Interview – Angus Abranson (Cubicle 7 Entertainment)

Angus Abranson is the director and co-founder of the ENnie Award winning publisher Cubicle 7 Entertainment.

Starting off with a more personal question, Cubicle 7 Entertainment was founded in 2006 by yourself and Dominic McDowall-Thomas. You also worked for Leisure Games in the UK for 24 years. What keeps you going? What keeps you enthusiastic about working in the RPG industry?

The creativity that abounds in the creators and the fans and the enjoyment that gaming brings to so many. I love being a part of that cycle. I’ve loved games ever since I was little. My mother still has some old board games I used to make up when I was a pre-teen. Very simple affairs, but I’ve always been very eager to play games, make up my own rules for existing games and create brand new ones. This took a step up when I discovered Fighting Fantasy novels and even more so when I was introduced to RPGs. Then there was no turning back.

I loved working at Leisure Games and it was a really hard decision to leave and go full time with Cubicle 7. Everyone who has worked there is like a little family, very friendly and we had some great laughs at work. Plus for the customers it’s a hobby, they choose to come to the shop because they like the games. It’s a very friendly environment and not like working at many shops where the customers almost seem resentful that they have to shop there because they ‘need’ what the shop sells.

It’s certainly the creativity, the ideas and the enjoyment that people get from playing the games that keeps me enthusiastic about working in the RPG industry.

In 2009, Starblazer Adventures was nominated for Best Rules, Best Game, and Product of the Year.

In 2010, you had many more nominations with Wild Talents 2nd Edition (Best Game, Best Rules, and Product of the Year), Hellfrost Bestiary (Best Monster/Adversary), Atomic Highway (Best Rules), Kerberos Club (Best Setting , Best Writing, and Product of the Year), Rome: Life and Death of the Republic (Best Setting and Product of the Year; Silver Winner for Best Setting), Victoriana 2nd Edition (Best Writing; Silver Winner), and Doctor Who (Product of the Year).

What did you think of the ENnies when you found out that you were nominated?

When we were nominated for the three awards in 2009 for Starblazer we were pretty amazed. It was our first full rulebook release plus we’d only become a fulltime company a couple of months before. We certainly hadn’t expected to get any nominations, let alone three of them.

It was an amazing honour to be listed alongside so many other great products and companies that we’d been fans of for so long.

When, the following year, we then got nominated with so many products (second only in nominations to Paizo) we were blown away; especially because it wasn’t one single product that had grabbed the attention of the judges. There was a good selection of the games we’d published on the short list which was really nice to see. Some of the games that had, to that point, not been as high profile as some of the others which was nice to see them get the critical nod and attention.

We were, in short, stunned that we’d picked up so many nominations.

Did your nominations and wins affect short-term sales? How about long-term sales?

With the Awards being announced at Gen Con you do see extra interest taken in the nominated products at the show. Even more so if something wins an award. So you do certainly get that immediate hit.

It’s very soon, as I write this, after the 2010 awards so I can’t comment about any long term effect of the awards. It certainly helps highlight the games involved, and also the company, hopefully bringing us to the attention of some gamers that might not have heard of us before or taken a look at the range of games we publish.

You’ve recently partnered with a lot of companies to publish them. Have your nominations and wins brought you new opportunities?

I think the added publicity certainly hasn’t hurt. We get quite a few companies contacting us about publishing partnerships because they’ve seen us publish a number of titles from various other companies and designers. Being nominated, and having several of our current partners nominated, for awards certainly gives an extra stamp of approval, of a kind, to the Cubicle 7 model and probably makes us appear on the radar of a few more potential partners.

When licensing new projects from multi-media, be it TV, Film, Novels or Comics, being able to list nominations and award wins certainly helps get your foot in the door too.

What projects do you have on the schedule; anything you can talk about?

The big one, which has already been announced, for 2011 is our new Lord of the Rings RPG. The first set takes place shortly after the events in The Hobbit and we’re looking at releasing a number of supplements and moving the setting along until we reach the events covered in the actual Lord of the Rings Trilogy. We’re using a brand new system, which has been developed by Francesco Nepitello (mainly known for his board game work such as War of the Ring, Age of Conan and Marvel Heroes by Fantasy Flight Games) and takes the essence and flavour of Tolkien in to the game design.

We’re also working on a couple of other big projects which haven’t been announced, at least one of which should debut at Gen Con 2011. Genesis Descent, our Cybperpunk game, should be out in 2011 and our translation of Yggdrassil (by 7eme Cercle in France, who were behind the ENnie winning Qin: The Warring States which we also now translate and publish) is something we have high hopes for. It does to the Viking era what Qin did for ancient China.

Now that we’ve been around for almost a decade, what do the ENnies mean to you both personally and professionally?

When I worked in retail I used to always look at the nominations list to see if there was anything we hadn’t heard of that we should probably check out. It was also good to see which products were getting attention and compare them to how well they were doing for us in the store.

As a publisher the awards are a great critical nod of recognition. For the most part we don’t go into the awards expecting to win anything. We’re a very small fish in a pond with some monster sized critters living in it. The vast majority of the industry have been around a lot longer than Cubicle 7 and have much larger fan bases so when you see your product up against something from Paizo, FFG, or WotC you tend not to expect anything as their fan bases and sales far outstrip anything we’ve published. When we did end up sneaking a Silver or two it really took us by surprise. Dom, who was at the 2010 Award ceremony, hadn’t prepared anything as we really weren’t expecting to win anything so it was a great surprise for him and the C7 team who attended.

If someone who had never heard of the ENnie Awards walked up to you today and asked, “So what are these ‘ENnies’ you keep talking about,” how would you answer them?

I usually say “It’s the RPG equivalent of the Oscars” as everyone knows what the Oscars are and can understand that.

Thank you to Angus Abranson for answering my questions. For more information about Cubicle 7, visit them on the web at http://www.cubicle7.co.uk.

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