Interview with Enviro Games’ Founders – Building a Greener Wargaming Future with Novus Malum

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Interview with Enviro Games’ Founders – Building a Greener Wargaming Future with Novus Malum

We sat down with the Enviro Games team after the release of its first game Novus Malum.

Below is from our chat with all four of the Enviro Games founders. You can find out more about them here, but for a brief overview, this is who you'll hear from today:

  • Jack Vickery – Commercial Director and Founder
  • Chris Hewison – Creative Director and Founder
  • Daniel Phillips – Innovation Director and Founder
  • Andy Glover – Lead Games Designer and Founder
Enviro Games team
Top left – Jack Vickery; Top right – Daniel Phillips; Bottom left – Chris Hewison; Bottom right – Andy Glover

ESTNN: To get us started, what’s the team's background? 

Dan: Varied! Jack comes from a commercial background, having spent more than a decade working to understand and provide solutions to a range of customer needs! Chris’ day-job focusses on creative digital design – indeed, many well-known brands such as JCB, Hendricks Gin & the Professional Footballers Association have benefitted from his skills before Enviro Games! Daniel is a research scientist by trade, with a background in polymer science and has spent nearly a decade developing new products in the Specialty Chemicals industry. Andy spends his working week building furniture as a cabinet maker; he brings a wealth of practical skills to the party! Indeed, we are hoping this rather eclectic mix of skills will help us overcome many of the hurdles associated with embarking on a new business venture!

Outside of the professional arena, all of us have a deep-rooted love for games spanning tabletop, board and card games (in addition to a range of other hobbies including a range of sports, creating electronic music and dog walking!).

ESTNN: Why Wargaming, what drew you to this hobby? 

Andy: As a child, a friend had an old-school starter set. I really liked it, so much so that I bought the set off him! I got into it as a youngster because I thought the models were cool, then had a break (where I got distracted by other things!) and came back to it as an adult as I appreciated the breadth on offer with the hobby (e.g. modelling, painting, game playing).

Chris: I used to play this sort of game with my cousins as a youngster. I was really interested in the models but at that point, I couldn’t buy many of my own (and certainly not enough to finish my own army!) I then took a fair break (like Andy, distracted by a range of other activities) and returned to it in my early 30’s when I saw some cool models. Nostalgia kicked in & I started to paint again, though I didn’t really have anywhere to play. I then saw Jack post on social media about wanting to play the game and so re-connected with the playing side from there! 

ESTNN: The goal of Enviro Games is clear, but what makes you as a team so passionate about it? 

Dan: We all enjoy our games, and the opportunity to try and put some of our creative ideas into practice was an exciting pull, but ultimately the world around us is changing, and fast! The choices we make and the actions we take will have a bearing both on our and future generations. Having young families has also provided us with a further perspective. We strongly believe that by pushing past the “norm” and challenging the status quo, it is possible to find ways to do things differently and better.

Importantly, in the gaming space, we think there are a range of changes, some very small and some bigger, that when combined can have a positive cumulative and sustainable impact. Moreover, we hope that by not only identifying and acting on these, but by also sharing them more widely, we can encourage others to think about things differently too. Ultimately, we hope to broaden awareness and help to trigger a change in mindset with regards how we can game in an environmentally conscious way.

Andy: We think are bringing a new perspective to the industry and it would be great to get more people thinking about the sustainable impact of what they do!

Chris: I really like seeing my family respond so positively to what we are trying to do! For example, my children are fascinated by the models we are creating and understanding more about what it means to think about things “sustainably”. The need for sustainable living is arguably going to impact them even more than it does me, so seeing them engaged and interested, and knowing we are doing something that will benefit them is great!

ESTNN: If you could change one thing about the wargaming industry, what would it be 

Dan: Further developments in the materials used to make models would of course be a big win – something that becomes truly less dependent on petroleum-based feedstocks, carcinogenic chemicals, weighty metals, or which can be combined with less energy intensive processes. That said, whilst I don’t think it is impossible, this isn’t going to happen overnight! More generally (and perhaps more easily achieved), I would simply like to see some more conscious thought with regards the whole concept-to-end use of a wargaming product. Small changes in, for example, the materials used to package and ship products, consideration of distribution and production hubs and localisation within the local economy can all add up. Once these become the “norm”, less sustainable approaches will become more and more obvious (and hopefully drive an overall change in behaviours). 

Andy: I would like to see more interactive elements within the games. I think many games are very “your turn, my turn” based, which detracts from the social element (i.e. engagement with your opponent) and perhaps doesn’t reflect what would happen in the real world. For this reason, we have tried to introduce some more interactive elements into Novus Malum such as the “rock-paper-scissors” combat system.

Best ZZZ Bangboo for Each Agent

I am quite a narrative wargamer & I would love to see more casual approaches the game (i.e. people being less beholden to the letter of every rule, and instead applying a bit more “free-form” to some of the decision-making involved).

ESTNN: People can now order your first game, Novus Malum; how did you come to this setting and story? 

