Monday, January 29

I'm Back!

I'm back in the UK after five days in San Francisco for work. As yet the jet lag (eight hours time difference and a red-eye home) hasn't kicked in, and I'm feeling surprisingly perky, but I'm sure that will change soon enough.

The trip was very good, I managed to fit in some sight-seeing (including a cycle ride over the Golden Gate Bridge), and I posted the five copies of Border Reivers that I had lugged to the US as part of the free postage deal. I'd said I would send them Parcel Post on Friday, but the in event, I posted them on Thursday and the four who lived nearest to San Francisco got theirs posted Priority Mail as the price differential between that and Parcel Post was negligable for them. At least two of them have already received their copies so that's good.

In other news, one of the guys I was visiting had Googled me to try and find out something about me before I arrived. Over dinner one evening he admitted this and said 'You are the Games Designer, aren't you?'. My head swelled :-) It turns out he was a big fan of Settlers of Catan. Him and his friends were looking for something new to play so I recommended a couple of games.

Now I'm back I need to concentrate on getting some more copies of Border Reivers together as the offer lead to a rush which ran me out of stock. I started another batch before I left, I just need to finish them now...

Thursday, January 25

Games in the Snow

Hello all!

With Jack enjoying the sunshine over in the states while the UK shivers in (occasional) snow and sleet, I thought I'd take the opportunity to give you an update on what I've been doing.


After a few playtests and a lot of rules changes last year, I decided to let this rest over christmas. I'm now re-writing the rules and adding in some more varied task cards. The original task cards were along the lines of 'Go to place A, collect package, take to place B, collect 500 credits'. I want the new cards to include secret tasks that are only revealed at the end of the game, such as 'If you hold a computer at the end of the game, gain 300 creds'. I'll be working on these for the next week or so, i'll keep you updated.

Space Campaign:

As mentioned in a previous post, i'm also collecting ideas on a space campaign game, that is going to be on a very large scale. I want it to contain all aspects of running a galactic empire, but in a fun and, erm, serious way. I also want to include a tactical battle segment for resolving combat, but that could develop into a mini-game of it's own. This game is purely in the ideas stage at the moment so if anyone has any features they'd like to see, please let me know ('How about the game plays in real time, and it takes 6 months to travel form one planet to the next, Dave?').

I think these two should keep me busy for a while. I'd like to get a workable version of Space Campaign by the end of the year and get a final version of Citywise together as well. I'm not sure it'll happen, but it'll be fun trying!

All the best

Monday, January 22

A Very Busy Saturday

Saturday was a very busy day - and all of it games-related. First of all I had to post a copy of Border Reivers to a customer in the States who had missed the free shipping offer, which I did on the way to my local games club: Beyond Monopoly. At BM I arrived, dumped my stuff, said hello to a few people, and then looked for a game. Hugo of Bode Gueims was free, and a guy I'd not met called Peter was too. Peter didn't have a preference for what to play, and Hugo wanted to play Border Reivers (good man!), so we set up a three player game with the variant board layout.

Peter got off to a good start, and started building up a strong economy, both he and Hugo were playing defensively, so I took a risk and went for the mine, to supplement my meagre economy. With a bit more money coming in I could start to play a bit more aggressively, and I took the fight to Peter, who had decided to fall back so he had less land to defend. I destroyed one of his towns, and using the money I stole of him, got in a position where I thought I could win the game in a few turns. Hugo and Peter continued to spend heavily, but the left their counter-attacks too late (Hugo did manage to destroy my town in the final turn), and I ended up winning.

I had to leave early, as I was off to Leeds for a meeting at 3, so we decided to have a quick game of Villa Paletti with a young lad who's name I didn't catch joining in, which I hadn't played before. It was a fun dexterity game, with players trying to increase the height of a tower by moving pieces from lower down to the top until it eventually collapses, a bit like a very brightly coloured Jenga. The first game finished too early, so nobody won, so we had time for a quick second game. This won by someone, but I've forgotten who! Perhaps Hugo will fill in the blanks in the comments! I enjoyed Villa Paletti, it compares well with the other dexterity games I've been introduced to recently, but it's not as good as Pitch Car.

