Success was on the cards for Fylde coast table-top games creator

A Fylde coast table-top games designer has seen his total turnover reach £2m as he works on his seventh project.

Wednesday, 9th December 2020, 12:30 pm

Tristan Hall, from St Annes, set up his company Hall or Nothing to produce high-end adventure games.

And after six have sold well worldwide, with several reprinted due to demand, he has been able to give up his previous job in video production to concentrate full time on developing his business.

The games are epic fantasy and historical games played using cards which feature premium artwork. Despite costing between £30 and £60, the attraction is that they offer an immersive experience, a range of characters and a variety of ways each plays out to make them as replayable as possible for fans.

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Tristan and Francesca Hall with the games which have proved popular around the world

They are a phenomenon of the internet age, owing their production to crowdfunding rather than the traditional toy company route and they are popular with computer gamers who want to get together to play a tabletop adventure rather than online.

The former St Bede’s pupil this year released 1565, St Elmo’s Pay, a historical game based around the epic Great Siege of Malta - a pivotal four month battle which saw just 500 Knights of St John on the Mediterranean island hold off 30,000 invaders - the might of Turkey’s Ottoman empire as it spread west to conquer much of Europe.

The game was fully funded in just four hours by thousands pledging money via the crowdfunding site Kickstarter.

The game was delivered this year despite the problems caused by the coronavirus crisis which caused delays in production and delivery from printers in China.

A detail from the game 1565 St Elmo's Pay showing the cards. Tristan has a team of trusted artists around the world who produce his designs

Tristan said: “Like everyone else we have a difficult year, so we have only released the one game and it delayed the production of our seventh, Veilwraith. That will be going out next year.

“St Elmo’s Pay was inspired by a visit my wife and I made to Malta about ten years ago. The history there left a great impression.

“It was one of those pivotal moments in history, a bit like the 300 Spartans holding off the Persian empire. The whole history of Europe could have changed if they had lost and perhaps people would be speaking different languages today.

“The Ottoman Turks were unstoppable, taking over much of eastern Europe. Malta was a stepping stone in to southern Europe.

The game depicts the Great Siege of Malta and uses cards to play out the battle

“It is a riveting story and would make an awesome movie. At any giving time they were about to be wiped out but some how held on. Events in the actual battle are depicted in the game. You had knights leaping over the walls, taking over enemy siege towers and turning them against the invaders and stealing the cannons off them.”

He said the name comes from the moment when the Turks finally took over one of the island’s three main forts - St Emo’s. They butchered the knights there and sent the bodies to the other forts to intimidate the defenders.

But instead, the defenders fought even harder and they chanted “St Elmo’s Pay” as they exacted retribution. Eventually the gallant Maltese were reinforced from other European countries.

Tristan said: “Every card in the game depicts an actual person from history with flavour text illustrating the historical aspects.

Tristan and Francesca lay out the cards for a game

“You can play it in half an hour but there are difficulty levels to give a challenge that will suit everyone. St Elmo’s has probably taken 50 or 60 thousand pounds, which is not bad considering hardly anyone will have heard of the Great Siege of Malta, but it is pretty niche.”

Tristan’s first game was Gloom of Kilforth, a sprawling fantasy game which can be played solo or with a group, to stop an ancient evil taking over the land.

He said: “It was so successful, it has gone into a third print run, an expansion was released with more characters and adventures, followed by a second full fantasy game Shadows of Kilforth.”

His first historical game 1066 Tears to Many Mothers, inpsired by the Norman conquest, was completed in 2018 and was then followed by a space horror game, Lifeform, loosely based on the Alien films.

He said: "We have a world wide team of artists from Mexico to Spain to Poland to keep it world class level of artwork. that is crucial to me because I am a gamer before a game designer and I want them to look awesome.

"These are not simple games, they are specialist hobby games, the history games are more simple but these are not the ones you would find on toy shop shelves.

A close up of the artwork

"For me there is nothing worse than a game of Monopoly, gamers call it monotony, you just roll a dice and see what happens and some players end up being eliminated and have to watch the rest pay on for ages.

"Most of us work at computers these days, then go home and watch TV, go on our phones or play video games and it is just screen, screen screen so they are a huge number of people who want to pull away from screens and who want to engage with each other, actually get together around the table to play against each other or together co-operatively depending on the game.

"Kilforth has been around since 2017, next year it will go into its fourth printing. As a company we have sold more than £2m of games since 2015 which is jaw-dropping really which means I am working full time for the business now."

He said the boom in hobby games could not have happened without crowdfunding and online games sites and blogs.

"I still buy board games from the traditional routes but Kickstarter has been vital for hobby games. I always keep an eye on what is coming out and it allows some really unique and interesting ideas that could not be funded in any other way. It also generates its own marketing."

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The games are strategy games with rules that can be made even more challenging and complicated for experienced players