Piła firm to bring cult WWII video game Wolfenstein back to life with boardgame version
A Piła-based firm has sparked the imagination of the world’s gaming community after announcing plans to bring a cult 1990s video game, Wolfenstein 3D, to the tabletop.
Set to be funded through a Kickstarter campaign later in the year, Wolfenstein The Boardgame will see the revival of the fictional Polish-American spy William “B.J.” Blazkowicz as he battles against a hulking mechanical Hitler and other Nazi villains.
From humble beginnings the firm, Archon, has quickly conquered the planet to become one of the most influential companies operating in the world of miniature boardgames.
Originally founded in 2014 by two Polish engineers working in Britain, progress has come fast with Archon’s Piła plant now the biggest manufacturer of resin miniature figures in the world.
“We learned the technology from the ground up,” says Michał Hartlinski, Archon’s campaign and project manager, “yet we’re the only company, apart from Games Workshop, that’s capable of creating miniatures for board games and war games in plastic in the whole of Europe. No one else can do this.”
Capable of producing 63,000 figures in a single day, Archon’s craftsmanship has earned them a hardcore following with approximately half of their orders coming from America.
“Gameplay is key,” says Hartlinski, “but there’s no escaping that the miniatures need to be top quality.”
The company’s nerve centre and factory have also given Archon a unique advantage over their competitors by allowing them to do everything in house and onsite without the need to outsource.
“If we want something, we do it,” says Hartlinski. “Everything we need is right here in Piła. Often taking ideas from thin air, we’re able to go from brainstorming to execution in a very short space of time.”
Nonetheless, their success could not have been possible without the support of the wider gaming community. Using Kickstarter to finance all of their projects, the firm has gained a strong international foothold with Britain and Germany also representing key markets.
“Crowdfunding essentially gave board games a second life,” says Hartlinski, “and such is its popularity you’ll find many games companies not even bothering with traditional retail routes.”
The claim is supported by recently released figures that show that Kickstarter’s games category earned $219 million in 2019, an increase of 9% from the previous year, with games now accounting for 34% of backer revenue reported by the crowdfunding platform.
That Archon have been able to tap into this market with such apparent ease should come as little surprise. “We know our audience because we are our audience,” says Hartlinski. “Working here is basically like reliving your childhood.”
That sentiment rings particularly true with the development of their latest project, Wolfenstein The Board Game.
“The video game version was super popular in 90s Poland,” says Hartlinski, “in fact it was the first 3D game I personally played. A whole generation of Poles grew up with it, so it’s an amazing feeling to now be challenged with turning our youth into a game.”
Inspired by more recent Wolfenstein plots, rather than being based during World War II the tabletop game finds itself set in the 1960s, a time when the Nazis have won the war and have cemented their grip on the global domination. Having got wind that Hitler is staying in Castle Wolfenstein, it falls to B.J. Blazkowicz to infiltrate the compound and eliminate the Fuhrer.
“B.J. Blazkowicz is a guy from Poland fighting against the Nazis,” Hartlinski says, “and we’re the first company ever that will produce this boardgame. As a Polish firm, we call it ‘the laughter of history’ here in the office.”
“Sometimes we feel a little bit weird when we are, you know, 3D printing Hitler as a game piece,” he says, “but, at the same time, it’s one of the most popular video games in Poland from the ’90s so we’re facing a childhood dream.”
With the formality of licensing permits still to be fully met (a requisite, says Hartlinski, to meet quality standards), the Kickstarter campaign has been slated to begin in April.