I then rushed out of Beyond Monopoly after only two and a half hours, and caught a bus to Leeds where I was meeting an artist (in the comic book vein), to get an idea about how much it would cost to get him to do the artwork for Monster. I met the artist in a cafe, got some coffees in, and started to explain the plan. First I showed him a copy of Border Reivers to show him I wasn't doing a crappy job at the production end. Then I explained the various components, and what I had in mind for artwork for each one. He seemed interested, and suggested some other ideas for the artwork in places, which was good, as a second opinion is always useful. After a long pause for another round of coffee, we played a game of Monster there in the cafe. Then came the crunch point. He said, that if he was doing this for a proper company, then the bill would come to around a grand, far more than I could afford to pay, but, he liked the game, loved the theme, and liked what I was trying to do with it. We discussed a bunch of things that could either reduce the price or act as sweeteners for him. The result? He's going to do a quick sketch of one of the components, and is definitely interested. Yeay!

As if that wasn't enough games-related goodness for the day, I'd arranged a games night for that evening. So I rushed home, did some tidying and cleaning up and then my guests started to arrive. Guy and I set up a game of Lost Cities while Dave, Pip, Paul G and Rebecca set up Ticket To Ride. Guy and I played and couple of games of Lost Cities, and just as we were finishing the second game Roman arrived. So the three of us set up Power Grid, as Roman wanted to play it again. Our 3-player went on for a while, so the others had a game or two of Carcassonne, trying to join up for a 7-player of Pitch Car. We played a few games of PitchCar, firstly with all seven, then with six as Guy went to look after the baby, then, after most people had left and The Wife had returned we had another four player with The Wife, Paul, Rebecca and I. Finally, Paul and I played a couple of games of Carcassonne with the Inns and Cathedrals expansion.

What a day. It was great to get to Beyond Monopoly again and get the rematch of Border Reivers in against Hugo. It went very well with the artist, and then a really good games night, with a whole bunch of friends, some of whom I'd not seen in ages. I need more days like that!

Friday, January 19

Wow! That's A Nice Surprise

So as you saw, I offered my American chums a special offer limited to the first five people to reply to a post on BoardGameGeek. This happened to coincide with Eric Martin of Board Game News writing an article about Border Reivers. Then I sat back, wondering if I'd get any takers.

I did.

Boy, Did I. Yesterday I sold six copies, including one to a friend of a friend who's played the game a fair bit and wanted a copy as a present. But the five free shipping copies disappeared in twelve hours. That's six copies in twelve hours. I keep track of my weekly sales, and yesterday was my best ever week of sales. In one day. Sweet!

The publicity is still paying off, I sold another copy today to the States, which means I've now sold out of the stock I made over Christmas. I really need to make some progress on the batch I started last week, I've been very busy, so they've been on the back burner. Now I really need them!

Tomorrow I'm going to Beyond Monopoly for a bit, then to Leeds to meet a potential artist for Codename: Monster, and then I'm having friends round for games in the evening! Busy day.

Thursday, January 18

Border Reivers - Limited Special Offer

I'm in San Francisco for work next week, so I thought I'd offer free shipping & handling to my US customers, to counteract the expense due to the ludicrous exchange rate.

If you would like to take advantage of this offer, please reply to this thread on BoardGameGeek, and then send £30 (GBP) to via PayPal.

Please note: Due to limited suitcase space this offer is limited to the first FIVE people to respond to the thread. Payment must be received before 12 noon (GMT) on Monday 22nd January, as I fly out on Tuesday. Postage will be via USPS Package service, on Friday 26th January (the first chance I'll get to get to a Post Office).

Wednesday, January 17


I found out today that the copy I recently sold to the States was as a result of the BBC MindGames review - so it has generated some interest at least.

I was worried that the address looked wrong, so I held off posting the copy for nearly a week, while emailing trying to get the address confirmed. I eventually posted it on Monday without getting confirmation, as I was getting worried about hanging on to the money for so long without posting the copy. Today I got confirmation that the address was correct, and I was thanked for my customer service! I was worried I'd be berated for dragging my heels - so that was good.

