Friday, 3 February 2017

Star Dads Interview - Gav Thorpe

Recently Dave met up with the mighty Gav Thorpe at Warhammer World to get an insight into Gav's gaming, designing and writing world and how that fits in with being a father.

You can catch up with Gav on his website at or on twitter: @DennisHampster

We hope that you enjoy the interview as much as Dave did.

If you have any questions that you might want to ask Gav then let us know in the comments and we'll try to oblige.

Hi Gav, thanks again for letting us interview you. It’s a real honour to meet one of the legends of Games Workshop.
So, what sort of games are you playing with your kids at the moment?
“We’re playing kids games at the moment really, memory games. Games like ‘Pizza Pizza’, where you’re trying to match bits of pizza. He got that for his birthday, it’s quite good. He likes games, and we’ve got a lot of them in the house so he’ll quite often just get the pieces out and look at them or be making up his own games with them and ask us to join in. There’s a few components that get found later under the sofa but we never want to tell him not to play with them, we don’t want any negative association with doing that. It’s the same with books really.
I recently dug out some older games, like ‘Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs’, which I played when I was younger, so hopefully when he’s older he might like them. Basically we’re throwing everything at him! Sometimes we’ll take him to The Dice Cup in town too where there’s lots of games for him to take a look at.”

You seem to take a real interest in supporting game-related initiatives, giving back to the gaming community.
“I backed The Dice Cup [board games cafe] on Kickstarter. It’s local and it’s somewhere that we go so it’s good to support things like that. Sometimes my partner and I will get a babysitter in and go there for the whole day and play board games, that’s part of ‘us’ time, going and playing a game that takes more than 2 hours in an evening. It’s really important to make time for that sort of thing when you’ve got kids.
Board game cafes such as The Dice Cup give you the chance to play games that you wouldn’t necessarily have at home. They’ve also got the beautiful GeekNSon gaming tables, the cheapest is like £750, which you would never buy for home when you’ve got a 3-year old. Maybe when he’s older. Maybe when he’s left! Haha.

And then there’s the new show that’s going to be on in Nottingham this year, ROBIN, at the Tennis Centre. There’s a bit of a cluster of games designers in Nottingham now and the organiser has asked me and a couple of other designers to speak in the seminars. I’ve also set myself the target of writing a new participation game in time for the event, so I’ve got about 6 weeks to do that, haha.”

Nothing like a tight deadline to focus the hobby time?
“Yeah, and the interesting thing I’ve found, talking about kids taking up your time, setting those deadlines and targets makes you realise that actually 2 hours of an evening is quite a bit of time. You can stick a couple of models together or put paint on some miniatures in that time. It all adds up, just don’t expect to get everything finished straight away.”

Speaking of which, how does your hobby time before and after kids compare?
“Well there is much less. But having kids a bit later on in life, you kinda feel a bit more comfortable with yourself and you’re chilled out and you don’t really feel like you’re missing out on anything. But it’ll come back around. At this sort of age, when they’re toddlers, when they’re mobile and their language is coming on, and they’ve got their own mind, but they’re not independent enough where you can just leave them to it. That’s when they take up the most time, that’s when it’s pretty full on.
So you’re kinda reduced to a couple of hours every evening. But it won’t be long until he’s a bit older and he wants to play games and paint miniatures too. I mean, he’s already starting to do that.
I’ve been slowly working on getting a more ideal hobby set up. My office is also the spare room, so there’s not really enough space in there to have a permanent paint set up. But my partner brought me a paint station, which I can just leave my current project and paints on and put it up on the shelf (out of reach of small people). So it reduces that set up and tidying away time that you need.
Once or twice a week one us will do the bath and bed routine so that the other gets that extra hour or so to get our hobby mojo on. That way we each get that bit of extra time every so often.
Because both of us work from home we also tend to split the time looking after our son between us and then when he’s a nursery too we might decide to use it for a bit of games time."

How long have you been an author, and been in the hobby now?
“Yeah, so, I’ve been playing for about thirsty years! More, really, if you count pushing around Airfix soldiers and rolling dice. I joined Games Workshop as an assistant games developer when I was 19, so that was a long time ago, and I was there for 14 years. That was the 9 to 5 career job, developing games, writing articles for White Dwarf, all that sort of stuff.
And then Black Library started, I think it was 1997, they started publishing. The first short stories and novels I wrote for them, I was still at Games Workshop, so I was doing the games design in the day and the writing in the evening.”

