We caught up with Simone Elliott, Head of Studio for Asmodee’s Atomic Mass Games, to talk about their first game, Marvel Crisis Protocol, the transition of the Star Wars lines from Fantasy Flight Games (see "’Star Wars’ Miniatures Games Development Moves to Atomic Mass"), and the current struggle to get products to market.

ICv2: Let's start out big picture, what's your evaluation of the overall market for miniatures games at hobby?
Simone Elliott:  
Obviously, this past year with the pandemic, there has been such a boom in the hobby miniature space due to the fact that we're all at home and we can now spend all this time actually assembling and painting our miniatures that all of us have just had sitting and waiting for all of that time.

We've experienced a fantastic year.  In this past year, we've been able to bring on more people because this was an activity that people can do at home and they can do in isolation.  As things start opening up, I'm hoping that we can have more people join this hobby and strengthen it overall, especially due to the fact that we've had this huge boom and are expanding a lot of our horizons.

That's the big question: how do people react when they can do the things they used to do before 2020?  Do they keep doing the things they were doing in 2020 or go back to what they were doing before?
I think with hobbying and hobby miniatures especially, you get this huge time investment and love investment in making these things.  I know for me and my friends and the team here, we're so excited that we've been able to put all this time in, and hopefully, that means we've been waiting the whole time to get this stuff on the table and play with each other.  I think that excitement will carry through.

Once people can play, in other words, there's a whole new phase.
It gets into that phase, and then because you've spent this much time hobbying, you're like, "Oh, man, now I want to do this next thing."  I think more than anything, it will deepen people's love for the hobby and expand things from there.

Then drilling down from the big picture into Atomic Mass, how did Atomic Mass come through the last year?  Obviously, there was just one product line that you were producing.  Then late in the year, you started this transition with Fantasy Flight into this year.  How has that all been going?
For our original product line, Marvel Crisis Protocol, it was a very interesting situation, as we launched in November of 2019, and then just when we're into month four of Crisis Protocol, everything starts to shut down.  There was not as much activity around organized play and we didn't have all these events.  We didn't get to go to our first really big events, to cons, or anything.

For us, Marvel Crisis Protocol has almost always existed in this pandemic timeframe, but with the amount of products we put out last year, the community has grown so much and the game has really been embraced by the community.  Crisis Protocol did phenomenally over the past year.

In terms of the transition with Fantasy Flight, for a lot of us (and I can speak especially for me), the Fantasy Flight miniatures games have been things we have worked on since the launch of Legion, since X-Wing First Edition.  So for a lot of us, the transition was just moving it to the new company but it doesn't actually change the process; it doesn't change how that all works; it doesn't change the DNA of those games.

We are so lucky to have the legacy of what Fantasy Flight built with these games, and be able to take them into our catalog and be able to say, "Okay, now we can grow this because we're a miniatures company and we can focus on supporting these games in a very miniatures-focused way," which is different than how you would market and support board games.  Fantasy Flight’s whole ethos is based on board gaming but with miniatures, it's very lifestyle-focused. We have been so excited about taking that over and pushing the games in a more hobby-focused direction.

This is the end of March, so it's only been about four months.  There hasn't been [Star Wars] product that has come out yet under the AMG branding.  Because game development timelines are so long, everything that we have coming out for our transition for 2021 is still original Fantasy Flight product.

Wow, long, long pipeline!
It is 18 to 24 months from concept to street.

If the pipeline is that long, the former Fantasy Flight (now Atomic Mass) people are working on 2022?
Yes.  Across the board, when you look at the stuff that's coming out here in 2021, this is stuff that across the board we worked on in 2020.  Considering how much plastic, to design the miniatures and then to do the molding and then everything else, these are just very long timeframe games.  We are always a year and a half to two years ahead of what is happening in retail.

Is the former Fantasy Flight staff that was working on Star Wars Atomic Mass staff now, has that transfer happened?
Yes.  Everybody is now Atomic Mass staff and we're all just working together on bringing the various teams together.

