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The Loaded Dice Table Talks II Page 4

Oct 30th, 2017 by Riel Richard

Ash Barker

Where the diverse offerings from Mad Robot speak well beyond Necromunda specific interests, the much wider platform of the science fiction genre as a whole within the hobby serves as a veritable cornucopia of inspiration, and the discussions on the YakTribe forum only act as proof. Conversations really gain an extra degree of levity when well versed members of the site are able to weigh in on Necromunda's game system with reference to the wealth of other game options that share likeness to the futuristic backdrop, a reflection of the hobby community's ability to respect the diversity of the industry.

Ever promoting this wealth of available games across the largest social media platform, no member of the 'Tribe has been able to promote and provide exposure for the games supported by the site more so than @Achilles, known better as Ash Barker of Guerrilla Miniature Gaming. With his Youtube channel and the gaming Co-op he operates in the Niagara Falls area of Southern Ontario, Canada, Ash has managed to provide quite possibly the very best social media coverage of skirmish sized tabletop miniatures gaming currently available. With videos that are unbelievably easy to watch, the Guerrilla Miniature Gaming channel sports daily uploads across a wide berth of gaming systems formatted with individual upload categories for each day of the week. With many a look back at the content from the Specialist Games lineup of the 1990's and early 2000's, the Throwback Thursday videos host all sorts of Necromunda goodness.

As no spring chicken to the hobby industry either, Ash had worked for both Games Workshop and Miniwargaming before venturing independently with Guerrilla Miniature Gaming. While the international market for tabletop miniatures games is often eclipsed by the popularity of the hobby in the UK, Ash marks the hotbed of Toronto and the surrounding Southern Ontario area as being a very defining factor in how he has grown alongside an involvement in tabletop miniatures:

"I'd say Southern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area has one of the most thriving gaming communities in the world. A big part of this is how long there have been gaming stores here. One of the first North American Games Workshop locations opened here in the Eighties (Games Workshop Queen Street). So long ago that, as no one thought the company would grow as much as it did, that is still the name of the Business as registered in the country (Games Workshop Queen Street Limited). Over the last thirty years there have been as many as 15 stores in the Greater Toronto area, dozens and dozens of independents and lots of organized events (Tournaments, conventions such as FanExpo, etc). Canadians love any excuse to get together and gaming I think fit really naturally with this in Ontario."

Ash Barker

"I worked for GW from 2001 to 2014 and during the eras of several 'incarnations' of the Specialist Games. They weren't actually called that when I started there, they were just additional games being sold. Mordheim and Warmaster, Epic 40k and a few others were still on the shelves. I joined up right during the height of the Mordheim presence in shops and as Inquisitor was coming and going. There was also the resurgence of the games in 2003 when the 'Fanatic' studio was launched and briefly made models for all of those games... I think being at GW during that time was a great experience because there was (like now) such a variety of things being tried and released for people to check out".

During his tenure with Games Workshop, Ash was even able to travel out of country while honing the modelling, painting, and game demoing skills that showcase in each of the episodes on his Youtube channel. This period also saw him get his feet wet with playing Infinity, the science fiction skirmish game produced by Spanish games maker Corvus Belli. From these developed hobby skills, depth of familiarity with numerous game systems from multiple design styles, and his ability to provide excellent and easy to follow walkthrough tutelage of tabletop gaming mechanics, Ash then added video production and online media coverage of tabletop gaming with employment at Miniwargaming.

"Honestly the whole period at MWG happened almost by accident. When I returned to Canada in 2014 from my time with Games Workshop, I did a Facebook search for Infinity players to see if there were any locally in Niagara (what I was painting at the time) and a post by Matthew from MWG came up that he was looking for players. I went in and played a game and a few weeks later was working there. It was more something to do while my family settled in the region than it was a career choice, but it certainly opened up a whole world of digital media in gaming I had never been exposed to".

A large Orlock gang moves strategically through enemy territory within the catacombs of the underhive, poised to confront their opponents with the advantage of surprise. Photo credit: @cardyfreak

And so with the framework of how to produce battle reports and miniatures gaming media coverage beginning there, Ash was able to bring a unique coverage of ideas and gaming styles within the industry that helped define both his own individuality and that of GMG with the company's startup. There has always been a focus in Ash's videos - even back to some Miniwargaming produced ones that he hosted - towards the smaller sized and independent games. While this helped shape GMG as having a unique media coverage within a very small market nonetheless saturated by coverage of the larger, more popular, and higher selling game systems, Ash's personal drive to showcase what these types of games can highlight within the hobby have really projected some game systems into the collective knowledge of the tabletop gaming community:

"I've always really enjoyed discovering games almost as much as I do playing them. Soaking them in and comparing them, seeing the love letters some games write to others and having a reason to expand an esoteric miniature collection into weird and different places. That's probably the simplest answer into why I like independent and smaller games... I like focusing on small games because they're the ones I love learning to play. For the most part GMG's content is guided by my excitement for learning games and my friends excitement to do the same".

Ash's developed collection of Infinity has led GMG to have one of the most extensive media representations for the system, and the channel even gets exclusive coverage with content release videos, which has allowed the Guerrilla Miniature Games channel to have the dynamic of very successfully showcasing the Corvus Belli product:

"[With] relationships like the one I've had with Corvus Belli, I haven't really sought them out, they've just kind of happened. Corvus Belli has been really great with using social media to expand their game and I think Carlos [Llauger, the game's chief designer] has been really proactive in that regard. While some sites are obvious (like buying Beast of War coverage) he's done a lot of work collecting fans and using them as a distribution method for the company's promotions as well. That's no formal relationship, it's more he'll drop me a note every now and again".

