Friday, May 4, 2012

Interview: Ian from Griffin Grove Gaming

In this weeks interview I talked to Ian from Griffin Grove Gaming. They are an australian group and you can check them out at

[TP] How long have you been running Griffin Grove Gaming?

[IAN] We started GGG back in 2004. We started with painted figurines -- purchasing wholesale figurines in the US, shipping them to Sri Lanka where they were painted by the crew at, and then shipping them to Australia. By doing this we were able to sell our painted figurines at the same price retailers in Australia charged for unpainted figurines.

From there we moved into unpainted figurines, purchasing directly from small family businesses around the world. Hasslefree Miniatures, Black Scorpion Miniatures, Eureka Miniatures, Pulp Figures, and others. Finally we moved into terrain in 2008. Amongst other things we obtained a Hirst Arts license and began selling moulds, kits, and casts by the kilo.

[TP] Do you get a lot of orders for hirst arts kits?

[Ian] We used to get a lot of orders for individual casts of particular moulds but these days it is mainly kit orders.

[TP] What made you decide to start Griffin Grove Gaming?

[Ian] We are gamers first and foremost, using miniatures in our RPG sessions. By connecting various elements in our gaming network we worked out that theoretically we could get painted figurines to our door for the same price as unpainted figurines here in Aus. Well a theory like that just has to be tested in practice and so our company was founded.

[TP] Do you create any custom terrain pieces or just do casts of the molds? If you don't do any custom terrain projects now do you have any plans to?

[Ian] The Hirst Arts license agreement prohibits the sale of custom moulds. In fact it prohibits the sale of the Hirst Arts license itself. What many people don't realise is that this prohibits the sale of their business -- you can't sell the custom moulds you develop with your business and you can't sell the right to create casts of the normal HA moulds when you sell your business.

In addition there is currently no way to protect your intellectual property when it comes to new HA kit designs. When an architect designs a house the person that designs the bricks, the person that creates the bricks, even the person that lays the bricks has no IP invested in the design of the house. That belongs solely to the architect. The same is not true of kits made from HA blocks. If I create a great new kit design and sell the pieces of that kit I own the copyright over the text used in the instructions but I have no rights over the design. Any other licensee can buy my kit, make a mould of the pieces, and then start manufacturing kits for sale. As long as they create their own set of instructions they are good to go.

As you can see it doesn't make a lot of sense financially to invest time and resources into creating new kits. I think this is why you will find almost all Licensees sell the same kits, the kits that can be found on the Hirst Arts website. It is a pity really as we have more than a hundred new kits we've designed for ourselves and/or given away to gaming clubs or gaming tournament organizers -- kits that we won't sell until such time as the HA License is amended to protect the IP Licensees invest in new kit designs.

[TP] Do you do any resin casting? Why or Why not?

[Ian] We don't do resin casting. The beauty of plaster is that it is cheap to manufacture and therefore cheap to sell. We buy plaster wholesale, at around $2 per kilo. Wholesale resin is around $40 per kilo. Of course the pieces are lighter but it would be much more expensive for the customer regardless of the weight differential.

[TP] How long does it take you to put together a kit?

[Ian] Casting or assembly? The Prison Tower we cast in a single cycle that produces something like 16 pieces for our Prison Tower kit. We've actually produced that kit -- from powder through to painted terrain piece -- in three hours. Half an hour to cast and demould, two hours to dry, half an hour to paint, glue, and base.

[TP] What is your favorite piece you make and why?

[Ian] Our Egyptian modular dungeon is my personal favourite. It gets the most use in gaming as it suits the fantasy/medieval genre as well as 19th and early 20th century settings.

[TP] Any had an especially odd request? Or just a funny story about your casting experience?

[Ian] Not that I can think of...

[TP] Any advice or lessons you have learned? Maybe some tricks that are not easy to find on the web?

[Ian] The secret to a happy life is faith, family, and friends. The secret to successful casting is surfactant, syringing, Hydrostone, and experience.

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