Monday, August 13

Kickstarter - The Rollercoaster

We’re hoping to bring FlickFleet to Kickstarter in September. The original plan was to launch on Tuesday 4th, but with out of sync family holidays and a lot going on in August, I think it’s going to have to slip back to later in the month. I’m still hopefully that we can launch in September though. The video is one of the main stumbling blocks - I’d like it to feature both of us, which means finding a day that we’re both available and so is my mate with all the kit.

The source of my current worries

So we’re still several weeks away from launch but the emotional rollercoaster has already started. Some of this is similar to the other games I’ve published as either Reiver Games or Eurydice Games: will people like my game? Can I find enough customers to make it, at least, break even?

But Kickstarter brings a couple of new dimensions to it - the month of unknowns and the debt.

Every previous game I’ve made I know exactly what I’m getting into at launch, either hand-crafting or ordering a fixed number of games at a fixed cost. I know how many hours of crafting are on the horizon and how many copies I need to sell at what margin. It could be terrifying, risky or fairly safe, but I know what it is. I know how much money is at risk and I know what my crafting future looks like. With Kickstarter however, until the campaign closes you’ve no idea what you’re on the hook for. How many backers will I get? How many copies will I have to make? What will my margins be? All of this is up in the air until the campaign closes. It’s even worse for us as we’ve set a two stage campaign - to keep the target low we’re planning a small hand-crafted run. But there’s a stretch goal to get the boxes, rules, dashboards and wooden pieces professionally manufactured and assembled. If we get close to that we’re still on the hook for hand-crafting everything. For a lot of copies. Even if we hit the stretch goal we may need to do the laser cutting ourselves (I’m still investigating options for a very large run of laser-cutting, but one of the reasons we're doing the laser-cutting ourselves is to keep costs down - there doesn't seem to be any economies of scale for laser-cutting). I’m not sure what my preferred outcome is - scrape over the funding target, just hit the professional stretch goal or something else.

In addition, there's the fact that you owe a lot of people a lot of stuff. I'm okay with the idea of crowdfunding - it makes FlickFleet a possibility, but as I've said before I'm uncomfortable about taking people's money up front. They're paying for a copy (or two!) of the game. They know it'll be a while. They must be comfortable with that or they wouldn't back it. But I've never taken money for something that's not ready yet. Even pre-orders for my previous games were just a request - I didn't take any money until I had a game ready to ship to them. I lost a few pre-orders that way, but I was more comfortable with that than owing someone for something that's an unspecified amount of time from completion. I'm hoping the discomfort around owing people games will encourage me to crank them out as quick as possible.

Exciting times. It’s not keeping me up at night yet, but it’s certainly occupying a lot of my thinking during my evenings and weekends.

Monday, August 6

Crunch Time

We're hoping to Kickstart FlickFleet in September. There's still loads to do though, so that timeline is getting tight and Paul's currently out of the country on holiday and I'll be heading off on holiday at the end of next week.

We've set up the limited company and are now getting the bank account and related guff together, while working on the Kickstarter page text and images, scripting the videos and the box art. It's all feeling pretty hectic now.

I've also been trying to build up some Zombology stock as there may well be another stocking order shortly from Travelling Man (York is getting very low on stock) and I'd like to have a decent pile ahead of the kickstarter so we can focus on FlickFleet afterwards (assuming it funds). We're offering Zombology as an add-on which allows you to get it with much cheaper shipping.

I thought my laptop power lead had died this week, which limited my options at home (lots of those tasks are hard/impossible to do on an iPad or phone), but it seems to be working fine here (I brought it to work this morning in order a replacement power lead for it). Maybe the power socket had broken - who knows.

Here's the next iteration of the box art, it's coming together slowly - what do you think?



Latest iteration


Previous iteration


First concept

Monday, July 30

Let’s Get Limited

My first games company, Reiver Games, was legally a Sole Trader - the company didn’t exist as a legal entity, it was just me, using a trading name. Had anyone sued me back in the day it would have been my personal assets (house, car, etc.) that would have been at risk.

Eurydice has been exactly the same until now - while selling a small number of hand-crafted games I thought the risk was quite low, but with Kickstarter coming up in just over a month I’ve decided to do things properly. I’m going to form a limited company (a separate legal entity) and incorporate Eurydice Games Ltd. Paul, my FlickFleet co-designer and long time Reiver Games play tester is coming on board too as another Director.

I need to get the company founded and a bank account set up as well as get the Kickstarter page together and finish getting quotes for manufacturing and shipping the various different manufacturing options. Paul has done a first draft of the Kickstarter page, so that’s coming together nicely.

Time is progressing apace, I’ve lots to do, and a holiday to take, plus I need to get Zombology back in stock too (I keep running out :-) ). Must crack on...

P.S. Don’t forget we’re running a scenarios

Monday, July 23

Win a Deluxe Copy of FlickFleet!

FlickFleet, our new 2-player space battle dexterity game, has two modes of play: pre-defined scenarios and free play where both players design a fleet that has a particular points value.


