After the launch of Lords of War at Dragonmeet 2012, we entered into a new year brimming with new challenges.
The business plan Nick and I had sketched out (because, as we have subsequently discovered, no business plan is iron clad!) was a three year strategy. Year one was to consolidate Lords of War in the UK, with year two seeing us expanding into the US and those sections of Europe where English language rules weren’t an issue, and then in the third year we were looking to expand into other territories. The spearhead of this expansion would be the Lords of War app, available for all iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.
Development of the Lords of War app had started in July 2012. By that point we had been through several design documents and specs and had met and ultimately parted ways with two separate app developers. The third was the charm.
Tom and Joss, both of whom work at the Creative Assembly, a major local games developer in Sussex behind the phenomenally successful and multi-award-winning Total War franchise, had started a company outside of work looking to technically stretch themselves and try new things. We met, had several curries together and bandied around ideas.
If you were at the launch of Lords of War at Dragonmeet 2012 then you would have seen that the app was there, running on iPads, iPhones, Google Play devices and Blackberry Playbooks. It was still a bit temperamental, crashing from time to time, but for a while the Lords of War app had more Lords of War in it than just about anywhere else!
Whatever artwork we had finished went straight into the app, and as Nick and I scraped the funds together to complete the artwork for Elves versus Lizardmen those cards went in there immediately. By the time Salute 2013 came around, which saw 6,000 war gamers packed into London’s ExCel centre, the app was functioning well, with all four races within it. Tom and Joss had lined up a publisher for the game and had secured sponsorship from Google Play and Blackberry. All was looking good.
For Lords of War the card game meanwhile, January-March of this year was hard going. Nick had undertaken, in lieu of Esdevium’s support, to ring every single retailer in the UK. He used the phone book and the internet to build a spreadsheet and then he hit the phones. Every day he would finish teaching, head home and start working his way down the list. Demo packs would go out, orders would trickle in, and gradually we made progress.
While Nick slaved away on the phones, our fantastic artist Steve Cox and I put the final touches on Elves versus Lizardmen and we made ready for printing. At that point, however, Nick and I could not afford to print. We included an advert for the Lords of War app in the rules, because at that point everything looked to be going so well with the app and we wanted to spread it far and wide, and Nick also mocked up a full copy of Elves versus Lizardmen (cutting out the various artwork pieces with a scalpel and spray-mounting it all together) to submit, alongside Lords of War: Orcs versus Dwarves, for the UK Games Expo Awards.
As the Lords of War app entered beta, Dnyan (my wife) and I played it a great deal and, over time, we started to discover little bugs and mistakes I had made when submitting materials to Tom and Joss. Very patiently they worked to iron out these errors, and although I could not for the life of me seem to convince them to include a Campaign Mode we reached a point where everyone was broadly happy with the app.
It was around this time where we started thinking about the possibility of running a Kickstarter – the eventual results of which are online now, and if you could lend support then we would very much appreciate it! Part of our thinking about the Kickstarter was that, bearing in mind there would be a free-to-play Lords of War app out there to spread the brand, communicating the existence of Lords of War the card game and the theoretical Kickstarter campaign should be easy. People would have something from us for free anyway, so that good will should propel the campaign forward.
But Tom and Joss’s Lords of War app will never see the light of day.
We didn’t know this to be the case until very late in the day, but just weeks before the Lords of War Kickstarter launched the death knell sounded. The plan had become, by then, to launch it at Essen in Germany, but some lawyers told us not to.
Ultimately, the issue came down to conflicts of interest between Creative Assembly and a very large Nottingham-based war games miniatures company. Professional relationships and licenses were at risk worth tens of millions, and one can only presume that the Lords of War app represented such a monumental threat that legal papers had to be drawn up and thrown around.
The irony of the situation is that the Lords of War app is still working on my iPad and on Dnyan’s phone. It’s still extremely fun, looks stunningly beautiful and you can still play it online. Unfortunately we cannot publish it or access the source code, so unless another app developer comes out of the woodwork to help us start all over again then the only people who will be playing it will be the people who built it, and that’s a shame.
I feel terrible for Tom and Joss, but I have mourned the app’s passing. Goodness knows, spreading Lords of War in the UK and beyond would have been so much easier if the app existed, and Lords of War players would have been able to play a lot more Lords of War, win cards, customise their decks and experiment so more freely with the game if its digital counterpart was out there than they can even now. But sadly, that wasn’t to be.
Returning to our business plan then, until we hit the UK Games Expo things were going very slowly. It was a slog. And thank goodness that the UK Games Expo propelled us forward in the momentous way it did, because nothing – not the international coverage we have received (including these articles, Lords of War being featured this week by Board With Life (see video above) and soon by The Dice Tower), the acquisition of Lords of War by distributors in the US, Germany, Japan, Scandanavia and beyond, or the support we have received from players around the world – would have been possible without what happened during that fateful weekend in Birmingham.
In fact, our business plan turned out to be woefully inadequate. We hadn’t considered how fast things might end up going.
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