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Interview with Jim Fox of IWM


At Cold Wars 2009, the ScrapYard met with Jim Fox, the Iron Wind Metals representative at the exhibitor booth for Cold Wars and all the other HMGS conventions.  I think there are a lot of Battletech players who have heard of Mike Noe and the Office Wench but have not had a chance to get to know Jim more.  I sat down with Jim and asked a few questions to help the rest of the Battletech community break the ice.  There is more to Iron Wind Metals than the headline owners after all.

SYA: Tell us a little about yourself and how you fit into the Iron Wind Metals family.

JF: So, basically, at age 12 I went to the factory because I knew a friend of one of the owners and grew up there.  Thirty years later here I am.  I was there when it was all lead figures and you bought them one at a time and started with Dungeons and Dragons. You know, Battletech didn’t even exist then or historicals… So I’ve been around for a long time.

SYA: How long have you been coming to Heavy Metal Gaming Society Events like Cold Wars and Historicon?

JF: I started going with one of the former owners about 10 years ago.  That was the first convention I’d been to.  Although I went to a small one in Cincinnati in high school back in ’82.

SYA: Do you play CBT yourself?

JF: That’s a good question.  I played Battletech in about ’87 in college two or three times and that’s the only time I’ve ever played. I was really into Dungeons and Dragons as a kid and got into fantasy and I’m now more of a miniatures collector.  Although I really like Battletech, I just never got back to it and now I’m so busy making sure we have the booths ready I have very little gaming time.

SYA: Speaking of, you have a great collection of miniatures that you bring to all of the conventions. How did you end up with all of them and do you know who painted them?historiconiwmminis1

JF: Well, often what would happen is the person who… we used to have six sculptors on staff and as they created stuff about half of those guys were Golden Demon type painters. So some of those guys painted them and then we also have fans who are tremendous painters who would offer to paint certain ones for trade or for favors. So, we have acquired that painting collection over a very long time period from various painters.  As a matter of fact most of them we would be like, yea we don’t remember who painted that.  But then a guy will come up and go “yeah, I painted this.”  It’s a real hodge-podge and that’s why you’ll see a variety of finishes on them. Some of them are a bit more glossy than others, all of them are beautiful but you’ll see different tastes and directions with them.

SYA: Historicon is going to be changing venues in 2010. Could you tell us what you think that would mean for Battletech players?

JF: I think it has the potential of making it the best Battletech venue we have ever had.

SYA: Including GenCon?

JF: Yes. I really do, because Historicon is smaller as a con and I think we can make more of a mark there than we do at GenCon because you are competing with 30,000 other interests there.  You have 33 or 34 thousand people going there and most of them don’t play Battletech.  Historicon is more of 5,000 or so attendees so percentage wise we have a higher percentage and with the bigger venue we will be able to go to them and say, “Ok instead of a side room I want two rooms.  Instead of a side room I want to be in the main gaming hall.  I want exposure.  I want this, I want that.”

It’s got a rail system right to the front door.  The entire east coast can hop a train and make it there and come for a day or whatever.  They had a meeting on Friday night to inform us about why and a lot of the details about that venue and afterward I think we are going to do a limited special piece for anyone who pre-registers and comes and plays Battletech.  And that will be their first chance to get it and they will get it for free.  It stinks of opportunity for us.  I really really believe that.

SYA: How closely do you work with Catalyst Game Labs when deciding on new product?

JF: Catalyst is a company, if I understand it right, that has a lot of guys who work from home and they connect via the internet so they are kind of a scattered out company. At Origins last year we actually took them to dinner and said, “Ok What direction are you guys going and what can we do to buddy up with you guys?”  We try very hard to work with them but it doesn’t always work that way.  They are very busy just trying to get their stuff done on their end of it.  Although we would like to work even closer with them… we try.

But it’s two separate companies functioning two different ways and we actually manufacture product.  They’re authors and publishers and they create a lot of stuff overseas.  Two totally different companies, but we try.  I know that they have some more box sets coming out and we want to know as soon as possible whats in there so we can make sure we are heading in the right direction.  It keeps getting better and better.  They’ve grown very fast and they’ve had some growing pains too.  And actually Battletech in the past few years has had a very good up swing mostly due to them.  They’ve done a really good job and that’s been great for us.

SYA: How many people have you had come to the booth to buy their first Battletech miniature?

JF: You get a handful every show because of the gaming that’s here.  It introduces a lot of guys.  What we really see are a lot of guys who come up and say “I haven’t played Battletech in 20 years but I played it last week”.  We get a lot of that.  It’s one of those game systems that is so solid that you remember it again very quickly, pick it up again, and it’s a great game system. It’s a fall back for a lot of guys.  But, we do get a handful every show. Four, five, six something like that.

SYA: How much do you work with Mark “Speck” who runs the Battletech events here at the HMGS conventions?

JF: As closely as we can.  Because he’s put his heart and soul into what you guys do over there so we do everything we possibly can and he may even help us set up the booth and help us take it down.  So if it wasn’t for those guys we couldn’t do this.

SYA: Speaking of convention support, you have been giving great support in the form of product coupons, how have those been working out for you?

JF: I think they work pretty well.  For instance this morning we had a kid who obviously played in one of the games over there and he came over and bought a fantasy piece.  So there is a lot of cross over gaming and I think it works very well. It really does.

SYA: Is there any recent work being put into the Iron Winds of War game?

JF: That game itself is a stand alone game system where you can plug any figures into it you want.  So the work is mostly done on that. We spend about 99% of our time making ‘Mechs.  Between casting them and producing them and packing them and shipping them, we spend about 105% of our time. We are always behind.  I encourage anyone who can visit Cincinnati to visit the factory to see what we really do and see how much much work goes into it.  It’s a craft really.  We make 100% of this product right here in the United States. Hand made, hand packaged, hand shipped.  It’s pretty cool to see it.  It takes a lot of time and effort so there is not a lot of time being spent on some of the other things we’d like to do.

SYA: Was that a real offer to visit the IWM factory?  How would that work?

JF: Yeah, well you would want to email them first because their schedules are real mixed up.  They work a lot of weekends but not all weekends so it’s a hodge podge and they have a lot of part time people so some of them work funny hours.  But yeah, you can contact them.

SYA: I see that most of the resin products have sold out already. [Pointing to the empty shelf where boxes of radar dishes and drop ships were just the day before.]coldwars2009iwm

JF: They just came in.  We don’t manufacture any resin.  It’s a whole different technology so we have somebody that we contract that with and the first order; twelve dropships came in two weeks ago so we go, “Ok, we can’t even announce they are here.”  Then another 24 came in last week so right before [Cold Wars 2009] Mike Noe came to me and asked if I wanted to take some. So I brought a limited amount to the show here and of course they’re gone.  They’re beautiful. I brought eight radar dishes in and actually most of those got sold to people who aren’t Battletech players.  They are just so cool that guys were like, “yeah, I got to have one of those.”  We are going to continue to add to the resin line for more things like the radar dish.  More generic things that crossover. They are just such pretty pieces.

SYA: Thank you very much, I appreciate you taking the time.

Posted under Articles, Terrain
  1. EastwoodDC Said,

    Great interview. I am looking forward to visiting the IWM booth at ORIGINS.

  2. Steve Ronin Said,

    The BT players on site DID help Jim pack up after the show, and he was on his way home in record time.
    Unfortunately, it was while helping pack up that I saw some items I wanted, but the ‘shop’ was closed.
    meh. Next time, right?
    Great interview.

  3. Ryuken-Ni Said,

    Wow that’s awesome you got to meet Jim Fox the Iron Wind Metals representative! :)

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