I derailed my round-the-world holiday to buy a rare wargame

Disrupting precious family memory-making for the sake of an indie mecha wargame that’s equal parts Warhammer 40k and Front Mission 3.

A white-armored mech for the wargame Eisenfront

It’s late December 2023, the final week of a family trip to New Zealand for my brother’s wedding, and I’m waiting for a liaison. It’s been a magical three weeks, celebrating with family I’ve not seen in years. But now, during a five-day stop-off in the South East Asian metropolis of Singapore, I’m gonna get a fix of wargame miniatures.

The family is on the fourth floor of a massive mall, eating dinner in a Korean fusion pizza restaurant; green tea dough, Chicago style deep dish base, no tomato sauce, mushrooms, soft sweet cheese and almond topping, a sprouting-seed salad on top. I’m looking out for my contact. I’ve arranged to meet Singaporean game designer Sean Suchanya to buy a starter set of Eisenfront, a 15mm scale miniature wargame of customisable mech battles.

The Groundhog mech armed with a belt fed minigun from the wargame Eisenfront

The miniatures caught my eye a long time ago. They have a distinctive boxy, industrial look that I love (I’d go so far as to say I prefer the designs to Warhammer 40k‘s Imperial Knights).

They’re heavily inspired by classic Playstation mech strategy series Front Mission – if you’re too young to recognise that name, check out the lets play video from YouTuber Look Back Gaming, below.

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Like every part of Eisenfront, Suchanya designs and produces the miniatures himself. Though you can order the models from the Centerfire Hobbies webstore internationally, the combination of shipping and import duty is more than a journalist’s salary can justify. But now that I’m in his home city, I’m buying them in person.

Four-legged Albatross mecha from the wargame Eisenfront

Suchanya arrives. He looks a little unsure what to do in the presence of this stranger, their partner, and their child eating pizza. It might have been less socially awkward for me to just grab the minis and run, like the world’s nerdiest drug deal. But I’ve already invited Suchanya to hang out and chat. I want to know about Singapore’s wargame scene, and about his own wargame.

Dinner is about done, and my partner and daughter head off. Our hotel is in the red light district, and my partner is not great with navigation, but I’m sure they’ll be fine. (They were fine!) Suchanya has the goods. I have the money. We make the trade.

Well-armed mecha with two submachine guns from the wargame Eisenfront

The Eisenfront starter set is a work in progress. Suchanya explains how he’s continually experimenting with the contents of the box, and even the materials that components are made out of.

As well as the four 3D printed mecha, rules pamphlet, and resin cast alternate weapons the box is advertised as containing, mine comes with three pieces of resin wreckage, and an FDM-printed terrain piece. There’s an extra set of components for the models’ delicate joints, too, as Suchanya is testing a new material.

We make our way to a café in the middle of the mall’s ground floor plaza, where we get powerfully sweet iced coffees, and Suchanya takes out some of his display models. The minis are en-route to his workshop for a touch up, after getting chipped at the recent Singapore Comic Con.

Cyclops mech with convertible legs to wheels from the wargame Eisenfront

The Eisenfront minis are all mixed-media, with bodies made from cast or 3D printed resin, and joints made from softer plastics. The result is fully posable models that are halfway between regular minis and Gundam kits.

Suchanya has explained that some customers have requested simpler kits without movable joints, but the ability to repose the models, and freely swap in and out limbs and weapons, is a core fantasy that he wants to capture.

We don’t talk about the game rules much at the time. Looking at it later, it seems like a solid system with a lot of focus on customising mechs: as well as points costs, components have a weight, which must be supported by the mech’s power plant. Legs, torso, even individual arms can be swapped in and out, offering different upgrade hardpoints, abilities, or inbuilt weapons.

Attack helicopter model for the wargame Eisenfront

There are cards for each of the various mech components, and also action cards that allow mech pilots to respond mid-battle with heroic actions. Those can be downloaded from the Centerfire Hobbies website if you want to try the game out with your own mech minis.

Suchanya’s kits have become increasingly sophisticated as he’s gained experience. One set, the Cyclops, has legs that articulate between a walking pose and a rapid-transit wheeled pose. The Groundhog has a flexible rubber ammo feed for its minigun.

The Gekko, a four-legged tank with omni-directional movement, has apparently been a big seller. He’s learned plenty of new design techniques as he’s gone along, and is fighting the nagging desire to redesign the older elements of the range with all his new expertise.

Massive heavy mech for the wargame Eisenfront

We chat about mini production. Suchanya has outsourced the latest batch of joint components to a factory in Malaysia, and is evaluating the quality they provide.

He’s also very interested in SioCast, a thermoplastic injection molding technique pioneered in Spain and now used by Corvus Belli for the mechs in its Infinity wargame, DnD miniature maker Reaper Miniatures for its Bones USA range, and more. He’s considering renting production capacity from the first Singaporean company to buy a SioCast machine, once that deal is sealed.

Suchanya is something of a generalist nerd creative, turning his hand to anything from cosplay construction, to painting miniatures on commission, to vintage toy repair.

A pair of mecha for the wargame Eisenfront

He works part time creating molds for an Australian sculptor who makes after-market upgrades for model aeroplanes, a role that’s helped immeasurably getting Eisenfront off the ground. His wargame takes up the rest of his time. It’s clearly a work of passion – still a work in progress, but already realised to a very high standard.

Eventually, the five hours of jet lag I’ve brought with me from New Zealand take their toll, and I have to head back to the hotel. Suchanya and I head to the metro station, swapping recommendations for turn based games on PC and mobile. I ask for a recommendation of a good Gundam kit seller. A couple of days later I’ll drag my family to the store he recommends, and – finding a single hanger with Eisenfront blisters on it – buy another of his mechs.

Heavily armed Fellhand mecha from the wargame Eisenfront

If you’re a big fan of stompy mechs and small-scale buildings, make sure you check out our Legions Imperialis review, as well as our guide to Legions Imperialis terrain so you can build an appropriately-sized city for your mecha to smash up.

You might also want to look up Full Spectrum Dominance, which has amazing 3D printer files for mechs and scenery that scale up to 15mm beautifully, or Horizon Wars: Midnight Dark, which has rules for pilots stealing other players’ mechs, Front Mission style.