sailors in 32mm and ready to take the field of Fantasy Football). You will have news about this soon, but in this case, the figures will not come separately.

We are also developing in more depth the universe of Black Sailors, and there will be lots of surprises. However, we’ve been so swamped closing various projects in the last few months that we will have to wait. If everything goes as planned, 2017 will be filled with news, and not only with miniatures for painters.

For our own national pride, among all the new products coming out there are more and more Spanish products; it seems like our entrepreneur spirits are being released. But, as a company that moves in a very complex world, what would be your advice for those who are starting or trying to?

First of all, with the level of competence in the field right now, you have to be very thorough with what you do. You have to pay attention to all the details, and the standards have to be very high. This can only be accomplished if you involve yourself and enjoy it 100%. Today it is not enough being 50% in in the projects, nor falling asleep. If you get distracted or take too long to get an idea, someone else will beat you to it before you even realize it.

On the other hand, things are the way they are in Spain, and starting a new business is difficult, so you have to be open-minded and find synergies and collaborations. Trying to be adamant or thinking about the competence is useless. Starting from zero makes it impossible to compete with big companies, so the more contacts you have and the more collaborations you make, the “bigger” you will become, and people will get to know you better.

It is also very important to study and plan EVERYTHING in order for you not to have a scare. In these circles, there are many things to coordinate, you have to be familiar with different companies, market prices, artists, production costs, deadlines, etc. In order to set a project off the ground, you need to have everything well planned and under control, trying to make sure your business doesn’t depend on others (for example, if you cannot produce your own figures and work with a company specialized in casting, if they get delayed or if it takes them longer, you don’t have the necessary materials to start selling, and this is a problem), and if depending on others at some point in time is inevitable, always have a plan B.

Finally, I think that nowadays being 100% original is very difficult, so you need to find something that will make you stand out over everybody else… and examine what is that works in the most cutting-edge companies. If they are where they are, that’s because they have done something right. Explore why that have made it there, try to follow their steps, but find something that makes you different from the rest.

Finally, we are all like “big childs”. What kind of games do you enjoy playing the most, regardless of whether they have miniatures or not?

I personally am a nostalgic person, but I don’t even have time to play… My favorites are Heroquest and Mordheim.

In the studio, we have different preferences, both in videogames and board games, but everybody plays Blood Bowl, Warhammer, Zombicide and, of course, Rum&Bones to some extent. With regards to videogames, there’s a little bit of everything, but this year we would all opt for The Witcher III. We love this project due to all the detail that has been put into every little part of it.

Against that answer we will be not so evil to ask you about your opinion about the controversial HQ25... But what we are of course going to do is
Being watchfull for all your news!

¡ #moretimeforplaying !

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