A draft of the FlickFleet box

I really prefer the scenario play and one of the things Paul (my co-designer) and I would really like to see is a large body of community designed scenarios available to play.

In an effort to kickstart (see what I did there?) that collection of scenarios ahead of the September Kickstarter for the game, we’re running a competition - with a first prize of a deluxe copy of the game.

Now very few of you have a copy of the game, so we’re not expecting expertly crafted, perfectly balanced scenarios, instead, we’re looking for ideas. The game is set in humanity’s far future when a totalitarian Imperium of Earth bestrides the galaxy. Sick of the endless oppression an Uprising has formed and they are starting to wage a civil war in an attempt to free the citizens from the yoke of tyranny.

To enter the competition, read the rules and see the examples on pages 11-15, read the capabilities of the different types of ships and then submit an entry by emailing jack@eurydicegames.co.uk with your scenario in that format. You can write your scenario from the perspective of the Imperium or the Uprising and include as many of the ships that come in the game as you want.

Entries will be judged on:
  • The scenario setting
  • Interesting asymmetry or special rules
  • With bonus points available for using common household items as scenery.

You will not be marked down for an unbalanced scenario, as we will playtest, balance and publish the best ones (with attribution!).

Entries must be received by midnight (UK time) on 31st August 2018. Winners will be chosen by me and Paul (the game designers) and will be announced by the end of September. If you choose to back FlickFleet and are declared a winner we will refund your pledge. The winner will win a deluxe copy of FlickFleet including free worldwide delivery. If we are successfully funded, second and third places will win a standard copy of FlickFleet with free delivery.

We reserve the right to publish any of the scenarios to our website (attributed to the submitter) after playtesting and tweaking for balance.

Good luck!

Monday, July 16

FlickFleet Status Report

Things have been pretty busy again this week, mostly FlickFleet focused, but also starting to build up some Zombology stock again (I ran out at the end of June).

Zombology and FlickFleet both taking shape

I’m hoping to get FlickFleet on Kickstarter in September, but to do that there’s a number things I need to get sorted first. Last week I finished off the FlickFleet preview copies and posted three of them to the US. I also made two upgrade kits that turn blind playtesting prototypes into preview copies. I’ll be getting an upgrade kit and the last two preview copies in the post on Tuesday. That’s the last FlickFleet crafting I have to do for a while.

The other things I need to do are to do the Kickstarter page and the video (which my mate Wilka is going to help with) and some company stuff.

Until now Eurydice Games has been a trading name for me. Legally the company is me as an individual. Paul, my FlickFleet co-designer and one of my main Reiver Games playtesters wants in, so he and I will be forming a limited company in the next few weeks.

From a marketing point of view I need to properly ‘launch’ FlickFleet on BGG, and in a few other places and then the last two things are to finish the box design and get some more info up on the website.

In other news, next week I'll be in Travelling Man in Manchester demoing (and selling!) Zombology. I'll be there from 6:30pm on Tuesday 24th July. If that's local to you come down meet me!

Seven weeks to go! I’d better crack on...

Monday, July 9

The Scale of Retail

In these days of wall-to-wall Kickstarters it’s easy to forget how critical retail (both online and through FLGSs) is to the success of a game.

Back when I ran Reiver Games I started off with small hand-crafted runs (like I’m doing once again with Eurydice Games). When my Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis led to a life insurance payout I decided I wanted to be a ‘professional’ publisher selling through shops and distributors. I went from selling 100-300 copy print runs to 2,000-3,000 copy runs - which in fairness I didn’t sell out of and I ended up getting rid of a load to liquidators.

With large print runs comes economies of scale, which is just as well since selling through proper channels means more people take a cut: Shops want to buy at half retail plus tax (they have to fund staff, expensive retail locations, absorb the sales tax and want to make a profit), so distributors want to pay 40%. The ideal manufacturing cost is hence 20% of retail (so a game that retails for £50 should cost you £10 to make).

With small print runs you can’t afford to sell to distributors and even selling to retail is a stretch so my whole business plan this time round was based on selling through my website and at clubs and conventions.

As feared, it’s difficult to get people’s attention in the age of Kickstarter and sales have been slower than I would have liked via my website. Sales face-to-face have been pretty good, but I don’t have a lot of time to go to conventions since weekends are my family time and I don’t want to be skipping loads of them to attend conventions. I’ve tried to make it to clubs when I can (sales have been great at Newcastle Gamers) and where possible I’ve tried to include a trip to a local club during my work trips.

But sales are slow.

A couple of months ago I popped into my FLGS, Travelling Man, and spoke to the staff about my game. They have a small press section that is full of hand-drawn comics that are printed at home and thought Zombology would be a good fit for it. By pricing the game at £13 we found a price where it was cheaper than buying it from my website including UK shipping and my cut after they had taken theirs was not too low. They took them on Sale or Return, so I only invoice them for copies sold - so there’s no risk for them of unsold stock and hence lost investment.

Zombology in retail!

