A War on All Fronts: Mantic's Ronnie Renton on their Family Friendly Board Game Division

25 October 2022
Words by Chris Lowry

“We do quite a lot!” was CEO Ronnie Renton’s enthusiastic response when I asked what Mantic Games actually do in the world of tabletop gaming. Fans of Mantic may already be familiar with their miniature wargames, including the fantasy themed Kings of War, and the sci-fi world of Deadzone and Firefight. Others may have encountered their boxed and board games, with titles such as Hellboy and League of Infamy; or their Terrain Crate scenery for RPGs and wargames.

Mantic didn’t start with quite so wide-ranging a goal.

“When I started the company I had one goal in mind: making wargaming affordable and fun,” says Rennie, “at the time I thought that wargaming had become inaccessible to the masses, due to the complexity of rules and the cost of buying all the miniatures required.”


From the start, Mantic miniatures and games have been notable for their surprisingly affordable prices. Even early versions of Deadzone featured everything needed for advanced play in the box, and the recently released Firefight : Second Edition  two player set contains 71 miniatures for two factions, along with rulebooks, counters and custom dice. Compared to other major players in the market, where a similar price often nets you 20 models and little else, Mantic’s offerings seem almost obscenely generous.

Renton explains, “I wanted to offer high quality miniatures at reasonable prices, so there was no barrier to entry for newcomers into the hobby”. This same ethos goes into the rules design, “with games like Kings of War, we really wanted to streamline the experience so that people spent less time with their head in a book looking up rules, and more time actually playing.”

Mantic have a history of developing uniquely rich sideways expansions for their universes: alongside Deadzone exists Dreadball, a sci-fi sport game; Overdrive, a competitive battle arena game; and Star Saga, a space dungeon crawler. Each is set in the same universe.

Models and characters can often be used in multiple games – such as the Kraken from Kings of War, which can be deployed as a ship destroying behemoth in Armada, Mantic’s fantasy naval warfare game. Accompanying this, the back stories, art and lore develop across multiple fronts too. This summer’s Deadzone Global Campaign was set on the planet Magnetar; a planet that first came to light in a Dreadball supplement last year, and the finale of this year’s international campaign culminated in a Firefight battle.

Firefight : Second Edition is Mantic’s latest big release, and has been generating quite a buzz in the miniatures scene, “we’d seen that people were getting increasingly frustrated with the rulebook creep in other sci-fi wargames, so we’ve made sure that Firefight is nice and tight,” says Renton.

Their philosophy means there’s a lot to like about this new squad-based war game; all the rules are in one book, and the army lists are in another.

“All the seven factions are contained in a single book too,” explains Renton, “this is great because you can learn the strengths and weaknesses of your enemy, without having to buy more faction-specific books or trawling the internet.”

So no more expensive hardback rules lists, and the gameplay is refreshingly fast based too? It all sounds less Mantic and more frantic. Or, as Renton words it, “You get fast, tactical gameplay and it doesn’t take an entire day to play a game.”

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With projects this rich and diverse, a board game division was a natural progression, “we’ve become well-known for creating accessible and enjoyable wargames and with the creation of the board game division, we want to develop more products that can be enjoyed by a wider range of audiences,” says Renton. “This could be a ready-made RPG adventure to play as part of a wider campaign, a card game that introduces new fans to our fantasy realms, or a kid-friendly dungeon crawler that can be played during a family game night”.

One risk of such a broad goal with their in-game universes, is that there can be too much to focus on – at the cost of other areas. This is not lost on Renton, who explains, “having these titles published under the Mantic Board Games Division brand allows them to be produced without detracting from our core fantasy and sci-fi releases. What’s more, it gives us new ways to introduce gamers to the wonderful worlds of Mantic.”

The tabletop gaming ‘business’ is a strange one. Mantic have been around a little more than 10 years now, and employ 25 people from their Nottingham headquarters. So, in some ways this makes them industry veterans, and yet, on a global scale, barely a drop in the ocean. I asked if they ever find their small size a challenge, especially given their geographic proximity to a vast and well known competitor, Games Workshop.

