Monday, September 28

Art: Looking for Feedback

It's been another busy week, I've been in London Wed night, Thursday and Friday and I was babysitting for a friend on Tuesday. So little time at home. As a result, I chose to stay home on Saturday and miss Newcastle Gamers.

The busyness doesn't mean no progress however. I took my laptop round on Tuesday when babysitting and spent that evening finishing off the Zombie head that I showed last week:


Then (due to conditioning by The Daughter) I was expecting a couple of early starts while down in London. So I took the laptop again, and spent my mornings sat in my hotel room bed doing some more art too. I've done this (can you guess what it is yet?):


And also these:


These bacteria images are intended to be a very feint background pattern on some of the cards and the rules sheet, the next thing to do is to actually get that together.

What do you think of these? I'd appreciate any feedback you have.

Monday, September 21

Art Evolution

So I'm pretty much done with the game Zombology. The feedback from the blind playtesters was fairly critical and hence very useful. Most of them played the game 'right' (i.e. they played the rules as written and intended) but didn't follow the spirit of the game, as a result, they didn't enjoy it.

Most of my other playtesters do really enjoy it, so clearly I need to improve the rules to make it clear the 'real' way to play the game.

One of the other main criticisms was that the game was too random. They didn't like that aspect of it all. However, it's intended to be a 10-15 minute chaotic drafting game, it's meant to be random. If you don't like short chaotic games, then you are not the intended audience. I wanted it to feel a bit like 6 Nimmt! in that you've got a little bit of control, but your opponents' actions can complete scupper you. I think it has a similar vibe.

With my new plan for route to market, I want to get it out there as soon as possible, rather than radically changing the game to cater to a different audience. Before I do however, I want to improve the art, which in some places is quite nice, and in others is really quite pants. So I want to boost the art a bit before making the tiny hand-made run or uploading the print on demand files.

I've made a tiny bit of progress on that this week (I got back from holiday on Monday, was in London Tuesday and Wednesday and then went away for the weekend, so not much time available) and this week is going to be another busy one (I'm in London Wednesday night through Friday night), but I'm babysitting for friends on Tuesday, so that'll be a chance to make some decent progress, I should have three or so hours of concentrated art time.

As a little teaser of where I'm going, here's a quick look at the new Zombie:

Zombie WIP

The rest of the art of the game is quite simple and iconic (not unlike 6 Nimmt!), so I wanted to improve the current (really bad) Zombie icon and knock it up a notch. This is clearly a work in progress, but I think the direction is clear (above the nose!).

Let me know what you think...

Wednesday, September 16


I've been away for the weekend for a short family holiday, followed by friends round for dinner and then an earlier morning trip to London for work (I'm writing this from my hotel room, before breakfast). So needless to say, not much progress and the blog post is a couple of days late.

I did manage to get a Games Night in last week, and we played a couple of games towards my ten plays goal (The Bridges of Shangri-La and Village), but sadly that was the only Games Night in five weeks, I'd missed the last two due to trip to Manchester for work and I'll miss this week's and next week's due to trips to London for work!

I'm hoping to get a bit more done on the Zombology artwork this week though, taking advantage of InDesign Creative Cloud and being about to use my decent laptop. I'm aiming for a November launch of Zombology, once the art is complete.

Monday, September 7

The Only Constant Is Change

Regular readers will know I've been prevaricating for the last two or three months about whether or not to go through with my plan to do a limited edition hand-made run of Zombology this year.

One of the reasons for this has been a secret up until Friday, but now the cat is finally out of the bag I can admit to it! I've been in the running for the last few months for a promotion at work. Seeing as several of my colleagues (and friends) read this blog, I didn't really want to be discussing it here until a decision was made and they found out through official channels. On Friday I received the job offer and accepted it, so it's all go, starting next month.

The new job is a big step up and will require a load of new skills, learning on the job and responsibility, plus more travel, i.e. less time for games design. For the last couple of months I've already been travelling around once a week, which often clashes with Games Night or Newcastle Playtest, further complicating making progress on games design.

