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Fantasy map game company’s real-life global expansion

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8 June 2021

A role playing game (RPG) venture is levelling up with a second Kickstarter campaign kicking off, launched with the support of the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Modular Realms creates magnetic, double-sided, flatpack game pieces for use in tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons. Founder Annabelle Collins says, “think of it like magnetic lego used to build fantasy maps in real life.”

Modular Realms was founded just over a year ago when Annabelle, a University of Auckland PhD Chemistry student, had her studies interrupted by a devastating car accident. While rehabilitating, she began experimenting with ways of enhancing the RPG experience using technology and resources available at Unleash Space, the University of Auckland’s vibrant innovation hub and maker space. She then explored her products’ viability as a business enterprise. The global role-playing games market is expected to reach $22 million by 2023.

In April 2020, Modular Realms raised over $40,000 through Kickstarter with backers from 21 countries including Puerto Rico, Iceland, Romania, and Japan. Despite the challenges of fulfilling orders in the midst of a global pandemic, Annabelle has enjoyed being able to share her terrain with players from across the globe. She says, “Fulfilling orders has been super fun, despite the challenges involved. During the PPE crisis I dedicated all my machines to make PPE to donate to hospitals and care homes, which put me behind on my orders. Plus, there was the joy of having postage costs for every single order double two months after the Kickstarter ended. But I haven’t had to face the problems of physical shops or tourism industries, so I count myself lucky!”

Kickstarter pre-orders provided Annabelle with funding that gave her the ability to continue the research and development of her product including patenting a new magnetic system, finding a suitable manufacturer, making moulds for mass production, and developing her terrain design skills, all with the support and guidance of Start-up Studio.

Start-up Studio is a community of entrepreneurs and start-ups using Unleash Space as their home and place of work. In addition to a buzzing co-working space, members receive mentoring, professional development and networking opportunities, and more. Coming from a science background, Annabelle found opportunities to learn from industry professionals most valuable. She says, “I’ve had so many fantastic experiences through Start-Up Studio, but the best for me have been access to a number of mentors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. It was from speaking to different experts and awesome people that I learned things like how to approach manufacturers, how to build a marketing strategy, and got advice on IP. All the things I’d never been taught I could go and learn in one to one sessions while asking questions relevant to my business.”

In addition to classic terrain, Annabelle’s new Kickstarter campaign “Modular Realms: Masters of the Waterways” will include river pieces, curved floors and doors, and other pieces requested by backers from her first campaign, all featuring a new magnetic design and made from improved manufacturing techniques. She has teamed up with Michael Mordor, a mini painter based in Scotland, to offer a limited number of painted sets for people seeking a more polished final product. She is also collaborating with Viva La Dirt League’s NPC DnD, the largest Dungeons and Dragons YouTube channel in New Zealand, and offering a few people the chance to order customised terrain sets.

Modular Realms opened an exciting career pathway that had never been on Annabelle’s radar. She says, “I think the biggest surprise about being an entrepreneur for me is that I can do it! I had never ever considered being a businesswoman before and I never imagined it would be so fun and rewarding. 

“I’ve had to learn to be patient though, which was never my strong suit. Sometimes things take time to build and jumping the gun can lead to problems in the future. That’s been something I’ve had to discover through my own mistakes. There have been some lows for sure, especially when I’m staring at my next ‘learning opportunity,’ but the highs definitely outweigh them and what adventure is worth taking if there aren’t a few mountains and valleys?”

Velocity Team 2020
Velocity Team 2020

social media

8 June 2021

A role playing game (RPG) venture is levelling up with a second Kickstarter campaign kicking off, launched with the support of the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Modular Realms creates magnetic, double-sided, flatpack game pieces for use in tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons. Founder Annabelle Collins says, “think of it like magnetic lego used to build fantasy maps in real life.”

Modular Realms was founded just over a year ago when Annabelle, a University of Auckland PhD Chemistry student, had her studies interrupted by a devastating car accident. While rehabilitating, she began experimenting with ways of enhancing the RPG experience using technology and resources available at Unleash Space, the University of Auckland’s vibrant innovation hub and maker space. She then explored her products’ viability as a business enterprise. The global role-playing games market is expected to reach $22 million by 2023.

In April 2020, Modular Realms raised over $40,000 through Kickstarter with backers from 21 countries including Puerto Rico, Iceland, Romania, and Japan. Despite the challenges of fulfilling orders in the midst of a global pandemic, Annabelle has enjoyed being able to share her terrain with players from across the globe. She says, “Fulfilling orders has been super fun, despite the challenges involved. During the PPE crisis I dedicated all my machines to make PPE to donate to hospitals and care homes, which put me behind on my orders. Plus, there was the joy of having postage costs for every single order double two months after the Kickstarter ended. But I haven’t had to face the problems of physical shops or tourism industries, so I count myself lucky!”

Kickstarter pre-orders provided Annabelle with funding that gave her the ability to continue the research and development of her product including patenting a new magnetic system, finding a suitable manufacturer, making moulds for mass production, and developing her terrain design skills, all with the support and guidance of Start-up Studio.

Start-up Studio is a community of entrepreneurs and start-ups using Unleash Space as their home and place of work. In addition to a buzzing co-working space, members receive mentoring, professional development and networking opportunities, and more. Coming from a science background, Annabelle found opportunities to learn from industry professionals most valuable. She says, “I’ve had so many fantastic experiences through Start-Up Studio, but the best for me have been access to a number of mentors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. It was from speaking to different experts and awesome people that I learned things like how to approach manufacturers, how to build a marketing strategy, and got advice on IP. All the things I’d never been taught I could go and learn in one to one sessions while asking questions relevant to my business.”

In addition to classic terrain, Annabelle’s new Kickstarter campaign “Modular Realms: Masters of the Waterways” will include river pieces, curved floors and doors, and other pieces requested by backers from her first campaign, all featuring a new magnetic design and made from improved manufacturing techniques. She has teamed up with Michael Mordor, a mini painter based in Scotland, to offer a limited number of painted sets for people seeking a more polished final product. She is also collaborating with Viva La Dirt League’s NPC DnD, the largest Dungeons and Dragons YouTube channel in New Zealand, and offering a few people the chance to order customised terrain sets.

Modular Realms opened an exciting career pathway that had never been on Annabelle’s radar. She says, “I think the biggest surprise about being an entrepreneur for me is that I can do it! I had never ever considered being a businesswoman before and I never imagined it would be so fun and rewarding. 

“I’ve had to learn to be patient though, which was never my strong suit. Sometimes things take time to build and jumping the gun can lead to problems in the future. That’s been something I’ve had to discover through my own mistakes. There have been some lows for sure, especially when I’m staring at my next ‘learning opportunity,’ but the highs definitely outweigh them and what adventure is worth taking if there aren’t a few mountains and valleys?”


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