In the first month they sold two of their three copies and in the second another two (I’d restocked them back up to three). Last month I met them at the UK Games Expo (I knew several guys from the chain from my Reiver Game days) and their MD wanted to take another 12 copies - four each for the remaining three shops in the chain. That month across the four stores they sold five.

It helps that I’m the only game in the section and that the box design is strong (thanks to advice on BGG), but still this is off to a great start.

Over the last ten months I’ve sold 83 copies of Zombology. Nine of those (over 10%!) have been through retail in the last three months. Despite not wanting to go into retail this time round - it just goes to show that you need to be able to adapt your plans as you gain more data.

FlickFleet is another case in point of adaptability - I was adamant I didn’t want to use Kickstarter, but the only way FlickFleet will see the light of day at a reasonable price is through Kickstarter funding of the laser-cutter so that I can do the laser cutting myself.

What changes have you made to make your game a reality or more successful?

Monday, July 2

A Successful week in America

I spent most of last week in America for work, what little time I had in the UK was spent with my family and my parents who had come up for the weekend to help with the kids while I was away.

Monday I had an hour in Newcastle airport which I spent writing last week’s blog post and then an hour’s flight to Amsterdam where I was delayed for an hour and a half. I used my layover to work on the FlickFleet box illustration, starting with the smallest ship, trying to come up with a style that I though would scale up well to the larger ships. I do most of my game art as vector art (in InDesign and Illustrator) which is more forgiving as you can constantly tweak the vectors until you’re happy with them. Consequently I’m not very au fait with Photoshop - the pixel art part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite. As such I spent a large part of that time referring to Google or online tutorial videos to work out how to use the tools which are all subtly different from the other apps.

My flight was delayed and then my taxi to the office broke down, which meant that I missed the meetings I was supposed to attend on arrival, but to be honest that was a blessing as I’d been up since 10pm Sunday (US time) and been travelling for 16 hours, instead I could have a quick dinner and go straight to bed at 7pm!

I expected that, so I had booked a podcast interview with Jack Eddy of The Cardboard Herald for 2am on Tuesday (which felt like 7am to me and was 10pm for him in Alaska! We’d done the same thing on my previous trip in January and it was great to have a catch up chat covering a wide range of topics. Jack says the interview will be released in a couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for that.

When that finished at 3am I spent a few more hours on the box illustration before heading into the office. Tuesday and Wednesday were a customer meeting with dinner on Tuesday evening, but I had Wednesday evening off, so I had arranged to nip into Cambridge (just across the river from Boston, where I had lived in the winter of 2000-01). I managed to get a lift from the office into Boston with a colleague after work and on the way in we chatted and I explained I was going to a games club. When we arrived at her house she invited me in to wait for my Uber over to Cambridge and as I waited she introduced me to her husband - a gamer! We chatted about games and the club I was attending for a few minutes and then I got the Uber to Pandemonium Books in Cambridge. After a brief stroll round the store I ambled over to the games club and grabbed some dinner in a cafe next door.

The club was a spin off of Beantown Gamers, specifically comprised of people who like lighter games - what an awesome fit for Zombology (10 minutes) and FlickFleet (10-20 minutes). It was an unusually busy session with about 25 attendees so we quick split into multiple groups. We started with Crossfire a super quick social deduction game that was alright, and then since I’d posted a comment in the meetup page that I was there to demo games we played Zombology, which we had a full team of eight players for. After a couple of games we split up again but not before I’d sold a couple of the six games I’d brought with me.

A second group of six wanted to play, so we played again, this time four times, and I made a couple more sales. Then another shuffle and a final group of five, one of whom bought a copy. At that point someone wanted to play FlickFleet, but it was 10pm and I was shattered and faced a long ride back to my hotel, so I called it a night. Five sales in an evening - what a great outcome!

Thursday morning I did another early morning podcast, this time with Brian Schneider of Behind the Indies. Fortunately Brian and I were both in the same time zone, so we chatted at the much more reasonable time of 6am, which was good after a late night and continued jet lag. Brian’s podcast will apparently be available tonight!

When I reached the office I told the colleague who’d given me a lift that I’d survived the evening (we’d joked about meeting internet strangers and the associated risks!) and that I’d had a great evening and sold all but one copy. Which she promptly snapped up as a birthday gift for her husband! I went home empty-handed :-)

With the large Sale or Return stocking order I got from Travelling Man at the Expo and now this I only had 1.5 finished copies of Zombology in stock. I sold two via twitter on Friday evening, so Sunday night I had to finish the second one so I could post them both at lunchtime today. Saturday I rang round the Travelling Man stores to find out how many they'd sold so I could invoice them for the sales. They'd sold five (including two in a store that had only received their stock that week!). So June (which was looking rubbish for sales when I went to the US) ended up being my best month for sales since I finished fulfilling the pre-orders!


The Zombology stockpile is empty!

I'm now completely out of Zombology stock - so crafting is called for! I also need to finish the FlickFleet preview copies and get those in the post to give the reviewers as long as possible to form an opinion and review it ahead of our Kickstarter.