We were going to ask about the timetable for transitioning Fantasy Flight Star Wars lines to Atomic Mass branding.  It sounds like that's not going to happen this year, it'll happen next year?
How that is going to work is all new products from the Star Wars lines, for Legion, X-Wing, or for any other Star Wars lines, the new products will launch with the Atomic Mass branding, so that’s anything that comes out in 2022.  Anything that comes out in 2021 will have the existing Fantasy Flight branding due to that 18 to 24-month timeframe which means that that's product that was worked on before the transition.

That's for new products.  For reprint products, it'll happen as those reprints happen. You'll see those sprinkling in but that's based on when reprints happen and what's stock stores have.

Then with the transition of the Star Wars lines to Atomic Mass with new products, are you viewing those first new products as the beginnings of new phases of the game, or are they continuations of what's been done with Fantasy Flight?
All those games are a continuation of what was from Fantasy Flight.  There is no new spin on that stuff when it comes to the product.  What you will see from us is putting that Atomic Mass spin more on organized play.

Obviously, in the past year, we have not been able to do organized play in a large way across any product lines.  To bring the Atomic Mass sensibility to organized plays, we'll still support tournament play when we can get to the point where we can have mass tournaments.  We're looking to do more play-focused organized play and participation, smaller things that will allow you to play a different game mode with your Legion or X-Wing or Armada miniatures, instead of just the pure 16-person tournament situation in a store.

You can expect the organized play to follow more of what Crisis Protocol organized play is, where it gives you a different game experience or a different mode as opposed to just a pure competitive tournament experience.

Is that change going to start when OP opens up again this year or are you waiting for next year?
You'll see the first bit of it when OP opens up this year, and we're working on having all of the organized play kits so you can go into the store, get your materials, and maybe you want to play those games at home instead of playing in the store, because the store might not be able to host play or players might not be comfortable playing in public right now.  Then you can go back and report your results, and you can get those cool prizes from the store directly.

Will the first Atomic Mass Star Wars releases be jumping on points or just whatever would have come up next in the regular cycle?
It is whatever comes up in the regular cycle.

There's been a lot of interest in Star Wars Legion products featuring characters from The Mandalorian, which is the hottest thing in Star Wars this year. Any news you can share on that?
For Legion specifically, I'm going to talk again about the fact that we're in an 18 to 24 month production cycle.  The Mandalorian came out too close to have things for our games available right now, but it's definitely something that is on the horizon.  I will say that two weeks ago, we spoiled that the Razor Crest will be coming to X-Wing.

We’re about a year and a half into Crisis Protocol; are there any plans for some new boxed jumping-on-point product?
That's something that I cannot talk about, future products.

A lot of companies we've been talking to have been having problems for the last year or so either with manufacturing, and now more recently with logistics, getting product from manufacturing to market.  How's Atomic Mass been finding that part of the business?
Manufacturing is going extraordinarily well for us.  The issue is definitely the supply chain in terms of getting things shipped.  We've had to do a lot of delays in the U.S., and now this is trickling globally, where most of our spring releases (due to train congestion and everything in the U.S., and now some bigger global issues) have been delayed dramatically.

We've been doing our best to keep people updated on what that delay looks like, but it's very hard, given the global situation, to give accurate estimates.  We are absolutely experiencing huge delays in transportation to market.

How much is that stretching out the timeline from factory to market?
Because we sell all of these things globally, it definitely changes. Right now, the U.S. congestion has been all over the news, and that is probably the biggest thing that we have to deal with right now.  Some products have been delayed for extra four to six weeks, depending.

We focus on the trade, so our readership is primarily retailers.  Anything else you want to share with them?
Yes, I want to make sure that everyone understands that with the switch to Atomic Mass, you would purchase from the same people and sales reps that you would for your Fantasy Flight product, there is no switch there.  It should be seamless.

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