I also heard back from Rick Thornquist, the old editor of Board Game News about an article he was considering doing on Border Reivers several months ago. He had emailed me to let me know that since I'd emailed him Eric Martin had taken over (which I knew about), and to forward the conversation to Eric. Eric also contacted me the same day to see about an article - excellent!

I also got permission to demo and sell Border Reivers at Beer and Pretzels in May - it'll be my largest convention yet.

Today was a good day.

Tuesday, January 16

Paul's Games Night

Last night was Paul's second games night of 2007, but I missed the last one due to coming back from Bristol, so this was my first.

It was Paul, Andy, Greg and I with Lisa joining in for the first game of Diamant. Diamant was fun as usual, I tried my tried, tested and rarely successful technique of running away as soon as there were a decent number of gems left on cards, and this time it worked! I won the game of Diamant, while poor Greg and Paul didn't get any gems at all. I only had 19 though, so it was fairly low scoring.

During Diamant Spence arrived, and after Diamant Lisa left, so there were five of us again. I offered the boys the chance to play the Monster prototype which I was keen to test with more players (the original submission only supported 2-4 players - I've tweaked it to hopefully support up to 6, but I've not tested it with more than 4 yet though) the boys agreed so I set it up and explained the game to them.

I was surprised by how keen they were to pay over the odds for cards, while I played a more restrained game. It was fun, and despite me winning, the boys were up for a second game. I won that one too, but I got a good vibe from the boys, and some good advice about the design too, so it was definitely worth taking round.

I was three for three, and Paul suggested breaking out Falling, a card game he'd got from a friend over Christmas. Spence had heard of it before, so he was appointed Rules Monkey and he duly explained the game. There wasn't an awful lot to it, but the reading of the rules failed to communicate just how chaotic the game was. One player sat out each round, dealing the cards (a fairly complicated role in itself), while the others frantically played cards on themselves and others, or moved cards around in an attempt to be the last player to hit the ground. It was mad, with arms and cards flying all over the place, and after six games (of which I only won one), we couldn't decide whether we liked the game, though most of us agreed that it was fun. Which I suppose means we liked it in one way.

Another great games night. I'm going to miss next week's as I'm in San Francisco, but I'm already looking forward to the one after than.

In other news, I'm now meeting the potential Monster artist on Saturday, rather than tomorrow evening - so I guess I'm going to have to cut my visit to Beyond Monopoly short :-(

Sunday, January 14

Weekend Of Games

Mal came down this weekend, and we played a whole bunch of games, which is to be expected - since Mal was one of the primary playtesters on Border Reivers.

Friday morning I found out he was coming (the decision had to be left until the last minute), and then Friday afternoon I found out another friend, Dunk was popping in that evening too. We had a nice evening hanging out, drinking and chatting, and then after Dunk left we cracked open PitchCar my Christmas present from The Wife. We played a few games all together, and then Mal and I carried on after The Wife called it a night. I think we played ten games in total. It's a great game, I really love it, despite the fact we were playing on the floor, which was uncomfortable on the knees. I'm really pleased with this gift, it's one that's going to get a lot of play. It's already chalked up the most plays of any game since I started keeping track on The Geek last August. This is particularly impressive since it beats Border Reivers which I play a lot at conventions and Carcassonne which is my favourite game ever.

Saturday we played games again in the afternoon, after a trip into town. First Mal requested the Artist prototype, which he found to be a bit of a brain-burner. It's an abstract strategy game, and so I really want it to be evocative of Chess and Go in terms of level of thought required, though of course it's nowhere near as good as those games, especially not after only a handful of plays. It needs some work, I'm thinking of changing the areas you control to make them larger, so you don't need so many, and providing a method to reduce the amount of checking which areas you control. Mal also suggested a way of allowing a player two actions instead of one, with a penalty of some kind.

Mal's second request was Power Grid, which was great. I've had Power Grid for nearly a year, but I'd only played it once up until yesterday - so I was keen to play it again. Last time I'd played we played a 4-player, so this was its first outing with only two players and it was just as good. I upped my rating of it on The Geek as a result. The two things I like most about it are: the progression through the power stations, with them gaining efficiency and the introduction of the various types through the game; and the way the market forces work so that resources become more expensive as they become rarer. Fantastic stuff, really well designed. Plus I love the box design.