Jack: The setting was born from a long-running Dungeons & Dragons campaign that I’d created. Through this, the Seldar concept and map was born. We were then keen to develop a mixed world, a melting point of traditional and non-traditional races (ideas for which often coming during a dog walk!). Moreover, unlike some high fantasy settings where there is a “single evil” (e.g. Sauron in Lord of the Rings), we wanted a world that was more reflective of the multitude of power struggles that have underpinned human history – where changes in dynamics/politics/social demands can sprout a conflict between different countries and/or races. In that way, we feel it opens the doors to build and adapt the world and storylines as we move forward.

In terms of wider inspiration within the high fantasy genre, sources include Dragon Lance, Lord of the Rings, Shannar Chronicles as well as computer games like Age of Empires II and Civilisation. 

In terms of gameplay,(we) wanted it to be more interactive than a “you go, I’ll go” type system to help promote social interaction (games should be fun, inclusive and help build relationships in our view!)

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ESTNN: You picked Dwarf and Knomes as your first two races/factions for Novus Malum. What made you decide to start with those two? 

Jack: Most simply, we strove to create a faction that was well-recognised and loved within the fantasy world. We picked Dwarves for that reason – we thought they would be well received and largely familiar (though we have tried to add some signature twists such as shields which can tesselate between units!)

On the other hand, we saw the Knomes as an opportunity to do something a bit different! Traditional Gnomes perhaps don’t have a particularly prominent or “headlining” role in wargaming (or indeed fantasy in general) – often viewed as too small, and lacking impact. Therefore, we have created Knomes who, although smaller than the Dwarves, are fierce warriors intent on protecting what is theirs and furthering themselves at the same time!

ESTNN: Providing all goes well with Novus Malum, would an expansion of that world with new armies be the next logical step? 

Jack: Yes! We anticipate following the same structure as the Dwarves/Knomes – namely combining a faction that is well-known and loved, with another one that is perhaps different or otherwise less prominent. With that in mind, we have shared some thinking on our Instagram page with regards a familiar vampire race, and are looking to complement that with a mixed-race, Norse-themed army (teasers coming soon!) 

Dan: As we go (and this is a consistent theme throughout what we are trying to do with Enviro Games & Novus Malum), we are keen to develop products aligned with what our player-base would like to see. So, if there are some strong opinions out there on what would be cool to see, we would love to hear it!

Dwarves of Anvil Keep vs Knomes of Knarlwood 1

ESTNN: World-building is a key part of setting up a fantasy world; do you have ideas already for where the world of Seldar will go next?

Dan: Yes – we are particularly excited about the “Mountains of Endless White” and the storylines that we can weave related to this! Certainly, we are thinking of ways in which we can cast our next faction(s) against this backdrop. Moreover, the Knomes of Knarlwood represent our “initial encounters” with the Fallen Kingdom but there is so much more that exists within this landmass…!

Andy: We want the game to be as “personal” an experience as possible & it would be cool to see the world develop with some input from our player base.

Chris: We are looking to expand the number of races we have but building them up in a direction that is new, different and previously unthought of. We’re very keen for the world to be immersive and one to which people can feel truly connected (and excited about what is coming next)! Longer term, I’d love to find a way to incorporate a way in which people’s individual games can influence the wider Seldar world – that would be pretty cool!

ESTNN: Has there been anything that you’ve not been able to do within that goal 

Dan: After the immediate light bulb moment which kicked Enviro Games into life, it became quickly apparent that budget (or lack of!) talks and the opportunity for thorough R&D would be beyond us initially. Therefore, as a new start-up, we recognised our focus needed to be on carefully considering how we can combine existing, more-sustainable technologies and approaches across our operations (e.g. identification of local partners, design, production, packing etc…). We have tried to pick materials and processes which work right now (e.g. a thermo-plastic miniature resin that allows waste material to be re-used) but feel there is lots more that could be done here. Some targeted R&D in this space could be really impactful (if we can generate the revenue to support it!)

It has also been tricky at times to track down some of the supply specifics of our components – this has certainly taught us the value of persevering with our questioning! For example, we have now found a product box supplier (with similar sustainable values to us) who can manufacture in the UK instead of abroad which means our production & procurement is now largely UK-based.

Ultimately, we are under no illusion that Novus Malum represents our very first steps towards achieving the wider Enviro Games mission. We are not in any way professing to have all the answers today, but we hope this will be the gateway through which we can explore, develop (with others as needed/interest arises) and influence the wider industry.

World 2 1

ESTNN: What have you all learned from the project; what would you have done differently and what was the most difficult part?

Jack: Hindsight is of course a wonderful thing – we went into this recognising almost every aspect of the venture was going to be new to us, and we have probably made some mistakes along the way (some of which we may not realise yet!). One big surprise was the overall development time. It took longer than I was expecting and led to us launching Novus Malum around 6 months later than we initially targeted. However, we are now much more clued up on the time involved and pitfalls associated with the miniature design, sculpting and production processes (and the “snag runs” required to get things right)! Moreover, I think we could have considered alternative ways to generate momentum behind the game (e.g. taking a Kickstarter approach). However, we are proud to have got to where we are and are now considering if such an approach might be suitable for the Novus Malum expansion(s).