That was a really good opportunity, wasn’t it?
“Yeah, that was a massive opportunity. You know, I’ve just been really lucky. Essentially the company I was working for started its own publishing imprint and I sat two desks down from the guy who was running it!
Obviously I learnt a lot over the first couple of stories, but to be given that opportunity. One of the great things about Black Library is that they’ve always given new authors a chance, an opportunity, which is hard when you're a writer.”

So then you started working as a free-lance writer?
“Yeah, so I’m actually coming up to my ten year anniversary this year.”

Was that a big change, leaving Games Workshop?
“Well, yeah, whenever you go from a paid salary to working for yourself it’s both terrifying and exhilarating.
But I couldn’t imagine ever having an office job now or working 9 to 5 again, or commuting to work and getting stuck in traffic, any of that kind of stuff.
And it’s great with the family. At lunch time I get to go downstairs and play with my son. And you know, if it’s a nice sunny day I can switch my work around and take him to the park.
So yeah, the freedom is great, but there’s a lot of discipline involved too. A lot of routine. Making sure there’s ‘work time’ and ‘play time’ and keeping that separation.”

 If there was something you could go back in time and tell your pre-parent self, what would it be?
"Make the most of all that spare time you’ve got!"

What sort of GW hobby stuff have you been up to recently?
"Well I subscribed to the re-launched White Dwarf, which I really like, and which is really helping me get my hobby mojo back. Just seeing the articles in there is very inspiring, like the AoS special, or the Golden Demon special. It’s making me want to paint toy soldiers again, it makes me want get my toy soldiers out.
I don’t really have the time to collect and paint up a whole Warhammer 40k army, so if anything gets me playing 40K again it’ll more likely be a Kill Team or something similar, a band of elite and unique warriors. I’ve always been on the narrative side of the hobby anyway, using the miniatures to explore the Warhammer 40k universe, and that’s what still draws me to it. The individuals and the background. The rules and the games are just a framework for doing that. For some people it’s the tactics and the gaming, but there’s a long list of my recorded failures in White Dwarf to demonstrate that that is not me.
So I might as well have a bit of fun and tell a story. Buy a couple of miniatures that you really like and want to paint and then use them in a small narrative game. I’ve had the big armies in the past but I just don’t have time to do that these days. Staying up and painting until 2am knowing that you’re gonna get woken up at 6am by a little person just isn’t an appealing thought!
And of course, Blood Bowl has just come back. That’s something I was involved with back in the day. I’ve been getting involved with a league with my friends. One of the things I love about this edition is that it’s pretty much the same as the original. I don’t get as many games these days so the fact that I don’t have to go back and learn a whole new set of rules is quite appealing. Plus it’s a bit of nostalgia, and it’s a really fun game.
It’s surprising what sticks around and Blood Bowl is a great example of that. It’s had no real official support for the last 15 years, yet it’s still here and there have been regular leagues and a thriving events scene throughout that period. The fact that the community have kept that going is brilliant. It just shows you that you don’t need a company to tell you what to play, you just need a strong community. You can play Warhammer 9th Edition or 40k 3rd edition if you want."

As part of the Horus Heresy series you have written about a number of different legions and their Primarchs. We are currently running a Primarch Deathmatch on twitter. If such a thing was to actually happen, who do you think would win and why?
"Well it all depends on context really, doesn’t it. Are we talking pre-ascension to daemonhood?"

Ok, who is your favourite Primarch?
"My favourite Primarch has always been Sanguinius. I just love the story of the Blood Angels and Sanguinius, the self-sacrifice. And, despite the fact he’s very down played, in terms of what he’s done, he’s legitimately one of the most badass characters. He’s the angel of fury, you know, he must be pretty handy in a fight, he just doesn’t let it go very often. The Angel Unleashed is meant to be one of the most terrifying opponents you’re gonna face.
Forget Angron, forget any of the others, Sanguinius on a bad day would beat any other Primarch. Which wasn’t even enough to fight Horus in the end, or was it? Possibly the daemonic powers that Horus has by then make him much stronger, or maybe Sanguinius pulled his punches, like you would if you were fighting your brother."

Why do you think we and our kids still love traditional wargames and board games, considering the ever increasing popularity of electronic games? It’s not like 40k is ‘pick up and play’ when you have to buy, assemble and paint the miniatures before you can even play a game…
"I think it’s because they are tactile, they’re real. There’s a real interaction with other people, which are things you just don’t get with video games."

Thank You very much for the interview Gav and we'll hope to catch up with you in the future. – A blog about Warhammer 40k and the Horus Heresy by four Dads

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