After that we played a couple of games of Monster, the modified submission, and Mal enjoyed this one too. I tried to play according to the strategy guide the designer had written, while Mal tried to keep a close eye (and remember) what I had in terms of pieces and cash. Final score one game each, I'm really enjoying this one, but I do really need to test it with more players to check if my modifications work for larger groups.

When The Wife got home from work we played a couple of games of Carcassonne, one with Inns and Cathedrals (the maiden outing of my set) and one with that and Traders and Builders. I was sorely lamped in both games (both The Wife and Mal lapped me in the second game, with The Wife beating me by 100 points!). I really want to keep the pieces separate, so that I can choose which expansions to play with - I'm going to have to come up with some sort of strategy for marking the tiles so that I know which ones belong to which set.

On Sunday we played a couple of games of Border Reivers on my suggestion, and both were particularly brutal slaughters. Of me. Mal annihilated me in about 15 minutes in the first game, and then did it again (though not quite as quickly) in the second. I'm thinking of writing a strategy guide for Border Reivers, but perhaps I'm not the right guy for the job!

This week is very busy, I'm going to London on Tuesday and Wednesday for work, and yet I'm still hoping to get a games night in at Paul's tomorrow, meet a potential artist for Monster on Tuesday, play games with Dave on Wednesday, and possibly head over to Headingly games club on Thursday to try to sell Border Reivers.

Thursday, January 11

The Bank Manager

I had a six month catch-up meeting with my bank manager today. It was good to go through my progress over the last six months with someone who wasn't completely invested in the project, and who has a business brain.

He started off the meeting telling me the copy he had bought as a Christmas present for his kids has been a success, they've played it four or five times, and the youngest kid (a twelve-year old) loves it. Good stuff. We went through my finances (which he says are better than some of his customers who have been running their businesses as a full-time concern for over six months), and my current fears about the slackening of sales. He suggested that I speak to the local Business Advisory Centre, who I had approached before starting Reiver Games. I seem to remember that my advisor was supposed to arrange a catch-up meeting three months after our last meeting (in May), so I've contacted them again to try to get together.

I'm also trying to get in to Vapnartak 2007 in York as a presentation game. Sadly I don't think I can afford the traders fees, so I'll just have to show it off instead.

Tuesday, January 9

Back In The Game

Now I'm back I'm trying to settle things down and get back to normal. So far I've had mixed results.

I've started another batch of six copies of Border Reivers, my aim at the moment is to get all the copies constructed as soon as possible, freeing up my time for other projects. I've also made another sale - this one to America again, which is nice, since it is very expensive for Americans because of the awful exchange rate. I need more sales, they've been almost non-existant for the last five or six weeks. Without more sales I'll not have enough money to make any of the other games I'm considering, as all the money has gone into Border Reivers production for now. I'm really hoping that I just need to get some more exposure, and that I've not reached a plateau where everyone who wants a copy has now bought one.

Regardless of my sales worries, I've been pushing on with Codename:Monster. I've been in discussion with the designer, who is going to try out the changes I've made, and I've also approached an artist for the artwork. I'm afraid I won't be able to come close to affording the artist, but we're hopefully meeting in a pub next week to discuss the project, and he does sound interested so far.

Border Reivers has been getting some attention on The Geek too, thanks to a couple of recent listings in Geeklists. One by Van Overbay, designer of Tranquility Base has got a lot of thumbs ups, and I've now got almost as many people on The Geek listed as wanting a copy as I have people listed as owning a copy. Sadly, most of those are in America or Canada, and doubtless won't be able to afford it. Ho hum.

I was also contacted on The Geek, by a fellow designer based in Australia who had found this blog to be a really useful resource, and had a couple more questions for me. Feedback like that is nice - it's good to know that the exercise of blogging here semi-regularly is of some use, and not just a vanity exercise.

Still no interest (at least from a sales or enquiries point of view) from the BBC MindGames review, though I'm not totally writing it off yet...

Sunday, January 7

I'm Back

Well, I've spent two weeks in Bristol, with a brief jaunt to Amsterdam thrown in for good measure, and now I'm back at home. I've got the nine copies I took to Bristol finished, and I'm ready to start another batch.

