Welcome back for yet another edition of my Conversation with a Gaming Innovator series of interviews! This time we're talking with the lovely and talented Chad Hoverter, sculptor of all of the miniatures you'll find in the new Plaid Hat Games' Dungeon Run. These things are magnificent, and I just had to talk to Chad about his experiences with becoming a paid-gig sculptor.
All of the images below are the pre-production models for Dungeon Run, which Chad crafted, and you can see that they look amazing. Without further delay, here's the conversation with Chad, a true gaming innovator:
SFC: Chad, I’ve known you for a couple of years now and I’ve been amazed by your seemingly limitless talent and passion when it comes to sculpture. While many people have only seen the recent Dungeon Run stuff, because of our relationship I’ve seen some of your other stuff and I’ve always been thrilled to see what you’ve been cooking up. So how did you start doing miniature sculpture?
CH: I've been fiddling with miniatures to one degree or another since about '95 or so, when I traded all my Magic cards for a Tyranid army. Painting armies led to customization led to converting, etc. Eventually I was introduced to a temperamental substance called Green Stuff which changed everything. After my most ambitious conversions, the Green Scar and Heroscape Hive you may remember, I thought I should try my hand at sculpting a entire figure. I tried it and loved it.
SFC: Are you, like Eric Carter, just a naturally talented guy or did you go to an art school or something?
CH: I've always been into art starting in high school. I began a Fine Art degree and then switched to Architecture, yeah, no idea why, I was young and dumb and .... well, you know the rest. I was a horrible student, dropped out to enter the work force as a regular schlub and didn't do much more than sketch, badly, for many years.
In recent years I have tried to focus my creative energies and concentrate on finishing things I start, and my artistic ventures have since been much more satisfying. I still have a lot to learn about art and sculpting but I'm getting there, I hope. Many are mystified by artistic talent, however, I believe it is learned and not natural; anyone can do it, given the desire and proper training.
SFC: I have to disagree with you there. I can do design and layout on a pretty good level, and I can paint with the best of them, but when it comes to illustration I end up looking like a monkey trying to hump a football. I think people were given gifts by God, genetics, whatever you want to call it, and some people are innately talented. The learned part is whether they choose to develop them. That being said, I'd call you the real McCoy. My all-time favorites of yours were either the Rush n' Crush cars you made or that Hulk Heroscape Custom. Those were some of the coolest things ever!
Before I get into Dungeon Run, your latest creation, let me ask about your gaming passions. I remember how you were so giddy about “The Adventurers” at GenCon…it was infectious, and then you taught me Dominion that same trip! When and how did you get into gaming, and what kind of games really excite you?
CH: Magic was my entry into gaming. I was really bad at it and that was back when you played for ante! Holy moly I lost so many good cards! It probably would have turned me off to gaming if I hadnt discovered 40K as I mentioned above. All that was in '95 or so when I was a young' un.
I like games that are heavy in story and/or theme. I love card games like Dominion and Summoner Wars that are elegantly simple and yet hold a level of depth that is always engaging and fun - every game different. I love euro games like Puerto Rico, Carson City, Cyclades and La Havre. I love miniature games as complex as Space Hulk or Decent and as simple as Drakon, and I simply cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of Dungeon Run. Yeah - I know I sculpted the miniatures, but beyond that, the game is tons of fun - literally tons! Mostly, as I get older, what satisfies me the most about gaming is having a great time with friends and family.
SFC: Yes, I am aware of your love for Dominion…if you recall, you were the one who taught me the game! In fact, one of the most fun games we ever played together was The Adventurers back at Gencon last year. So on that note, what games have you been playing of late? Warhammer Quest, perhaps?
CH: Hmm no, no Warhammer Quest, haven't played that in many years, unfortunately. Also unfortunately, I don't really have a regular gaming group or time, I'm lucky to get in a few games with friends once a month or so. My saving grace is my iPad, I am enjoying all kinds of games right now. Disc Drivin', Hunters, Tactical Soldier, Shadow Era, and the incredibly immersive Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery. The last time I was able to get together with some friends we had several very fun games of Shadow Hunters and Nuns on the Run. Really looking forward to GenCon and some serious game time!
SFC: Me too, man. It’s going to be epic! So, let me ask you this, since I know people are looking forward to Dungeon Run, what’s the creative process like when you’re making minis specifically for a game that’s been designed? Did Colby and Bistro give you broad brushstroke concepts on the miniatures, or did they give you more precise specifications? What was it like working on the project?
CH: Plaid Hat has some really talented concept artists that they can tap and they are the true creativity behind the look of the characters. Basically Colby gives me a concept drawing/painting and it is my job to translate that into 3d somehow. I'm relatively new as a miniature sculptor and this was certainly a huge challenge. Thankfully, I had a good bit of mentoring from several of the regular sculptors from Reaper miniatures.
Working this project was a bit of an uphill climb because I don't sculpt full time (yet), my regular job kept getting in the way with overtime and long weekends. So I found myself getting up at 3am to sculpt, then work at 5:30 and then back at my sculpting desk by 3pm, bed by 9:30 and do it all over again. Thank goodness I have an understanding family! On top of it all I had to redo 3 entire miniatures because of scale issues due to my inexperience. But I think in the end I was able to fix things satisfactorily.
SFC: From what I’ve seen, your inexperience sure as hell doesn’t show. They look top shelf, all the way. So what’s next for you, Chad? What have you got on tap for the near or long term?
CH: Well I am currently working on a couple of audition pieces for a couple of big miniature companies. I also have several private commissions in the works. Basically I am just going to keep sculpting as much as I can until I get enough work to quit my day job and sculpt full time. I really have no idea when that will be but hopefully sooner than later.
There certainly are a lot of miniature companies out there and once Dungeon Run hits the shelves I plan to start hitting them all up for work!
SFC: Well that’s kind of why you’re here! I’ve seen what you can do and I’d put you up against just about anyone on the market, from a Pepsi Challenge perspective, any day on the week. I do these interviews not only for my readers’ informational purposes, but also so that people I believe in and feel have a tremendous amount of underutilized talent may get a look by someone who needs a designer, artist, or in your case, amazing sculptor. Call it paying it forward or whatever, but my overdeveloped sense of justice simply forces me to do what I can to help who I can, when I can.
This seems like a good spot to call this a wrap, and thank you so much for your time. Wait, I lied. One more question. Where are you going to be at Gencon? Maybe doing autographs at the Plaid Hat booth with Mr. Bistro or something?
CH: I will definitely be around the Plaid Hat booth although not in any official capacity. I'll be running around trying to drum up business. And when I'm not doing that I hope to be playing some game or other, Summoner Wars perhaps.
SFC: The honor is mine. It's great to see an incredibly talented sculptor finally being recognized and watching a friend's dreams become a reality. It really couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, and the Circus staff wishes you nothing but good luck now and in the future.
Just to give some reference, Chad's been up to all kinds of things over the years as we alluded to, such as his comment about modding a Heroscape Marro Hive to look absolutely amazing...
...as well as kitbashing a Marvelscape Hulk to be Gladiator Hulk...
Want to read more about Dungeon Run? How about a rulebook, chief! See here: http://www.summonerwars.com/DungeonRun-Rulebook.pdf