“Of course, there are challenges because of the sheer scale of the competition. We’ve only got a full-time staff of around 25 people here at Mantic, and we all work extremely hard to get products out the door to customers around the globe. As a result, people often wear multiple hats in their jobs to keep up with producing community content, ordering stock, writing rules, and so on,” Renton says, “however, I’m extremely proud of the people that work at Mantic and the work we do. We produce some world class games and miniatures with an extremely small team, in comparison to some of our competitors. If anything, having such a large company on the doorstep pushes us to work even harder.”

It has been a tough few years for businesses in general, and our hobby has not been immune to this. Renton agrees, “the biggest challenge we’re seeing at the moment is the pressure on prices. Over the past couple of years the cost of plastic, resin, metal and even cardboard has all gone up. However, the biggest criminal is really shipping, which has gone up by almost 60% in some cases.”

A worrying trend, and one that has been reflected in prices for everything we buy, not just our vital gaming supplies. There’s little that can be done but watch and wait, sadly. “I’m hopeful that things will settle down over the next year”, says Renton, “but we are constantly monitoring what’s happening in the industry.”


So, what’s next for the new Mantic board game division? Interestingly, when asked about his own favourite board games, Renton has a surprisingly traditional answer, “actually my favourite board game is backgammon. Now, just bear with me here! I love backgammon because there’s the combination of strategy and luck – the latter due to the dice. It may sound slightly crazy but it reminds me of Kings of War, because you can have your army and your tactics… but occasionally you still fall victim to the fickle dice!”

Backgammon is not exactly where Mantic plan to step out into board games however, although they haven’t closed their minds to any possibilities. Readers might recall that Mantic previously created a very successful skirmish miniatures game with The Walking Dead. Whilst that licence has now come to a conclusion, their Hellboy: The Board Game is about to be supplemented with Hellboy: The Dice Game also.

“To be honest, we’re open to a variety of suggestions,” says Renton, “we already have games like Hellboy: The Dice Game, which will fit perfectly into this new division”. He explains that there’s a whole range of interesting options they have, both in new areas and in conjunction with current worlds, games and licensed properties, “the issue has been in the past that we didn’t have the resources to dedicate to those kind of releases, but with a separate department we can allocate time and people to these different projects – which is really exciting.”

The world of RPG is one they have their eye on too, “we’ll definitely be expanding the TerrainCrate range to incorporate full RPG experiences too,” says Renton, “Part of the reason why we created TerrainCrate in the first place was that people didn’t have the time to be making all the scenery they required to really make their adventures come to life”.

They aren’t content to stop with scenery – Mantic wants to cater to the full breadth of the roleplay experience, “people love getting together to play an RPG, but don’t always have the time to prepare a new adventure. We’re going to be releasing Dungeon Adventures, which are self-contained one-shots with a pre-made story, enemies and the terrain required to play. All people need to bring are their heroes and their imaginations.”

Personally, I play a lot of games like Unmatched and Hive, heavily because they are so quick to set up and play. Mantic have demonstrated their prowess at streamlining with the latest developments in their sci-fi series, so I wondered if they have anything pocket-sized and short-paced planned.

“Yes. For a long time I’ve loved the idea of games that can be played over a lunchtime,” Renton said, “this means they don’t take a long time to set-up, can be played in 30 minutes and are still loads of fun. I’m not sure they will be pocket sized, but they’ll definitely be quick to play.”

With their recent crowdfunder Umbrella Academy: The Board Game successfully funded on Gamefound last month, I was intrigued to know what else was in the pipeline, but Renton couldn’t be tempted to spill the beans further, “I’ve given you a tasty hint about the Dungeon Adventures. We’re always thinking about new games – sometimes it’s hard not to publish them all.”

To be fair, Mantic’s store is flooded with new releases on a regular basis, with new models for multiple games recently released, including Kings of War, Overdrive, Deadzone, and Armada.

“We have a brand new hard plastic army planned for Kings of War too”, Renton added, “that will be out later this year.”

Beyond that? We will have to wait and see. Ultimately, if the prior 10 years have shown us anything, it’s that Mantic are capable of doing nearly anything. Given, as Renton says, they already “do quite a lot”, there’s guaranteed to be a whole lot more to see soon. 

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