The bad news? The review in BBC MindGames hasn't generated any interest at all yet, so lots of copies, no one to sell them to. D'oh!

In other news I've been putting a bit of effort into the submission (Codename: Monster), seeing as I had some spare time down at the in-laws. I've been pricing up components for runs of a few different sizes, and investigating artists. It's been fun, but what I really need to do now is sell some more copies of Border Reivers, and playtest Monster a lot more - so that I can make an informed go/no go decision on it.

Monday, January 1

December Report

Happy New Year!

It's been another good month for games, mainly due to having a long break for Christmas, and trying to get a lot of Border Reivers construction done in preparation for the BBC MindGames review. I also managed to make it to Paul's for Monday games night at least once, Dave came round for prototyping and Space Hulk and I made it to Beyond Monopoly once as well.


I played a bunch of new games this month, yet more progress on my quest to experience as many games as possible to improve my games designing skills. This month I played Shogun Dirk Henn's reworking of Wallenstein to a feudal Japanese theme, Modern Art Reiner Knizia's classic 'every type of auction going' game, and Carcassonne - The Castle Reiner Knizia's 2-player take on Klaus-Jurgen Wrede's Carcassonne series. I'm not sure what to make of Shogun, I only played it once, and we got some of the rules wrong, it's beautifully produced and illustrated though. Modern Art was good fun, sadly the 'art' was pretty shocking in the version I played. Carcassonne - The Castle is great, it's a bit more invovled than vanilla Carcassonne, and the inability to score incomplete features catches you out the first couple of times you play. Favourite new game for December? Carcassonne The Castle, I think.

With Christmas in the month I got a new game too: The Wife got me PitchCar, which is excellent. It plays well with any number of players from two up to eight, it's lighthearted good fun, and suitable for pretty much anyone from fairly young kids and those who don't like hard (read: strategy) games. I love this one.

Excluding prototypes I played forty games in December, including a few old 'favourites', which I really didn't enjoy, but if you're the 'games man', sometimes you have to play the game the others want to play, even if it physically hurts.

  • PitchCar: 13 plays
  • Carcassonne - The Castle: 5 plays
  • Carcassonne: 5 plays
  • Hive: 2 plays
  • Diamant: 2 plays
  • Trivial Pursuit: 2 plays

Plus one play each of: Saboteur, Modern Art, Shogun, Ticket To Ride, Settlers of Catan, Guillotine, Puerto Rico, The Menorah Game, Space Hulk, Mission: Red Planet and Risk.

I still didn't get a chance to play Canal Mania, it turns out that neither Beyond Monopoly or Jon (who runs BM and owns at least a billion games) have it - I guess I'll have to wait until a convention to play that one. What would I really like to play this month? Hmm. Nothing really stands out. I've still not played Thurn and Taxis which won last year's Spiel des Jahres, and a couple of the big games from Essen: Space Dealer played in real-time and Die Saulen der Erde a cathedral construction game. Maybe I'll get a chance to play those at BM.


From a design point of view December was a cracking month, lots of prototyping and playtesting since I had loads of time off for Christmas. I also made good progress on Border Reivers construction.


A new one this month, a slightly modified version of a game submitted to me by another designer. I've changed the theme, and I'm trying to expand the game to support a few more players. I've played this a few times now and I'm starting to form an opinion about it. I think it's a really good game, but I need to play it with more players to determine whether my modifications break things or not.


Only played this once with Dave, I don't think he was enamoured of it (it plays like a game of two halves with little interaction between players), so this one still needs some work.


Only played this once with Dave too, his comments were that it's difficult to keep track of which areas you control, which needs some thought.


I finally finished the prototype that I started ages ago, but I've not got to play it yet.

Border Reivers

It was a crap month for sales of Border Reivers, really dire. Still, I managed to get a load of copies made in preparation for the BBC MindGames review, and I did a bunch of work on the website adding the rules and PayPal integration. Hopefully January will be a better month for sales...

Plans for January? I want to play the Sennon prototype a few times, start working out the kinks, I also want to play Monster with more players (maybe Paul's games night is the venue for that?), to see if my modified version supports five and six players while still being fun. If it does then I need to begin approaching artists and contract negiotation, which will be a whole new dimension for Reiver Games...