Zenless Zone Zero Ellen Build & Review - Bite Like a Shark

Dan: I agree with Jack’s point. Looking at it from a different angle, all of us have full-time jobs and have been working this as an “additional” activity. This hasn’t always been easy, and we have had to work hard to balance the desire “to get it perfect” with ultimately launching a product and brand that we feel is credible & in-line with our mission (i.e. not striving for perfection to the point where we never actually launch!) I think it has shown me the value of maintaining an open mind and searching for a common path through a plethora of different views (it is fair to say we haven’t all agreed, all the time!). I am delighted with where we have got to and really hope we can take things further!

Andy: Fully agree that everything takes longer than you think, not least due it not being possible to work as a full-time endeavour, but also because despite being a keen member of the wargaming community, there are so many nuances associated with producing a game that you do not encounter as a pure hobbyist!

Chris: Patience is important! Set-backs will be commonplace, things won’t work out quite as you hoped (and will probably cost more!) but you have to find a way to keep things moving (and believe in what you are doing). Personally, although I come from a graphic design background, I found the rule book design more intimidating that I perhaps thought (specifically translating my web design skills into print) but I have learnt to trust my skills more as a result. We have learnt so much by getting to this point that we hope to build upon in future iterations.

ESTNN: To follow that up, what has been a surprisingly easier part?

Jack: Having never set up a website, e-commerce platform or seen the design and print of a full-colour rulebook, I was pleased by how quickly we did this. I think we have all found ways to stretch what we considered our “core skills” to get more done ourselves. We have also been able to call upon the expertise of others to help guide us in less familiar areas. Related to this, I have been pleased with how friendly and interactive the industry seems to be. We have been able to strike up many a good conversation with customers, sculptors, and influencers with greater responsiveness than I was perhaps expecting.

Dan: I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of folks willing (& interested) to showcase what we are doing without incentive (e.g. You YouTube videos, Website articles). It is heartening to see this and gives me confidence that we are trying to do something that others see as meaningful too!

Chris: If I think of this as “what did I enjoy more than I expected”, then it would be painting our miniatures ready for playtests, photo shoots etc. Personally, I’m not normally a fan of painting to deadlines (the thought of potentially needing to hurry something that is otherwise a therapeutic hobby is uncomfortable). However, I’m really pleased with the detail in the models we have produced, found myself immersed in the characters I was painting and relished the challenge of putting my own view of our models out for public consumption!

More broadly (and I don’t think it was easy per sé), setting out to create a new game, albeit one we 100% believed in, was a daunting thought! The fact we have got to this point, have created something from nothing and have a (what we believe to be high-quality) game available for consumption is pretty awesome. 

Andy: Agree with all of the above!

Product image 1
A look inside the Novus Malum game box

ESTNN: If you had to give one bit of advice to someone wanting to start a Wargaming business, what would that be? 

Jack: Understand development times (it will take longer than you might think!) Make brave decisions (challenge the status quo!)

 Dan: Try and pull together a broad range of skills to help you! Keep going, be disciplined and find ways to progress things. Set yourself milestones and regular targets to ensure things keep moving. Lots of small steps ultimately lead to a decent journey!

Andy: Don’t skimp on the planning and research! Be prepared to throw ideas in the bin and start again!

Chris: Get your ideas out in front of as many people as possible All feedback is helpful feedback – don’t take anything too personally but look to build upon what you hear to improve what you are trying to do. This is a constant process!

ESTNN: Outside of Novus Malum, what other plans do you have as a studio?

Dan: From a product perspective, we would like to establish and grow the world of Seldar to be one that people enjoy and look forward to subsequent expansions. Beyond that, we hope to branch into more than just tabletop gaming and have some plans for other board and card games.

We are also hoping to find ways to share our vision more widely and increase our own awareness of what consumers would like to see and/or feel could make a difference from the perspective of sustainable gaming. We are excited to be attending our first exposition later in the year (UK Games Expo) which will hopefully give us an immersive opportunity to do this!

Seldar Map
Seldar Map

ESTNN: Thank you all for your time, is there anything else you’d love for folks who are reading this to know? 

Dan: We are super grateful for the support that people have given us thus far – those who have purchased Novus Malum, those who have voluntarily produced their own reviews and coverage of Enviro Games and those who have provided feedback (positive and constructive!) We really hope to be able to capture the imagination of the space with our endeavour and learn as we go – to help us advance our environmental approach across a wider range of products and cross-section of the industry. If anyone would like to know more, or has ideas on how we can do this, please do get in touch with us via [email protected]! For those who are going to the UK Games Expo (30th May – 2nd June), we will be there – please come and say hi!

As for ESTNN, we'll continue our coverage of Novus Malum going forward, with out painting guide coming soon.

Interview with Enviro Games’ Founders – Building a Greener Wargaming Future with Novus Malum
David Hollingsworth
David has written for games media outlets for the last ten years. With his first major esports role being with Esports News UK covering mostly UK League of Legends. David is also a member of the British Esports Association and is an advisor to them on World of Warcraft Esports. More recently David has worked for Esports Insider and Red Bull as an esports journalist. David later became Editor at ESTNN and now leads the current team.