As we come up to the 10 year anniversary of the founding of Spectre Miniatures, we thought it would be a good time to document the history of the company, as told by the people that were there and from the very beginning.
We are starting this with the history of Spectre Miniatures rules, Spectre: Operations.
The name Spectre Operations was an easy choice, The company was called Spectre Miniatures, so it felt natural the rules should have Spectre X as the title. The company name is an interesting one… I was, and still am, really interested in the Specter Gunship, which is why I chose Spectre as the company name… we had to use the British spelling though! I think the other idea I had was ‘Down Range Miniatures’... I'm glad we chose Spectre!
I started writing Spectre Operations back in 2013. I had started sculpting the miniatures already (we will cover this in another article!) and we really wanted a ruleset to go alongside it. With the Kickstarter planned for 2014, we thought giving a free PDF of the simple rules would be a good first step.
At that point, I had been playing wargames for 20 years already. As a kid I played Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, then Command and Conquer: Generals (I remember a mod for this that made it more ‘realistic’) - then I progressed onto Ghost Recon 2001, with the expansions of Desert Siege, Island Thunder and Jungle Storm. Alongside that I also played Rainbow Six, all the way up to Vegas 2.
It is when Battlefield 3 came out that I really started to seriously think about why there wasn’t a tabletop game where you could play this kind of thing with miniatures. Being a sculptor and having previously run the company Immortal Miniatures, I felt I was uniquely positioned to do this.
I didn’t know much about the kind of thing I wanted to represent on the tabletop from a real world perspective other than through games, movies and reading, The idea of it being really brutal and unforgiving was a definite objective from the start, the idea that you couldn’t just walk out in the open and not be punished for it was really appealing. It also always bugged me that ranges were so limited in wargames, so early on it was decided that ranges would be unlimited, but it would get harder to hit the further the shot was. Last of all, suppression was a must. I really loved the way suppression worked in Battlefield 3, so I wanted to represent that (mainly because I was a terrible shot, so I used Support Weapons a lot!)
I had a pretty good rough draft by late 2013, which I playtested with some friends (who helped run the Kickstarter campaign). We had the mechanics for Tiered Profiles, Range Intervals, Ranged Attacks, Lethality and most of the core mechanics that you all know and love pretty well established at this point. In early 2014 I asked my good friend Rick Priestley (Who many of you should be familiar with) if he could proofread and offer his advice, which was invaluable.
After the success of the Kickstarter we set to getting the rules into PDF form. At this point, I received an email from Matt, who was overseas at the time, but really wanted to help out as he loved what we were doing. Having a long and very interesting career in the Military, this was really exciting for us. Matt very generously took the rules and went through them, making suggestions and putting forward ideas to give them more of a professional and ‘military’ language. There were clearly limits in my knowledge and it was a huge bonus to have someone that really had been there and done that to give that edge to the writing.
After the PDF was published, we all realised that there was a real interest and need for a full set of rules that could be published as a physical book. This was uncharted territory for us and a massive undertaking for us all. We were very fortunate to have Jess in the team, as she had been using InDesign professionally in her previous job, and had also been dealing with printers and how they required books to be formatted. She was more than qualified to do this large part of the process in house.
Once again, we were ideally situated to jump in at the deep end, so we went for it. We were able to do the entire project in house as Spectre Miniatures for V1, the rules, the photos, the layout etc. We added a vast amount of detail and refined the mechanics for Version 1. The language was further defined and we learned a lot about how to clearly explain rules mechanics and give examples of play. A lot of playtesting went into this version, usually on my dining room table!
The core mechanics stayed pretty much the same, but this is when we first published the Alert and Covert rules, which was really new ground. This was also our first opportunity to push the narrative side, and as a result we made the decision to remove points values from the rules… a decision that we thought was completely necessary, but has continued to be controversial!
We really wanted the book to be very modern in design, and engaging, as a result it was packed full of colour and evocative photos.
In 2016, V1 was published, with a very positive response.
As always, once a few thousand people started playing the game, some common issues were spotted and clarifications were needed. At this point, Spectre Miniatures had grown considerably, with thousands of customers all over the world. It was time for V2…
Work started on Version 2 in 2018 and early on it was decided that we simply couldn’t do everything in house as we did before. Jess was now running the company full time, with myself helping where I could and finding time to design new models. We were also doing shows around the world at this point, which took up a large amount of time.
V2 was Matt's project to go over the rules with a fine tooth comb and iron out any issues that had been spotted, which ultimately resulted in a rewrite of most of the book's text, to give it the clarity and continuity it needed. It was felt that Suppression in particular was an issue and was a big focus for a complete redesign of mechanics. We were also very fortunate to have a lot of very dedicated and passionate playtesters to help break the game and allow it to be rebuilt. Matt did an absolutely fantastic job of making this a really groundbreaking project that we are all very proud of. In early 2019 Spectre Operations V2 hit the store, with an incredible reception. Thousands of books were shipped all over the world and Spectre Miniatures was firmly established as the go to for Modern, or Ultramodern Wargaming.
Late in 2019, Spectre Miniatures and Matt parted ways and as Matt had worked so hard on V2, we licensed it from him as the author of the book for the next three years. 2020 brought fresh and wholly unexpected challenges, as we will talk about in our next article…