The majority of my mates in Newcastle are also colleagues and have helped me with the lion's share of my Zombology, Codename: Dragon and Codename: Vacuum playtesting. These mates will now all be reporting to me. Which is going to be really weird, and also probably not conducive to playtesting.

So everything is changing. What I don't need on top of that is a huge commitment of my spare time and additional stress around marketing and trying to recoup an investment. So I'm ditching the plan to hand make 150 copies of Zombology and instead going with Print on Demand, which requires no effort from me other than the graphic design.

As I mentioned in my review, there's a few downsides to this, not least the cost of shipping to the UK. Most of my 17 pre-orders are from the UK, almost all friends or family. I don't want them to have to pay silly money to a company in the states for a copy of the game so in addition to the print on demand edition, so there will be a Super Limited True Fans Edition™ of the game, featuring a hand-made tray and lid box and laminated cards. I'll make 20 of these: one for me, one each for the 17 family, friends or true fans who've pre-ordered a copy and 2 spares. These will be selling at the original £9 plus shipping price quoted earlier, so I'll not make any money on them - I'm just doing it because I enjoy it and to support those who've supported me.

There's two spares... Just sayin'.

In other news, I made it to Newcastle Playtest this week for the first time in ages and got to play both Codename: Dragon and Border Reivers Second Edition and got some good ideas for both of them.

I've also invested in Adobe Creative Cloud as a little 'promotion present' to myself. It means I'll be able to work on the Zombology graphic design without having to wait a week for my old laptop to boot up and then continually fight with its glacial slowness. W00t! I've already started on the changes I want to make to Zombology before release.

Monday, August 31


It's been both a very busy and a very unproductive week. My parents came up last weekend, just in time to help out with The Daughter's third birthday party and then stayed with us all week (they left yesterday morning). So we've been entertaining them (badly - I've been knackered all week!).

With mum and dad here I've made no progress on anything, just a little discussion with dad about my company logo one evening after work. There was no Games Night last week (travelling for work and mum and dad here) and there's none this week either (travelling for work again - scheduling FAIL!). So I haven't even made any progress on my play every game ten times goal. The one redeeming feature of travelling for work is that it's often with Ian, a Games Night regular and I take my iPad full of games with me...

This weekend just gone The Wife was away too, so after mum and dad left on Sunday morning I was sole parent in charge of The Daughter until The Wife returned at eight this morning. Lots of fun, but surprisingly hard work - I'm knackered again!

This week I'm hoping to make it to Newcastle Playtest tomorrow night, so fingers crossed I'll at least get a chance to get some playtesting in and go through the feedback I got from the other Playtest UK groups re. Zombology.

Hopefully, things will pick up next week!

Monday, August 24

Print on Demand: A Review

After considering the prolific Daniel Solis' Kigi for a while, I happened to catch a note of his on Google+ a couple of weeks ago stating that it was the final day of the sale he runs every summer. So I decided to jump in an order a copy of Kigi from Drive Thru Cards.


Kigi is a beautiful game (that much is clear from all the pictures I've seen of it) and it struck me as a good opportunity to check out how Print on Demand (POD) works from a customer's perspective while considering it as a publisher (since it's another option I've been considering for publishing Zombology).

The process
I ordered the game one Saturday night from the Drive Thru Cards website. Pretty standard stuff, it was easy to use and all went very smoothly. I bought Kigi ($9 sale price) and a plastic deck box ($1) which all seemed very reasonable. Shipping to the UK was $14.70 which was a bit galling, that's more than the game! Still with the exchange rate the whole thing came to about £16, which doesn't seem to bad for a small print run game.

I got an email on Tuesday telling me they had shipped the game, which is not bad considering they had to print it and cut it out first. Shipping took eight days - arriving on the following Wednesday in a little box which protected it nicely during transit.


