Recently there was a bit of a kerfuffle in the 15mm miniatures industry. I'm not going to reference it directly - if you know about it, you know what I'm talking about and if you don't you're not missing much - but some of the responses to it involved speculation about a cabal comprised of The Big Companies in the 15mm miniatures industry. When some of the owners of those Big Companies mentioned in an off-hand way that they spoke to one another, some folks took that as a sure sign that the future of the 15mm industry was grasped in the gnarled fingers of these Evil Industrial Overlords and their Dark Cabal. Veiled and not-so-veiled accusations of price fixing and black-balling were muttered, eyes were narrowed speculatively and knowing nods were exchanged.
Now, emotions were running high during the aforementioned kerfuffle and most of the grumbling and suspicious glares are explained by that fact alone. Still, I continue to hear the faint after-echoes of the accusations, so I thought I'd share some of my experiences with the indie gaming's Evil Industrial Overlords. Shocking stuff follows, so gird your loins appropriately (or inappropriately, for that matter - who am I to judge what you do with your loins?).
When we released the original version of Ambush Alley way back in Ought-Seven, I e-mailed several miniatures manufacturers to get permission to use their figures in photos in the book. None of these guys knew me from Adam - I was literally just some dude e-mailing them about some game they'd never heard of and had certainly never played. All of them gave me permission to use photos of their products in Ambush Alley, though. All of them were very encouraging, cheerful, and generous. None of them charged me a dime for the use of their figures, talked down their competitors or tried to get me to exclude them.
As Ambush Alley Games grew, so did our relationship with those guys and the owners of several other companies as well. Before long I was on a first name basis with the owners of most of the 15mm miniatures manufacturers. We exchanged e-mails that ranged from purely personal to business related - but never once did I see one of the so-called "Big Guys" of the 15mm world try to use our friendship as leverage to their benefit or to the detriment of a competitor. I never saw any indications of price fixing, market grabbing, or exclusionary "old boy" tactics. In my experience, all of the "Old Guard" of 15mm miniatures proved to be warm, funny, generous supporters of the hobby that helps pay their bills (the same is true of most of the Young Guard, I might add).
These guys enjoy what they're doing, but they aren't getting rich doing it. They share knowledge of their craft, but they don't meet in dark, smokey rooms to discuss who shall or shall not be allowed into their august company. These Big Companies of the 15mm Industry aren't faceless corporations, they're one or two man cottage operations. They're gamers like you (and me), that play fair, take their lumps, and are usually happy with a draw at the end of the day.