While I get all the shiny new stock from Iliada Game Studio up on the Precinct Omega webstore, I thought it was worth explaining why I was so keen to partner with Ali, the owner of the business and designer of all of their products.
First, Ali is simply a lovely guy. One of the nicest things about this industry is how many nice people there are working in it. Tabletop wargames is such a tiny, niche market that although it's possible - with hard work and dedication - to make a living, it's almost impossible to actually become wealthy and this means that it draws dedicated, passionate people who are generally a joy to know and helping them succeed, in whatever small way I can, is a pleasure and a reward in itself.
Second, Ali's designs are smart on so many levels. Laser cutting is now fairly old technology, with bigger enterprises going to water-jet cutting. But it means that it can deal with low volumes. And working with sheets makes storing large quantities of stock incredibly easy for even a kitchen-table enterprise. Plus, shipping is much easier when you can fit your products in a normal envelope. Not only that, but Ali's move into laser-cut card as well as MDF means that many of his products are incredibly light, so they are more economical and more ecological to ship. Ecologically, MDF isn't the nicest of materials but it's a significant improvement over plastic and the options for making it earth-friendly are being proactively explored by the manufacturers.
Ali isn't alone in devising innovative approaches to the use of laser-cutting technology, but he does have an approach that differs from some better-known manufacturers. While, in many cases, the move has been towards kits that do most of the thinking for the hobbyist, and can almost be assembled without glue at all, Ali's kits leave the hobbyist a lot more freedom to mix and match kits, assembling them in all sorts of arrangements. This does mean they require a little more thought, but we're not a community that's afraid of a spatial challenge!
Third, our industry is heavily concentrated in the Wester European cultural community. It's been fantastic to see its growth in Poland and Russia (pirating issues notwithstanding) but its traction in Asia Minor and the Middle East has been limited. These are untapped markets. Based in Turkey, Ali is ideally placed to begin exploiting this market and, although he is mostly shipping back into Europe and the US, right now, I can see Turkey becoming a beach head for getting more wargaming onto tables in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, and even in the Arabian Peninsula.
Counter-intuitive though it might seem, I do believe that the wargames industry has a part to play in establishing international cooperation and peace and, although it might seem ludicrous to connect a tiny UK retailer stocking products from a tiny Turkish manufacturer with peace in the Middle East, I believe it's from these kinds of relationships that great things can eventually come.