  • The biggest advantage of POD from publisher's point of view is the lack of associated hassle and cost. If I make a hand-made game and sell it through my website there's a lot of time and effort required, plus a lot of upfront cost if I don't KickStart it. With POD all I'd have to do is upload the files and choose a retail price, no cost or effort involved.
  • The cards were very well made, better than I could manage by hand.
  • Shipping to the US/Canada will be quicker and cheaper than from me in the UK.
  • Cross-selling opportunities - people going there to by one of Daniel's or another designer's games might see an ad for Zombology and add it to their order.


  • Shipping to the UK (where a lot of my friends & family customers are) is exorbitant.
  • I prefer card games in tray and lid boxes with large format rules - I broke the plastic deck box the day I got it and having the rules on half a dozen cards is a bit fiddly, it's easy to get them muddled up.

If the shipping to the UK wasn't so high, I'd be very tempted by Drive Thru Cards. There are other options (e.g. The Gamecrafter) that might have more affordable shipping and different packaging options. I need to investigate those too.

In other news, I'm making decent progress on my German app, it's coming along very nicely. What I really need to do now is get a load of vocabulary into it. I need to start reading the data from a file, rather than hard-coding it in.

Monday, August 17

Produce / Consume

As I'm sure most of you are aware, the title is a reference to Race for the Galaxy, one of my favourite games and one which I've played exactly 150 times according to BoardGameGeek.

There's a sliding scale of producery-consumerness (a technical term, check out the Big Five personality traits) on which, I'm assuming, most people sit slightly nearer the Consumer end than the Producer end. Some people are happiest reading a great book, or watching a great film or shopping for new clothes. Some people however are happiest when making things, whether knitting cardigans for babies (thanks Mum!), writing novels or painting.

It turns out I'm definitely towards the producer end of that scale. By day I'm a computer programmer, and I love that I can type words and bend a computer to my will, creating programs and apps that are useful, interesting, attractive or just fun. By night, I'm just as bad. Historically it's been writing (bits of!) computer games, painting miniatures, designing worlds and stories as a DM and obviously designing board games.

It struck me this week that probably the bit I enjoy most about game designing is actually the graphic design. Working with a very limited set of artistic skills to make prototypes or hand-made games that are attractive, or at least functionally well designed. Don't get me wrong, I also enjoy trying to wrestle in my head with the game design to design something that's fun to play and there's something zen-like about cranking out well-made hand-made games, each one lovingly hand-crafted but done well. And the end result is satisfying too, when you hear from a gamer who has played one of your games and really enjoys it. I'm not a great game designer, so it's rare enough that I hear from a gamer who loves one of my games, but when it does it brings a smile to my face every time - I've brought pleasure to another human being, often someone I've never met (and probably never will). That's pretty cool.

Why this philosophical train of thought? I've been agonising over whether or not to do a hand-made run of Zombology for a couple of months now, after bravely/foolishly committing to doing it at the beginning of the year. The concerns that have given me most trouble are not having enough time to get to the conventions I need to attend to drum up sales and whether there's still a market for hand-made games now that everyone can make a professional run of a game they've thought of through KickStarter.

I've asked the question in a couple of places and the advice seems to be that I should embrace KickStarter and do what I plan through there. Assuming I was successful on KickStarter, most or all of the games would be pre-sold so convention attendance would be less critical, so that could be a plus point to going that way. Anyway, Im not leaning toward KickStarter, despite my earlier antipathy towards it. I'm flighty like that.

In other news, I've got some feedback from a couple of playtest groups. Both of them only played it three player (the weakest I think). The other Playtest UK group played it a couple of times, and didn't seem overly enamoured. In the second game they tried changing a couple of rules. They did however provide really good feedback which I need to go through and learn from. The other group had played it before (about a year ago) and really liked this new version, playing it eight times (though still only three player). They suggested a rules clarification that I'll have to make shortly.

This week is mostly about trains. I hope to make some good progress on the Zombology art upgrades on my way to and from my quarterly hospital visit to Sheffield on Wednesday.