The Tabletop Media Co-Op, located in St Catherine's, Ontario, Canada, hosts not only Ash's painting workstation, video editing/social media computer office, and the physical gaming space of the studio, but is also shared by other regional hobby media Youtube personalities. Ash is joined by Owen, providing both tabletop and video game coverage with the Gaming with the Cooler channel, and Mike, bringing painting tutorial videos in The Epic Hobby series from Epic Duck Studios and its respective channel. The diverse use of such limited space, showcased quite extensively with a video tour of the Co-Op in the GMG one year anniversary video, really exemplifies Ash's unsung ability to bring such an organized manner to such an encompassing miniatures collection in such tight space confinements. As Sean Patten highlighted the benefits of having a well laid out and organized storage of one's collection of miniatures, terrain, and building materials, Ash manages to do so in a shared space with a very diverse range of different games, each with their own unique looks and settings. One strength that Ash brings to his hosted collection is knowing how to manipulate the terrain pieces he already stocks at the Co-Op to accommodate for multiple game settings:

"I tend to build terrain as needed. If it crosses over and has multiple functions then all the better, but showcasing a game on the right table is 9/10ths of making a good video, so whether or not I recruit help in making the terrain, I try to be pretty specific with the outcome. Terrain is THE biggest barrier to really new projects sometimes so it can be very useful to having a flexible collection where you can just 'paint models and go' when you want to try to film something new".

Delaque fire support perches high on a tower with a commanding line of site over a battle raging below. Photo credit: @llewy

With coverage provided by the channel for games of 40K, Necromunda, Shadow War: Armageddon, This is Not a Test, and Dark Age, Ash is able to blend many of the terrain pieces into videos covering games of each system, while still maintaining some key pieces that help define the unique aesthetic of each on individually. Given the storage restraints, simply hosting this diverse of a terrain collection to service various avenues within the grim dark gothic and decayed post apocalyptic look and style would be impressive of its own right, yet Ash is able to pack the studio of the Tabletop Media Co-Op with even more science fiction terrain unique to a host of other gaming systems such as Last Days, Marvel/DC Miniature Games, and most notably Infinity.

Yet his eye for multipurposing terrain does not stop there! Ash provides battle reports for fantasy setting games such as Age of Sigmar, Mordheim, Relic Blade, Wrath of Kings, Warmachine, Malifaux, and Frostgrave. If I ever dared to host such an elaborate range of games and the miniatures and terrain for them in any space, let alone the defined constraints of such a studio, there would surely be audible creaks and visible shifting of precarious stacks of poorly stored terrain pieces and boxes of miniatures in haphazard order. Ash's ability to house so much in so little genuinely speaks volumes to the successes of the Guerrilla Miniature Games channel, and it certainly puts the mind at ease to know his organizational skills mean there is no risk of either Owen or Mike finding him lifeless under a mountain of gaming pieces that tumbled from some whimsical perch.

The coverage of small, independently made or decommissioned skirmish games in a size restricted studio really carries home the whole grassroots and DIY theme of this piece, but it is the continued drive and vision that has really set Ash and the other gentlemen I've been privileged with the chance to interview apart as being worthy of mention within the industry. What I really enjoy most of tabletop gaming is that it provides just enough structure to give hobbyists a sufficient foundation, and then allows for a complete creative approach towards telling stories and spending time with gaming peers and friends through making, painting, and playing out games. From these base attributes of the hobby, the vision and drive of gamers like Ash takes that which all of us hobbyists have access to and extends it towards helping to shape and grow the tabletop hobby community itself. And so where Guerrilla Miniature Games has risen from existing as a small in house video blog production to its move up to a busy shared space studio, things are going quite well for the channel and Ash does not show signs of letting off:

"The biggest thing I'd like to expand going forward at the studio is space. We've pretty much packed what we have as full as can be. The two year anniversary will be about [facility expansions] I think, as well as including a dedicated sit and chat space where we could also record things like board games, etc.".

With sights set on the stars and a vision as seemingly clear as an astropath, GMG has become a stronghold of Youtube content for the tabletop scene, and manages to cover a significant breadth of video subject matter beyond the status quo. Where many developed channels have crafted their content focus around specific aspects of the hobby such as reviews and previews of new releases, full game battle report coverage, critical analysis of industry trends and hobby aspects, or painting tutorials and shared hobby tips, Ash has managed to shape GMG as providing coverage of all these aspects and more, all while never focusing on any specific game system within the industry. While he certainly does not limit the channel's coverage to skirmish games, a focus on the smaller gaming systems allows Ash to use variety to the advantage of GMG and create relevance of material to more of the hobby base.

This approach has netted a positive response from independent game makers as well, as the Let's Play series of videos offers great insight and full play throughs of some of the more cottage industry productions. It is this sort of aspect that ultimately defines Ash's work as being so supportive of growing the industry. By giving an outlet for other makers in tabletop gaming to get exposure of their creations, Guerrilla Miniature Games is not only defining its own presence within the grassroots of the gaming scene, but even ensuring other offerings get their own chance at seeing exposure.

A Redemptor Priest and his fanatical clergy spring forth with wrathful cleanse of the heretical wyrds and mutant creatures in their presence Photo credit: @cardyfreak